At a recent LARP (Fear of The Dark – Beltane) a interesting question was asked by a very experienced larper. It was about the roles women play in larps.
That question was – why do more women seem to play NPC roles in games as opposed to player roles?
It was a question based purely on personal experience but it raised an interesting point. Is there a difference in how women choose their roles in a larp as opposed to men?
So we decided the interview the originator of the question (Susan Hathaway), together with the writer and referee of Beltane (Emma-Leigh Knight).
It turned into an interesting conversation and of course we also wandered of topic a few times..
A few weekends ago I travelled northwards to the new Fear of The Dark site to play in their first event for a number of years. That event was Beltane and I’ll be talking about it here
First though it seems appropriate to confess an interest and perhaps tell a little bit of the Fear of The Dark (FoTD) back story. FoTD is a small Welsh larping group that have been around for about 25 years. I had my first larping experience with them. Since then I’ve been a player, crew, writer and referee with the group. In other words I’ve been pretty involved and that does leave me with a desire for Fear of The Dark to do more.
FoTD games all have a number of distinguishing features. They are very real world. If you can stabbed, shot, stapled, chopped, minced, munched or maimed in any kind of way then the repercussions on your character will be serious. No sudden magical healing. This also extends to the setting – modern day games are set in the here and now. These can riff off the news right up until the start of the event. Historical events take on aspects of actual history. Even explorations into Science Fiction and Fantasy are all designed to have that real cutting edge.
These are also freeform larps. In that there are no complex rule or character generation systems. You simply have to come up with a story for your character and play that character. The sense of the real will take over the rest.
In a sense these games have a Nordic feel as they are all about pushing the meta and rules to one side that the player can ride an emotional experience.
Beltane was the first game since 2012 and it was to be the start of a series of games of which 4 are planned. Note that when I say series I mean one after another. I do not mean that the stories are linked. Campaign style play is incredibly rare in Fear of The Dark. Most events are one off stories. If you are lucky the larp may get a rerun. In the main though these are all stand alone larps. It does mean that FoTD are back from their hiatus.
Avoiding spoilers here’s the backstory. Its the year 1268. Only 5 years before Edward 1st invades Wales and the construction of Caerphilly Castle by Gilbert de Clare has just started. It is a difficult time for Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. In mid Wales maybe a days travel from the English border a band of gypsies aim to host a Beltane festival. For various reasons people start to gather at a nearby inn. Events start to unfold. Now I cannot say which people arrive at the tavern as true to FoTD style those characters are created by the characters independently of each other. On this run it included nobles,spies, gypsies, spies and thieves. An odd mixing of medieval society.
So events unfolded. Slowly at first. Inexorably tensions and suspicions started to rise. In the early hours of the morning apparitions ‘convinced’ 3 of the inns guests to venture outside – ill equipped I should say as the players reacted fully in character and went out without shoes or boots. By the morning time everyone had their own ideas, but it was time for the start of the Beltane festival. A festival that did not go well for any of the players
At this point I have to stop as I am either going to give away spoilers or continue to sound like a B movie voice over.
Lets put it into context. There was a lot of trepidation in this event. Quite a bit of I am scared of that. A fair degree of I am fighting against that and more than enough creepiness. Beltane had two runs. I was on the second and there a couple of scenes that I will not forget for a while. Perhaps the most memorable being one in which trust between evil and church as being negotiated.
Was it Good?
For me this was a good event. The new site for FoTD games worked well. The game felt right and the handover to a second generation of writers and refs felt somewhat special. I can’t wait for my next outing with Fear of The Dark.
If you would like to learn more about Fear of The Dark here is their website: https://www.fearofthedark.co.uk/
Last year we covered the 20th anniversay of Curious Pastimes. We weren’t the only ones doing this. Another of the regular documentors that go to their events is Slender Pictures. They took a whole lot of video.
One of the outcomes is a series of excellent short documentaries about Curious Pastimes and the people who larp in the UK. These were first released between the end of March and end of April 2017. We’ve had look at these and feel that they are an interesting resource. So in the spirit of sharing and distribution, here is that series. I hope you enjoy this collection.
We recently posted a list of questions and tips that focused on gathering useful practical information when going on a larp. The sort of things you may need to know if its your first time with a particular group / event or venue. It was also intended for people coming to the hobby for the first time.
We also put out the question to the Facebook groups UK LRP and Larpers BFF – how would you extend or improve this list.?
We got back from wonderful answers (some tips and some questions to ask), which are quoted here. Before you read these I’d just like to say a big thank you to everyone who responded. Your questions and tips were all first rate. Where I know of a relevant website for the respondents I’ve added it to give you a little more context.
Gareth Farrant (Kit Goblins)
Weather… larping pluss rain can be horrid.. pack spare kit just in case you get wet and good boots. Sealskin socks are awesome, dry feet can make the difference between a good event and never wanting to return
You’ve mentioned water but it’s probably worth mentioning salt too. And sun cream.
Also worth adding washing facilities to the things to ask about
Also, have a look at this
There are some potentially useful items on there, including an article about foot care.
Lizzie Stark (lizziestark.com)
-photo policies, including policies on how images will be disseminated via social media
-harassment and other safety policies, including who to go to in case something goes wrong, where the off game space is, and what behavior is explicitly not tolerated. Who are the safety contacts? When are they on duty? How can I reach an organizer in an emergency? Who should I contact if I think a known broken stair or even, (lord forbid) someone who has assaulted me or a friend is attending this event? What are your policies for booting people?
-First aid–where the kit is and whether you are responsible for bringing your own. Is this site free from medical care? If I have a life-threatening food or environmental allergy, who can I tell, just in case?
-accessibility. Is the site wheelchair accessible? If I have a disability and want to know whether I can be accommodated, who should I reach out to?
And re: sleeping space: how are spaces assigned? Can I select my roommates? Are there single-gender sleeping options available?
Matthew Web (Incognita Limited)
“Who’s In Charge” as well. Might make a point that just because a player likes to talk with authority doesn’t mean they have any. Not that that ever happens…
On my personal list of practicalities is quite high the question of “how do I get there and where exactly should I report to whom” followed closely by “when do I need to be there, when it is good if I am there, when it is must I am there – and what is the course of events before game starts and how do I find out game started”
Easy but sometimes missing is “do I have a number on a contact person from the org team” and sometimes I ask “is there anything special I should know and/or bring that I might be missing?” (Aka the question on unknown unknowns)
Something I find odd to come up as often as it does- transportation! where is the game? when was the last time you checked it wasn’t changed? how are you getting there? is there public transportation? at what time? how much gear are you taking with you? do you have a ride? did you make sure the ride is for both getting there and going back home? how are you getting all the stuff you brought with you off the site at the end of the game?
Also, I might be repeating Lizzie here, but medication. you have to have it on you at all times. we had diabetics with empty insulin syringes who didn’t know how to refill them, allergenic people without their medicine on their person. people with chronic pain who leave their medicine at the camp site and break down half a mile away, or forget it at home 50 miles away.
we usually have at least one trained medical doctor on call at all big games, but even then having them treat something that could be avoided is putting a lot of pressure on the organisers, and is literally life threatening.
I hope you find these useful.