This August I was a guest of Curious Pastimes for the August Renewal event. I wasn’t alone in this as podcast partner in crime Stuart Edwards was also there. However for me our short time as observers had quite an impact. Initially I wanted to write about this immediately as part of our Renewal coverage. I decided instead to wait, to let it sink in and see if I could express myself better. I’ll admit the editor also thought that spacing things out would be better for our dear readers.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Somewhere in back in the mists of time the group I most often Larp with attended the Gathering every year. I was there more often than not. At the time I wasn’t really the biggest fan or fantasy RPG or LRP. Also I had some issues that also didn’t always make a big event the best idea. Over the course of a few years a siginificant number of my group fell out of love with the Gathering – due to in involvement issues. Myself I felt that the hygiene levels at a fest didn’t match what I needed to look after my particular health condition. This would have happened around about 2004.
That’s now 12 years ago.
As a result we formed an alternate August event and I didn’t go back the fest larping. I no need. I was a member of several clubs that were turning out awesomely fun events and I had something to do on the big August bank holiday larp weekend.
Move onto to my time on LARPBook. Writing LARPBook forced me to look with fresh eyes at all aspects of LARP. Both in the UK and around the world. It broke my larping bubble and I started to think again about Fest larp. I knew I needed to get back to large scale gaming but was a little hesitant.
Roll on to the visit to Curious Pastimes Renewal 2016. This is when things got interesting. I got to see a large scale event from the inside and this is what I discovered.
The Out Of Character camping area was really well organised. Apparently this is mostly the result of the players themselves. Something that really speaks out as a testament to how well larpers seem to work together. I see it everywhere I go.
The site had permanent toilet and shower facilities. This may not sound like much, but remember managing a health problem has been important to me so this was a great sign.
I loved the management arrangement that allowed site control, game control and player support to all run independently. I know these roles need to be clearly demarcated in a large scale event yet it was very inspiring to see it run so well. Built into this was the high quality of support given for photographers and filmmakers. Vital I think as the power of communicating outside of your larp via these media is not to be underestimated.
I couldn’t help but notice that the in character camping and faction areas were built around an easy to navigate circuit. To me this matters from an accessibility and atmosphere point of view. Having a trail increases the chances of getting around the site using walking aids or maybe a wheel chair; it also helps in keeping things in a tight area. A twisty trail with trees such as the one I found also helps keep a good fantasy look and feel. It felt about right to me if I’d had been playing it would have helped with immersion.
This boils down to the skilled execution of a large larping event; with plenty of support for staff, players and observers. Site design maximised the space whilst not forgetting to have plenty of style and immersion.
I had to rethink.
Perhaps my idea that fest larp was not for me was a little off. Instead I had perhaps chosen the wrong larp? Or the wrong time to go fest larping?
So that gives me a take away. On a personal note I’ll be to Curious Pastimes as a player next year. I’m really looking forward to that. As LARPBook it’s given that moment of self reflection to say that I need to test out more fest larps.
Also it says to me that if you don’t like one larp – don’t write off all events of that type. Take a look at what others have to offer. Pigeonholing can be a bad thing. The execution of larp varies enormously and you should always be open to its possibilities.