One week ago, I was back on the Halcyon for my second and final voyage. Like so many of you, I have all the feels. Complicated feels. This is going to be a long one, which is why I’m doing it on my website, but the link will get you there if this is the kind of thing you like to read.
Our first voyage on the Halcyon was exceptional. Bryon and I went with our good friends Mark and Michelle, and I approached it very much as I would any LARP I was involved with. I had a great time. There were scenes that I will remember forever, like my interactions with Saja Kyr, or when Bryon and I helped Captain Keevan blast the First Order ships. It was atmospheric, we had pictures, we were absorbed in the story, and we loved it.
And like so many people, I got home, and I had Drop. It wasn’t long before I figured out that I could afford a second trip if I taught some overtime this fall and spring in my secret identity as an English professor. Then, after four days of nigh unto constant calling, we scheduled our second trip at the end of July, the perfect trip for me–not too close to the time I called, because I live in Iowa, and not into the school year, because a professor’s gotta do what a professor’s got to do.
Bryon and I had invented these really rich characters, kind of complicated, but that was mostly for ourselves. Full disclosure: I’m an author of fiction, and my characters usually have a lot of levels. Bryon and I both are long term gamers, running and acting in games for around 30 years or so. Mostly, Master Huli Jing (Bryon) and Eden Arborlane (me) had these rich backgrounds we didn’t explore on the ship, because we figured that would be too much. This time, however, we decided to explore other aspects of the characters we hadn’t before.
I had become active in several Halcyon groups online, and was listening to Heroes of the Halcyon. One of the things I kept hearing was that if you put the stories out there, the cast would read them. Yeah, right, I thought. However, I decided to plant seeds about our characters. I won’t lie. This was largely for me, because I love to write. I mean, where you’re reading this right now? This is my author website, so yes. I also love to act, and the commonality of all my escapes: reading, writing, role playing, and even teaching, is that I am looking for an immersive interaction with creativity. I’m not the writer looking for attention. I’m the writer looking to feel alive and to lose myself in someone I’m pretending to be. I accept my addiction and welcome the voices in my head.
Moving on…I did several pieces to set the scene. For Bryon, I wrote a piece about Alopex the Fox, his character’s vigilante alter ego, being on the loose. I wrote a historical piece about Master Huli Jing. For my character Eden, I wrote a piece about the World Between Worlds, another fiction scene about Eden transferring the guardianship of the World Between Worlds to the Saja, and finally, an interview with Coruscant Look. These were all fun pieces to write, and helped us both get in the mood for the ship. I also figured that maybe other players would see them, and we would be able to play with some of these elements a little.
Some cast members noted the materials, and that was fun. And then we went to the ship. I expected an experience as good as the first time.
When they tell you the cast will read your materials, believe them. BELIEVE THEM! What happened to us was an amazing stroke of good luck, coupled with some work put in before the adventure.
Bryon and I each had a gimmick. My cover was Eden Arborlane, fashion designer, and in my article, I told readers I was on the voyage for the Halcyon’s 275th in conjunction to celebrate House of Arborlane’s 500th. I was giving away cards for custom designs. The real reason for Eden’s visit? She’s a prophet Jedi, and in a vision she sees that Lt. Croy needed to be set on the path to his heroics as one of the bravest heroes of the Resistance. Eden also plans to pass the guardianship of the World Between Worlds to the Saja, and she has maps for them: a glowing galaxy globe and a compass.
Bryon’s gimmick was that, as Alopex, he was trying to help steal the Hayananeya Stone to right a wrong that his buddy, Shug Drabor, accidentally made when using it in the Halcyon’s compass. Alopex was recruiting members of the Associates of Alopex using rings and leaving cards around the ship, daring people to stop him.
Here’s where things get interesting. We were blessed with the same amazing actress playing Captain Keevan. She remembered us from our first journey, and was gracious and friendly. It turned out that she and the Raithe Cole on this trip had read the Alopex offerings I’d written, and worked them into many of their scenes. It was magic. During one pivotal scene in the Scoundrel arc, Alopex is one of the main subjects of discussion. We were floored.
I spent some time with Lt. Croy in the Sublight Lounge, and I told him about his future. It was a theme we would revisit back and forth on the voyage. I watched him have moments of vulnerability few other players seemed to notice, and it affected Eden greatly. We talked to each other in ways I didn’t expect, and during the special First Order scene on the Bridge, I was one of two people he told me he trusted on the ship.
I approached the Saja, each one of them, and on the second day, some friends and I had a Force experience in the climate simulator. After, I presented Saja Fen with the presents and my request about the World Between Worlds. She cried and I almost cried. Making a Saja cry was not on my bingo card for the trip. Saja Fen and I had a special and meaningful conversation about our lives, about the Force, about our mentors, and I have chills thinking about it.
And then, there’s what happened with Raithe Cole in the Sublight Lounge after the stone heist, when Alopex and Eden talk to him about what it means to help others, and then Raithe took on the mantle of Alopex.
Okay. So, remember that the Starcruiser resets in a Ground Hog Day way, and these things just happened on our journey. BUT this my friends: we had a chance to change the course of the story, and the actors let us in to do it. We played scenes with remarkable cast members and crew and guests, and the adventure was something that they generously let us contribute to. It was crazy.
Now, I expect with a different alchemy of actors, or less groundwork, or even just unluck it could have been very different, but this experience? I can’t imagine how it could have been better. For two days I was Eden Arborlane, and I made a difference in the story. The actors were very generous when we wrote them thank you letters, and gave us insight into how all this had worked for them as well.
There’s a lot to unpack here about imagination and immersive theater, and what you can bring as an audience member to the game. There’s a lot to unpack here too about being willing to let the story take you. Right now, though, I write this because I am still gobsmacked and very grateful.