Costuming / Event Reviews

Event Review: Grand Masquerade 2011

Event: The Grand Masquerade

Dates: September 15-18th, 2011

Where: Hotel Monteleone and Royal Sonesta, New Orleans, LA

Type of Event: Gaming convention and LARP event. Yay combo!

The beautiful setting of the Royal Sonesta hotel

When Mark told me he wanted to go to Grand Masquerade this year, I was all for it, but for different reasons. See, he was all excited about the 20th anniversary edition of Vampire: the Masquerade. I just wanted to go to New Orleans.

The Grand Masquerade is the official event of White Wolf publishing/CCP and this year was celebrating 20 years of Vampire: The Masquerade with a special collector’s edition book (aka V20). On top of the usual convention panels, and the experience of being in New Orleans (where I had never been before), the various fan organization were throwing special events. So that meant days of panels and sight seeing, and nights of LARP. Wonderful combination.

We flew down for this one, costumes and props well packed, and made our way to the Royal Sonesta hotel. On Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, the hotel was just stunning. Old fashioned, way nicer than your typical convention hotel. It also had some of the best food of anywhere we tried, so we kept going back to their restaurant throughout the weekend. And while the Monteleone was advertised as the main convention hotel, it turned out that the ballroom, vendor room, and registration were all on our hotel, so we only had to find the other hotel for the nightly LARP.

Thursday night’s opening LARP gave us our first glimpse of the beautifully done ballrooms. This whole event really showed what atmosphere can do for a game. We were in the “Steampunk Room” Thursday night for our party called by the Sabbat Regent. At his request we all told our horror stories of local demonic uprisings and other terrible goings on. We compared notes, learned about each other’s regions, and then all went together to kill a demon worshiping Cardinal (yeah, they should stop that). When we were successful, and reported back to the Regent, he called on us all to “take a leap of faith” with him the following night.

Mark as Antonio shows his fangs

 As usual, it was a great chance to meet other players and characters from outside our region. I keep being surprised when someone has heard of Valkyrie, and when someone is really respectful of her being a Bishop. One character apologized for not knowing, and thus not calling her by proper title and respect, but Valkyrie has never been one to stand on ceremony when it’s not an actual religious moment. No wonder people sometimes think she’s a loyalist! Another funny moment from the first night: after Levi, Valkyrie’s childe, jumped out to fight a bunch on demons on her own, one of the people who had gone into that fight with her came to talk to Valkyrie. “Never teach your childe obfuscate. It won’t be worth it.” As obfuscate is the ability to be unseen, and Levi is about the loudest and most obvious vampire there is… so very true!

Yummy! Why yes, we are pretending to be monsters.

Friday we woke up pretty early, enjoyed a delicious breakfast, then went over to the Monteleone to meet up with the cemetery tour. A number of great events were set up for the convention guests, including cemetery tours, ghost tours, and even a vampire themed wine tasting. We decided to go on the Friday morning tour. Only thing we forgot? Water. Had no idea it would be four hours long either. Oops! But it was a lot of fun, and we made new friends.

Rose on a grave.

That was one particularly fun thing about the whole weekend – no matter where you were, what line you were standing in, whatever, chances were you had at least one thing in common with the people next to you. Gaming stories were easy. Especially funny this time was the fact that the couple we met were from the college Mark’s mom taught at. So after our long tour, the four of us went to the Café Dumonde together and enjoyed frozen coffee and beignets. Great way to relax and recharge for the rest of the day.

There was a small vendor room (which I may try and find out more about as a vendor for next year), with some old familiar faces. There was Maven, who made Mark’s and my custom fangs years ago. Mark lost his, so he got a new pair. There was a wonderful steampunk vendor we had previously met at our local conventions. And then there were leather workers. More on that later…

Though the panels were not our main reason for being there, they were also quite good. We went to one panel about the upcoming MMO, and what fans wanted from it. I like that you’ll start as a human and can then choose to become a vampire. I like the location based but all one world divisions. I worry that the casual player who does not always want to interact with everyone else, or who can’t always be online with everyone else (why I never got into WoW raiding) will not have enough to do. There was also a good panel about gaming and play styles, which I think gave Mark some good ideas for when we go back to our local game.

Friday night was our second “in character” evening. Having been told they were taking a leap of faith, I brought props with me – Book of Nod fragments beautifully printed and bound by our friend Nathaniel, very much symbols of Valkyrie’s faith. Turned out I made a great choice, because the Regent had taken us all to New Orleans, to go attempt to be civil with our enemies (i.e. bringing together our smaller group with the ‘good guys’ game of the Camarilla). We were to attempt to create a treaty of mutual aid in the face of the growing infernal threat. We were going to have a joint council.

The second of the beautifully prepared ballrooms for the event

And then we had an interesting contrast between how the Camarilla and the Sabbat handle things. The Camarilla found the highest ranking representative of each clan. The Sabbat pulled together all the clergy and then asked for volunteers. So, yeah, I – as Valkyrie – volunteered. So this time I ended up the one in the “secret” meetings all weekend. A bit of a change, and a fun bit of attention. But the full meeting was not until the next night. Friday night was pre-meeting, then lots of mingling. Which is where the props came in very handy. It was a lot of fun showing Camarilla characters a text that was ‘forbidden’ to them any time they asked. And they definitely asked.

Quote moment of night two: When the councilors all introduced themselves to the gathering as a whole, one snarky member of the Camarilla piped up “I thought valkyries were supposed to be blond!” I just smiled and replied, “I think the concept transcends race, don’t you?”

Saturday we took everything a little slower, being pretty exhausted from our extensive wanderings of the night before. We did a breakfast brunch buffet with Jen, then wandered the vendor room once again. See, about that leatherwork… There were these lovely leather coats and dresses one vendor was selling. I noticed a dress in brown and red panels on the back of one of the racks. My colors, and it fit me beautifully. Turns out it had been custom made for someone else who had never paid it off. So they offered me a deal. Still not cheap, but a very nice deal. I debated it much of the day, but before the vendor room closed I went back and bought myself a new costume.

Awesome steampunk costumes in the vendor room

Mark, meanwhile, joined the massive line for the book release and signing. The collector’s edition V20 is just gorgeous. It is a leather-bound, full color gaming tome. The line to get it…well, that was a little crazy, but once again we made friends with people hanging out in the line, talking about gaming stuff.

Then, it was back into costume for a final night of gaming. The leather dress turned out to be great with Valkyrie’s biker boots, so it’s now a permanent addition to her wardrobe. There were a brief meeting of the Sabbat representatives, then the long closed door meeting where were supposedly tried to come up with a treaty. Except we all gave up on a treaty pretty quickly, deciding instead to just lay the groundwork for future cooperation as needed. The big thing worked out was the recognition of the Infernal as a bigger threat than each other. And in an interesting little twist, I ended up meeting in character the Princes of most of the nearby domains, as those players from D.C., Northern Virginia, and Baltimore were at the event. I hope that things go forward the way that they’re trying, because it would be neat to actually go and visit some of the other local games someday.

Fellow council members, all done up for the masked ball

My only regret is that I wish Mark and I could end up in the same “secret” meetings some day. It won’t happen, because our characters have very different roles, but I admit I wish I could play with him some more. Actually, that’s something else we might get more of if we get the ability to visit other local games with our Sabbat characters.

All in all, the event and convention were both amazing. The staff went all out with settings for us, the plot was fun, and the in character interaction was great. It’s the best event game I have been to yet, and one of the better conventions.

Hardest to photograph, but still awesome: the red ballroom.

Final Verdict: Will definitely go again!

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