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Campaign Style Play

Campaign Style Play

At Wayfinder, the majority of our Adventure Games are written as One Shots. We imagine worlds that we visit only once, stepping into them to shape the course of monumental events, before moving onto the next, carrying those stories and characters only in our memories. We do, on occasion, delve deeper into worlds and engage in campaign style play, returning to the same world across multiple camps or One Day events and allowing player choices, and the stories that they shape, to run their course. 

Campaign play allows us to spend more time with a particular character and story line, to carry our characters forward through a series of events and construct singular narratives around the different stories they find themselves at the center of. Characters always provide us a reflection of ourselves, a vision into another way that we could be and interact with those around us. Returning to a character can feel like coming home to yourself. Characters can share a lot with us, they may be good, they may be evil, but whoever they are, the distance they provide from our everyday selves brings a newness into the body that can be very welcoming. The longer you play as a particular character, the more of that character’s life you will hold in your memory.

We often talk about the opportunity for self-exploration that is afforded to us through Live Action Role-Play (LARP). One Shot play doesn’t afford us less of this, but it is simply different. For years, our One Day Adventure Games have offered linked storylines, allowing players to continue the same character across multiple games for as long as that character survives. It provides us with a personal stake and investment in a storyline that is different than may be offered to us anywhere else. Anyone who’s played in a tabletop campaign may have experienced this kind of character play. I have found that there is a difference when I am physically embodying the character. The stakes feel more personal, the intensity more immediate, and the joys more personal.

Last summer we returned to having linked Campaign style Adventure Games as a part of our summer offerings. Over the course of two weeks of camp players were introduced to a world that our staff had collaborated to build the mythology of. People built characters that had to face off against an ancient evil, a lich who had found a way to once again crawl out of death. In our first week characters fought an increasingly desperate battle to stem the tides of undeath, to hold this evil back before it swallowed the world. They were successful, but at the price of a large number of their own, including some heroes they had grown to care about. In the second week we opened with a funeral for one of those characters who had passed. Campers and staff alike gave impromptu elegies that brought a solemn warmth to the scene, and made it all the more upsetting when the character rose again possessed by the lich. Playing in the same world over the course of multiple weeks, made everything feel more familiar, more lived in. Campers were able to share stories and lore with one another. The world became truly collaborative. 

After the summer we had two opportunities to return to our campaign world. At our Adult Retreat we played a prequel that took place in the same world, giving a perspective to characters and storylines from the summer. Many of our staff, having worked over the summer, found themselves getting the chance to play as PCs in earlier storylines that tied into their experiences over the summer. A number of them found this deepened their experience, they already felt connected to the mythology and the chance to build into that world in its early days provided a unique LARP experience for them. 

We also returned to this world for our Winter Game, bringing a new problem that arose directly out of choices that the campers made in Games over the summer. Demons arrived, ready to claim the world and lay waste to it, having been given the power to do so inadvertently by a deal the campers had made this summer. Once again the forces of good had to rally to hold off the certain destruction of their world. Before the Adventure began though, I saw campers teaching each other lore and mythology that they had built this summer, telling stories about their characters, helping to ensure that the players who were joining this campaign for the first time would share in that same depth of experience and mythology as the ones who had already been there to be in the world. 

Take it directly from Finn, one of our campers who played in all of the Song of the Dead series except for the adult retreat, “I had a fantastic time playing the three Song of the Dead games, each addition to the trilogy adding a unique level of depth to the world that I already knew and loved. Being able to play on the same PC team numerous times gave us the time to add our own little details, like a few words of a language, and it was really cool to see the new players of that same group change up bits and pieces and use it as their own! (OSIMALNI HOO HOO HOO)”

This summer we will be having two more linked games. Building out these games is a fun design challenge. We have to craft two games that are stand alone stories, but played together they show a full story arc, and as with all of our Adventure Games, the storyline that we play wraps up, the campaign does not stretch forward forever. It is a hallmark of our Adventure Games that we build these worlds and these characters, inhabit them, and continue into the next story. This summer at our first two weeks of Overnight Camp we will be playing linked games and hope to see you there! What will you build with us? Where does your story lead?

 

Written by Judson Easton Packard. Jan. 2024

Trust in Adventure Gaming

Trust in Adventure Gaming

Obviously deep, intensely emotional, trusting relationships exist outside of LARP communities. The point here isn’t to claim that Wayfinder has some unique ability to provide participants with trust or friends or anything like that. The idea is more this: trust, like the realest kinds of trust, are formed through having intense experiences together. Through the Adventure Game we get the chance to simulate a lot of those intense experiences. I have lived one thousand lives in my time at Wayfinder, and the more invested I have been in each one the more I have grown from it. No piece of any character comes from anywhere but inside ourselves. This is something that comes up time and again. It takes an incredible amount of trust in a person, a group of people, or even a whole community to go deep into that, to explore those pieces of ourselves that we normally keep hidden or ignore altogether.

A couple weeks ago I promised to do a series of posts based exploring different types of trust that are directly relevant to Wayfinder and then promptly got sidetracked. I’m returning for the second of that series now. This week’s focus is trust and how it intersects with the Adventure game. It’s a complex relationship. There are a lot of factors of trust required just in setting up the Game. You have the most basic elements, for example trusting that people will play by the rules (reacting to swords and magic) and trusting that people will respect you as a player (building scenes with you and reacting to/building off your offers). There are also some much more complex trust relationships that go into the Game. There is A LOT of physical trust required in playing with a group of people. You are trusting people to chase you/fight with you (often in the dark or in the woods) in a safe and fun way. This kind of trust can be a challenge, but it’s something we work at all week long. The more contact based elements are things that trust workshops are specifically geared towards building to; whereas the elements based upon the rules are a trust that we work at in our game systems based workshops throughout the week (and here you thought CTF was just for fun).

There’s another important element to the relationship between trust and Game that is something we don’t go into quite as much. That is the fact that despite how much we put into building those relationships with each other before Game, like the actual interpersonal ones between our real selves, there is nothing that brings us together quite like an Adventure Game. Once you’ve stood next to someone on a battlefield, cried over their corpse, or literally died to save them there is a different kind of closeness between you. The trust established through having an intense in Game experience together is one that I have never found in any other setting. It’s hard to approach. You both (or all if there were more people involved in the scene/situation) know that something very real happened between you in the Game. Immediately after a Game that has one of those moments there is always a need to find each other, to talk about what happened, share the other side of the experience, or how that moment effected the rest of each player’s Game. But it doesn’t stop there. There are friends of mine I’ve had for years who we still think back to some of those moments as our most intimate, when our friendships moved from close to unbreakable.

During a Winter Game at the Ashokan Field Campus (a Game that I wasn’t particularly emotionally invested in prior to this moment) where my friend (and in Game mother) cried over my dead body until someone brought me back to life. From that moment the two of us held each other and cried in a room full of people who were holding us prisoner (don’t feel too bad, up until then we’d been some of the main bad guys). I’ve never been much of a public crier. It’ll happen, a tear here and there at an intense community circle or trust workshop, but this was loud, ugly crying. Sobbing on a hardwood floor in a room full of people who I was legally responsible for. It’s a moment I remember whenever I’m having a hard time processing my emotions, particularly in reference to other people. I was able to lean on the community in a way that I wouldn’t normally, to allow for an emotionally intense in Game moment because I trusted them to contain it within the Game understanding that my emotion was a function of character not mental state, and also to lower my guard and enter that place of trust because of the way that an Adventure Game is set up. The closeness that is brought about in those kinds of scenes, even if it is an unspoken kind, is one of the most important factors in binding ourselves together.WFE4

Written by Judson Easton Packard

Published 3/24/2017

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