Vampires in the Woods

Another Cottington Woods weekend has come and gone. Unfortunately, I had to miss over half of the event, but I did have a great time over Saturday night and early Sunday afternoon.

Found the self-portrait function on my phone. Don’t know how that sun effect happened but I kinda like it.

I didn’t arrive on site until fairly late at night, I think after 9:30pm. It was a lovely Harvest Moon (fun fact- the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the Autumn Equinox.) I rushed through costuming and ran out to find people. The campsite was eerily quiet. I didn’t see a soul until I got to the Cotting House. But once there, many PCs came over to say hello and update me on what had been going on in my absence. Having a lot of people want to discuss various things specifically with my character was a really nice feeling. I felt as though I was right in the thick of things, rather than being on the outside, trying to break in, which is a feeling I think most LARPers have felt one time or another, even in the best of LARPs.

The biggest thing going seemed to be the freeing of various members of the court of Princess Auorora, a princess who had been cursed by a fairy to remain a sleep for countless years.  I hear this involved some fighting on the sand by the lake, which I’m sad I missed. I heard that the town was planning to distract the fairies’ minions (living trees and such) while a few members went to try and wake up the princess herself. I wasn’t terribly clear on the situation, but hey, a field fight is a field fight.

We were in battle with the trees (and I think some wood nymphs?) a different fairy, one who had been on our side in the past, showed up and got very angry with us. She said the princess was actually an evil vampire whom she’d trapped, and now we’d woken a great evil and her supporters. We went back to the tavern to clear things up, and while there, we were surrounded by vampires. Freeing ourselves was a rough battle.

Before going to bed, an NPC smith showed up to ask for help retrieving his hammer, which had been put into a tunnel filled with traps by an enemy. Though it doesn’t seem to suit a porcelain doll, my character is actually a weapon smith (I’m hoping to forge my own holy sword) so I went with them, though I know nothing about disarming traps.

On Sunday, we recaptured one of the vampire princess’s servants, though while I was off with some friends discussing the upcoming marriage of the High King to a likely evil skinchanger, the rest of the PCs decided to set the servant we’d captured free. I’m honestly unclear on why, but I have this vague feeling it has something to do with PCs not feeling as though they had the power to either imprison him or transport him to a prison and people were reluctant to execute him.

A few thoughts on the event:

This was the first LARP event in which I slept in a tent (a large SCA-style tent) set up by a fellow PC instead of sleeping in the camper cabins with the bunk beds. I wasn’t there to help him set it up, of course, but I did help him take it down, which took so long that we were the last people on the campsite by several hours. We ended up watching the sunset over the lake when we were done with the tent.

And that was only taking it down. These giant tents can be high maintenance in terms of storage, and bringing them to a LARP involves a lot of extra time to pack them, set them up, and after taking them down, moving them back into storage is its own hassle. Which is that much bigger when they get wet, because they need to be fully dried before being stored.

So admittedly, even though I spent hours taking it down and packing it into the car, I didn’t actually contribute all that much in the grand scheme of things. But I am absurdly grateful that said PC was willing to bring the tent, because it was a really fantastic experience.

Said PC put in a lot of effort into the interior, The floor was covered in lots of carpets (which took a while to roll up and also need to be put out to dry when they get wet), which made it very cozy. There were two camp beds draped with blankets and pillows, which made for a welcoming place to sit and sleep (and a good place to hide modern things that clashed with the atmosphere.) He brought a clothing rack and several garb outfits that he knew he wasn’t going to wear just to make the place look more lived in, along with shelves to put various wooden boxes and candles with electric flames but still made with real wax to look realistic. In the middle of the room he draped a cooler with a blanket and covered with a Moroccan round tabletop (it comes with legs that he didn’t use), where he put out a tea set (there was an electric kettle for hot water hidden somewhere in the tent) and a platter of fruit and chocolate for guests. I’m told various other PCs came to relax and snack and chat. It was lovely and atmospheric, especially at night with the rain pounding on the canvas roof. (And while I do love sharing a cabin with some of my fellow PCs, I must admit the tent was roomier and quieter.)

I tried to take pictures to capture the atmosphere of the tent, but they all look just awful and don’t express how nice it was at all. Here is the best one, it believe me when I say it does not capture the interior of the tent.

Though I understand if the packing, set up, take down, and storage process is too much, I really hope this tent makes an appearance at future events.

I finally got a nice big make-up bag with multiple compartments to store everything I need to paint my character’s porcelain doll face. I have enough stuff in there that it does not roll up and snap together properly, but it’s still a massive improvement over letting it all rattle around in a plastic grocery bag. I rushed through my make-up on Saturday night, so it was a bit sloppy. I tried to make up for it by spending extra time on Sunday morning and including the little extra things like false eyelashes, but I still managed to screw up. I try to make the character look a bit creepy, but I think on Sunday I just looked… off. I will keep trying, but I’m starting to think I should give up on false lashes. I’ve tried a few different shapes and it never looks right and adds a lot of time to the process. I think if I haven’t gotten the hang of them by now, I probably never will.

I think this picture is a bit too washed out to see how the make-up came out, but here I am on Sunday.

This reminds me — you can see a notice stuck to the outside of the tent behind me. It’s a legal notice that actually serves as the physical component of the ward that protects the tent from intruders at night (I think lots of LARPs have this trope for players who don’t want to risk being attacked in their sleep). It’s a hearth witch spell, but our hearth witch prefers to think of himself as a lawyer, hence taking the form of a legal notice warning that intrusion is unlawful, instead of the usual glowing runes or some such that these magic wards generally take. Coming under the protection of this witch’s hearth, by the way, involved signing a legal contract.

As for our hearth trait name? We’re the Signatories of the Third Part. Bit of a mouthful!

It looks like our next event will see the wedding of the High King in our neck of Cottington Woods. (Or attempted wedding, as I think the odds of the PCs breaking it up is pretty high.) Another excuse to wear my festive costume. Excellent.

I did not realize this at the event itself, but the staff member who usually provides a Keurig machine and various hot drinks and cups and sweeteners and such was unable to be there last minute, but the community rallied and we ended up with quite an array of options of hot and iced coffee, teas, ciders, sweeteners and creamers and such… having access to hot drinks (and caffeine if you need it!) during rainy LARP weekends is such a wonderful thing. I’m so grateful.

Since I missed the beginning of the event, I tried the idea my friend had when he missed the Summer Fair and wrote a letter from my character. By mischance, it never actually made it to the LARP before I arrived, but I still found it a valuable exercise. For one thing, while I still don’t recommend inventing a handwriting, it was a good opportunity to practice writing in the style I invented for my character. Making up a reason why my character would be late (she was accompanying another priest on a delivery of Church books and documents) and little stories about what she was up to was fun, but the best part was how it forced me to think how my character’s voice would sound in writing. It was a challenge to represent her passivity — I tried to express by having her describe her trip as his trip, not our trip and said things like “he decided it was time to him to move on” instead of “he decided it was time for us to move on.” I also tried to put her naive spin on things while making it clear what the people she was describing were actually thinking and doing.

Also, I sprinkled the letter with a bit of my character’s signature scent.

I think I will definitely try this letter writing in my character’s voice thing again.

About Fair Escape

I've been LARPing for years in all different styles, including both boffer and theater. I love classic LARP but I'm always happy to try something new. I have a sort of "gotta catch 'em all" attitude towards experiencing LARPs. I'm currently serve as a board member of NEIL, a member of proposal com for Intercon, the largest all LARP convention in the US, and as en editor for Game Wrap, a publication about the art and craft of LARP. I was also con chair of Festival of the LARPs 2017, and I'm on staff for NELCO, the first all LARP conference in the US. I'm
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8 Responses to Vampires in the Woods

  1. Rick says:

    I have found that creating a font of my own handwriting overcomes all the obstacles of inventing a font or using a pre-existing font. If you write something during an event it looks just exactly like the handwriting on letters generated from your computer. You can even use it for character generated music if you use transcription software. You can see an example here if you wish:( The lyrics, title, composer, part headings, etc are all my handwriting.

    Granted, all of my characters all have the same handwriting, but it’s awfully convenient to just have the ease of being to write something live and have it look just like electronically generated versions. I have even entrusted a staff member with the font so she can write letters to PCs from one of my big NPC characters for consistency.

    There are a number of sites out there that will generate it for you. Google “your handwriting font” and you’ll get a bunch of them. It involves downloading a template, filling in all the letters, number, symbols, etc by hand in your own handwriting, scanning it and uploading that scan. They send you back a font file and voila.

    I”m not sure how I missed you but from our previous interactions, seeing you in full light, I’d say you do a really good job on the makeup. I wouldn’t lose any sleep over the lashes. The rest of the makeup job really brings the character to life.

    • Fair Escape says:

      I’ve heard of people designing fonts based on handwriting, but I thought it was a very time consuming process for a professional graphic artist. I had no idea there was a basic, streamlined version that anyone could download and use. That is SO COOL. I did type the letter first so that I would be less likely to make mistakes while writing it out, and I briefly considered downloading some font (various fonts with the words “Celtic” or “Kells” or “Illuminated” in the names are often similar to the handwriting I created for my character) but this seems even better!!

      I think the reason the lashes bug me is because pretty much every tutorial I’ve seen online for doll make-up involves fake lashes and it always looks really good and adds a lot to that artificiality. But thank you, it’s really nice to hear that people find the make-up effective.

  2. cristovau says:

    Sebastian’s tent was delightful, as was the process of signing his contract. Sometime Saturday, a number of PCs went there and we made our own fun. His unique take on the Hearth Witch is beginning to gel and make things happen. It is good to see.

    Sorry you missed half, but glad to hear you were welcomed properly.

    • Fair Escape says:

      I worried for a bit that it was too unintentionally comical, and having to repeat wordy legalese when casting hearth magic on dying companions would be a bit incongruent, but I actually rather like it. It’s a unique way to express his character’s internal conflicts.

  3. JakeG says:

    That tent looks amazing! And thanks for reminding me about using scent for a character. I’m now considering finding an earthy, distinct smell to use for my Undead PC (but hopefully not something actually repellant or disgusting).

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