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/
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.
If you’re going to your first larp this Summer, or perhaps trying out something new for the first time then there are certain questions that you may need to ask. This post is for the new larper or a the new to a larp player. Its a list of things that need to clarified before going to a larp event.
The amount of information that larp organisers publish about their events varies enormously. Everyone will tell you the time, the place, the cost and the genre. Some will publish a lot more, but if you feel you want to know more than is published, then here are some questions and tips that will help you prepare for the event.
Where Am I Sleeping?
Let’s kick off with a big one. You need to know where you will be laying your head. Typically (and I am UK biased here) accommodation will be along the lines of
- Camping (You Provide the tent and camping gear)
- Sleeping Rough in Character (You really need to ask what you need to be bring)
- In a bedroom (You may need to ask about how many (if any) will be sharing)
- In a dormitory (Definitely sharing)
- Shared Space – Bring Your Own Bed
Camping can be in character ( tent style depends on genre) or out of character (anything goes). You need to know which as this affects your choice of tent.
Sleeping rough means makeshift shelters, and possibly outdoors. This means you really need to clarify what the expectations are from the organisers at your time of booking.
Bedroom is nice. It may even be ensuite. You may need to share and mixed sharing can also happen. So clarify this if you possibly feel uncomfortable with shared rooms or sharing with someone of the opposite sex. Also do you need bedding.
Dormitories – you’re talking about limited personal space and maybe mixed occupancy. So again check. Again you should check about bedding.
If its bring your own bed – do just that. Get a comfortable camp bed of some kind.
The Tip: When in doubt pack a sleeping bag.
Food – What am I eating?
At a larp eating is very important. Your routines are going to change. You may be a lot more physically active than usual. You may be getting less sleep than usual. You may be colder or warmer than usual. You will need to eat.
The amount of catering a larp provides will vary enormously. Some games do incredible in character catering. Others let you fend for yourself. You should confirm which meals will be provided. You should also find out if snacks are available on site.Its also worth finding out if meals are at the start and end of the day. If this is the case what happens in the middle?
Its never a bad move to pack some non-perishable snacks. Don’t go hungry. Assume you will need food.
The Tip: Putting snacks in your larp bag is rarely a bad move.
Drink – Avoid Dehydrating
Two parts to this one. Alcohol and hydration. Lets start with the booze.
Alcohol is really simple as it depends on knowing the what the attitude to alcohol is like at that larp. Is it normal to drink? Is drinking banned for safety reasons? Is a little alcohol OK and a lot not so? All of these can only be resolved by asking the organisers. Very often you’ll be able to guess as the attitude to alcohol in larps tends to reflect where you are. For example most UK larps allow for drinking as a normal part of the experience; but being falling over drunk is seen as being not desirable. However regardless of what’s permitted remember that you will be taking part in an emotional and possibly physical experience. How does alcohol affect you? Remember to be true to your limitations. If drinking in such circumstances is not a good idea for you then do not drink regardless of what others say.
The next part if simply hydration. You will need to most likely drink more than usual. Especially in an outdoors Summer larp. I’ve seen a lot people fall over from simply not drinking enough water. So if possible carry water. If possible take a moment and have drink of something. Being thirsty is a bad thing. It can become dangerous if you dehydrate. There’s not much to ask here as just about all larpers are aware of this risk. But you may need to ask what is a suitable in character water container.
The Tip: Do not become dehydrated.
When Am I in Game?
If you are in game you are meant to be in costume and portraying your character. You’ll need to know what time of night you can stop playing? When in the morning you are in character? Or is the whole experience from start to finish in character? Are there areas of the site that are out game? Like out of character camping or a chill room if you need to step back for a moment. There’s nothing worse than going for an out of character breakfast and then finding that everyone is already in character.
So ask the question – when and where should I be playing my character?
The Tip: When in Doubt Assume in character
What Should My Costume be like?
Really important if this is your first larp and to be honest given the modern trend for high costume standards this question never goes away. Fortunately you may not have to ask a question at all. If the game is well established there is a good chance of there being plenty of photographs online that you can take a look. Avail yourself of the larps website and any Facebook groups they may have. You will learn a lot.
Some larps may have costume standards embedded in their rules / guide books. Take a look at these.
Finally ask the question of the organisers or other players. You will almost certainly get some good answers. Don’t buy or acquire costume before you know what you need. That way can lead to a lot of wasted money. If its your first larp also ask about borrowing or renting costume. Looking good will help you enjoy the larp but there is little fun in spending a lot of money and only then discovering that you do not like.
The Tip: Ask how to look cool – but don’t blow the budget until you are sure about it.
These are all practical questions common to anyone going to a larp. If you are new to larping you should try and get these cleared up. Never be afraid to ask questions of larpers. The larp community by and large is full of helpful, friendly and thoughtful people. The kind of people who want to work with someone to better take part in their game. Always ask questions. They will not be laughed at.
Welcome to Crescendo Giocoso, a Kickstarter project of 12 larps that exist as a play list. Why a play list? Well we have a good many styles of larp design – like Nordic, Freeform, Boffer and so on. Here’s a new one. a set of larps conceived of and put together by a team who’s method of working more resembles an orchestra than other traditional approaches. The result is that they call themselves the Larp Chamber Orchestra.
Lets look at this by playing their Kickstarer video
So you can see that this Kickstarter is designed to create a book of 12 larps. The number of players for these ranges from 2 to 30. Behind each of these larps is a common design mindset. That changes how the game is described to a group. Instead of one person explaining or running the larp, all players gain the understanding of how to play as a whole. A bit like a group of musicians learning to play a piece of music.
So instead of the idea of an author led larp (a bit like a novel), or director led larp (a bit like a film) to something that is more like a jam session. At least that’s the vibe I’m picking up on. I think the idea is that a group of people can just start to play the larp.
The 12 larps in this Kickstarter are arranged in a play list – starting with 2 players and then working up to 30 players. So if played in order the scale gets bigger and bigger. Just like a musical crescendo.
It’s a fascinating idea.
As I mentioned this is a Kickstarter so you can learn more about about this project by clicking here.
I really hope they reach their targets as its a cool concepts and the larps look good.
Last weekend (if you’re in the future that’s starting on March 24th 2017). I crewing at the Twilight Realms event “Black Heart”. The latest addition to an ongoing campaign in the clubs Tempress setting. This isn’t a review; I was playing a new NPC character so that makes me too close to the running of the event to do a proper impartial analysis. This is more of an overview.
As with all Tempress games this was a high fantasy event. As an ongoing part of the latest campaign it was very high stakes. The players are a party that have become embroiled in changes to the world following the rise of a resistance against a powerful and expanding empire (in game – the Helevetian Empire. Best thought of being very much this games version of the Roman Empire.)
The story was simple. Investigate what the “Empire” was doing in a seized portion of the country of Brindle. The problem, Brindle is a country once ruled by Vampires. Now at least a part of it is under the control of the empire who are undertaking some very unethical experiments on magic and immortality.
The game started on Friday night. Arrival on site was well organised in that – this is were you unload and this is your accommodation allocation. You knew where to go and people pitched in, making the unloading of cars a breeze.
From a crew point of view we had individual briefings. Meaning each NPC player only knew the information they were supposed to know. There was also a lot of written material to digest. I like this approach of only knowing what you need to know. It makes playing your specific part easier as you can just focus on what matters to your character.
Set dressing also proceeded quickly. The game was ready to play.
In this event Twilight Realms refs were trying out some new Walkie Talkies. This worked out great and really added to creating good game flow.
The game structure was this. Friday night introduced the story. Saturday was an open sandbox larp. The players could do whatever they wanted. In any way they wanted. Success would give them information and resources. Failure would have anything from no effect on the game world through to dire consequences. However personal failures and problems were also possible.
The actual end was a success in terms of the story. However the majority of the party were left with personal issues that will have to be dealt with.
My NPC was a researcher driven mad by the unexpected consequences of his work. A beautiful role that gave me a chance to play a large range of emotions. Ok – it meant I could ham it up. I was also able to work up some physical play using a walking stick. Perfect. Later in the game there was also a chance for a bit of monstering. So for me, this was a good event
In terms of game flow the players started as planned and then started to have all kinds of ideas. Some of them uncannily accurate. Others were wild flights of fancy. The refs and crew adapted by making decisions on encounters, information dispersal and the timings of NPC appearances.
This made the event a highly interactive experience.
At this point I’d like to make a special note of thanks to the monster crew. This team worked non stop to give the players a good experience.
That’s one of the reasons I like the Twilight Realms experience. Everyone, players and crew alike set out to create a great experience.
The ending of this event leaves with a lot of story options. Already there more than a little curiosity as to how the impact of Black Heart plays out.
Event Photo Gallery
All the photos for this event were taken by the Twilight Realms team.
The Bat Creatures
Dark Heart featured some large bat like monsters. During the game they became the players nightmares.
This footage is of the costumes undergoing testing
Please note that as Facebook video
We were invited to visit The Grange Live Gaming in Birmingham. Not an opportunity we were going to miss; so on Sunday Stuart, Luke and Rob set off with Lukes daughter to take a look.
What we found was worth the trip (South Wales to Birmingham UK – not Alabama).
In the centre of Birmingham (and I do mean the centre) we found a larp and gaming centre that was operational across a number of floors and also in construction for 2 more. The first thing we all latched onto was the potential of the place, which is enormous. The gaming areas are on 5 floors of what would have been factory / warehouse space. It lends itself to being dressed as sets and that is exactly what is going on. The floors under construction gave us the size of the place. Those outfitted for gaming – gave us the realisation. Using simple wooden walls the team at the Grange have built configurable game spaces. Simply put the walls can be moved or even decorated to specification. You want simple walls and a maze to run around in – no problem. You want to design something more specific, that is possible. It becomes a question of planning and resourcing.
Right now plans for some specific designs are afoot. Such as a run down indoor fun fair. In place already are hospital beds and some old bits of medical machinery that may have once been surgical drain units. Creepy and very Silent Hill.
One feature that caught my attention were the security cameras. Yes these are for safety monitoring, but they can be brought in game. Which means if your game requires players to monitor a security feed – they really can do it. If you want your ref team to monitor the game – that can happen to. There is also the possibility of taking security footage after the event for promotional and documentary purposes. For me – it’s the in game stuff that excites. Whether its for the refs or players (or both); I love the idea of video monitoring. For the players it’s more immersion and for the refs its monitoring and being able to react to events without standing over the players shoulders. That too makes it a more real experience for the players.
There was something else that the ref in me liked too. The ability to build walls means that rooms and corridors can be hidden. Not in a maze like fashion. More in a this part of the facility is for crew only fashion. Remove the openness of the great outdoors, build the walls yourself and now the ability to have crew move from hidden crew rooms and through secret passageways. This caught the attention of the horror larp writer in me.
In fact this whole place is great for modern day, SF and horror larp.
It’s also nerdy inclusive. Which means a range of pursuits such as larp, airsoft, archery, hema, tabletop games and so on are all supported here. Its possibly Birmingham nerd central.
Any downsides? Just the one and I do not think it is a deal breaker. The site is not polished in a mainstream kind of way. Its bohemian and industrial in a larper kind of way.
If you haven’t guessed it – I love the place. Dale and Stephen whom we met were incredibly friendly and helpful. The venue is just one big pile of larping potential.
The good thing is that you do not have to take my word for it. While we were there we took quite a few photographs and a couple of videos. These are up next.
The Photo Gallery
Hopefully we’ve captured the feel of the place.
Interview With Dale
This first video is an interview with Dale. If you’re running a larp it is likely that you will be liaising with Dale over how you use The Grange Live Gaming.
Luke in the Rage Room
During the last few episodes of the LARPBook show Luke experienced some issues with his computer. This had hilarious results (here are the shows on youtube. Look at episodes 51.
The good news for Luke is that The Grange Live Gaming has a rage room. He used it to take vengeance on an unsuspecting computer.
Want to get in touch with The Grange Live Gaming?
We all hope this site goes from strength to strength. We’ll be back there to report on or play in a game. I see trips to Birmingham in our future.
On March 4th the UK LARP Awards were held. These are very much becoming very much an established part of the UK Larp scene and it looks as if they have already been booked for next year.
So here are the results
Player Run/Sanctioned Event
- Do Not Go Gently – Slayers Lrp (Winner)
Club System of the Year
- UNION at Nottingham Uni (Winner)
Player of the Year
Bard of the Year
Small Larp of the Year
Medium Larp of the Year
Large Larp of the Year
- Curious Pastimes (Winner)
Family event of the Year
Grassroots system of the Year
New Larp of the Year
Larp Producer – Foam/Latex
Larp Producer – Leather
Larp Producer – Costume
Larp Caterer of the Year
- Warden’s Catering (Eid II) (Winner)
Creature Costume of the Year
- Verdigris Mind-Forged Manacles – Clockwork Firebird Designs (Winner)
On-line Retailer of the Year
In-field Retailer of the Year
NPC of the Year
- Tin King – Strategy (Winner)
Event Crew Member of the Year
- Knightmare Live – Touring Production (Winner)
Unsung Hero – Andrew Jackson
Lifetime Achievement – Ian Andrews
Overall Best Larp of the Year – Curious Pastimes
Poker Player – Mark Annable
Combat Tournament – Neil Prior
LARPBook will like to extend hearty congratulations to all winners
Between April 10th and 11th 2017 Østerskov Efterskole (in Denmark), – the worlds first school where lessons are taught through the medium of roleplay will be holding an Edu-Larp conference.
What can you expect?
First of all the conference is being aimed at an international audience. This being the first year, the aim is to work on building an international community interested in using larp and situational gaming as part of education. That is cool. This is going to be an event that is focused on information sharing. Where attendees can learn from each others experience or just work together on ideas that will improve educational uses of larping.
The strategy to make this happen is use a combination of Keynote addresses, Lightening (Short) Talks and Workshops to promote the exchange of ideas.
Keynotes are aimed at being 30-45 minutes long. Sufficient for avgood address, but also a timing that should stop meandering speeches. The lightening talks have a length of 5 -7 minutes. Great for highlighting a specific point. Workshops will last 1 – 2 hours. Great for achieving an aim.
Its clear from these timings that this is meant to be an exciting and stimulating event.
The cost of this conference is 500Dkk (with a student discount of 250 dkk). At current exchange rates that puts a full ticket at approximately €67 or £58. That’s a very fair price. Not too unlike the cost of going to a larping event.
To learn more the website for the conference is at: http://osterskov.dk/arrangementer/international-edu-larp-conference/
You’ll find everything you need to know there.
I think its great that we have an expanding range of larp conferences. One that promotes an international community of larp using educators has I think a special potential for our schools.