Friday, May 6, 2016

The Broken Mirror Part One: The Talented Mr. Ripley

I've mentioned in a few previous posts that, in addition to being a fiend for tabletop games, I'm not averse to the occasional LARP. While I've been to my share of boffer-style games, along with Vampire, Werewolf, and more than a few home-brewed house games, Changeling: The Lost has a special place in my heart. With it's dark whimsy, beautiful madness, and the ability to make practically any character concept work in a mechanical sense, Changeling is a game I am always down for playing.

No matter how bizarre the game gets.
I will freely admit, though, that I have a problem as a LARPer. In short, I'm that guy who constantly comes up with new character concepts, and will abandon a character I have if it isn't getting the sort of action I was hoping for. Part of this was because, as regular Table Talk readers have seen, I've had a lot of dungeon masters who rarely ran more than five or so sessions before we switched up to something else. As such, I'm used to starting from scratch at a moment's notice. Another part of it was because I had to adjust to the idea of a long-term game in a live action format.

This is a tale about the first character, in any format, I managed to keep in play for more than a year, and the terrible, awful things that turned him into the kind of monster every PC risks becoming in a game like this.

Also, since this 5-part series is now complete, here's the full index in case you want to go through the entire tale.

The Broken Mirror Part One: The Talented Mr. Ripley
The Broken Mirror Part Two: Through The Mirror Darkly
The Broken Mirror Part Three: The Dark Side of The Moon
The Broken Mirror Part Four: The Moon Court Madman
The Broken Mirror Part Five: Madness Comes Home to Roost

Part One: The Talented Mr. Ripley

When I originally sat down with the Changeling: The Lost book, I read the whole thing cover-to-cover in the span of a weekend. The Darklings were what appealed to me most, but I couldn't decide which variety to use. Finally I settled on a Mirrorskin, because I liked the idea of a blessing that didn't cost anything for me to use. That, and most of the games I attended took place in the evening, so the Seeming's curse would have minimal effect. I focused primarily on dexterity and manipulation, and with skills in investigation, empathy, weaponry, and subterfuge, I ended up with a consummate mimic. He had no real presence, and he wasn't particularly smart, but he could fake it with the best of them.

The problem I was experiencing, as the player behind the controls, was that I didn't know who I wanted him to be. I had some details of his background, and I knew that his shifting visage was often painful to watch and listen to thanks to the grinding bones and popping cartilage, but I had very little else to hang on the frame. He was fresh from the Hedge, and couldn't remember a thing about who he'd been in Arcadia or before he was taken. He was homeless, courtless, and without so much as a single acquaintance in the city I was playing in. So I seized upon a unique method to buy myself some time.

Stop copying me! No, you stop copying me!
Mr. Ripley, a name he'd taken from a movie he'd watched in an old, run-down art theater, was not a character with a defined costume or personality (at least, not when he first showed up). He wore a black suit with a white, button-down shirt, and a black fedora that he'd taken out of the Hedge. His voice had no tone, and his body had no posture. He was blank... until he was around people, anyway.

The first person he met was a hulking frost giant from the Summer court. Stolid, serious, and stoic, he met the newcomer gravely. So, when Ripley shook his hand, he did so with a serious cast to his features, and cold, closed-off body language. As the gathering grew, though, and the various cliques separated off into their own groups, Ripley became a chameleon.

As he crossed the room toward Spring's corner, where the beautiful people held court, he slipped two silver rings onto his fingers, untucked his shirt, and undid the top button. A simple slip of the collar, and he'd gone from bland and silent, to the sort of person who belonged on the club scene. His movements were languid, his smile slow, and he slipped in without anyone truly noticing. When he was called to meet Winter, his wardrobe shuffled again as he clipped on a black tie, straightened his lapels, and put a steel rod into his spine. He was formal, a little charming, and there always seemed to be an undertone to what he said. When he found himself in the presence of the two dominant Autumn courtiers, he became deliberately silent, and off-putting. His face was constantly in shadow, and his grin showed more teeth than it had before. The tone of his voice altered, and it was like he was one of their own.

It was an interesting performance, and one that caught a lot of my fellow players off-guard. As gimmicks go, I thought it was fairly clever. It couldn't last, though, because sooner or later Ripley was going to have to remake himself into a new man. Of course, since this was the World of Darkness, that began with a terrible event...

Which I'll share with you in Part Two of The Broken Mirror!

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