Cerberus 2018 thankyous and war stories

I had a great time at Cerberus.

Full post later when I have slept, but the short version is that I loved the games, the food, and the people. The catering in particular was fantastic - they provided scones with cream and jam on Friday night after the first round so people would stick around and chat, and cinnamon brioche every morning at breakfast. The con was well organised, ran to time (this is a difficult achievement), and while it rained all weekend those cosy Dunedin cabins kept us warm. I had a great time in every game, and the players of Best of the Wurst were magnificent in finding ways to talk about sausage. If you get the chance to come along next year, I recommend taking it.


How my Cerberus went:

On Friday night, I ran Best of the Wurst, an “Allo Allo”-inspired larp from Peaky Games. The game did exactly what it says on the label, and the players excelled in coming up with ways to make single-entendres about sausage. I’d like to rerun this one in Wellington sometime; I just need to work out when.

When we wrapped up on Friday night, it turned out the caterer had made scones with jam and cream as a late night snack, which encouraged people to sit around and chat about larp. I was able to get in an unscheduled run of Descent Into Oblivion, a 20-minute Firefly larp by Martin Jones. It went really well, and its made me see a niche for this sort of micro-larp. I may be able to re-run this one at Hydra next year.

On Saturday morning I played one of the parasitic alien Drik in @Ciaran’s S.W.I.P.E (Symbiotes Will Inherit Planet Earth). It was an interesting game, trying to be two character sharing the same body at once, and I had fun talking as both of them and sometimes making sarcastic comments at myself. Unfortunately, about halfway through the game I forgot a key facet of my character in pursuit of a joke, which meant we got humour instead of tragedy (well, we would have got that humour with someone else, no doubt). It was a good game, with an in-game research system which gave the players a lot of control over the path the story of the Drik took, and an example of a larp with an act-structure which worked.

On Saturday morning I played Thorvald in Luke Crane’s Inheritance (run by @Catnip). This was a game we’d got over Kickstarter, and I’m not sure if its available anywhere else. Its pitched as a viking family drama, and it delivered that perfectly. The players all bought their A-game, both in performance and costume, and I had a great time working out my relationship with my sons and being pushed around by my wife (played by @Emerald). This one also uses an act structure, and again its one that works.

On Saturday night I played Mississippi Sam the gambler in One Night in Xanadu. This was apparently inspired by the Feng Shui tabletop rpg, a cross-genre game of magic and kung-fu, and it delivered on that mash-up quite nicely. You can get a lot of weirdness in Vegas, and it doesn’t seem weird at all to see gamblers, Elvis impersonators, kung-fu monks and cyborg gorillas all rubbing shoulders there.

This was a great larp, and there was always something to do, and there were huge chunks of it I heard about in the debrief and never saw. I had strong in-game incentives to gamble, and to hit the bar and talk to the barkeep, so I never got bored. I had a nice character arc which was fulfilling in all sorts of ways, and a lot of cool moments. Best moment: learning about my future. @Jangalian has written a really cool game here, and I’m looking forward to his next one.

On Sunday morning I facilitated and played JUGGERNAUT, Jason Morningstar’s game of a cold war computer which can predict the future. I’d played this before at KapCon a few years ago, but the game comes with substitute cards you can put in to give a different focus. Once again, it delivered a strong game about free will, determinism, and the consequences of knowledge, and the players really rose to the occasion. If you haven’t played it, I recommend giving it a go.

On Sunday afternoon I played in A-Muse-ment, a larp of writers and inspiration by Lisa Malone. This was a perfect last-round game, and delivered lots of silly fun as the various muses tried to get writers to accept out-of-genre ideas. In the process, we talked a lot about fiction and tropes, and snarked a lot at each other’s genres (paranormal romance and sparkle vampires came in for a lot of hate - I cannot possibly think why). At the end, the inspirations the muses had provided were pasted in to the actual story synopses, with hilarious results. But I’m sure that “2356: Planet of the Androids” will be a best-seller.


I’ll add my 2c to this thread

On Friday night I played The Always Waltz. While the game as written has a few rough edges, the GM and players managed to pull it together on the night. I particularly enjoyed @Viperion’s cheerfully amoral portrayal of [spoiler]

On Saturday morning I played Spellbound, a game set in a Hogwarts-like magic school by Freeform Games. (Confusingly I’d written a game with the same name but different premise for Hydra this year). Needless to say that there were many hijinks and many more pieces of paper (Freeform Games are very fond of using cards for props and abilities). While several mysteries were solved the game still ended with the Tremaine School of Magic being blown up (but, given the educational standards that might not have been a bad thing).

On Saturday afternoon I GMed Inheritance (which mostly meant sitting back and watching the players’ excellent performances). I like Inheritance as a historical game that manages to evoke the vibe of the time and to tell an interesting story without resorting to supernatural elements. My main regret is that it has very few female roles.

In the Saturday night flagship I played a character from 1st century CE China. I had a rather dodgy sub-ordinate and an extremely persistent monkey demon nemesis who between them were (directly and indirectly) responsible for me being attacked a record number of times this game. I’m sure the ongoing struggles between my character and the monkey demon will become the stuff of legends.

Sunday morning I played in Extinguishing the Light of Reason. This game was set in Fallen London (and gave me an excuse to go back to playing Echo Bazaar for a couple of weeks). This is actually the first game I’ve played set at an academic conference, and it worked as a setting. The character sheets even included the presentation notes for those of us scheduled to give talks. Unfortunately my talk was sabotaged by the rival University before I even got to the findings, so they never got to find out why they were All Wrong.

Finally I played A-Muse-ment, which was a great game to finish up with. Unfortunately, my version of Twilight with puppies and kittens was (a) stolen by another author, and (b) OoC too dodgy to be printed (the perils of blindly inserting words into a text).


Hey! I resemble that remark! :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks :slight_smile: “Cheefully amoral” was more or less the impression I was going for, so glad to see it worked out that way :slight_smile:

I very much enjoyed my time at Cerberus as well!

Round 1 I played in Best of the Wurst, which I felt had a great mix of the wacky and serious.

Round 2 I ran S.W.I.P.E. for the second time. I think most people enjoyed it, so I guess there’s no excuse for me not to work towards publishing the trilogy at this point…

Round 3 I was a southern belle touch lamp in Fallen Stars. I could certainly see myself running this game in Christchurch (thanks to having the book its from already)

Round 4 I was an Elvis impersonator in One Night in Xanadu, which managed to avoid many of the things I typically dislike about flagship games. No standing around performing a ritual to save the world, the closest thing to a main plot was conducted via silent auction throughout the game, which allowed me to just have fun.

Round 5 was Juggernaut. I will be buying a copy and running it very shortly. I loved it.

Finally, I was a long suffering director in Super Sparkle Action Princess GX! Things went a lot more smoothly than expected, but I enjoyed myself regardless.


Thank you for the kind words! Credit should also go to Ian Bayard, who co-wrote and ran the game with me. (I don’t know what his diatribe account is and I don’t think he uses it enough for it to be worth tagging him.)

It wasn’t completely intentional, but it does seem the disseminated plot structure of the game helped it avoid the Aristotlean curse (though that may have also been from insufficient time warnings).

ANYWAY, my thoughts for Cerberus!

First of all: This year it rained all weekend. It was usually just a drizzle, but irritating nonetheless. Still, it was a testament to the camp’s facilities that I was never cold (although I can’t speak for anyone who had to wear more exposed costuming).

Round 1 I played in The Always Waltz, which was entertaining and run by my partner Jo (who was running a game for the first time - yay!). I agree with @Catnip that as written the game has some rough bits that didn’t live up to my expectations, and having talked with Jo afterwards it sounds like the GM notes could use improving, but it worked out and was an enjoyable game.

Round 2 I was in @Ciaran’s S.W.I.P.E. It was fun, the act structure meant I didn’t quite get enough time to have all the discussions I’d have liked to (there’s a lot to explore here!) but at the same time by the end of the game we had achieved most of what we needed to so more time was probably not necessary. T.R.Y.S.T still tops it as the best of Ciaran’s games I’ve played (and possibly the best larp I’ve ever been in), but S.W.I.P.E. was solid and interesting, and I look forward to the Acronym Trilogy being published.

Round 3 was Fallen Stars, the game of playing objects in a flea market (Toy Story style). It was fun, and I enjoyed the shared backstory we created. The ending seemed out of place for a Nordic game for me, as most of the Nordic larps I’ve played are fairly big on transparency, and I don’t think it was necessary to throw the players a curveball.

For Round 4, Ian and I ran One Night in Xanadu, our flagship larp. Overall the game went as planned (ie: chaotically), although there are a few bits that I think could be improved - I especially think that having a dedicated player to run the gaming tables would have helped considerably, as it was hard to divide my attention between GMing duties and acting as casino staff.

For those that don’t know, we were expecting about 30-40 signups for Cerberus this year and got somewhere around 27 (including the two of us that were running the flagship). This meant we had to cut around 10 characters from the larp. Some were meant to be potentially expendable but others were harder to cut. It was a strong lesson in learning to kill your darlings and I think the game ended up tighter overall as a result.

Round 5 was Extinguishing the Light of Reason, probably my highlight of the con. I was worried about the potential for a respectability bloc to form but there were enough disagreements built into the characters that they started appraising others to have reputable people who would have their back, and we ended up with an entertaining game of petty personal politics triumphing over academic integrity.

Round 6 was Super Sparkle Action Princess GX!, in which I got to play a handsome heartthrob, do some cheesy overacting and spend much of the game with my hand in a sock. I think the missing characters and overall mood of the players contributed to the game being much less chaotic than it could have been, but it also meant we were able to cooperate to improvise some wonderful new stories.

Overall the con was great fun, despite a few organisational hiccups. My biggest regret was that throughout most of the weekend I was rather tired and didn’t have the energy to put as much into the games as I’d have liked.

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Thanks to @Duckworks too then. It was an excellent game, and a pile of fun (and one which deserves a wider audiance).

I agree on T.R.Y.S.T. as well. The content means that its not a game for everyone, but its one of the best I’ve played. I’m also looking forward to seeing these games published.

“Extinguishing the Light of Reason” was one of the games I was looking forward to, and I was glad to hear it might run at Phoenix. I need more Fallen London larps in my life.

I had a really good time. It was great to:
a) Meet a lot of new and interesting people
b) Catch up with old friends
c) Be seriously stuffed with good food all weekend (the catering was super standout awesome :slight_smile: )

Super Sparkle was my end round game and a rerun from something I wrote quite a while ago, so it was interesting for me at a personal level to see how Past Me used to do things. I thought the team did a surprisingly competent job at turning out a coherent story in the filming (if it wasn’t for you pesky kids!!!) (I will edit together when I get a bit more time.)

Saturday afternoon was my excursion into Nordic Larp. I really liked the things they did like getting people to talk out the details of the households they came from and building on that history during play, and the spotlight scenes were a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I thought that the prewritten ending was arbitrary and didn’t much endear me to Nordic Larp as a general artistic school. (Oh well.)

Saturday morning was a Freeform Games larp inspired by Harry Potter. I think the bits that endeared me the most to it were when people were breaking out of the game design a bit - like students going up to the Owlery to have a battle for feathers, or sacrificing their ties to get ashes, or having a raging battle with a giant lizard, things like that. I love games that are able to go off book like that.

And Friday night was the 'Allo 'Allo game, and still makes me cackle. I kept on wanting to sigh “Oh, Rene [actually Pierre]” and lean into the cafe owners strong, yet, cuddly arms. I think everybody really leaned into the premise of the game, so we were all own goaling ourselves by mixing up sausages, making jokes about sausages, and choosing to ‘not notice’ things other people were doing so they could get away with something outrageous. That was grand.

Oh yes, and the Xanadu game, as one of the few relatively ‘normal’ people in a whole lot of crazy. I ended up throwing in my investigation in favour of taking notes for my upcoming career as a science fiction novelist. I thought the gambling token economy added a lot to the game - it made it easy to have different kinds of abilities, and getting more tokens put in a lot of randomisers like the Drink tokens and going through the gambling system and that.