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Saturday, June 18, 2022

My First Quest: a LARP life, pt. 2

You may have read part one of this memoir, and maybe even 'My 2 Favorite Things on my Quest' over on sister blog, Yes, we did find out what was going on with the ‘kidnapped twins’ and located the famous Robinhood-style thieves, The Cat and the Mirror. Thanks to a quickly-cast Inspire spell, Ochinnikov decided to trust these Questers. We partied! He slept in the next day, and we needed a puzzle solution to leave his cave. Fyre said he had a great riddle, which did indeed eat ten minutes’ time. What does Luke Skywalker say at Christmas? The answer, actually, tied into Day Four’s quest through the Dream Essence Realm. The punchline can be found in the epic heroic ballad I created with ‘Dandelion’ and her ukele and harmonica, in the town square during Friday Bazaar. I'll tell you about that, today!
The 'home base' for our very First Quest. So here I was, being employed to do a more-complicated version of what i used to do with my nephews, David and Austin, when I played we were "Louis" (my middle name) and "Clark" (their last names!), crossing the country with Sacagawea.
It was not really so precise, this LARPing, especially my first quest, as that was also the aspect I found most baffling, as someone who never LARPed, especially with a Character Sheet.
I might learn to game with more accuracy after a couple of weeks, but Roleplay itself is my focus. I’ll get better with the rest to reconcile with how we define that role playing using the game, for kids more interested in their sheets than these five guys.
Join in on OUR INTEGR8D SOUL game-story, which was also live-action role played at this camp, Wednesday morning!
Here's a link to our game which inspired me: Staggered amid the large stones beneath the bridge near the library, we formulated plans. Shadow wanted to shape-change and look like the big bad’s twin, whom we’d taken out before lunch. Fiery wanted to tap into Animal Form and go full-tiger, to be delivered by a disguised Rink. Axy would swim through the mote. Finally, one of the palace guards was our artisan, Snake Man. First, we had the Big Bad to take out. She lost her head to Shadow’s tactic. I wouldn’t go for a beheading, normally, yet, as a shape-changer myself, I told them I simply made my head into a bowling ball, which they had to dodge, and utilizing their attack in return, gave myself back my head. Snake Man was eventually more fascinated by the adventure music coming over my speaker. “Audio” by LSD was his favorite. They recognized the Young Indiana Jones theme I played as we victoriously crossed the bridge for the palace showdown.

How could I forget? We were asked to play the opponents, the Green Teeth Horde, and I, a healer named Johnny Rainbow. There I am with music blasting out of my fanny pack, fast-talking, healing, and watching my Questers attack Jeremy's group with gusto.

Suffice to say, in the showdown where The Cat and the Mirror stage a coup, Shadow used a water bottle on their mother, the feline Marchioness, as was his want to turn the game in a silly direction. I encouraged them to step their feet into cakes on tables and swing from chandeliers (ala classic Robin Hood w/ Errol Flynn), swing on drapery (like the Swordsman versus Valkyrie during the Avengers/Defenders War in ‘73). Before the coronation, Shadow ran off with the physical representation (phys rep) of the crown, chased up a tree by his comrades.

I sang about rather a lot of this the next day at Friday Bazaar. I accepted the role playing responsibility of the Armory merchant, allowing Questers to trade their imaginary Silver, as designated by their QL, for armor, weapons, and enchantments for said accouterments. I simply hit upon my Grandfather Dish and Uncle Roger’s middle name, “Homer,” and drawled with the accent I’d learned as a boy. I was, after all, pretty wiped by that morning, and realized an accent that comes naturally to me when tired was the way to go. I’d tell stories of certain weapons and armor, to increase story-telling and monetary value, and asked the warriors to share, when selling me a shield, what-have-you, tell me what battles the equipment’s seen- to pass on, upon re-sell, of course.

Since my buddy was Dandy Lion, ukelele and harmonica-playing itinerant musician in motley, I stepped over and asked if we might create a song. I began telling the story of Jim Dandy, how his eight-foot tall presence swaying there by the entrance of Ochinnikov’s cave evidenced ‘magic in the air.’ Dandy began calling back a lyrical response- “magic in the air”- and a heroic ballad emerged. We joined in again on several plot points, with a very good response from nearby CIT Knights (the teens training to assist we Quest Leaders) and kids. I had a chance to name check my Questers, and asked the crowd around our park bench if they knew what Luke Skywalker said at Christmas. I shared Fiery’s riddle as he smiled and hollered nearby: “Snoooooooow!!!”

The part about our director helping me unravel my tired, incomplete, confusing character sheets might be amusing to hear, but emotionally, it was the only part of the day that made me feel like I had a long ways to go. But he was great about it. I think I owed him an Excedrin afterwards, though.
I only had time to see the kids off, deal with any last questions, then make my way to the bus just in time to teach my online student in Korea. But I knew I’d have to write about it- before other quests came along to obscure what-was—in-the-beginning.

Shadow was the last kid picked up. He sat with me and asked me to put on “We Will Rock You.” Shadow said: “I like ‘We Are the Champions’ too- but I think that part about ‘no time for losers’ is a little mean.” I answered him about Wice, “Wormhole”: it’s Dark Wave Music, like for futuristic science fiction, shaped by synthesizer music and beats of the 1980s. As he left, Shadow simply said: “Thank you.” For what? I didn’t ask. That way, it could just be a pretty- grown-up way of saying ‘farewell.’

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Leading my First Quest: a Renaissance Adventure

So, I found an interactive story-telling job this summer.
Writing interactive story-telling for my games, such as The Curse of Allautou on games, was a fun new branch, as I tried to move away from spending so much time on my long-time hobby of reading, and reading about, the classic Marvel Universe- that is, up to the point where I was collecting as many comics as possible each month, and copious back issues as I could afford them. Why had I loved them so? When I was a boy, every peek at a comic book- my family bought me very few, but they were precious ones- gave me hours of pretend play. Cartoons and TV shows with adventure characters fed my imagination. Now, upon discovering Renaissance Adventures, a Boulder/ Denver-area organization that uses Dungeons and Dragons-style Live Action Role-Playing (LARP), I had a chance to parlay my healthy inner-child, love of story-telling, and nearly 6000 online classes one-on-one with kids (as with GoGoKid, DaDa, and SayABC companies- once, all three at once!) into a rich, if challenging, summer job.
The last component was my drift towards writing games to play on PC and your phone- mostly based on reading, then choosing your next course of action. I created all-original characters for each of my games, though without the D&D-style point system, as my program did not tally these changes. (There is a place for Variables, but I’d need more tutorials to make use of it. Would be fun!)
I wanted to get up with the times, partially inspired by the death of my good friend, David Anthony Kraft, my personal tie to the wild-and-wooly creative 1970s Marvel Comics Group. On the week of his birthday- our second one without him- I created a character named ‘Golden Dave.’ With a Stan Lee-flavored accent, GD was patterned loosely after Dollar Bill, an enthusiastic, wealthy young film maker who befriended The Valkyrie and the rest of the Dynamic Defenders (like Hulk, Doctor Strange, Nighthawk, and Hellcat, a.k.a. Patsy Walker, for you Jessica Jones tv show fans). With my little orange in hand, I ‘recorded’ the exploits of the young Questers I met each day, as I trained to become a Quest Leader for Ren ‘Ven. I ‘re-played’ a few events at the Friday Bazaar. That’s a marketplace where all Questers gather, to spend their hard-earned Silver on new armor, upgrades to weapons, potions, and of course, Pets- all in-game stuff. Then, my first week of Quest Leading arrived. My first five kids were not, overall, certain of the choices before them. Are you mostly a Warrior? Explorer? Wizard? Mystic? Bard or Artisan?
‘Shape-shifter’ became the watch word. Upon review, that was an ability Path, but what they wanted were Totemic Races. Once they got into Character, almost no one was deeply interested in changing shape, anyway.
I had an idea to get us started. We began our quest over an hour after Check In began, which felt like such a long time to make them wait, as they were not deeply-interested in choosing abilities on their Character Sheets. I felt compelled to get us into action as soon as possible, so, at 9:50 am, my first Quest began. With 20 XP (experience points) and numerous vague ideas, off went my Questers.
I inserted an abandoned amusement park, indicative of the impoverished economy of this part of the fiefdom of Vard. Our story would reveal how greedy robber barons had taken some share of a dragon’s hoard, won by questionable means by the Marquis of Vardmark. Within its fun house mirrors, I borrowed the Illusions of Ikon from the lore of Doctor Strange. Each Quester, meeting for the first time as a group here, faced off against a living reflection of himself!
‘Axy’ was inspired by a paper mache Axolotyl, which was part of a display on Mexican culture in the Boulder Main Library, where we went for hand washing and bathroom breaks. He requested interaction with other Axolotyls, often- five of them were his Family. How do you balance game-breaking creatures’ usage with the heart-felt desire of a seven year-old? ‘Snake Boy’ did wisely choose ‘Artisan’ as the basis for his abilities, which meant we had someone handy at repairs and picking locks on hand. One ability is Smarts, which gives you a roll for hints about Riddles and Puzzles- and best of all, some insight into the truth about Traps.
‘Shadow’ took a combination of Warrior and Explorer abilities. He was your classic Red Ronin, to borrow a trope, always pushing boundaries of what we could do, what he was allowed. I really needed to explain that ‘Pierce’- which bypasses all armor- also requires a straight-line charge of twenty-five feet. I guess the Darth Vader backpack was some clue?
I did explain many times ‘Pierce’ didn’t work but once a day. You have to build Skill Levels for more. Believe me, as the creatures they faced, I was getting hit a hundred times a day. Maybe here, I should explain we use foam-covered Swashers, and use safety rules, limiting the force and places of contact.
‘Firey’ had begun as an Elemental- for a few minutes- but decided to be a tiger totemic, a Tiger-Man, if you will. Firey had numerous advantages I tried to document. Only when I put in a request for his Character Sheet did I see where five campaigns had taken him, including Achievements that denoted a few allies I could add along the way- non-player characters (NPCs) who could provide assistance, materially and by information. This was the Quester most likely to climb all over you, with cat-like curiosity for everything in reach, including your Quest Booklet and its story secrets. Just as I had to ask Shadow to not hit me so hard- eight times- I had to ask Firey to please give me a bit of space a few times. I don’t think anyone smiled more than Firey.
Finally, there was ‘Rink,’ the youngest- whose name was an homage to Link and a type of Zelda character. When you play pretend on your own, you’re only as powerful (or not) as you decide. I tried to ease this shy combatant into joining the Swashing fun. It took me two days to hit upon a power he would have fun using.
After the Mirrors, they received a secret summons from the cat-lady Marchioness of Vardmark. Her twin daughters were missing. We made our way to her throne room and took the job. We also heard a slanted version of the crimes of the dragon, Ochinnikov. The marquis won this wager they made, you see, and instead of treating the trick with humor and making a dragon friend, possibly, the marquis declared himself winner of the dragon’s hoard. (Our program director was ALSO not fond of plot armor that depicts a dragon as too passive, weak, or easily influenced.)
Should you let a seven year-old float a Cheeto down a brisk, mini-rapids-dotted creek? We’re meant to leave Nature as we found her. I certainly discouraged whacking the ground and plants with the Swashers, as that’s not good for either sword nor surface. But there, braving the rapids, was our ‘ship,’ as launched by Shadow, drawing the attention of most of our group. They gesticulated with such excitement, reporting its progress to each other, as we sailed from Bahbka with our Bahbka bread, to the imperial capitol of Vardmark. So I’m going with ‘yes’ on the Cheeto.

The Greenteeth hoards (you explain you’re becoming one after another, when portraying any monster hoard) brought sharp teeth and natural armor to bear. In choosing their local ‘hideout,’ we had the perfect place for some ‘hide and seek’ to keep combat interspersed with Stealth. Why were they attacking the Bahbkans, who ran fearfully at the sounding of the church bells?
Oh, yeah, the bells: I had a handheld speaker, linked to YouTube on my phone. The next track was animal attack sound FX. Thanks, Olivier Giradot! These followed “Theme from ‘Excalibur,’” the rousing track from the 1981 motion picture I so love. Those slowly creeping-up notes crescendo as we take our first morning Quest steps. I had an Adventure Music queue which doubled in size in a week.

We pass through the mustachioed town of Usa, where the ladies, yes, the babies, even the swords and trees all bore mustaches. Yes, Firey: the mustaches DO have mustaches. We had to re-visit Usa on Thursday, you see, because Yours Truly spotted a pack of mustaches and soul patches. This time, they didn’t magically ask a mustache to slap the face on which it resided, so they got a warmer reception.
There are some sorta-mean things that are funny when you’re in kid mode. I was interested in feeling for where I needed to insert a bit of moral guidance and reminder of consequences to themselves and others. Going forward, I will be sure to divide my Story Teller persona into more NPCs, who can dole out plot points and ethical reasoning challenges from a more creatively-derived source.
Lore should come from meetings with Professor Knees, on his travels.
One thing that wasn’t so funny was this Chaotic spell that erased an entire character. Well, rather, the threat of validation of such a spell was a terror, to someone debuting his first fictional persona acknowledged by an entire group. You can tell I still didn’t 1) know what all these spells are, and 2) didn’t realize how I’d have to reassure someone who found such a threat no laughing matter. This came up the first time I was loaned two Questers to be fierce swooping Eagles along the Caverns of Doom, just before Ochinnikov’s Cave. I was like, sure, try whatever power you've thought up. Uh-oh. Hey, I knew how the kid felt, when a Quest Leader said, day after I quested with them, that Golden Dave was whomped by a falling wall! My one-day questing buddies actually all tried to save Golden Dave, but someone decided he'd want to go out that way- a perfect drama to end his documentary about Questing, doncha know?

Discovering the cave itself started out promising. The sudden growth of the eight-foot tall dandelion, Jim Dandy, led to a nature spirit conversation with Axy. There was Magic in the Air, for certain. Ochinnikov’s Cave lay in the shade above on the bank, where several Questers already stood.

Now, Rink took some time to evolve into dueling with me-as-characters, much less anyone else who, he learned, might also hit too hard. So, in the middle of things, I suggested to him a power called Inspire. See, if you cast Inspire, you get a chance to dictate the Feelings of any other character you face! As with Intuition, Smarts, and other multi-outcome possibilities, we throw Rock Paper Scissors, in lieu of dice.
“So, Rink, I’ll be a bandit,” I said, on our group’s walk to the water fountain, earlier. I really spoiled them with foes on our way to routine tasks, when possible. “Now, when I jump up, I want you to say: “One, I cast magic; two, I cast magic; three, I cast magic.

Good! Now, you say ‘I inspire you to…’ He’d come up with some answers: you could make your foe hungry. Yes, you could make them even more angry, Shadow, but Snake Man is right, now he’ll be even harder to fight.”

“I inspire you to happy!” said Rink. My bandit changed tone, struck a jaunty stride and did a jig, before dancing away to join the geese.

So, they’d encountered a dragon’s haunted castle on Day One, a place I filled with diverse opponents. I offered as little explanation as possible, so they could tackle the Undead, Ghosts, and Gargoyles who’d swoop out of reach (“One, I fly, two I fly, three I fly”) before dashing back into the fray (“One I dive, two I dive, three I dive!”). Axel the Dragon decided he like the cut of their jib, and promised to be a patron to their Quest.
I thanked the Oblivion-obsessed Quester and his follower, and explained that the spell would make one Quester cry- I know you mean ‘that guy,’ Shadow doesn’t care, but Rink is really bothered. So why don’t you guys go on back to your Group? You did a great job!”
Now, Axel came. With my calm draconic demeanor, I got a bit Meta and let Rink know, at RA, we never let anyone’s character be destroyed forever. Maybe some D & D players might think it was hilarious, but we’d never do that. Explaining that Axel could restore him in full didn’t shake his fear of Obliteration as a concept. He didn’t cry, but I asked him to hang on while I caught everyone else up to meeting Ochinnikov. I uncovered that, for one, he was afraid he didn’t know what you say for your Inspire power to work. (One I cast inspire, etc. might have been more succinct.) But I wanted him to think of how his Inspire power might’ve changed the feelings of his oppressors. With some more helpful interjections from Shadow, we had Rink laughing about the possible ways he could Inspire one foe to foil the other, and themselves. I even had ways that were funny and wouldn’t hurt them, but Shadow’s suggestion they smash the obliteration potion on their own faces...that’s pretty Inspired, too.

I think Rink left camp with more confidence in himself, as per witness how often I found him and Shadow bonding like brothers. He might’ve learned to make a Poop joke from this relationship, I cannot say, but Rink now joined in with the Swashing duels. I never got three of them to join the Camp-Wide Reindeer Games, but that may have had a lot to do with me hanging out. The games didn’t have powers and story- the personal touch. Me, I’m willing to be Autobots on the way back from the drinking fountain. Roll out!
Yes, we did find out what was going on with the ‘kidnapped twins’ and located the famous Robinhood-style thieves, The Cat and the Mirror. Thanks to a quickly-cast Inspire spell, Ochinnikov decided to trust these Questers. We partied! He slept in the next day, and we needed a puzzle solution to leave his cave.
Fyre said he had a great riddle, which did indeed eat ten minutes’ day-ending time. What does Luke Skywalker say at Christmas?

The answer, actually, tied into Day Four’s quest through the Dream Essence Realm. The punchline can be found in the epic heroic ballad I created with ‘Dandelion’ and her ukele and harmonica, in the town square during Friday Bazaar. If I could wait ten minutes for it, so can you. The risen moon in the afternoon was our omen for the direction onward.
And I think I’ll save the second part of this read for a post, tomorrow!
Every sight of us was divinely precious. And that’s how I’ll always feel about it, any time I’m out there. Let it be the great co-creation we deserve.

Monday, June 6, 2022

New, extended story sequences: Sunstrike and Company!

Here's where you find our Integr8d Soul game for free: We tie in the storylines that touch, I think, every storyline in our fictional universe. It's great heroic fiction, with that dash of philosophy and wonder that completes the package.
We've just released the newest version. Be a friend and share, OK? It's a blend of humor, wild imagination, and far-out drama. You start as either plant person Tappandalli, the Kolparian idealist Merriwyn Archiere, or roguish adventurer Shamilal Asano-9, complete with his hi-tech gear.
The Pyramids of Infinitude contain portals to many story settings. There's also three playable characters hidden inside, including Sunstrike, himself. This is his origin story, after all.
One distinguishing feature of our new material: we reveal more clues about the nature of the linked pyramids. We also plant clues about the deeper identities and links of these characters, to be explored in future game-stories.
While the character dynamics are not modeled after any other team, I think each main is interesting. If you've wanted a glimpse into our years of creations, here you will find everything crossing over. Hopefully, we'll be returning to that well for many new adventures.