“As the harvest draws to a close and autumn begins to fade to winter, folks about the Houselands prepare for the upcoming Harvest Day, and the two dark evenings that surround it…”
Thus opened the teaser for this past weekend’s Cottington Woods event, the last of its first season, (in full compliance with the Law of LARP teasers: they must open with a reference to the weather and/or season.) It was a wonderfully dark weekend, with nice Halloween inspired undertones. Happily, I had a number of art projects to complete in the week leading up to it, including…
…my new shield!
…two masks for confusing spirits who might have malicious intent…
…and a banner I made as a wedding gift to the High King of the Houselands.
As for the event itself, I had wild good time at this Halloween-inspired event, despite the bitterly cold weather. There were a lot of dark, spooky plots and NPCs, cool and flavorful development of the in-game culture, a masked party, a murder mystery, pumpkin carving, and fae to bargain with. The Slenderman, of all things, was wandering the site and spooking the hell out of everyone. (Am I not supposed to mention him by name or something? I have only vague, passing familiarity with this internet meme.)
A few moments worth mentioning in particular: there was a plot with the High King betrothed to a woman who was actually an evil skin changer in disguise. The PCs concocted a plan to hold the wedding, but remove the veil from the King’s eyes before he actually wed the skin-changer. I volunteered to officiate at the wedding, and stalled by reading a blessing written by another PC before the skin-changer was revealed. It made for quite a dramatic scene, with the bride suddenly replaced by the evil Queen of the Fairies, who threatened everyone and stormed out.
Another scene worth mentioning — on Sunday afternoon, we fought a giant dragon, made up of… I want to say somewhere between five and seven NPCs, each one controlling a different part of the dragon (the head, a claw, the tail, and the wings) or throwing spell packets everywhere and shouting “five damage by fire!” to represent its fiery breath. Some of the PCs brought back the pole with the giant foam head on it, which allowed me to get a photo of it.
I also had a lot of fun just before going to bed at some crazy hour on Saturday night, when I spotted a fairy standing outside the tavern, waiting to be invited in. I welcomed her inside and negotiated a potential bargain — information for a favor. This is exactly the sort of thing I’d been hoping to have in Cottington Woods — unwise bargains with devious fae, but I think I botched it by putting too many caveats on it. In retrospect, I kind of wish I’d blundered into something more foolish. It’s just more fun and classic fairy tale that way.
There was another NPC worth mentioning, even though he was merely passing the time in the tavern on Sunday morning. He told me he was a hedge mage named Lantern Jack, and he picked up all the little spells most magi don’t bother with. He shared a lot of amusing little stories about his wife who was turned into a chicken and his overweight pet rabbit, and a tale about a boy with a golden screw instead of a belly button. He wasn’t there to hook any plot –he just injected a lot of fairy tale flavor into getting coffee in the morning.
When I wasn’t giggling over amusing stories, though, there was a lot of rather dark, angsty roleplaying going on. For example, the Sandmen (characters who work with dream magic) had to deal with a woman who had accidentally killed her own infant in attempt to save him from wolves, and her grief was turning her into a Nightmare. This sort of story really uses one of the worst sort of griefs imaginable, I think, and it just happened to partially reflect part of a PC’s back story. As another PC put it, “I felt like I’d fallen into the deep end of the roleplaying pool, and was trying to swim back to the shallow end.” There was a lot of other similarly heavy drama going on with other Sandmen, who were being hounded by the Lady of Nightmares to relive their worst moments and fears.
Interestingly, this was one of those events which revealed new insights for me into my character, Quill. I love it when that sort of thing happens, when it becomes clear that a character is more than just what you consciously put into it. That’s when they really feel like people in their own right. Figuring out what causes them to slip up in their goals can say a lot about LARP characters. I wound up breaking Quill’s vow of Truth multiples times over the weekend, once or twice without thinking, another time because she felt pressured not to upset the plans of other PCs, and for ten solid minutes was confused by a ghost, which had the effect of forcing her to lie. The most notable example was officiating at the false wedding. Quill knew the bride was false and that the crowd present had no intention of letting vows be exchanged. Yet she still took part. I think weddings hold a particular fascination for Quill, because she knows she’ll never have one. Golems cannot legally get married. This actually retroactively explains why she jumped at the chance to officiate the wedding of eloping nobles at the first event, and why she went through with a mock ceremony of jumping the broom to amuse some house sprites. Two other PCs tried to talk Quill out of officiating at the High King’s wedding, and she actually got somewhat angry with them for it. One of those two PCs had written the blessing Quill read at the ceremony, and he was understandably furious with her for it. He’d explicitly said he wanted no part in the wedding. We went outside and later sat in the corner of the tavern, hashing it out while everyone else was celebrating the rescue of the king with song and dance.
It sounds like kind of a downer, and it was, for the characters, but really, it was great for me as a player. I felt very much in-character, very immersed in my role.
And so that was my last boffer event of the year. I went out on quite a high note, I think. It’s a bit of a relief, as I’ve had a pretty hectic LARPing schedule this fall. But I’m still a little bummed to have reached the end. We’ve already had a bit of teaser for the next Cottington event; a creepy undead troupe of players came by to pre-sell tickets and assess interest in auditions for their performance of a series of vignettes in the spring. I can’t wait until the next season starts. But hopefully it won’t come too fast — I’ve got some costuming that needs repair and other projects to work on in the meantime.