“Unicorn City” is what happens when tabletop role-players throw off the shackles of the gaming table and take it the outside world. Games can commiserate, be it tiring of a tyrannical game master (Jon Gries), annoyed by the rowdy public spaces of game stores, or just wanting more excitement in props — “Unicorn City” fulfills the fantasy that every gamer probably had at some point: What if I could make it all real? Or at least, as close to real as possible without making it hurt?
The answer is Live Action Role-Playing, but like so many nascent game designers, it doesn’t occur to Voss (Devin McGinn) that such a thing might already exist. Nowadays we have True Dungeon for gamers who want a hybrid that reinforces the feel of a true dungeon environment without having to commit to a role. In “Unicorn City,” Voss finally realizes that even his extensive gaming experience is not sufficient to net him the ultimate gaming job in Washington State: Working for Wizards of the Coast — excuse me, “Warlocks of the Beach” in this film. How will he prove that he can be a leader when all his leadership has only taken place in a fantasy world?
By making the fantasy world real of course. Does it bear mentioning that Voss plays a bard? Are you surprised?
And so Voss conducts a secret power struggle for the soul of his group: his live-in roommate, the gamer guy with the clingy girlfriend who tags along, the tough dude who’ll play anything if he can kick butt, and the foreign guy who doesn’t always understand what’s going on. These are stereotypes, but they are nuanced stereotypes that go beyond the dork who knows everything about geekdom (I’m looking at you, Big Bang Theory). It’s a welcome change that’s only possible because the writers are gamers.
There’s also a delightfully nerdy gamer chick who makes her own dresses. Marsha (Jaclyn Hales) is adorable in a pretty-ugly girl sort of way, but Voss can’t see it. The writers gave her another quirk too — under stress, she has to take her medication — that makes her vulnerable and believable. She may be cute, but she feels like she belongs in this geeky world of outsiders.
And so our fearless heroes decide to embark on a fantasy world of their own creation titled “Unicorn City,” in which people dress up like monsters and attack each other in a field. “Unicorn City” takes particular glee in scrubbing the shine off LARPing, by demonstrating that it’s essentially camping with swords. Eventually, the aforementioned tyrannical GM (Shadowhawk) discovers what the group is up to and returns to reclaim the soul, if not the heart, of the group.
“Unicorn City” climax reaches cult-like proportions that eventually involves the police, but somehow manages to sweetly and hilariously tie everything up in a way that’s satisfying. This is a love note to any tabletop gamer who has had the urge to run away screaming from the table, holy avenger in hand.
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