ODC Larp

Jun. 16th, 2014 08:49 pm
metztlimoon: (moon)
[personal profile] metztlimoon
My, haven't I been gone forever...

I posted this earlier on FB :

ODC: Most awesome moment - Jupiter's Ire during a giant thunderstorm. Least awesome, horrendous abdo-cramps and back pain most of the weekend so felt even more useless and impotent than usual. I 'get' ODC as a game, and I love it as a game, I love the atmosphere and Rome, and announcing in the arena and the awesome, but I can't escape the feeling I'm just not good enough for it

So here's 2500 words of thinking

Odyssey is a brilliant game.  It is vibrant, deep, violent, thoughtful, bitter and sweet – a mass of contradictions and conflicts. It is beautiful thing to see, epic battles, the rise and fall of nations, the world hanging by threads and changing at either a moment’s notice or slowly, quietly and unseen until it is too late. Some battles are short, but the wars endure, be they in the arena, the underworld, the heavens or at the source of things. It is a world bought to life by awesome role-players, who pick up the mantle of the epic  hero (or anti-hero, I suppose). They run with it, creating moments of intensity of all colours, from fury to grief, despair to ecstasy. Real tears flow at character funerals, and one literally trembles in front of NPC Gods.  It is a story of a thousand stories where pretty much anyone can turn the tide. Odyssey could keep the TV and movie industry in glory for YEARS and still not tell all the tales that deserve telling.

Some people don’t ‘get’ Odyssey, wondering how to find their feet in it. I *think * I get it, I understand how it works, how death can be a huge win, how sometimes it’s powerlessness in the face of greater power, how sometimes it’s power held but not recognised, how there are layers and layers, how you *win* without *winning*, how one plays the agenda within an agenda within an agenda, or solves a riddle within a mystery within an enigma.

My problem, I think, is that I wonder if I’m up to it.

Now, it’s worth pointing out, I often doubt whether I’m up to things. Although my depression isn’t quite as overpowering at the moment as it can be, it’s been there forever and likely to remain so.  Thus, I have the problems of self-confidence, low mood and distorted perception to deal with. And trust me, I try, but it is also hard.
I see others getting enthusiastic about what their characters have done and I think not only ‘how can I feel like that?’ but ‘am I even capable of feeling like that?’ I’m never entirely sure if I’ve done something I should want to froth about. This affects me everywhere, not just at games, but the intensity of ODC in particular seems to make it worse. And of course, as in real life, I continue to play because ‘it was not bad’ is better than ‘actively bad’ even if it wasn’t ‘good’.  If I waited until I wasn’t ambivalent, I’d never do anything; but the lack of positive feedback to myself (not particularly from others) gets very wearing.

I am realistically limited as to what I can play in most games. Physically I struggle in part due to medical issues, (the rest unfitness), and I lack co-ordination because of dyspraxia. The dyspraxia also limits my ability to rapidly process information and remember things like rules, spells, names and faces. It’s hard to be confident if distance to a toilet is can be a key factor in your comfort. Those are facts and as value free as I can make them.

At ODC (like most games) combat characters are more or less completely off the cards – even if I could find and afford armour to fit. No one wants an attendant that’s going to have to sit down a lot, a physician that’s going to slow down quests or a philosopher who’s mentally incapable of remembering their mysteries or be unable to process the world forge. (That bit of the game seems awesome, but I’m certain it’s beyond me!) To be even minimally effective as a priest in Odyssey requires a lot of concentration, and at the last event I had to run out of a God Audience because I physically couldn’t stand any longer. LRP is harder because my phys-rep is defective in multiple ways and I feel guilty about letting people down because of it. I can compensate often, but I will almost always be less-good than those who aren’t compensating. Plus, I'm not sure it wouldn't be cheating to use the dictaphone I have for my academic meetings, even if it was hidden IC.

I mentioned above about the great role-players at ODC. They are plentiful, and scary good.  They seem effortlessly capable of completely disconnecting character completely from player (I hope they are, anyhow), they are capable of plotting and scheming, they remember names and details, they grab opportunities with all limbs and seem have great fun and glorious moments. Many also have body phys-reps that have defects, but they seem to still manage to be awesome. I feel like I share nothing in common with them, and I’m relegated to the dunces corner for people too fat, too thick or too sensitive to get fun things. At least the arena audiences seem to have stopped actively calling people fatty.

Mentally, I find it very hard to play against type. I prefer to be reasonably fair, thoughtful, not rash or pushy or ballsy. The core of all my characters probably ends up like that, whatever the external trappings. Unfortunately, it’s considerably harder to *do* anything in LRP with characters like that because that’s the nature of the beast – no one actually wants a fair, sensible outcome. On reflection, I should probably *not* have had Tiberia leave the Vestals – at least that was a role where that type had some respect attached to it, but it seemed right at the time . For what it’s worth, I have played against type over the last 20 odd years of LRP. Sadly, I’m not clever enough to do it well and it’s very unrewarding. I’d only feel ‘safe’ enough to do that if I was with a group of people I OC trusted not to push me further than I wanted or abandon me, a theme I’ll come back to later.

Clever readers will have spotted that if both playing to type and against type aren’t very rewarding, and I find it physically hard, why am I doing it at all? And I have asked myself that question over and over for a long time but never really properly tried to answer.  There are many reasons – my friends do it, I love experiencing a different world, I like the costumes and the kit, I like organising things, I don’t like being thought of as wussing-out.  I like the moments when ‘something’ happens and I have to step up to the plate because no-one else can. These are moments of *unexpected* limelight or necessity, as I am terribly bad at actually seeking and orchestrating those moments, I don’t have the ability to make them that the great larpers do. Those moments do happen, sometimes.

It doesn’t have to be a ‘big’ moment either. As I’m writing this to remind my brain of what I do love about larp, many of  the ‘yes!’ moments I’ve had over the years have arisen as small play between individuals standing at the edge of something that is in-game taboo or fearful.  As examples: - backing quietly away from a meeting that turned into a witch hunt against your species; falling hopelessly and inappropriately in love; holding a dying comrade; accidentally appropriate weather conditions.  I think all of them have been about emotion, not physical skill or cunning or careful planning – they’ve been about the immediacy of tragedy, about desperation or joy, revelation and fear. I’ve said to people before now how much I larp in my head – I enjoy the experience of inner space and inner conflict within the external setting more than politics or fighting.

However, the emotional game doesn’t make for great LARP tales. ODC generates emotional play because of its general vivid intensity, not because it’s an ‘emotional’ game.  ‘I was hugely conflicted about X, and spent 10 minutes begging Y not to do Z’, ‘I was so terrified by that idea I was actually shaking’, ‘I had no choice but to comfort my enemy’ are less ‘live action’ than ‘I killed four Greeks with a dagger, I out-manoeuvred a God, I nearly blew up the world’.  To be considered a better larper I feel I would need to append ‘and then I stabbed them up because of it’, or ‘so I set up an elaborate and subtle scheme of revenge’ and that’s not something I am particularly good at doing.  I get annoyed at myself because LRP should be as much about giving game to others as it is about getting your own and there’s more game in stabbing than in tears for most people, and frustrated because emotional response to the game seems less important than pulling off a cunning plan or dying a glorious death. Emotion, it seems, isn’t ‘action’ enough for live-action.

That said, I wouldn’t necessarily want to play an overtly emotional game, and I don’t expect others to buy into my philosophy either. Odyssey is a hard game, but I don’t really want a game where it’s easy to sit in a bar and drink all day, either. I like games with great settings and fun metaphysics.  I like games where there are things that need thinky solutions and there’s debate to be had. But it’s frustrating for me because maybe 8/10 times I’ll be out-thought by someone faster or shouted down by someone gobbier  or out manoeuvred by someone more cunning – then they get more opportunities, and I get less, so I won’t get any better at it or any more knowledgeable. Thus, if I want to experience the worlds of LRP I gravitate to characters where competence at game things is secondary to my experience of the world or temperament. I may be emotionally vulnerable in the real world, but I can role-play with rage and grief and desire and fear and joy and love better than I can wield a sword or remember a face.  I am better at being the moderate, the calm, the gesture-of-support, the conveyor of information, the deliverer of news, the impartial-even-if-I’m-not. I’m the back- up, the lean-on, the port-in-a-storm. The here’s-an-idea someone more skilled could run with, here’s the incriminating evidence to the right person at the right time, here’s the vision I had when you just found me going mad.

I want to believe that doing that gives other people space to game, even if I don’t make much game in-and-of myself. It’s why I like running games. I tell myself that so long as I’m not actually breaking other people’s game by being stupidly OC or stealing their limelight at least I’m not a freeloader. But it doesn’t feel that’s good enough for the company I keep because I’m not ‘doing’ things. I stand at the shoulder of people I consider great role-players and I feel like a fraud at best or baggage at worst. Not so much epic, as hastily written filler.

Earlier, I mentioned that something important is group support. Part of this means having a group that’s IC got my back and that’s something I’m very much missing at ODC (it was nice to have my IC cousin last event for moments of pressure free IC), but my focus below is really on the OC trust/backup part of that.  All kinds of trust are something *I* find generally difficult, not as a reflection on other people’s trustworthiness, but an internally generated thing. I’m not truly comfortable with my game unless I *trust* the people I’m with. I don’t mean everyone on the field I might interact with ever has to be a bosom buddy, as that is unrealistic and ridiculous, but – particularly when I’m playing outside my comfort-zone, but also more generally – I need some people around me who I trust to know and respect my weaknesses, not exploit them.

I need to feel that I’m not going to get too much IC flack, (or *any* OC comeback) for OC difficulties, that as a group we’ll find ways IC ways to stimulate each other’s game with a watchful consideration of what works for each person. If I’m screwing over the world (or trying to save it) I need to know I’m on the same sheet as someone else, even if we’ve agreed we’ll take it different ways.  People I trust OC can betray my character, set her up, tear her down, we can scream and shout at each other, I can plot against them, or work something out with them, or not plot at all because I am 100% certain if I have to bail out because my insides hurt, or if it’s a bit much to do a particular thing, then that’s okay. And, although this probably makes me a bad/weak/pathetic live role-player, I sometimes need to be reassured that it’s 100% pretend and that the fun gained from hoodwinking and shouting down characters (hurrah, fun!) isn’t delight at being able to manipulate or intimidate real people (boo, bullying).  Sadly, it feels to me that some people believe the only acceptable position is ‘everything is 100% pretend, 100% of the time’. It feels like some of the 100% brigade think that people like me, who are only 100% sure it’s not personal most of the time, have no place in the hobby. Perhaps if I wasn’t so rubbish at playing stabby, shouty or scheming people, it’d be easier to manage the disconnect between real bullying and pretend bullying, but what I do know is I find it so much easier to be stabby, shouty and scheming when I am sure the person beside me OC approves of both me and my character. OC back-up fills the same need for my brain as a walking aid might for dodgy knees.

OC backup isn’t about only playing with best friends, either – I have close friends who I wouldn’t feel comfortable at a game with, and virtual strangers I do. I’m not sure I know why – perhaps it’s the occasional look, the odd word, the way they notice something’s amiss underneath the character, or the way they always manage to take your character seriously. Maybe it’s just not definable. But whatever it is, OC back-up reminds me of the time I was awesome, lets me know that yes, sometimes someone is actually is being a jerk it’s not just me, and gives the positive-feedback my damaged good-stuff-filter doesn’t. OC backup helps me feel I belong even when I feel uncomfortable. I’m lucky enough to have some, but not nearly so much as I’d like.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on for well over 2500 words now. Fundamentally, the question is whether I feel I have the motivation and support structure in place to properly enjoy Odyssey given my difficulties. The answer remains ; I’m really not sure. My answer today might be different from tomorrow, or next event, or next year.

Right now:
I would feel happier staying if I believed that facilitating little bits of game for others is good enough. This can only come from feedback and self-hypnosis.

I would stay for the little moments of awesome, if I could find a way to get more of them.

I might stay just because I want to see how it ends, particularly Rome’s priest game. Surviving to the end is either doing something right, or doing nothing.

I would be happier staying if I found rewarding ways of extending my game a bit- *doing more* - possibly going attendant for a while to try things out but I’d *miss* being a priest

I would stay (longer) if I could justify trying a new character to myself either by appropriately ending the one I have or getting suitably enthused about a new one.

I might stay because the various (perceived/actual) consequences of not staying aren’t exactly great either, but that’s probably not a good reason.

I might not stay because it’s just beyond me to do so.
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