Last month, Amy ran Sign for us!  Here’s her discussion of how the game went.

Sign is a game about being understood. Its goal is to bring to life a new perspective and appreciation for both how planner normally communicate and build empathy for those who use different ways of communication. Sign follows the first steps of Nicaraguan children in the 1970s who are deaf and up to this point have not had access to other children like them. This group of 50 students was brought together to learn lip reading, but instead co-created the foundation of what would become Nicaraguan Sign. In this game, players were some of these children with rich complex backstories and over the course of the first few days of class had their first real chance to share. The game structure was four classes and three recesses with a debrief afterwards.

Players noted that it was easiest to talk about things that were more concrete or immediately present. For example, real world props were provided in the form of toys: balls, spy glass, pretty rock, and stuff animals. The sign for such toys was quickly free established and reinforced by what was present. Compared with more abstract concepts, such as over protective parents or a family illness, was much harder.  As the characters got to know each other, I could tell as an observer in the role of teacher that they greatly wanted to help each other and learn what the other person was trying to say.

The signs we came up with in class included their names which represented a part of their backstory, instead of the name their parents game them. Sign points out that their written names were just pictures something they never really heard and instead asked them to create a sign name for themselves. One player chose to have her name be raising both hand in the shape of claws and making a fierce face to show she really want to write a book about her dragon “T” we later learned. The second class students were given a list of words to choose from and the in the third class they were allowed to make any word. What’s interesting is to see the signs they made in recess without any ‘adult’ interference. A symbol for ‘bad’ was developed and grew to have two shapes: tisking or drumming the right index finger on the left one. As the teacher, I had not seen this happen so it was amusing when the students were complaining about me being ‘bad’ when I ended recess. The shape of signs over time chanced meaning and became faster as time went on.  Several players commented that it was easier than they thought to remember and use the signs that they came up with.

The game was not without its frustrations. Players wanted to share their stories but sometimes had to make compromise, which mimics what these children really went through as well. We began to appreciate more what line of sight does. If one character was not directly look at another then players had to get creative.

The game is played in silence for its majority and it is an interesting experience how quickly we adapted as a group. When the game ended and a I spoke the closing words before the debrief there was this moment where it took to have the atmosphere shift. It was something that I certainly felt and I believe the players did as well.

With Family Like This…

As part of our packed Summer LARP schedule, Acata ran Guild Camp this August/September.  Guild Camp is intended to be a workshop and writing intensive for new LARP writers, where a team of writers work together to learn how to write an Assassins’ Guild style LARP, then put one together and run it in about a month’s time.  This year’s team just ran their LARP a week or so ago.  It was great fun!  Betty, one of the GMs, wrote up a report.

The Luminary Role-play Society ran the newest Guild Camp game on a languid afternoon in Mitchell Park Library on Sunday, September 17th, 2017. Co-written by three first time writers Louis Wasserman, Amy Russo, and Betty Bong, “With Family Like This…” was an MIT-style three-hour one-shot no PvP-combat LARP for nine players. It was written at a breakneck pace in just over a month with the guidance of Zampolit Acata. The game was followed by the LRS Social event in the evening. 

In a universe where superpowered people are a fact of life, this game was set in a world reminiscent of those in films like the Incredibles or Sky High. A family of superpowered people vying for control over cities are called to their supervillainess matriarch’s table for a rare family dinner. 

If the goal was to explore family dynamics in a way that was both campy and poignant, it was incredibly successful. Even though there was little pregame work was involved for the cast, they were able to push the game off to a quick start at 2pm. Both new and experienced players were quick to slip into the familiarities of a family gathering. Organizers encouraged players to make up outlandish stories about their character’s siblings or children. GMs were heavily involved with mechanics and in some cases almost transcended their NPC roles. Although the game had a lot going on in the way of mechanics, the players were given the choice whether of not they had to interact with them.

”Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. 

Tolstoy said it, so it must be true. Keep an eye out for future runs of this game early next year to experience the split-your-sides funny or snot-runningly weepy moments that define all complicated families.

Amy adds:

One of the highlights of game was the family dinner where players took the encouragement to improv to new heights weaving together LARP plots, current news, and family announcements. The GMs and Zampolit got to sit back and watch this unfold in a beautiful scene.  It even attracted a few spectators from the library patrons who our Zampolit, Acata, helped welcome and explained the process what LARPing was and what our current scenes were about.

Guild camp is truly an experience where much is learned about LARP writing, group dynamics and yourself as a writer.  If you are interested in learning how to write a game, consider reaching out to the LRS to find your own Zampolit or the dates for the next Guild Camp.

There were so many great quotes from this one, but the only one that we have found so far is this one, from a discussion of one of the game’s supervillains:
“He’s not that bad.”
“Actually, he is the definition of a bad guy.”

We’re definitely looking forward to the next run of this game, as well as any future LARPs this team might put together!

-Sarah, Historian Luminant


One of our GMs, Adrienne, goes to a lot of conventions, and often brings back to us the best of the LARPs she plays there.  The latest of these was a game called Inheritance, a family drama set in 10th century Denmark, involving the funeral of a patriarch and the return of an exiled son.  Our run of Inheritance happened in late July, although there will be a second run this month, because we had way more demand than we had available slots.

Inheritance was awesome.  It is a very tightly written game for 9 players, and exactly 9 players, all beautifully intertwined.  I was particularly impressed by how much the LARP author – veteran game designer Luke Crane – managed to convey with very short character sheets.  Although all the information we were given fit on a single sheet of paper, there was an enormous amount of tension and drama packed into each role, and all of us had interesting and important choices to make throughout the game.  All of us had our lives thrown into upheaval by the events of the game.  A few people tragically died.  The rest of us moved forward as best we could.  It was a richly emotional story, which I appreciated a great deal.  Afterwards Adrienne told us a bit about how the game had run at the convention where she’d first encountered it, and that run sounded like a very different, but equally compelling LARP.

As game is very much live, I’m not sure there’s more I can say, except that it was a wonderful time and I’m looking forward to hearing how our second run goes!

Blood and Iron

At some point, there will be blog posts about the June and July games, I swear!  But in the meantime, Hannah ran her new game, Blood and Iron, over the weekend.  Here’s her thoughts on the game:

This past weekend I GMed my first LARP, Blood and Iron, inspired by the book of the same name written by Elizabeth Bear. Blood and Iron is set on All Hallows Eve in New York City and in Faerie, as the Seelie and Unseelie Courts vie for dominance and survival and the Mages of the Prometheus Club prepare to take vengeance for slights against humanity both personal and historical.

There were a number of unique challenges that made running this game an especially interesting experience. In addition to being the first LARP I’ve run, this is also the first LARP I’ve written. Fawnn and Ted, my co-GMs, made invaluable contributions during the review phase of the process, but Fawnn had also never written a LARP and Ted, while an experienced GM, was new to LRS. Not content with doing something for the first time, I included a number of novel mechanics and that pertained to how the characters recognized one another in-game, moved through the physical space of the game, progressed towards their goals, and used their various magical and mundane abilities. The game was also written for a large cast and many of the players were completely new to LARPing. To top it all off, two players cancelled at the last minute.

Many of the novel mechanics worked very well. A few were confusing and I plan to redo them before running the game again. Fawnn has accused me of writing this LARP to get catharsis for how confused I was when reading the book, and while there may be some element of truth to that, there was more confusion going on than I’d intended. Some mechanical changes and more thorough demos should go a long way towards resolving most of the problems.

One of the novel aspects of the LARP that I was especially concerned about was the concept of cannon fodder characters – relatively powerless PCs who were likely to die near the beginning of the game and whose players had the choice to come back as a different PC, take over an NPC, or leave the game entirely. I’m happy to say that the cannon fodder players (all of whom volunteered for the role) appeared to have had a very good time. One particular college frat boy was enthralled by an Unseelie fae and swept away to Faerie, got ahold of a magical cup that was never empty of beer, and by all accounts was the most successful at accomplishing his goals of any character right up until he was slain in the final battle in the backlash of an attack aimed at someone else. Meanwhile, a character who had been expected to survive most of the game had some very poor luck and was killed early on. That player returned as an NPC whose story went a much different direction than I would have predicted.

The small interactions were some of my favorite parts. A disguised Mage flirting with a Lord of the Seelie Court. A minion getting around her Queen’s commands by recruiting someone else to do the thing she’d been told not to do. An eager college student interviewing his role model for a term paper, unaware that she was in the middle of much greater things. The Seelie Queen banishing an interloping Unseelie fae from her throne room with sheer force of personality. A bargain made for the completion of a task that, unbeknownst to one of the parties, was already done.

I’m excited to run this LARP again some time. With different casting, different interpretations of the character sheets, and different outcomes for some of the randomized mechanics, the plot will quite likely go in a very different direction.

Thanks, Hannah!

-Sarah, Historian Luminant

Titanic LARP

We’re trying to catch up a bit on the posts for games that ran earlier this year, and here is our first installment.  I sadly wasn’t able to make it to Titanic LARP.  But Acata was there, and has given me a report on the action:

Way back on April 2nd, the LRS hosted “The Titanic Game” written and GMed by Chris. The game is a great romp through an underwater hotel that has suffered some mysterious damage that caused it to be shut down within a week of its grand opening. The players were a mix of veterans and new players, and they were all fantastic. Creativity and ingenuity carried the day with regards to epic stories and daring rescues. Afterwards we all went out to eat, swap war stories, and hang out at a local restaurant. All in all, a grand success!

Sounds like a good time!

-Sarah, Historian Luminant

Summer at the LRS

Despite the lack of new blog posts, we’ve been quite busy at the Luminary Roleplay Society lately! We’ve had two games, which will be documented here shortly, and another fun GM brunch.  We also have at least one event every month for the rest of the year, including our second Grand LARP, and a LARP-writing workshop for first time LARP writers.  Keep checking this space for all the latest news about our games and other events!

Pandora’s Tears

Your historian luminant has been sadly remiss of late, for which I apologize.  It’s been over a month since the last LRS event, and I’m only now getting around to talking about it – which is especially ridiculous because I ran said event.  My only excuse is that I’ve been busy developing repertoire for the rest of the year, and of course, working on Grand LARP.

Back in early February, I ran Pandora’s Tears, a LARP that I originally wrote a few years ago as a moody Halloween game.  It was later run again at the Stanford Gaming Society, which would make the LRS run the third iteration.  Aaron Sunshine was on hand to assist me, and Acata came to take pictures but also stepped in to help manage a combat or two. (Thanks!)  We had a brilliant cast of players, which included veterans of my LARPs who had missed the earlier runs, people who had never played in one of my LARPs before, and a few brave souls who were new (or almost new) to LARPing in general.

Rerunning LARPs is a fascinating experience, because each run is very distinct, and each set of players will always find something new in the game.  After two runs of Pandora’s Tears, there were many things that I assumed I knew about how this game would shake out.  My players challenged those assumptions.  They engaged with different portions of the backstory than previous groups had, and that changed many fundamental things about the tone and direction of the game.  Certain plot elements were pivotal which had heretofore rarely been touched, and others were untouched which had previously been central to the game’s plot, purely based on choices which the players made.  This particular run was far bloodier than its predecessors had been, but oddly, also contained some of the most uplifting moments I’ve seen in any iteration.  I was very excited by it.


Gathering the Heroes: The LRS GM Brunch

We don’t have any LARPs running this January, but that doesn’t mean we’re dormant!  Instead, we had our inaugural GM Brunch.  I’m hoping that this will become a quarterly tradition, as it was a lot of fun.  We invited everyone in the Society who either writes games, runs games, or is thinking about running and writing games.  Then we all descended upon a restaurant at a most ungamerly hour of the morning, and ate tasty food and talked shop.  Topics of discussion varied wildly, but there was a lot of interesting discussion of mechanics from past games, and how to fix them.  There was also some amount of reminiscing over past player antics, and wild daydreaming about future events.  We are very lucky to have such a large GM corps.  We ended up having ten people turn out for the brunch, which was a large and lively group, and we have several others who GM for us but who weren’t able to make it.

Related to our wealth of GMs, I am delighted to announce that we have filled the LARP calendar for 2017, and we have an intriguing array of new and classic games for you.  There will be a more official announcement about this soon.

-Sarah, Historian Luminant

Midwinter at the Summer Court

Rounding out the Luminary Roleplay Society’s games for 2016, on Dec. 11th Acata ran a LARP called Midwinter at the Summer CourtMidwinter was about a Court of the Fae, facing a dire threat on the night of the year when they were weakest.  It was a short, accessible game written for a large number of people – we ultimately had 23 players!  We are excited to report that several first-time LARPers turned out.  They were great and we hope to see them at future events.

Midwinter, like Will that be All? before it, asked the players to provide a lot in terms of fleshing out the world and the plots and the connections between the characters.  Unlike WTBA?, there were some pre-written plots, which drove the action of the game.  However, we also were encouraged to develop more on our own, and add things to the world as we saw fit. (There was a whiteboard in one room where we could log all of these added elements, so that others would know they existed and use them in their own plots.) Similarly, on our character sheets, we had very few preexisting connections to the other characters.  Instead, we did a pre-game round of connection building – we all had four randomly drawn colored beads, and we would partner with a person with a bead whose color matched one of our own.  Once we were all paired, Acata told us what kind of connection to form with that person – i.e. positive, negative, or a bit of both.  We then repeated this process twice more, reserving the last bead to spontaneously generate past connections during the course of the game. (I don’t think this was used too many times, though.)  We were encouraged to form connections with players we didn’t already know, which helped mix up the groups of people who have gamed together before.

Once all the setup was done, we played!  The game is live, so I can’t go into much detail about what transpired.  Suffice it to say that there was a profusion of memorable scenes and excellent roleplaying, it was a very fun evening, and I thought it was a nice finale to LRS’ 2016 season.  We’ll have more information about our 2017 plans soon.  Until then, happy holidays!


Some of the players of Midwinter at the Summer Court.

-Sarah, Historian Luminant

Will That Be All?

On Dec. 4th, Adrienne ran a LARP called Will That Be All?, which was all about love and relationships between the servants at an English country manor during the 1920s and 1930s.  It was a lovely game with a unique format quite unlike the usual LARPs that tend to be run in this area.

Will That Be All? had very minimal character sheets – each character was outlined briefly in a few sentences on a playing card, and we all chose our parts as part of the set-up of the LARP.  We then established some connections between our characters, again drawing from a limited set of cards, and briefly decided a few details about the family we worked for and the servants’ hall where the larp was set.  These things varied from the charming (a bowl of flowers, a cheery fire, the housekeeper’s ‘secret’ stash of toffee) to the realistically irritating (the hideous carpet that we all hated).  We then began to play.  The LARP took place in three acts, which were set on New Year’s Eve of 1928, 1931, and 1935, respectively.  Between each act, everyone explained how they felt about all the other characters (which was less cumbersome than it sounds, as the LARP had a small cast).  Then, we chose new connection cards to represent some of how our feelings had changed in the intervening year.  As the years went by and the optimism of the ’20s faded into the anxiety and depression of the ’30s, the characters grew and changed.  Some relationships grew stronger, others fell apart.  The final Act took place on the eve of World War 2, as the manor was being sold and we all went our separate ways.  Two pairs of people got married, the rest remained single.  We vowed to keep in touch, but OOC we all knew that the next ten years were going to be hellish and uncertain for all of the characters.  It was an emotional and moving final hour.

One of the things that I really appreciated about the game was that it succeeded at the difficult task of creating a LARP that could be run essentially GM-less.   Due to the gentle, emotionally-focused nature of the LARP, there was no need to have an omniscient GM to adjudicate conflicts and insert new information into game.  This meant that Adrienne explained how everything was going to work and walked us all through the process, but then she was able to pick up a character and play along with the rest of us, only putting on her GM hat in order to let us know when midnight was occurring (so we could toast/kiss/propose to each other) and when each act was ending.  I don’t think it is a format that would work for every game, but for this game, it worked very well.

Alas, I have neither quotes nor pictures from this one.  Despite the lack of corroborative record, however, it was a very enjoyable game, and one that I suspect I will remember fondly for quite some time.

-Sarah, Historian Luminant