John C. Kirk (johnckirk) wrote,
John C. Kirk

Visiting Valdyrhamr

Last month, I wrote about Curious Pastimes. This weekend I was off LARPing again, this time at Wigan for Valdyrhamr. (I'm reliably informed that this is pronounced "Val-dir-hammer", i.e. it rhymes with "MC Hammer" rather than "Bananarama".) Anyway, since I covered all the basic concepts last time, I can jump to the specifics this time.

At the first event, everything was new to me. This time, I saw lots of familiar faces, both IC and OC, so I felt more connected to the world around me. Similarly, I belonged to a group (the Arcane Tempest) right from the start, so I had a place where I belonged rather than floating around the faction. That said, a lot of the game is still new to me, and I was glad of the opportunity to explore it more. For instance, I visited the Teutonian camp (a different faction) and learnt a bit more about their customs/philosophies, particularly regarding the undead.

There was also one particular incident that has made me do a bit of self-reflection. After dark on Saturday night, a group of us were sitting in the camp, chatting. Then some people lunged out of the darkness and attacked us. They were on the opposite side of the circle to me, so I had enough time to scramble backwards out of the way, and someone (possibly me) called for help. Once we (they) had dealt with the attackers, I turned to the wounded. I called out for the Sergeant Major: we're both healers, so if she was wounded then I'd need to heal her first, then we could work together to heal everyone else. However, she didn't answer. I healed someone else, then kept calling/searching. We soon discovered that she was missing, so we raised the alarm and searched the whole of our faction's campsite, but we couldn't find her (alive or dead). My initial concern was that if she'd been mortally wounded in the attack then we had to find her before her 2 minute death count ran out. However, after a while I had to accept that it was too late for that: she was either dead (and therefore beyond our help) or alive and held prisoner somewhere else.

Soon after that, we had to deal with another attack at our main gate, so I was busy there. A bit later, the Sergeant Major arrived back at camp. It turned out that during the first attack a few people had grabbed her and then dragged her away to do a "tree teleport" out of the camp. Fortunately she'd managed to escape (using up all her magic spells in the process); she was mortally wounded in the process, but a few other Lions found her on the path, healed her up, and helped her get back.

If this event was turned into a film, it would be her story rather than mine: she was captured and taken away, alone, unarmed, and outnumbered, while I stayed back in camp. So, it would be the height of narcissism to ask "What about me? What about my pain?" However, I'm going to do it anyway.

Since this happened, I've spent a lot of time thinking about what I could have done differently. For instance, the tree teleport system works like a daisy chain: one person touches the tree, then another person touches them, etc. So, if I'd been able to touch anyone in that chain, I'd have been pulled along too.

Digressing for a moment, think about Back to the Future. George McFly spends most of the film avoiding conflict, but when it really counts he lays out Biff Tannen with a single punch. It would be nice to think that I could do something similar, dropping the assailants with a combination of magic spells and dagger blows. Unfortunately, I suspect that it would actually be more similar to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Harry and Cedric (my character's namesake) got teleported together, then Voldemort took one look at Cedric and said "Kill the spare", which was the end of his story. So far at CP, every time I've got into a fight (either as my character or a monster) I've wound up lying on the ground, mortally wounded. So, leaping into the fray in an attempt at heroism just makes me more of a liability, because I'm diverting resources (e.g. healing spells) from other people rather than actually helping anyone. On the other hand, falling back in each attack makes me look like "Brave Sir Robin" from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

That doesn't mean that I'm completely useless. For instance, I healed a few people who were mortally wounded in camp attacks. I don't think that those casualties would necessarily have died if I hadn't been there (i.e. other healers may have been able to help out), but at least I was able to share the workload with the other healers (since we each have a limited number of spells to cast each day). In theory I could also cast counter-spells, e.g. to stop someone else being injured by magic in the first place, but I've not done that in practice yet.

This also ties into the idea of hard skills vs. soft skills. In this context, hard skills are things that I can do in the real world, e.g. running fast enough to catch up with someone. Soft skills are things that I can't really do, e.g. magic spells. My soft skills are equal to anyone else's with the same character design, e.g. if I point my finger at someone and say "I strike thee mute!" then I don't have to worry about accuracy: I won't miss, and they can't dodge. (They might be immune, or be able to counter it, but if so then that would apply to anyone else casting the same spell.) There's still a certain amount of skill involved in choosing the correct spell/target, but it's a fairly level playing field. By contrast, if I swing a sword at someone then there's no guarantee that I'll hit them, e.g. they might parry it with a shield.

Using a sword rather than a dagger should help, and there are a couple of options for achieving that. However, I borrowed 2 swords (1 in each hand) when I went monstering and I still kept dying. Maybe this just comes down to a lack of experience, and I'll get better with practice. I also got some useful advice from another player when he watched me doing some practice sparring: he said that I was looking at the place I wanted to hit, which telegraphed my intention. So, I'll try to stop doing that.

Speaking of monstering, someone suggested that our group of 8 should split in half, based on who was fast/slow. They put me into the fast group, which was quite flattering. (At school I was normally the last person to get picked for any sports teams.) So, that's a hard skill which I ought to make use of. Thinking back to the abduction again, we could have fanned out to search the surrounding area. IC, it's dangerous to be out on the paths at night, but if I can outrun any attackers then I'll have an advantage. That means that I'll benefit from doing more cardiovascular exercise (e.g. cycling) between events.

My night vision isn't great (I think it deteriorated a little bit after I had laser surgery) but I can still get around. I didn't see the attackers dragging her away, partly because there were so many dark shapes moving around. However, I knew where the nearest trees were (inside our camp), so I could have run over there to make sure that nobody was coming in or out that way, then come back into the fray from another direction. It's difficult to practice that skill between events, when I have the "perma-noon" effect of streetlights in London, but I'll see what I can do.

More generally, I've been thinking about loyalty. A common phrase in the Tempest is "Count the tricorns", the idea being that after any kind of large battle we want to make sure that all of our group are accounted for. That's more about pragmatism than favouritism: if we have 50-100 people in the faction, it's difficult to notice if someone disappears, but it's easier to keep track of 5-10 people in a small group.

It gets more complicated when I have to choose where I'm most needed. In this case, I stayed to help protect the camp when it was attacked, and left the Sergeant Major to fend for herself. I'm sure that I could have got past the attackers (e.g. if I'd started searching in the opposite direction), but then I'd be deserting the rest of my faction. This is really an IC choice; OC, there's no rule that says I have to help anyone, so I wouldn't be cheating even if I just said "Screw you guys, I'm going home" and hid inside my tent. IC, I can't imagine the Sergeant Major leaving me (or any of her other "little lads") out there in the dark, but this event proves that the faction command team have to take a wider view; if they left her, they'd probably leave me too. That's completely understandable, and I wouldn't resent them for it, but I'm leaning towards the view that my first loyalty should be to the Tempest rather than the Lions.

That still leaves the problem that I may not be competent to actually do anything useful on a rescue mission. However, I think I'd rather try and fail than have the guilt of not trying at all. After all, if I wanted to live to a ripe old age then I shouldn't have joined the warhost.
Tags: bttf, harry potter, larp

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