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 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
I first encountered Tested.com through a YouTube suggestion. In fact for a very long time I only watched the videos. I’d just pick one that sounded interesting and let it play. Over time I’ve realised that is more to offer than as a generic geek culture / maker culture place. It does in fact have really good information on it for larpers.
Take a look at this one on painting a zombie mask. The dialogue that considers thoughts on character, and colour really work for me and help understand perhaps the thought process that could lead to better prop preparation.
In fact prop construction and design is a big part of Tested. Adam Savage is well known as a movie and costume geek and this blasts in through in projects that cover the recreation of classic movie props. Like this fave from Barbarella (ok showing age) .
I completely understand the need for larpers to absolutely not copy movies. However since a lot of us are inspired by film why not look into how a prop is made to inspire the making of something bespoke for a game?
So far I’m coming down on the side that Tested is indeed a valuable resource.
Of course it’s not all prop making you’ll find gadget reviews; ranging from drone (possibly useful) to coffee makers (not so much). So it is not all gold; and there are some geeky discussions that may be fun to watch but in general they do not really directly help us out.
Then we find things like. Creature Geek. Essentially a podcast where special effects artists talking about their trade – which puts is firmly back on the track for larp friendly content.
This bounce back between relevant and not so much simply highlights that Tested is not made with Larp in mind. Its a site for people who want to make and explore things. It’s for people who want to think about the world and film culture. For me I believe this will entertain a lot of larpers. It also suggests to me that this may inspire good ideas in people and also show off techniques that you may want to use. It’s unlikely to make you a better story teller; but it may help figure out how to get that cool thing you want for the next event working.
So yes – Tested is good for larpers.
The image used in this article is from YouTube. We hope Adam doesn’t mind.
Last weekend starting on March the 11th I was lucky enough to be crewing at a Forest Argent game again. This time the first weekend event of 2016. This time round though things were going to be a little different. You see its been decided that the LARPBook Shows presenters will go around and crew at games. The idea isn’t just to look for review material – it puts three pairs of eyes out there looking out for good ideas. It also means the three of us see different aspects of the event – hopefully that leads to better discussions on the podcast and better information from both this site and the podcast. I don’t see this was being one sided as we do role play quite well together and on this event that did lead to what we’ve been told were some very memorable moments.
This time round the story featured what happens when a monastery in the world of Sann refuses to ally itself to the prevailing shogun. Travellers who wander between the worlds of the “Forest Argent” are on hand. What will prevail? Shenanigans most likely.
So the setting is called Sann and is inspired by feudal Japan. Only in this version there are distinct race groups making up the society. The easiest way to describe this would be a caste system. Each race has a its own niche that it occupies. In fact, that was one of the pleasures of crewing this game. The crew were briefed on the the racial archetypes and we then had the fun of watching the players react first to a very alien society and then to realisation that not all the people were the same. Come to think of it that’s not just fun – its adding some subtext into the event (cue smiley face).
The game started in Friday night and immediately the crew got to feel what this game would be like – alternating between playing pure bred combatants and strong characters. The opening was a combat in the dark set piece. The players looked resplendent with many of them glowing in the dark with their steampunk inspired “Galvanic”, weapons and accessories.
Once that was over it was time to visit the tea rooms of the monastery and that cued in the first arrival of the Monks. For me that was special time as I was teamed up with Luke to play a pair of hopelessly drunk Monks who were always only a hairs-breadth away from being dismissed from the pure like due to their obsession with brewing and drinking. I cannot really express how much fun we had with those characters. In case you’re wondering we also remembered to play this pair of rogues somewhat muted the next day as they coped with awesome levels of hangover.
After this opening the game settled into a goodly pace as the players started to understand that both the monestery and Sann had an undead problem (caused it turned out by events at a earlier part of their story). They did the right thing – and worked to correct it. At the same time they were tested by surrounding clans – could they be useful as allies when the Shogun came to the burn the monks out of their home. Whilst trying to figure out Sann honour bound politics and what would happen if the Shogun increased his power base (the down side would likely be an invasion of their own homelands).
This gave The Sword Falls a really different feel to my last incursion into Forest Argent. That game had elements of a fairy story mixed with Lovecraftian horror. This was all honour, politics and combat.
Then again it is good that the same system running a series of linked stories can explore different genres. It helps to keep it feeling fresh; whilst keeping players and crew alike on their toes.
Mean while back at this event there other notable moments. Such as the encounter between the players and the old veterans guarding copious quantities of tea. I must also include a valiant effort to defend against a horde of undead as the worked to solve the zombie problem and the convenient and entirely “coincidental” arrival of a clan who decided they needed to engage the players in games and duals. All excellent moments.
I think you can see that I really had a good time here. I did – I find it very easy to recommend Forest Argent – its about my level of plot, character, mad science and strange magic.
I’d also like to mention that last game everyone was wonderfully friendly. This time round I was starting to really feel like part of the community. This group are fantastic at bringing new people in and making them at home. I know this is a larp trait – but its always awesome when it happens so naturally.
A special mention has to go to the catering team – who kept us all fed and watered – thank you.
Finally I was part of a big crew and everyone worked well together and we were very effectively briefed and managed by game organiser Gideon Lawrence.
If you’d like to learn more about this group here is the website:
And click here for the Facebook Group. You should note that Forest Argent is a part of Wyverns Tales Larp.
A little later than hoped but here is our report on UK LARPCON 2016.
This year set in the Hermitage Leisure Centre – Coalville. The local authority considered it be an overwhelming success – see this article. That though is a numbers based view. What was it like?
Let’s start by saying that it was a lot of fun. I got to talk and spend time with friends old and new. The large number of traders allowed me to buy some things I needed immediately and plan for future events later on this year. Having a large trader hall – effectively a LARP market is without doubt a good thing. Beyond this there is a lot more going on at LARPCon.
First of all there was a programme of talks. The best attended being on diversity in larp (I missed this – partially because I didn’t get to the start and partially I didn’t want to grind my own axe – I’ll speak more on this in LARPBook at future date), and sex crimes in larp. This however clashed with being the captain of a starship. The fact that we could have booking clashes is a great step forward. It means the programme for LARPCon is growing and that is definitely a positive point.
So let’s talk about being a Starship captain. This year Penarth and District Wargames Society build a bridge using the Artemis Starship Simulator. 5 PCs provided key bridge positions with their view of the action and decisions are made by a captain who only has what his crew tell him to go on. It is a lot fun. I was in a 1 hour session and the time just flew by. It was also a pretty immersive experience. This to me is a pointer to future were it becomes easier and easier to build things that help us suspend disbelief.
Going back to the main home hall we also had game organisers alley. A long stretch were event organisers milled and talked about their upcoming events. I loved the buzz that held here all weekend.
Staying on the game front – this year saw test runs of Paranoia – a LARP version of the classic tabletop RPG game. I had a chat with the organisers and at this point they are trying to secure a suitable bunker to run it in. Personally – I really hope this happens as I was and am a massive Paranoia fan
Were there any down points to this event? Yes there were. The wrestling programme – though consistently watched did cause a noise nuisance that drowned out people trying to talk about LARP. The other problem was that wrestling ring itself though a novel setting – didn’t really help the larp awards. The seating stands though did. So this was a mixed blessing – it was easier to watch – but the ring or rather its ropes became a bit of barrier. There was also a bit of a management problem this year where a certain illusionist stayed on stage for too long. Sorry Crap – you make me laugh but an hour was too much when we wanted the award ceremony. The good news is that LARPCon has already run its own event feedback and it looks like changes are coming in for next year.
So 2016 gave us a good and growing convention. A few problems true but these can be overcome. I know that I will be back next year – and I hope to see you there too.
Last weekend I was lucky enough to be part of the latest weekend by Twilight Realms. I’m saying part of as I had a couple of major NPCs to play and was also involved in some of the game preparation and reffing. So this cannot be a review as I am utterly and completely biased. Instead I’ll give you a photo gallery and talk a little bit.
First up on the Friday night was Sound Mind. An excursion into 1920’s horror set at a will reading in a remote house where all those who wanted their haul would have to stay the night. So far that doesn’t sound original, but then that’s not as important as the characters and what happened. The members of the family due to receive their share of the old matriarchs will were to diverse. From bright young things, to near communist miners through to professors with a glint for gold in their eyes and over to gentrified folk. I think that any larp with good characters is going to work – and in this case the theory rang true. That was just the players. The NPCs included a man who thought his family lived in his boots, a crazed young maid and a racially confused butler.
The game was played out with a rule-less system. Something that to my mind always fits horror.
The second event was the third instalment of the new low fantasy campaign world set in a time of a powerful church and a on going crusade by the people of Meritain (not unlike Anglo Saxon England) and the Nordlander (not unlike the Vikings). As is often the case there are some high level NPCs but also as it not unusual – everyone makes a difference. This game was a new departure in that only the start was set. As this was a PVP siege with the question of who would win. I’m not going to spoil future stories by talking about the outcome -but the story that led there was great and all the survivors have something to thing about. I’m getting to like this world and hope there is more in the future.
I think its important to say that these were small games – less than twenty participants but that fitted the site well (we were using Oakraven Field Centre in the Forest of Dean).
So to finish up here are the pictures.
I was lucky enough to attend the Forest Argent event “You Can Run”. I crewed the event and this isn’t so much a what happened, as I’d have to talk about goat love potions. This review is more a feel of things and how well the event played out.
Lets get started with what Forest Argent is. It’s a heroic larp with strong fantasy and steam punk roots that is run by Wyverns Tale Larp. The idea behind Forest Argent is simple yet clever. The Forest Argent is a fey / otherworldly place where people from different places, worlds and times can sometimes access. Fall into or be allowed to access is perhaps the best way of putting it. It connects up worlds. These worlds tend to have either strong roots in a particular time and genre. However it is not modern day. It is Gothic, fantastical, and imaginative. I keep thinking that this is a world that I could see Doctor Who visiting although I stress that is not part of any of the materials.
This particular event “You Can Run” had a Victorian setting. It featured a secret agent who in his youth had had a bad experience. He was being hunted by cultists trying to summon Old Gods. In addition a cult of Hunt was in the area celebrating the The Beast. A god of the hunt who every night chased a ghost on the hill. To make things more complex the players were being target by an otherworldly race who also wanted the secret agent.
Lets just say the players had a quite a bit of plot to sort out, and they did. Although there were a few dead-ends – especially the scary one featuring Goat love potions.
The Forest Argent system itself is typically UK. That is it allows for combat. It allows for audacious fantasy combat whilst having enough depth for character development. In fact there is a part of the game where characters have to make sure they can maintain their social standing. This means that players always have to be thinking about what they do and the character back story in order to do well. A great idea. I shouldn’t really expect less. The man behind Wyverns Tales is a master story teller.
So was it any good. Absolutely. I was never bored. There was plenty to do and both players and crew where great to be around. The story line I mentioned earlier had at its heart a folk tale from the venue used by the game. To me that added a lot of depth especially during the night combat sequences.
I did note during the game that a lot of attention was being paid to keeping people safe. This was done in a way that was transparent to the players yet obvious to the crew. Just the way things should be. One nice touch for example was during night sequences no go areas where marked off with glow sticks.
To give you an idea of how things looked. Here is a gallery:
We haven’t had a post from Ivan Zalac from a little while – but this one is gold. I suspect the subject matter will pique some interest. It is a review of a World of Warcraft inspired LARP. Its not the first computer game inspired LARP I’ve heard of (Fallout always seems popular as a LARP), but it does sound fun.
Here is Ivan’s review:
“You guys have Warcraft larp?!?” was my first reaction when I heard it several years ago from Hungarian players. Considering that I spent a significant portion of my childhood playing Warcraft 1, 2 and 3 and a lot of time playing World of Warcraft later on (here’s a shout-out to all my guildies from Final Equilibrium, EU-Aggramar, you guys rock) I knew I also want to visit this larp, eventually.
So after meeting the GM in person on Demgard and a few days of consideration, I decided to attend this year – see what’s it all about, so I signed up for Warcraft Live 2015, the sixth larp in the series. The storyline of the larp was set during The Burning Crusade expansion, and I built myself a blood elf costume – from a red robe and armor that were just laying around my larp collection, and the GM had a Blood Knight tabard to go with it. Perfect. I had some elf ears to go with it (cheap ones, now I regret not making better ones) and I made some fake eyebrows using a braid of my own hair which I had cut off over 9 years ago – yes, I had long hair once and I still keep that braid in my drawer, it gives me strength.
Warcraft Live is played on the same terrain as Demgard – in Tatabánya, Hungary. But it’s a smaller larp, there were about 25-ish of us and therefore the use of terrain was much more concentrated towards the central parts of it.
Rules are minimalistic, the “trust system” as Hungarians call it which is very similar to the German DKWDDK way of playing. The only thing that is covered by mechanics is the use of magic, as there exists a mana system. Characters get their spells from GMs – the list is not public, so there’s a surprize element in game. The way of casting and effects are not too closely defined, which leaves room for playing and interpretation – but you will get a few core abilities of your class. As a paladin, I could heal, rez and decurse (but sadly I had neither Divine Shield nor a hearthstone).
The feeling of being a part of the game world was very well done. Though some make-up was not as good as it could be, costumes were on point. I recognized many story and character elements from Warcraft 2, Warcraft 3 and of course World of Warcraft.
The event had some logistical issues, which caused the larp to start late. Which actually didn’t bother me too much, because I was late myself, arriving during the night on Friday evening and just catching the event start. The story was set on the Horde side, around the border of Ghostlands and Eastern Plaguelands which mostly focused the gameplay on Blood Elves and Undead – both the Forsaken kind, who are part of the Horde together with Blood Elves, and the mindless (or not so mindless) Scourge, chief antagonists of several Warcraft games or expansions. Several independent (or secretly Alliance) characters were running around as well.
This time, the main threat were the Darkfallen characters from the Scourge. They also had a necromancer with them, who was trying to turn himself into a lich and eventually succeeded, as well as few other undead, including ghouls. There was a decent amount of combat in larp, also helped by the “resurrection” mechanic which ensured most characters would end up living – unless of course they joined the Scourge, ended up in several pieces, or picked up too many nasty curses.
My character – Vyaris Dawnfury – was a member of the Firewing castle military personnel, under the command of Master Falanor Firewing, a senior Blood Knight. The camp also had a group of Forsaken, and underneath it was a tavern with some civilians and a post office – all of it together made our town. After plenty of role-play, encountering the Darkfallen and a few clashes with them, on Saturday morning we also found some stragglers (humans, elves etc) and basically recruited them to fight the scourge on our side.
There were five magical clusters that we would try to capture, take and hold. “Reminds me of the battle of Arathi Basin”, I muttered IC. Basically both us and the Scourge managed to capture enough to get our goals – we got free resurrects, they got their necromancer turned into a lich. During one of the early battles, I lost one of my elf ears and went the rest of the larp without them, which was a bit embarrasing. There were other memorable moments in the game, like one of the humans being brought back as a forsaken only for his former comrade to end his undeath. And many many interesting role-play situation between elves (three blood elves and two high elves which we attempted to convert).
The Scourge eventually proved better at holding several strategic spots on the terrain which severely limited our movement on the terrain between key points. And then they gave us their ultimatum: give them Master Falanor (probably to turn him into a Darkfallen), or die. And they tortured an orc shaman / barkeeper to prove their resolve.
Us elves gathered to decide on the next course of action, and Master Falanor decided that our elven lives are worth far more than those of our allies, so we should leave them. And we did – a Forsaken mage came after us, and shouted with a betrayed look on his face: “Master Falanor, where are you going?”, to which he got the answer: “My friend, you are dismissed.” – one of the best lines on a larp that I’ve heard.
However, while this was a very good IC moment, it pretty much doomed our allies and ensured the quick victory of the Scourge. As it was still early and people still wanted to play, we had a discussion on what to do to save the game. After some consideration, we agreed on a new plan – revisit these same five points to drain the last bits of power from them, which could cause the Scourge to disrupt since no more magic would hold them together.
This led to several more hours of sneaking around the forest, battles and interesting rituals, such as a troll witch doctor who summoned a Darkspear loa of the dead who engaged in a shouting match with a Scourge lich… In the end, we almost succeeded – the Scourge managed to lock out the last magical cluster.
We had some final moments of play with the survivors of our group, and then the larp ended. For me, it was on a very high note – I had a lot of fun. But then again, I didn’t experience many of the negative things that happened, such as the long wait before the start of the larp, and I was always very engaged in-character, while not everyone was, so our experiences varied. Even the resting moments were fun, getting a drink in tavern and watching a peon throw Warcraft 2 lines, or randomly fall asleep and talk to the spirit of his father in his sleep.
After the larp ended, we all sat in a circle to debrief, and then it was the off time – to get drinks and have some relaxed fun. Important to mention: for the duration of larp, almost everyone spoke English, except for one guy who didn’t, but overall there was a very high level of English usage despite me being the only person who did not speak Hungarian. The larp – like its’ source material – often did not take itself very seriously, and there were many funny moments, all of which fit the setting while providing some comic relief. Overall, I enjoyed my time on Warcraft Live a lot.
This review was originally published at: http://www.crolarper.com/2015/08/warcraft-live-2015-review.html with additional images.
With thanks of Course ot Ivan Zalac for letting us use his material