Chasing Bleed – An American Fantasy Larper at Wizard School

Chasing Bleed – An American Fantasy Larper at Wizard School

In June of 2016, I went to wizard school.

I’m a larper, so that’s kind of an expected thing. But this wasn’t just any larp experience: this was New World Magischola, a Nordic-inspired game on American soil. Like many Americans who participated in the game, I was equal parts excited and intimidated.

I knew I’d have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I wasn’t prepared for the loving and supporting community that would stick with me weeks after the event.

This article describes how I felt about my experience as someone who comes from an American campaign boffer fantasy larp background.

My Background as a Larper

I’ve been participating in live action role playing games for about eight years. I entered the hobby when I attended a PvP (player vs. player) boffer larp called Vanguard (initially Portal II), the sequel to a popular game located in South Jersey in the Northeastern United States.

After sampling a few other games in similar play style, I joined the staff of Seventh Kingdom IGE to handle the out-of-game responsibility of marketing for the first few years of its run. I marketed the game as more immersive[1]In a US context immersion usually means something external to the player, what is more often called 360 degree illusion in the Nordic countries. Immersion is mostly understood to be an internal state in the Nordic traditions. than other local games. I still play there as a PC (player character).

Years later, I began attending larps in other genres, such as the sci-fi Mercenaries of the Galactic Frontier Campaign in the Mystic Realms Multiverse, as well as games within the fantasy genre. Most significantly, I began larping at conventions and played freeform games such as those in #Feminism: A Nano-Games Anthology.

As I started to expand my interest in larps beyond those played primarily in my region, I felt and acted upon a strong desire to blend the styles. When I started attending Double Exposure events and played in This Miracle, a freeform larp by Lizzie Stark and Nick Fortugno focusing on religion and rituals, I asked the other players for permission to take back one of the rituals we’d created and use it as a ritual to an existing god at my home larp.

When I portrayed my established character in the ritual setting, I brought a more aggressive character and play style more commonly used in American fantasy boffer combat games. It’s my hope that both games benefited from this blend and small exchange, and it’s this satisfaction in doing so that led me to snag a ticket for New World Magischola.

New World Magischola is a larp all about attending college as a wizard. It relies on North American lore and traditions and is inspired by the massively successful College of Wizardry, which is run in a castle in Poland.

My Goals at New World Magischola

Nordic larpers played alongside American larpers at New World Magischola

Nordic larpers played alongside American larpers at New World Magischola

Having experienced immersion and bleed[2]Bleed is when emotions bleed over between player or character, in either direction. at my regular game, I looked for an enhanced version of this experience at New World Magischola. So often, American larpers in my region see bleed primarily as a negative consequence of immersion and over-committed role-play, but I enjoy it as a way to learn more about an aspect of myself.

After I got to know the experienced role-players I’d interact with at New World Magischola via online conversations and Google Hangout sessions prior to the game, I let them know that I was going for some emotionally driven roleplay centered around certain themes.

This type of play is far from impossible to obtain at my usual fantasy games, I should note – one time I experienced missing someone in character and found the scene a cathartic way for me and others to process the real life sudden loss of a beloved member of our larp community. While this type of play is hesitantly accepted in my usual larp community, it is not the norm. Additionally, other real-life societal expectations sometimes endure in the community. For example, the community may more readily accept a woman crying than a man.

Goal 1: Immersion

“Full immersion is dangerous,” one of my friends had told me previously. And he has a point: if you become the character to the point of losing track of the rules in a game involving combat or if you fail to recognize safety words and others’ triggers, immersion could be very dangerous. However, internalizing rules systems – no matter the complexity – has been a safe, useful strategy for me in the past. (This does require either a pre-existing familiarity of the rules system or a game without too many rules).

Having some experience with immersion, feeling comfortable with other participants, and trusting in the organizers, I decided to play as immersively as possible, even opting for an in-game sleeping space. (At New World Magischola, dorm rooms are considered off-game by default.)

The character I played at New World Magischola — Minerva — was stern and often angry. She was rarely effusive with positive emotions. This is a stringent contrast to My Seventh Kingdom IGE character (Ceara) – she’s one of the bubblier characters in game. Minerva hid her expressive vocal talent; Ceara thrives on self-expression. I wanted to play a markedly different character and felt that in a Nordic-style game, my character development would be less hindered (as compared to the American fantasy setting) if I chose to play a character who wasn’t inherently happy.

In real life, I always encounter articles about finding happiness or avoiding negativity. However, life has negative moments. I need to deal with them, not shove them aside. Playing Minerva allowed me to explore this thematically and as a process in a way that the real world does not allow.

Result of Immersion at New World Magischola:

I was out-of-game for less than an hour between game on and game off. I began to feel fully immersed less than an hour into the game. I felt or actively went out of game only for:

  • Cut scenes (for emotional safety)
  • To access my phone to check in with my dog sitters
  • Experiencing anxiety about getting lost (I’m horrible with maps and the campus is large)
  • A few selfies to document my experience, which I did off-game only because I smile and my character generally doesn’t
  • Self-care – I had to pause and take a nap; I had to take medication

Immersion helped me expose and confront many negative behaviors – and play up qualities of myself I wish to show to the world more often. Since the game’s end, I have pursued active bleed for the following positive habits once I noticed them forming as a result of the game experience:

  • Reduction of negative self-talk (“I’m so stupid; I can’t figure out where to find my keys, how can I possibly do anything of significance?”)
  • Asking for help when I need it: I had a support network in-game. We’re in an out-of-game Facebook group together. Today I asked them for support with a trying situation and I got it.
  • Being myself instead of what the world expects of me: Sometimes I’m not happy, and that’s okay. Not going to fake it until I make it – I’d rather just avoid wasting my time worrying about the approval of people who don’t matter.
  • Creative problem-solving: I often feel a loss of control when there is no immediate answer to the problem. How can I use the resources I have to work around that helplessness?
  • Only apologize when necessary: Apologies are more meaningful when they are rare and reserved for sincerity. I’m not going to apologize to someone if they’re standing in my way or talking over me – but I will apologize if I stand in their way or talk over them.
  • Respect for proper pronouns: As an editor of subject matter in different fields and subcultures, I can make an active impact regarding this change. I will not wait for a style book to change the way “they” is used. I’ll just make the change. Small policy, large impact.

When the game ended, the debriefing materials and counselors asked us to focus on what we’d like to take away and what we’d like to leave behind. I was surprised to find that I wanted to take away so many things.

Goal 2: Explore Minerva’s Themes: Grief and Loyalty

Having had a positive, cathartic experience exploring grief among trusted friends at a fantasy game, I elected to explore the topic again here. In everyday life, I feel a pressure to “be strong,” especially since other women in geek culture have confessed to looking at me as an influencer.

However, I understand that being strong also means being real about strong emotions and coping with them. New World Magischola provided me with an opportunity to explore and resolve issues that were holding me back.

Grief

I miss my grandfather a lot. He passed away in 2014. When I received my character sheet for New World Magischola, I noticed that her grandfather was a mundane country musician. When I later had the opportunity to request a scene, I asked that the grandfather’s ghost come to find Minerva at school.

I noted on the request form that I was going for some closure and intentional bleed here to keep all parties informed for emotional safety. I was confident that the people handling this would have good judgment, and they did.

The scene created was extremely touching. My character sang to her grandfather and the scene pushed her to accept and process her emotions more readily. I’m extremely grateful to those who helped with the scene, knowing what it meant, and that no one questioned my ability to determine what level of intentional bleed was appropriate for me.

This scene was part of the reason I felt so much peace after I came home from game.

Some people, even in the larp scene, find this whole experience weird or think that bleed is only something negative. While I’ve experienced negative effects of bleed, I more commonly utilize it as a very powerful tool for self-discovery and self-improvement. However, I struggle with a lack of validation for that strategy in my usual larp scene.

Loyalty

I enjoy being valued. Unfortunately, this can manifest in negative attention-seeking behaviors in the real world, like wanting to be noticed by people who mean to harm or manipulate me and others. I used the game as an opportunity to explore loyalty to an entire group of people (my character’s House).

Although Minerva had more personal connections with some than others (and although some of those people weren’t necessarily doing things for the good of the world), this was a much healthier way for my character (and myself) to seek positive reinforcement, approval, and loyalty.. As Minerva, I was able to turn that constant approval into positive actions, like making new spells or mentoring a new House initiate with confidence.

This process is an exemplary one for me to internalize. I don’t want to waste energy on the wrong people, but there are some people in my life who deserve my loyalty. Roleplaying Minerva helped me learn how to differentiate between the two.

Both Minerva and Ceara are extremely loyal characters. This is one of the more rewarding traits for me to play and makes me feel like I can seek and give approval to others in both settings in an emotionally healthy way.

New World Magischola

Exploring a World Without ‘-isms’

The week before I went to New World Magischola, my website about women in geek culture was hacked. This happened as my site hosted a series of panels about women in geek culture, representation in films, and communities of color and safe spaces at Wizard World Philly, an annual fan convention in Philadelphia.

The hack may or may not have been coincidental, but the effects were very real: I felt angry, unsafe, and, defeated.

Going into the game, especially after this, was the challenge of playing in a world without “isms.” I’m white, cisgender, and heterosexual, and I’m aware that I likely project many microaggressions unintentionally towards marginalized people.

Additionally, as illustrated by the website hack example, I feel disadvantaged as a woman living in a patriarchal society. I wasn’t sure how I could even begin to pretend to live in something else, so I made it a personal challenge to recognize equality as part of the Magimundi: the magical world in New World Magischola.

I was somewhat accustomed to this in my home larp as my character represents a “might makes right” society. While power matters more than gender in the game setting and the real-world game culture, there are still occasionally some gender dynamics in play (and I willfully explore some of those in-game relationships).

Without the existence of sexism holding me (the player) back at New World Magischola, I found that my character did not question herself very often, and that other characters challenged her on ideas and associations rather than physical characteristics, appearance, or clothing.

Being Perceived as Capable

Minerva was seen as capable as most others in the world because the roleplay mattered more than a preconceived notion of what it meant to be “able.” While I do suffer from chronic pain, it’s usually not visible. I am, however, short in height and frequently talked over by men. Yet within the world, I did not experience this negativity and I was not held back by it.

From a place of privilege, I also found it immersively easier to think person-first: “they’re a Marshal” or “she’s a member of Dan Obeah” versus seeing differences and disabilities as a primary identifying characteristic. It’s not about defining someone else, but being very aware of how they prefer to be identified and defined (or not). It’s important to recognize how someone else wants to be thought of: is this part of who they are? Do they identify this way as a primary means of definition? New World Magischola caused me to think about these things and have enlightening conversations about them later.

The game world is all about what you can do, not your real or perceived limitations – and your abilities are based on magical prowess and how you interact with the world, not a character sheet with hit points and skills.

I found my real-world biases exposed and as a result, I commit to fighting them post-game.

I also wish to note that the players of the game did explore themes of inclusion allegorically. I made the choice to downplay my character’s biases in certain instances, especially following the recent shooting in Orlando. As my character felt especially close to a vampire hater, I learned that sometimes hate originates from a pain in someone who feels they can’t be healed.

For further analysis on these themes, please read a queer perspective.

Game Format and Timing

The most significant adjustments I had to make in going from an American fantasy campaign boffer larp to New World Magischola involved game format and timing. In most of the games I’ve played, the climax of the story occurs towards the end of the game in a “main mod,” during which the main characters and their NPC (non-player character) allies take on the big bad villain of the month.

What Is a Larp Module?

Modules, or “mods.” typically involve planned scenes during which PCs are presented with opportunities to interact with NPCs and environments in a battle and/or roleplay context. An example: a known friendly NPC acts as a “hook,” asking for adventurers to help him get to another location safely. On the way, the group is attacked by waiting monsters (NPCs). While this is typical of American fantasy campaign style, mods can involve only two people and a high level of emotional intensity. The “main mod” is typically inclusive of the entire group and may involve grand melee combat.

At a game like New World Magischola, this isn’t necessarily the case. The big event at the end is the formal ball. Like classes and meals, it’s built into the schedule of the game. It’s a protected space with wards, so nothing bad can happen there; I got the impression from some College of Wizardry veterans that you should even have your plot wrapped up before the ball.

Emotionally, I was pleasantly surprised at the way the event worked for me and some members of my character’s House. The game got more emotional for me over time. At one point, my character was upset and there were tears. One of the counselors (who are brilliantly counselors in game, but will also talk to you out of game if necessary) came over to check on me. In the last twenty minutes of the game, I managed to wrap up my plot in a way that prevented too much negative bleed.

Competition: Playing to Win, Playing to Lose, and the “Magic” Combination

New World MagischolaIt’s often assumed that:

  • American larpers play to win: competitive play in which the game can be “won;”
  • Nordic larpers play to lose: making choices to create the most interesting or moving scene even if that has negative consequences for their character.

While I love competitive elements, I’ve also seen them create a destructive or win-focused environment in some games and gaming cultures.

At New World Magischola, much of the in-game competition was enhanced by personal rivalry. This especially makes sense due to the elaborate pre-game relationship building some wished to partake in.

In both gaming environments, I have noticed in-game competition taken a little too far — teasing on Facebook about one culture or House being better than another, chants disparaging one group instead of simply promoting one’s own. Overall, I felt like the spirit at New World Magischola was more welcoming, but that could also be due to a “grass is always greener” or honeymoon effect.

Immersion was prevalent in both styles, though I found myself more frequently and more fully immersed in the Nordic style game. This was due to several reasons:

  • I didn’t have to do math to think about how many hit points I had
  • The setting, while magical, was modern, so things like “mundane cars” didn’t have to be “dragons”
  • Most out-of-game communication took place before the game, very briefly, or through non-invasive hand signals (as opposed to narration or describing things that weren’t actually there)

Immersion Versus Playing to Lose

That said, I didn’t embrace “play to lose” as much as some Nordic style gamers do. This is because of immersion. I was always conscious of safety and ensuring others’ comfort as players, but I wasn’t thinking “what will make a more interesting story?” or even “what would my character do?” Instead, I had chosen to play a reactive character and I did.

In retrospect, there were things I could have done to make more interesting scenes. There were also actions other players took to ensure better scenes for me, but for the most part, I’m glad I stuck to simply being my character and setting her up in a way that encouraged kindness to other players, involving others (not hoarding information), and dramatic, decisive involvement.

What Others Said: Too Nordic or Not Nordic Enough?

I have not played a larp in Europe, but I did hear some College of Wizardry vets describe some differences between the two games. I got the impression that there is less hand-holding at College of Wizardry and less attention to various sensitivities.

As a player, safety is important to me. I need to feel physically and emotionally safe before I can experience immersion, and the rules set in place at New World Magischola made that possible.

Effects of Bleed: Expected and Unexpected

Having experienced bleed before in campaign games, I did expect some lasting effects. I’ve had players treat me poorly because they did not agree with or understand something my character did. Some of them did this unintentionally or they would simply not admit to bleed — since it’s such a forbidden thing in some American larp.

I found that the intentional bleed I sought at New World Magischola was there and it was transformative. Weeks later, I feel like I really dove into the grieving process and gave myself closure by experiencing grief in game.

What I did not expect was such a strong bond with the other players. Prior to the game, I’d been going through a great deal of personal difficulty and hadn’t been able to connect with other players to the degree I’d wanted, mostly due to real world strain and time limitations. Plus, I thought I’d only be playing this character for a few days: why was it worth it to invest so much time and money into character creation and relationships?

As I mentioned previously, I did spend time on Google Hangouts with the players of my character’s House presidents and other members of our House before game. I was pretty comfortable with everyone in the Hangouts, so this made me able to hop right into character once we were in game.

They seemed like cool people and once we started talking about character development, I could tell that they were all very talented and creative.

What I was not expecting was the out-of-game attachment I’d feel to other players I interacted with in-game. It’s been more than a week since the game has ended and it feels really weird if I don’t talk to the player of my character’s roommate every other day or so.

There’s also the shared experience: it helps me to know that other people miss me. I feel very validated in all of my emotions and actions surrounding the game.

I did find that my return to “normal life” happened a bit faster than that of others. This was likely due to:

  • Short travel time (6 hours) and little time spent “in transit” (airports, etc.)
  • Formal and informal debriefing following the game
  • Immediate return to work
  • My own expectations for intentional bleed
  • Being accustomed to returning to work immediately after an intense RP weekend

The need to remain connected with other players was so intense it was surprising. I found that others in the community were experiencing similar feelings, and once I realized that my feelings were typical for the experience, I accepted them. Now I have New World Magischola friends I’ve already seen in person again and many more that I speak to on Facebook regularly. Aside from the positive bleed (particularly less negative self-talk) I took away from the game, my new friends are the greatest benefit of having played in this community.

Blending Traditions: Reconciliation and Deliberate Infusions

Moving forward, I’m prepared to blend styles as much as existing games will allow. I find the “main mod” in campaign larps irresistible — but in Nordic style games, players are empowered to create plot themselves. Having emotional scenes at the end of the New World Magischola game was a highlight for me. There’s no reason I couldn’t have also had a big duel as well.

I have to accept the fact that there isn’t a big finale, necessarily, in the Nordic style, but that doesn’t mean I can’t work within the format to create something satisfying for myself and others.

Player empowerment is something I want to bring back with me into Seventh Kingdom. As I play a character in a leadership position, I’m already empowered and expected to do some things for the players and characters in my group. While I don’t want to push the limits of what I’m permitted to do — there’s no making up spells on the fly when there’s a 300 page rulebook —  I realize that I can create customs and traditions for my character’s kingdom, get them staff approved if necessary, and run rituals and other events within the player group.

During a run of This Miracle at Dreamation in 2014, I wasn’t sure about freeform and Nordic style games. It felt more comfortable for me to play a familiar character, so I played Ceara from Seventh Kingdom. There were not too many character limitations and playing a developed character seemed to help other players as well.

During the game, we created rituals together. One of the rituals we created reminded my character very much of her culture in Seventh Kingdom. With the players’ permission, I took the ritual back to my home larp and involved them in it at the game. The ritual helped to engage new players by providing them with something to do. In this way, I’ve been blending games and styles naturally and the biggest benefits are:

  • How increasingly comfortable I become in multiple styles
  • How I provide engaging content that helps other players and enhances the storylines of other characters.

Financial Privilege and Accessibility

Prior to playing New World Magischola, I had been a bit put off by some players in the Nordic scene. While I was open-minded, some of them didn’t believe that I had achieved immersion in “just a boffer larp.” That’s hurtful, because I’m proud of the intense roleplay that happens at Seventh Kingdom and I work very hard as a player to foster that aspect of the culture at the larp.

Additionally, there are comments like “you need to play a game in Europe.” That implies a lot of financial privilege. Like most American larpers, I can’t simply afford to fly to Poland on a whim and play in a castle (even though I would love to play College of Wizardry). At best, for most campaign larpers, that would involve sacrificing their home game for a once per year experience. And when your social community revolves around larp and you enjoy larp, that’s a depressing thought.

Attending New World Magischola was a privilege for me. I made sacrifices to go, as did other members of my household. I’m eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner this week because I wanted to have the right props for the game two weeks ago. That’s not the worst thing ever, but it goes to show that not everyone can easily afford to attend. I was only able to go because I snagged a lightning round ticket during the New World Magischola Kickstarter.

It was worth the equivalent of copay for 19 sessions of therapy that it cost, and was at least as cathartic, providing me with a vehicle for self-affirmation, inclusion, and positivity supported by a loving community.

Maison DuBois

House Maison DuBois.

American Larpers: A Note on Superiority, Elitism, and Guilt

New World Magischola fell on the same weekend of my beloved Seventh Kingdom IGE. I had no small amount of guilt over heading to another game instead of one I’ve played every month (with one exception, when I was in a car accident) for years.

I lessened this guilt by taking the opportunity to make sure my kingdom group at Seventh Kingdom had everything they needed, to send in my monthly reports and character letters, and to let the game’s staff know I wouldn’t be around.

I had major FOMO (fear of missing out) regarding Seventh Kingdom the whole way down to New World Magischola. By the time the game was over, I was so overtaken with the immersive experience and intentional bleed of New World Magischola that I didn’t even think about Seventh Kingdom until my friend asked – and then I checked the phone to make sure my kingdom still existed in the game and that the king still lived!

The general perception in some international larp communities is that American fantasy boffer larping is pretty low-brow and that Nordic larp experiences are intense, emotional, have less rules, and therefore better. Following New World Magischola, players originating from both styles admitted to these perceptions on Facebook and confessed concern and regret over how it could have affected their play. Most had positive experiences and were so grateful to find that the stereotypes were not entirely true.

Coming back from my first large-scale Nordic-style game and going back to my core group of friends who larp here, I wasn’t sure how to discuss my experiences with them. It was clear I had fallen in love with the new game and the play style; I harbored guilt that I developed a familial relationship in three days akin to one that had taken three years to develop in a campaign setting. This also extended to my non-larp geek friends. “You had to be there” doesn’t sound welcoming. I’m still trying to think of a way to express my appreciation for both styles without sounding superior in either social group.

I tried discussing my experiences with a few close friends from the American larp scene. I called Seventh Kingdom a “boffer game” like Nordic larpers do and got an immediate scowl from my friend. I see myself as continuing to enjoy both styles, but expecting different things out of them:

  • Games like Seventh Kingdom let you work over time to earn big achievements, which is extremely rewarding. You can’t just “make yourself” a diplomat in that game, but there are avenues to earn it, for example. I like having to earn something over time.
  • The triumphant feeling of fighting “the Big Bad” at the main mod at the end of the game is exhilarating. I prefer this format of action.
  • Less rules (like at New World Magischola) promotes immersion and prevents rules lawyering.
  • Relationship-building is a crucial aspect of both types of games, so long as they involve collaborative storytelling.
  • Open discussion of bleed, lack of shame, and the unabashed acceptance of the game culture at New World Magischola is refreshing. It’s more than a honeymoon phase, but the fact that it’s new to me only enhances my feelings.

I’m not going to hide the fact that New World Magischola made me a better larper and a stronger, more confident, and more empathetic person. I want to carry those positive traits over to all of my larping experiences.

Recommendations for American Larpers

American larpers attending Nordic games in general and New World Magischola in particular should keep the following in mind:

  • You won’t get accused of being a “special snowflake.” Make a scene request. Enhance a scene. Do something dramatic. It only makes the collaborative storytelling experience better.
  • Some preplanned relationships and player interaction helps, especially if you want to feel more comfortable. There’s no need to put an excessive amount of time into it, though. You can do this online, but connecting in person and at the workshops at the beginning of the game is especially recommended.
  • Wear or do something iconic that is specific only to your character. For me, it was a hat.
  • In some scenes, you’re a supporting character. In other scenes, you’re the star.
  • If you need help improvising or can’t figure out a solution to something, ask in-character. Minerva asked her mentor and professors for help with a spell, which made sense in game.

These experiences and comparisons are only mine. Given their own backgrounds and individual larp experiences, each player will have different feelings regarding what it’s like to play at New World Magischola. For me, the game was an unforgettable, life-changing, shared experience.

In the American games I play in the northeastern U.S., admitting to bleed comes with a stigma. At New World Magischola, it comes with the territory. I’d like to see American games adapt a healthier mentality here: it potentially makes role-play and combat more meaningful. New World Magischola wasn’t afraid of empowering players to affect the game world; I’d love to see some of these restrictions similarly lifted in American games. Some do that to a degree — at Seventh Kingdom IGE, characters are encouraged to spend “patronage points” to influence politics behind the scenes. More of that, maybe not dependent on mechanics, would benefit these games.

At New World Magischola, people were focused on the experience. We were told there is no “world plot” like there often is in American games, and there was no guaranteed awesome “main mod” moment towards the end of the game. New World Magischola could meet more American larpers’ expectations by making a slight adaptation to them. The announcement of the house cup winners did provide some closure to the event and players seemed to understand that it was important to tie up plots if possible, but a final, definitive and dramatic surprise scene involving combat might have improved the closure.

Going forward, I aim to willfully contribute to the blending of these styles, especially as games and systems allow. As long as safety is considered, I’m not going to hold back the emotional depth of my roleplay at American games; as long as there is the opportunity to create more final and decisive action, I’ll work on initiating larger scenes in Nordic style games.

My combined experiences in multiple styles and my interactions with game designers have inspired me to pursue larp development. In all styles I’ve experienced, I’ve witnessed sincere community development largely aimed at supporting and caring for other players and the game. I’m inspired – and if I can provide this to others even for a few hours, I will be able to make a positive contribution to the larp community which has changed me for the better.

Cover photo: Wizards posing for a photo before the student ball (play, courtesy of Learn Larp LLC). All other photos used with permission from Learn Larp LLC.

New World Magischola

Date: June 16-19, June 23-26, July 21-24 and July 28-31, 2016

Location: University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia, United States

Duration: 4 days including workshops, play, and debriefing

Participants: 140-165 per run

Participation Fee: $375 to $895, $450 for a regular ticket

Website: https://magischola.com/

Credits

Producers: Maury Brown and Ben Morrow, Learn Larp LLC.

Make-up Lead: Katherine Kira “Tall Kat” McConnell. Prosthetics by Mark Mensch

Costuming Lead: Derek Herrera.

Stitchers: Jenny Underwood, Robin Jendryaszek, Jennifer WinterRose, Amber Feldman, Summer Donovan, Michele Mountain, Nancy Calvert-Warren, Jennifer Klettke, Kristen Moutry, Caryn Johnson, Datura Matel

Music: Original songs (lyrics and music) by Austin Nuckols (Maison DuBois, Lakay Laveau, Casa Calisaylá and House Croatan) and Leah K. Blue (Dan Obeah), lyrics to New World Magischola Anthem by Maury Brown and Ben Morrow, music by Austin Nuckols. Other music and sound by Evan Torner and Austin Shepherd

Props: Mike Young, Carrie Matteoli, Indiana Thomas, Summer Donovan, Kevin Donovan, Gordon Olmstead-Dean, Jason Morningstar, Matt Taylor, Molly Ellen Miller, Michael Boyd, Moira Parham, Martin John Manco, Ken Brown, Dale, Laura Young, Harry Lewis, Mark Daniels, Michael Pucci, Terry Smith of Stagecoach Theater Productions, Yvonne and Dirk Parham, Jen Wong, Caryn Johnson, Jess Pestlin, Orli Nativ, Kaitlin Smith, The Center for the Arts of Greater Manassas at the Candy Factory, Melissa Danielle Penner, Jess Sole, Liselle Awwal, Nathan Love.

Helpers and advisors: Anders Berner, Claus Raasted, Christopher Sandberg, Mike Pohjola, Bjarke Pedersen, Johanna Koljonen, Anne Serup Grove, Mikolaj Wicher, Jamie MacDonald, Eevi Korhonen, Markus Montola, Jaakko Stenros, Staffan Rosenberg, Anna Westerling, Michael Pucci, Ashley Zdeb, Emily Care Boss, Daniel Hocutt, Charles Bo Nielsen, Joe Ennis, Kristin Bezio, Rob Balder, Kat Jones, Sarah Lynne Bowman, Harrison Greene.

Assistance with writing, editing, graphic design, music, art: Frank Beres, Claus Raasted, Richard Wetzel, Bethy Winkopp, Oriana Almquist, Craig Anderson, Zach Shaffer, Erica Schoonmaker, Madeleine Wodjak, Toivo Voll, Marie DelRio, Mike Young, Laura Young, Anna Yardney, Lee Parmenter, Stephanie Simmons, Nancy Calvert-Warren, Jessica Acker, Jason Woodland, Jason Arne, Harrison Greene, Sarah Lynne Bowman, Kristi Kalis, Quinn Milton, Anna Kovatcheva, Browning Porter, Orli Nativ, Rhiannon Chiacchiaro, Miranda Chadbourne, Lars Bundvad, Ffion Evans, David Horsh, Dani Castillo, Frank Caffran Castillo, Dayna Lanza, Sarah Brand, Tara Clapper, Suzy Pop, David Neubauer, Chris Bergstresser, Jason Morningstar, Evan Torner, Peter Woodworth, Peter Svensson, Daniel Abraham, Harry Lewis, Alexis Moisand, Alissa Erin Murray, Jennifer Klettke, Kathryn Sarah, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Austin Nuckols, Leah Blue, Joelle Scarnati, Dan Luxenberg, Chad Brinkley, David Clements, Niels Ull Harremoës, Adria Kyne, Emily Heflin.

Production and logistics: Austin Shepherd, Claus Raasted, Olivia Anderson, Kristin Bezio, Shayna Alley, Mike Young, Zach Shaffer, Dayna Lanza, Derek Herrera, Kristin Moutrey, Jenny Underwood, Jennifer WinterRose, Caryn Johnson, Amber Feldman, Michele Mountain, Summer Donovan, Robin Jendryaszek, Jennifer Klettke, Datura Metel, Amanda Schoen, Mark Mensch, Katherine McConnell, Chris Bergstresser, Christopher Amherst, Holly Butterfield, Uriah Brown, Kyle Lian, Evan Torner, Jeff Moxley, Ashley Zdeb, Thomas Haynes, Mikolaj Wicher, David Donaldson, Brandy Dilworth and the staff of the University of Richmond Summer Conference Services office.

References   [ + ]

1. In a US context immersion usually means something external to the player, what is more often called 360 degree illusion in the Nordic countries. Immersion is mostly understood to be an internal state in the Nordic traditions.
2. Bleed is when emotions bleed over between player or character, in either direction.

Authors

Tara M. Clapper
Tara Clapper is editor of The Geek Initiative, an online website about women in geek culture. She is also the editor of the SEMrush Blog, a resource for digital marketers, content managers, and bloggers. She enjoys attending conventions, chatting about Marvel movies, writing, and role playing. She is from Philadelphia, USA.
  • Johannes Axner

    First off, thank you for an amazing piece!

    About the final battle/main mod topic. As far as I understand, this was the norm in Swedish larp at last up until the early 1990’s, then they became very out of style. It was quite frowned upon frankly. Now it’s not as rigid, and some games have vary clear main events and final battles and do it well.

    Generally though I think it’s hard to pull off. This has to do with larp as a medium. Story is always decentralized in larp, with the exception of chamber larps where all characters interact with each other as a small group. With something like a movie, you only have one point of view as the passive spectator. It’s central to the form, the script, direction, photography, etc is made to shape that singular point of view. With larp you have as many main characters and point of views as you have players. There are times that it makes sense, but I mostly feel it seem contrived. I’d rather have overarching plot to give direction and then let the players take it to the natural place for their character.

    • You’re welcome, Johannes!

      “I’d rather have overarching plot to give direction and then let the players take it to the natural place for their character.” — This does make sense and appeal to me.

      To further your point or add to it, I’ve definitely played American campaign events in which the main mod/main event was enjoyable for my character (she likes kicking butt in battle, so that’s often a given), but the main event was not the most meaningful for her. Or what most developed the character.

      It’s more about taking the emotions and events leading up to that main battle and then applying it to the final situation for the weekend, in those games. At least, that’s how it works for my character, whether she is presently invested in the world plot or not.

      In both game styles, I feel like my characters are sometimes the star and sometimes supporting characters, and that’s okay. It depends on what’s going on at the time. Similar to being a bridesmaid in a wedding versus being a bride, and that feels very realistic to me.

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