The weekend is over, and so is my inaugural LARPing experience at Legacy. I am delighted to report that I was not immediately ridiculed and/or beaten to a pulp over the course of the event, though I think I may have suffered some lingering physical damage on the cellular level due to the fact that it got so cold at night I was seriously considering slicing open my fiancée and sleeping inside her carcass for warmth.
Faire Play, the “campsite” for the LARP, is a beautiful site. It was at one time a functioning farm, and the primary building is a massive barn complete with grain silos that has been converted into a medieval tavern and inn; the exposed roof beams and wooden plank walls give it the kind of rustic period charm that fully immerses you in the setting. The down side is that not only is there no god damned insulation, but the innumerable cracks in the walls let in every breath of wind, turning the barn into an icebox in the winter. Combine that with a location in the highlands of northern Pennsylvania and an unseasonable cold snap, and the results were about 50 shivering LARPers praying for a swift, painless death. Even those of us who had the foresight to bring space heaters were left in misery due to the lack of insulation in the living quarters, leaving a few to actually retreat to the relative safety of their cars. Hell, even the porta-potties were warmer than that goddamn barn.
Despite its effects, the cold wasn’t enough to truly dampen people’s spirits. Everyone was riding high on the excitement that accompanied being present at the first-ever event of a brand-new LARP, and I found myself infected by this as all the other players began to amass at the foot of the stairs leading up to the inn. The staff came down soon after we had all finished gathering, and after a few brief words of welcome and general announcements, the game began – people slipped into character, bad guys started showing up out of nowhere, and before I knew it I was fending off attacks with my shield and running around a hill in the dark trying to figure out what the hell was going on – and it was pretty damn fun.
I’m glad that the one thing that I was the most worried about never materialized. The vast majority of players and staff spoke and acted like normal human beings while they were both in character and out of character, and while I heard a number of accents employed to varying degrees of authenticity, it was a true rarity to hear anyone using any sort of stilted high diction unless they were playing a character that was a stuffy, formal, over-educated type. I had been having nightmares for months about being surrounded by people who sounded like they were reading The Silmarillion out loud. Once it became apparent that that wasn’t the case, I was able to relax and enjoy myself.
As much as the players contributed to my feelings of being at ease, I can’t even begin to express how hard the staff worked to make the event enjoyable for everyone. I can hardly think of any staff member that wasn’t completely dedicated to putting forward a truly memorable and unique experience for their players, and between the staff and and those players that spent the entire weekend working as non-player characters like Nameless Brigands or Bastard Orcs 3 through 14 – it’s hard work dying and respawning countless times – I can think of only perhaps one or two instances the entire weekend of a staff member or NPC doing or saying something that rubbed me (as a player) the wrong way. For a first game with a brand new staff and player base, I would count that as a win.
It’s not like the players were perfect, either, of course. I’m not talking about any kind of in character interactions or personality clashes, either – I’m a big enough boy to know when someone’s acting like an asshole because it’s the kind of character that they’re playing and not because they are, in truth, an asshole – but I did hear some out-of-character murmurs of discontent concerning the actions of one player here or another player there. Most of the complaints involved someone not abiding by the game’s honor system when recording the damage a player took in a fight, like not taking their hits or “forgetting” how many hit points or magic points they had remaining, but it was notably rare and the number of honest players far outnumbered those who perhaps fudged the rules a bit in their favor.
I was also very relieved to see that not every encounter over the weekend involved just slapping green face paint on some NPCs and sending them out in waves against the players. My favorite part that truly exemplified this was on Saturday afternoon, when about a dozen of us were rounded up by a staff member to go on the hunt for the “Achuzzi,” a creature that was described to us as about the size and shape of an ostrich but with plumage like a peacock. We were told that if we found the bird and managed to pluck one of its tailfeathers, we would all be awarded with a blessing – and that killing the animal was not only unnecessary but also discouraged.
Keeping in mind what the staff member told us about it: it was fast, and strong, capable of taking on quite a few people at once, but skittish and only capable of seeing you if you were moving, we all split up into groups of about four people each and began scouring the forest for the bird, planning to herd and distract it long enough for someone to grab the tailfeather and run. I was in the group that decided to go across the stream and up the (rather steep) wooded hill on the other side, and we actually found the animal up at the top of the ridge.
The “beast,” of course, was Roger, one of the staff members, who was walking around in a pair of neon parachute pants, a feathered Mardi Gras mask, and with his bare chest covered with glued-on feathers. He had been squawking and strutting around a clearing for an hour as the poor bastard waited for someone to stumble upon him, and was probably as relieved as we were at being found, but even though in a normal circumstance it would have been goofy as hell to see something like this, it went off amazingly well: we all circled around the Achuzzi, taking turns distracting it with movement and sound, until it came close enough to me that it bounced off my shield, giving another player time to snatch the oversized feather sticking out of Roger’s pants and run like his hair was on fire.
The player actually ran down the ridge, with the Achuzzi right on his heels, and I was sure one or both of them was going to end up in a crumpled heap of broken bones at the bottom of the stream bed, but somehow they both survived – and there was much rejoicing. Just goes to show you that throwing yourself at the ground and missing is still the best way to fly.
I really can’t recommend the experience enough. If you’ve ever been curious about LARPing or if you’re looking for a new one to check out – and Montrose, Pennsylvania isn’t too far out of your way – see if you can’t make it to a Legacy event this year. I know that everyone’s lives are becoming increasingly busy, as so many of us have work and family responsibilities, but it’s the most fun I’ve had over a weekend that only costs $45 per person and didn’t involve drinking heavily and waking up without your pants. I’d say wait until the weather gets a little warmer, though – either that, or bring your own personal tauntaun.