You walked out of the tent you shared with your friend. The hood of your outfit had a long tube that looked ridiculous. You felt ridiculous. Couldn’t you have fun in regular clothes? Shouldn’t you put your clothes back on and call the whole thing off?
Your friend also stepped out of the tent and pulled her clothing in order. She looked at you and smiled. “Wow, you look amazing. You could’ve come from Dragon Age or Skyrim!” She said.
“Really? I feel foolish in this outfit.” You said and tried to look at the different aspects of your clothing.
She placed a hand on your shoulder. “I would never make a joke of you. I can understand that it doesn’t feel comfortable yet. At first, everything feels weird. But give it a chance, and you will experience so many cool things you never thought would happen to you. Look around you.” She said and turned you to see everybody walking around.
Some were still in jeans and work clothes, setting up their tent or walking around on odd jobs. Most, however, were already in their outfits, making the final adjustments or waiting for dinner to start and talking to people. Everybody held themselves differently. There was more life to them, more confidence, more being at home with where they were and what they were doing. Women wore anything from long flowing dresses and skirts in every imaginable colour to pants and vests and combat boots. Even the men had way more diversity in their clothing. There were types of pants you had never seen, but also battle skirts, and even a kilt or two. Not to mention the shirts, vests and coats on everybody, man or woman.
“I guess I fit in, don’t I?” You said.
Your friend laughed and stepped next to you to watch everyone milling around. “You do. Now, how about we go to the tavern, see if they need some help and get comfortable in our new outfits?”
You nodded, and together you set off towards the IC terrain and the fortress. Along the way, you came across someone who seemed familiar to you. He had helped you with pitching the tent. What was his name again?
“Hey Maurice,” Your friend said. “Ready for dinner and time in?”
“Hi. Yeah, we got the NPC tents set up. They don’t need everyone immediately after time in, so those who aren’t necessary will gather after dinner and see what else we will do later tonight.” He said. He looked the two of you over. “May I say that you both look excellent? Don’t tell me, let me guess.”
“I won’t say a word.” You said.
“You’re not Elves, you’re not Vampires, you’re definitely not Orcs. From your swords, I’m guessing you’re not Gnomes either. You’re not barbaric enough for the Hagraven. So that leaves Grell or Dwarves, and I’m guessing Grell.” He said, ticking off the different races on his fingers.
Your friend grinned. “We are. Didn’t want to make it extra difficult by adding on ears or face paint.”
“You don’t need ears or face paint to be a cool character, anyway. But, ready for Time In?”
“I’m ready. Isn’t it exciting to start a new LARP? Not a clue what it will bring, how the story will unfold. The possibilities are endless! Nobody knows who the other characters are yet and how they interact, or how the world will be exactly. I just love starting a new LARP.” Your friend said not able to contain her excitement.
You and Maurice laughed.
“It’s obvious how you feel, but I’m jumping between excitement and nerves. I’m worried I’ll be a dud and that I won’t get what all of this is about.” You said.
“Most of us have been there. This is something you have to experience and to allow yourself to dive into it and feel it. If you’re staying on the sidelines and don’t allow yourself to experience what’s going on, then yeah you might be a dud. And you won’t have a clue what all the fuss is about. I know that it’s tough to get over that hurdle and dive in. Not everyone is like your friend here who dives into everything without so much as a backwards glance.” Maurice said with a nod to your friend.
He continued. “Just take your time, do what feels comfortable and see where saying yes to things can take you. If you don’t know what to do, take a moment to think about your character. What are they like, how do they think, what do they feel? Maybe they would take their concerns to someone and ask what they think. And sometimes it’s also ok to sit somewhere and watch what’s going on until you find something you can join. You don’t have to be like your friend who has to be moving all the time. Take your time, talk to people.” Maurice said.
You nodded, knowing that there wasn’t anything they could say that would lower your nerves. Maurice was right. This was something you had to experience for yourself.
A few minutes later you arrived at the fortress. You entered and walked past the castle tent to the main square and the tavern. The tables were filling up with everyone coming for dinner. There were enough seats for everybody, but it would be tight. You looked at your friend and Maurice. “So, where do you want to sit?” You asked.
Your friend shrugged and walked to the nearest table where a few people were already sitting. “Hi, can we join you?” She asked them. They all looked up at her. They smiled and pointed to the space left on the benches.
“By all means.” A male Elf in a brown robe with leaf embroidery and a rope for a belt with short, brown, fizzy, asymmetrically cut hair, said. Next to him was an Orc, and only the cleavage told you it was a woman. Her short black hair was in a mass of little braids with beads at the end. She was wearing black clothing. Opposite them was another male Elf in muted colours and his short, brown hair was combed back.
The three of you walked around the table and sat down, you took a seat next to the male Elf sitting alone.
“Hi.” You said introducing yourself to the Elf.
“Hello. I’m Gustaaf, I play Ailen Vavalur.” He said, pointed at the Orc, “That’s Cato,” then at the other Elf, “and that’s Hubert. They can introduce their own characters if they want to.” He finished with a grin.
“Well, you can find out soon enough, so I don’t see why it matters. I play Burub, and as you can see, she’s an Orc.” Cato said.
“Gustaaf and I both play High Elves, but we’re not connected, I think? Anyway, I play Malgath Magjyre.” Hubert said and raised his hand in greeting.
You and your friend introduced yourselves and told them your characters’ names.
“From your last names, I assume that you’re related?” Hubert asked.
You nodded, “Yeah. We thought that might be easier since it’s my first LARP.”
This sparked an avalanche of stories of their starting out with LARP. You smiled and nodded along to the stories, some of them made you laugh. These stories sparked other stories, and the conversation continued on while the surrounding tables filled and dinner was finally called.
Everyone around you got up from the table but did not stop talking. You had long since stopped having a clue what everyone was talking about. But you walked along with them, nodding and smiling where it seemed most appropriate.
Inside the bar was cleared for now and filled instead with tureens with food and stacks of plastic plates and cutlery. The row was significant but thankfully moved a lot quicker than that of the check-in. The menu had been mailed to them, there was stew for everyone. For allergies, or diets they couldn’t account for, there was something else. After a few minutes, you grabbed a plate and cutlery and waited for it to be filled. You stepped up to the server and held out your plate.
“The stew looks great.” You said as they filled up your plate.
“Thanks, we worked hard on it. The kitchen was done first, so we were able to get this up this morning.” They answered.
“Then it should be absolutely delicious.” You said, and with a smile, you walked back to your table.
The rest was already seated again. Judging by the clothing, another NPC had joined their table. This did not seem to matter one bit because the conversation went all around the table. You tried to sort through how this made you feel as you ate the really delicious stew. It was like you were the new kid in a new class in a new school, still figuring out who to talk to and where to go. They made you feel welcome because they allowed you to enter their circle and listen to their stories. They were glad and more than happy to share them with you and help you get acquainted with this strange, new, and fascinating world of LARP. There was excitement too, to make your own stories, so that next time you had stories to tell. There were nerves. Would you also be able to do all those cool things that the stories were made of?
You startled and lost your train of thought as your friend elbowed you. You looked at her.
“Do you want something to drink?” She asked, and from her tone, it was evident that she had been waiting for an answer on this and directed her head to the server standing by the head of the table.
“What? Oh, yeah sure. Thanks.” You said.
“We have juice and soda and water.” The server said.
“Coke will be fine.” You answered. The server nodded and left the table.
“Where were you with your thoughts? You were miles away.” Your friend said.
You stared down at your plate. Apparently, you had already eaten most of it. And you had missed eating it, engrossed as you had been in your feelings. You sighed and turned back to your friend.
“I was far away. I was just trying to sort my thoughts and prepare for Time In. Try and get my head into character.” You answered. Uncomfortable with everyone’s attention now on you, you decided to turn the conversation back on the rest. “So what do you all do to get into character?”
“After dinner, I’m going to the bathroom. While there I will mentally put myself into the position of Malgath, of what he would do, what he set out to do, what he has come here for. By the time I’m back for the Time In talk I’ll be in character. That’s sort of how I’ve been dealing with getting into character. Sometimes having a last bit of really essential clothing that you can put on and off as you want to step in and out of character, can really help. Unfortunately, Malgath doesn’t have a lot of essential clothing. But I will take the time to go through the contents of my pouches before Time In. Touch everything in there and see what it is.” Hubert said.
Cato, sitting next to him again, nodded. “I have actually mostly already gone through the process of getting into character. Putting on Orc face paint does that. She’s sort of drifting next to my own consciousness. After dinner, I’ll go back to touch up my face paint and do the final transformation, really getting into how Burub talks and moves. I’ll probably walk around a bit while saying some phrases to really get a feel for her again.” She said.
“Is it challenging to keep having to talk or move in a certain way?” You asked. Your friend had also given you that advice to make it easier to stay in character, but with everything already new, it might make it more challenging to start LARPing. Might make you afraid that you wouldn’t manage to keep in character and make a fool of yourself and pull everyone out of the game.
“It takes some getting used to, yes,” Cato said laughing. “However, once you get into it for a bit and people start responding to you differently because you act a certain way in character, that really helps. I don’t do voices or particular movements with every character that I play. Those that I do that with are usually more fun to play and more memorable, though. In the end, every character is at least slightly different from you, so there is always an element of doing voices or doing specific movements. Some will come more naturally than others. I had one character who was so different from me, that keeping track of how she moved and talked starting to take away from my enjoyment of the game. That’s when I knew that I had to let her go and start up a new character. It happens. The first one is always rather rough to let go of though. It’s really the place where you start expressing yourself differently and experiencing new things. Same as with your first love. Somehow it’s more intense.” She told you.
You turned to the other Elf sitting next to you again. “And how about you?”
“After dinner, I need to go look someone up because Ailen is connected to someone and we need to be together when Time In starts. I need to go through what my character has done in the past and why he’s here and how he feels about that. I’m going to walk around a bit to get into the way my character walks and talks. I have some phrases that I say that are central to Ailen and what he believes. Going through those and saying them the way that Ailen would say them is how I finish the process.” He said.
You turned to the other side of the table. The night that had fallen made it difficult for you to get a good look at the person sitting opposite Maurice. “Do you have a certain ritual to get into any of the characters that you do as an NPC? What do you do before you go out as that character?” You ask Maurice and his friend.
“I listen to the briefing, ask questions where necessary. Building the costume helps. If it’s a role that I do with others, I usually talk with them about how we’re going to play our roles and how they connect to the others. There might be some banter going on, we pep each other up, and I’m good to go.” Maurice answered.
His friend smiled. “I don’t have much of a ritual. I listen to the briefing to understand what I need to do and putting on the costume is how I get into character, really. Once I have that on, I’m good to go.” He said and looked at Maurice. “I think we need to go to the NPC tent and the briefing.” He said.
Maurice nodded and they both stood up. “Yeah, you’re right. I’ll see you all later in the game.” He said, and with a wave, he and his friend walked off out of the fortress.
“I’m guessing that means that you all have to go get into character?” You asked for the rest of the group. They all nodded and stood up as well. Your friend slid along the bench so she could sit opposite you. The group waved at the two of you and all walked in different directions.
She waved her hand in front of you to get your attention. “Are you with me?” She asked when you looked at her.
“Completely.” You answered.
“Ok, shall we do an exercise I often do to get in character?” She said, and you shrugged.
“Relax your shoulders and close your eyes.” You closed your eyes.
“Envision your character. Dive into their head.” She said, and she spoke calmly and slowly.
“What is important to you?”
“What did you set out to do?”
“What are you doing here?”
“Who are we to each other?”
“Why are we travelling together?”
“How do you feel about travelling together?”
“How do you feel about coming here?”
“What is the single most defining aspect of you?”
“Let all those thoughts go through your head until you have a firm grip on them. I will count back from five. At each count, you will say your character’s name. After the last, you can open your eyes and greet me as my character.”
“Hello, sis,” You said as you opened your eyes. You looked at your friend. She was… different. She held herself differently. Instead of the most easy-going person you’d ever met, she now carried herself like a soldier. She sat more erect, her chest out, eyes going everywhere to look for any possible danger.
“Hello. Come on,” she said and stood up from the table, “the talk is about to start.”
You stood up as well and turned around to walk the few strides to the main square. Lamps had been lit, keeping the pitch black of the night well away. People had gathered in a circle around a small group of people in the centre of the square.
There were eight people who all wore a light pink tabard over their clothes with the Fearless Company logo on it and on the back GM in big letters. Seven more people were already in costume grouped together in the middle. When everybody was standing around them a tall Wood Elf in a green ruffled shirt, and a yellow scarf, stepped forward.
“Good evening everyone, and welcome to the very first Fearless Company event. I am Arend Geerbema, and I am the president of this LARP. I hope that this will be the first of many events and that we will hear awesome stories about what happened. Saar is my vice-president. You’ve all seen Ellen at check-in taking care of our money. Jacoliene is our Human Resource Manager, and she has been taking great care of our volunteers and will continue to do so during the event and after the event. Arend Beldman over here is our Head of Logistics and in charge of building the fortress. After Time Out he will coordinate taking everything down and getting it to storage properly. Steef and Fiona have been tremendously helpful all around with going after what needs doing and thinking through any problem with us. One of us will always be on call and walking around with a walkie-talkie. However, you’re not interested in our introductions. You want to play, and for that, there are rules which our Head Gamemaster will explain to you!” He said, and with a wave of his arm to a big man with a moustache, he stepped back.
The big man stepped forward. “Hello everyone. I am Raoul, and I am, as Arend just told you, the Head Gamemaster. Before I continue with explaining the rules we have at Fearless Company, I first want to introduce the rest of the gamemasters to you.” He said and stepped aside so that the other gamemasters were in better view.
“Mitchell,” he said, and a large muscular man with a bald head stepped forward, waved and stepped back. “is your gamemaster for all things relating to magic.”
“Eline,” he said, and the small Asian looking woman you had spoken to earlier stepped forward and smiled, “has taken on the job of overseeing the crafting.” Eline stepped back.
“Bart,” Raoul continued, a tall man with curly black hair stepped forward, nodded and stepped back, “is the man to go to for all your rituals.”
“Roos,” he said, and a tall but plump woman with highlighted dark hair stepped forward with a smile and a wave before stepping back, “is your go-to source concerning lore of the different countries.”
“There’s also Jeroen,” he said, and a fair-skinned obese man nodded at the crowd, “he is our field GM who you can always go to.”
Raoul pointed at the final two GMs standing to the side. The women looked so much alike that with the age difference it was easy to guess that they were family. “Suzanne and Ellemieke are the GMs taking care of the NPCs. You won’t see them a whole lot, but you might see them on the field when we need the extra hands.” They both waved at everyone.
“That is everyone. Onto more serious matters. To make sure that everyone will have as great a time as possible, we’ve set rules to the LARP.” He said and walked back to the centre of the circle.
“We are now on the In Character, IC, or In Game, IG, terrain. That means that whenever you walk here in your costume, everyone will assume that you are in character and playing the game. If, for some reason, you are not, raise one hand. When you are ready to get back into the game you can lower your hand again. This is not to be confused with the sign for being invisible, which is to hold up one finger. When you are going out of character, OC, always use your full hand to avoid confusion.” He demonstrated both gestures, turning a circle to make sure that everyone could see it.
“It is always possible that you get in a scene, or a scene develops in a certain way, that goes past your boundaries. Though we advocate stepping out of your comfort zone, we never want you to be pulled out of a game for something like this. We have ways for you to notify the people you are playing with, in case you feel uncomfortable and need the game to stop or be redirected. So long as everything is going fine, you can put your thumb up, or use the word green. This will give the go-ahead that everything is fine and that they may even ramp it up. When you feel a boundary coming up that would break the game for you, wiggle your hand or say orange. If someone gives you this signal, it means that the game can go on, but it shouldn’t be taken further. If you are already at the boundary and the game is breaking or broken for you, put your thumb down or say red. When someone gives you this signal, you are to stop the scene immediately, go in another direction. If there are consequences involved, go to a GM and explain the situation. They will figure out what will happen if anything needs to happen.” He explained and showed everyone the different gestures.
He looked down at a piece of paper in his hand and went on.
“People can get hurt in an OC way. If you need bandages, sprained your ankle or something else that requires medical attention, we have several first aid volunteers. If they could please step forward and wave to everyone.” He said and looked around the crowd. There was movement, and then three people stepped forward. A woman dressed in Hagraven clothing, a man in dark grey pants and a light grey shirt and a man with long white hair in a braid and red robes. “If you need medical attention, you can always go to one of them and ask for help. They are also wearing walkie-talkies, so if you can’t find them, you can ask one of the GMs to page them. A section of the castle is walled off where they will help you out if necessary, so as not to be confused with the healers’ quarters. Regarding this, the one thing you should not forget this weekend. If someone shouts ‘Man down!’, because someone has fallen down and needs medical attention, everyone has to go down on their knees, sit on the ground, squat, it doesn’t matter, as long as you go down. One person is with the person down and shall remain standing. If you hear the call man down, you go down and shout the call so that people behind you can hear it. The first aid people will find the person down, and play can resume as usual.” The three people stepped back into the crowd.
Raoul took a breath and looked down at his paper again.
“We’re nearly there. We use dipperlint to signal that someone has a physical problem and shouldn’t be hit. This is a red and white striped ribbon that must be worn visibly. If you have an issue that means that you shouldn’t get hit, go talk to one of the first aid people, and they can help you out. There are rules for it, and they can explain them to you. If you see someone wearing such a ribbon, it means that you may not hit them. When you want to hit them with your sword, you walk up to them, raise your weapon and say to them that you hit them with your weapon. They will act what happens next.”
“If you have an issue you cannot resolve yourselves, a fight, someone continuously breaking the rules, someone assaults you and you don’t dare go public with it. You can talk in confidence with our confidential advisors. Steef, one of the general board members is one, and Aline is another. Aline, could you step forward?” He called out, and an Elf in a deep blue dress stepped forward and waved to the people.
“As long as we’re on the issue. Sexual intimidation and assault will not be tolerated. No means no, uncertainty means no, being too drunk to make a proper decision means no. Only an actual yes, means yes.”
“Time in stops loosely between 2 AM and 10 AM. You can continue if you want to, but don’t expect to find a GM to make any calls. Time Out will be on Sunday at around 3 PM. When Time Out is called, I expect everyone to come back here for the Time Out talk and that afterwards we will all help to dismantle the fortress and the tents. The Head of Logistics will explain to you how everything will go.”
Raoul looked at his paper and at his fellow gamemasters.
“I think that about wraps it up. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to come to us. But for now, I call TIME IN!”