You drove unto a sand road, and on the left multiple cars were parked already. A tall, fair skinned woman with short, wavy, bleached brown hair wearing a t-shirt with the Fearless Company logo and carrying a clipboard came walking to your car with a puffed-up chest and a fierce determination. You stopped the car and rolled down your window when you got close.
“Hi, we’re here for Fearless Company.” You said as soon as she stood next to the car. You found yourself resisting the urge to move back from the window.
“Good. You are not allowed to drive unto the terrain so you will have to park your car here and unload it. There are flat bedded carts around, but you’ll have to ask around for a free one. The Out of Character terrain where you will be pitching your tents this time is very easy to find. You just have to follow the path and go straight at the junction; the terrain will be on your left after a few meters. You can find the In-Game terrain, by going back to the junction and then taking the path that goes left. The check-in will occur from four o’clock onwards and can be found at the end of the IG terrain near the toilets. You can also go there during the event to ask questions or look up information about skills and spells, as well as for anything you’re crafting. Time In starts at eight o’clock, and there’s a talk shortly beforehand in the main square inside the fortress, by the board and the main GM that is mandatory for everyone. Dinner is served around six o’clock, and they’ll give a call when it’s ready. There are portable shower stalls on the OC terrain as well as portable toilets. The IG terrain has its own toilets.” She said and stopped to take a breath.
She indicated the clipboard and pen. “If you could fill this in and put it behind your windshield, then if anything happens to your car, we’ll know how to reach you.” She said and stuck them through the window.
You quickly filled in the form stuck to the clipboard, tore off the piece of paper and placed it behind your windshield and gave the clipboard and pen back.
“Alright, that’s that. Then I can only say have fun!” She said, and with a wave, she stepped back to allow you to pass so she could talk to the next car which had already stopped behind you. You waved at her and then drove the car to the first available spot nearest the OC terrain. You stepped out and stretched your back. You looked over at your friend. “So, how are we going to do this? Are we going to look for a cart, are we going to look for a spot, are we going to look around first?” You asked.
“I usually just grab the most important things and then go looking for a spot, pitch the tent and then unload. So if you can grab and carry the tent, then I’ll bring some other stuff, we’ll look for a place to put up the tent. I’ll pitch it, and then you can unload the car. Sound fair?” She said, and she opened the car door to dig around for the self-inflatable mattresses.
“Sounds good, lead the way.” You said and dug into the trunk for the tent. Together you walked along the indicated road to the OC area.
You immediately knew that you had arrived at the right place. People were pitching their tents, chatting happily as they went. Multiple people were hugging each other, which was apparently the appropriate form of greeting. As soon as a tall, black, solidly built man spotted your friend, they stepped up, and embraced her with her arms still filled with the bags of the mattresses and started talking to her. “Hey! I didn’t know you were coming! Are you excited or what?”
You saw more people coming your way and said, “Uhm, hi. I don’t mind you talking, but I would like this tent to be put up before dark.”
The man immediately introduced themselves to you as Maurits and then pointed to the empty space next to their tent. “You can pitch yours here if you want, I’m not holding a spot for anyone.” He said
You looked to your friend for an opinion and when she shrugged you nodded and followed them.
“I think it might as well be quicker to just walk instead of looking around for a flat bedded cart, so as soon as we’re there, you can start pitching, and I’ll walk back.” You said as you walked to the empty tent spot.
Your friend nodded.
“I can help you out if you want to. There isn’t really all that much to do before check-in.” The friendly man said.
“That’s very kind of you. We brought my Sahara as it’s more than big enough for the two of us. I can do most of it myself, but it does go quicker with two.” Your friend answered.
Maurits looked at you, and you could see that his eyes were big and brown. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you at a LARP. Is this your first time?” He asked you.
“Yeah, it is. Every time I see her,” you said indicating your friend, “she’s talking about a new event that she went to and how awesome it was. When she told me about a new LARP starting up, I was curious to try it out. Are you a player too? She told me that to properly experience LARP it’s best to start as a player.” You answered. You got to the empty spot and dumped the tent on the ground. Your friend also dropped her bags and immediately opened up the tent bag and started pulling the tent out.
“Maurits, could you take out the mattresses and let them inflate?” Your friend asked him.
“Sure thing.” He said to her and then turned back to you, “No, I’m an NPC. I have enough LARPs where I play, and when they asked me to NPC at this LARP, I was too curious not to try it out.” Maurits answered and walked over to the dropped bags and started opening them and letting the mattresses fall to the ground.
“Wait, don’t help me. NPC stands for Non-Player character, and it means that you play the roles of everybody that the players meet, from messenger to enemy to a king.” You said as you thought back to your friend’s explanations.
“Yup, that’s it. And we pay less than players do because we volunteer to help at the LARP. Since this is the first event, they didn’t want people who are new at LARP to come to NPC as we are going to be setting the world as well. It was essential that everybody had enough experience to carry the roles, so NPC was invitation only.” Maurits answered and picked up each mattress and turned a little knob to let the air in.
“They needed volunteers? You never told me about this.” You said turning to your friend.
“Yeah, I figured all this was going to be new enough for you without you also having to give up extra time or game time to help out. I thought it might be best if all you had to worry about was just your character and how to play.” She answered as she walked around unfolding the tent.
“True enough, but next time I want to help out as well. Well, I have to go get more things from the car. So I’ll talk to you in a bit.” You said and turned around to walk back. Behind you, Maurits and your friend started talking about a shared LARP while they dragged the tent into position.
A couple of minutes later when you got back with more things, they had finished putting the tent pegs in the ground around the tent, and your friend was now talking to someone else. You dropped the stuff you were carrying, and your friend called you over to introduce you. After having introduced yourself you listened to them talk for a moment, but as they were talking about an event you’d of course never been to, you quickly started walking to your car again, realising that you had already forgotten their name.
When you next got back your friend was standing inside the tent fixing the pole in the middle. Someone different was standing outside of the tent giving directions to get the pole straight. You were introduced again but forgot the name as soon as you walked away.
After another trip, your friend is talking to another different person while putting the A-frame together that goes into the front of the tent. Maurits was busily tethering the tent. Another introduction was immediately forgotten.
After the last trip, you found that your friend had finished the tent and was now busy putting your stuff inside while talking to someone you had not yet seen. He was tall and heavy set with an olive colouring, his light brown hair fell straight and wild to his shoulders. You couldn’t see his eyes as he stood with his back to you, his hands in his pockets and almost hunched over in clothes that fit him poorly. Maurits had apparently taken off to help out somewhere else, now that the tent was done. You helped her put the tent to order, after being introduced to the new person. The names were dazzling you, and you were reasonably sure that you remembered none of the names, including the one from the person you were just introduced to. When you said so, he laughed and nodded.
“I understand. I felt the same way at my first LARP. You get used to it after a while, and then you ask yourself how you ever met so many people.” He said.
Together the three of you then walked over to the In Character terrain, or IC terrain for short, when everything was put in order inside the tent. In the back of your mind, you heard the conversation between the other two, but it seemed to enter one ear and out the next. All you picked up was that he was also a player and that the two were exchanging character information. You sometimes nodded at what seemed appropriate times. Mostly, you looked at the road, how you were walking, the other people walking around. All the while you noticed the talking and the hugging. Work was being done without a doubt and done well too, but nobody seemed to let an opportunity slip by to talk with others. Everybody always seemed to have the time to say at least a few words to each other before going back to what they were doing. At the IC terrain there was so much to see and so much going on that you wished you had more eyes so you could look at everything at once.
Even though you knew not everybody had arrived yet, more than enough people were busy walking around doing all sorts of jobs that you did not have a clue about. Meters of fabric were fastened around poles to mark out most of the space available in the clearing that was easily twice as large as the OC terrain. Inside the enclosed space multiple gazebos were pitched, or were still in the process of being pitched, with a clearing near the front.
Before going inside the enclosed space, you decided to take a tour of the rest of the In-Game terrain. The person walking with you, whose name you cannot remember, had already been there for an hour. They offered to show you where the toilets were on the other side of the terrain. When you could see the back of the enclosed space, you noticed a large gazebo consisting of two connected gazebos, standing not far away. There were tables placed inside the right tent, chairs set behind them. People were walking around, creating their own kind of order out of the carts, trolleys and boxes still standing just outside the tent. More tables were inside the left gazebo with multiple stacks of papers or bins on them. You could only guess at what would be inside those bins. One half of a table was already entirely filled with stacks of envelopes, and some of the people were walking around filling them with different things. It was chaos, but they did appear to know what they were doing.
“Ah! That’s the check-in tent. During the event, someone will almost always be there to answer questions and for crafting related things.” The man walking with you said as they followed your gaze.
“Crafting relating things?” You asked, wondering whether alchemy would also fall under crafting related or not.
“Well, I’m not sure yet how this LARP tackles this specifically. However, when you create something, anything from a potion to a sword, usually you need to attach something to your creation so that you and others using it can remember what it is and what it does and who made it. This way GMs can easily check things when something is going on with that item. Or what a potion does when someone drinks it. That sort of thing. If you’re a crafter…” They explained and then waited for you to acknowledge whether you were or not.
“I’m an alchemist.” You said.
“Well, then you should really have them explain the system to you. They’ll be able to tell you how it works and what you should do when you make something.” They finished and pointed to the people bustling around in the large tent.
You nodded and then turned around. “Shall we continue on to the toilets?” You said, and the three of you continued walking.
After everyone had returned from the bathroom, you decided that you’d become rather curious of what’s going on inside the enclosed space. It’s evident that that was where you’d be spending most, if not all, of the rest of the weekend. Mystified and intrigued you walked over to the area looking at all the different gazebos. Because there were still all sorts of parts strewn around everywhere, it was kind of hard to see it correctly, but it was pretty clear that the tents were set up along streets and even a square. All were gazebos of varying size, some connected, others alone. Right across from what you assumed to be a square was the largest tent. Your friend postulated that they would probably be for different areas or types of activities. One place, however, was straightforward enough. Three gazebos were connected in one long row, with only the inner walls left out. The rightmost two tents were filled with tables and benches, and the other tent was fashioned into a kitchen. On the various tables, there were still a couple of plastic cups scattered about. You looked at your friend and said, “This is probably a bar of some kind.”
“But how are they going to feed 70 people, though? Is it big enough for that?” Your friend asked.
The man walking with you spoke up. “They have enough benches, just about. Each bench holds four people, each table has two benches. Inside there are six tables, and outside there are three more. That gives you a place for about seventy-two people. It’s going to be tight, but there are going to be tables and benches in at least some of the other tents, so, all in all, there should be more than enough space for everyone.”
You took a quick peek in the kitchen where multiple people were already busy chopping vegetables and other things and generally preparing dinner.
“When did they start building all this? Doesn’t seem like they started this morning.” You said as you continued walking.
“I think they started on Wednesday.” She answered.
As you walked around the game area, you saw a couple of gazebos with the tables and benches that were mentioned. There were no signs outside of the tents, though, so you could only guess what each was going to be.
“I wonder what all these gazebos are supposed to be. There are so many of them, most with at least benches, some also with tables.” You mentioned after peaking in another.
“Well, this is supposed to be a fortress, so they are buildings of some sort. But there’s no telling what each building is going to be until Time In starts.” Your friend answered.
When you walked to the other side of the big, central gazebo, you found just one tent, put up next to another opening in the enclosure, facing the road to the OC terrain. On the other side of the tent, space was left bare except for some fake plants strewn around.
“I think that’s supposed to be a garden of some kind. Maybe for the druids.” The man said.
Walking past the opening there was a big circle carved into the ground, it’s edges touched the wall of the enclosure and the big gazebo. You looked at your friend in confusion.
“Why is there a circle carved into the ground?”
Your friend smiled “I think this is supposed to be a ritual circle, the place where ritualists can perform their rituals. In the skills manual, I read that they need a circle to do so. I would suggest not entering it in the game unless you have to, though.” She said.
You raised your eyebrows shortly and nodded. “I’m very curious how that works, and why shouldn’t I enter it?” You asked.
“It is certainly something worth watching. If done well, of course, I’ve seen plenty of rituals which were boring as all hell. Well, at most LARPs that I’ve been to, if there’s a designated ritual area like this one, then it usually has some sort of power of its own. Entering it without your express purpose could pull you into something. I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you, just caution you that something might happen if you enter it unawares.” She said carefully.
“But what do ritualists do? And is this place dangerous?” You asked.
“Hmm… How do I explain this…? You know that there are mages, priests and druids, like Jan-Jaap here? They get their powers from a certain source with which they can do spells. But some of them can also channel that power into doing other things in a ritual. The possibilities for what you can do with a ritual are endless, really. But what it comes down to is that you perform a ritual to focus your power into achieving a goal. I think the simplest one is to imbue something with a power. Or you ask for a change. I’ve never played a ritualist, so I’m probably not the best person to ask, but if you really want to know, then you should just ask a ritualist in the game. They can probably tell you much better than I ever could. Rituals are almost always open for everyone to watch, so if you see something happening in this circle, then you can always come closer and watch. This place can be dangerous if you aren’t properly cautious, even for skilled ritualists there’s always a risk.” She said.
You nodded and walked on back to the big square, being careful not to scuff the carving of the circle.
The last tents are being pitched. Around you, people were calling out instructions and information to each other. As Time In started to near, people were given tasks to finalise the IC area. Tables and benches were all being given a place, crates and other non-justifiable items were cleaned up. Someone carried light cords to the circle and started placing them in the carving. Behind you, there were suddenly loud noises. You turned around, and a large wooden structure was being put in place at the opening of the enclosure facing the check-in tent. It was a large, double-doored fortress entrance. It even had a bar to keep the door closed and a small window to look through and see who wanted to come in. Suddenly you started to understand how a bunch of gazebos in the woods could be transformed into a fortress in a Fantasy world. You took a slow turn and viewed the entire space again. In your mind’s eye, a picture started to form of what it could look like, the different gazebos transformed to buildings and the big gazebo in the middle into a castle.
Excitement rose in your chest, quelling the fear and nervousness, and a smile formed on your face. You couldn’t wait for Time In to start.