A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Why I Quit LARPing. (At Least in a White Wolf Game)

For those of you who for whatever mad reason read my older posts from the 08 timeframe will remember I did some reports on playing in a White Wolf Changeling LARP.  In 09 I did a few more, but they became more and more infrequent till they stopped.

Mainly because a few months after I quit writing them I finally gave up trying to have fun with the game, and decided staying home and sleeping before work was a vastly superior use of my time and money.

This little post will be my thoughts on why I tried it in the first place, and then why I quit.

Let's head back to Connecticon 08....

I was there with a friend and his friend and they are active fans of the original Changeling and had some interest in the current one.  They are also in a more hardcore fantasy LARP up in Mass that has the stereotypical "LIGHTNING BOLT LIGHTNING BOLT!", sorts of boffer combat where you get to use nerf like weapons on your opponents while dressing silly.

Not my thing, and working weekends it never WILL be my thing I can safely say.

But as I like to be social I was hanging out with them Friday when they went to look into playing in the Changeling LARP the next evening.  For curiosities' sake I asked how the game was played, having heard how silly the Old World of Darkness LARP games were with Rock Paper Scissors game resolution and people dressed horribly and so on.

The organizer mentioned it used a card draw system, something few RPGs seem to use and I find quite a fun diversion from the norm.

I decide for the hell of it to join in too as the Warhammer 40K tournament I was scheduled to play in would be over about an hour or so beforehand.  (Well it was SUPPOSED to be.  It actually got cut short and still took 3 times longer than it was scheduled to.)  As my friends had the book on them instead of using a pregen I got to make my own character.  (Albeit one that was unoptimized and kind of underpowered due to rules mistakes.)

I learned the basic concepts of Changeling which seemed PRETTY AWESOME AND RAD.  (New World of Darkness Changeling involves people being abducted to the world of Faerie where they are forced to serve their masters, which changes them in mystical ways, and they then escape back to the real world where they try to recover what they can of their shattered lives.)

I chose to take one of my array of characters and build a version of him for Changeling.  Rufus Landale.
Going through the book I found what seemed to be a good fit of abilities and faction selections for his personality.


Go to next day.  Wake up with little sleep (yay being a night shift worker.  Doing days is VERY hard to impossible for me.) and do my Warhammer thing.  Win the first match with my Tyranids get owned by what was probably a cheating Tau player who seemed to have 2-3 times as many models as anyone should have.  Then its time to go to the LARP.  Since I lost match 2 of 3 and I felt I had promised my friend and his friend I was gonna be there, I go.  It starts off really slow and stupid, but gets moving pretty well later on as in general the entire group works together to find out about a murdered official and take revenge on him and the Faerie minion who comes afterwards.

We kicked butt, and I was apparently so in character I not only won an in continuity leadership position should I keep playing in the active campaign, but by 20+ player vote they also voted me best roleplayer and I won a nifty prize worth a good 25-35 bucks.


I don't exactly have the greatest of self esteems and life hasn't done much to help this.  I was nearly bouncing off the ceiling that convention and for much of the week afterwards and the game was to blame.  It wasn't the doofy Goth nonsense I always considered LARPing to be.  It was basically tabletop gaming with cards and you moved around a lot more instead of sitting around a table.  (Well 20 or so people at a normal sit down game all needing GM attention would be INSANE anyhow so it is sort of for the best...)

I find out the normal game is run once a month in the afternoons about 20 minutes from my house and ends with plenty of time for me to get to work after provided I don't mind losing an hour or two of sleep.

I go and in general have a decent time of it for a while.

But the more I play the more problems come up.

The biggest is the one that seems to infest EVERY White Wolf LARP.  Its less about adventures than it is about Machiavellian power struggles as done by supernatural beings.  Its a bunch of high school cliques.  Except they have neato powers.  The campaign settings almost all have ways to encourage and enforce this, and most players and Storytellers LIKE IT THAT WAY.

I constantly had to deal with people wanting power struggles, trying to be douchebags, characters that "in character" were insulting my more straightforward heroic character who the host out of character once in what I considered an insult, deemed me as "A White Hat".

As if wanting to play a hero is a BAD THING.


This does not mean being an unstoppable perfect Jesus figure mind you, but it is about as far away from how most White Wolf games are encouraged to run as you can get before you get into joke games like Paranoia, Kobolds Ate My Baby, and "I Kill Puppies for Satan".

(Which I consider to be the greatest name of a game EVER.)

I was actually starting to feel insulted even though in general most of the players seemed to be perfectly nice folks out of game.  In game most REVELED in playing jerks to various degrees.

The Storyteller's response to my desires for a more heroic game?  "Its the World of Darkness for a reason.  Deal with it".

The fact I am writing this shows I dealt with it by quitting.

Now I am not condemning this style of play.  I just don't get the damned point, and I want NOTHING to do with it.  But by all reports the local group was LIGHT (at least in Changeling.  The Vampire game which I tried on a day or two when I used a sick day was REALLY jerk charactet central!) as many people came from other groups or travelled to other groups where PKing (player killing) and deviant characters forming stupid political alliances to bone over other characters were the order of the day, instead of just most of the side dishes.

Yet it was not the only reason.  Just the biggest part.

Another one is the whole Camarilla LARP setup itself.  Unlike your average RPG campaign, the game is connected to a worldwide organization requiring players to cough up membership and sometimes site fees in order to play.  This of course brings in REAL LIFE politics and organizational nightmares as characters need to be approved and higher powered ones need to be ran through Regional Managers and there are a good dozen or more acronym laden titles going up the ladder.

My friend chose to take one of the local roles which not only involved group voting, but it required TAKING TESTS.

All this to play a game?

And the worst part is yet to come.  Because of this worldwide thing and approval being needed, you could gain extra experience points by going to other games, being one of these Acronym People, or doing things that HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH PLAYING IN THE LOCAL CAMPAIGN.

Yes kids, you can grind for XP in White Wolf LARPs provided you have time to drive around your region.  We had people drive to and from Virginia here to Connecticut, to New York, all over the place.

So in a game where hosing over other people is pretty much part of the normal situation, if you have a lot of extra time and money to get there, you too can play a character that can curbstomp anyone else, especially if you have been playing longer than the newbies.

And don't tell me the whole approval process helps keep broken PCs away in a system that makes it VERY easy to custom build broken characters.  We had more than a few PCs that nobody could really do anything about that if the player wanted to could have wiped out everyone else at the game!

I'm sorry.  That goes against EVERYTHING I think an RPG campaign should be.  Sure its nice you can play in a worldwide metaplot and all, but why should one character be better than another just because they do some extra paperwork?

There were so many broken PCs the higher ups did a "soft reset" which had many PCs brought down to sane levels, but only just.

And once we add in the expense of losing sleep on a workday and the money for meals and the various site/small yearly fee and I just felt it wasn't enough fun for the way I PERSONALLY enjoy RPGs so I dropped out.

The soft reset brought the current story arc to its end and I felt that was a good place to bow out.  I would have tried talking it over with the organizers as I could be taking things the wrong way, but there was no game at this year's Connecticon and the few times I talked about anything at all on the Google Group the local group uses not a single person replied either public or privately as if I didn't even exist so why bother?

Now I am NOT condemning the group or the Camarilla or White Wolf or really even LARPing in general.

Its just a perfect storm of time, money, bureaucracy, and style of game I seriously dislike all joining together to make me not want to play period.

I guess I am just too used to nice normal sit down RPGs where you don't have some silly organization to care about and the GM (with a little help from the players of course!) is all that is needed for a good fun game.

But I am a "White Hat" so what do I know, right?


christian said...

That sucks. I think your Storyteller was missing a critical aspect of Changeling. There is ample opportunity for a Changeling to be heroic. Imagine protecting other Changelings from bounty hunters that was to drag them back to Farie. A Changeling could lay it all on the line to protect a sanctuary that he and his fellow fey have managed to construct, a safe haven from the madness outside.

I'm with you. Changeling is ripe for heroism.

Captain Rufus said...

We actually had TWO STs while I was playing. The original who seemed to be aiming more for the "band of outcasts on the run" thing, and the second one who was one of the few PCs at the Con LARP who was mostly out to hose over people.

Not surprisingly its the latter who took the game more towards the White Wolf High School Supernaturals Power Struggle nonsense most WW games seem to turn into.

(That being said its FAR WORSE in Vampire, and the tales the players told me of other games and venues made my issues seem minor in comparison.)

I guess I don't get the POINT of playing evil/douchebags in an RPG. I'm sure a psychiatrist would have a field day dissecting why otherwise lovely (in general) people want to play characters who all lord over/kill/demean other characters and NPCs in RPGs.

It can't all be the "had a miserable live being abused so its a way of getting revenge by perpetuating the suffering on others" thing so many people do in real life.

At least in the group I played with most of them seemed rather friendly and well adjusted. A few could even be called rather attractive. (I've heard others say a member or two of the local crowd to be hot even, and I cannot say I disagree.)

Its probably the same disconnect as why people love playing the "Grand Theft Auto" videogames where its mostly about being a criminal scumbag who kills and abuses people for giggles, or who play bastards in those electronic RPGs that allow one to be a dick.

I must be weird. I can't even be evil to bits and bytes and polygons and sprites. I tried playing evil once in Knights of the Old Republic. In 30 minutes I was disgusted and just couldn't do it!

Even when I have played Evil alignment characters in a campaign with alignment, its always been of the "Doing all the wrong things for all the right reasons" sort of antihero.

The cool bad guys like Magneto from the X Men (when written well anyhow), and those various types with a code of honor who have a chance at redemption.

(Which is generally how I pitch such PCs when I want to play one. Characters who start off as the Lawful Evil type but could end up being Lawful Neutral at worst, Lawful Good at best.)

But the WW games almost always seem to throw in some political power structure as if they know much of their audience wants that malarkey.

Once the storyarc I cared about was over I left as I saw it was heading into the political stuff with all that sort of infighting every season as a new Seasonal Monarch was to take over.

No wonder Promethean did so poorly. It doesn't seem to have that political claptrap in it. Its about outcasts banding together with a chance of redemption.

The White Wolf crowd just isn't looking for that.


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