I am a fan of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica (BSG), one of the best shows that has been on television in my opinion, up there with The West Wing and Star Trek: TNG. I follow a BSG forum on Facebook and in January noticed an item that looked interesting. A group in Sweden was creating a real life game based on the BSG universe. They would create costumes for participants, rig a 1950s Swedish destroyer to look like a space ship and come up with the story line to be played out over the course of a weekend.
That sounded pretty cool. I wavered about doing it, but my wife encouraged me. Hennie said "You have to do this. You will regret it forever if you don't." As usual, she was right.
|Initial briefing outside the ship|
|A prop notebook|
A few weeks ahead of the event, I got a short overview of the character I would play: Rishi Antall, a sublight engineer on the Celestra crew. I was encouraged to fill in more details myself within the guidelines of the character sketch. A week or two later I received a more detailed outline which also described the political and social environment I would be in.
I already knew most of the background from watching BSG. In the BSG timeline, this event would start just after the mini series and before "33" for those who know it. A lot of the Celestra story deals with Tauron culture, so I ordered the Caprica series on DVD. Caprica is a far inferior prequel to BSG, but it has useful information about what it is like to be a Tauron.
|Me and my fellow sublight engineers.|
|Galactica and Celestra officers in Ops/CIC|
|Ladder to engine room|
While some events were initiated by the organizers, each participant (there there 120 of us aboard) chose what they wanted to do. There were suggestions and some expectations derived from your role on board, but each person created their own story.
|Aftermath of the shootout|
While the broad outlines of the story were defined ahead of time, each character's story arc was completely up to each individual. There were at least 20 other story lines going at any one time. I didn't hear about most of them until the after-party. There were Cylon interrogations, religious rumblings, a (possibly) fixed election, execution of a Tauron sympathizer, sacrifices and love affairs. I learned about many of them afterwards at the after party or reading the discussion forums for participants.
|Damage control console|
The overall story is too complicated to describe (if you are familiar with BSG, you know that nothing is ever black and white, and it is always complicated), but it was masterfully done by the organizers. It fit perfectly into the BSG world and enough surprises to amaze the participants. Another participant did a great write up on his blog both from the character's perspective and from his own as an experienced larper. I copied that idea to write a blog entry from Rishi's point of view.
|Me, post-game. The bandages indicate where |
I got my ultimately fatal wounds.
The biggest revelation to me was the idea of larping. Everyone was committed to creating a great, believable experience even if it meant something bad for your own character. It felt like an extended theatrical improvisation, except it was aimed at us, not at an audience. I saw and experienced deep and moving emotions as participants discovered things about their characters and themselves. I was able to get totally into a character who is very different from myself, taking actions instinctively that were right for him, but I would never do.
Some larps are built around a quest (Free the princess, defeat the dragon...) but we were encouraged to "play to lose." If everyone wants to win, the game gets boring. It is far better to make your character lose if it makes for a good scene.
I am not sure that I will be pursuing the larper lifestyle after this because I am not sure I would be interested in most of the subjects they explore. It would also be hard to top this experience. But I would highly recommend this particular one.