Into the Shadows

This past weekend was the first full weekend event of Shadows of Amun, a LARP of horror and adventure, set in World War I era Egypt. There have been a few introductory events, including one at last year’s Intercon, and a short, four hour or so event a few weeks ago.

Set dressing for Shadows of Amun — WWI era posters in the local bar, Rick’s Place.

More WWI era set dressing for Shadows of Amun

Actually, I attended the short event four hour event, but it was kept fairly low key (and I was hoping to get my hands on some photos to share.) Basically, the staff wanted all of the Dom PCs (that is, members of the Dom ethnic group) to really feel like they were part of a large family who all knew each other. The staff set up some tents in a small grassy field and gathered a whole bunch of NPCs, (including yours truly) each with their own little stories and problems to draw the PCs into. Some NPCs played live music, some danced. We brought out a backgammon set and played a few rounds. There were some drinks and Middle Eastern snacks. We all took part in a trial, which resulted in the exile of an elder, and my Juliet-like NPC convinced her grandfather and her Romeo’s grandmother to allow them to get betrothed.

Though it was fairly simple and relaxed, I think it was a remarkably successful event which allowed the PCs to get to know one another and make the Dom NPCs of the LARP really seem like people they personally know. I find that NPCs are often outnumbered by PCs and seem to only exist in relation to the PCs, but having us NPCs largely outnumber the PCs and have our own activities and conversations going on for the PCs to wander in and out of really made it seem like we actually made up a small but thriving community that made up a larger part of the Shadows setting.

Like the last Cottington Woods events, I couldn’t make it to the first weekend event until late Saturday evening. I had a small misadventure when I got to the campsite — it was a site I had never been to before, and the parking lot was a solid 10+ minute walk along entirely unlit trails through the woods from the LARP itself. I found a flashlight and tried to brave it, then had to be rescued by a fellow NPC.

I was only part of one module on Saturday night. I had brought my WWI era British soldier costume, (aka my “Littlest Cadet” costume) originally put together for A Serpent’s Spiral, just on the off-chance they’d have an NPC role for me that could wear it. They sent me out to patrol a warehouse full of artifacts. While I was circling the building, a group of PCs sneaked inside and accidentally freed a giant scarab monster, which chased them out. I confronted them at the door, where they promptly knocked me out. (Word is the bug may have eaten me.)

Speaking of the scarab-monster, it was designed to glow eerily in the dark. Apparently, vaseline can be smeared on costuming to make it glow in blacklight. Who knew.

On Sunday, I arrived in time to get ready for the major field fights, which sort of ran like a large repeater mod. I spent most of it defending a series of weapons that the PCs were trying to blow up. This battle lasted nearly until game closed in the afternoon.

It was a wonderful weekend, with only a few minor lowlights. There was confusion about rules during the battle, and I think that may have contributed to some tension. I saw a few NPCs and PCs snapping at one another out of character, which was a bit of a shame.

Additionally, I admit I don’t love the campground. It’s quite large, which is nice, and I actually don’t mind that the trails are open to the public during events. Some people find the nonLARPers distracting, but I really enjoy it when people who don’t know what’s going on seem interested and think that it looks like fun. We had a small child who was pretending to duck and cover while PCs were getting ready to blow up the weapons, shouting “fire in the hole!” But the buildings, though I hear they’re being updated, are not in great shape (the bathrooms were scary), and the building being used for Monster Camp is much too small, with very narrow hallways and doors. It’s not comfortable.

A sign warning hikers about the LARP. Spot the WWI British lieutenant in the background.

Despite these minor issues, I think the LARP is off to a really fantastic start. The staff seems capable of running things very smoothly.  Modules ran pretty much all on schedule, which is a pretty rare thing. I’m really loving the historical setting and plots so far. Players and NPCs alike seem really happy.

But the absolute best part of this boffer campaign, to me, is the remarkable percentage of theater LARPers (many who of whom have never played a boffer LARP before) who are involved, either as players or as NPCs. I’m so very excited about this. It’s heartening to see people trying and enjoying a style they’re not used to. I don’t think the boffer and theater communities have ever overlapped this much before, and I can’t wait to get more roleplay-focused NPC roles so I can meet their characters and interact with them rather than just attacking them. I’m also very curious to see if their theater backgrounds will influence game, if at all.

I’m particularly keen to create an NPC who can wear my WWI soldier costume regularly, though I’m in a bit of quandary about how to do this. The largely historical setting means female soldiers only exist in very special cases, and cross-casting is much less common in boffer LARPing. During the Saturday night module, PCs clearly read me as female, even in the dark, even at a short distance, even in loose men’s clothing, even with my hair hidden, even after being told I was a British soldier. (It must be my voice and height.) The way I see it, I can either create some kind of excuse for being a female soldier (which screws a little with the gender roles of the setting, which I do not want to do), cross-cast as a male, or play a female in disguise as a male (which, admittedly, is something I love to do in LARPs, but that screws with both gender roles and requires some suspension of disbelief.) Or maybe I will just stick to non-soldier NPCs. I guess I will see.

I’m rather disappointed that the next event of Shadows of Amun (in only two short weeks! The staff must be crazy!) is the same weekend as Time Bubble, the weekend of theater LARPing at RPI in Troy, NY. But you can bet I will be at future Shadows events after that —  hopefully, playing some NPCs that let me make use of my Pharaoh Hatshepsut costume from Osiris’ Gate. Fingers crossed!

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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 Into the Shadows

  1. I ran into the whole cross-cast thing when I was considering making a PC for this game. I wanted to play a woman who had dressed up as a man and become a French cavalry officer, but was told that, unless I could pull off convincing drag, I shouldn’t try it. That was really discouraging to me for the same reasons you list–the time period does kind of limit the amount of shooting things and adventure that female characters are entitled to.

    But as you well know, and we’ve discussed, it was a blast to finally jump into boffer larping, even as an NPC! If anyone who doesn’t already know me is interested in reading my own impressions of SoA game 1, it’s here:
    http://captainecchi.livejournal.com/691757.html

    • Fair Escape says:

      I only briefly discussed it with some of the staff members. It’s possible they wanted to discourage me but didn’t want to actually have to put their foot down. But I don’t want to see what’s the most I can get away with, I want to work with the LARP as best I can. I think setting what’s normal is an important part of the staff and NPCs job, and it’s very hard to do. If Shadows wants to feel historical and say that females passing as male soldiers are extremely rare, then they ought to actually be extremely rare, especially among the NPCs.

      That said, it’s very hard to resist the allure of my soldier costume, and I don’t want to use it only for non-speaking crunchies or very minor, one-off background NPCs like the guard for the scarab module. (Who still read me as female and therefore may have subtly caused the PCs to think that there are random female soldiers about?)

      I guess in a small sense it’s a good thing I don’t have to create this character by the next Shadows event in two weeks, because that would just be asking a lot of a staff that I’m sure is already overworked and rushed for time. Hopefully, I’ll get to talk to them around Camelot some time before the next spring event.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    Usually, boffer LARPs handwave gender roles. The settings can have absolute monarchy, a legal ban on homosexuality, racism between fantasy races, and racism between different human nations (other races don’t seem to have as much diversity of polities), but the ones I know about completely handwave gender roles. Maybe they practice gender equality (that’s Quest), maybe they have a mixture of patriarchal and matriarchal societies (that’s Legacies), but they make an effort to make is possible for a woman to show up with a boffer sword, hit things, and not get treated as a weirdo.

    • Fair Escape says:

      True. But Shadows of Amun is explicitly set in a real location, during a real historical era, and I actually really like that about it. I suspect some amount of handwaving will be inevitable, but I don’t want to add to it in places where it’s not explicitly necessary.

  3. JJ says:

    We used that site for Madrigal for years. Am getting all nostalgic now. And yes, the facilities suck (and I hear they’ve gotten worse since we stopped using the site). And the bathrooms were *terrifying*. I distinctly remember deciding that it wasn’t that bad and I could wait until I got back to monster camp after viewing some of the PC cabins. We used to have a crew of PCs come by the night before to clean/bugbomb it as necessary.

    • Fair Escape says:

      The PCs claimed that the bathrooms in Rick’s Place (the mess hall) and one other building weren’t nearly so scary as the one in Monster Camp. Maybe those have been renovated?

      • JJ says:

        Not sure. There was a bath-house that was terrifying. There was a PC building with a bathroom that wasn’t bad, and the ones in the building we used as monster camp weren’t pretty, but weren’t awful. But the bath-house was horrible. One of the toilets caught on fire as we were arriving to site once. The caretaker was handling it like a pro and calmly asked some of the early-arrival people to call the fire department ‘just in case’ as he headed back in there with a fire extinguisher to handle it. It wasn’t tremendously disruptive, since it happened several hours before game was supposed to start, but still… toilets shouldn’t be able to catch fire…

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