So this weekend I was part of the epic horror LARP of Lords & Ladies (Shunned House) which was all kinds of interesting, and so as usual I’m actually going to write at least a short blog piece about it. Now originally I wasn’t going to be involved with this and was going to have like the world’s quietest weekend with everyone away, most of them LARPing my plan was to basically nest in bed with a pile of books and music, it was going to be awesome.
However a few weeks back I got approached with the offer of would I like to come NPC as they wanted a housekeeper NPC to basically do some light maid duties to make sure those didn’t eat up valuable Ref time (and avoid the magically appearing food problem) and kick start like one major plot point (alerting the players to Genevieve’s suicide). Initially I was a bit torn between a quiet weekend in a run of busy ones, or going along for the fun, and I have to say that when I had the game pitched to me by two of the Refs the pitch was strong enough that I was like “sign me up right now”, it was a game I really wanted to see how it played out.
And I think it pretty much delivered on the Ref’s vision. I quite liked the starkness of it all, the bleak and almost inevitable slide, into what the maid Helene Defour eventually characterised as actually being in hell, caused by what she thought of as wicked children meddling decadently in things they didn’t understand (I had a whole fantastic break down screaming speech kinda planned, but in the end her going numb and more and more broken seemed appropriate and I didn’t want to shoe horn in something that needed to feel genuine and responsive to the situation).
In structure the game was a pretty simple, pretty classic Big House Mythos LARP – and I frankly love those done right, it had that sense of the right time, the right people, the right atmosphere that gave everything a sort of lovely view of one version of the past, tinged by the kind of human doom, that meddling, that then leads people into the sight of strange events, in this case the sight of the King and Carcosa. We had various well crafted relationships, lots of time for interpersonal relations, scheming between players, and a gentle slow build before things started getting weird in a heavy and hard to deny fashion. I agree a little with some of the criticism of timing (perhaps the Revellers should have come earlier and stayed less time, perhaps the Byakhee should have come a little later) but I liked how events flowed into each other – for example there was already jazz swing dancing going on when the Revellers arrived to add their desperate horror to it :) There was also some wonderful moments between PCs I was witness too (and tried to get the fuck out of the way for mostly) – Laurence talking to Harriet who was trying to convince him to go upstairs to Genevieve and him pleading not too as it was too emotionally hard (despite being a resident of Carcosa and having seen the future of the atrocities of humanity, he still couldn’t quite face everything he had done to his family), the plotting to get Harriet and Arthur married, Bertie and Milli’s scheming, Marie-Clare just utterly breaking after Charlie’s descent into madness and death from her start point of romantic scheming, Peter getting increasingly staunchly British while Dephine got increasingly bitchy, Sylvester desperately seeking to thumb his nose at something as powerful as the King even at the risk of all kinds of horror, and of course Amos’s fixed rictus grin as he tried taking on all the family trauma (sisters death, betrayal by his brother, sham marriage being openly broken down, faced with an eternity of despair and his reaction to just say fuck it and just give it a shot and be the damn host).
So yeah, needless to say I had a good time, I was lightly directed for what to do and mostly left to my own devices with a few guiding principals (being a polite, reserved, character who keeps in the background and has a professional/class based distance from her employers and guests, but occasionally managing to sneak in a little comment or smile or something to connect with people) so I had fun just sort of making things up and rolling with how players wanted to interact with me, I removed myself from a couple of earlier situations where I could have confirmed that the play had already been performed (kinda – I mean I wasn’t there) so as to keep the plot shape going in what I thought was the right direction, and I knew I was going to kill myself Saturday night so I had to time my eventual breakdown for then, so started degrading heavily from Laurence and Genevieve’s return from the dead (the suicide was already a shocker, and the Watcher figure over dinner didn’t help), but before then I had such fun being almost involved in the Harriet romance plot, of being scandalised by Charlie and the ladies, of many interactions with Harriet and Genevieve and getting the household roleplaying going :)
There were also achievements that the game managed to get a number of jump scares on me as an NPC, the dinnertime Watcher, the noise and suddenness of the Byakhee, and also Peter walking about in his theatre mask all shocked me, although I generally prefer getting shocked as an NPC, I think a lot of my barriers to shock and horror have gotten taken away the past few years so I’m still building them back up and NPCing is a safer space to do that in as I’m prepared and the character is not mine to build attachment too, but merely me acting as an extension of the plot and asking “what good does this action do to further the game for the players?”.
Anyway, the criticisms I have for the event are few, and I should probably list them somewhere, they’re mostly little things as I think the game did so much more right than it did wrong. As an NPC I was kinda okay rolling through things without some stats (I mean my sanity was plot-dependant and nominal) but I could have done with some strength, and mostly I needed a printed copy of the briefing/character sheet I’d been emailed as I ended up having to quickly note things down off my phone into my notepad. Likewise above points to consider with timings, I’m not sure either way. The walk outside seemed to need a bit better planning (suggesting that outside and weather are things to pack for, also if the Refs had mentioned it and we’d checked the weather forecast I could have brought like half a dozen umbrellas), the tides impacted it and that should have been checked, the post event tidy up also needed some better structure (more teams on washing up detail, more collection/organisation/packing of props and kit, more lists of what went where, etc.etc.) but these are things that the Ref team I think will get better at in time.
Special super win however needs to go to the kitchen situation, which is mostly what I was involved in. I got to serve out well cooked food that was done on time without fuss, the Ref doing the food was in control of the kitchen, and while I helped keep on top of the cleaning and organising when there was a rush on other refs and crew got easily recruited to fill in and keep stuff going when it needed a quick wash between courses. This all meant I could be out dealing with serving at the table and keeping the guests happy which kept dinner times smooth and generated a certain atmosphere of class, the only suggestion I’d give is for the kitchen Ref to occasionally come out and survey the great reactions their creations got from the table :)
So yeah, I think this has rejuvenated my love of classic Big House early 20th Century Classic Mythos LARPs :)