Chaosium just released a new setting for the Call of Cthulhu RPG. ‘Down Darker Trails’, written by Kevin Ross, is set in the Wild West with a dash of Robert E. Howard mixed with H.P. Lovecraft. Suited for traditional or pulp based campaigns, this book is a lot of fun and a great setting for adventures. In fact, I am currently running a Down Darker Trails campaign myself.
It has been a very long time with many ups and downs. It seems I have plenty of free time on my hands currently due a lay-off at my day job. That means more time to write and time to dust off this old thing. I have several new projects currently in the works including a piece of short fiction which should be out sometime early next year. I also may start doing comic book reviews on this site as well, as I am also a big comic book fan. See? Not all my interests include horror and tabletop role-play games!
That is easily the best word that can describe my weekend at ‘Mad About the Boy’. While there were slow moments, overall it was an emotional rollercoaster that left me feeling more alive and like a woman then I have felt for sometime. I would, without hesitation, do this LARP again or any other LARP that explored the issues and themes of gender.
‘Mad About the Boy’ is from the Nordic style of LARP known as JeepForm. Instead of focusing on long campaign style LARPS such as NERO or Knight Realms or Doomsday, Jeepform does short one-shot stories with workshops intended to not only crawl inside your character’s headspace but to step back from the role after the weekend is over. Instead of focusing on the violence of most LARPS, Jeepform games tend to tackle broader and more emotional themes. Love, loss, fear and many other complex emotions. They even have a system for sex called ‘Ars Armani’ (literally the Art of Love) which involves physical contact of the hands, arms and upper back of the partners involved (more on this in a latter post as I have a lot of good things to say).
‘Mad About the Boy’ is loosely based off of the graphic novel ‘Y: The Last Man’. It is set in a world where three years prior (thus 2009) all the men suddenly died after a violent and bloody coughing fit. Millions of people died leaving women the sole inheritors of the earth. Now they are starting to build and have gathered in one spot for two reasons. A memorial for the dead and a chance for new life. The government has finally opened one of many sperm banks which have been guarding a now precious resource. The government feels it is time to rebuild the species and if America’s program works, the rest of the world can follow. There is a lot of fear though as no one knows if a male child will even be able to be born or survive childhood. Plus, if a male child is born, many other factions and groups will be focussed on this child and not all have the best intentions.
The family dynamic has changed largely in this not so distant future. Now the family unit is known as a triad in which three women form a family unit (not necessarily for romantic or sexual reasons). Lesbianism is less stigmatized (even the conservative group was grudgingly accepting of it) as many women (some formerly heterosexual) seek some sort of intimacy or romantic attachment. Sadly transwomen died in the Disaster, something that was particularly devastating to me in one of the early workshops. Transmen and drag kings have become even more socially acceptable as they fill a void for many left by the mass deaths of three years prior.
This is the world that we stepped into from Friday to Sunday and oddly enough it is a world that I find myself missing. Jeepform games bring up a lot of deep emotions and sometimes they teach us a bit about ourselves. My own fears were brought up in a workshop on Friday night and I am still surprised that I didn’t break down into tears and was able to pull myself together. I only shared this with a few people but now it will be public knowledge as I am sure that many from the LARP will be reading this (or so I hope).
One of the workshops on Friday night was a meditating session in which we were asked to imagine where we would be during the Disaster. Who would we lose? What would we do? How would we go on? At first I was imagining myself as a biological woman and it did not upset me. Then it hit me! I had a Y chromosome and I would be dead! It was not death that scared me though. It was the thought that as a transwoman, I would be lumped in with all of the dead men. I would be, by the definition of those who survived, a man!
This shook me up a bit and I was all to happy to sit up when the session ended. The entire weekend though helped to reaffirm that I was a woman and that I was accepted amongst this wildly diverse group. We were bisexual, pansexual, lesbian, straight, trans and a million other combinations that only we may personally know about. Never have I seen so many differing women come together for a similar idea. It is a powerful feeling and I can see why so many place importance on things like women festivals.
I was part of the wealthy women triad, a group of three women who managed to continue their business practices after the Disaster by helping to rebuild Philadelphia’s infrastructure. There was our matriarch and leader Katrina who use to own a construction company. She continued doing this though the business had largely shifted to teaching women how to fill these roles. There was Elizabeth who was Katrina’s sister-in-law. She had loss a loving husband and two sons in the Disaster and she was an emotionally fragile woman who still had a long way to go. She enjoyed watching romantic comedies and my character would often watch them with her (though she thought they were trite). I played Ellen who had only male friends before the Disaster. She enjoyed playing paintball and use to run a small IT business. She now ran a shipping business independently of Katrina though they often worked together on projects (they both felt it was safer to run them separately in case one went under).
Originally Ellen was suppose to miss men but me and Emily (who plated Katrina) got into talking about their relationship after the Disaster. It was at that point that I threw out that portion of my character and realized what it was I really wanted to explore. A post-apocalyptic romance story for the ages. A beacon of light in a bleak future. Thus began the most romantic story I have ever explored at a LARP.
More on this next time.
I would like to make a correction to my above post. It has been pointed out to me that both Jeepform and Nordic LARP are actually two separate things. Mad About the Boy was Nordic LARP however it was not Jeepform. Jeepform games are shorter, often a matter of hours, and have a much tighter structure then a weekend long game. I would highly recommend the following posts on Jeepform and Nordic LARP.
Jeepform for Noobs
Nordic LARP for Noobs
I would like to say thank you to both Lizzie Stark and Sarah Lynne Bowman for pointing out my mistake.
LARP (Live Action Roleplay) is a hobby where in the players assume the role of a character. Unlike tabletop, the action is typically in real time and everything is improvised. While there may be a plot, the people who run the game only have so much control over the players. Much less so then in a tabletop game. If tabletop RPGs are like playing a novel, LARP is like playing the movie version.
Lizzie Stark and First Person Entertainment (owners of Doomsday; check it out!) are running a very special LARP called Mad About the Boy. Mad About the Boy is inspired by the graphic novel series, Y: The Last Man. In that series, everyone on Earth with a Y chromosome is killed off leaving women the sole inheritors of the Earth. Mad About the Boy uses the exact same premise as women attempt to repopulate the earth. The government has announced that they are in possession of a bit of sperm and that one lucky group of women will be allowed access to it. This sets up the game in which different triads of women show up and start competing to get their hands on it. The purpose of this game is not just for entertainment, but it a workshop on dealing with the many emotions and complex feelings that can arise from such a situation.
As a transwoman, I am very excited to see what sort of feelings might arise from participating. Me and Lizzie Stark had a chat about this months ago and it was her who extended the invitation to any transwoman or genderqueer individual who wished to participate. Tonight, at midnight, is the last day to register and I really recommend you check it out. I’ll post more about it after the event itself.
My friend, Lizzie Stark (author of Leaving Mundania) posted this on her Facebook. This is very true and anyone who has submitted any sort of work knows what this is like.
Also, you might have noticed that my blog has a new URL. I figured it would fit a lot better on a business card.
Chaosium, the main publishers of The Call of Cthulhu, have often come under fire for lack of quality control when it comes to reprinting their old books. Instead of taking the opportunity to go through fixing old errors and tying up decades old plot holes, they often just slap a new cover on it and call it a day. Sometimes they might add a piece of artwork or two. Overall, it is sometimes easier to just go through Amazon and Ebay to find a cheaper second-hand copy (I also happen to like their older covers myself).
It looks like they won’t be going that route with their reprint of Horror on the Orient Express. They have begun a Kickstarter project to put together a box set for this most famous of RPG campaigns. For anyone who isn’t familiar with Horror on the Orient Express, the campaign takes a group of 1920s investigators (COC’s term for adventurers/player characters) on a trip across Europe to assemble an ancient statue that is scattered across the continent. The statue may be the focus for an ancient evil and there are several groups that can not wait to get their hands on this artifact. From London to Turkey, the investigators must travel on the Orient Express to collect the pieces and out race their enemies who will be hot on their heels. The campaign was such a success that it won two Origin Awards for ‘Best Role Playing Adventure’ and ‘Best Graphic Presentation’. It was also released in Italy in a beautiful hardcover volume.
If you were ever interested in playing The Call of Cthulhu, I recommend that you find someone running this campaign. It has a wonderful gothic horror feel to it and the challenges go beyond merely surviving alien horrors. Its challenges not only involve dodging and fighting the cults that are chasing after you, players will also have to make sure they don’t miss each leg of their journey and try to not draw attention to themselves while dealing with the social issues that 1920s travelers might face.
Check this campaign out and, if you can, maybe throw a dollar or two at it. I know I am.
The Kickstarter can be found here: Horror on the Orient Express
Anyone who has played Call of Cthulhu is familiar with Pagan Publishing. For many years, they have printed some of the highest quality books for The Call of Cthulhu. Whether it was the story, the art or just the general quality of their books, they have consistently been ahead of their game. The only complaints from fans was the wait between each book and the lack of reprints. That is changing as of today.
Pagan Publishing announced toward that they have released several of their harder to find books from their Delta Green line on DriveThruRPG.com. Now these hard to find books are available for reasonable prices. You can choose between a pdf or POD (print on demand) copy. Before today, the only way to find these books was to either get lucky or pay outrageous 3rd party dealer prices (we’re talking about several hundred dollars here).
If you aren’t familiar with Delta Green and enjoy modern conspiracy horror than check it out. The entire line brings Cthulhu to the present day, infusing the game with a healthy dose of paranoia. In the Delta Green universe, one can never be sure about who they should trust. The people you work for may not have your best interests at heart and they could be the goods guys! Difficult decisions must be made and the ultimate question stands: just what would you sacrifice to give the Earth at least one more day?
“But isn’t Delta Green just S.H.I.E.L.D. with tentacles?” Oh, hell no. It is far more than that. You are not part of some big budget, top secret, James Bond style organization. You are part of a non-existent, top secret group that could easily be torn apart by anyone who digs too deep. Your group is so poor that the only way to get equipment is to steal it from your own job and hope no one catches you. Delta Green agents must constantly ask themselves what is more important: their career, their family or giving up all of these to save the world from unspeakable evils from behind the stars. Delta Green agents don’t retire. They are chewed up and spit out, resources that must be used to stop the world from going up in flames. It isn’t a glamorous or glorious job. It is the life of someone who knows that the only way to stop something terrible from clawing up out of the ground is to drive that flaming school bus right into it while calling up their spouse to say goodbye. Sometimes they don’t even get that one last goodbye. In fact, Delta Green isn’t even an authorized organization. They have gone rogue, making a pact to push the darkness back day by day. They manipulate the U.S. governments bureaucracy in a desperate attempt to do what no one else will (or can) do.
“But doesn’t Delta Green just ignore Lovecraft’s work?” No where close. Delta Green builds its universe off of Lovecraft’s original story. In fact, the original Delta Green organization was started after the 1928 Raid on Innsmouth (The Shadow Over Innsmouth). It consitently makes references to old Call of Cthulhu campaigns and Lovecraft’s original stories. It also draws from the Mythos stories of Ramsey Campbell, Robert Chambers, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. It is firmly set in the world of Lovecraft’s stories.
Check these books out, especially if you love Lovecraftian gaming. You will not be disappointed.
Delta Green: http://www.delta-green.com/ “Deception is a right. Truth is a privilege. Innocence is a luxury.”
Pagan Publishing: http://www.tccorp.com/site09/tccorp_home.html