A little while ago I started asking for peoples thoughts on their LARP experiences over Summer this year. I’ve had a few responses and been very impressed by the results.

First was from Becky Pitt speaking on Facebook about why you should take time out to experience a LARP event. Becky attended this years Balrog event.

Once in a while stretch yourself. Consider taking on a character that takes you out of your comfort zone…you might just enjoy the challenge!

Now from Dave Larp also via Facebook a fantastic review of Septembers Mythlore New Lands event.

Please note that I’m not going to attempt to tell you what happened on the event, this isn’t going to be a plot review. What I’m going to try to convey is the feel of the system, how it went and what I feel about Mythlore New Lands. Also, I’m simply a player of the game and in no way an organiser, crew, ref etc… so I write without an agenda, other than my own.

Over the weekend of the 21st of September, Mythlore New Lands event 2 ran. Trying to re-create the opulence, sheer scale and colourful setting of an Arabian Nights style setting is not easy, but the event pulled this off magnificently. The main building was transformed into ‘The Saracen’s Head’ and entrants were greeted to a beautifully decorated tavern, more fitting to a big budget film set than the middle of Merthyr Maw. For a fully catered event, we all got to spend a good amount of time enjoying the ambiance this created, and was further enhanced by a very talented local belly dancer group as our Saturday night entertainment along with a magic show. The food was simply amazing, all in keeping with the setting and everyone had made the effort to transform their bottles of beer and spirits with period labels. With this attention to detail, hopefully you can begin to see the depth both the players and organisers went to.

Outside the main building was the Balsora Souq – a marketplace where one could buy everything from alchemist concoctions to raiki treatments to armour; some items were even planted by the organisers so that you could buy the necessary items to use your own personal skills. The event pulled off the transition from real-world to Mythlore very well by requesting ‘coins of Albion’ (real money) vs. gems and fully pressed in character coins. Being a market place, even the coin of Albion items were all up for barter and fully expected as traders set imaginative starting process. Again, hopefully you’re beginning to see the depth this game has.

The plot was very well thought out; there was individual plot for most players and an overriding one for the event. These meshed extremely well and players didn’t simply grab onto the main plot as I’ve seen on other events, and keep it – it was shared and all got involved as much or as little as they needed. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that no 1 group could do everything by themselves – they either lacked more hardy souls to take the brunt of any attacks, or the more skilled in magical or alchemist arts to perhaps complete the tasks at hand.

Having LRP’d for more years than I care to admit, I’ve seen my fair share of good and bad events. For me personally, I’ve tended to enjoy the more heroic style ones where more emphasis is placed on the role-play; again for me this event paid in spades. Whilst I’ve seen good props and kit before from the crew, this took it to a whole new level. Given some of the crew were new, the kit was outstanding and not a pair of jeans or trainers in sight. The props – simply WOW and you really have to see the photos to believe me here. Up on the dunes, at the top you have a woman perched magically in the air – literally (and without giving anything away it’s not done by wires, a glass, see through or cleverly camouflaged stool). The other marvel was ‘The Scourge’ – which simply makes you forget that it’s not real; it has a blinking eye (the other was lost, being the swarthy pirate he is), fully moveable limbs and is so engaging your eye is drawn to and you end up talking to it rather than the man ‘working’ him. These are just the 2 most notable, but couple this with floating jelly fish spitting acid and full 6’ fish both of which light up at night and create an amazing effect, again you see where the money goes into this system.

Now onto perhaps the 2 most intriguing element of this game and I’ll start with the rules. As I said earlier I like heroic style events, where it’s about the role-play and not how many hits you have. The game creators have a very lite rule system, governed by RULE3 (Don’t take the pi$$). You don’t have a set number of hits, instead replaced by taking a few more or a few less than reasonable – and reasonable is up to you to decide. No calls in combat of any description – it’s all based on how well the person hit you, how well they made it look and what you feel the outcome should be. Speaking for myself, being shot in the shoulder by an archer was something which took me out for a while! The magic system is done on ‘will’ (measure of mental strength), again depending on whether you have strong or formidable will, you can do a few more or a few less spells. There are also no spells lists to be had at all – it’s totally up to the players to decide what they want. Gone are the bolts and blasts, replaced by swirling pools of water for the underwater scene we had, calling forth the power of the sun in a pillar of fire to burn enemies and waves of sand to blind, confuse and knock over enemies. Every system is open to abuse, even those where everything is counted in XP points, but not once did I see a player or member of the crew not react appropriately.

My final intriguing element may seem a bit odd – as I tried to think of what to say on the Mythlore Facebook group to thank the crew for their hard work and efforts, I stumbled upon a simple truth as to how this event was so good. Here’s what I wrote…
I’ve been trying to think of a way to convey how impressed I was and I think I figured it out – excluding ‘monster type affairs’ where you were swinging swords at us, I could not tell you apart from the players. This is huge in my eyes as you become less wary what’s around you and are able to really get involved in the atmosphere.
Whilst true for the crew, and may I say I was very surprised at the end to see how few players to crew there actually were, this goes equally as well for the whole system, set dressing, plot, rules, combat, kit, players, caterers, site usage the list goes on.

I look back on what I’ve written here and am disappointed I cannot fully convey how impressed I was with the event. I’d like to leave you with 2 thoughts; 1 – in a hobby where there are dozens of systems offering different types of events, this for me stands out as one of the shining lights, it’s a grown up system which gives the players control of the world and of how it works by not being rule prescriptive and simply, unashamedly about the reason we all go to these things – role-play; 2 – being someone who offers praise sparingly and when it’s deserved rather than just because it’s expected, I saw each of the organisers before I left and said this, “The highest praise I can offer you is to tell you that I’d book for the 2014 event tomorrow (meaning the Monday I got home) and give you the money upfront if it’d mean you’d do another next year”. I hope from what I’ve written, this may even inspire you, the reader, to come and join us next time too.

Also via Facebook game this review of also of Mythlore New Lands this time from Nick Jenkins

Where do I start, probably with a description of what I look for in my larp experiences?

I only get to attend a couple of events a year because living in Guernsey turns the price of a weekend event into a minimum of a £400 round trip, thus the ticket price is rarely ever an issue, it’s usually the least of my worries. I want events that offer deep immersion, have a rules system that I can read and understand in one sitting and that is transparent when in play, i.e. you cannot see the rules working. I want the opportunity to put as much or as little effort into my background as I choose. I want to larp with people who want the same things I do, who can slip easily into and between roles and who understand that remaining in the moment is key. Location, kit and background are of secondary importance, if you have the right rules and the right people but if done well they can add immeasurably to the experience.

What is the game world? A rich tapestry of eastern magic, you get influences from cultures such as Japan, China, Mongolia, India, Egypt, Morocco and many more. The backdrop to the story is the death of a Triton like character the Sultan of the sea which makes plying the sea routes very dangerous, as overland trade routes become more valued suddenly every petty ruler seems to want control of a patch of land, intrigue abounds!

What is the style? Mythlore is unashamedly old school linear, you get presented with challenges and plots that sub sets of the player base can embark upon, one thing is certain the event is too vast for plot hovering players to absorb all the fun, you need to involve as many people as possible to come out of the event alive, let alone resolve your personal plot lines. PvP play just occurs naturally as part of the interaction between the player base, but with the added bonus of the world revolving around you, rather than you around it.

Where was it? The event ran at candlestone, this was my first event at the site and I was not disappointed.

So why did I try Mythlore? The pictures and feedback from event one suggested it was a place I wanted to be, people I knew were encouraging me to attend and I was offered a place within a brilliant group concept. The production values and aspirations of the organisers appeared to eclipse almost everything I have done before. The rule system whispered to me of its amazing potential for free form role-play.

What put me off? Larp tends to be quite a small hobby and you get to know people, that creates a sense of comfort as you know what sort of experience you are going to get before you attend. I recognised almost no one who was attending. This of course can be a good thing because opportunity is there to meet awesome new people, but it can also be awful if all of those people reside in a clique and are not inclusive. It is always a chance. The other thing stopping me coming was that I was committed to run the Guernsey Marathon that weekend, decision time!

How did it go? Understand that I am simply bursting with froth and spume that I want to unleash upon you in torrents of all the epic moments, of the secret moments, of those moments where you are actually doing nothing, just standing back and letting the world unfold around you. I will refrain.

Nothing was left to chance, nothing was hastily thrown together or made good at the last moment, or if it was the crew and organisers were so adept that it felt like this event was a finely crafted machine.

I didn’t feel like I was a player at an event, I felt like my character was part of a world that was moving around him and fast. The plot was vast, with plenty of sub plot and unrelated “pop-up” plot as well. Other people have said it but I couldn’t tell who was a player and who was crew, the only certainties were the support crew such as the excellent bar and kitchen staff. You never knew if you were being set up, built up or stitched up, often all three at once and it felt amazing if you just jumped on for the ride of your life.

There were more set piece encounters than I have ever seen before but none of them felt forced, you wanted to be involved in all of them but there were too many and always seemed to be so much to do that it was impossible, everything that happened felt like it was designed for you to interact with.

Traders were encouraged to keep everything as IC as possible and the souk portrayed that perfectly, I lament that I didn’t get more time to look around all the stalls and spend some coin of Albion but my characters feeble concept of haggling would have ended up costing me a fortune! At least I got the powerful healing benefits of a reiki session and I have come away with a Chinese character portrait that my Asura companions assure me has perfectly captured my smug countenance.

I wish I had the opportunity to go to each and everyone who was there and thank them for helping to provide me personally with such an excellent experience. It just seemed to me that everyone was working flat out all the time to make it just that little bit more “fantastical” than it already was.

Could I get this experience at other larp events? I question this, maybe if you gathered the best prop builders in the land, hired Larp-fx (http://www.larp-fx.co.uk), found an awesome team of caterers and a crew so dedicated that they would spend 4 days dressing your set for you before the event, then maybe. Maybe it is just easier to close your eyes, breathe in the scent of pyrotechnics and eastern spices and let yourself be carried back to Balsora.

Would you go again? Without question, I might not play the same character again, because I want to explore the underbelly of Balsora and be comfortable kidnapping Belly-Dancers, stupid Samurai! But rest assured I will be banging a drum loud and long to try and ensure Mythlore Newlands 3 happens.

I would like to say more, I’d like to rave on about the attention to detail that was evidenced, the food my god the constant supply of food, the sheer scale and ambition of the organisers. Some might consider the event expensive but I would suggest it was the best value I’ve ever had.

Receiving quality reviews and a good reason to LARP has been fantastic. The doors are still open for comments, reviews and photos about this summer. Of course I’m also looking forward to this Autumns and Winters games.

The photo for this post comes via Stefan Schubert on Flickr. Full details for this image cane be found by clicking here.

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