Winnipeg LARP'ers should consider themselves lucky. Despite the fact that we have a relatively small population of 650,000 there are several LARP events that cover various genres for players to choose from. There are several Camarilla-based Vampire LARP events that occur on a regular basis. There is one Sabbat-based Vampire LARP chronicle, as well as a Live Combat/Live Action Role Playing game. All of these are described in detail below.
Camarilla - based LARPS
"Covenant: Genesis 2" is an independent chronicle that Michelle, Chris and I used to run. Michelle was the head storyteller. She and Chris worked as a team to dream up the plot twists, story, and they also played NPC's. I played a PC character (I'm not privy to story information) and handle most rules-related questions, as well as some narrating when Michelle and Chris can't be in 5 places at once. The games was set 150 years after the end of the original Genesis Chronicle. The Genesis Chronicle ended with a worldwide cataclysm. Earth passed through a meteor shower. Several Government Angecies were aware this was going to happen years in advance, but were unable to prevent it from occurring. As a last resort, they built a series of top-secret bunkers deep in the Rocky Mountains, dubbed "ARKS", to ensure the survival of the human race. Just prior to the event, selected world leaders, economists, military leaders, scientists, tradesmen, farmers, and others with skills and knowledge that would be required for the rebuilding stage of the project were whisked away and sealed into the "ARK". Some vampires managed to pull the necessary string to ensure they were included. The rest were left to fend for themselves and rely on thier own ingenuity to survive.
150 years after the meteor shower, the relatives of the original "ARK" survivors (and a few surviving Kindred) emerged from the safety of the ARK to brave a hostile new world. As they begin to rebuild society, they found that the meteors weren't as lethal as was calculated, and that humanity on the surface survived, and in some places thrived. The newly emerged survivors rally around their leader, David Trump (Great-grandson of The Donald), and under the guidance of MegaTrump INC. begin to rebuild civiliation in their ancestors' images of the perfect society, forcing conflict with those who have survived for generations on the surface. Cities have been reduced to fortified towns, and in between these settlements is wasteland, inhabited by thieves, road pirates, mutants, and who knows what else.
Unfortnately, lack of interest and commitment by the players ultimately led to the demise of the game. With so many other games available in the city for LARPers, many wanted a more traitional and less progressive scenario.
"A New Faith 4: Fevered Dreams" is another independent Camarilla-based chronicle previously run by our friends Dallas and Diana, and now run by a council that includes Michelle and our friends Geza, Chris, and Ari. This game had gone through several changes over the last 5 years. It was the original Vampire LARP in the city, and regularly drew crowds of 60 - 70 people during its heyday.
The biggest problem back then was that the storytelling crew changed every few months, the end result being little sense of continuity over the course several games. One of the other problems is that the storytelling crew itself was a bloated bureaucracy. Simply put, there were too many people trying to run the game. It's hard to run a smooth-flowing, coherent story when you are required to get 10 - 15 people together before a game to discuss things. This lead to much disorganization and confusion for both the players and the storytelling crew. There were definite "cliques" within the game, and sadly, within the storytelling crew as well. There were some of the crew that wanted the game to focus on fighting the Sabbat, others wanted to focus on a more genteel, court-like setting. There were players who showed up for the games as wallflowers (more for the gothy atmosphere than the story), and others that put no effort into atmosphere, rarely coming in costume. Some players and storytellers wanted wanted a politically-motivated game, others wanted action and combat. There were arguments about how much "going out of character" during a gaming session was tolerable. And there were rants. Lots of rants. At the end of every game, the storytelling crew would call the group together and bitch loud and long about what we as players should and shouldn't be doing. Now, I don't have a problem when someone in charge takes myself or another person aside and explains what they have done wrong and suggests how they could/should improve their own (and everyone else's) roleplaying experience. This, however, was a group of storytellers (and players) screaming (literally!) at the players about how they should "grow up". Being treated like a naughty 7-year-old was the whole reason that Michelle started her own game in the first place.
In the end, the original storytelling crew quit, not giving the players any notice. They simply walked in after a gaming session and said "OK, this was the last game. Goodbye." That didn't sit well with most of the players, and so we decided to continue on with 2 players taking the reigns as storytellers: Damon and Mandy. Damon and Mandy carried the game for the better part of a year. They secured all the information from the previous set of storytellers, kept the old plots going and introduced new ones. I found their storytelling to be more varied, as well as having a better sense of flow from one gaming session to the next. Their downfall wasn't their own fault, however. I think that they got in over their heads, not realizing that Storytelling can (and often does) become a chore, detracting from one's enjoyment of the game. It becomes more like work than a recreational activity. This, combined with the fact that some of the players actually helped the "bad guys" win, the result of which was the coming of Gehenna. To their credit, Mandy and Damon gave the players MANY chances to prevent this, and yet their story seemed to get away from them, and there was nothing they could do short of massive storyteller intervention to stop it. What is a storyteller to do when the players actively seek to bring about their own destruction? Mandy and Damon let the players do their own thing, and the players ultimately paid the price for their characters actions. Thus, the game ended.
About 8 months later, one of the fringe players decided that he was going to resurrect the game, and began calling and organizing the players. He felt that many of the characters/players had been unfairly cut short, and that these characters still had many good stories left in them. The majority of the old players, along with several new players, restarted the game under the idea that the coming of Gehenna was a massive group hallucination prompted by an Antideluvian who was determined to show these children the error of their ways. In theory, the concept was sound, and to his credit the storyteller did a lot of background work. The problem was that he wanted the game to be a democracy. This was, among other things, what caused the game to change storytellers AGAIN. The main problem is that EVERYTHING to do with the game had to be ratified by group vote, with a simple majority ratifying or dismissing all issues. Your Tremere character want to research a new ritual? All players have to vote on it, regardless if, as a player, you want the other players to know your character has it or not. Your character wants to use Influences to affect another character's actions? Everyone has to vote on it. In effect, everyone's character sheet/motivations/background became common knowledge among the group, and led to instances of what we refer to as MetaGaming (the use of the player's Out-Of-Character knowledge to benefit the character, also known in some places as CHEATING). The lack of leadership was also a part of the downfall here, with the storyteller not wanting to take the responsibility for running the game on a weekly basis and doing the paperwork. Finally, the storyteller was unable to separate in-game/in-character actions from out-of-character actions, thus believing that some actions taken against a character were personally motivated, and reacting to them in kind by punishing players. That is to say, if you didn't get along with the storyteller personally, your character suffered for it.
After about 6 months, the storyteller quit, but not before calling a vote to see who would succeed him. This honor was bestowed upon Cooki.
Cooki's tenure as storyteller was short: 1 game. Cooki, as a person, is one of the nicest, kindest, and politest people I know. IN-character, he is the sneakiest, most conniving sonofabitch I've ever had the displeasure of making an acquiantance with. I don't know all the details behind why he quit after one game; perhaps he saw the direction the game was going and decided he would rather not be in charge after all. Perhaps he had underestimated the commitment in terms of time and resources that is required. Regardless, Cooki managed to hold the group together for one game before turning the books over to Dallas and Diana.
Dallas and Di managed to run the came quite competently for about a year and a half. Dallas took care of developing the story, and Di did the paperwork. They went out of their way to make themselves available to players who wanted to do scenes between games. They also used a variety of locations; we used the Pavilion at Assiniboine Park, The Forks National Historic Site, and also Fort Rouge Park. Over the winter we played at the University of Manitoba. Dallas's stories were linear, with a beginning and an ending. He used the character's backgrounds as a starting point for many of his stories, allowing the characters to get the feeling of being "connected" to what's going on in the game. Dallas made sure there are always consequences to pay for a character's actions (or lack thereof). And he balanced the political power games of the few elder characters with the neonates need for action.
As in the past, time commitments became an issue. Dallas was heavily involved in playing/storytelling another live-combat LARP (Havok), and wanted to direct more time and energy towards this. And so the game was passed on to Chris.
Chris had some previous experience with running the Genesis Chronicles with Michelle. He enlisted the aid of Michelle, and more recently Ari and Geza, to run the game. Together, they have introduced a more "global" feel to the game, incorporating more of the other denizens of the World of Darkness: Fey, Mages, Kindred of the East, Mummies, Gypsies, clans thought extinct form the dark ages, as well as the requisite conflict between Cammie, Sabbat, Lupines, and Hunters.
The standout feature of this storytelling crew is that it has become apparent that each of these other "entities" have their own carefully planned out agenda. The Sabbat don't attack without reason. The Kindred of the East have their own plans. Even the Mages are up to something. The game has become a balance of careful political manouevering, tempered with short but intense bursts of conflict.
"Center of the Chaos" is a newer local Camarilla-based game that is affiliated with the One World By Night gaming universe. This game offers storytellers/players the opportunity to interact on a global scale, with the plots and actions of one game directly affecting the other games. I admit I've never played in this chronicle, but I hear it's fun to be able to interact with other characters established in the game universe if you happen to travel to another city with a OWBN chronicle.
"Fred by Night" is the newest vampire LARP in Winnipeg. Fictionally based in the city of Gimli, Manitoba, it has attracted a number of seasoned players as well as introducing a number of new players to the game. Fred by Night is also affiliated with the One World By Night storytelling circle. They play on a regular basis.
"First Wave: The Winnipeg Crusade" is the lone independent Sabbat-based LARP in Winnipeg. It was started by, and continues to be run infrequently by our friends Sharene and Tom. This game has a smaller core of players, and an average game attracts 10-15 players. The chronicle itself is set in modern day Winnipeg, with a newly established Sabbat Pack (the players) trying to carve out their place in the city. The game is a balance of action and intrigue, with the focus squarely upon the development and interaction between the various members of the pack. Sharene has tried to guide her players away from the mentality of senseless and wanton acts of violence ("We're Sabbat. We're the evil guys. Let's go blow stuff up!") that plague many Sabbat chronicles. There isn't as much politics as in a traditional Camarilla-based game, since all the characters are relatively low-powered (no Elder PC's), which makes for a cozy, thought-provoking gaming experience. Sharene and Tom work hard to keep every one of their players In-Character during their gaming sessions. Unfortunately, Tom and Sharene suffer the same problems as so many of us, and they both have commitments to post-secondary education that allows for only occasional games.
"HAVOK!" is a local fantasy LARP that I play in, run by my friends Don, Dallas, and Pedro. It has a Dungeons and Dragons-like setting: A fantasy universe filled with knights and wizards, heroes and monsters. It's not as formal as a Rennaisance Faire, and it's not an attempt at re-enactment like the Society for Creative Anachronism. Where it differs from a LARP like the MIND's EYE THEATRE system is that everything your character does is totally live, even the combat. Players arm and armour themselves with SAFE weapons and armor, and all combat takes place in real time. Characters have Wounds, meaning how much damage they can endure before dying, and damage is calculated based on how hard you CHARACTER can hit, not how hard the player can.
Dallas as Thorne Sunstar, Summer 1998
The game itself is very prop-intensive, meaning that costuming is a vital part of the game. Not having a costume doesn't mean you can't play, but having even a very basic costume adds tremendously to the atmosphere. It's amazing what a simple tabard can do to transform someone in sweatpants and a t-shirt. All weapons and armor are inspected prior to each and every gaming session to make sure that they are safe, because nothing ruins a day like getting hurt. We players are lucky to have guys like Pedro (a blacksmith/armorer), Don (the movie special effects/weapon guru) and Dallas (the Krazy Carpet King - he made a suit of plate mail from Krazy Karpets!) to run this game. It takes a lot of effort, but not very much money. A basic sword and shield cost about $30 - $50 to construct properly. Also, your character isn't required to be a combat monster to be viable and fun to play. Michelle plays an Innkeeper/herbalist who avoids the fighting entirely, yet still has a great time at the games.
Dallas vs. Don, Summer 1998
We try to play once a month in the summer, and try to get in one or two all-weekend games per year. We usually have combat practice every Saturday afternoon, weather permitting, where the fighter-types gather to practice with their weapons or show off the new ones they've made. This aspect of the game (practice) is often overlooked, but it is quite important. Knowing how to use your weapon effectively, knowing it's advantages and limitations, and being "in shape" is important. There's less chance of hurting yourself and someone else, plus you look like you know what you're doing. There's nothing like a new player coming to a game all kitted-out in fancy armor and a big sword, and then getting their character killed by a (well-trained) peasant armed only with a quarterstaff.....