Friday, March 11, 2016

That One Time I Brought Calvinball to a Changeling LARP

So, we finally finished The Saga of Majenko (all 10 parts of it), so I thought this week we could all use a Pathfinder palate cleanser. For those who don't know, in addition to slinging dice across a tabletop, I'm also a fan of World of Darkness live-action games. I've been an on-again-off-again player in Mind's Eye Society's Changeling: The Lost venue. While I currently play in the Chicago venue, the story I'd like to tell took place in DeKalb, back when it was a hopping place to be. And, I like to think, it shows the sheer willingness of some members of the ST staff to run with any concept that came their way.

No matter how oddball it was.

And boy did WE have a doozy.

Of Changelings and Calvinball

For those of you unfamiliar with Lost as a game, let me give you the crash course. You are a mortal who was stolen by a being of god-like power called a True Fae. While in their realm, you were twisted and altered to become something else. You managed to escape, in time, and find your way back to the real world. What you find is that the world has become strange to you, and you now have to make a new life for yourself, altered as you are by faerie magic.

So, it's basically a modern-day fairy tale with a heavy dose of cthonian horror. Solid? Solid.

As a player, one of the things that appealed to me most about Changeling in the new World of Darkness setting was that you could do nearly anything. You want to play a comic book character who finds himself in the real world, and uses his powers to fight injustice? You can do that. You want to play a slick-talking businessman whose words can cloud people's minds, and who can read the skeins of fate in order to turn every investment into solid gold? You can do that too. Psychotic homeless shapeshifter? Bounty-hunting wolfman? Dragon who is also a prosecuting attorney? These are all concepts you can make right out of the gate, with no special permissions from the storytellers, and no paperwork required.

The idea I had was a little stranger, and I got two friends to go in on it with me.

Don't hate the players, hate The Game.
One of the big things that Lost took from Irish mythology was that True Fae love games. Games are how a lot of mortals end up getting taken in the first place, and it's also how a lot of changelings end up escaping their keeper's clutches. What I wanted to do was to create a sport that would appeal to the nonsensical, solipsistic nature of the True Fae. A game where the rules could change from one breath to another, and where players would need to operate at a level of superhuman skill in order to follow all of the constant fluctuations of fouls and goals. A game where winning once would be a triumph of will, and where never losing was all-but-impossible.

In short, I wanted to play Calvinball, from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.

To drive the ridiculousness of the idea home, the team of players we had were serious business. Two ogres and an elemental, all of them rippling with muscle, and with a fanatic devotion to their sport typically only seen in certain World Cup games. They called it The Game, and were confused no one else had ever heard of it. The Summer Court, who was in full attendance, wanted to play.

The three players agreed, handed the referee's whistle to the mute Harlequin from the Winter Court (because who else would we possibly give it to?), and we all turned to the storyteller.

This Was Where The Magic Happened

Some storytellers would look at this, and shake their head because it wasn't serious enough. Others would look at the backstories, realize that one of the unshakeable rules of The Game in Arcadia was that the losers were put to death, and decide this was too serious (even if the Aztec-style victory celebration was no longer a requirement now that they'd escaped). The storyteller running this particular game gave us a huge smile, and said, "All right, let's do this!"

Queensbury rules, motherfuckers!
The storyteller added up each team's physical stats, athletics dots, and bonuses gained from activated powers, as well as kith and seeming blessings. Then he pulled randomly to decide how the rules were going to affect each team. We were tied. Then we started spending Willpower. When that was said and done, we were still tied. Then, before there could be a deciding victory one way or another, an outside force (another player who wasn't in the competition at all) swooped down, and stole the ball.

For the first time in the history of The Game, there was a tie. Not only that, but in a venue where outsiders are looked upon with distrust (and occasionally with outright hostility), three new PCs with no ties and no history were immediately embraced as if we were all long-lost friends.

Which really goes to show that sometimes all it takes is a zany idea, crazy players, and a brilliant storytelling staff, to create some truly remarkable memories. Also, in case you were curious, that was not the last time The Game was played in that particular venue.

As always, thanks for stopping in to listen to my ramblings! If you're more of a Pathfinder or tabletop player, rest assured, I've still got one or two more stories up my sleeve. If you'd like to support Improved Initiative, then stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. All it takes is $1 a month for me to keep getting hot, fresh content right on your screen. Also, if you want to stay up-to-date on my latest, then follow me at Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome. :)

    I'm going to be starting my first Changeling game today as the Storyteller. Right now, it's a solo adventure for a player who's shipping off to boot camp this month, so it's basically a big chase scene through the Hedge. Mountain man turned Hedge expert with an assault rifle versus a delusional Otaku turned dragon samurai Loyalist. Objective: Rescue the captive, and if possible, kill the Loyalist.

    My avatar quest giver NPC (originally a PC concept) is essentially a game developer who got abducted to make his game for his captor. Collectible monsters surviving in the wild, twisted into bloodsport by his Keeper's demands. He escaped by becoming one of those collectible monsters, specifically a glitch 'mon like Pokemon's MissingNo. As a living glitch, he can now cause glitches in machinery as a gremlin.