Friday, February 27, 2015

I'm Not A Doctor (But I Played One In A LARP Once)

While my readers know that I'm an avid gamer almost regardless of system or edition (we all have our favorites and least favorites) some of you might not know I also enjoy LARP whenever I can make a game and pay the site fee. While it surely isn't for everyone there's something to be said for melting into a character and a world in a way you just can't when you're looking at a map grid and arranging your dice. There is something I've noticed over my years of gaming though, and it's something that transcends tabletop... no one wants to play the healer.

Was It All A Dream?

Our story begins when I was visiting a friend and got invited to come along to a session of their Changeling: The Dreaming LARP. I'd played the new World of Darkness version, Changeling: The Lost, but never the original. So I settled in for a two hour car ride with the base handbook and started reading. I figured it would be easy to learn, given all of my experience and knowledge of White Wolf's games both old and new. Anyone who's played Changeling: The Dreaming knows that it's the special snowflake of the old World of Darkness. Just trying to explain the concept to other people (even other gamers) makes you sound like a crazy person.

Do you want anti-psychotic sprinkles with your nuts today?
For those who haven't played the game before I'll try to give you a summary. In the long ago and far away the fae folk lost their home, a place called Arcadia. Trolls and ogres, redcaps and sluagh, and all the other creatures of myth and magic were reduced to little more than spirits. These spirits live in human bodies, and they have to find a balance between being true to themselves and living in  the banal world of mortality. The skinny twelve-year-old kid with the soul of a giant will duck his head when entering doors, for instance. These delicate scales allow the changelings to keep their powers and their essences while they try to live their lives and hopefully find a way back to where they came from.

So it's kind of like otherkin on acid, if that combination gave you superpowers.

Is There A Doctor In The House?

I finished the broad sweeps of the game in relatively short order, and managed to wrap my head around it by the time we'd driven about 75% of the total distance. So all I had left was to fill out his sheet and give him a back story. I decided to make him a troll with all of the traditional merits that increased his toughness and strength. Then, on a whim, I decided to make mental traits his second-highest column. He informed me that despite his appearance he had a medical degree and had chosen to earn an additional doctorate in mental health after being a general practitioner. Never one to argue with the characters my gray matter spawns I decided that sure, I was going to play the biggest goddamn medical practitioner the world had ever seen.

Now turn your head and cough.
I talked over my concept with the storyteller and he told me it sounded solid. No objections to any of my ideas and that he was sure I'd fit right in. I did toss him a curve ball by suggesting the flaw Cyclical Court have an unusual trigger; whenever something stressed him a storyteller should flip a coin. Heads he stayed good (seelie) tails and he went bad (unseelie). All the muscle and medical knowledge, but with the morality subtracted.

You're All HOW Many Months Along Now?

Game began, but I was in the other room letting the players get the ball rolling while I finished up some last-minute corrections and asked a few questions of one of the assistant storytellers. I got my hook for showing up, shouldered open the door and ducked under the lintel. That was when I realized the game was full of characters in desperate need of my assistance.

Do I get bonus XP for this?
Somehow in a game with more than 20 players in it I had built the only formally-trained medical practitioner who had both expertise in pharmacology and access to the strange magics of the fae. Out of that double-digit venue three characters were pregnant (not the players, thankfully), and all three of them were getting close to the delivery date. With retinues of concerned friends all trying to find them help I was in game less than five minutes before I had rolled my sleeves up and gotten elbow-deep into RP.

Given the typical incursions from dangerous monsters, random combat, and unforeseen mayhem and madness I was busy for the entire game. Whether it was shouting down redcap brothers so I could tend to their mother or setting bones (with no small amount of wicked glee) I went from "the new guy" to "the resident doctor" in a really short period of time.

If You Want To Be On The Plot Bus, Be Sure You Have A Ticket

Getting involved in a LARP's plot is rarely an easy thing to do. Even if you are the baddest sum'bitch to ever roll in out of the darkness, or the most enchanting face to ever grace the game, you need to have a schtick. You need a skill set that is necessary to the game, and you need to be able to do something no one else is doing in a way that means other people will seek you out. It isn't easy to do, but this particular game taught me one part of a three-part solution.

If you want to join a LARP and be immediately pulled into the plot, no matter what that plot is you need to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a cop. No matter the game and no matter the setting or system these are three roles that are rarely played, and their rarity will immediately make you an important character in the game. Characters are going to get hurt, they're going to get in legal trouble, and they need the force of the law on their side to help bludgeon plot to death.

If you can do any one of those three things then you, my friend, are in.

Do you have a gaming story you think deserves some time in the spot light? Contact me today and I'll see about getting you a spot in the next Table Talk slot that comes up! If you want to support Improved Initiative then stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page and consider becoming a patron today! Lastly if you want to make sure you get the latest updates then be sure you've followed me on Facebook and Tumblr as well.

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