Phoenix 2019 thankyous and war stories

How was your Phoenix?

I’ll have a detailed writeup “soon”, but in the meantime I’d like to thank the organisers, who made it all happen; the GMs for their excellent games; the cooks and catering crew for keeping us fed (and the dishes volunteers for ensuring we had stuff to eat off); and Sam, for getting us there and back again in the van. The latter made this a painless con logistics-wise.

Pro-tip for the future: you don’t have to walk the half-mile from the airport terminal to the pickup point (or brave the pedestrian-crossing-less roundabout of doom); there’s a bus-stop right outside the supermarket so if you have baggage, you can just catch the bus.

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My Phoenix:

Friday evening: The Best of the Wurst: I had a great group of players for this who had all bought in to the concept, so it ran pretty much like an 'Allo 'Allo episode, with secret assignations, dirty dealings, resistance heroism and sausage smut. Best moment: the resistance being interrupted by a German soldier in the cellars while doing something dubious, and passing it off as an impromptu “sausage-tasting”. Other best moment: the Colonel’s plan to cover up something, which was ludicrous and appropriate.

This is the third time I’ve run this game, and its produced reliable fun every time. But its now done every con, so its probably time to try something else. If you missed out, maybe you could persuade a friend to buy it, because Peaky deserves your money.

Saturday morning: I’d originally been scheduled to play reunification, a family drama about a German family getting together after being separated by ~30 years by the Berlin Wall. But that fell through, so we ended up with Arsenic & Lies as a replacement. Its a workshop game, basicly a “Christie murder mystery in a box” kit, with cards for all the obvious character concepts, relationships, and secrets, and the killer randomly determined at the start of the game. I chose Phillip Lee, the politician, worked up a couple of suitably sordid relationships, and spent the first act making myself look suspicious. At midnight, someone was poisoned, a unexpected guest arrived, and we spent the (shorter) second act going over who might have done it and why. In the end, Aunt Mabel took the deerstalker hat (we had adjourned to the Hunting Room, after all), delivered the denouement, accused someone, who everyone agreed had done it, and so successfully covered up her murder.

(There had apparently been a mixup with the cards, with the “wrong” person being murdered. But it all worked out in the end, and at least someone died)

I’m planning to do a proper review of this for rpg.net sometime, but the TL;DR is that this is a good game which delivers exactly the experience you would expect, and it looks quite replayable. It also copes well with variability, making it a good con fallback.

(As for Reunification, hopefully I’ll get a chance to play it at Cerberus next year…)

Saturday afternoon: Down and out in Middenburg: @Catnip and I wrote this game for the second Chimera convention, which ran ten years ago, so I thought it was a good time to bring it back for a 10th anniversary run. While the game shows its age in a few places (and I flubbed the briefing, because I wrote a bad briefing document back then), it worked OK, and there were plenty of hijinks. @Viperion did a great half-orc, one of the players had unpleasant-looking (fake) festering scabs, and another had made tailored hessian pants, with pockets. There was invisibility, pickpocketing, betrayal, and a near-miss with a rat-horde, but it seemed to all work out in the end.

Saturday evening: Welcome to the Neighbourhood: One of my casting things is that (within a few squicks) I’m perfectly willing to play someone horrificly evil and be an antagonist for others, because I find it very easy to psychologically distance myself from that (and because I’m usually laughing my arse off on the inside, and because I Am A Bad Roleplayer, smirking on the outside about it all). And so in this games, I was cast as a cannibalistic serial killer, who had ended up in a bargain-basement afterlife, along with his even more bargain basement prison “buddies”.

I prepped for this, coming up with various horrible things to say to people. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to use it all. But I had a great time going round introducing myself as “Patrick. I killed, dismembered and ate at least thirteen people”, and generally chewing the scenery. The family conversations were the best, and I wish I’d had more time for them. But I think my favourite moment was five minutes in, when I suggested to my cellmates that we explore the parameters of our new environment, produced a knife and fork, and asked two of them to grab the other one and hold him down so I could cut him open and eat his heart to see what happened. I don’t think they’d ever really understood what I actually was until that moment, and the reaction was well worth it. I also had a great time talking to the Walking Fiasco Playset about prison hierarchy, and to a documentary maker who had the absurd idea about “smuggling out” his film from the afterlife. If I’d had more time, I probably would have resolved to eat some people for what they’d done to someone.

Sunday morning: The Constanta Blockade: The penultimate Kestrel! Inspired by The Greatest Movie Ever Made! What it’s all been building up to for three games! And it was worth every bit of it. Sax, my usual character in this stealth campaign, was written out after The Omega Delivery [crying noises], so I guest starred as Major Quillen, a Federation “political officer”. I don’t want to give away spoilers, as this is running in Wellington in a couple of months, so I’ll just say: play it. Signups open next weekend.

(Meanwhile, I have a whole year to wait until The Markov Solution, and I’m hoping Sax will finally be able to buy Max a beer in that one…)

Sunday afternoon: Le Streghe: A small town, a suspicious death, rumours of witchcraft, and a pair of meddling FBI agents. Its a great concept, and pretty well-executed, but suffered from not having a full cast (and then having two on-the-day dropouts as well). It was still a fun game despite that, and I think a full-cast version would really rock. Meanwhile I had a great time as one of the FBI agents trying to get to the bottom of the mystery. Kudos to Simon for being delightfully dubious, Amy for a great portrayal of my FBI partner, @Viperion for worried parenthood, and @Ciaran for that painful conversation.

And now, I need to figure out what I’m going to offer next year. Any requests?

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Friday evening: The Best of the Wurst - I had a fantastic time playing this game (facilitated by @IdiotSavant and written by the ever wonderful Peaky Games - highly recommend their stuff for inexperienced GMs as they’re usually a fun time for players and they provide excellent GM guides). A really great start to the con for me as I had been under the weather for a while and had stopped looking forward to the weekend - full of sausage jokes, ridiculous conversations and subterfuge, and @Ged and I had a wonderful definitely secret romance complete with bouncing on a particularly squeaky bed for effect.

Saturday morning: The Sky Like Glass - written by @lesbiancobra. I can’t say much without spoiling it but I had the best time with my character in this game, everyone was well cast and it just added to my conviction that I barely need to read a blurb of a Lee game and I should just sign up for it immediately. Definitely play it if she brings it near you. I also want to thank @Ciaran for recognising that I don’t really have a bubble in a larp and (I assume) directing the “let’s grab her” scene early in the game.

Saturday afternoon: The Left Hand - written by Katia and Matt (first time GMs but you wouldn’t know it). Fantastically well written characters - simple but still whole people. Very easy to slip into character and stay there - Rackle and Lee played fantastic cult leaders with very distinct personalities and I had a great moment with Rackle in a closed room where we meditated together. Everyone whispered the whole time, very ASMR, very calming but also? a cult?? not calming. I hear they’re bringing it to Wellington and you should definitely play. Also props to @Ged again for playing across from me again even though my character was too focused on being in the cult to recognise your intentions. Commendation to @Ciaran for playing the most unlikeable person I think I’ve ever met in a LARP.

Saturday evening: Welcome to the Neighbourhood - another @lesbiancobra flagship (nearly enough for Leenix 2020 come on now). I was cast as a know it all chess club president with a desperate need to win. Unfortunately for my cast mates this did mean that I obsessively solved puzzles for the entire LARP - in hindsight I probably should have wandered around a bit more to help others pick up on their plot threads but I definitely had a great time shrieking about why I hadn’t won a prize yet even though I was clearly the best. I can’t remember the name of the person who played our demon but he was fantastic and I was very rude to him. Also @jenhay did a fantastic job playing a character I hated until later in the game and accepted a lot of shrieking from tiny Mike in his ill fitting suit. @Carla (hopefully right Carla) I loved our painfully awkward interactions. Louisa did a wonderful job putting up with my shrieking (there’s a theme and it’s shrieking) especially considering she was a first time LARPer this weekend. John Massie played a wonderful idiot who was a joy to exist near. @Viperion just put up with me for some reason so thanks hahaha.

Sunday morning: The Constanta Blockade - facilitated by @Catnip. Thank you to Donna for rolling with my many questions about what I could and couldn’t do in the game and allowing me a lot of player agency. I hadn’t really clicked when I signed up that this was one of the Kestrel saga which had never really seemed like my thing, but I am glad I played as I really enjoyed my character and particularly enjoyed being able to play across from Robert as Max. Again I can’t say much without spoilers for those who have yet to play the episode but this was a fun time. Would consider playing the next episode next year.

Sunday afternoon: Company of Devils - written by @Inveighed. A really interesting premise that I won’t spoil, that was made even more interesting as we had a 5 person cast of close friends and the game ran outside in the leaves. As we were all very comfortable with each other and our boundaries we were able to chase after each other and wrestle in the leaves which gave it that extra layer of realism. Definitely would be a different game with players who didn’t know each other as well, and I would be interested to see how that changed the outcome. Really weirdly nice end to the con running around in the leaves with my friends and getting tackled by Declan.

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This was my favourite Phoenix thus far, players and GMs brought their A-game making for an amazing experience.

Friday Night-Best of the Wurst-Facilitated by Malcolm
I missed this when it was run at Cerberus last year, so I’m glad I caught it a phoenix. I had a great time making sausage based innuendo. I enjoyed Estelle (played by Donna) constantly bursting in when I was in rooms alone with her husband, though no sausage tasting was going on there! It ended on a great note for me, as in the last two minutes of the game my mother started yelling across the room at me about tasting more than one man’s sausage.

Saturday Morning-Arsenic and Lies-Facilitated by Jo and Stu
Originally slated to run a different game, sign up numbers meant we need to change games. We ran Arsenic and Lies in it’s place. It’s the kind of larp where facilitators also play. A murder mystery where we all built our characters, relationships, secrets and what not at the start. I had a great time as the sickly Lady Ada Kent who was ironing out her potential engagement, while also wanting to be with her best friend instead (or in addition). Once I had been murdered I came back as the uninvited guest and proceeded to make jibes at my daughter, and backed up the my sister’s conclusion on the culprit (knowing full well it was probably my my sister that killed Ada. Can’t have family arrested for murder, think of the scandal!)

Saturday Afternoon-Fallout-Facilitated by Jen
This was one of the highlights of a excellent con. I was Deadlift, someone who had been a trainee hero, only to do something to get kicked out and be put at the top of the Heroes’ League Most Wanted list. I mostly interacted with Simon Says (Robert) and Professor Deathray (Starky). It was the perfect character for me, I had a great time playing her and feel like I can’t say too much more without entering into spoilers territory.
I also appreciate that Jen designed the characters so that there would be five each of male, female and non-binary as a way of upping gender diversity in the game.

Saturday Evening-Welcome to the Neighbourhood-Facilitated by Lee
As Lindsay I though I’d have difficultly keeping up the energy and state of mind, as Lindsay is relentlessly optimistic. I managed to do it without any struggle to maintain her positive attitude. I made friend with a lot of people in that game, and promised all of them that I would pick them up for an epic road trip. This idea was brought on by hearing a twelve year old complaining about her oppressive parents, I promised her that I would sneak her out of her house and take her road tripping in order to help her experience an awesome life, including taking her to some Russian guy that wanted to put her in a remake of La Femme Nikita…
I also enjoyed connecting with the prison group, especially John Massie’s character, bonding over the fact that it was dumb that you could get arrested for ‘borrowing’ (stealing) other people’s stuff, I mean, like they weren’t using the steam roller, and it was only a couple hundred meters, what does it matter.

Sunday Morning-Last Day Here-Facilitated by Tayla and Ethan
I had a good time in this zombie larp. I did end up mostly shut I a room by myself for a good portion of it, I think next time it’s run there should be methods to prevent this. Being shut in a room and by extension being excluded from the main room reflected the character’s real world life experiences wonderfully. I think the experience would’ve also been improved by the full cast being available. (including the uncast character, who my character would’ve had a deep connection to)

Sunday Afternoon-Magic in the Air-Facilitated by Stuart and Ian
This was the other highlight of an excellent con. Who doesn’t love combining dating shows with wizards. a great silly game to end the con on. The larp has a high level of spoiler-ability so I feel I can’t go into too much detail. Lots of not at all subtle innuendo, hijinks, wizards and other great things.

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Phoeeeeeniiiix <3

Round 1: UEAF - hopefully it’s not too spoilery to say that ethical dilemma games are maybe my favourite genre, so I very much enjoyed this. Can’t say much more without spoilers, but solid moral dilemma-ing, would murder hobo again.

Round 2: The Sky Like Glass - I was pretty happy with how this went. Particularly enjoyed the enormous range of theories my players came up with for what was actually going on. Also over commitment award to Carla for illustrating an in-game temperature rise that no one was listening to her about by frustratedly taking her pants off.

Round 3: The Left Hand. Holy shit this game. Definitely the highlight of the convention, probably the tensest I have ever been in a larp, and going straight to my top 5 list. Everyone committed totally, staying completely in character in my many one on one interview scenes, and I loved getting to interact directly with everyone. The interview structure definitely added to the paranoia of the game, and the endgame was (without spoiling anything) simultaneously not what I expected at all while also feeling like the only way the story could have ended. Katia and Matt please write me more games immediately thank you.

Round 4: Welcome to the Neighbourhood. Tried some new things, not all of them worked, everything went chaotic and silly anyway, so I’m going with a qualified success.

Round 5: Your Last Day Here. This was a lot of fun, particularly having played it before and getting to replay as a totally different character, on the opposite side of a conflict from last time. Ethan and Tayla made noises about a potential flagship sequel and now I’ve put it on the internet so they have to do it.

Round 6: The Company of Devils. Super cool very minimal concept, that was easily spun into a coherent world by the players. No one got what they wanted and we were all upset about it, which is exactly what should happen.

Thank you to Summer and the other organisers (especially the cooks who didn’t poison me despite my frankly ridiculous dietary requirements), and all of the other GMs and players <3

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That would be Simon :slight_smile:

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I’ll add my 2c

Friday Night - The Best of the Wurst
An 'Allo 'Allo based game with all the expected sausage innuendo, and a few unexpected elements too. A special mention to @Viperion who roleplayed his particular issue so well that I was able to work it out out-of-character, even though it wasn’t the sort of thing I’d ever figure out in character. Fun fact: @IdiotSavant and I both independently cast @Viperion as a Viktor Laszlo character in our respective larps.

Saturday morning - Arsenic and Lies
While it was sad not to be able to play Reunification, it was good to be able to give Arsenic and Lies a whirl. This is a card based game that builds a Christie-style murder mystery. As such it has high flexibility and high replayability. Unfortuntely it seems that Aunt Mabel didn’t have her reading glasses on, so the wrong person got poisoned. Oh well, these things happen. At least there was a body.

Saturday afternoon - The Left Hand
We were all playing members of the Adherents of Everlasting Light who were all broken in fairly serious ways. This game was a slow burn, with quiet tension for most of the game and a kicker at the end. After the events of this game I’m pretty sure that my character would have left the Adherents, but she probably would have ended up in another similar group and another equally toxic relationship. My major interactions were with @Ciaran, @Ged, and @Sarlytheplatypus who were all great to roleplay with.

Saturday evening - Welcome to the Neighbourhood
I think my favourite aspect of this game was the demons. They were all uniquely horrible in their own special way. I’m not sure whether to be more afraid of modern management techniques or eye bees.

Sunday morning - The Constanta Blockade
This was the 5th installment of the Kestrel saga. We started two players short and then lost another player to illness on the day, yet somehow it still managed to work. This game required a bit more active GMing on my part, but I was still able to spend some time appreciating the player’s shenanigans. My biggest regret is that I don’t have the technical skills to make robot spiders that the original authors used in some of their runs.

Sunday afternoon - Magic in the Air
The premise for this is fairly simple - a dating show for wizards, just the sort of silly fun needed on a Sunday afternoon. The sets dressing was amazing and the GMs had gone to quite a bit of effort sourcing (in)appropriate props. I particularly liked that the structure of the show meant that there was always some silly activity for the players to be involved in. There were also some nifty hidden plot elements

So overall, all the games I played in did what they were meant to do well, although they covered a range of genres and tones.

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Dammit, I would have loved shooting robot spiders.