21
June 2018

Reviews

These aren't your vanilla versions, they have deeply sinister roots…

Forget Disney and Brothers Grimm. Even they didn’t have what it takes to bend and warp these familiar characters into obsessed, revenge-driven, drunk on magic, lusting after power creatures. Each character has been thoroughly reshaped and given new agency, spirit and desires to carve out of a world wild with enchantments and secrets. We have gone deep into the lore of each tale to extract some long-forgotten twists and connections which will surprise and delight our players. Each Kingdom is uniquely designed to bring you a cast of darkly colorful characters, and fantastical costuming options to display each Kingdom’s culture developed specifically for this event.  Click here to learn more!

We have a castle and a quaint village all to ourselves.

The venue fits the theme like a glove. We will have full run of a charming castle hidden away in the forest, with a village full of themed cottages surrounding it. The immersion will be uninterrupted throughout the event as there will be no mundane people on the property except for the castle staff. You will be participating in photo shoots with enchanting backgrounds, singing to the birds in the woods, or engaging in plotting with your kingdoms without breaking character, surrounded by the story book environment. And as the sun sets, the vast forest surrounding the property will extend its shadows making the perfect ominous ambiance as each character plot grows more bloody. 

With our multi-layer plot structure just dive right into the world!

With a straight-forward set of lore and rules, just show up to the event in your most gorgeous costumes and see what you can discover. There is no need to come up with scenes ahead of time or plan where your character may end up because there will be surprises along the way. We understand that our players have busy lives so we provide a complete out of the box experience. You will have a character with goals, connections and a deep story to develop as the weekend progresses.  We have even included hidden scenes, secret missions, and artifacts that will piece together the global lore.  Each character has many story arcs to be explored, in a game filled with obfuscated goals and lost memories to find. 

The most basic NPC of them all is overseeing your fun (or misery).

Our mysterious Princess Generica is a sadistic hostess of her own demented party and you’re not going to want to miss it! Your characters may express various degrees of warmth or hatred towards Generica, but as players you will be blown away by her antics. Complete with her own basic princess complex, Generica has many a trial in store for guests and with the status as her companion and confidante on the line, can you really afford to miss out? 

You will be in excellent company for an unforgettable event.

Like a dashing rogue, Real Royalty swept into the Midwestern Nordic scene and we have everyone buzzing about. So far about two thirds of the spots for the event are filled and we are excited to welcome a diverse and very talented crowd of new and experienced LARPers to our inaugural event. All are welcome!  With no precedent set for a game featuring familiar yet perverse dark fairy tales and characters, this will be a once in a lifetime experience.  

 

Written by the Hanging Lantern Team

I need this Dark Grimm Fairy Tale Larp In My Life!

Here’s what the bloggers are saying about our upcoming run of Real Royalty:

“After reading the character description I noticed she was a lot like me but would offer me a challenge to roleplay struggles I want to face. She can be arrogant or delicate depending on her mood. Which was something I had never played before. There is so much complexity to her that I fell in love. I’m excited to eat macarons and frilly rococo dresses but just as excited about getting caught up in a duel. I’m deeply impressed and cannot wait to explore this world.”

-Kaza Marie Ayersman: The LARP Girl

“I was super exited to be a fairy tale character and finally breath life into her my own way.  I think the world of Oz in Real Royalty is awesome, similar but with a really cool original twist.”

– Raquel Skellington

“I was already excited, because any faction is an excuse to make a costume you don’t normally get an excuse to make. Then I got the character, and not only did I have a reason to make a steampunk costume, but it was for a beautiful character I could already identify.”

-Mo Mo O’Brien

“Exciting new dark drama with such beautiful tortured characters that I can’t wait to embody and meet.”

-Angele Brenan: GD Art

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Feb 27, 2018

We’ve taken a look inside this School of Witchcraft and we’ve got to say, it looks awesome! Here’s five reasons why you should attend this year.

1. It's in a real castle!

Yup, that’s right, it’s in a real 15th century English castle! Situated in the South East of England, Herstmonceux castle is surrounded by 600 acres of idyllic countryside, it’s the real deal, it’s even got a moat! During the game students get free roam of the castle and grounds for four days to do whatever they want. It’s got a great hall for dining, plenty of classrooms including an alchemy lab, expansive gardens for Herbology and even its own tavern! Whether in classes or taking part in a daring escapade with your fellow students, the surroundings create a 360 degree level of immersion in the game. We’ve heard tales of trolls in the dark forest and rumour has it that the Daemonology classroom has a dungeon!

Bothwell School of Wizardry Trailer

2. You make the story.

Bothwell School of Witchcraft is a Nordic/Sand box style larp. Once you get your character you have complete autonomy over what you want to do with your character. With their unique scene writing system, you can request a close encounter with giant spiders, form a secret society or plan a mishap for others and watch the calamity unfold. It means you become the central character in your own plot and you can be anything from a daring adventurer to a bullied book worm with a few hidden talents. Your choices make the story and its brimming with possibility.

3. House Rivalry

The warring and bickering houses of Bothwell make for a great playing experience. The most solid of friendships can be betrayed by choosing the houses glory first and the bitterest of enemies can become like family in the same house. Houses compete at the school for House Points in order to win the coveted house shield. Competing takes place at every moment, whether it be in the classroom, on the fireball pitch or even on a less-than-safe errand for a professor. Of course, there are students who don’t care about such things and choose self-interest over their houses goals. At the end of the day, Bothwell is one huge family and the houses are more like siblings than arch enemies, but it certainly makes for interesting play!

Wanna get in on the action? Click here to fill out the application form to attend this amazing school of Witchcraft!

4. Great for New Starters or Veterans

Bothwell is great for anyone who hasn’t been to a larp before. The game has been designed so those who’re apprehensive about attending a live action role play needn’t worry about anything. Heck, you can even turn up having done no preparation and there will be plenty to get your teeth stuck into. The schedule is packed with classes for everyone, and its easy to join societies or tag along on adventures and get the most out of your Bothwell experience. Of course, if you’re used to all of that and want to create your own magic, that’s all doable too. With the afore mentioned scene writing system, you can take yourself and others on a complex journey of twists and turns. Nothing is mandatory, you can skip classes, play pranks or duel in the courtyard. For those looking for a challenge you can also play a professor and teach some of the classes. Whatever your experience, the Bothwell staff are always on hand to help you through it. They offer Webinars on character development and will help you write your scenes.

5. Low Maintenance

It’s somewhat refreshing that if you wanted to, you need only a white shirt and trousers to attend, and it still looks good! The team behind Bothwell provide you with your robe and house tie, all they say you need to bring is “A wand and a sense of humour.” That’s not to say if you love costuming and want to bring your character to life you can’t, there’s loads of great opportunities to display your characters personality through costuming. There’s even the option for a few wardrobe changes as you dress up for the banquet or don as much of your house colours for the House Tournament.

Whatever you’re looking to get out of it, Bothwell is a fantastic game to play and shouldn’t be missed!

Now, if you like the idea of attending wizard school at a real castle in the UK click here to fill in the form on the next page and we’ll tell you how you can secure a ticket!

Don’t miss your chance to be a wizard in a real english castle!

Feb 06, 2018
Armistice Arcane is a high-immersion, rules-light larp set in 1890’s America produced by Peculiar Crossroads Productions held at Le Pavillon Hotel in New Orleans. Photos, unless otherwise noted, are by Alicia Nicole Trisciuzzi and I used this website to make them look old-timey! Thanks to Daniel Tan and Michael Kollen who edited this article.

 

Blockbuster LARPs have exploded since I started larping in 2014. This year alone boasts over six blockbusters scheduled across the country. For those unfamiliar with the term, LarpWiki defines a blockbuster LARP as

“a large, high-budget, high-profile larp which attracts international players and media attention.”

Blockbuster LARPs are still growing and organizers are still resolving questions including finding fair pricing, or if they are replacing local campaign games. I’ve found that people who have not attended a blockbuster are often hesitant to commit or suspicious that the experience may not be worth their money. Making the jump from $50 a month to $550+ for one weekend with little to no public reviews and information is difficult. Having been to a few blockbusters, I hope to shed more light on what I got from my time and money at Armistice Arcane.

I decided to use Youtuber LarpAnalysis’ system for “reviewing” LARP events. You can find his channel HERE. He also has an in depth video that explores the lore of Armistice Arcane.

Mechanics/Rules:

Before attending my first low mechanics (or what some might describe as Nordic or Nordic inspired) LARP, I was pretty confused about what exactly the game play would look like. Even after watching Youtube videos and reading articles about similar games, I still just didn’t get it. Coming from a NERO-inspired boffer larp, I had a hard time believing players would willingly accept a negative effect on their character for the purpose of good story. Armistice Arcane showed me how a simple set of well designed mechanics and high expectations of players could work together to build a collaborative story.

Armistice Arcane was a very rules light game. The only real “mechanic” was something the designers called, “open mediation and narrative decision making”, which is a fancy way of saying, every action in the game against a character must be consented to. So while character death and defeats were prevalent, none of them happened without the express consent of the “losing” player. This is the first time I really understood the phrase “play to lose”.

Here is just one of the many ways this played out: My character had the magical ability to sway and manipulate people’s emotions. At one point I was speaking with a character who was reticent towards me. While we chatted about mundane in-game things, I leaned forward and said, “if you consent, you feel very safe around me and that you can trust me.” That player then went on to reveal a few trivial secrets through the course of our conversation. It was a fun RP moment for both of us and there was no arguing about whether or not the effect happened. I am confident it was knowing that you had ultimate control over how magic affected your game that gave players a chance to be vulnerable to it.

I also loved the “no closed door” policy. I’m not sure if it was a mechanic per se, but it had a huge effect on how the game worked. The policy mandated that meetings must be held where other players could easily come across them. Therefore, plot wasn’t concentrated into the hands of a few high-ranking characters. In my past larp experience, players were reluctant to share their hard earned secrets and as a result, new players had a difficult time participating. “No closed door” made sure that this mistake wasn’t replicated at Armistice Arcane.  

Since the game was so “rules-light” the few in place were more in regards to safety and good community building and I will discuss those in the “Safety” section.

Lastly I want to discuss the expectations of the players. AFrom the first moment at Armistice, I was impressed by how professional the organizational team was and how they expected the same level of professionalism and maturity from their player base. Even at the best larps there are issues, but I couldn’t believe how few I witnessed at Armistice. For the most part, players accepted negative effects with grace and acted so well that the hotel actually offered a good deal for us to come back. I really believe treating your players with respect and showing them the same level can go miles towards building a thriving community.

One more thing I forgot to mention: The organizers also set up an escape room located in a fancy suite in the hotel. Throughout the weekend players were encouraged to attend with different factions to solve the room for pieces of in-game information. I attended one of these sessions and it remained completely in-character. This experience was completely optional and a cool bonus activity, as well as a way to meet players you wouldn’t normally interact with.

Atmosphere

For me there are three different elements that go into creating the atmosphere of a larp: the environment, the themes, and the quality of costuming.

Environment: The event was held at Le Pavillon hotel in New Orleans and WOW, was it beautiful. While there were elements of the game that were not in decorum (plastic cups, exit signs, and other modern items) they never distracted me from being immersed. Most of the players were staying on the 2nd floor, and we had full access to the conference rooms on this floor so we didn’t have non-player hotel guests stumbling on scenes (though we did upset one of the hotel staff who thought Larp Girl’s characters poisoning was an actual illness XD.) The rooms available to us gave plenty of locations for rituals, dancing, meetings, and more. The staff did a good job utilizing lighting and props-most amazingly building a fake wall with a mirror out of which an NPC literally came out of to the great surprise of all of the players. We also had live music one night that greatly enhanced the environment.

 

The themes of the game were definitely dark, but not overly so. While it pushed boundaries, I think this is a safe game for people who may not be comfortable exploring the darkest themes-especially because you can tailor your character to your comfort level. For a more in-depth look at some of the themes, Tara has written an excellent piece which I will link to when it goes live. Reading her experience showed me the vast range of stories this event contained.

The costuming was excellent. Some players were dressed in full Victorian garb, some were closer to Edwardian, and some were dressed in outfits from different time periods that fit their factions. I personally really enjoyed the variety I saw in costuming. I also want to give a shout out to Raquel Skellington who helped me (and more than a few others) find the majority of my costuming on Amazon for cheap!

Top right and bottom left photos by Foulweather Photos 

Roleplay

The roleplay at Armistice Arcane was excellent. I did not feel the need to be out of character one single time during the weekend. The amount of care the writers took with characters meant that most players, regardless of their level of RP experience, felt at ease. I came into the game with connections as well as information that was of interest to other players. This ensured that I felt I was an integral part to the experience right off the bat. While Evie did not sign any agreements or end anyone’s life, she was still an important part of at least a few other character stories.

The main engine of roleplay was player actions based on pre-written character sheets that each player received prior to the game. These sheets outlined our histories, our powers, our motivations, and our positive and negative relationships.

Highlights from my 7 page long character sheet. Your sheet includes a detailed story of your past, your motivations, and primary allies and enemies.

The organizers set up several events throughout the weekend (a high tea, a ball, dancing lessons) and sent out several NPCs, but most rituals and scenes were up to the individual player. For example, my character wanted to talk to someone from her past who had been murdered and may have a key piece of information. I spoke with a character who could contact the dead and she agreed to the ritual. We popped into the out-of-game room and told the storyteller our idea. He nodded, and sent me out of the room. He then told the other character what would happen if we attempted the summoning. Later we gathered in one of the ritual rooms, accompanied by two other characters. We performed a seance that was easily one of the most intense scenes for me of the weekend. I had tears pouring down my face as I listened to her relating how scared and alone the person from my character’s past was. I loved the way this worked. The only thing to look out for is that new larpers may not realize if they want scenes like this, they just need to ask. I know that when I was a new larper, I had no idea how to ask for or create plot. While many jumped in right away, a few players mentioned afterward that it took them awhile to understand how it worked. One potential remedy to this is to empower new players to ask plot for scenes such as this.

An intense meeting, me being whirled around the dance floor, and a kiss before a dramatic confrontation!

One thing I really loved about the RP was that it seemed that the designers accommodated for everyone’s level of comfort. As someone who is relatively new to heavy RP, I felt that my character had just the amount of drama that I was able to stay in character but was comfortable with her storylines. While my drama was relatively tame, I also heard from a veteran RPer that her character story arc was incredibly difficult and surprising for her, something she didn’t often get to experience anymore. I feel that the designers really took into account what you wanted out of the experience. I also felt that I had the ability to push myself further if I wanted, but that staying in my comfort zone did not detract from Evie’s story.

Safety

I really admire the staff’s attention to the safety and comfort of their players. Larp can be rough on players physically. Lack of sleep, forgetting to drink water, too much alcohol and high sugar content foods can be disastrous. While some of these are outside of the control of organizers, they certainly did their best to anticipate any issues. The staff went out of their way to ensure everyone was taking care of themselves, offering water and checking in on our well being. We also received a gift bag with snacks at registration. A few times I was so immersed in RP that I forgot to eat and those snacks saved my life. I personally did not sleep enough and did not eat at designated meal times, which did hurt my experience. However, this was completely personal and I will be sure to be better next time.

The emotional safety the organizers provided was amazing. They prepared us for the high drama of the weekend through an excellent pre-game workshop, a system for checking in, and escape mechanics for tough scenes. During the event there was a safe room players were welcome to decompress in with snacks, drinks, and a staff member with a certification of some sort in mental health. After the event they helped us decompress with an after party and a post-workshop. I loved that the game only ran until midnight on Saturday, because it gave us plenty of time to ease out of character safely.

This is particularly important to me because my last larp experience had none of these safety measures and completely threw me for a loop. I played a character that betrayed my family. Without any sort of pre or post workshop and general lack of communication, I was devastated when the game ended with my family sentencing me to death. Since many people in my faction were new to RP, I was worried that they would not separate my in-game betrayal from me as a person and I had no time to speak with them about any lingering feelings. Additionally, without a post-workshop I was confused about certain plot points and was frustrated by the lack of clarity. I felt used and upset. Every single issue I had at that game and others like it was anticipated and addressed by the staff at Armistice Arcane.

Some safety mechanics I think are worth stealing for other larps:

Okay-Check System: This system uses an unobtrusive hand gesture to check in with fellow players during high emotion scenes. For example, if someone is crying, you may make the “okay” hand gesture at them to check on the player’s emotional well-being. They have the option to respond with a thumbs up, a hand wave, or a thumbs down. There were many times Evie cried during the weekend, but Westbrook never felt she was in over her head.

Green/Yellow/Red: This is a system we were encouraged to use in any intense scene. A player can easily slip the word “green” into dialog to check in their partner is okay with what is happening. Green means “yes”, yellow means “ stop building intensity here”, and red means “full stop”. If someone says red, the scene is over and players walk away. It is as if the scene never happened and the player who called red does not have to revisit the situation unless they want to.

Community

The community was one of the best aspects of this larp. I will break this up into three phases:

Pre-larp: After your initial ticket payment, we were added to a players Facebook group. Once we were cast, we also had a seperate faction group where we hosted hang-outs and made plans for our faction. I specifically asked to be in a faction where I didn’t know any of the players because I’m still finding my RP legs and I was worried playing with my friends would make it harder for me to stay in character. The Facebook group was pretty active, there was a lot of character art, costume progress, and a little bit of shit talking between rival factions. We had some really cool LARP creators at the event including Larp Girl, GD Art, WanderingWolf, Momo O’Brien, and Raquel Skellington, who did a great job bringing the community together with photoshoots and character expose videos. We also had several talented visual artists who took commissions and costumers who offered their services.

At the event: There were plenty of meet-ups and hangouts on Thursday in New Orleans for people arriving early to get together. I felt that everywhere I turned there was a friendly face who wanted to check out a restaurant, bar, or even get pre-game pedicures together! A few of us explored the city and shopped at some of the many costume shops NOLA has to offer.

 

Exploring Bourbon Street and taking a quick pit stop on our ghost tour in a bar full of…dogs? Photos by me.

I was really blown away by how welcoming and inclusive the community was. Often times in larp there are “asshole characters” who use their character as an excuse to make others feel intimidated and excluded. Throughout the weekend, even the scary and “asshole” characters were approachable for RP. After the event there was a post-party where I felt comfortable mingling with different groups and getting to know everyone. The organizers were not excluded from this. After the Sunday wrap up, I attended a ghost tour run by one of the amazing NPC’s who is an actual professional tour guide in NOLA. We explored the French Quarter and afterwards a large group went out to Bourbon street for karaoke and dancing. While I was out dancing, still others stayed at the hotel for a more calm but just as awesome night. It really felt that everywhere you turned, you could find someone to hang out with.

Post event: The Facebook group is still active and I am in contact with many players who I now consider good friends. I actually found a sizable group of players from my city, so that is exciting. Some of us (not me sadly) are preparing for the next North American blockbuster larp (Real Royalty anyone?) and of course we are all busy making plans for Armistice Arcane 2!

Overall I found the community inclusive, safe, welcoming, and inspiring to both new and veteran players.

Approachability

I would say this game is highly approachable for new larpers. There were a large amount of people playing who had never larped before and I heard nothing but good things from them about their experience. A few new people expressed that they were a little intimidated to really go for some of the more dramatic scenes, but that they were excited to come back with more confidence and knowledge. The only significant barrier for this game is the costuming. I was quite intimidated by acquiring a Victorian ensemble and therefore went more Edwardian. I was happy with my costume, but it caused me a significant amount of stress before the event. I think next year it would be awesome if some of the veteran players can compile more resources-especially knowing I eventually got my outfit for under $100 on Amazon (Thanks Raquel!)

Accessibility

Physical Accessibility: The RP areas were physically accessible and the staff was on hand to help with any accommodations players might need. The organizers made it very clear that the player only need reach out to them if they needed accommodations. As someone who lives with a person in a wheelchair, I spend a lot of time noticing how events are run and their accessibility. This game would be great for those who are alter-abled with a few modifications and some pre-planning.

Financial Accessibility: Financially this larp was rather pricey, with packages starting at $550. You also needed Victorian costuming and transportation to and from the hotel. Notice I say pricey, not expensive. For what you got in the package (two nights in the hotel, a goody bag and swag, all meals catered, in-depth character sheets and personal plot lines, a fully catered ball with drink tickets and a string quartet, dancing lessons, etc) I can’t believe I only payed $550. At this point I would probably go for a higher package now that I have a longer time to pay for it and just because the swag was SO COOL.

Conclusion:

Overall I had an amazing experience that I found well worth the money. I am excited to return to Armistice Arcane 2 next year as well as see what other games Peculiar Crossroads Productions will come up with. If you are considering Armistice Arcane or are interested in finding out what other LARPs are happening in your area, I am happy to answer any questions at r.westbrook.evans@gmail.com. In the interest of full disclosure, I am friends with the organizers. However I did not receive any financial or other gain from this positive review. I have given them lots of my money and plan on doing so again because I really do believe in the experience they are creating.

 

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Feb 01, 2018

From the moment I received my Armistice Arcane character blurb, I knew I’d put the pressure on myself to inhabit this character deeply. Her name is Moira O’Connor, a woman devoted to Cernunnos, the Horned God. Originally from Ireland, Moira emigrated to Pennsylvania (United States) after a supernaturally long life and a complicated relationship with magic, monster hunters, and her god.

Born in the early 1700s, Moira experienced the tragic history of her people. She carried the resounding grief and anger of personal and cultural losses in a lengthy way that she felt only her god could understand – until she determined he didn’t.

Playing Moira, I explored many themes that touched not only on my own culture as an Irish American, but also many sensitive themes.

I am writing this less than a day after the conclusion of this dramatic, Penny Dreadful-inspired live action role play experience, and I find the nature of the bleed (emotional spillover between player and character) I experience is significantly different from any I’ve had before.

Content Warning: This post includes discussion of food-related issues, suicide, extreme grief, patriarchal oppression, and infertility.

Additionally, while I enjoy ‘chasing bleed’ and heavy immersion as a LARPer, that’s not the only way I enjoy this LARP or LARPs in general, nor is it the only means by which we should generally measure the success or enjoyment of live action experiences.

armistice arcane larpHow Was This Character Close?

I played this character close to the heart, as we say in LARP, purposefully exploring my sense of self and my heritage through the portrayal of this character. While I’ve been growing used to empowering myself by playing through arcs that provide my characters with agency, no experience has been quite as personal as this one.

In real life, my superficial similarities don’t stop with heritage. My Irish ancestors came to the United States through the port city of Philadelphia (a central point for the Irish American characters in the game), which is where I live today. As of late, this community has been largely coopted by white supremacy and “Irish pride” has become an unfortunate synonym for “white pride.”

I have a fair amount of stories of my ancestors, though Irish oppression is a careful topic to approach when it’s often used as a tool to justify white supremacy and defend racism in a modern context. However, it’s still very much part of the immigrant experience and who we are today.

I’m left with an exiled pride for my heritage very much reflected in this character’s journey, and I went full force with my immersive capabilities in this game to enjoy and explore what it means to be of Irish descent – without worry of this journey being coopted by white supremacists.

I did my best to be sensitive but fearless in my approach to play an oppressed individual, and felt that it was permissible to do so as I was exploring the richness of my own heritage, and examining stereotypes through the lens of a historically pertinent pain that permeates culture, songs, and other practices.

Moira and I have many things in common. Here’s what I’ve been dealing with since the game.

Players and characters bond at Armistice Arcane. | Photo: Alicia Trisciuzzi | Used with permission

Religion and Fertility

I don’t speak terribly often about faith in my life, but I was never baptized as a Christian. In my twenties, I took a neopagan spiritual path, and find myself connected to the goddesses Epona and Athena.

My Armistice Arcane character began the game as a devotee of Cernunnos, or the Horned God, who (as a general ‘hunter god’) also has a place on my real-life altar at home, though not a central one.

Like Cernunnos, Epona is a deity of fertility. She often appears in dreams for me, and I’ve a complicated relationship with this aspect of the goddess. Life likely isn’t going to work out for me in a way that I’ll be a mother, even though I wish I could have been. I’ve had a sad past with relationships, and on top of that, I have multiple chronic illness issues. It’s a regret that people don’t like to hear about; one you’re not supposed to discuss. Instead, I’m expected to be an independent and empowered woman completely satisfied with life. Anything else upsets people close to me and is counterintuitive to what I’m supposed to represent in various communities.

Grieving the inability to have children is not a privilege often granted to women, especially divorced ones.

I’ve come to accept Epona’s fertility in the form of creativity. I am grateful for such gifts, but the grief of having no children still persists.

Moira and fertility worked a bit differently, but her issues and grief were nevertheless the same as mine. After watching her own parents fall at the hands of the Sentinels (a group that tracks down those they deem magical miscreants) and nearly dying herself, Moira made a choice to kill instead of be killed. This set her on a constant cycle of revenge with the Sentinels, and a power that gave her youthfulness through a cycle of sex, fertility, and death.

Cernunnos was a voice and a presence in her life, encouraging these actions.

Eventually she grew tired of running and hiding. She fell in love, married, and became pregnant. But after her husband died as the result of a curse, her son was born, and she gave him up. She left him on the doorstep of wealthy folk decades before the game takes place, and had to mourn the chances that she’d never have with him. This grief was her strongest, and one I connected to and internalized.

Moira spent decades wondering about what happened to her son. She’d often dream of him, and I found that during the event, I would wake up with a dream and a worry. “Is my son okay?” was a more intrinsic thought than any power or practice Moira otherwise had.

Moira eventually found her son Aldous (this happened during the event, early in the game). It was the strongest relationship I played in the game, but it was also personally so very painful to me since I may never come to know this type of maternal love.

In real life, I’ve lost loves, just like Moira. But Moira was reunited with this most pleasant reminder of her deceased husband, and her care for her son was rather pure. The worry over him was constant, mutual, and comforting.

This made her feel a joy so occasional in her life, but one so strong she didn’t even know how to identify it or express it.

In preparation for the game, I’d asked parents, particularly mothers, to describe their bonds to their children. I received many powerful stories and expressions of emotion. When I was fully immersed as the character, though, with Moira protecting and being protected by her son, all of those feelings were quite natural. His different interests (scientific) opened her mind to viewing magic in a different way. Her trust of him was immediate. And in the purity of that relationship, it didn’t backfire.

I am about to get on a plane to return to an empty room. Every time I nap, I still wake up wondering that: Is my son okay? And it’s heartbreaking that I don’t have anyone or anything to really worry over. Even my dog passed away in October. And according to all those magazine articles, there’s totally something wrong with me if I don’t feel like my life is complete without the burden of a child and a husband.

But that’s just not true. I feel how I feel, and it’s not simply a matter of being conditioned by the patriarchy. It’s not a weakness to want to lay your head down next to someone, and that’s where I am, and that’s what I don’t have.

As the positive interactions increased between Moira and her son, I knew that I would have to face my own difficulties: desperately experiencing and internalizing a selfless love I’ll never give or receive. That alone furthered the tears and the protectiveness the character demonstrated towards Aldous.

In addition to these concerns is another matter of spirituality: tarot.

I’ve always deemed it inappropriate to use my real life tarot deck (I use Wildwood Tarot) at a LARP event. The call to use this deck this time around was very strong. I did use it; it felt natural and lighter than it does when I use it for real-life purposes, and it also felt easier to read in-game. As I portrayed a character who embodied intuition, I learned a great deal from her spiritual confidence.

Spirituality, Sex, and the Hunt: Cernunnos and Moira

I’m still humbled by a particular scene at Armistice Arcane. About halfway through the event, Moira was summoned to the main room – because her god was present. This powerful scene resulted in the most interesting reflection and post-game bleed, primarily due to the decisions made.

Half of the power in the scene resulted from the fact that Cernunnos didn’t give a flying fig leaf about who else in the room heard what (which made for a great scene, too). What just a few characters had previously known was then revealed to many: that Moira’s dealings with Cernunnos had a rather intimate component, and that she had done a great deal of hunting for him.

In a previous LARP years ago, I had been called ‘a cougar’ in game (though the slight was most obviously meant out of game), even though I wasn’t interested in anyone at the game, and my In a previous LARP years ago, I had been called ‘a cougar’ in game (though the slight was most obviously meant out of game), even though I wasn’t interested in anyone at the game, and my character was intensely interested in just one specific character. Most of the players at the game were five to ten years younger than me, and the stinging comment has held me back in pursuing various relationships, platonic or romantic in nature, in and out of game at many LARPs since.

It makes me feel like I have to hold back a part of who I am, or only discuss sex in very specific circumstances, while younger women are permitted to embrace their sexuality as part of a more open feminism from which I feel excluded. I should be hitting my stride when it comes to sex; instead I’m still ashamed, mostly due to age and relationship status and that shaming comment that still hangs in my head even though I should know better.

Playing out this scene was exceptionally transformative. Generally, the player age at Armistice Arcane was a bit higher than I am used to, so at 36, my age was about average, and I felt less awkward about playing a character who worships a fertility god. In fact, Moira was honest with some younger folks about such matters in a very no-nonsense way.

The scene itself wasn’t inherently sexual in what was performed, but the elements of power exchange and possession were on display for all to see, laced with knowing language and interactions. The scene and Cernunnos’ intentions towards Moira cast my character as a sexually powerful and desirable person; an embodiment of the Ireland she represented, starved but wanting. And although it was a god who wished to take her away – possibly as a permanent sacrifice combining deaths both petite and eternal – she still had the power of the choice.

Cernunnos and Moira at Armistice Arcane

Cernunnos claims Moira. | Photo: Alicia Trisciuzzi | Used with permission

I can only guess at what the other characters and players were thinking during that particular scene. The language between the locked gaze of Cernunnos and Moira spoke louder than anything either of them said. She trembled in reverence more than fear; she stood up to him; she gave in. Whatever the others were thinking, I don’t think it was ‘ew, I can’t see Tara or her character in that way, she’s disgusting,’ which is what I had been previously conditioned to believe. I know there are individuals who feel that I’m attractive (or at least not disgusting and/or nonsexual), but that’s never been an assumption I’ve had of a crowd before.

My scene partner as well as the other characters who had a part in that scene played true to character. Nolan, a character charged with protecting Moira, sacrificed himself, offering his heart to Cernunnos so that Moira would not have to go with him. (She has mixed feelings on that, though is primarily appreciative since she wanted to stay around to get to know her son better.)

Armistice Arcane scene

Nolan sacrifices himself to the horned god.| Photo: Alicia Trisciuzzi | Used with permission

As a pagan, I feel that we permissively crossed a spiritual line with that scene: like some greater power was amused and appeased. I felt like I was LARPing and not necessarily being inhabited by a higher spiritual force, but near to that, I was playing a part in a way that deeply married spirituality and drama. On top of that, New Orleans has the feeling of permanent Samhain for me, as though the veil between worlds is always lowered.

It doesn’t feel like a coincidence that my tarot readings, in game, were effortless and ridiculously accurate.

I’m sure this may make various individuals and practitioners uneasy, but it felt more like a pagan passion play that we were spiritually permitted to perform. While I haven’t spoken with them about this yet, I know that there are others of a pagan path who participated in the scene. I look forward to getting their read on it, as the line between spiritual and fictional felt comfortably blurred to me. Of course, to me it is all about the sacred duty of storytelling.

To portray Moira, I had to embrace the fact that “the Hunt” in all ways was not good or evil, but about balance, and I did a great deal of work on myself to get to that point of empowerment. It was instrumental in me being able to have Moira play her part during this scene.

Not a shred of clothing was removed, but I stood there naked, and it felt powerful.

Relationship to Food

Like many Irish Americans, I have a complicated relationship with food. I’ve had lean times, when there isn’t always enough nutritious food to eat, and I’ve experienced binge eating when there is. Throw in the anxiety and unpredictability of a new environment (like a LARP), and the availability of food is often a concern that breaks immersion for me. If you’ve ever been at a LARP event in the middle of the woods with just $3 in your pocket when they run out of food, you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

At Armistice Arcane, the availability of food wasn’t a problem. We had goody bags with snacks on top of the regularly scheduled meals and snack buffets, and the hotel had a peanut butter and jelly hour nightly, per La Pavillon’s tradition (it was a rather agreeable venue).

While I’m not suggesting any of my experiences are remotely comparable to those of a person who experienced hunger and watched others starve (as my ancestors and my character did), I found it necessary to examine my own relationship to food before taking on this role.

Dancing and fine fare at Armistice Arcane. | Photo: Alicia Trisciuzzi | Used with permission

I thought considerably about what it would be like for someone like Moira to experience the constant availability of food at the hotel. During the gala dinner, I took two plates, including two of the mini desserts, and made a comment about how guilty I’d feel over wasting a bite. Internalizing the magnitude of the suffering this character had experienced during the Great Hunger was specific; due to her age and being foreign, it was also something she felt very alone in. The Irish Americans knew about the event, but there was no way they could internalize the experience as she had. It was one of many aspects of grief that Moira buried.

Immigration and Restarting

Moira’s been around for a long time, and due to the difficulties in her country and her complications with the Sentinels, she’s moved around a lot – from Ireland to England to the U.S. Each time she hoped to find something fulfilling, but her chance at happiness was either taken away or simply not present.

This was one of the difficulties of preparing for this character, for it applies to me as well. I’ve moved for many jobs and relationships that haven’t worked out, and I often find that a search for a ‘new start in a new place’ is an attempt to fill a hunger, which is not unlike that of a literal hunger. That emptiness is something Moira attempted to learn to live with.

Knowing she had a son provided her with an opportunity to take a new start – she even ended up changing societies to join him and to enjoy a respite. However, the emptiness remained for her.

Departed Family and Suicide

On top of the serious and traumatic losses Moira experienced (and caused), she had so much loss, which piled up over her long life. The saving grace was the son that arrived in her life again. When it came time to possibly go with Cernunnos, to make that sacrifice, she was ready to go. And if she hadn’t an earthly reason to stay, she would have gone with him as an additional sacrifice.

The uncomfortable truth is one that hits home hard: Moira isn’t really living for herself, she’s living for others. She knows their world would be more difficult without her. She knows it’s otherwise her time to go, but that people benefit from her existence and don’t want her to leave.

I remember about a week before my dog died; it was clear the little guy was just miserable, and starting to have real problems with his pain. I looked at him and said, “I love you, Odin. It’s okay if you need to go. I love you and I understand.” And a week later, he did. Sometimes, when my chronic pain and related struggles are at their worst, I wish people would say that to me; sometimes I’m glad they never have. As for Moira, she sought a reprieve.

By the end of the game, Moira’s Order of Cernunnos had reorganized and scattered based upon their reactions to the god himself. Prior to the god’s appearance, Moira had confessed matters of her past (that she had killed, and even without intending, had pretty much done blood magic in their god’s name). She had been told she’d go on trial within the order, and at that moment, she reached out to Aldous to seek protection within the Esoteric Institute, where he had a leadership role.

Cernunnos prepares to take Moira away. | Photo: Alicia Trisciuzzi | Used with permission

Following the presence of Cernunnos, it was obvious that she should stay this course. While Moira will be active at the institute, both in being a subject of study and in researching a scientifically combined way to stop any occurrence of potato blight in the future, she sees it as a sanctuary from the intense loneliness she’s felt for decades. In this way, at least one person’s death has meaning – since Nolan sacrificed himself to Cernunnos, Moira feels that she must live life with a purpose to honor him.

On Questioning Grief

One thing I can’t stand about real life is the way in which I’m constantly questioned for having an occasionally negative outlook. People need to understand that sometimes things aren’t okay, and sometimes attitudes need to temporarily shift accordingly. I’m not going to smile while I drown.

Moira, however, has been so much. All she had to do was simply allude to what the English had done to her people, and others would stop criticizing the depth or intensity of her grief. Some even opted to experience it to a slight degree. Generally, especially within the Order, she did not need a justification for sadness. The cultural association was more than enough for anyone to question her.

I found that grief was much easier to process when given the space to do so.

Heritage, Feminism, and Armistice Arcane

One of the greatest challenges of any historical LARP involves the treatment of people who were historically marginalized. I noticed that there were several players of color who received characters reflective of what was likely their own heritage and origin.

In real life, my Irish American heritage is extremely important to me. I took my research and portrayal of an Irish character very seriously, particularly when it came to the Great Hunger and to drinking, as those events and customs are so tied up in stereotypes. My goal was for Moira to embody Ireland; to exist regardless of what happened; to give of herself to better the world no matter how much it hurt her. Thinking of the character as Ireland herself was especially empowering, specifically during the scene with Cernunnos. Out of game, it functioned to provide a bit of distance between myself and Moira without losing immersion, and allowed me some control over how much I internalized her grief and anger at any given time.

Regarding the treatment of women, there were some comments, in game, about equality and rights and sex that left me with mixed feelings. These things probably wouldn’t have been said were the game in a modern context. That said, I felt that my character had an interesting means of agency, being one of three women of spiritual importance to her community, and being important enough to be one of the people assigned hired gun-style protection. Within my character’s group, she was certainly powerful and respected as such, though she appropriately deferred to the spiritual and political leaders.

armistice arcane characters

Raquel portrays an icy character. | Photo: Alicia Trisciuzzi | Used with permission

I played with the idea that both Moira and her mother had been hunted for worshipping as they did, and that at least in her mother’s time, it was possibly a way to subdue the power of women – particularly the power to heal the island and its people. This was my way of pointing out the patriarchal nature of England’s oppression of Ireland in terms that my character might have used. All of this, Moira had to reconcile with her worship of a male god, running immediately to her male child for protection, and choosing her (male) date to the ball with particular calculation regarding her own safety. (He still attended the ball with her, for the record, even after a fertility god claimed her as his own.)

An interesting point that came up within our Order group was written versus oral agreements and laws. Our group strongly respected the importance of agreements in the tradition of Brehon (early Irish) law, and on an out of game context, this stirred an unexpected amount of pride resulting from a respect of this tradition. It felt wonderful to experience this without having to second guess whether the intentions of the others in my group were geared towards focusing Irish American nationalism towards a white supremacist agenda, as in real life, that is so often the case now.

RP Armistice Arcane

Intense role play at Armistice Arcane. | Photo: Alicia Trisciuzzi | Used with permission

Tools for Bleed and Immersion at Armistice Arcane

I carefully entered this experience knowing about these similarities between myself and the character, and realizing that these topics would come up. So much of the process was solo, unlike my experiences at other games, which rely heavily on character connections. (There is not a major difference in game design; rather, depth of character.) I used the following methods to prepare:

  • A full day in character, alone, not interacting with anyone else, reflecting only on how to embody Ireland and her grief and hunger. This was meditative as much as it was method.
  • The Irish History Podcast by Fin Dwyer, which helped me refresh my knowledge of Irish history and adapt the accent as I paused to repeat certain phrases.
  • An eight-page character sheet provided by Peculiar Crossroads Productions, and weeks to prepare.
  • Whiskey, imbibed before and during the event, not just as a cultural convention for Moira but as a coping mechanism for the character. For reasons of health and emotional and physical safety, I remained responsibly ‘buzzed’ almost the entire time, but I was not inebriated before or during the event. I found that the alcohol added a sepia overtone to the entire affair, and using it, I could control the amount it dulled or exposed the rawness of Moira’s emotions and experiences. (Note: While I’ve gone through periods in the past where I might have consumed alcohol more often than was wise, I do not have a drinking problem and would not advise this method for anyone who might. It isn’t something I would have done if the event was any longer, either.) When I imbibed after the event, it felt important to switch to rum to further separate myself from the character, even though I typically drink whiskey myself.
  • Two major revelations in the game – seeing the strand of fate between Moira and Aldous, and the interaction with the Horned God – were both surprises. The lack of planning increased immersion. I feel that I could have performed better in both scenes with more planning, but would not prefer a do-over because the level of immersion was so raw in both instances.
  • Victorian Conventions (and violating them) – the formality of introductions and interactions served as a baseline for violating norms. It was easy to accomplish a small offbeat goal due to the formality of the occasion.
  • Our embedded GM played a character who was our driver, Pat. He was in and out of game there to help us. I spoke with him briefly about furthering certain plots, but most of the time I utilized him in game by asking him to find someone for me. In one instance, I requested a pen and paper to write a note which he then delivered, which allowed me to focus on role play and to make an important scene come about quicker. Even though I played a mentor role in the group, I didn’t feel responsible for every other player or character’s emotional wellbeing or activity, since the GM was there to step in.
  • Costuming was a challenge for this game, but it was also a helpful tool. I dressed ‘old school Irish’ but also Victorian, and wanted to avoid looking typical medieval fantasy. The one piece of clothing I wore with almost every outfit was a black high-collar blouse. The slight tightness of the collar was a constant reminder of the era and the restrictions my character faced. Once the game was through, it was the first thing I unbuttoned to help separate myself from Moira. The petticoat isn’t something I usually wear in general or at LARPs, so it was also very specific to the era and to Moira.
  • Available counseling wasn’t something I used, but I went as intense and immersive as I felt comfortable doing, pushing boundaries only because I knew that help was available to me if I needed it.

I didn’t expect to use some of these tools to control the volume or intensity of the emotions I experienced during the game, but they definitely helped me play very deeply without entirely losing myself.

My resulting emotions remain as I described them in game: an ocean of grief, stretching from the old world to the new. I feel honored to have been able to explore these feelings in such a different way.

Photography by: Alicia Nicole Trisciuzzi

If you've read this far, you have to join us for the 2019 event!

January 4–6, 2019 | New Orleans

Jan 28, 2018
Get Your Wands Ready!

From the Indiegogo Page: College of Wizardry is a four-day Wizard School larp event, where you can act out your dreams of being a student witch or wizard at a beautiful fairytale castle in Poland. Surrounded by around 130 like-minded people, at College of Wizardry you will:

  • Attend classes as a witch or wizard and learn the magical arts
  • Be selected to represent one of the five ancient Houses of Czocha Castle
  • Explore the castle and meet the magical creatures that roam the grounds
  • Make new friends and form long lasting bonds with like-minded people
  • Get into discussions, stir up shenanigans, and play games
  • Perhaps even a little (in-character) romance?
  • Spend 3 nights at a castle in Poland and have a once-in-a-lifetime adventure
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