The new season of Cottington Woods has begun. I was back in the Woods this past weekend, with a somewhat reduced number of PCs, and, temporarily, at a new site.
And this is what greeted me when I first walked into the cabin to put my stuff down.
I had forgotten that one other player, who often shows up early to the campsite, often brings this cute prop with him. When I first opened the door, I confused it for a real chicken. Startled the hell out of me.
Since the last season, we have lost a significant number of players, and gained a few new ones I don’t mind the reduced number of PCs — actually, while I know it causes some problems with budgeting for the staff, it does make the game feel more personal, like the cast of PCs is a more tight knit group.
The weather was not ideal — it rained during the day and froze over at night, so the ground was quite icy; I saw a large number of LARPers slip and fall, not just during combat, but often just walking around (myself included.) Luckily, I think we avoided any major injuries.
The site, a YMCA camp in Connecticut, was actually quite nice, despite several significant drawbacks. The biggest problem was that the large bathroom near the PC cabins had not been de-winterized, so we had to make longer trips to the single bathroom in the tavern at night, or else head over to monster camp. While the long trips in the dark and the bitter cold (over the icy ground) weren’t ideal, the real problem, for me anyway, was the inconvenience it added to getting in and out of costume (particularly the make up and contacts.) I hope the YMCA’s staff for the campsite got an earful over this, but I doubt it’s a problem that is likely to be repeated.
The campsite was also double-booked — some of the cabins were occupied by a sorority. I never actually saw them, but it is something for LARP staffs to keep in mind if they’d really rather avoid any chance of non-LARPers hanging about.
But the larger buildings were nice and well heated, our cabin was roomy, and there was some interesting structures to use (like stages and balconies and narrow hallways and stairs) for the modules, which was pretty neat. I wouldn’t mind if we used this campsite again.
The largest plots for this weekend were focused around two warring races we have seen and heard very little of thus far — the elves and the goblins. Each was faced with its own major threat — the capital of the goblins was completely devoid of living goblins and taken over by shadows, and the elves were facing a fungal plague that was quickly spreading and driving animals and people alike mad. And both threats were starting to spill over into the Cottington Woods.
This past weekend I…
…fought ants, wolves, shadows, infected bees, werewolves, dragonlings, and a demon
…explored Mount OverMarsh, the lost capital of the goblins
…translated Goblin texts
…explored a Robber Baron’s tomb
…purged the corruption from the Anathema Stone
…entered a dream and observed the memories of a mad golem-maker and his dying wife
…helped heal the Burnt Tree
…met with Grandmother, the icon of witchcraft, who offered help on how to help a corrupted fairy
…made a very ill-advised bargain with a sinister fae to break my character’s holy vows
…rescued a PC from her own nightmare
…dedicated my Holy Sword and gave it a name
The two plots that really ensnared me the most over the weekend were the plot of the mad golem-maker, Medigo, and his wife, Bethany, and the plot involving the corrupted fairy, whose corruption has been spreading to other fae and even several PCs.
Unsurprisingly, both plots have personal ties to my character. For context, golems are artificially constructed beings, like Pinocchio, who all come to life under unique circumstances, and my character is a golem (a wind-up doll who came to life.) Medigo the mad golem-maker is an NPC who has been researching how to create golems, using highly unethical research methods. In a desperate attempt to save his dying wife, he put her soul in the body of a golem (another doll), with some very undesirable results.
There were two factors that made this plot particularly engaging for me. One, we explored some of the plot through witnessing memories in a dream, which other characters have done before, but it was still fairly new to me, and the dreams were quite interesting.
Two, it’s clear that the staff involved with this plot have been paying careful attention to our characters, and crafting the plot in response to how we have been interacting with their NPCs. Obviously, this is a feature of most forms of personal plot, but here it’s done unusually well.
In particular, golem-maker wrote a letter which included descriptions of several golem PCs and how our histories have influenced his research, and reading it was quite an experience for us. His description of how he was able to capture and torture a golem for study because golems are often lonely and therefore are eager to please was a bit shocking to read– it really hit home. It’s quite true of several golem PCs, including my own.
The corrupted fairy plot involves a fairy who has lost her heart, which represents her Purpose. This loss is the source of her corruption, and she has taken to drawing power from other fae and PCs to make up for her loss. This is a bit harder to go into for spoiler reasons, but Grandmother, the icon of witchcraft in the setting, has suggested we take bits and pieces of other fairy purposes (through bargains and pacts with other fairies — always a bad idea in fairy tales, and exactly the sort of bad idea I was hoping to experience when I signed up for a dark fairy tale themed LARP.) If this takes too long or proves unsuccessful, it could go very badly for several of the PCs, which has put a subtle undercurrent of tension among the PCs involved that is quite fun to roleplay.
As I mentioned last week, I had a few last minute projects for this event, centered around the dedication of my character’s Holy Sword. I decided a formal religious ceremony required formal robes, so I bought some red and parchment-colored linen and sewed something together, making it up as I went. Unfortunately, I ran out of time before being able to add the gold and black details I had in mind, but I suppose I can add that for next time.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get any shots of the new piece from the front, but here is a shot of the back with its alternating colored panels.
I also decided to create a personal coat-of-arms for my character and paint it on my massive shield. Here is the result.
I named the sword Sweet Rhyme and the shield Pure Reason, which is a reference to The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. I figure it’s alright to be referential — this LARP is littered with literary references.
Trying to use this shield in the Mount OverMarsh module, with it’s narrow hallways, narrow staircases, and smaller rooms, proved difficult. I feel as though I was in the way far more than I was helping. I think I will have to produce a smaller, second shield for indoor modules in tight spaces. I hate to think of how frustrated my fellow PCs probably were trying to maneuver around me. And I rather think the large shield played a role in a scary moment where one other PC and I got trapped on the wrong side of a door and overwhelmed by shadows.
The other small projects, besides the ceremonial robes and the shield, included a third attempt to embroider a TRUTH scarf.
I think third time was the charm. I just need to hem the top edge and add some velcro now.
And last, I put together a very simple banner on Friday (out of a curtain I picked up at a bargain basement when I was making banners for Cracks in the Orb). The staff had sent out a last minute request to borrow tapestries and such to decorate the tavern and make it look more appropriate to the setting. As one may have guessed from previous posts, I really like making banners.
One interesting experience from the weekend that I wanted to share involved translating some texts we picked up while exploring Mount OverMarsh. It was a simple substitution cypher, with 26 symbols for the letters, and once we figured out which letter was which, it was largely left to me and one other PC to copy over the various texts into English. By the end of it, I had the Goblin alphabet and found the translation becoming faster and easier as we worked. I’d go so far as to say that Quill is now semi-fluent in written Goblin, and when several other players were looking for the solution key, I said “don’t worry, I can help you without it.” Obviously I haven’t actually learned a new language, but learning to translate the cypher was probably the closest experience I’ve ever had to having a character in a LARP learn a new skill.
Much to my delight, one of the other PCs, a Woman of Science type who is also interested in the creation of golems, brought in some styrofoam model heads for other PCs to decorate during a sort of lecture and workshop on golems. I’m always happy to see art projects incorporated into LARP.
Oddly, despite the engaging plots and enthusiastic PCs, I felt as though I was frequently out-of-character this weekend. I often felt as though I was behaving and speaking far more like myself than I was behaving and speaking like Quill. I had used all of my various methods for getting into character — listening to music I associate with the LARP in the few days leading up to the event, incorporating Quill’s unique personal scent and French manicured nails into my costume, and mentally reminding myself of various events in the Woods, and trying to go over how my character might describe them and react to various potential updates in my mind. But somehow, I think I slipped and often sounded much too human and much to coarse for this character, and that’s something I will be specifically focusing on at future events.
I’ve already registered for the next event at the end of May.
A few more shots to end on: