The Diary of a First Time LARPer IIPosted: 6 November 2011
I’m back from another LARP adventure – bruised, mud-splattered, thorn-stung and still wiping various colours of face paint from my eyes; but guess what? I’m loving it.
This LARP business is fast becoming an obsession for me. When I first dipped my proverbial toe into the world of Durholme and its surrounding environs it was an incredibly strange experience. Though it was definitely entertaining I still felt overwhelmed by and separate from the action, like a cinema-goer who’s wandered through the invisible barrier of the screen. At first all I could do was gawp. Now I’m finding my feet and getting into it a little bit more, I can honestly say there’s nothing quite like LARP for filling your Saturdays.
Two weeks ago Sable returned to Durholme and went on an expedition into the surrounding area of Rovac, in which she met the True Elves of the Hidden Valley, helped to free them from the tyranny of invading dwarves and tried her best not to get killed. Climbing up and down the wooded hills surrounding Durham, I must admit I was impressed by the system; a huge crowd of extras playing NPCs or ‘non-player characters’, who did their bit and then quickly ran on ahead to the next designated encounter spot, then changed character completely. The thought and depth which is ploughed into the game behind the scenes is staggering. Thus I was overjoyed when I arrived this morning to be told that I was to be part of the ‘monster’ crew and playing an NPC.
Today’s adventure was in the land of Andalucia; home and stronghold of the elemental elves. The goal of the character party was to break into the city and plant a bomb in the enclave at the centre, their overall aim to free the slaves and deliver peace and freedom (by killing all the elves in the city!). The elemental elves in Andalucia live by a strict caste system; the ruling Quenya (or white elves) at the top and the outcast Drow (or black elves) at the bottom, to be avoided at all costs. In the middle, you have the Aerokin (blue elves), judges and scholars, then the Pyrokin (red elves), guards and warriors, the Nixies (green elves), traders and merchants and finally the Tomten (brown elves), the farmers and workmen. Each elf is recognised by the scarf tied around their head, or more predominantly by the colour of their face.
Break out the face paint! My first character was a teenage Aerokin (complete with blue face), picnicking in the ‘Garden of Idyllic Beauty’ with her mother, brother and nanny (a human slave). Understandably, it was not long before it occurred to us that the chances of our characters actually surviving a meeting with the invading hordes were pretty slim. Nevertheless we had such a great time playing tag, throwing grass at each other and arguing about grades at school and temple purification rites that it was a shame when they finally turned up. So what did we do? We legged it up the path to ‘daddy’ (Glorfindel, no less). While ‘daddy’ fended against the attackers (then disappeared?), we ran for our lives. I screamed my head off, ran off into the long grass then resorted to crying when we were cornered seconds later. Across the field, my ‘brother’ was struck down and my ‘mother’ had her legs chopped off.
We were herded together. While I continued to snivel (so much better at that than talking), the attackers demanded of us knowledge of the whereabouts of the keys of the city. We didn’t know, so mother dear was healed and sent off to find daddy, who had escaped. Forced to follow, I continued to sniff, then made another player laugh OOC by pointing at him and calling him scary (in Aerokin, of course \o/). Language barriers aside, the party decided to let the kids go and we ran before they could change their minds. Change their minds they did, apparently, for as we ran, fighting broke out behind us. In a fit of fear, the ‘nanny’ pushed me off the path into the trees, into which I became hopelessly entangled and had to be pulled out again.
In crossing the barrier into the next encounter, we said goodbye to our Aerokin characters and ran on to the refs who handed us our next. I should perhaps explain at this point; in adventures, the refs (who organise everything) are always a couple of steps ahead of the character party and giving new characters to the people who are ‘monstering’.
This was how I ended up standing alone on a deserted stretch of woodland path with my face painted brown. Awkwardly greeting the random passersby. Who said, and I quote, “you’re going to give someone a heart attack” (surely I’m not that scary?) and “well, it keeps you out of mischief” (how old does he think I am?).
I was meant to be waiting for the character party to turn up and give me a bomb, with which I would blow up the enclave at the centre of the city. It wasn’t until I had trudged up the hill carrying said bomb and spotted the character sporting a V-for-Vendetta mask that I realised we were in fact playing at being Guy Fawkes (5th of November had obviously escaped me) and I might have possibly been it. Nevertheless, said bomb went off, shortly followed by a gang of humans (with squiggly slave marks on their faces) hurtling back down the path, with much screaming and waving of swords. One of which was hurtling slightly less quickly down the path as she so desperately did not want to fall flat on her face.
Rather than defending against this such-appearing threat (as hoped for) or at least responding animatedly to this new encounter (as expected), the character party parted calmly like the Red Sea on a calm day and let us carry on hurtling past. And at this point, it all went slightly pear-shaped.
I’ve never been fond of mud. I’m not a fan of steep hillsides either. When the two are combined, this spells disaster… or rather not, since I’m a wuss and would rather shuffle down the hill verrry slowwwly rather than roly poly down it at a considerably faster pace. Two hours later and with the kind assistance of my fellow ‘slaves’, we reached the bottom and witnessed the character party making their way over a large stone block under which a stone pipe was belching water from the treatment plant further upstream. Unfortunately for all of us, this block was covered in mud. Unfortunately for me, it was also covered in thorns; a fact that I didn’t notice until I put my bare hand on them. By the time I’d managed to jump across the rather deep gap courtesy of a rather strong tree branch and more helping hands, my wrist was a medley of white swelling. Ouch.
Nevertheless, we carried on up the hill and after what seemed quite a long way we caught up with the refs. This time I was remaining a slave, and had been recruited by two elves to guard the passage up into the centre of the city. Against an invading horde, some of which had quadruple hits – more than enough to fell you with one blow. While debating whether to run or stand my ground, I got hit and duly fell to the ground, dead as a dead slave. And then, muggins put her swollen hand on yet another patch of thorns.
Coming up behind the character party, the end was in sight (as was a bonfire started by some kids). Though not before the final act; the refs had another surprise for me. As more or less every elemental elf in the city had fled or popped their clogs, there only remained one of the ruling Quenya alive – the ruler of the city and keeper of the keys which inferred the authority to govern. A decrepit old man… and when one of the refs came to offer me this part, I began to wonder if they’d watched my less than graceful procession down the hill earlier. But I was glad for this part. Glad! You see, I could hide the fact that I was tired and inept at fleeing across uneven ground with potholes and old train tracks and whatever else had been placed strategically there to make me fall into another patch of thorns. (Old man, right?)
So, kitted up with white face paint, a white bandana and someone else’s shirt, I and my bodyguard attempted to flee up the hill from a disturbingly large group of roaring characters. Almost felled in one swoop, I collapsed for the final time and was ‘revived’ just in time for one of the surrounding group to kneel down beside me and smirk, “Do you know who I am?” Looking up into the face of a laughing dark elf, the traitor and sworn enemy of white elves like my old man, he was thinking ‘oh bugger’ and I was thinking ‘oh bugger, what do I do now?’ That decision was thankfully taken from me as out of nowhere someone jumped over me and killed the dark elf. Hoorah! Unfortunately that someone also wanted the keys that I was currently lying on. However several minutes of coaxing later I finally gave up the keys and the adventure was, six hours later, finally over.
P. S. Sadly I did not have time to go to the debriefing afterwards as my lift home had turned up. I would be really grateful to anyone who could fill me in!