After action report on the format change: AMAZING.
Game 1 was quite a traditional game - we were in Petone Community House, started the game all locked in one space. Shared food on the table (quite a lot of it, we were planning to be there for 8 hours) and lots of fun props to play with. I think Lee’s system for skill-checks was particularly amazing, but it was a very traditional larp. The story was about a bunch of people being quarantined in Wellington hospital and then reality started getting progressively more messed up.
Playing in our bubbles
The story was restructured somewhat so that each of us playing in our bubbles made sense. There were two streams, both running over independent Discord chats.
Those of us who had survived Game 1, plus a few extras, were floating in a formless black Void. We were unable to interact with the void, or each other, in any meaningful physical way. About hour 6, we decided we needed a practical test of this - my character tried several times to stab another, willing, character with a butter knife that I’d managed to bring into the void with me. While my character felt the pain expected from a butter knife, my victim detected nothing at all. And instead of being a compromise due to the circumstances, it became yet another way in which the world was weird and we didn’t like it.
About half of the new characters joined in the “Real World Stream”, which Lee plans to continue for as long as people want to participate. Those characters were doing online research on strange and curious happenings, and had ended up all chatting in real time on a Discord, trying to solve puzzles from a mysterious person. Eventually, the puzzles led them to opening portals to our formless void, and everyone moved into the same Discord chat.
Discord as a tool
The Void stream had one large voice-chat room, and one large text chat room that we all participated in. Each faction (and the non-faction) also had a private text chat channel. (One faction also had a private voice channel, because one of the players had a broken hand and was not typing terribly well). We could DM each other and Lee. We also had an OOC channel, which was for announcing we were going to be short-term unavailable, tech testing, and welfare checks. I only checked it sporadically, and used it less, but it was nice to have it.
Discord’s text chat had no problems.
There were sporadic problems with the voice chat. I find Discord’s voice chat sometimes goes funky, and the only thing that seems to help is rebooting Discord entirely. Sometimes people had connection or mic problems - my mic particularly sometimes ended up outside my jumper collar and caused issues. None of these issues are unique to Discord or online larping, just the tech isn’t perfect.
Discord and Gaming
Discord has dice-roll bots, and as players, we thought we might be re-using the tokens system from Game 1, until we got the rules. Instead, we were given a number of limited use, very broad, text based powers. I, for example, could resist the power of a member of the Death Cult, if I wanted. Powers were used by sending messages to the GM.
While my power was reactive (and 100% suitable to my character) others were also triggers for discussion. What choice are you going to “make real”. What does that power even mean? What choice SHOULD be made real? Who will you ensure lives, who will you ensure dies? No fireballs or chain lightning, just intense discussions.
Because us characters couldn’t interact except with words, Lee didn’t need to spend much time at all managing that, and instead spent her time bombarding us with moral quandaries, (and because Lee, they were all horrific) and then giving us mysterious results reports. Will we murder the prophet, or worship her, or suicide in the face of her inevitability? Answers are gathered, very good, gold is now beating black and yellow. Which prompted more discussion. Over time we realised the moral quandaries had been harvested from our own lives and nightmares and so more discussion.
I think there is definitely room for more complex rulse-y play in online larping, but I’m very happy with how this one worked.
We also had a sudden issue of one player wanting to represent that they’d Changed. With a Capital Cee. And because Discord doesn’t have fonts, they switched to full-caps and then OOC character clarified that this represented a Change. It was AMAZING.
Welfare in the time of the Plague
This was a story about a plague, written in a time when that wasn’t a serious worry. And then game two was played in a time where a really real plague is 90% of the news.
So Lee downplayed the story elements of the Plague a lot. It was still a guiding concept for some of the factions, but there wasn’t really any plague content in the game. At least in the Void, I got the feeling things were much more plaguey on the outside game, but we didn’t hear much about that
Stepping away from your keyboard
In an in-person game, we can usually tell if someone is in the game. They’re right there. Sometimes we have to clarify - has Mel’s character vanished, which is interesting, or has Mel gone to the bathroom, which isn’t? But not often.
We’re also noticeably unavailable to the rest of our lives. We’re at a game, we can’t help Mum empty the dishwasher, or get involved in a flat discussion. We’re physically separate from the rest of our lives.
When we played via Discord, these things didn’t work the same. Is Mel not talking because Mel has ducked to the bathroom, or has her internet stopped working, or is she being suspiciously quiet? Obviously we all want to be considerate if people’s real life is suddenly intervening in their game, but it’s much harder to tell when all you know is whether or not the person is speaking.
One player, with 30 minutes of game-time to go, suddenly stopped speaking. Except, they were doing it on purpose. So they sent repeated messages that they were there and paying attention, but their character wasn’t responding. Which took away the OOC stress and replaced it with an ENORMOUS amount of IC stress.
15/10, would do again