Hill 936 aka “Bak Bon Dzhow Hill”

Okay, so I may at some point soon post a proper write up with all kinds of interesting discussions of props, favourite bits, setting discussion and all kinds of other things. But for now I wanted to post something short.

Thank you to all the Proper Refs from the rigging and sapper crews respectively (i.e. those doing the temple and those out doing the trail, although there was a huge overlap) and also the players, you guys were amazing :)

And that out of the way I invite everyone involved to each make a two pronged comment. Firstly I want to know your favourite moment of the event, and also I’m interested in your least-favourite moment too. What did we win at? What did we fail at?

If you don’t want to post in comment feel free to mail me, post in the facebook group for Hill 936 or you know post proper feedback to and

38 thoughts on “Hill 936 aka “Bak Bon Dzhow Hill”

  1. the_fnords

    I very much liked the event. The amount of prep that went into it was impressive. I think it worked well as an event. The lack of a Big Prop™ didn’t matter, even though you could have worked some kind of Big Monster in the Jungle thing. That would have been effective for the players but a pain in the collective ref ass to move around the campsite all saturday.

    The Tcho-Tcho monster team was great. The saturday linear was well executed, the amount of faff we were required to do was minimal even though we were progressing faster than expected. The multitude of small props worked and kept atmosphere going well all day.

    It felt like an event where you had a huge team doing stuff and there was never a point where I felt neglected, because even when ref conflabs were happening to adjust plot, there were still monsters doing stuff.

    The linear-in-the-middle-of-the-larp worked. That was fun.

    The setup of soldiers in a military hospital worked for producing people close to snapping without needing further Mythos Explanation or Massive Coincidences to explain a bunch of people undergoing San effects in a small space and a large jungle.

    My favourite moment was when I got timed out. Being grabbed by Delta Green in the dead of the night was an OC Squee moment for me. There were many individual great moments, both character and ref driven, and picking a best of those is tricky.

    Least favourite moments? There were a few points where I had horrible doublethink wanting to kosh players over the head and say “We’re not doing plot! We’re fucked if we don’t find some way out of this horrible place” but knew it was entirely meta to act on those OC thoughts. I didn’t have any points where I was unhappy about things. The refs getting the combat system a bit wrong and calling locations for damage led to confusion, but Bugs benefitted from that confusion in not being hurt by a grenade later. That was ace.

    It’s not a moment, but the fact that I kept getting incredibly lucky in and out of character was the highlight of the weekend for me. (I can’t say the overall tone of the thing was the highlight because for me, that was the event as a whole. Saying that the feeling generated by the whole event was a highlight would be like saying “The art in the gallery was the highlight” – but the event Felt Right and that’s part of why it was great.)

    Reply
    1. the_fnords

      Oh yes. The combat system. I’d forgotten to weigh in on that.

      I was confused by it. The way I treated it was this:

      When a weapon calls a number at you, consult your wound table and move down the relevant number of steps. Take any injuries that occur, losing 1HP per injury.
      This is confusing if a rifle, calling two, hits your randomly generated table in both, say, Head and Left Leg. How did one shot do THAT?

      My wound table’s opening went:
      Miss Miss Miss Left Leg Miss Chest Abdomen Miss Miss Miss Miss Miss Miss {I forget any further, but a wound was next]

      The first time a weapon was called at me, Doug called “Rifle Three, Shoulder!”
      In the confusion of being given a called location, I screamed, grabbed my left shoulder where I’d been shot in the hero spot before, and went down. A few minutes later, chatting to doug about why he’d called locations, he said that it was a mistake and he should not have called that location. I decided to fluff my combat table and stick an extra miss on the front to compensate for a shot I should theoretically have avoided. That meant I was missed entirely by the four called by TchoTcho!Mish’s grenade at point blank range, which was one of my many “Bugs is a lucky sumbitch” moments. I got as far down my table as that leg hit, which winged Bugs and shot through the US Flag in his pocket, which got used as a tourniquet. I’d been planning that as a spot ever since I got the flag.

      Pistols calling one damage and thus doing a maximum of one injury was fine.

      Melee weapons being so dangerous, especially with refs giving the more trained characters both a lower (Better) melee score and a higher strength, meant that some characters were far more Combat eathmachine than they should really have been. Floyd was a Melee 2, Strength 4 guy, meaning that with two swings of a knife, he’d inflict “Miss, Six”. That’s three rifle shots. I never saw him actually fight up close, but that’s a lot bigger than my “Miss, Miss, Five”.

      Melee was strong, but few people used it which meant the problem never really appeared.

      Monster HP is something I’d like to know about. I’d guess monsters lacked hit tables given how they went down quickly most of the time – this does mean the combat system greatly favoured players in encounters, leading to the whittling down where suddenly many folks died in a short space of time during the tcho-tcho raids at the end of saturday night.

      Yeah, I agree with the consensus that the combat system was messy, this wasn’t helped by refs not knowing particularly how things went either. I don’t mind not having set bleeding out times, as some injuries are instantly fatal and some are not, that is something I think should be left to roleplay. I’d be happy to see soemone be hit in the leg and think “This is me going to zero. I’m going to say an artery has been hit, and I will die in under a minute regardless of any first aid done. I’ll also point my gun and call “Miss!” at people because I’m blind with pain.”

      Combat was fast, but the after-effects were not smooth as we didn’t really have consistency or understanding of how injuries, hit points and death worked.

      It did, however, mean that doug’s miscalling with sniper fire led to mass confusion among those pinned down. I don’t mind a little OC meddling to get IC feelings more accurate.

      Reply
      1. the_fnords

        I had, in a slightly meta way, interpreted the combat system as “Wounds will not be bad at first, but will be more crippling the less HP you have” because I was playing the Strangely Lucky Guy, and so planned on taking my first few hits as minor wingings, and then either escaping mostly unharmed (Woo!) or having my luck run out as I take a nasty set of injuries that leave bugs moribund and paying off years of Luck Debt.

        Reply
      2. mr_jez

        Most of the combat system challenges seem to have been down to problems smoothing out the joins between material taken from Room 13, and material taken from CAS. Implementation would have benefited greatly from more playtesting and pre-game training. You can read the original CAS system on the Lancaster Horror LRP Refs group on Facebook.

        Reply
        1. westslide

          No, most of the combat challenges came from the rules being mistakenly applied, from talking around to players. Even the best of systems (which I’m not pretending this was, but when everyone knew what they were doing it seemed to run quick and smooth) will fall down if players are still learning and refs aren’t guiding them properly.

          Unless the confusion on the refs’ behalf came from a familiarity with CAS and thus struggling to adapt to the ways in which this system was different.

          Reply
          1. mr_jez

            Whilst I’m quite happy to agree to disagree on this one, I think we are simply approaching the same problem from slightly different angles. Yes, the problem on the day was that rules were mistakenly applied at points, but there are root causes for why this was more prevalent than at other horror LARP events, and these can be addressed.

            The rules system was an interesting and entirely workable attempt to bolt together the most relevant bits of two systems that are themselves based on different underlying principles, and there was not enough time for proper playtesting and training. A system that is made more elegant through playtesting is easier to teach to refs and players, as well as being more efficient in operation.

            Hence, the problems we had, as refs were not intuitively familiar with the system, but in most cases have worked with parts of it and with similar systems, which led to confusion that was passed on to the players at points. The players of course were able to play through this with typical élan, but it is a lesson to remember.

    2. mostlyfoo

      Well in many ways the big props were the Trail and the Temple they were just literally very big. But it was interesting because we had a really spread out distributed group of prop makers who were all aimed at a target and told to make a million small things, which worked really well for wall papering the whole world. I think I was thinking that we were aiming to keep a constant reminder of you that this was bat country, and hope that with that and the awesome player base that a seriously strong atmosphere could be generated, which seemed to be what happened.

      Reply
  2. mr_jez

    Smoothest Moment:
    Hungry Hawthorne sidling poor Baldwin out into the Dark under the noses of Bugs and the Major.

    Most Cunning Moment:
    Anny’s plan to use the reanimation serum to attempt to short-circuit the challenging fifth level task of the teachings of the Shugoran Buddha.

    Most Enchantingly Awkward Moment:
    Major (dissecting the drone): What is this stuff?
    Luong Thanatar: Brains.
    Major: What? This really is your brother?
    Luong Thanatar: Yes.
    Major: Oh. Sorry.

    Most Staggeringly Awesome Portrayal of Wound Penalties:
    Paul and Weasel.

    Most Heartwarming Moment:
    Hungry Hawthorne: So, let me get this straight, do they have to be willing?

    Least Favourite Moment:
    Missing the start of my shift on Saturday due to receiving grim news.

    Technical Point:
    I think the fusing together of the Room 13 System and the Cthulhu Live: Delta Green Close Assault System would have been more elegant with more playtesting, though the players were certainly able to make good use of it as is.

    Reply
  3. dango_mew

    Favourite moment: Being put through sheer terror and emotional agony ALL event. But I guess the individual moment has to be after Babs went mental, and Angel thought nearly all her fellow nurses were dead or dying, only to have them make it through. Like I said, it honestly felt like close friends had died and she still had to perform surgery that she wasn’t qualified to do on a girl she loved and cared for deeply without shaking too badly to kill her.

    Least favourite moment: Not getting much sleep due to being so cold was a downer, but refs can’t help the weather. Also not being able to read the big scroll because I was so out of it/exhausted was annoying, but it was really good to roleplay that feeling of helplessness.

    Also, have a few pointers of more AWESME stuff.
    -The epic trek through the jungle, had me shit scared the whole way through.
    -Epic temple was EPIC.
    -The jungle sounds and fighting were awesome, really brought atmosphere and terror to the night.
    -The monster team were awesome, worked really hard and scared me even more.
    -Richard O’s latex props were amazing, the organs especially were very realistic, especially loved a bit where we saw them on the trail, and someone said they were too small for a human, to which nurses responded with ‘an ADULT human…’ grim.
    -Food was very appropriate to the era and conditions, yet tasty all the same.
    -Ammo and supplies running out was very scary, when we took them off dead bodies it got pretty damn horrible.
    -I personally loved my character, she exhausted me with her caring for others, but I loved it.
    -The priests did a wonderful job, they felt really genuine and had a horrible spooky aura to them.
    -Overall, the emotional ride I went on was horrific, wonderful and scary all at the same time. The tears were genuine, and I’m very glad I shed so many of them!

    Thank you refs, players, monsters, crew, everyone x

    Reply
    1. dango_mew

      Also realised something. This game scared me more than Amnesia: The Dark Descent. And there was no NOPE quitting. Amazingly well done… you managed to make me the most scared I’ve ever been in my life. Wow…

      Reply
    2. mostlyfoo

      Glad to hear it sounds like we pitched the level of angst and peril about right to get you, and keep you on your toes all day long.

      Yeah, we had a job lot of blankets (which I think today are going to get bagged up and put in my loft for future events) but possibly we needed more.

      Reply
  4. lucrecia

    I shall attempt (please note: attempt) to be brief ;)

    The Good:
    The Differentness. By which I mean how hard it broke the mould for what players have come to expect from Horror Events. It was immensely brave of everyone involved and I salute each and every one of you.
    It was genuine horror and not just the threat of horror with weird things happening and rocks falling at the end. You weren’t afraid to kill players and players loved you for it.
    I personally very, very much enjoyed playing with players I’d never RPed with before and I think it’s a testament to the team and their ideas that so many new faces were there.
    The crew were truly excellent – their enthusiasm was wonderful. I loved how when the call would go out for random waves of attacks, Refs were never short on volunteers. From Richard and his make-upping (which there totally should’ve been more of), to the more monstery types (I won’t list everyone because I’ll inevitably forget someone).
    The whole set-up was brilliant. No need for magical bubbles, contrived reasons for why people were gathered, and the sameness of everyone’s costumes meant they had to try harder and give that little bit more effort in order to distinguish themselves from the next nurse/solider. Everyone did beautifully.
    I loved being a zombie.

    The Bad:
    Yeah…. I still don’t get the combat system. You know it’s a bit broken when a player walks over with their finger in the air and asks “how do you know when you’re dead?” and the ref nearby can’t give them a definite answer. I’m kicking myself for not asking more stupid questions during the briefing as I got the impression later that people I spoke to had varying interpretations of how things were.
    I don’t know how to say the next point without it sounding like I’m accusing people of poor roleplay, so I’m going to say it and attempt to explain. Injuries and their consistent portrayal seemed to be a bit flakey. This came out in the speed at which the party moved (to be fair to us, we were being ordered to hustle and we were being pursued!), physical tasks like climbing or scrambling, and combat. I believe it was Doug who commented that one, or possibly even two, Refs assigned to specifically keep track of injuries and impose penalties when they saw people over-doing it might’ve been a good way forward. With the set-up there was, it wasn’t really possible, but it might be something to consider for the future? Personally speaking, I know that I as a player will do my damndest to keep in mind if I’ve just had my leg maimed or my throat shot out and will attempt to carry myself in a way that showing I’m deliberately hindering my movements. But, when the shit hits the fan, sometimes you act on instinct and it’s more important to pay attention to the immediate threat and not think “ooh, maybe I shouldn’t’ve turned my head that far”. Having a tap on the shoulder to say “you think a couple of your stitches have just popped. You’re going to need that wound seeing to again” could be helpful.
    I wish the trail had been more fatal as it would’ve seen Anny and Mew possibly using the formula on any fallen given as the adverse effects of the formula hadn’t kicked in. It would’ve been a gamble (as they might not have used it), but that was always going to be the risk. If it did get used, then any KIA players would’ve been able to pick things up with added RP fodder. Darkluke’s work would’ve been given the attention it deserved. As it was, the timing of reaching the temple and the period of respite it gave was just about the right period of time for me to start going Weird before turning zombie berserker.

    Reply
    1. lucrecia

      The Ugly:
      Fuck that accommodation. Fuck it in the face. It was filled with so many of the things I am afraid of and powerfully dislike so this is a largely personal rant. There was shit all sound proofing, it was cold, wet, stank of damp and mold, was filled with insects which tripped all my arachnophobia fuses, the toilets were bad (but admittedly could’ve been worse), and I didn’t like not having more wind-down time after the event to talk to people and relax because we needed to be out by Sunday midday.
      Running out of things. Yes, I know that there was authenticity being aimed for with food and things, but the UK ain’t Vietnam and I sure as shit ain’t a hardened serving nurse/soldier who’s used to going without milk or something other than sulphuric water. I’m a pasty, pathetic role player who likes having coffee (I don’t even care if it’s instant) to keep me warm and – importantly – caffeinated. I also reckon that something more substantial than cornflakes might’ve been good for Saturday morning breakfast, but no one died so you can choose to ignore that complaint. There was a worry with us running out of milk that we couldn’t even have as many cereals as might’ve been wanted.
      Fuck that boiler. Needed a couple of big kettles.

      In the end, I don’t have anything new to offer that hasn’t already been given, and my complaints about the venue are the exact reason why I chose not to play in the game as a player. I knew it was going to be grim, I knew it wasn’t going to be the genteel and sedate problem-solving weekend that I’ve come to know, love, and grow fat and tasty on.

      So, that aside, I think that – any issues behind scenes aside – it was a brilliant way to forge new ground and open up possibilities for events. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes and was truly happy to be a part of things.

      Reply
    2. mostlyfoo

      I think we were hoping for maybe one more to hit with the formula on the trail so they could be thought of as a ticking time bomb, but it was a luck of the draw thing.

      At least we seemed to win with differentness and atmosphere :)

      Reply
      1. westslide

        Speaking as someone with experience of the more linear side of things, it’s a very, very, very difficult thing to ensure the threat is lethal enough to kill a few people, but not so lethal it doesn’t kill everyone. Especially with a non-stress-tested system, and, indeed, that factor of wild and random chance. I don’t think it hurt events that we didn’t have a few more zombles around, we did have a lot on our plates, though having now seen the props it’s a real shame more of that particular plot didn’t come out. Did anyone other than the nurses, Bray, and Sterns learn about it?

        Reply
        1. lucrecia

          All true, but I reckon the Refs were sufficiently adaptable that if they did accidentally smear a couple of players, they could tone things down (cut out a few of the tripwires, for example) a bit later.

          Babs was given the formula so early on in the day that when we reached the temple, it was borrowed time. I knew I had 5/6 hours from the time I was injected before it went Wrong.
          Had anyone been given it on the trail, then it would’ve been a horrid, dawning realisation for Anny and Mew to RP through knowing that what I’d just done was waiting to happen again. It would’ve forced them to maybe come clean about what was happening and let Anny certainly play through that arc of her character.

          But, yeah, I guess you guys did have enough to get on with. I don’t believe anyone other than Anny and Mew had seen the props. I don’t know who ended up being brought in on things.

          Reply
          1. westslide

            A smart man (I think Spike) once told me that the key to fear of lethality in a linear is to have a brutal encounter early on, either stretching the party to their limits or outright killing someone, then toning it down. By then the party are scared and tense and aware that shit is real. When this works it is perfect. When it backfires, it backfires horribly, either butchering people left, right, and centre, or just being nothing more than a ripple. When I am monster reffing I am constantly assessing the challenge level of the party and it is hard and tiring work. You have to change your plans, which is hellish enough with a system I’ve been reffing for three years and playing for eight and monsters who are experienced enough with me and the system to roll with it and adapt. I can’t imagine trying to do it for twenty players with a much smaller crew and a system none of us are especially familiar with. Deaths have ripple-effects, and it wouldn’t have been so easy as just ‘be brutal and then tone it down’ because the toned-down section would have still needed to keep a fear of death and not fall into ‘too lethal’ or ‘walk in the park’ to maintain the atmosphere.

            I agree it would have been lovely if we’d seen more of the plot, and those lovely props. The only time it sparked up again after the initial fallout from Babs’ death was when Meier used it on Sterns’ corpse. Bray flipped her shit but Sterns remained dead and there were bigger fish to fry. Bray had been told by Angel, and told Sterns, but unless anyone else was told by one of the nurses we may have been the only people in the know. And as an issue it rocketed down on the priority list in the face of the attacks and DG.

          2. mostlyfoo

            Yeah, I wasn’t intended to be out Reffing at all (I was supposed to just be doing set up) but I saw that effect, the military party at the back hit one of the nicely built prop trip mines right up front and there was this great look of disbelief on Jonno’s face of a kind of “There are trip mines!” and after that all the military guys seemed to really respect the forest path and the mine field.

        2. almighty_weasel

          Hell, Barry never learned about the Zombie plot – he got nothing but a stab wound. It was fun. :-)

          And yeah, scaling threats is a bastard, especially in an unfamiliar system. I remember how often would freak out at me about how she was worried we were all going to die and nobody would have any fun. All told, I think that 13 people out of 21 dying was a good number, it showed off how brutal things were. Of course, one more wave of Tcho-Tcho and it would have been 21 out of 21…

          Reply
          1. dango_mew

            There was no way Angel could bring herself to tell Barry. She feared his reaction too much, thought he’d flip out and either run (or hobble) off or just hide in a corner comatose unable to dea with shit anymore. We were all staring at the entrance just waiting for another Tcho-Tcho attack forever at the end…

        3. luvlymish

          In hindsight I think we should have let the guns be as lethal as they started out in the Room 13 System as we could always have less VC encounters and the boobytraps would have done their damage as was. That would have meant the zombie plot got to sink it’s teeth in.

          Reply
          1. mr_jez

            I would still like to see the CAS in action at some point, as I think it may deliver something of the lethality *and* unpredictability of a firefight, which appears missing from the family of systems we regularly use.

  5. gentlemanbandit

    I’m going to agree with others. The combat system was an interesting idea, but there seemed to be differences in application across players and some confusion on how exactly it worked, leading to some very bizarre situations. The theory behind it was good, but looking back, we should have asked more questions at the beginning to firm it up so that everyone was at least singing from the same hymn sheet.
    The accommodation was very good for the setting, but it was also a bit grim for actual OC purposes as well. And that water boiler took a while to stop jumping at thinking it was gunfire.
    I think there was a fair bit of miscommunication on a few issues, but that can happen with a variety of things. I think there were a few times when the refs got very thrown by player actions, such as the speed with which we all decided to set off. One problem we had there was that even if we’d wanted to take all the supplies that wouldn’t break in bags and stuff, I’m not sure we would have been able to without loading up everyone’s pockets, which becomes a bit tricky, as well as painful, when getting shot and falling over and such.
    The props in the temple were pretty cool, but it would’ve been nice if some provision for the cold had been made like getting some blankets out there before, as opposed to them needing to be asked for as time continued on and the temperature dropped.

    However, the event was very good for atmosphere. There was a lot of tension, not entirely knowing what was going on, what was going to happen when we were going through the trees, much stronger mundane drawn out tension. The roleplay with people and all the different characters was very interesting, seeing how everyone reacted and various people went to pieces.
    Losing the leg made things tricky both IC and OC, but it was pretty interesting to see and do, and in the end it may have been the thing that saved my life.
    The monsters did a very good job, and the props out there were pretty spectacular, incredibly well done. With the way it was done, it was definitely the way to go. If it had been more of a siege type event, a big bad would have made more sense, but this way made things so much more impressive.

    There were a lot of cool things out there, and it went well overall, there were just some bits that niggled and got a bit under the skin, but didn’t get too in the way of things as they went on. It was a very different experience from all I’ve heard from the traditional, and shaking things up a little can only be good. Whilst I have niggles, these have more been things that emerged after sitting back with people and going over them later. At the time they were glossed over in favour of everything else that was going on.

    Oh, and Kudos to for the carrying. Even if I was taking most of the weight, it was still pretty epic

    Reply
    1. mostlyfoo

      Yeah I jumped the first time I heard the water boiler as well, a whole “What the fuck?” moment, also the Temple yeah it should have had a pile of blankets at the back ready and waiting as we knew you were bringing in the injured, so sorry for that one, that Saturday night just got way colder faster than expected I think.

      Reply
  6. westslide

    I understood the combat system once I read it. This was, because I’m a numpty, after the weekend. I thought it made actually decent sense. We need to bear in mind that most of the confusion coming out from the system was that it was being erratically applied by some refs, which just led to further bewilderment when players were still coming to grips with it. That said, it seemed pretty confusing to me for most of the day, and I only ever got the damage applied to me when I died.

    Which does bring me to the least favourite moment: I don’t really have a problem being killed by the Uber Gribbly of Death, I do have a problem with being killed because a ref didn’t know/didn’t properly apply the damage to me. If the Uber Gribbly of Death is one-shotting people, then the call needs to be ‘die’, not ‘damage, except the ref tells you you’re dead even if you’re actually on 8 out of 9 hits’. Perhaps that’s my bad for not knowing the combat system so well myself and thus only realising the truth after the fact, but I tend to trust refs.

    My favourite moment was the entire night-time trek across the hill to go recover the egg. Aside from some initial trip-wires, the refs escorting us did very, very little other than let us freak ourselves the fuck out in the darkness (and shoot a tree branch which totally looked like a sniper rifle). It was scary, it was atmospheric, it was great RP with the people we had, and there was a real sense of potential achievement – that if we risked our necks and did this crazy-ass thing, we might be able to get out alive.

    Reply
    1. mostlyfoo

      Yeah that night time trek in the dark was just amazing, I think that was possibly my favourite bit of roleplay I saw from the whole event, I threw in a few trips at first to try and give the impression it was still enemy territory but once the tone was set (and the light levels were dropping) we just let you go, and picking up on the atmosphere you lot were generating stalking through the trees was just incredible.

      Walking through the woods, in the dark while thinking you’re about to get jumped or trip a trap at any time was just so incredibly Vietnam, and meanwhile back at the Temple we knew Steve was probably about to start engaging in Operation: Omnomnom if no one stopped him.

      Reply
      1. westslide

        Mostly due to OOC safety of needing the lights on, we abandoned our original plan for returning to camp: Literally, sneak the hell up first and see what was going on before we marched back in there. We were under no illusions that the camp would be in one piece when we came back! But that jaunt was excellent.

        Reply
    2. caerwiden

      I was told to shout 4 when it hit, which, remembering from the Room 13 stuff, was half a person’s hits to me, so I figured anyone who survived the first shot would be able to crawl away if it couldn’t see you.

      What exactly happened? I was too far away to hear.

      Reply
      1. westslide

        Yeah, that seems to have been about right. That was mitigated by the Wounds Table, as 3 of the 4 hits I took were misses. The one that wasn’t, crucially, was a head shot, and even though I was on full health at the time, I was told this would be an instant kill (instead of the glancing shot – horrible burns, maybe losing an ear – that the rules would indicate it should have been). At that point it had been a good 30 hours since I’d been exposed to the rules on being shot at (since I’d been in the rear for all of the shooting going on earlier in the day – Bray only took charge when mines were a problem – and hadn’t been hurt myself) and I took what I was told at face value. Frustrating, but c’est la vie and I’m more tired about it than anything else by now.

        And thank you for being downright terrifying!!

        Reply
  7. moradrel

    Right, The Fnords has already pointed out that “the atmosphere” is a cop-out, given as it was such an atmosphere laden game. Ones disbelief did not have to be suspended especially high, which meant that the entire thing was something of a ‘favourite bit’: “I liked the bit when the game happened”.

    In that light, I’ll venture a few things that I think contributed to the inescapable atmosphere, and a few things that detracted from it:

    “Good” – i.e. helpful
    The firefight injury table. I’ll mention it first, because there’s a lot of back and forth happening around how the combat went, and I’d hate to think it wasn’t getting its dues. As patchily applied as it may have been, it really lent a sense that a real firefight was happening.
    Booby traps! Dude. You guys made trip mines that actually made a bang when triggered, and could be defused (if you weren’t a numpty with no depth perception). This is ‘showing not telling’ to a very high standard.
    VC brains. Genuinely nauseating (“Oh god; I can taste nodules””). In fact the whole Cho-choification process was very well done, and really fitted with my own stand-out themes about Vietnam: i.e. becoming a monster in a monstrous environment.
    The Play Area Suddenly Gets Bigger. This is practically a gaming trope, but one that I’ve never seen done in a larp. I was hoping that there would be some running through the jungle, and my god was I not disappointed. The sense of being in an open world (while of course still constraining) was excellent.
    A solid, familiar setting. The fact that the setting was one that’s got so much imagery attached to it meant that everyone (players, refs and crew) knew what they were setting out to capture, and really pulled together to make it happen. I’m not saying that these sort of events should be none-stop trope fests, but having that backbone of a known and cool aesthetic was really useful, and lead to good costuming and set-dressing.
    A restricted character base as a character enhancer. Okay, you’re a bunch of soldiers. But, because there are a whole swathe of other soldiers around you, the write-ups of the characters and the depth of their roleplaying are all forced to Go Deeper. Many players go to such depths (and beyond…) as par for the course, but the fact that everyone’s having to do the work really makes a difference.

    “Bad” – i.e. unhelpful
    Although the soundscapes were of Foo’s usual highly polished standards, they really, really could have used a way to have them piped outside. On the first night, we had the awkward situation where those on watch would come back inside, everything having been “quiet” for a long time, only to hear that those inside had been hearing mid-distance gunfire and helicopters none-stop.
    Would have meant we could have had jungle noise in the temple too.
    No fixed understanding of when people should die (at 0? at 0 if not treated? how quickly?). Ultimately, I think we all knew the sort of dramatics to apply to the situation, so it was made to work.
    Too much mythos, perhaps? Given how horrific and monstrous the mundane setting was, anything over and above the metaphysical life cycles of the Cho-cho (and there was a lot there: everything from the philosophy, through the flesh-eating, to the Predator and Naga Egg ‘evolutions’) was a bit surplus to requirements. Chaugnar Faughn aside, there was name-checking that served no function: Loigar and whatever; even Shub Niggurath was a stretch; and the whole ‘Daydream was a Deep One hybrid’ came from nowhere. Also, a five minute ritual to bcome a chosen one of a god and become one with him? A bit fast track, perhaps!
    The exception was the Reanimator bit, which didn’t get explored nearly enough, and perhaps should have been the other way out instead of union with Chaugy.
    This is definitely hand-wringing stuff now, so probably shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

    Reply
    1. moradrel

      Points for further consideration. I have genuinely no idea how these could be resolved.
      The fact that our shouted words are not fast moving shards of lead means that ranged firearms combat means that there’s going to be an element of ranged firefights whereby the louder voices will hit more often, and the targets that wear more around their ears will be hit less.
      There’s no way of PCs sniping at approaching foes. Without giving the sniper a radio and a permanent ref on hand, I’ve no idea about how you could implement this. Laser pointers, perhaps?

      Reply
    2. the_fnords

      On one hand, I agree that maybe the name-checking of lots of Mythos was a bit mythos overexposure at the end, but that’s how the Mythos rolled. Open a lovecraft anthology and read any knowledgeable protagonist speaking about things, and he’ll name check left and right. “And the daubing on the walls, that so reminded me of the vile drippings of the obsequious subhumans inhabitants of Glaur, parroting the unspeakable ichor-drooling of their unnameable lord Bel’grauthngor in blind worship, under the gaze of the sunless moon of Ix.”

      Name-checking the Mythos is very different to involving all the mythos in the plot – Lloigor and Zhar and Shub-Shub got name-checked in religion but nothing else, and I’m OK with that. I think that over-sensitivity to the Mythos is actually a flaw of playing lots of mythos. Finn, our Shiny New Guy, didn’t have the OOC reaction to any Mythos names. When Mike outed himself as CIA and mentioned Delta Green, a lot of us shat bricks OC because that was out first genuinely Mythos namedrop. Further, yes, we mostly knew OOC what Chaugnar Faugn would do to us if we went to meet him, but the players who have never encountered the Mythos didn’t.

      Mythos Rot, as I like to think of it, is the problem that arises when players know too much of the Mythos. The Mythos is at its best when it is fresh. It’s at times like this that I think maybe running games with a consistent Non-Cthulhu-Mythos mythos made up by a ref team and expanded but kept a distinct whole thing, but not using direct continuity, might be good – so that players can get the heady Discovery stages of encountering a mythos. Games need not draw directly on one another (except when they do – sometimes, continuity is fun) but there being a sense for the players that this is a World and a Universe and a Cosmology and we have so little idea of how far it goes, but what we have seen so far is Vast and Terrifying.

      Reply
    3. mostlyfoo

      There was originally a plan to carry the sound track all day (and outside in the barn during the evening) on an MP3 player and portable speakers with the bulk of the player party but it just didn’t happen on the day (the speakers got left in the medical station I think and it just didn’t get checklisted off).

      Also the sound track wasn’t as good as it should have been I’m afraid, you may get natted about on this subject at some point

      Reply

Leave a Reply