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Go west, young man! - John C. Kirk

Jun. 4th, 2014

06:23 am - Go west, young man!

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It's LARP season again: Curious Pastimes have 4 big events in May, June, July, and August, and I went to the May event ("Into the West") a few weeks ago. It went well, and I think I'm starting to get the hang of combat now, as well as settling into my new character.

By the way, there's now a Lions Faction trailer on YouTube, filmed at Renewal last year. I think that did a good job of making everyone look cool, particularly our knights; I appear about 20 seconds in (with my back to the camera), kneeling down to present a crown to Queen Esme.

Disclaimer: I always try to strike a balance in these blog posts. I want to give enough detail that it will make sense to people who weren't there, but I don't want to undermine FOIP (Find Out In Play) for people who are playing the game and didn't witness particular events. I also don't want to break confidentiality when it comes to things that other people have said/done. So, some parts of this post may be deliberately misleading. I may also have got some of the days mixed up by mistake.

The theme of this event was that we'd all travelled to a new continent (west of where we normally live), as part of our ongoing struggle against the forces of Terror. We had all the usual factions there, taking it in turns to act as monsters, but there was also a new "monster faction". When I first heard about that idea, I wasn't sure how well it would work: if we know that the enemy are camped 5 minutes walk away, why wouldn't we all charge in and flatten them, in the same way that monsters attack our camps? However, it turned out to be a bit more nuanced than this. The new faction (the Tuareg) were initially neutral, and the idea was that they'd choose which side to take in the upcoming battle depending on how much we impressed them. I heard someone describe them as Directed Player Characters (DPCs), so halfway between a Player Character (PC) like me and a Non-Player Character (NPC) like the normal monsters: I think they were given broad hints about what to do, but they still had quite a bit of personal autonomy.

Thursday



As usual for Paccar, I went up a day early. Once I'd pitched my own (OC) tent, I went over to our faction's glade to help out with communal setup. That went well, because lots of people were around to help. In particular, the campsite said that we were only allowed to bring in 1 vehicle at a time, so we took a "zerg rush" approach and basically swarmed each vehicle to unload it as quickly as possible, then the driver could get it away and make room for someone else.

In the evening, a few of us went off to visit the Teutonian camp. They're a friendly bunch, particularly the ACT; I wanted to go to their faction event, but it clashed with a panto rehearsal so I couldn't make it. Hopefully I'll be with the Lions for a long time to come, but it's good to know that I'd be welcome in other factions.

The weather was a bit grim: raining during the day, then cold overnight. However, this is where my dinosaur onesie came in very handy, keeping me snug and warm.

Friday



Since I survived Renewal last year, I got a vet pick, and I chose Mage 1 to go along with Mage 2. We didn't get issued with spell cards at the winter banquet, so this event was my first opportunity to use my new power. Even if I don't need it all myself, there are ways to share it with other people.

We had our first monster slot on Friday evening, which went well: it was the first time I've actually won a LARP fight! I knocked down 2 of the Fir Cruthen before someone got me. The spear definitely helps, since it gives me a longer reach, so I could stay out of range of their swords while I was hitting them.

This then made me re-evaluate some of my assumptions. When I'm monstering and I attack a camp, I normally go in expecting to end up on the floor pretty quickly (particularly if they have a shield wall). On the other hand, if I'm on gate guard duty when monsters attack, I also tend to wind up on the ground. If the game is balanced then it doesn't make sense for the opposite side to always have overwhelming force, so this must be partly down to the skill of the individual players.

When I went to the Nine Worlds convention last year, I did a sword fighting lesson with Syrio Fovel (from Game of Thrones). Among other things, he covered intimidation: the idea that you can win the fight before it even starts, if you convince your opponent that you're a better fighter by the way you stand and hold your weapon. That works particularly well when you're outnumbered: if the other people think that the first person to attack will get shredded then they might hang back and let someone else go first, which allows you to pick them off one at a time.

I think this relies on self-confidence, a bit like Dumbo's feather: you need to believe it yourself before you can convince anyone else. I'm certainly no expert, but I'm starting to recognise inexperience in other people. That's not based on the player, i.e. I'm not saying "I haven't seen them before so they must be new"; there are hundreds of people at CP events, and I can't keep track of them all. However, if I make eye contact with people then I can see whether they look nervous, then press that advantage. Making eye contact also means that I'm not telegraphing my moves by looking where I want to hit, so I've got a better chance of taking them by surprise. This won't always work (e.g. if I'm facing someone who doesn't look nervous), but it's a good start.

Mind you, pride can literally go before a fall. When we moved on to attack the mercenary camp, there was a wooden barrier across the path leading up to their glade. The people in front of me side-stepped to avoid it, so by the time I saw it I'd gone sprawling over it and landed on the ground on the other side. This was unfortunate, particularly since my wrist was already injured from a cycling collision, but I wasn't really hurt.

Back in our camp, our group (the Arcane Tempest) took a shift on gate guard duty. Some visitors are hostile (e.g. groups of monsters attacking), while others are friendly. In this case, the Lady of the Lake turned up. Our previous High King died last Renewal, so she may have been looking for someone who was worthy of carrying Excalibur, but she just wandered around our campsite and then left without saying anything.

When we were relieved, the next group were new to the faction. A visitor turned up at the gate, and they said that they'd escort him to where he needed to go (which would leave the gate unattended). I called out: "No! You stay there, I'll deal with this." Sgt Major Wood (from the Tempest) then asked me: "Was that an order, Private?" Oops. Being at the bottom of the military hierarchy, I can't give orders, and certainly not outside my chain of command; I can only offer advice, and make strong recommendations. It's ok though: she sounded amused, and it fits my character concept to be a bit over-enthusiastic so that other people need to rein me in (basically Scrappy Doo).

I also took part in a ritual on Friday evening, trying to convert a lesser sphere of magic into a greater sphere. This was only a partial success, which surprised me: it didn't seem any worse than previous rituals (which have gone well). Later on, I spoke to some ritualists from other factions, who said that they'd had problems too, so we all went back to the ritual circle together to investigate, and we spoke to a couple of NPCs.

When we'd finished there, we needed to discuss the situation with the Watcher, who was in the Jhereg camp. The NPCs asked us whether we felt nervous about walking along the path to get there: I told them that "I have a sword in my hand and a spell on my lips" (i.e. my left hand was ready to rip a spell card), but that was really just a general precaution. They then decided to give us a bit of help. The fact that they'd think it was necessary did make me a bit more nervous, but in hindsight I think it was just because we were close to Time Out and they had power to spare. A few people got Regenerate spells (which would let them instantly heal from a mortal wound), and I got the benefit of exalted magic: a Reflective Shield spell (which would bounce any spells back at the caster), extended until sunrise the following morning. After all that, I'm actually a bit disappointed that nobody tried to attack us on the path...

When we found the Watcher, he said that the circle follows the land, and we hadn't been making friends. So, this comes back to what I said earlier about the Tuareg: we had an incentive to cooperate with them. This also raised the interesting idea that by being in a foreign land we'd need to change the style of our rituals; apparently this circle liked music and dancing. So, I felt sorry for the person who'd paid for the ritual, but it was a useful learning experience for our ritual team.

Saturday



We started the day with Parliament, where we met some new members of the faction: Sir Idris and his companions were searching for Clarent (the sword of peace), but they had lost a member of their party.

This was a busy day for rituals: I contributed to 4, although 1 of them was to assist another faction.

The first ritual was another power-up. Based on the problems we had on Friday evening, this time we tried to combine 2 lesser spheres into a single greater: that's less to ask, so it should be easier to achieve. I thought the ritual went well, and our new team was a bit more comfortable together; I jumped in at one point when it looked as if someone else wasn't sure what to do next (there's a strong element of improvisation in our rituals), and I think it looked seamless to the Watcher. However, we got the same result again: a partial success.

Our next ritual involved cleansing a staff; the previous owner (Fiver) was also killed at Renewal last year, so we were following the instructions in her will. We worked in a bit of dancing (or at least rhythmic shuffling), and this went a lot better. So, there's a bit of trial and error involved here.

After that, I went straight into another ritual with pretty much zero preparation. This was just a favour for another faction, so at least we didn't have any personal stake in the outcome (unless it went horribly wrong and resulted in smoky boots). Also, there was a Tuareg involved, and I wanted to see how they did rituals. Honestly, this one seemed a bit ropey, but it worked.

Back at camp, we were attacked a few times by roving bands of monsters. This generally meant that I wound up lying on the ground on my death count, and I am very grateful to the people who healed me up. That particularly applies to the Nuns of the Winding Chain, since we often did gate guard duty together. Whenever we saw monsters approaching, we'd sound the alarm, but it would take a few seconds for other people in camp to come to our aid. In the meantime, I would normally run through the gate towards the monsters and fight them single-handed, in an attempt to keep them out of the camp (or at least delay them until help could arrive). The nuns kept patiently trying to explain to me that I shouldn't do this, but the lesson hasn't quite sunk in yet. When I was playing Cedric, I recognised that I had to fall back and then heal our fighters afterwards. However, as Cox I have a sword (not just a dagger) and a lot more offensive magic, so I feel obliged to use it. The snag is that I do better as a skirmisher, i.e. hit and run in an open area where I can dodge, rather than standing toe-to-toe with the enemy in a confined space. One of the nuns said that she now earmarks a few of her lesser healing spells each day for me! That's kind of her, but I don't want to take it for granted.

Sir Idris also healed me up after an attack, and he came over to chat to our ritual team while we were preparing for our final ritual. He was interested in what we were doing, and had a go at shaking a tambourine around, although he didn't quite get the hang of it. (You might not have thought it was that difficult, but he wound up twirling it around his thumb like a hula hoop.)

While I was on gate guard duty, I chatted to someone from another group, who mentioned that the Tuareg were upset because someone had stolen a sky shard from one of their shrines. As she put it: "Who would do that? Why would anyone do that?" We were both baffled, but it didn't bode well for our diplomatic relations.

A little while later, I didn't have anything specific to do, so I wandered over to the Round Table. One of the concepts of our faction is that anyone is welcome to sit there; even if I don't have anything to add to a discussion, I might hear something of interest. Of course, that works better if I pay attention to my surroundings. Just after I'd sat down, Lord Blackwell ("the King's Hand", interim ruler until we found a new High King or High Queen) walked past and asked "What's that?" I looked over, and saw that the two people next to me were studying a big purple diamond. They said that they'd seen it in one of the Tuareg shrines and thought it might be useful, so they brought it back for further study.

I did feel a bit sorry for Lord Blackwell, as he realised that we (collectively) were responsible for the current mess. However, it also demonstrates something I like about CP: players can influence the ongoing plot (for better or worse) rather than the game team planning everything in advance. Anyway, Lord Blackwell organised a group to return this to the Tuareg with profuse apologies, and he asked Captain Philips (in charge of the Arcane Tempest) to go along and use his diplomatic skills.

They were able to smooth things over, but the Captain didn't come back with the rest of the group. Sgt Major Wood led the rest of the Tempest on a rescue mission, but it turned out that he was fine; there was just a difference of opinion about the correct route to the shrine. (He was right, but when they said "Who's the Tuareg here?" he let them go the other way.) Once we found him, we headed back to camp, and discovered that it was under attack. The Lance (our shield wall) were handling the main force, but someone inside camp saw us approaching and called out "Arcane Tempest! Get the necromancer!" So, it's nice to be recognised: they knew who we were, and knew that we had the right skills to handle that.

We subdued the necromancer and took him inside the camp. Some people suggested that we should torture him for information, but Sir Henri (from the Knights of the North) was quite emphatic that we don't do that sort of thing. Instead, he threw the necromancer on a fire, burning him alive. Um. That seemed a bit odd to me, so I asked why one action was morally acceptable and the other wasn't. Sir Henri explained that burning alive is the statutory punishment (by law) for necromancy, although sometimes the sentence has been commuted to a less painful form of execution. I personally think that there's a place for personal morality beyond what the law defines. (Just to be clear, this is all roleplay, and the players don't necessarily share their characters' views.)

Later in the day, we had to do another monster slot, and this was actually a lot of fun. The basic concept was that we had a necromancer, a group of zombies, and a smaller group of mercenaries. The guy playing the necromancer came up with a new name for each camp we attacked, presumably because he was actually playing several different necromancers (after they kept dying). He came up with some funny lines in his dramatic monologues, e.g. "I am Carnage Doom! You will fear the power of the unstoppable zombie horde who I have raised from the dead! And also these mercenaries I hired."

When we were between attacks, we all waited by the side of the path with our fingers in the air: that means that everyone else has to ignore us as if we were invisible. A small child went past and pointed at us, and the conversation with her father reminded me of "The Emperor's New Clothes" in reverse.
Child: "Look at those people there."
Father: "No, remember, we talked about this, they're not really there."
Child: "Yes they are! I can see them! They've just got their fingers in the air!"
Based on the father's expression, I suspect that they've had this conversation several times before; there may have been a bit of unhelpful sniggering from the non-existent monsters.

In the evening, we did our final ritual, renewing Father Grimas' abilities so that he could continue to be a necromancer banisher. This included music (tambourines and chanting) and a bit of dancing, as well as the spoken word. Unfortunately, I think that some of our speech got drowned out, but we succeeded in what we set out to do.

At about midnight, I went on a scouting mission. There were 4 of us involved, and I was in charge as the most experienced person. That said, my experience was pretty limited. Basically, 2 of the players had never been scouting before at all. 1 of the others went on the Scouting Mission of Doom last May (where his character died); I went out the following evening (also with a previous character), and I only survived because I spent the whole time hiding in the bushes as backup. The Lions lost most of their scouts last year; Sgt Major Wood was the obvious choice to lead the mission, but she was unavailable. So, in fact we didn't have any healers along: that meant that anyone who got mortally wounded would die out there. (Tripping over that barrier in the dark on Friday night didn't exactly bode well for my keen observational skills or ninja-like reflexes...) To offset this, Lord Blackwell kindly gave each of us a Regenerate spell: this would allow us to instantly heal a single wound (including a wound to the head/torso which would otherwise put us on our death count).

CP have recently introduced the idea of difficulty levels for scouting missions, so we went for a level 1 (easy) mission. IC, we spoke to Sir Idris, and he asked us to look for the missing members of his party: we needed to go to the campsite where they were last seen, then (if necessary) go to the campsite where they were supposed to be, and find out why they hadn't reported in. He drew a map to show us where to go; I don't have the map-reading skill, but this was a good opportunity to get a new player involved, since she could understand it.

OC, it turned out to be slightly different. We had a 5th Lion scout who was just there to supervise us (not to get actively involved), along with a 6th person from another faction. We met a referee who took us to a particular point in the woods, then told us that we had to count how many enemy soldiers were patrolling around, then report back after 15 minutes. I started out by saying things like "I suggest that we split up", but the supervisor emphasised that I was in charge so it was up to me to tell people what to do. So, I sent people off in 3 different directions, trying to stay clear of the crest of the hill (where we'd be silhouetted).

I was with a few other people in the middle, and I initially thought that we'd skulk around searching for people. As it turned out, the enemy were easy to spot (stomping their feet), but there were also several of them close by so we couldn't move around. I got further forward than the others, then I stood next to a big tree: the trunk was wide enough for me to hide behind it. I watched the enemy going back and forth, and identified different groups. When they got closer, I moved around the tree to keep the trunk between me and them, then moved back in the opposite direction. Later on, 2 of them came back and split up to go around the tree in opposite directions. They started hissing, which seemed like a bad sign.

At that point, it was no longer viable for me to stay put, so I made a break for it. They lashed out with their swords, and I took 2 hits on my left arm with another hit on my chest. Fortunately, there are ways to temporarily enchant clothing to act as armour (e.g. the Mage 1 "Armour" spell), so my coat took the impact on my chest and the first blow on my left arm, but the second blow broke that arm. I then shouted out "RUN! Go go go!" The enemy already knew that I was there, so there wasn't much point in me being stealthy; I might attract extra soldiers to my position, but my main concern was that I needed to get the rest of the team out of there, since I was responsible for them.

Happily, we all survived. Everyone told me what they'd seen, then I had to work out what number to report to the referee. (It wasn't as simple as adding all the numbers together, because separate people might have seen the same enemy troops.) I decided to err on the side of caution: I could confidently say that there were 7 enemy out there, even if there were others who I didn't know about. The others had different opinions about the total, but when I said "This is my decision" they all accepted that. So, this is the burden and reward of leadership: right or wrong, I'd be responsible for the answer I gave. I don't know how close I was, but the referee said that this translated to some information. IC, we'd found several dismembered corpses (presumably Sir Idris' party), we knew that the enemy were demons, and we'd heard them bowing and scraping to a (named) senior demon. So, I'll count that as a success.

On our way back to camp, we encountered a ghost: she was appealing for help, saying that she wanted to move on to the afterlife but was stuck here. Meanwhile, someone from another faction was persistently trying to stab her with his sword, even though it kept passing through her with no effect. The supervising scout asked me whether we should get involved: after all, as people of Albion we are supposed to destroy creatures like that. I said that our priority was to get back to camp and report what we'd learned, so I left that subplot alone.

Digressing slightly, the supervising scout came from a group who are new to the Lions (Caer Culhaven). They first appeared at the winter banquet, and I think they demonstrate that "good" isn't necessarily the same thing as "nice". They definitely have high standards for chivalric behaviour (e.g. standing up whenever a lady is nearby), and they expect everyone else to measure up to those standards: essentially the flame that burns out impure behaviour. However, that can make things a bit awkward for anyone who's a bit more ... flexible in their morals. In this case, I just felt sorry for the ghost, and I would have been willing to help her, but I didn't see her as a threat.

Back in camp, we met Sir Idris, and I had to be careful how we reported the news. On the one hand, this was a successful scouting mission: everyone survived, and we'd learnt some useful information. On the other hand, we had to tell him that his friends were dead, so it wouldn't have been very tactful to have big grins on our faces. Anyway, he took the news as well as could be expected.

When it reached 01:30 (half an hour before Time Out), Sgt Major Wood was quite cheerful: she was celebrating the fact that this was the first Beltane in years where none of her friends had died. Someone else groaned, saying that she'd jinxed it and doomed us all! 10 minutes later, the camp was attacked by monsters. In my (limited) experience, that's unusual; I certainly haven't been on a monster slot that late in the night. Anyway, we fought them off without losing anyone. I got a broken leg, but one of the Nuns had some magic left, and she healed me up.

I ended the day with 1 more ritual, but this time I was on the receiving end rather than contributing. My biggest problem so far has been that I'm a "1 point squishie", which is why other people have to keep healing me up. So, the goal here was to give me body development, which would allow me to take an extra hit to each location. We pulled it off, and in fact we were "exceptionally successful", so I got more than I asked for and I'm now also a lesser Shaman! However, as part of the ritual I promised that I would use this gift to take the fight to the enemy. So, in order to fulfil my part of the social contract, I'll need to keep putting myself in life-threatening situations.

Soon after that, it really was Time Out, so I could talk to my friends about this OC. One of them said that I was "glowing": this was definitely a good day, and we celebrated with a bottle of mead.

Sunday



In the morning, I went along to GOD (General Organisation Desk) to pick up my daily allocation of spell cards. I now also needed to pick up Shaman cards, and the person on the desk gave me a folded piece of paper at the same time. This turned out to be a description of a dream that I'd had (IC); as far as I can tell, these were handed out at random to anyone with Shaman magic, so my new gift was already proving useful. I spoke to one of the nobles (Lady Eleyna) when I got to camp, because she was gathering information on anyone who'd had strange dreams. It turned out that mine was the most detailed so far, so she wrote it all down.

I didn't take part in any rituals that day, so I spent more time in camp, and I defaulted to gate duty when I didn't have anything else going on. There were several of us who often did that together, and the Peasants of Deira were very entertaining company. For instance, one of them came up with a riddle: "I am not a bee. What am I?" The answer turned out to be "Npghnyyl, V nz n orr. V jnf ylvat. V nz n ylvat orr." (I've used ROT13 encryption to hide the answer, in case you want to spend some time thinking about it.)

Later, there was another dispute in camp. It turned out that Sir Idris' companion (whose name I've forgotten) had betrayed him: he wanted to serve the Carnage Witch (a single goddess) rather than the multiple gods of Albion. They fought a duel, which went rather badly for Sir Idris when he was stabbed with a poisoned blade. However, the Lady of the Lake then reappeared, and presented Excalibur to Sir Idris (marking him as the new High King): everyone who was watching the fight immediately went down on one knee. This turned the tide, and the companion fled into exile.

Idris then addressed us all. He said that he would be the king we needed, but not necessarily the king we'd want. His first order was that we all needed to go out and get Clarent. Here's a photo from that skirmish:

Getting my war face on!

That's Idris in the bottom right (carrying the shield), so I was almost fighting side by side with the High King. I realise that it may not look very heroic when we outnumbered the enemy 3:1, but there were others around too. We captured Idris' former companion, and 3 of us restrained him. When a 4th person arrived, I asked "Do you still need me here?" and someone else said "No, we can handle this, you're more useful elsewhere." So, that was a nice compliment, and I think it was mostly because they recognised my uniform.

Anyway, that mission was a success, and we returned to camp. The High King then said that he would accept vows of loyalty from anyone who wanted to pledge them, but he didn't demand it of anyone. I discussed this with my Captain: he said that I was welcome to do it if I wanted to, but I decided that it would be simpler for me to stick to a single chain of command. I didn't foresee any conflict of loyalty, but this goes back to what I said at Renewal last year: "Santia is mother, Gunn is father!" I.e. I am proud to be a member of the Arcane Tempest.

Later, the Tempest went off to visit the Tuareg camp. They have some new spells, which they were willing to teach. When I became a Shaman, I immediately got access to all the normal Shaman spells (or at least the lesser spells), so I can cast any of them right away. However, these new spells are different: you have to see it done a certain number of times, then practice it a certain number of times before you can actually use that spell. It's an interesting idea, because it means that there's a balancing act: do you want to use up your spell cards on practice spells, which then means you won't be able to use those cards for "real" spells? But the sooner you do that practice, the sooner you'll be able to cast the new spell successfully.

In this case, the Tuareg were demonstrating a Corporeal (healing) spell; I couldn't learn it, since I don't have that sphere of magic, but I could act as a crash test dummy (i.e. get wounded and then healed). I must say, the Tuareg had some amazingly comfortable cushions in their camp! I was quite happy to flop down on them each time I was injured.

Back in camp, I helped Sgt Major Wood with some research. As I mentioned, there are ways to temporarily turn clothing into armour, and she was trying out a new way to do that with hats. So, she cast her magic, then I hit her on the head with my sword, and she fell down to the ground. Ah well, I suppose this is the nature of experiments. I called "Healer!" out of habit, although there were 3 of them sitting nearby and watching us (including Captain Philips), so it wasn't really necessary. I was a bit surprised when they continued sitting there, and none of them stood up to come over, so I called out again: "Help! She's bleeding out, someone needs to come and heal her!"

The Captain told me that I should relax, because it had only been 10 seconds and it takes 2 minutes for someone to actually die from an injury like that. This is true, but I didn't really think that we should leave it until the last moment. Anyway, he healed her up, so no harm done there. Both players said later that they could hear the edge of panic in my voice, but I wasn't consciously faking it. I think this is partly because of the difference between Cedric and Cox: I feel frustrated in a situation like this, because I can't do anything to help. The Captain suggested that next time I should wear the test hat: that way, if the armour doesn't work, I'll feel the blow without being mortally wounded (thanks to my body dev).

This brings up another point: assuming that I survive the rest of this year, what should I choose as my next vet pick? My original plan was that I'd keep accumulating Mage power. However, now that I've got Mage and Shaman abilities, I could get Corporeal too and complete the set (the "triple threat"). It would certainly have practical benefits, and potentially I could sacrifice it later (in exchange for more Mage power), but I'm cautious about getting distracted from my main goal. Within the Tempest, I have a mage rank as well as a military rank: I started out as Mage Adept last year, then I became Magus Prime after Renewal, and Magus after my power-up on Saturday evening. If I go for Corporeal 1 as a vet pick, I'd become Magus Adept, and then the next level up is Warcaster (which sounds pretty cool).

Later in the day, we had a visitor from the Steppe Alliance. They were trying to gather information about the Shaman dreams, so they wanted a representative from each faction to go to their camp. I spoke to Lady Eleyna about this, since she'd been documenting these dreams for the Lions, but she said that I'd be the best person to handle this. So, I went over to the Steppe camp, but the person I needed to see had been called away, and they offered to send a runner for me when she got back.

Back in the Lions camp again, we had a couple of visitors from the Tuareg who wanted to demonstrate new Mage and Shaman spells. This was an area where I could get more involved, so I watched them cast the spells. Once they'd finished with us, they wanted to move onto another camp, and I volunteered to escort them to the Steppe. This was quite useful for me, because it meant that I saw the next demonstration (the referees wrote it down to count towards my training record) and I also had a chance to follow up on the dream issue.

It turned out that I'd missed the multi-faction meeting, but they brought me up to speed. Basically, there were several dreams with a common theme: they involved a chain with a missing link. This turned out to be a warning about a problem in the Steppe homelands, where they had a circle of ward stones to protect a particular area and one of those stones had been destroyed. The person who was watching the circle had come up with a temporary solution, but it would only last for about a month. So, the Steppe ancestors were calling for help from anyone who'd listen (including Shamans in other factions). The Steppe said that this was an imminent threat to them, but that if they couldn't contain it then the evil would spread out and threaten other factions too.

I took this information back to the Lions, and I was impressed by the way they reacted. Captain Philips said that the long term threat to Albion wasn't really important: we're allied with the Steppe, and this threatens them, so naturally we'll help. Queen Esme asked whether our Shamans were in any danger from these dreams, and I reassured her that the dreams weren't an attack.

This all links in to Big Plot. As I mentioned at the start of this post, each event has a specific theme and location, and the next event (Darkness) is set in the Steppe homeland. So, all of this was laying the groundwork, so that the various factions have a reason to go there. That means that my role wasn't really essential; if I hadn't been there, someone else would have got that piece of paper describing the dream, and the Steppe would have reached the same conclusion. Still, it's nice to actually be involved in this first hand, rather than just hearing an announcement in Parliament.

Monday



The big events (May and August) have two battles: one on Sunday and one on Monday. So, each faction will always be fighting in one battle and monstering the other, but the days will vary between events. Opinions vary on which day it's better to fight; the main issue is that the event finishes about an hour after the Monday battle. So, the advantage of fighting on Monday is that you get a full set of spell cards for a short day (10:00-15:00 rather than 10:00-02:00) and you don't need to hold anything back for after the battle. The disadvantage is that you don't get much time to deal with any fallout from the battle, particularly if characters die.

In this case, we took the field on Monday. We had a specific goal (involving shrines in 3 specific locations), but I wasn't directly involved in that, so I just followed everyone else and fought the enemy when they appeared.

At first, it all seemed pretty easy. After the first 15 minutes or so, I'd only taken 1 hit to my left arm, so I was still fully mobile. Then High King Idris was knocked down in combat, and a few of us dragged him to safety so that he could be healed. As soon as he woke up, he asked where Excalibur was; I looked around, and saw that his sword and shield were both lying on the ground where he'd fallen. Unfortunately, this meant that they were also lying near to the enemy troops. He told us all that we had to retrieve Excalibur, so I immediately started moving towards it, and he repeated: "Cox, get Excalibur!" I ran towards it, grabbed the sword (leaving the shield), and brought it back to him. So, I may not have officially been "chosen of Excalibur" (I missed out on that at Renewal last year), but I did get to carry it in battle, at least for a few seconds.

The Lance of Deira carried a banner, and Captain Philips told me to stay within sight of that. However, he had to remind me about this a couple of times, after I'd gone dashing off to engage the enemy. (Sir Dalton spoke up for me, saying that I was enthusiastic.)

The biggest threat that I encountered were the Mummies roaming around. They carried big maces, and they seemed to be invulnerable to my magic. I tried fighting one in single combat (to lure it away from someone else who needed healing), but I didn't get on very well: I was backing up a slope, and I didn't dodge his blow in time. More specifically, he called out "Corporeal Crush" as the damage call (meaning that my body dev wouldn't help), and the blow hit me in the groin. The player pulled his blow, so OC it was just a gentle tap, and it didn't really hurt. However, the word "Crush" combined with a pod shot is always going to make me wince! This counted as a blow to the torso, so I was mortally wounded. Sgt Major Wood gave me a Regenerate spell before the battle, but I forgot that I had it. Fortunately, a couple of other Lions were able to heal me up; they also recovered the other person (who was wounded first), so hopefully my diversion did some good.

As we marched on, Father Grimas started to behave a bit strangely, proclaiming that he was the Dread Lord Grimas and we should all bow before him. I used a Shaman spell to examine his spirit, and saw that it was twisted, so my new gift came in useful there. Also, since I'd witnessed one of the new Tuareg spells in the Steppe camp, I knew what we needed to sort him out; I couldn't do that myself, but at least I knew what to ask for. In the meantime, Queen Esme put me in charge of hitting Grimas on the head every 10 seconds to keep him unconscious! Eventually someone came forward to cast the appropriate spell.

By this point, we were surrounded, and we really had to work to stay alive. (Apparently the players outnumbered the monsters, so well done to the monsters for pressing in on us so much.) Still, we achieved our goal, and returned to camp.

Unfortunately, the Lions lost 3 people, including Lady Eleyna (who I mentioned above). Back in camp, I spoke to Captain Philips and one of our healers. She felt frustrated because she still had healing spells left, while people had died because they didn't get healed. On the other hand, that made me feel better: I still had my Regenerate spell, and I was healed up a couple more times during the battle, so I would have felt really guilty if someone had wasted a healing spell on me that should have been used to save someone else. Really, though, healing magic wasn't the issue: the casualties were cut off, and nobody could reach them in time. We were able to retrieve one of the bodies from the battlefield, so people lined up to pay their respects afterwards.

After that, we had a final Parliament, then it was time to pack up and leave.

In a couple of days, I'm off to the June event. So, will my long term plans come to fruition? Or will I get killed 5 minutes after Time In and have to start from scratch with a different character? Stay tuned to find out!