Balrog games was created way back in the mists of Larping time it ran then and lay quiet for many a year. Then about 9 years ago its creator and group of like minded Gathering attendees decided to stop attending the Gathering (at the time the UKs largest fest larp) and set up an annual August bank holiday event. Over the last 9 years the game has gone on from strength to strength, My normal response to Balrog game is to a wave a flag and just say the word awesome. That however does not make for a great review. Its also true that this year there were some problems – which is why I am adding a bit of context to the review because I want to deliver the correct message, and that is of fantastic reffing and great plans for the future.
You’ve had the history – now for the context. Balrog is a very traditional high fantasy LARP. Big storylines, intrepid characters and a lot of action. If you’re not from the UK – you’d call it a boffer larp. There is also a lot of comedy – an awful lot. Its not unusual to see players struggling very hard to not laugh out loud. It’s all geek humour and very Mony Pythoneseque.
I wanted to give this background as this review is all about change and its impact. All the recent Balrog games have been perfect events. This year not so much – but hang on a second as this will turn into a good review.
This year we saw a change in format for the 2nd day of the event. Traditionally this has been a linear quest. This year it was more focussed on character play. We also a large number of small children attending the event. Part of this was people bringing families for the first time and part of this was a return to LARPing following a break. However what happened was that these two elements combine to create a perfect storm. With more children to look after and the focus of a quest missing the central part of the game stalled, child care was taking a lot of people of play and no one was really pushing the plot forward.
At this point I have to give credit to the refs who started noticing that things were not right. At this point they started to quietly talk to players so and understand what was going on. By Saturday evening things were feeling better. By Sunday morning the pacing of the game had been adjusted and also a childrens game created. Sunday ran much more like a usual Balrog game.
By the end of the game everyone was happy. There was a greater understanding of the needs of families, and a fantastic finale battle finished the game off nicely.
This year was a transnational game. The game structure change has now been reviewed and for next year people are talking about plans for a creche and a childrens creche. This year hit a low – but one problem in 9 years is actually pretty good going and once again I take my hat off to the refs who evolved the game as it ran.
My suspicion is that the next event (named: Undercity) will be something very special indeed.
My thanks to Amy Millington for the image, Amy is the official Balrog photographer.