I've classed myself as an LRPer for many years now. I used to spend one or two days every weekend playing games, and most of the week avoiding lectures talking about it. However, over the last few years I've gotten into a bit of a rut. I help run one game three or four weekends a year, have commitments to another couple of games that run once a year, but in some respects all I really have to show is a room full of junk.
This last weekend I tried something new, partly because it sounded interesting, partly because a lot of my friends were involved in running or playing it. This involved finding a short (though not indecent) tunic, a pair of sandals and, erm, well actually that was about it (laden down with costume I wasn't) and decamping to a graeco-roman-mythland - or as I prefer to call it - Bedfordshire.
It was a bit of a Swiss-Army-Game, but rather than involving riding bicycles and keeping assault rifles in your nuclear-bunker-cellar, I mean a very well crafted game that aims to offer something for every kind of player - battles and duels for the fighters/linears for the adventurers/gods and oracles for the priests and politics for the senators. Of course, many games will claim that they do this, but Odyssey was probably the least dressed-up and pretentious approach to this I've seen - rather than assume that players will understand it, the rulebook telegraphs it so much that you'd have to be stupid to miss it.
I was part of a fantastic group, mainly comprising people I know, but don't know very well; so getting to know them was a secondary motive, though I did fail spectacularly thanks to being too busy being a second-shadow to Chi (WINOLJ) but my usefulness was reduced when I lost/loaned/... my last pencil, despite taking 5 to the event. When I look back at the LRP characters I've played I do worry that actually I play the same thing in different clothes. This may possibly be true, which kinda worries me, but I must thank harrytc for convincing me that low-status characters can be a lot of fun. I suppose next time I might have to try playing a decent upstanding citizen, and probably even wear some armour. I've also never eaten so much fruit at an event, but that seems to be the result of having a number of people each having visited the "Fruit & Veg" section of a supermarket in a quest for communal provisions.
The game itself worked pretty well. There were obviously good and bad points, but the request for feedback from smittumi and Neil seemed so genuine that I hope they'll take the comments in the best spirit. I'll probably say more useful things at a later date, probably direct to them.
The players were on the whole excellent. There weren't very many, which is frankly criminal, but there was some great costume and they were supported by an excellent crew. There were not enough people playing each of the "games" however. A low number of senators and reliance on NPCs to bulk out the numbers at meetings, made that game look a bit light (though I wasn't close enough to it to be 100% sure). More than one person after then event said to me they wish they'd had a group around them and played a Senator - to increase the scope for political manoeuvring and put a bit more machiavelli into the politics. This lack of groups and numbers was also visible on the IC field - there were not enough tents to make the game feel like a major festival and the ambience suffered a little as a result. The worst aspect of this was the other largish group didn't have an IC home and instead kept wandering of OOC to relax and socialise - off the main field and effectively out of the game for a period of time.
The worst part of the game for me wasn't the fault of the organisers at all. I sensed there was a big IC split between the OOC groups. Obviously as a social hobby, especially one where the people involved are so geographically spread, one wants to spend time with ones friends, rather than strangers - but I sensed a strong "them and us" between the two "camps" that on a couple of occasions really stung. I don't think there is a solution to this, as forcing groups to interact can be a pretty stupid idea, but it was still a shame.
As people-who-put-up-with-me know, one of my major LRP issues is over context, genre and such. Communicating this is, in my opinion, the toughest job facing the LRP organiser, as from this context stems the majority of interactions and conflict. The Odyssey team handled this pretty well, and supplanted a refreshingly clear and "tight" rulebook with the odd anecdote and guide. More of this is good! It's the nature of LRPers to want to stand out from the crowd, and play something a bit different, a bit special, and so on; and at least one group present was probably genre-breaking for an "important religious festival" but that's a tiny niggle.
I ended up, completely by mistake, on one of the gate missions. This was quite, quite scary and involved a degree of heightened paranoia that I've not experienced since socialising with the TorVak at Omega. Must try and do it again...
The end of the event did, as many do, end with a flurry of activity and confusion. There's nothing quite like thinking everything is under control then having the rug completely pulled out from under you - and ephraim ended up with an interesting situation to deal with.
In conclusion it was fun, it was old-skool (high fantasy, high ref-involvement and relatively unpretentious) LRP and I hope it runs again next year. Not perfect, but then what is?
Finally, special mention must go to agentinfinity and mr_h_r_hughes for bringing the group together. Top marks!
Now I must go and patch up my damaged lower legs some more. Damn brambles.