LARP! The Musical: Of Good And Evil

C rockin' out as River in the Neon Rose house band. (Photo by Laura Schneider)

MisCon 25 was filled with memorable moments, but the one that will always define the con for me was LARP! The Musical. It took place the first night of the con and set the bar high for the rest of the weekend, as far as I was concerned. The LARP was a rousing success and such an incredible experience that I knew just a few minutes in that I would have to write about it for my column.

LARP! The Musical: Of Good and Evil was the brainchild of my friend Greg Schneider, a respected GM in this little corner of the world. The idea came to him on the drive home after spending a March Saturday at our Sandbaggers Game Club (obviously, we’re an inspiring bunch), and he got it prepared in time to get it on the rapidly-filling MisCon game schedule. When he opened up registration for characters in April, I couldn’t resist signing up, despite the facts that 1) I was a LARP virgin, and 2) for a former band nerd, I have little to no rhythm.

After weeks of anticipation, the day of the LARP finally dawned, and I was fighting a lingering cough from my pre-con plague that I feared would ruin the experience for not only me, but all my fellow players. In fact, I found Greg that morning and told him with much regret that I didn’t think I could play after all. His disappointment (and mine) pained me so much that as the start time for the LARP neared, I drugged up on cough suppressants and asked if I could still play. (Well played on the puppy dog eyes, Greg.) Luckily my spot had not been filled and I was able to step right into the role I’d been assigned in the first place.

You Never Forget Your First Time

This was my first LARP ever, and I was nothing but nerves going in. I knew I was playing with some experienced LARPers, and didn’t want to look like a bumbling newb. I was also playing with a bunch of people I didn’t really know – there were several who I knew by sight or name from the con (that’s how I knew they LARPed), but the only player I knew personally was my husband, who I quickly realized I wasn’t going to have much interaction with. And did I mention that no rhythm thing? Even after Greg went over the rules of play and got us all loosened up and dancing to Come Dancing, a tiny voice in the back of my mind was still having a little freak-out. What was I thinking signing up for this?!

I had to give myself a quick and dirty pep talk. You’re a good roleplayer. You lettered for drama club in high school. You don’t actually have to sing. You can do this. Buck up and get in there!

So I took a deep breath and went for it. And I’m so glad I did.

The Game is Set

The LARP was set in the Neon Rose nightclub, and while it was a modern-day setting, it was anything but commonplace. The club’s owner, Neon, was a vampire, and the place was swarming with fae and other other-worldly creatures. I was River, an aptly-named river spirit who played keyboard and sang backup in the house band. What’s a river spirit doing working in a nightclub? Well, I didn’t have much choice – I was bound to Neon, and couldn’t leave unless he told me I could go. So I was making the best of it, playing in the band.

The “musical” part of the LARP came in a couple forms. There were the songs that the band played, and then each character had a signature song that they could invoke once during the night to counteract something another character was trying to do, influence another character, etc. Nothing else could happen during a song, and if it was your song, you were encouraged to ham it up, and everyone else was encouraged to dance. (I never needed to invoke my song, because no one was mean enough to attempt to invoke my flaws and make me do something against my will. Pity, because my song was I Will Survive.)

What started out as a perfectly normal night at the club turned interesting in a hurry with the arrival of a mortal named Desmond. Desmond seemed to be nothing more than just an average guy, but he turned out to be the Chosen One, and the forces of Good and Evil were fighting over him at our bar. And by Good and Evil, I mean angels and demons. There were plenty of others there with their own agendas involving the Chosen One, including magic-users, a dragon, and a siren.

While the arrival of the Chosen One was of interest to me, my primary objective was to free myself from the bar. So it was a much bigger deal to me when my ex-boyfriend Storm walked in. He was the reason I was bound to Neon in the first place: Storm was a lich (though not your standard icky D&D lich, thankfully!) and had trapped some of my essence, binding me to him, and then sold me to Neon. Needless to say, I gave him a pretty cold shoulder when he first arrived.

It took some convincing from a couple of my friends at the club to finally let Storm explain himself, and I learned that he was truly sorry for what he’d done, that he was seeking redemption and hoping to free me. He was even there with the angels! So I decided to give him a second chance, and immediately started looking at the whole thing with the Chosen One as a nice diversion for Storm and I to make an exit. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t going to be easy for him to get me out of there without Neon’s blessing. Our best bet was going to be the portal to the fae realm, but the portal-keeper had lost the key (Really? How do you lose something like that?!) and we had to find it.

The key eventually did turn up, but luckily for us, Neon pulled me aside and asked me if I was unhappy and wanted to leave. I told him that I wanted to go with Storm. We had the following exchange:

Neon: So long as you can find a new keyboard player to replace you, you can go.

River: OK. Honestly, Neon, it’s not that hard to play the keyboard, so I shouldn’t have a problem finding someone.

Neon: It might be tougher now that it’s not the 1980’s anymore.

That was the only time all night that I had to break out of character, because I was laughing my ass off and totally lost it.

We got the keyboard player thing settled (though I have to admit I don’t remember how) and with a rousing rendition of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, Storm freed me and we were able to make our escape, though not before the siren tried to get to me. (Those tricky sirens…)

With 20 players, there were a lot of other side stories going on that I wasn’t able to keep close tabs on as I was more concerned about my own goals. For example, one of the other players invoked the song Thriller at one point, and we all had a great time dancing to it, but I’m still not sure what was going on there. And Thor (yes, that Thor) was there looking for his hammer, I think? I’m sure there are plenty of people who had no idea what was going on with my character either.

But as for the Chosen One? He was really the star of the show and the main plot line. I don’t think there was even one character who wasn’t supposed to try to influence Desmond to choose a side (or to choose no side at all, as was my objective, as well as that of some of the other fae). The demoness Roxanne and the angel Molly were constantly at his side, each trying to convince him to choose her. In the end, it took Sam the helpful janitor serenading Desmond with Ozzy Osbourne’s I Just Want You and telling him, “I just want you to listen to Molly” to help Desmond make his choice. He chose to ally with the Good side, of course!

And we all lived happily ever after. Except for John the troll, who was dead. Long story.

(Desmond was played by my husband, who was roped into playing at the last minute. Seeing my husband be serenaded by another man is something I’ll always remember.)

The Verdict: LARP! The Musical FTW!

I really have no idea what standards are used to judge a successful LARP, but I’d imagine they can’t be far off from the standards for any good game. What made this LARP a complete success?

  • Everyone left their inhibitions at the door.
  • Everyone embraced the roles they’d been given and played them with passion.
  • The story grabbed us and held us.
  • The music was fabulous.
  • Four hours passed in the blink of an eye, and we were all disappointed when it was over.

A musical LARP was a huge risk, and I know there were a few bumps in the road getting to it (for example, we were supposed to have club lighting, but the lighting guy couldn’t make it to the con – we all just used our imaginations and I don’t think anyone missed it). Everyone had so much fun, everything went so smoothly (at least from this player’s perspective), and the whole thing was just so amazing that I couldn’t fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning because I couldn’t come down from the high.

Big thanks to Greg for turning his road-trip idea into something fabulous, and to all my fellow players for such a great night! (Especially Storm, who put up with me stepping on his feet during every dance.) May we all get the chance to play together again next year!

Have you ever taken part in a musical LARP?

About c

By day, Connie Thomson (aka Ariel Manx) is a mild-mannered shoe salesgirl, geeking out about insoles, outsoles, and shanks. But when night falls, she takes her turn at the helm of 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming, where she writes, edits, and does layout for table-top RPG products. Regardless of her persona, C is always a fangirl, bookworm, and craft diva. (Email C or follow @arielmanx on Twitter.)

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