kihou: (CHUN)
[personal profile] kihou
So, I ran Singularity ( last weekend. Five times, in fact. It was my first time running an in-print published LARP, and (depending on technicalities) probably my first time running a LARP I’d neither helped write nor played. It was a lot of fun! It was also a lot different than I’m used to, so I thought I’d write down some thoughts.

Singularity is a transhuman dating show LARP! You might be a dead planet, an uplifted turtle, or everyone’s favorite, the feelings of everyone in the room! One player is the star, and there are 2-4 contestants competing for their affections, plus a host! I thought the high-concept premise and outlandish characters worked really well, and people had fun thinking about the implications of their characters and the universe. It was strongly on the narrative side of LARPs, with basically no mechanics, a focus on a single choice, and a loosely scene-based structure.

It’s definitely interesting to see what sort of assumptions people make about LARPs. This was definitely an improv-y “yes, and” sort of game, but this was largely implicit rather than being gone much into in the text. Some players definitely got into that mode of play more naturally than others. Some games decided to discuss the basics of the dates at the player level before the in-character scene of the host interviewing them about it, rather than doing it all improv, which I thought was fine. It did seem like either specific improv guidance in the text or some sort of improv warmup exercises might’ve helped some players get into the swing of things, though I’m sufficiently unfamiliar with improv-y games that I’m not sure.

The Host had a director-like role and was a huge part of setting the feel and pace of the game. (I’m not sure, but it’s possible the authors expected the GM/game runner to also be the Host, but I didn’t because I wanted the opportunity for players not interested in romance to play and also because I didn’t really want to.) All the hosts did a good job, but it seemed like some might’ve appreciated a little more guidance in terms of pacing, questions to ask, and ways of stirring up conflict. (In terms of pacing, some runs could’ve easily exceeded two hours and some were less than one hour, really depending on how much the host and the other players elaborated and complicated stuff.)

Conflict I think was one of the most striking difference between runs. With one exception, the non-host players didn’t seem interested in being hostile or critical, and so the responsibility for putting people on the spot about potential problems with relationships and other such stuff ended up being on the host. I really enjoyed hosts that improv’d mishaps onto the various dates, and I think some more prompting or guidance along those lines might be helpful. And one host had the idea of putting the contestants on the spot about why they’d be a better choice than other contestants, which I think would work well as a standard part of the game.

Singularity as written had an interactive Limitations section, where before game you mention any sort of content you don’t want talked about in-game, or don’t want people to go into detail about. (There was some heavy content in game.) In all five runs, no one said anything. I think, at least in this sort of environment, soliciting this sort of thing ahead of time with the app might work better for this sort of thing than putting people on the spot. I know the thing to do as a GM is say something yourself to make others comfortable speaking up, but given that I was being a do-nothing GM I didn’t actually have something I wanted to say so I didn’t. *shrug* It was fine in practice.

I originally wasn’t going to use name badges, as the text doesn’t ask for them, but then I realized that people would have trouble remembering names and pronouns without them. Singularity made a point of having characters that used unusual pronouns, which was definitely interesting, but I feel like they ended up feeling a bit tacked on or arbitrary without any real idea as to why a particular character wanted to use ve/ver/ver or xie/xir/xir or whatever. Given that gender and sexuality were otherwise assumed to be irrelevant, it didn’t really seem like a meaningful exploration of that particular aspect of the (gender)queer experience, despite its overall queer feel.

Having characters be quasi-random worked pretty well overall, though one run was subject to a balance issue (the tortoise and the dead planet are really well-matched) which made that run less interesting than it could’ve been.

All and all it was a lot of fun and sat in a cool space of narrativist LARP between strict scene-based and more unstructured LARP. I was definitely glad to introduce people to it, and it’ll give me a lot to think about if I end up trying my own hand at narrativist LARP one of these days.
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