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.