Yes, I finally did it: I went to a LARP. A real, actual LARP.
And it was FUN.
A little backstory for everyone: when I was a freshman in college, many many years ago, a couple of friends felt it’d be a great idea to start a Vampire: The Masquerade LARP. They loved role-playing, and they thought it’d be awesome to do some live-action Vampire: The Masquerade stuff. So, they herded together a bunch of friends who they thought would have fun in a Vampire LARP, and nudged us in the direction of character creation, and then bam! LARP night at their house!
It didn’t work out all that well.
First off, we didn’t have actual character sheets – we were just told to pick a vampire clan and go with that. We ended up with a very unbalanced group, given that 3/4ths of the people playing chose to play characters from one clan. Second off, there was no combat. Or story. Just a bunch of college kids, sitting around in the living room of a former fraternity house, acting crazy and wearing costumes, drinking wine if you were old enough and pretending it was blood.
I went to maybe two games before I gave up and said “this LARP stuff really isn’t for me.”
But then I met J. And learned what LARPs are really like if they’re run well.
When I met J last year, he told me about the LARP he ran – Kishar – and said I was welcome to come to a game if I wanted to. And I ended up waffling about it for a year or so, based on my bad experiences in that Vampire: The Masquerade LARP I went to back in 2000. I kinda wanted to join up, because as you probably know, I do enjoy any excuse to get into a costume. And I was always interested in boffer fighting (where weapons are made out of foam and latex), even though I wasn’t ever sure where to get started with that. And the setting, which draws on the Arabian Nights stories for inspiration, was intriguing.
So I said “heck, why not? I’ll go to a game, see what it’s about.” And I did – at the end of March.
I wasn’t feeling super well that weekend, so while new players typically play monsters, I ended up trailing the group while they were out in the woods fighting, and taking pictures. It was a really good way to get a feel for how combat works, and to listen to the story and see some action as it happened. While I only knew a handful of people in the group, everyone was welcoming and friendly, and despite feeling pretty cruddy physically, I had a pretty darn good time.
After I absorbed everything going on in Kishar for a weekend, I ended up deciding “yes, this is a thing I want to do” and started crafting a character in earnest. My character will be Ëlinyr (pronounced ay-lin-ear), a sun elf scholar who studies and uses magic. And as I started putting together my character, I realized this is the most perfect way to get my crafty nerdiness on. Not only do I get to make a roleplay character (and therefore indulging in my nerdy side), I also get to put together a costume (which brings in the crafty side of things). And as I said earlier, you all know how much I lovemakingandwearingcostumes. Most of this past weekend was spent working on Ëlinyr’s costume, to get it ready for the next game.
So, I’m really excited about having this new place to get my craftiness and nerdiness on. As I said to J after the game ended, Kishar feels like Gen Con and summer camp combined, and it’s awesome. And who knows, maybe I’ll get Ross into it too, and we can run around the forest in costumes together!
With all the hype surrounding the remake of Final Fantasy VII floating around the internet lately, and with the lack of classes for the next couple of weeks, I figured now was the best time to get re-acquainted with one of the most applauded and well-loved RPGs around. (It also didn’t hurt that FFVII was on sale for $3.60 on Amazon/Steam on Black Friday, either…) For those of you who haven’t ever played the game before, there are some spoilers in here, so be forewarned.
Now, I’ve got a long history with this game. A long and ridiculous history. It goes way back to 1998, after the game first came out – I wanted to play it, really badly, but my mother didn’t think we needed a PlayStation in addition to our slew of Nintendo consoles. So, I borrowed a friend’s player’s guide and read through it. I read through the freaking instruction manual for the game a billion times. I’d listen to the neighbor kid tell me his progress in the game as he worked his way through it, living vicariously through him. And when I finally made it to college, and got a job, I bought the PC version of Final Fantasy VII. And man, was it buggy, and playing it on a keyboard was rough, but I loved it. I soaked up all the fan fiction and fan art I could. Somewhere in my ancient stash of MP3 backup CDs, there’s a disc full of FFVII music I downloaded from Napster way back in the day. That game was my life.
After classes ramped up, I ended up putting the game aside – and if I remember right, I ended up loaning it to a friend, never to be seen again. Fast forward to when I managed to acquire a PS1 of my very own – I bought a used copy, and played it religiously until midway through Disc 2, I think, where my copy had a scratch and simply refused to go any further than a cutscene somewhere in Cosmo Canyon of Red XIII howling at the moon. Some years later, my friend Patty gave me her copy of FFVII and the player’s guide, and made me very happy. And I played the heck out of that, from the beginning, because I lost the memory card that my original save game was on.
And then I somehow lost the copy Patty gave me. I have no idea HOW. I still have the player’s guide that went with it. I even have the memory card my save file is on, just in case I actually find the game again. I’m still miffed about its disappearance. Why couldn’t I lose Final Fantasy VIII? That game was far more infuriating to play, with its weird junction system. Anyhow. Fast forward again, to when Bryan buys a PS3. I find out I can get FFVII from the PlayStation store, and of course I buy it, and play through the beginning of the game a FOURTH time. Then I bought a PS Vita, Bryan and I split, and I had to start FFVII again. A fifth time. (At least the version I bought from the PS Store worked on both the PS3 and the Vita!)
Then, of course, I sold my PS Vita because I never actually used it for much aside from the occasional “oh maybe I should play Final Fantasy something-or-other”. So, Black Friday this year rolls around, and I figure, why not? I’m gonna buy a fifth copy of FFVII on Amazon/Steam. Because I can, and because I am DETERMINED to beat the game. Even though I know how it ends, because my friend Tyler spoiled it all for me back in 1998. So I did, and I even found the dongle that allows you to hook up a PlayStation 1/2 controller to a computer through USB. Success!
Playing the Game
Now that I’ve got the game again, and I’ve made it through roughly 8 hours of the game, I’ve noticed quite a few things about this PC release. First off, there’s been some tweaking to the character models – the polygons look nice and smooth now. Which makes for a HUGE contrast when compared to the backgrounds and static objects in the game, which look incredibly pixelated. My first couple hours in this replay were spent playing in front of a 28 inch monitor hooked up to my Surface, and my first thoughts were “wow, this game has not aged well, graphically.”
Another observation I had: I don’t know if the characters always looked like this, or if this is just due to playing an old game on an HD computer monitor, but whoa, do the characters eyes look WEIRD.
They’re incredibly pixelated, compared to the typical gameplay character models. And it’s weird. Did they always look like that, or is it just emphasized because they smoothed the heck out of the character models? I have no idea. I’ll say this for sure – the game looks far better on smaller screens, like the Surface Pro – you don’t notice the super-pixelation or the weirdness with the eyes on the character models all that much.
The battle character models look a bit better than they used to, which is nice! The polygon smoothing and extra sprucing up worked out well in this department. They’re good looking, better than 1997 standards. I actually kinda like going into battles, especially with newly acquired characters, to see how spiffy their models are looking.
One thing that hasn’t changed at all are the quality of the cutscenes. Which were absolutely fantastic for 1997, and are a little grainy now but still hold the storytelling impact they previously did. I spent last night holding my controller tightly as Cloud talked about his past with Sephiroth, and even after playing through Kalm Town for the third time, I still find the story as immersive and gripping as I did the first time I played it.
One thing I’m not quite too sure about is Square Enix’s implementation of the Character Booster – it’s helpful, yeah, but it’s not quite what I was expecting. When I read about it, it seemed like it was meant to max out all your character’s stats – and their level, too – to 9999, therefore making it easy to push through the game for the story if that’s all you care about. What it does in reality is boost the HP/MP of the characters currently in your party to their max levels (around 9999 HP/999 MP, but it’s different for each character), and maxes your gil out to 4999999999 or some other absurdly high amount. And don’t get me wrong, that’s helpful, but it’s not what I was anticipating – and it means I’m still stuck level grinding so I can actually do damage to enemies. Plus, I have to remember to go back and tweak the Character Boost stuff every time I get a new party member – I just picked up Red XIII, and he’s only got 450 HP, compared to Barret’s 9900, so back to the Square Enix website I must go to boost my stats…
I’m looking forward to finally beating the game, though. Sure, I’m only 8 hours in, but I’ll get there eventually. Especially considering the motivation I’ve got for finishing – having the whole story under my belt before the FFVII Remake comes out. And who knows, maybe this’ll rekindle my inner gamer. After all, Final Fantasy VI is being released on Steam this afternoon…
Well, I found myself with some unexpected time on my hands today, and I’ve been intending to review this game for a bit, so….
Pairs: The Review
I’ve had this game on a shelf since September, waiting for the chance to get to play it. I discovered the Kickstarter for Pairs through Patrick Rothfuss’ blog, sometime last spring, and eagerly backed the project and snagged three decks as a result. (I mean, come on, Pat could put his name on anything and I’d be likely to back it.) There were many decks available to choose from, and I picked three with artwork from Pat Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles series, as I do love those books and was curious to see Shane Tyree and Nate Taylor’s artistic interpretation of the characters I’ve enjoyed reading about. Once the decks finally got delivered, I opened them all up, looked at the beautiful artwork, and then set them in my “let’s play this later” pile on my bookshelf.
Fast forward to today – the day housing access opens up on Gen Con’s website! I eagerly awaited the coming of 12:00 pm, to see how long of a wait I’d have to get to the housing portal…
So, Ross and I figured this would be a good time to pick up Pairs and play. Based on what I’d heard about it from the Kickstarter page, and what I’d read in the rules when I’d first opened the games, it seemed pretty simple – points were earned by getting a pair of cards, and the person with the highest score lost. So, going off of that, we figured we’d shuffle the cards (which turned into an ordeal, due to the fact that neither of us can properly shuffle a deck of cards without turning it into a game of 52 Pick-Up) and start a game! I read off the rules while Ross and I took turns slowly shuffling the deck – and the rules ended up being a little less straightforward than we initially thought…
Gameplay, for Ross and I, went as follows: Whoever dealt took five cards from the deck and put them face-down to start the discard deck, as the rules suggested, and then the dealer passed out a card to each of us – whoever had the lowest card went first. Then, we’d take turns drawing cards, hoping neither of us would end up with a pair – especially a high scoring pair. (The deck is a pyramid deck – there’s one 1, two 2s, three 3s, and so on, making your chances of getting a high numbered card pretty large.) When one of us ended up with a pair, that ended the round – we’d set aside a card from that pair to keep score, and the rest went into the discard pile. We repeated that until one of us hit 31 points, the suggested “losing” score number that the rules gave us.
It was actually pretty fun – and once we figured out what we were doing, we enjoyed it. I think we ended up playing three games – I lost twice, Ross lost once. It didn’t help too much that Ross kept commenting on the artwork on the cards – it hinted at what cards he had, haha. The artwork for the Commonwealth Deck (the one we played with), done by Shane Tyree, is absolutely gorgeous. While I wish the art focused on specific characters in the Kingkiller Chronicles, the game is mentioned to be played in the universe of the stories – and characters from the story seeing themselves on a card, well, that’d be rather odd.
Overall, it was a pretty fun game, and a good way to kill time. I think it might have been even more fun with more people playing, but for Ross and I, it was pretty good too. I might even bring this along with me if I’m going out to eat with a group of people, as a fun way of keeping everyone entertained while waiting for food. If you want to learn more, visit the Pairs page on Cheapass Games’ website!
And it meant a half-hour’s worth of time not spent looking at the computer, anxiously waiting our turn for housing. (At the time of this writing, I’ve got fourteen and a half minutes left – I hope hope hope there’s still room in the JW Marriott or even the Hampton Inn…)
Last night, I had the opportunity to play a new game – it’s a short and sweet little game called Love Letter. Michael and I played it while at dinner at the local Chinese buffet place – because why not have a little game with your dinner?
The premise of Love Letter is simple – Princess Annette is pretty darn popular, and has quite a few suitors wanting to get a love letter to her. However… she’s locked herself in a tower, and it’s your job to try and cozy up to the people closest to the princess in hopes of getting your letter to her.
There’s a small deck of cards with various people from the castle, with different numbers on each card. The number indicates how close that person is to the princess. Each card also has a condition on it – for example, the Priest card makes it so another player has to show you their cards, and the Countess card has to be discarded if she’s caught with the King or the Prince in the same hand (scandalous!) – these conditions can make game play pretty interesting.
At the end of each round, whoever has the highest numbered card in their hand gets their letter to the princess, and they earn a token of her affection (which is a little tiny red cube). Once a player earns enough tokens, they win the princess’s affection (and therefore the game). The game can be played with 2-4 people, and the amount of tokens needed to win changes with the amount of people playing. For two players, you need seven tokens to win. It’s a pretty quick game to play, especially depending on what cards you end up with.
Michael and I managed to play through an entire game in a half hour – I was wiping the floor with him for a chunk of the game, as I kept getting lucky and getting the princess card (I mean, how much closer can you get to the princess when you’ve got the princess card?) – however, then Michael kept getting cards that made it that even once I’d gotten the princess card I’d have to discard it (and therefore lose the round, because the princess card’s condition? When discarded, you lose the round). In the end, Michael swooped past me, captured the princess’s affections, and won. I was so close, too – I was two tokens shy!
So, in short, this is a good little game to play if you’ve got a little bit of time to kill and want a small game to play – the entire game fits into a bag roughly the size of a dice bag, and doesn’t take terribly long to play. It’s also pretty entertaining, too, and is pretty inexpensive to boot! You can find it here on Amazon.
So, in short, The Crafty Nerd’s verdict? Pretty darn awesome, and I suggest you give it a try!
There is one thing I can definitely say about the My Little Pony community – they are INCREDIBLY friendly people.
I’ve never noticed this so much as I did at GenCon this year. Now, as I’m sure most of you who know me know, or those of you who’ve been reading the blog for any length of time know, I deal with anxiety and a heck of a lot of social awkwardness. And because of that, it’s hard for me to just strike up a conversation with people, especially random people I’ve never met that I’m chasing down to take their picture. (More often than not, by the time I worked up the nerve to ask someone for their picture, they’d wandered too far away – thank goodness for Mister Crafty Nerd hunting them down for me and snagging them for pictures!) Or random people I meet in panels. I mean, if there’s a My Little Pony community here in Bloomington, I sure haven’t found it – and even if I did, I’d be a little nervous to just jump right in, hollering “OMG PONIES!” But the My Little Pony fans (or bronies, as I’ll call them for short – I know not everyone identifies as a brony, but it’s just quicker than saying My Little Pony fans every time I want to refer to the group as a whole, heh) at GenCon were just so welcoming and friendly and easy to talk to. I found this out in both of the Enterplay My Little Pony: Collectible Card Game panels I went to, as well as in my wanderings around the con. (One of those Enterplay panels was supposed to be My Little Pony: This Panel is MAGIC, but it got rescheduled…) People commented on how awesome my costume was, and there were a few people who I recognized from when they took my picture earlier in the day. And a magical thing happened – I actually started to talk to people. People I didn’t know. It was amazing.
Immediately surrounding me at the first MLP:CCG panel I went to were a bunch of older guys, and a couple of younger girls and their moms who seemed to enjoy the show as much as their kids did. And we all talked. We discussed our favorite episodes, I showed off pictures of my ridiculous collection of My Little Pony plush, we talked about who our favorite ponies were, and wondered what the collectible card game would be like. It was like we were all old friends – and the fact that it was My Little Pony that brought us all together made it even more awesome.
I finally got around to hooking up the Super Nintendo I bought before Christmas. I know, I know, I should have hooked it up long before, but I’ve been way too busy lately. I did some living room rearranging this past weekend, though, and figured, why not hook it up while I’m in the process of hooking everything else up? Once I got it all hooked up, I popped in Street Fighter II – it’s one of my favorite games, and after watching Wreck-It Ralph so many times, I’d been itching to play for quite some time. So, come sit with me on my living room floor as I play Street Fighter!
I love playing video games. It’s one of the first nerdy things I’ve ever done – play games on my Atari when I was 5 years old. I especially love retro video games – the older, the better. After a friend of mine posted about the Sailor Moon games that came out for the Super Nintendo/Super Famicom back in the height of Sailor Moon’s popularity, I figured I might as well see if I could find some of my old favorites to play with. And I wasn’t disappointed!
Here we’ve got the Sailor Moon S puzzle game! I have no idea what the actual official name of it is, as I can’t read Japanese much more than identifying the kanji that stand for Sailor Moon, but this is my favorite of all the puzzle games that were released for the Super Nintendo.
Most Sailor Moon fans of a certain age on the internet will definitely recognize these sprites – they were on Lycentia’s Sailor Moon Graphics Site! She’d lovingly pulled all the sprites from all the Sailor Moon Super Nintendo games, and animated some of them too. This is the character select screen – you can play as pretty much any character in the series up to the S season. I picked Jupiter, as she’s one of my long time favorites.