Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hypersigil: LARP as Ritual

Note: this is the second time I've written this article. I rewrote it because the last one was "a bit manic" and not even close to being remotely interesting. I enjoy writing convoluted screeds, but there is an audience involved, and I'm not assuming you're into that sort of thing.

So, I spoke about my recent trip to Changeling, and how such an intense scene gave me a rush and a high like I've only really felt once before in a game, right? It was something that, truth be told, I had been hoping for since I first created Jin. There was a moment of Bleed, a term popular in Nordic and Jeepform LARPs where the emotional content of the PC is what drives the players actions, not vice versa. I was not reacting, Jin was. I consider this one of the higher points of my experience in LARPing.

When I write a character, I usually take an aspect of myself, fragment of my sense of Self and make it into a Persona. It's still me, in some ways, but just a form of me put on. Jin is the face of the very basic sense of Honor I try (key word) to maintain, Taglia was the self destructive tendencies, Declan was cowardice, Rave was sarcasm and secretive nature. Rhys was the asocial type who could do anything he imagined finally. All of these are facets of me.

I should say that not everyone does this, nor should they. If you're going out there and essentially playing yourself, you're causing more problems than good things. You're playing a role, distance yourself a bit, go out a bit. This is where Backstory takes a lot of importance as it acts as a major buffer. At their core, you have a connection to these characters, but there is enough in between that you aren't casting yourself out into the void of LARP. Your PCs are Masks, not Faces.

During the writing of this Chronicle, I created my new PCs as explorations of myself and means of evoking new senses from within. Jin was created as a sense of Honor, of dedicating oneself to a decision and accepting it's consequences. Owen was a delving into the dark recesses for a sense of Power, Sex, Strength, all of the things the Id enjoys. I didn't build them because they were aspects of my day to day personality (as is my usual tack). I built them to try and evoke those concepts for me in my day to day life.

My life is strange. I'm Catholic with some strong Pagan leanings, with many saying I'm stuck in the Broom Closet. The point being is that I enjoy researching the Occult. One of my favorite subjects is that of Sigil Magic. I was first introduced to the subject of Sigil Magic through a video by comic artist Grant Morrison. Sigil Magick is a form of Chaos Magick, which looks into hacking reality and psychological paradigms to achieve a goal and result. You take a phrase, more often than not a goal, and you take components of that phrase and create an artistic representation of that phrase or the letters. After that, you charge it off, putting in your energy and send it off in the moments when your consciousness slips through cracks. We do this all the time, like hitting a natural flow where you do thing autonomically, without conscious effort.

It's a lot to process, but the point is this: You create a goal in your mind, you make it important, you give it some energy, and you absorb it until it's no longer in the front of your mind but still active. The Artistic Design that represents that goal is a Sigil. Now, Grant Morrison introduced the concept of the Hypersigil. A Hypersigil is a complex visual representation of a goal or concept. Morrison wrote several works, most popularly The Invisibles, which he designed as a sigil that embodies his goal, his will and his intent. The Main Character of the Invisibles, King Mob, is a bald headed shamanic badass. Morrison gave him a similar look and charged his image in the hopes that he would change the world around him through this character. At one point, he writes his character going through a major torture as his flesh is being eaten and his lung collapses. Several months later, Morrison goes septic, his flesh is being eating by necrosis and his lung collapses. Aware of the situation, he writes King Mob in different ways, giving him a redheaded girlfriend, which in turn results in similar red headed girls walking into his life.

The Character of King Mob is a Hypersigil, a fragment of the artist himself engaging in a multi leveled story. It's a major working through challenges and triumphs. By allowing a bit of King Mob into himself, and himself a bit into Mob, his reality and ways of interacting with the world change.

So, why can't that work with a PC?

As I said before, I know what I am. I'm a geeky goofball who plays the role of support and clown. One friend is convinced I'm his sidekick. I'm fine with that, but when it's a perpetual image and not just a role I slip into. After a while, you get tired of playing second banana, and it's time to get behind the wheel of your own car. So, I drew up a Sigil, I created characters I could slip into, a persona. I created characters that were, finally, meant to be more detached from my general outlook and being. I was trying to see if I could do it, I was trying to maybe bring something out of myself I hadn't seen before.

The first few months of Chronicle were tough, and I think a lot of it had to do with one simple fact: We're a group of people who see each other at least once a month, who hang out afterwards. We're friends, family, lovers, enemies and rivals. We know each other, and that makes the suspension of disbelief even harder. Which probably makes my burnout and backing away from game probably the best decision I could. Make, the decision removed me from being "Oh, Craig is here" to "Oh, Jin is here".

People will probably go, "Craig, these are characters, not magic". Well, you're right. I'm not completely drunk on the cool-aid to think that this is exactly what it is: me playing in a live action game with a bunch of fellow geeks. But it can be more, we bring into it what we bring into it. I'm bringing into it a place to explore and evoke aspects of myself I never thought I had. I put on a costume, I observe the rites and for four hours I weave a ritual with other people in costumes and with goals of their own, building up into a crescendo at the end of the night. And in those hours, in those interactions, you get those moments of Bleed, and the line between you and your PC dissolves, and suddenly you feel it. So yes, it's a game. It's also a ritual, if you look for it.

Of course, this is all hypothetical and completely an experiment. If it doesn't work, eh, I have two characters I'm going to have fun playing. But if I can use this as an experience, maybe I can do one more. Either way, I'm going to play the fuck out of these guys and make something special out of the process.

Hope you stick around to watch.


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