Two weekends back, I attended the third summer one day event for Cottington Woods. Every summer, the folk of Cottington Woods head to the Balmbearer/Graytower estate to enjoy the Summer Fair, with its games, contests, performances, feast, and of course, because it’s a boffer LARP, no small amount of danger.
I had a fantastic time at the first summer fair two years ago, but sadly had to miss it last year because it ran on the same weekend as NELCO. I hear it was a really amazing day of LARPing that started off with a dark surprise — the PCs arrived to discover the Balmbearer estate had been overrun by demonic wolves, and they had to rescue the survivors huddled up inside. Most of the Graytowers were missing, but they had left a lot of the equipment for games and performances and prizes they had been planning to use before fleeing, which the PCs gathered up and used to run the fair themselves. I thought it sounded like a clever way to enable the PCs to take the event into their own hands and get to do all of the organizing and running of the fair that is usually the purview of NPCs.
This year, we had many of the fair games and entertainment that I enjoyed at the first summer fair: singing, storytelling and poetry recitation, dancing, melee, archery and magic contests, a baking contest, a water balloon fight (hey, it was hot!), and displays of artwork. There was also a cow chip throwing contest, which is, apparently, a real thing. Cow chips are… you know what, here’s a link to a random article on it. We used props for the chips, you’ll be relieved to hear — frisbees painted brown.
There was also a scavenger hunt. My favorite items on the list were an inappropriate limerick, and a horseshoe. The latter was designed to stump the PCs because horses had vanished from the kingdom some 30 years prior. (Specific reasons for the absence of horses is a odd little LARP meme in the New England boffer community.)
I participated in as many contests as I could. (My character is too dainty to handle cow chips directly, so I ran inside for a huge wad of tissues before it was my turn to throw.) I also volunteered to be the target for the archery contest. And I rather nervously recited my favorite LARP-esque poem during the performance part. There were so many talented singers at the fair; they were hard acts to follow!
For the art element of the fair (no longer a contest, more of a showcase), I submitted an illuminated page bearing a prayer for the woods that a fellow PC shared online a while back. I also submitted some of the mirrors I’ve been painting as props for my Fifth Gate character. I guess both Quill and Cricket are characters who are likely to own prettily painted mirrors.
Ribbons were handed out to the winners of each of the contests, and there were prizes for the three PCs who ended the evening with the most ribbons. I was quite surprised when I came out in second place overall for the Summer Fair — the only contest I placed in was the scavenger hunt, but each contest gave out one ribbon just for participating, and I guess those added up. The first place winner overall preferred the second place prize (a magical chainmail necklace), so I offered to trade it for the first place prize– a golden gnome– and a future favor. The staff suggested that leaving the gnome outside our cabin or tent might provide good luck, as would making an offering of cookies. (We suspect it might be a living gnome standing very, very still.) I’m planning to make some prop cookies (that can double as thrown weapons) to leave out by the gnome at the next event. We’ll see what happens!
As for the non-fair parts of the event, the highlights include meeting the Wonderful Wizard of Lakapapuru (Lakapapuru, currently known as the House Down Under, being the ersatz Australia of Cottington Woods… ), a calligraphy lesson with the NPC who first taught my character to read, write, and illuminate books, and a hilarious impromptu song about wood by our resident scarecrow. (When the band played a waltz, said scarecrow rather amusingly partnered up with a pretty dress on display on a dressmaker’s dummy that had been sitting in front of the tailor’s tent.)
I also heard a story about the leader of a gang called the Silver Hounds, which enabled Quill to start learning Protector skills. I’m very happy about this development; I’ve been having trouble deciding what new skills to give Quill, and working on improving her ability to protect others is fitting for Quill on multiple levels. Out of character, it’s adds a dynamic to combat which I really enjoy.
After the end of the event, the staff shared some great news with us. In order to make sure there will be time to properly wrap up all of the current ongoing plots, Cottington Woods is extending to another two weekend events and one more winter one day. Hooray!