This past weekend, I was at Cottington Wood‘s second weekend event. I think it
I spent a fair bit of time prepping for the weekend with various small projects, including a donation (a cow tabard) and fixing my wind-up key. I also got a french manicure, since I liked having the unnaturally perfect nails for my doll character last time. And I went to Salem, MA to get a custom-made scent for my character, which I’m quite happy with and will post about that soon.
First, to get the big downside of the weekend out of the way- the weather. It was absolutely pouring on Friday, and the rain just kept on going all night. Much as I like the way this heavy Hollywood rain creates a dramatic atmosphere, I still wasn’t keen on another experience like Clockwork Skies‘ endless downpour. Especially because, not having learned my lesson the first time, I didn’t prepare as well as I might have for rain. In particular, I forgot extra warm wool socks.
Luckily, it wasn’t as cold as Clockwork Skies, and the rain did stop on Saturday. However, the rain created a lot of mud, which in turn lead to giant pot holes and ruts on the dirt paths. On top of that, there was a new moon this weekend, and the campsite is always quite dark. I stumbled into a lot of deep, water filled pits over the weekend, and I’m going to try not to be embarrassed about it because I’m fairly certain I wasn’t the only one.
This past weekend I…
…fought evil clowns
…was briefly driven mad by the evil Jester
…dueled and lost to the champion of the fairy Queen of Air and Darkness
…played another game of questions with Dominic the cat
…went to a fairy tea party
…sent Death a letter and heard his response through Nevermore the Raven
…helped the fairy Lord Chance close a portal
…had a late night clandestine meeting with a wolf pack’s second-in-command
…followed a will-o-the-wisp into the woods to the fairy market
…utterly missed a corrupted fairy who has been trying to contact me for the second time
…received an invitation to tea from another living doll
…struck a bargain with gnomes who were being pests in a witch’s garden
…helped Little Boy Blue, whose sheep were being killed by a clown
…heard wonderful songs by bards
…solved four scrambled words for… honestly, I’m not sure what, I’m just proud of having solved them when lots of people were stumped
…was teased again about having sorta accidentally married a scarecrow which I totally didn’t, I was just entertaining some sprites
…helped the goon Fu Fu retrieve some cheese for a ghost mouse so the Blue Fairy would turn him back into a bunny.
…reenacted a great battle between Collamoor and Frostwroth
…received a lot of compliments on my costume and character concept, which, not gonna lie, had me glowing.
The weekend opened with an NPC reading a story- it’s something of a framing device that Cottington Woods uses. Alice read us a tale of a brave man who saved a king and married a witch. It quickly followed with a bang when a scary looking clown wandered into our tavern, the Cotting House, and sang an eerie rendition of “Send in the Clowns.” The Jester, the villain who attacked the town at the end of the last event (during which I was off at a wedding in Pennsylvania) returned to express his offense at his defeat last time and demand a sacrifice of seven members of the town, without which he’d slay everyone. There was a short, intense battle inside the Cotting House against a slew of scary clowns. One of the PCs, a scarecrow named Hay, a lovable fool inspired by Arlecchino of Commedia dell’arte, was corrupted by the Jester, who used him the rest of the evening by controlling him and forcing him to relay threats accompanied by horrible screams and laughter.
Over the course of the weekend, the LARP ran several modules in which the PCs tried to retrieve the essence of one of the Joker’s minions, whom he’d corrupted, so that we could save them and weaken him. One of the most interesting ones, to me, involved going into the Slumberlands (or was it the Fairy?) where the Jester’s mistress, the dark fairy Baeldannen, had us fight one-on-one duels with her champion, while forcing the rest of us to practice sparring on one another while awaiting our turn to duel. (This served the purpose of wearing us out.) We needed to defeat the champion seven times, and each person only got one chance. When we failed to win seven times, we went back to town to find more people to duel him, only to find that the clowns had wrecked havoc while we were away, and most of the town was injured, unconscious, or dead. It was a rather shocking and distressing discovery.
The game of questions I played with Dominic the cat was wonderful. The NPC playing Dominic the cat again did an excellent job of portraying a cat’s sly mannerisms and obviously knew how to ask the right questions to make the conversation into a very personal roleplaying experience for us players. I also had a great experience conversing with Death The NPC’s performance as Nevermore the raven, as he was taken over and spoken through by Death.
Speaking of the cemetery, as people died, tombstones kept popping up in the graveyard bearing the names of the newly dead. Very creepy. As a priest, I went by to record their names and pray over them, and I noticed they were each in different handwriting. Out-of-character, I suspected people were instructed to write their own character’s name on the prop tombstones. I interpreted this in-character to mean dead people were possibly carving their own tombstones without remembering it.
Which is delightfully morbid and unsettling, I think.
On top of that, one of the families of PCs in town is fascinated with death, and they built their own cemetery just outside their cabin. I’m sorry I missed it until Sunday morning, so I never saw it in the dark, but I hear the tombstones were lit up with (fake) candles at night and looked quite eerie. The tombstones are actually for the PCs themselves (who have yet to die) and have their birth dates filled in but their death dates left open. Also delightfully morbid, and a very nice bit of initiative on the players’ part to create some cool set dressing.
Another encounter I feel compelled to describe was the Fairy Market, which was just the sort of thing I’d been hoping to encounter in this LARP. While coming back from the meeting with the she-wolf, I spotted an NPC in all black, waving a bright glowing blue ball around. The light did not actually illuminate the NPC himself, so from a few feet away, it really did look like a fae will-o-the-wisp luring travelers into get lost in the woods.
Of course I followed.
The will-o-the-wisp lead me and a few other PCs to a redcap, who gave us some basic rules for the Market (make trouble and he gets to beat you up) and then let us wander about and meet a few fairies. The first fairy I encountered offered a drink and asked for stories. The drink including a slip of paper saying that the mechanical effect of the drink was to make you utterly drunk for fifteen minutes and willing to tell stories so long as the fairy would listen. It was a good excuse to tell some of my character’s backstory. Suprisingly, there weren’t too many actual merchants there, but I did see one fairy selling necklaces, and another offering a random potion in exchange for a story, song, or dare. I think people enjoyed this encounter, and I would be very happy to see the fairy market again.
Disappointingly, a fairy named Fern suffering from corruption of some sort came looking for my character when I happened to be elsewhere. This is the second time this has happened. Hopefully, I will find her next time.
But even with missing that fairy, I still very engaged personally with what was going on. The Jester was able to corrupt golems and constructs, and as my character was a golem, he went looking for her specifically and finally got to her on Sunday. Which meant that the fairy Lord Chance could use her to close the portal through which the Jester’s minions were coming through. And besides the big plots coming through, there were a lot of little ways the plot and NPCs engaged with me. The witch whose garden had gnomes spoke to me about a past encounter in my character’s history. The Men of Science who came to town expressed fascination with me as a wind-up, clockwork construction. Even if it was just staring a little longer at the key in my back, these little moments really make the game for me.
There are also a few clever bits I want to share. The Jester was wandering around the battlefield in the battle recreation module, and came up behind me and used a Repel effect on me, which repelled me away from him and into the enemy lines. (Of course I got knocked right down, which is when he inflicted me with his Mayhem trait). I don’t think I’ve ever seen Repel used that way, and I thought it was a clever little thing. Another aspect of the battle that I liked was that it wasn’t about winning- we were pretty much guaranteed to win, because we were acting out the side of the battle that won. The real issue was that we needed to keep the reenactment going until a group of six PCs accomplished their own goal (not sure what it was, but we’d fail to collect the essence if the battle ended too soon.) I particularly like this twist because it meant the enemy didn’t have to be super tough, and the less combat-oriented characters/players could contribute more because the battle wasn’t only about the best fighters.
Actually, while I don’t know what the six PCs outside the battle were doing, the NPC who came to collect them said the town needed to send the six least honorable characters to make the magic work. A very clever requirement, I thought, because it created a very interesting situation that encouraged roleplay. How do you find the six least honorable characters? Would people be willing to admit they weren’t honorable? It was a very refreshing change from “we need six people with the X header or Y skill,” which is a lot more straightforward.
One last thought from that battle- we lined up on the near side of the field, and watched the enemy army approaching in a line from the far side, and as they did, I started thumping my sword against my shield. Other people to my left and right took up the beat on their own weapons and shields, and soon we all were thumping in time. It was quite cinematic.
One thing I’m quite enjoying about this LARP is creating my in-game journal. Having something artistic to work on during down-time is quite satisfying, and it’s a convenient in-game way to keep track of information. Late Saturday night, I found a pen and recorded as much of the weekend as I could remember.
So that was my last big LARP event for awhile. While it’s nice to take a break after three weekends in a row of both boffer and theater LARP, there’s a small part of me counting down the days until the one day Cottington Woods event this summer.