From the crew who brought you the infamous, College of Wizardry comes Fairweather Manor, an absolutely fantastic Nordic Larp event that drops players into an Eastern European castle at the dawn of the first world war. Ever wondered what it would be like to be in an episode of Downton Abbey or Upstairs/Downstairs? The Liveform team have done it again, if the responses on the website’s video are any indication. Even to someone with whom this era of history does not resonate, it is difficult not to be swept up in the pageantry, regalia, and decadence that highlighted the darker undertones of the extreme classicism of the early 20th century.
And, as if this step back in time weren’t enough, events are held in the other-worldly, Zamek Moszna, a castle in southern Poland, whose origins, some historians suspect, stretch back to the middle ages. This 365 room wonder will be the home of 136 players from around the world for four days, wherein they will assume one of four predetermined roles: a servant, noble, artist, or local.
While at first glance, this may seem like a turn of the century Halloween party, it is anything but. New arrivals are taken through character workshops and guided through the ins and outs of what it meant to live in the classicist and status-crazed world that was Europe at the beginning of the first World War. As a noble, you’ll spend your days engaged in heated political debates, followed up by a fencing match with some Baron or Lord. Even the kitchens and servants’ quarters are said to have their fair share of intrigue and internal politics. Let’s take a look at how the event breaks down over the weekend and how players can expect to form a relationship with their new personas.
The game is run over the course of a long weekend and is divided largely by the activities planned for the day, based on a player’s chosen archetype. Guests are there under the pretext of a grand birthday party for a Duke of some repute. As such, players sign up for a character type, and then refer to their respective schedule for the weekend. Lord or Lady, Maid, or Footman, everyday is full of enough activities for your character to be as engaged as they care to be. In fact, there is time allotted during each day specifically for this purpose; that is choosing activities your character would most likely be engaged in. Whereas a servant may cater to the needs of the household, the artist would be the role most likely associated with leading many of the more mentally stimulating activities, be it, “…lectures on morality and theatre plays to croquis drawing lessons and spiritual sessions.” To insert some personal opinion here, it’s refreshing to see this much care and effort on part of the game developers; that as part of the event, nearly a whole day is devoted to nothing but player workshops designed to help enhance the game world via a bit of “pre-immersion.” This notion, of helping each player to make the game better for themselves, thereby making the game better for everyone, should almost be considered “best practice,” in any new LARP development. Even with Fairweather Manor’s design document being as accessible as it is, that they chose to devote a whole day to briefing players on the many facets of life in the turn of the century, only further demonstrates their commitment to the entirety of the player experience. And this by no means stops at the nobility. There is an equivalent, if not a bit more understated, schedule designed to keep even the servants engaged and interested in the weekend’s goings on.
As a participant in Fairweather Manor, players will be assigned a pre-generated character akin to something you might find in a one-shot tabletop game. While it may seem like the missing out on the chance to create your own character would make the game less interesting, this in fact, is a smart move on part of the game developers for a couple of reasons. First, it takes a lot of the administrative weight off of the shoulders of game staff to process and incorporate myriad PC submissions, and puts the focus squarely on producing awesome, thoughtful, and relevant characters in which a player may lose themselves. Second, character creation can be a daunting task, especially within the context of a new system. For anyone new to the hobby, this could mean the difference between a great weekend, and a good one. The pressure of coming up with an archetype and respective character traits, as marginal as it may be to the seasoned gamer, could be just enough for a perspective player to take their entertainment dollar elsewhere. The Liveform team got it right in pre-planning and design when they chose to create and format their characters, so let’s take a look at what you can expect as a PC when stepping into the world of Fairweather Manor.
Overall Format and Layout
For those of you with the Call of Cthulhu role playing game one shots, the character sheets for Fairweather Manor should seem pretty familiar (how cool would it be to do a Fairweather Manor/CoC mashup?).
As we can see, the sheet is essentially devoid of mechanics, in favor of the more free form and roleplay driven facets of the Nordic LARP style. In fact, I couldn’t really even find mechanics related to combat when skimming through the player’s guide. What we do have, however, is a character sheet whose seemingly sole focus is to provide a player everything they need to dive into a character for the weekend, free from the stresses of having to digest lots of mechanics. For those of you reading this that haven’t really participated in a LARP like this, or a LARP at all for that matter, these types of events can be great segues into the hobby, almost as if you’re merely upgrading to a more engaging Murder Mystery Dinner party! While it certainly helps to be into the setting, the developers have made it easy for anyone to pick up and start playing.
Reading through the player’s guide, it is plain to see that this game is not meant to be a historical reenactment. It is described as “historical-ish,” and meant to be more of an elaborate social event. It is evident right from the table of contents that the developers took great pains to ensure a quality of setting and affect a sense of time and place. Much of the guide imparts the importance of understanding the time period in which the game takes place and how it affects the lives and opinions of each and every character.
Character sheets provide players with a rough outline of how they should approach the event, i.e. who they are, some motivations, some ideas for mischief or other. And after some orientation at the beginning of the event it is up to the player to fill in the blanks.
You can purchase tickets to Fairweather Manor through their website, or via this link. The next event is April 14th – 17th, in Poland at the Zamek Moszna.