Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Interview with a Changeling LARP Storyteller: Dastaplerthief

This delightful Camarilla (soon to be called Beyond the Sunset) LARP storyteller has been running the Changeling arm of that domain for well over a year. He's been around the block from old World of Darkness to new World of Darkness, played in many a game and certainly ran a few. So, without further ado, let's go to the first question:

Shannon: "What drew you to run a LARP for such a big organization as Beyond the Sunset?”

Dastaplerthief: “In part, necessity – the previous Storyteller stepped down due to university commitments, and I stepped up because I enjoyed the game and didn’t want to see the venue collapse. What kept me running it was that I was having fun! My players are a pleasure to run games for, and I get a kick out of the large world and supernatural ripple effects from each venue.”

Shannon: “Changeling’s a very deep and multi-faceted game. What do you think is the core of the game, as far as you’re concerned, and how do you try to evoke it?”

Dastaplerthief: “Strip away the magic and you get is a story about being human and all that entails: community, family, friendship...and fear, fragility and loss. How human can you be when all that you were was stripped from you by the Fae? When the thorns tore away some vital part of your soul that you’ll never get back? Even Changeling social structure is revealing - Courts, Motleys and Entitlements act as combined surrogate family, support group and political party."

"I keep a focus on interconnectedness, as the biggest threat to Changeling sanity is from threats to their mortal identity or too much time spent away from humans. I encourage PCs to remember they have friends and family. Allies and contacts have names and identities, and other NPCs provide friends, rivals, foils and even girlfriends or boyfriends. This is not without difficulties when at least one party is by default traumatised, paranoid and hunted by forces much bigger than them."

"Fragility, of both sanity and the life they’ve clawed together from scratch, is something else explored. Loyalists certainly have their own mysterious agenda but in my game most frequently terrorise the PCs through threats on their cobbled together human identities and friends. When they’re watching your house, do you run and lose everything you’ve worked for, or risk them coming in and slaughtering your neighbours to remove human witnesses? What about if they’ve broken in? What if they’ve looked in your phone-book and sabotaged your job?"

"That's a huge worry for anyone, but a Changeling especially!"

"What if they do none of that but simply attack your Changeling friends – do you neglect your mortal identity and get driven just that little bit more mad in order to keep the few friends you have?"

"Finally, the Fetch is a fascinating foil. It arguably has a greater claim to humanity than the Lost, as it looks and lives the part. They may lack a soul, but can the Lost argue they truly have one? Just how do you cope with that?"

"These problems really are the bread and butter of a Changeling game.”

Shannon: “Changeling also very much relies on an Other World – the Hedge. How do you treat the Hedge and what are the best ways to evoke that sense of Otherness?”

Dastaplerthief: “Firstly, I do not map the Hedge or allow anyone else to. Why? It’s too complex. It’s five dimensional. It shifts with time, plus there’s a fifth dimension – proximity to Arcadia, which does not necessarily correspond to a cardinal direction. You also cannot predict where a Hedge-gate will open exactly for that reason. I emphasise that the Hedge is sentient, psychoactive and hungry – a living thing more than a place. If something seems off in the Hedge PCs tend to get very scared indeed."

"Secondly, through flora, fauna and locales. Most Core book Hedgebeasts shouldn't have Australian correlates – why would there be Briarwolves in a country with no native canids? On the other hand, thylacaleo, diprotodons and other extinct megafauna lend a sense of age and of scale. The Lost are definitely at the bottom of the foodchain. Add in ancient ruins, overgrown abandoned Hollows and of course the Goblin Market, where you can buy anything ... for a price, and it's very alien indeed."

Shannon: “LARPs and Table-top games are very different beasts. What do you see as the biggest differences and how do you cater for them?”

Dastaplerthief: “While the most obvious thing is difference in the LARP and tabletop rules, I’d say that a far greater difference lies in planning game and session structure. Tabletop games move at the rate of narrative. You can spend several months in the same few hours of game time, or skip ahead a week or more. In LARPs this isn’t possible – time moves on at a rate corresponding with the real world, making downtimes all the more important. There is always a time-limit, and therefore a bit more of a sense of urgency."

"There is also differences in designing session premises – while Changeling doesn’t have as large a body of players as some of the other BtS venues it becomes very clunky to do an investigation with eight or nine PCs all clamouring for ST attention. More often investigations happen in downtimes and sessions focus on deciding how to deal with issues and politics"

"Actually going in to deal with something either requires a great deal more planning on the players’ part, or something urgent to prompt it, otherwise things tend to go nowhere. It’s fairly rare for everyone to synergize completely, as LARP PCs aren’t designed to work as well in a group as tabletop PCs are."

Shannon: “Any advice you’d give to other people seriously considering running a LARP game?”

Dastaplerthief: “Worldbuild. Seriously. There are so many PCs compared to tabletop, each with their own agenda. You need to be prepared to react from things coming at you from all sorts of directions, and attempts to railroad plot rarely go down well. Be prepared to run a lot on the fly, and remember that with that many people you generally can fit in less plot than in tabletop, so make those clues count!"

"PCs have a lot more control over IC-politics than you’d necessarily allow in tabletop, as there is more likely to be the numbers to support it, so there will inevitably be a political game, regardless of original intentions."

"Finally, remember that good downtime responses really can add to a game, as well as being a brilliant way to seed plot. The world does not stand still between sessions."

Okay, thank you for sharing with us. That's a lot of good advice for those running Changeling and LARP, as well.

If anyone has any questions, comment below and I'll see if I can get responses from the interviewee.

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