Fuelled by the immolation of a meticulously decorated polystyrene corpse, everyone joined in the chanting and, all-of-a-sudden this had become a real funeral.
It was on that dark Saturday night, looking around the ritual circle of sixty-or-so other peasants, lords and clerics that I found myself truly lost between worlds of reality and fiction.
With one hand I pulled a fur cloak tightly around my finest embroidered Viking tunic as I gazed into the dancing flames, and in the other I held a conspicuously modern can of Carlsberg lager.
The ceremony went on for ages, with people dressed in all sorts of outfit standing up to deliver heroic tales about their fallen comrade. I must have cheered to his name (and eagerly sipped some beer) ten times in one speech about the slaying of a demon.
And the great thing was; all of these stories I was hearing had happened. The body that I could see disappear into the increasingly unsafe bonfire was a real guy. The character for which I was a pallbearer in the procession to this funeral site had been a walking, talking (and evidently honourable) chap!
These dramatics held more depth than anything I had seen on Game of Thrones and more majesty than the best-constructed epic-level tabletop RPG. Saying that, there was just the right amount of awkward.
Amongst the congregation I could see a few bored faces - those who’s commitment had dropped along with the evening’s temperature - and there were a few slip-ups from the speakers which just made the whole thing feel so much more… real. Even at a real-life wedding there are mistakes that make you hold your breath in anticipation of absolute disaster.
This piece of theatre that I had been a part of was not rehearsed and that, alongside the enthusiasm of everyone who had organised and attended it, made that night one of the most enjoyable and moving -nerdy- things I have ever done.
The following morning, after a long night of drinking and theological debate about the undead, we rose sprightly to continue with another day of adventure and faff. Some rose from their tents more sprightly than others.
After a whole day on Saturday of playing (besides my character) a demonic scarecrow, bureaucratic zombie and tainted giant oak tree, by the Sunday I had found my rhythm. One last adventure before lunch ensured I had met over half the people at the event and had a good idea of the way things worked.
In downtime I was able to continue talking to characters, and players, and make sure I left with some certainty as to how I would continue if I came back at the next event later in the spring.
And that was the question on my mind as I sat amongst some new friends in their tent full of fantastical trinkets whilst diving into a can of pringles. Would this experience, as eye-opening as it was, be something I would want to do all over again?
One thing is for certain; the more you put into LARPing, the more you get out of it. Sitting in the corner expecting something great to happen won’t get you anywhere – you need someone or some way to become part of the shared experience. This isn’t to say everyone needs to make themselves as loud and friendly as they possibly can be, but everyone should have some idea of why they are there and what they hope to achieve as a character, in the world that everyone has a vested interest in.
To give you a couple examples; one character I met was a bodyguard, sworn to protect his beautiful elementalist friend, both far away from home. As a character I found him quite cold and arrogant but after seeing him volunteer to fight two bad-guys in a duel so his friend would remain unharmed, he had made himself part of the story! What a hero.
Another fellow I briefly met had clearly invested a lot of time and money into his costume (like many others) and, although he went on adventures calmly and quietly, had a large influence over the world and everyone else within it.
All the established mages, scribes, warriors, goblins and necromancers I met on that weekend made the place feel organic and, more than anything else, an interesting place to be. However, learning the world and not feeling like an outsider might take forever and I feel like there could have been a clearer process in place to help newbies get integrated.
Reflecting on the grandeur of the event, the diversity of the attendees and support of the administration I am certain it would be foolish for me not to give it another go.
My only fear is that it won’t be as impressive the next time around.
On a more basic level; spend an entire day wearing a cloak, drinking from a tankard and laughing about ‘how we almost died back there’…why wouldn’t you go again?
To find out more about the event I went to; visit this facebook group (their website is down a the time of writing)
To get in touch with questions or get involved; send me an email.
To understand what LARPing is; here’s a great video that started me off.