Archive | October 2014

A Review of Elegy: A Doompunk LARP

I recently went to Elegy for their second season finale event. I came to it knowing that I would either love it, or hate it. I had my reservations about going, mainly because I’ve had my ear to the ground regarding Elegy and on the surface it has both welcoming and unwelcoming voices. But I couldn’t be more wrong about the unwelcoming ones.

But lets get down to it. This is my review of Elegy: A Doompunk LARP!

(What the hell is Doompunk? Damned if I know.)

Genre and Narrative

Elegy is a Post-Apocalyptic LARP, which is a nice change of pace from the many of the other combat LARPs which are all Fantasy. This also allows an easy justification of NERF guns in the LARP, something very highly demanded by many LARPers.

The game takes place in a ruined Southern Ontario 200 years from today, called the Golden South. In this area, blocked off from the rest of the world by Rifts, giant fissures in the earth which spew forth radiation called simply “Rift Energy.” The survivors of the apocalypse have formed their own cultures which share the Golden south: The Imagos, religious farmers, Kinfolk, open and accepting of others out of both necessity and kindness, the Penitents, science-minded individuals bent on saving the world from the Rifts, Scraplanders, corporate-minded peoples of the world living in the last remaining city in the Golden South, Vanguard, no-nonsense survival of the fittest types, and the Wilder, who are not a true civilization perse, but individuals or groups who choose to live in the wildest areas of the land.

The game itself takes place primarily in a place called Bartertown, a shanty town where all the cultures meet primarily to trade with one another. Surprisingly all of the cultures consider it neutral ground and will fight shoulder to shoulder when Bartertown comes under attack. There’s PvP of course, but much of it is either negotiated OOG between the players involved, or doesn’t come to combat.

Rules

For a combat LARP, Elegy is very rules-lite. They are designed to intrude on immersion and role-play as little as possible. As a game designer, I’m a little jealous of them. Combat, for example, doesn’t have regular damage calls unless you’re using a special ability. Every hit does X amount of damage, (two damage for bullets, and one damage for everything else). This allows role-play while in combat.

Character progression is mind-numbingly slow, but the character creation process allows you to be at the top of your field right off the bat. So if you wanted to be a master surgeon or engineer, you can do that right away, but improving anything beyond what you start with will take many events. This is a great thing for those running the plot of the game, as they don’t have to write encounters for characters with specific levels of experience, or at least for now.

Mind you, there are some things I can point out that I didn’t like. The Grapple rules are a little muttled and it’s not clear what it can and cannot do, it’s limitations, etc. I don’t like the fact that when Resources expire, they are still in game and can be traded.

There’s also a list of Thoughtbender abilities (psychic powers) that need to be memorized by everyone, and though that list is much shorter than many other games, it can still be a bit daunting to have to remember all of it. As a result, you end up having to ask what things do, and for how long, which breaks both the flow of combat and the immersion.

Player Base

I’ll be honest here. I’ve had my ear to the ground with Elegy for a while and I’ve had mixed feelings about the people that play Elegy. Some seemed nice, while others seemed to post a lot of macho posturing bullshit and sarcastic, snarky things that made me want to avoid Elegy. The title of this review might have been “Elegy: It’s Underworld with Nerf Guns.”

However, this was not the case. Many of their players were very welcoming. Even in the pouring rain at night, as I arrived late to the game on Friday night, there were people that helped me with setting up my tent very quickly, and I’m very grateful for that. Even the people that I thought would be problematic to me turned out to be very nice, at least out of game.

Elegy is more than just another LARP. They’ve gone out of their way to make sure that people are not there just to be jerks to everyone else and try to win. There’s a community here that has respect for one another and expect everyone to behave like adults. In addition, they are very welcoming to new players, making sure that everyone, no matter how long they’ve played, can have fun and feel like they belong.

I did find a few problems, but they are pretty common ones at any LARP. There are some people that swing WAY too hard with their weapons. Another problem I found was that Killing Blows, which require a 5-count (a five second description of the killing strike, or at least a 5 second count) being counted way too fast. These things can be corrected though, and are not as bad as some other LARPs I’ve played in the past.

Other Stuff

Elegy places a great amount of emphasis on immersion and role-play, which is reflected in their rules, but also in their attitudes towards what happens in their game. Not every encounter or NPC is a combat one, though there are many of those still. Even though on the surface it looks like almost everyone is playing a stereotype of their cultures, every character does feel like a unique individual that goes beyond just being a Vanguard murder-hobo or Kinfolk nymphomaniac, which adds depth to the immersion and role-play.

The game itself is played on the Mythwood Campground in Grey County, Ontario. It’s a beautiful site, complete with a lake that is available for swimming (weather permitting). It is clothing optional, however, so keep that in mind.

The facilities do have showers on site, but mostly relies on outhouses for bathrooms. There is a heated cabin for many people, but space is limited and priority goes to those that need to be there for medical reasons. It’s also far away from Bartertown proper.

Elegy does have a food tent where warm food can be purchased, but they often run out of food to cook, so it would be best not to rely completely on it. Bring at least some of your own food just in case.

Overall, Elegy is a fantastic game, and offers a great post-apocalyptic experience and a thriving, welcoming community. I highly recommend checking it out for yourself when the next season starts next spring.

Links to both Elegy and Mythwood Campground can be found below:

Elegy: A Doompunk LARP

Mythwood Campground

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I’m Taking It Back

With the whole GamerGate fiasco that’s been going down in recent months, the idea of “Gamers are dead” because everyone plays games now, whether it be on their phones on the subway, for hours on a PC, or anywhere in between, has come up. And I respectfully disagree with that statement.

The term Gamer is meant to be a term for a Games Enthusiast. Someone who not only plays games, but also reads and writes about them, blogs about them, subscribes to magazines (or used to before the internet was a thing), discuss them with other Games enthusiasts, and even make them on their own time. It isn’t just a thing to pass the time on the subway, it’s a major hobby that occupies a large majority of free time.

The logic of “Everyone is a gamer now, therefore no one is” doesn’t make sense to me. I wear clothing regularly like everyone else does, but that doesn’t make me a Fashionista, or Fashion Enthusiast. I eat food like everyone else, but that doesn’t make me a Foodie, or a Food Enthusiast. If I owned a car, I wouldn’t be a Gearhead, or Car Enthusiast, as a result.

Gamers are not dead. I haven’t lost my enthusiasm for playing and creating games. But some have, namely many female game developers and enthusiasts who have been the target of gross amounts of hate and misogyny simply for being female. Which is gross.

To me, it’s not that Gamers are dead, but instead that the term has been hijacked and twisted to mean something else entirely. The mainstream media often tries to depict Gamers as petty, apathetic, socially inept teenagers filled with angst and hate with no healthy outlet for their emotions, and therefore escape into games in order to cope. And because the loudest voices among Gamers are basically the petty, apathetic, and socially inept, that’s how the media labels ALL Gamers.

Except that we’re not.

Most Gamers actually want to see a large variety of different games, with different stories and perspectives. I’m craving variety right now, and I’m not getting it from the AAA publishers. The ever-growing indie games scene is where the variety is coming from right now, and that’s where you’re seeing all the variety. But somehow the ones causing all the noise and making all Gamers look bad think that variety means that their favourite games somehow disappear. I have something to tell you: Activision will still be making Call Of Duty over and over again for years to come. It’s not going to disappear because women want to make games about anything other than shooting brown people. Same goes for Battlefield, Gears Of War, and many other games you cling to.

The Gamers I know are a very welcoming bunch. They’ll accept you regardless of gender, skin colour, sexual preference, and so on. As long as you’re someone that isn’t largely negative and share the same passion for games, you’re welcomed with open arms.

And the ones that are spreading misogyny and hate, slut-shaming and harassing women in the games industry and within gamer culture? I’m going to say this as simply as I can.

You. Are. NOT. Gamers.

You may spend some of your time playing games, but you do not do anything other than that to express your enthusiasm for the hobby. You do not drive the direction of games in any way. You don’t add anything to the conversation beyond spreading hate. In fact, you spend more time discussing your hatred for people than you do discussing games themselves.

That is not enthusiasm for games. That’s enthusiasm for bigotry. You are BIGOTS, and that’s what you should be called. That’s your label now.

You do not represent me, or any Games Enthusiasts at large. The game developers and publishers are not siding with you. The games journalists are not siding with you. Even the culture you claim to be in does not side with you.

I’m taking back the term Gamer for myself and anyone that wants the term to become what it was, and always should have been: people who have a passion for games. Anyone that wants to exclude anyone else for that just for their sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, or whatever, can go away and bitch about it with the other Bigots.

I am a Gamer, always have been, and always will be. And if you’re more concerned with games than you are with making sure only certain people get to make or talk about them, you’re welcome to be one too.

P.S. If anyone wants to call me a Social Justice Warrior over this, can you do me a favour and call me a Social Justice Wizard instead? I like that character class better, and it gives me an excuse to get one of those Social Justice class pins.