Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Origins 2011 Recap

Note: I currently don't have access to the plethora of cards that I received, so I will update this post when I get access.

The Place: Origins Game Fair 2011
The Time: June 22nd - June 26th

I got a chance to go to Origins as a press member this year for the blog. It's a really great opportunity to get a chance to dig in and rub elbows with some of the brightest minds in LARP. I'm going to start by talking about the LARP aspects of the con, and follow it up with some general information and opinions on the convention as a whole.

All in all, I only ended up having a chance to run two LARPs. Part of this had to do with the limited time we were there, along with what options we had when.

Game: Rising VS.
Company: Zombie Buddy Productions
Cost: $6
Rating: 3.5/5

The first thing we played was Rising VS. We were actually going to play Wicked Winter (a Rising Scenario) until we found out it was a kids game. It wasn't exactly spelled out in the program, other than saying all ages. However, the people at ZBP graciously let us transfer our tickets over to Rising VS.

Rising VS is essentially capture the flag/counterstrike with Zombies. One team is human, the other team is zombies. Humans have guns and zombies have melee weapons. Humans can heal one another, but failure to do so turns a human into a zombie. Zombies respawn on a 30 second count. In all other facets, they are the same. So zombies can strategize, run, and use guile to get the humans.

Humans have one win condition. They have to drop three bombs in the zombie base and have someone safely return home. They can only take one bomb at a time, so they have to have three successful trips into the heart of the zombies to win.

Zombies have two win conditions. First, they can turn all the humans into zombies. Second, they can eat a brain in the human's base three times. Most of the time, when the zombies win, they turned the humans.

All and all, the zombies were wrecking the humans pretty good until they learned how to heal one another. If the humans played smart, there was almost no winning for the zombies. But it was still tons of fun, and it is a game that I would play on any given day. I'm not sure if I'd pay the $26 for the scenario, though.

The only reason I gave it a 3.5 is that we had a fairly long discussion of the rules which led to less play time. But I would definitely play it again, as the price was right.

Game: TerrorWerks
Company: PST Productions
Cost: $22
Rating: 3.5/5

This year, we had a chance to do TerrorWerks: The Holy Code. It's a game where people play part of a military strike team trying to complete a mission. It uses airsoft weapons to simulate the combat.

I like airsoft, and the rules were basic enough to be easy. Despite the fact that I played a medic, I was still very capable in combat with this fully automatic P90.

My biggest gripe is that it wasn't very difficult. We had a couple of people helping lead the group through, and it really took away from the difficulty of the mission. I had enough resources to heal about 20 people before the thing was over, and I really only used 2 or 3. Maybe they went easy on us as the last group. Maybe they were worried about the wide range of skill in LARP combat (our group was well versed in airsoft combat and basic LARP awareness while the other four seemed to be relatively new to the concept).

But still, the production level was very high, so I didn't feel like I was cheated. The sound effects were great, they had fully furnished rooms and puzzles and such for the engineers, and the computer was harassing us constantly in a portal-esque fashion. Tons of fun, but I don't know if I'd pay the $22 for it, since it seems more aimed towards entry level LARPing rather than challenge.

I also had a chance to talk to the PST guys in length before the game. I didn't realize that they only run games for Origins, GenCon, and a small convention up by Boston. The guys that do this do it as a hobby, and they're starting to bring the style they started (Cthulu Live) to Origins and GenCon. They do a lot of amazing prop work for a con game, and they usually build their plots around a single ridiculous prop that they find/make. Great group of guys, and I bet it would be tons of fun to run with them at a con.

Game: Origins NERO Dungeon
Company: NERO Chicago
Cost: $24
Rating: N/A

We were going to run the Origins Dungeon on Saturday night, but it got cancelled due to low turnout. In fact, all of Origins appeared to be dead as of about 6:30 PM on Saturday night. Bizarre.

I did have a chance to see some of the setup and to talk to a few of the guys at NERO Chicago, and finally meet Bill Holmblad in person. Steve Cecchin, owner of NERO Chicago, definitely had some interesting stories to tell. I also got to find out that NERO Chicago owns their own camp (a dream of many LARP nerds), and got to talk about the difficulties in something like that.

There were also other games that were present from groups I recognized (5th Wall Gaming, Kettle of Fish, Kingdom of the Rising Winds Amtgard) and some I didn't recognize (Elder Entertainment, The Camerilla). And they also had a game called Morton's list, where players would roll a die to determine what they would do, which included anything from playing hide and seek to enacting a zombie massacre on someone in public.

The Hall

Despite the fact that the hall sold out this year, it seemed like there wasn't as much available as in years past. Maybe that's because half the hall was the Mayfair booth. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Mayfair games and I enjoy everything they do for the show, but they seriously took up way too much room.

I was excited about the LARP presence in the hall, which is usually pretty slim. Epic Armory and Edhellen Armory (now Forged Foam) were both there with some really excellent stuff.

There was also a table for ZPG Games, a group that made a rule set that's a combination between foam sports (Amtgard, Dagorhir, and Belegrath) and skill games (NERO, Alliance). Seemed like it might be fun, but the book looked a little long for a game that should be simpler than NERO.

As a note, those rules are going to be used at a joint-game event around Chicago (yes, using the NERO Chicago Camp) which might be interesting enough to go try.

They also tried to sell me a DVD on fighting tips, telling me that they find the stuff that was at Warlord Sports and SKBC was about half good, and half bad. And the cover of the DVD was taken from a video which is definitely not something I would consider as quality fighting technique. In fact, I said as much a while back. No, thank you.

Organization and Looking Forward

I did like the new addition of the writers area in the hall. Having a chance to talk with up-and-coming authors is great and will make me more likely to purchase their book (even if it's only the Kindle version).

I would like to see more (read: any) LARP related interviews available in the press room. I know that I am a minority, but I'd like to see Origins lead the way in moving LARP to the forefront.

However, as usual, Origins was not as well organized as they could have been. Out of the four of us that attended, not a single one of us was able to get their badge the first time through line. I got sent all around the hall, and then was told that I got sent around because I messed up. Yes. It is a good idea to blame the press guy. It's not like I'm going to tell anyone about it.

So here's the story.

I went to pre-reg, and they sent me to Special services (very cordial to me, props to him). Then at special services, I said,

"I'm here to pick up my PRESS PASS."

They asked me who I was with, and when I said "LARP Ohio, it's a blog." They looked confused, shuffled some papers, and then sent me to the LARP table (which was on the other side of the building). The young lady there was confused, and was nice enough to walk back with me to the special services booth (props to her) to explain what was going on. Special services in response told us "He said he was LARP. If he said press, we would have given him his badge."

Apparently, what they actually heard was "I LIED. I'M NOT ACTUALLY PRESS. LARP LARP LARP."

I don't take kindly upon you putting the blame on me. I am a customer. I have worked in customer service positions, and I know what is and isn't appropriate. This was not.

I also found that, as far as LARPs and discussion panels go, they simply didn't have enough information to determine what the hell was going on. Using just the program, we were unable to identify which panels were about LARP and not about Writing, Game Design, Game Releases, or Military History. We didn't recognize the system for the PST Productions game "The Price All Men Must Pay," which we bailed on because we were the only people who weren't in full steampunk kit (not anyone's fault, really). We didn't know Wicked Winter was a kids game. Hell, they left the word 'RISING' off most of the Rising games.

Combine that with the increasing prices (which are somewhat necessary to offset the cost of putting up staff at a hotel and the cost of the room), and this is quickly becoming more difficult to attend as a LARP person. Which is hard to believe, because there were so many LARPs available and, in my opinion, that is a part of gaming that is growing.

I would really like to see more organization and description of the LARPing events. The basic "one sentence, basic complexity, 25 seats" is not enough for me to make a decision to spend 5 hours and $30 on a game. I understand that LARP has special needs, but it could really be a niche that Origins could fill.

Don't get me wrong. I'm going to try and make Origins next year. I still have a lot of fun. But over the years I've found that the amount of money I save for my trip to Origins seems to be diminishing. I'd really like to see that go the other way.


  1. On a positive note I bought Magic Realm, which is awesome. My write up should be up tomorrow.

  2. Man, I have to apologize again; I don't know what the hell happened to the crowd at that 6pm slot! 12pm, good turnout, packed at 2, 4, 8, and 10. 6pm? GHOST TOWN. Maybe it was the free dinner specials at the hotels?

    We will be running again @ GenCon; when you guys see us out there (I'm of course assuming you're going!), flag us down, and we will get you in by hook or by crook, ON US!

    It was great to see you guys (putting faces to names always a big plus!), and a good surprise as well! Look forward to sitting down some con & trading ideas, theories, war stories, etc. !

  3. We actually showed up for the 10 PM Dungeon, but I don't think it ran (Steve had to give some guy a refund since there was no one there).

    But it was still great to get to sit down and talk with NERO brethren that I've never had a chance to meet.