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Tag: Fete Fatale Productions

The Chicago LARP Scene – A Guide

My friend Susan Weiner pulled together his list of local Chicago LARP.  It’s a living document and regularly updated. If you know of an event or ongoing LARP that’s not listed, please contact the organizer,

Campaign Games

Stories in the Sanguine City

  • Description: Dresden Files setting, Fate Accelerated System
  • Dates: First Saturdays
  • Location: Palette and Chisel Art Academy
  • Game Runner: Laurie Rich
  • For more information:

Shifting Sands: Space 1889

Ask Again Later

  • Description: Midwestern Gothic
  • Dates: First info session in April, game begins late June
  • Location: Unity Lutheran Church in Edgewater
  • Game Runner: Carly Ho
  • For more information:


Mage: The Awakening, 2nd Edition

One Shot LARP

Chicago One Shots Group

  • Description: Organizes runs of one-shot LARPs in Chicago
  • Dates: Sporadic
  • Location: Variable
  • For more information: Join this list!forum/chicago-one-shots


  • Description: Weekend of one-shot LARPs
  • Dates: Memorial Day weekend
  • Location: North Barrington, IL
  • For more information: (join their mailing list, or keep an eye on the website)

Peaky Midwest

  • Description: LARP writing weekend, players welcome Sunday
  • Dates: March 17-19, 2017
  • Location: North Barrington, IL
  • For more information:

Other Useful Resources

Chicago Gaming Slack

Find a live version of this document at

I was a Child LARP-er, Then a Teen, Then a 20-something, Then… OMG! I’m 30!

Maggie Beattie is the daughter of Doug and Gail Freedman (featured in Stop, Chop & Role from September 2015), and has been immersed in LARP since childhood. I had a chance to ask her some questions about her thoughts on LARPing and her experience growing up in an environment that, much of the time, wasn’t real.

Rex Celestis: What is your very first memory of LARP? How did you react to it at the time? How did you feel about it?

Maggie Beattie: I believe my first memory is of playing The Final Voyage of the Mary Celeste. I played the captain’s daughter, who was actually a changeling of course. I remember enjoying it on a pretty rudimentary level. I definitely abused my character’s special abilities, but I had a great time. Kids are obviously great at make-believe.

RC: How old were you at that first LARP? What did you do to abuse the character’s abilities?

MB: I was 9 years old, I believe. And I made everyone on the ship have hallucinations, just because I could. Although considering that I was a changeling, that probably wasn’t much of an abuse.

RC: How old were you when you realized this was something you wanted to do as a hobby?  What were the circumstances?

Maggie working on The Curse of Whately’s Mayans

Maggie working on The Curse of Whately’s Mayans

MB: I don’t know that I specifically realized that I wanted to LARP as a hobby. I was always around it, since my parents were busy writing and running games. I always enjoyed playing, and there were lots of opportunities. No to mention that the first Whately LARP (Mummy, not Manor*) was created when I was 15, so I don’t know that I ever made a conscious choice to have it as a hobby. I enjoyed it, so when I got the chance, I played.

RC: What do you enjoy about it? What’s been keeping you active in LARP?

MB: I really enjoy the character-to-character interactions. I’ve had some really great emotionally intense scenes with other great players. I also enjoy the acting part. I love the costuming – any excuse to come up with a great new outfit! And I love the chance to interact both in and out of character with old and new friends.

RC: What is your favorite memory of LARP

MB: [sarcastically] Oh, that one’s not hard or anything…

The one that has stuck with me the most is probably in the Crucible-style game (can’t remember the name) where I was playing the Abigail character. The John Proctor player and I got into the best screaming match two inches from each other’s face and he literally shook me (we were friends out of character and comfortable with each other). It was both a great role-playing scene and a great acting scene.

I have plenty of other Whately-specific favorites.

RC: Given all of your experience, what would you say makes a good LARP?

MB: Multiple chances for interaction with other characters. Without tie-ins, you can’t have good interactions. There’s nothing worse than watching other players interact and having nothing to do yourself. It doesn’t matter what genre the game is in, we play with each other, not alone.

RC: What makes for a good LARPer?

A self made costume for 2007's Brassy's Men LARP.

A self made costume for 2007’s Brassy’s Men LARP.

MB: I don’t think there’s any one answer to that question. I think to be a good LARPer you should enjoy it and be willing to be adventurous. It’s also a good idea to be able to prevent in-character to out-of-character bleed or transference, or at least realize when you’re having it.

RC: How has LARPing while growing up helped and/or hindered you?

MB: I think “growing up LARPer” was a really good experience for me. Not only did it give me a chance to interact with some great individuals who were out of my generation, but LARP is a great place to learn how to interact with other individuals.

It’s not a straight correlation obviously, since everyone is playing parts and we all bring a little (or a lot) of ourselves into our characters, but it’s a great place for a teenager/adolescent to learn different styles of interaction. It’s also a great way to discover things you like or don’t like about yourself and other people. The stakes are lower than in your “regular” day-to-day interactions, and you can debrief after the fact and figure out what works and doesn’t work.

The Queen of Slime and Safety.

The Queen of Slime and Safety.

Also, it’s hard to go wrong with getting to dress up as every sort of different thing you can imagine.

RC: You’ve played in Alice in Wonderland, Four Aces, Paddlewheel, and others; you were a Wendigo that got vivisected in The Curse of Whately’s Mythos;  and more recently, you’ve been dubbed “The Queen of Slime and Safety” for Whately’s build crew. Do you have any favorite stories that you can relate about these or other experiences in LARP?

Maggie as Alice made the cover of Metagame in 1995.

Maggie as Alice made the cover of Metagame in 1995.

MB: Alice in Wonderland was part of my first Intercon, which was Intercon 10.5. I’m half a year younger than Intercon, so I was 10 at the time. I really enjoyed my role, as much as a 10-year-old can. Definitely at that point I was playing to act, not so much for the role-playing or game-solving aspects. I remember best the end, where it was my role as Alice to end the game, by shouting “you’re all just a pack of cards!”

I was too young to remember much of Paddlewheel, aside from that I enjoyed using my character to torture my brother. I also got a chance to perform some stage magic, which was a lot of fun.

Whately is a whole separate ball game. Being vivisected is definitely one of my more vivid memories, especially considering my arms would go numb from the shoulder down every time, due to the table setup we used. I greatly enjoyed the jumps I would get out of players the first time I moved my arms. We pride ourselves on cheap scares at Whately, and my favorite is from The Curse of Whately’s Mummy (the first in the series’

Maggie as a living statue.

Maggie as a living statue.

current incarnation) where I was standing as a statue in front of a hidden door. I was wearing a mask, and had my arms set to receive the crook and flail that the players needed to find. As soon as they set the items in my arms correctly, I would move out of the way so they could access the secret door. There wasn’t anything fancy to the bit, but I had been standing still for so long that players would forget I was a living person, and the shrieks I would get were very gratifying for a small amount of work. I’ve only played in a Whately LARP a couple of times (Meddling Kids and Monster), and I really prefer being behind the scenes! Where cheap scares are concerned, I am of the opinion that it is better to give than to receive.

I also really enjoy my current roles, which are Slime Queen and Safety Officer. The latter role is pretty self-explanatory, since I have a medical background and a large part of my specific background is injury prevention. Considering how much “running around in the dark” is part of Whately, it’s necessary to at least attempt to make it safe. And Slime Queen is just fun! Playing with goo and creating a substance that players will get to interact with is something I look forward to every game (and as time-consuming as it is, I take pride in being able to create over a dozen consistencies of slime).

RC: What does the future look like for LARP, do you think? For the hobby and for you personally.

MB: The future of LARP for me is probably going to be continuing to play, either in one-shots or as an NPC in campaign games. I am personally not a good campaign-gamer, and I really enjoy the freedom that comes with a one-time character, so that’s what I’ll continue to head towards.

For LARP in general, I think the activity will continue to grow and hopefully diversify, in every sense of the word. We need more participants (in the sense of both writers and players) who come from diverse backgrounds/classes/ethnicities and more games set in diverse backgrounds. We are beginning to cover different orientations and genders, but I think we still struggle in general with race and class.

RC: Thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to chat with me.

MB: No problem! Let me know if you have any desire for me to expand on any of these answers. I have lots to say.

(Many thanks to Dan Someone for editing the interview!)

Stately Castle Whately

The mummy bursts from the tomb to snatch the girl!

The mummy bursts from the tomb to snatch the girl!

The six-foot-five figure pauses as it surveys the room, its wraps hanging loosely from its form. Grunts and guttural growls escape from its muffled mouth. Its victims huddle against the far wall, away from the gaping hole the hulking creature just punched through the pyramid’s thick, stone walls. A blonde, teen adventurer faints away at the sight.

The mummy lunges forward, scooping up the fallen woman. A shriek echoes in the space as the creature lurches back into the ancient ruin.

That’s how it all started.

Gail “Vortex” and “Dig” Doug Freedman were not newcomers to interactive fiction. Along with writing partner Doug Peterson, Gail had written two “How to Host a Murder Mystery” games for Decipher, INC. back in the early 90’s. Amazon still sells Roman Ruins, with an average rating of four stars. The Champaign County Historical Museum hired the two of them to pen the stories behind three of their annual murder mystery party fundraisers. The Museum paid the pair with a free rental. Gail had arranged to run a Live Action Role Play written by a friend from the East Coast with her free night, and was looking for players for the last couple slots. Overhearing the conversation, Doug Freedman raised his hand and suggested, “Choose me.”

Gail and Dig later collaborated on “Christmas with the Soddentarrys,” an interactive murder mystery served with a full period dinner, set against a December backdrop of pine boughs, garlands, and fairy lights of Champaign’s Wilber Mansion.

It took little time for the two to establish a reputation in the larger LARP community. They broke through the Appalachian Wall, proving to East Coasters people LARPed west of that mountain range by running games at the then Baltimore-based Intercon. Players got to know them for their intricate murder mysteries and sometimes quirky games. (Their Infobahn 2000 used croquet to resolve combat, for example.)

Looking to bring LARP back to Chicagoland, Doug and Gail started Fete Fatale Productions in 1996. Originally conceived as a LARP writing group, the organization transitioned to a production company, facilitating games of high quality in the area. The group brings LARP authors from as far away as the UK to run games, organizes the annual Tapas de Larpas festival over Memorial Day weekend, and hosts an annual LARP writing workshop, Peaky Midwest.

Doug and Gail strive to craft authentic, well researched stories. They want to convey the wonder of looking through someone else’s eyes, someone from a different time, someone from a different place.

The two married in 1999, moving into a 3,400 ft2 home in Inverness, Illinois. To celebrate, Gail and Doug decided to run a love letter to Hammer Horror films, a LARP entitled The Curse of Whately Manor, written by Frank Branham. After two successful runs, Doug looked over to his wife and asked, “You know, for my birthday next year, how about we write a LARP haunted house.”

In a gesture that would become emblematic of their marriage, Gail answered. “Sure, honey. That’s a great idea. How about we….”

With the blessing of Frank Branham, the two embarked on crafting The Curse of Whately’s Mummy. Roping in their two then teenaged children and a handful of friends, they took a week off before the first run to finish up the story and set aside a $500 budget to transform their home into an Egyptian labyrinth. Fifteen and seventeen at the time, Maggie and Rob remember having to take down foam core walls to make their way into their bedrooms at night. The game ran for four Saturdays (the story needed the very tall Rob to play the mummy, and his Friday evenings were taken up by high school football) and the four runs combined drew in 39 players.

Concerned they hadn’t written enough plot, or given the players enough to go on (the character sheets for Mummy ran six pages long), Doug and Gail worried the group would burn through their adventure in less than 20 minutes. As they watched, their costumed son broke through a Styrofoam wall to “kidnap” their daughter, and the first round of players completely lost their shit.

Dig describes it…

The excavators had found the tomb earlier, and then the archaeologists and sponsors gathered for the ceremonial breaking of the seal. The ceremony went like this: Whately made a tiny little hole to break the seal, and his daughter (an NPC played by Maggie) immediately collapsed. He said the only thing that could save her would be found in the tomb and quickly made his toast so they could go in, but as soon as he took a sip from his glass he fell over dead – poisoned! Then the mummy burst through the wall (and everyone screamed), picked up the daughter, and disappeared with her into the tomb. The players sat in stunned silence for a long moment before creeping fearfully through the ruined wall.

Contrary to Doug and Gail’s fearful expectations, the players spent four excited hours plumbing the depths of the milieu they had created. The couple realized they had hit on something and would have to do it again. The two reckoned they had crafted a niche.

Every evil mastermind's volcanic lair needs a 20' tall missile. If only those pesky spies would stop blowing them up!

Every evil mastermind’s volcanic lair needs a 20′ tall missile. If only those pesky spies would stop blowing them up!

Their efforts have continued over the next fifteen years and involve nine other adventures, each paying tribute to a different sub-genre of horror or adventure:

2000 – The Curse of Whately’s Mummy

2001 – The Curse of Whately’s Mythos (Cthulhu)

2002 – The Curse of Whately’s Mausoleum (Dracula)

2003 – The Curse of Whately’s Mesa (Haunted Mine)

2004 – The Curse of Whately’s Monster (Frankenstein)

2005 – The Curse of Whately’s Meddling Kids (Scooby Doo)

2007 – The Curse of Whately’s Mission (James Bond)

2010 – The Curse of Whately’s Moonbase (Alien/2001)

2012 – The Curse of Whately’s Mayans (Indiana Jones, treasure hunts)

2015 – The Curse of Whately’s Mysterious Island (Jules Verne)

The Mayan god awakens! (Audio recognition software listens for players to play the correct tune on a set of bells to light the eyes and turn on the airflow, then players block the god's mouth to trip a pressure switch to fire fog and sound effects and receive the god's gift.)

The Mayan god awakens! (Audio recognition software listens for players to play the correct tune on a set of bells to light the eyes and turn on the airflow, then players block the god’s mouth to trip a pressure switch to fire fog and sound effects and receive the god’s gift.)

Looking back at their work, the success they’ve enjoyed, and the high quality of games they’ve produced, they realized they set the bar higher with each iteration. After moving into a 5,000 ft2 house in North Barrington last year a “What the fuck have we gotten in to?” moment struck them.

Planning for The Curse of Whately’s Mysterious Island started twelve months before the planned runs. Construction was scheduled to last for 10 weeks with a proposed budget of $6,000. Doug and Gail do virtually all of the writing themselves, while a crew of around 50 people–carpenters, computer programmers, sound engineers, network specialists, electrical engineers, plumbers, prop makers, set design and decoration, chemists, costume designers and creators, puppeteers, chefs, NPC’s, and an actual stage manager–will completely transform their home into an enigmatic jungle island, complete with a full size temple.

As fans of the series grew, so did the people willing to volunteer time in constructing the next adventure. A larger pool of talent allows Doug and Gail to explore new technologies to strengthen the emergent experience. “Designing for a LARP like this,” Gail explains, “is very different than designing for the stage or film. Everything here is three dimensional. People walk around props, interact with them. If we make something, it has to survive over 100 people touching it. Items need to work when they’re supposed to work, on the players’ timing. On the set of Star Trek they had two stage hands operating the doors to the bridge of the Enterprise, and they added the sound in post-production. For Moonbase, the doors opened automatically when the players activated them, complete with whooshing sound.  And everything needs a backup plan in case of failure.”

The rescue team arrives at the frozen moonbase to find the stranded station crew locked away in lifepods, barely alive. But time is running out. They must get life support (glowing in the background) up and running before that Thing the mining company awoke finds them! Or the insane computer sanitizes them. Or the alien virus turns them into monsters... The survival rate for this one was pretty low.

The rescue team arrives at the frozen moonbase to find the stranded station crew locked away in lifepods, barely alive. But time is running out. They must get life support (glowing in the background) up and running before that Thing the mining company awoke finds them! Or the insane computer sanitizes them. Or the alien virus turns them into monsters… The survival rate for this one was pretty low.

Use of technology paid off. A film student working on The Curse of Whately’s Moonbase received college credit for their constructions. That particular adventure also included a custom designed and programmed moon landing simulator, and used RFID tags to automate a sick-bay biobed emulation.

Not to say the elaborate sets and props don’t take some getting used to by the participants. In The Curse of Whately’s Mummy a hopeful player declared, “I pick up the pot where I’ve painted the mummy’s name and shatter it on the floor to break the curse!”

“Right. Go ahead and do it,” a GM replied.

“What? Really? You want me to break this clearly homemade pot?”

“Yes. We have a source.”

With a squee of delight, the player dashed the pot on flagstone. Doug and Gail expected it. They had procured one pot for every run.

In addition to expanding into new technologies, this fall’s The Curse of Whately’s Mysterious Island hopes to foster more role-playing and character connections than previous stories. Character sheets will weigh in at about five pages. Players will have an opportunity to work through important scenes in their characters’ past as pairs or trios before the main game begins. The authors hope this will let the characters establish stronger emotional ties to each other that will provide a richer experience during the game.

The Curse of Whately’s Mysterious Island also introduces a five year chronicle LARP set in the world of Space:1889, Frank Chadwick’s tabletop RPG of Victorian science fiction. Ever since running into copies of the rules and source material at a used bookstore in Champaign, Gail has wanted to tell a story set in this fantastic world of Victorian-era powers in space. Planning that game started in January of 2015 and it’s set to debut in the spring of 2016.

This year’s run The Curse of Whately’s Mysterious Island has completely filled. For news on some of the best LARP’s in Chicago, the new Space:1889 LARP, or the next visit to Whately’s something, visit


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