My breath caught as I felt the arrow hit my chest, knowing that it had pierced my armour and embedded itself into my flesh. I dropped to the ground, one knee hitting the mulch of the forest floor.
The strength left me and I fell to one side, still clutching my sword tightly to my chest, my other hand covering my wound. The line of Orcs crashed over me, a wave of blue cloth and green skin, their mocking remarks cutting almost as deeply as the barb in my chest.
I was sure I was done for and I acted as one already dead, hoping they would pass me by. The noise grew further distant and I pulled myself to the nearest tree. As the light began to leave my eyes, a Grimnir approached and I felt hope returning.
"I will heal you..."
This weekend past I attended Empire event 3: The Summer Solstice, a Live Action RolePlaying game (LARP) which was not only my first Empire, but my first experience of LARP.
Spoilers/TL;DR: I HAD AN AMAZING TIME.
To give you some context. I am a cosplayer. I make costumes, wear them to events and often act as the character I am portraying. I have done some amateur acting in the past. I have also roleplayed online, usually through text. I also haven't been camping in over 5 years.
Also, if there's anything I mention briefly about the world of Empire, I am not going to go into specifics as it's massively deep. Instead, you can search for it in the Empire Wiki here; www.profounddecisions.co.uk/em…
The first thing to be done when arriving: Find a space and pitch the camp. I was lucky enough that several close friends were starting LARPing at the very same event and that helped relieved some of the initial nervous anticipation I felt as the car crossed the gate. We were met by staff, given some camping rules and directed to a space which was more than adequate for the six tents and 3 cars we had with us.
I was quite proud of setting up the tent. I set up a four-man (they're never ACTUALLY big enough for that) tent alone bar some assistance hammering the tent pegs into ground which had seen no moisture in weeks. This was to change the next day but we will come back to that.
After we had set everything up, we began to change into our full gear. For me, as a member of Wintermark (a nation based primarily on Viking aesthetic mixed with the Rohirrim from J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings) this involved a reddish brown tunic with gold patterned trim, black trousers and leather armour consisting of full torso, pauldrons, vambraces and tassets. This also included our weaponry, I carried a sword on one hip and a dagger on the other (along with water bottles hidden in leather holders attached to my belt) but others in the group carried warhammers, maces, wore plate mail, chain mail and several other elaborate armour and weapon pieces.
We went to GOD (the Games Operations Desk) to collect our character packs. Before the event you must create a character, give them a backstory, a name, choose what kind of person they are, what abilities they have and so on. Included in the pack was a card with our character names and all of our abilities (also our emergency contact in case we were injured and needed assistance) and also, our resources. As part of character creation, you can choose one resource; this can be a farm, a band of mercenaries, a fleet of ships etc. which then generates in-game money and in-game items you can use. I chose a fleet. As such I got a mixture of coins and items which can be used to make enchantments and other spells.
Already I felt severely over my head!
I had no idea what many of these things were for and how to use them. However, after asking a few people (some who didn't know but directed me to others who did) I found out what everything did and how to use it. Mostly, I could sell it as I didn't have the skills needed to use these things. Also, met up with more friends here, one of whom had previously invited me to join a group she was part of who I would be meeting shortly.
Then it was time to enter the In-Character area for the first time. This area is a place in the fictional setting of the Empire (a large land mass divided into various nations who is constantly under attack from orcs and barbarians who live outside of this area) called Anvil. In game this is a place where all of the nations of the Empire are represented and have their own areas as well as several areas which serve higher functions, such as the Synod (political forums), the Bourse (trading and economic hub), the Academy (a place that teaches children how to be citizens of the Empire), the arena and...the Portal. There were MANY shops which sold things for real money but a lot of food and drink could be bought using in-game money which was amazing to me!
As we stepped through the line of hedges, we emerged into a large field absolutely FULL of incredibly large tents, some of these were shops, others places to eat and drink, others were temporary dwellings for people to camp in who wished to remain in character for the entire time. I was camped in the Out-Of-Character (OOC) area as I was unsure how deeply I would be immersed in the roleplaying experience and wished to have somewhere to escape to when needed.
Immediately, I was in awe.
There were people all around discussing the politics of the land of Empire, trading resources, discussing what had occurred since the last meeting in Anvil (the last Empire event) and it was incredibly immersive.
We went for a look around and realised our first mistake. We had turned up to Anvil wearing our weapons and full armour. No-one else had. People asked what we were afraid of, people wondered if we were there to start trouble. It was actually incredible. People explained to us that we weren't meant to do so, but did it in such a way that it was in character. As such, we went and dropped our armour off before coming back and searching around again. We met our in-character groups and were all VERY well looked after by other veteran LARPers. I seriously have never been made to feel more welcome!
We went for some drinks in a few different bars (each nation seemed to have its own Inn) and listened to music, banter and interesting conversations.
This was all on the Friday night. The main event hadn't even truly begun!
The Saturday was full of much more to do. There was a tournament happening between the nations (though Wintermark bowed out because we found that we had more than one battle happening that day and didn't want to stretch our healing resources and medics too thin) in the arena. Wintermark were then called to battle. It turned out that we were to reclaim Skarsind, an area which was long ago taken over by orcs and horrid spellcasters. We all got our armour on, prepared our weapons and listened to the orders of the generals before we marched through a magickal portal which took us deep into the frozen woods of Skarsind (a large structure made to look like stone that took us into the woodland).
It was strangely tense. The ground was uneven with many ditches, stones, branches and slippery hazards present so simply walking through these woods could have been dangerous and here we were in armour with foam weapons, walking in to what we knew would be a major battle. And that it was. It wasn't long before the Orcs were upon us and battle strategies were being called out. Our Thane had made it clear to follow his orders unless those of a general overrode them, that we were to stick close together, and that we were to make it out alive. We had 3 objectives in this mission. Capture a Hollow (an evil creature) alive, to loot all fallen orcs to find out the orders they were given and to kill the evil general.
It was insane but fun. I was downed (had all my HP taken away and begun to bleed to death) four times in total but each time I was revived by our medics. One time (the time described in fictional form at the beginning of this report) I was downed and the orcs swept over me so I played dead. A few knelt down and asked OOC if I was ok and when I said yes they moved on. One thing I learned was that people are amazing at looking after the real life well being of each other. I was then revived by a medic and continued on.
We were victorious. We made our way back to the portal with our prisoner but we could not go through the portal with them so we had to defend them against the remaining orcs until we got what we needed and could proceed through. As Wintermark crowded around our generals, listening to which objectives were met, the skies opened up. It seemed the gods honoured our victory!
Of course, that meant a very soaked walk back to camp, but it was hard not to feel like a badass, striding through the torrential rain and high winds in full leather armour, sheathing my sword as I stepped through the hedges which marked entering the OOC area. I felt amazing. Then came the real-life issues like rushing around to sort out our camp. Thankfully, one of our friends had secured most of our things and even secured some of the tents further.
Really, the people I came with made the event so much more fantastic. So much teamwork went on and so many helped each other as much as possible. I got changed, got dry, and then almost fell asleep then and there. I was impressed that my little £20 tent (four-man tent from Tesco) survived all of this weather to be honest!
Sunday we awoke early and decided we would all go and take our turns as the bad guys together. It's common etiquette that if you fight a battle as your character, you take part in another battle as a monster/orc.
So we got up, got changed into dry in-character clothing and went to the mosnter tent. We were painted with dark colours, given orc plate armour, new weapons and masks. We then went into the woods to go hunting. Being on the other side of the battle was so different. You got in character really easily. It was oddly haunting with us all walking through the woods, banging weapons on shields or armour in unison so that it echoed throughout the trees.
We also had friends on the opposite side so could have roleplay moments where we terrified them. It became a bit mental as the orcs were doing too well at one point. I mean, we had a troll and were told that he wouldn't be sent into battle as we didn't want to steamroll them. It was amazing seeing their battle strategies from the outside though.
At one point I had died and was told to respawn, so I made my way to the respawn point and realised there was blood dripping from my hand. I poured water from my bottle onto this and discovered that when I had gone down, there were thorns where my hand fell, plus my left hand went down onto a fallen branch and I had a few splinters embedded in my skin. Cleaned, removed and after having a drink, I plunged back into battle.
The battle ended with the orcs allowing them to collect their dead as there were too many laying dying. It was amazing. Absolutely amazing! Again, to point out how wonderful everyone is, one point I was backing up and tripped over a "dead" body, I twisted and angled as I fell so that I didn't fall on his head. Immediately I was picked up (by the humans) and everyone checked both I, and the one I fell over, were ok. He and I shook hands, we all backed away from each other, then I resumed shouting, "kill the tin-men!" at the heavily plated humans.
A shower awaited me when I returned from being an orc and it was badly needed and felt amazing. Once more into IC clothes, this time my character once more, we went back into the event and went shopping, drinking and developing our characters through roleplay. It was wrapping up and we returned to our own nation to hear what had changed during this weekend. The answer is, a lot! Politics had occurred, votes had happened, a senator had been elected, armies had conquered, people had fallen (though not many) and a ceasefire had occurred with one of the enemy tribes. Magick was now taking place and things are looking interesting for the next time!
The group I came in with are amazing. I really enjoyed the company of everyone there and the bonding experience this all was.
The people I met at Empire were amazing. They helped me so much to feel welcome, many even said (probably being nice) that they couldn't tell I was new to this.
The Holt I am a part of in Wintermark are BRILLIANT. I can't even begin to express how much I felt like part of a family before, during and after the battles and roleplaying. It was just breathtaking.
Thank you to the players of Empire. Thank you to the creators and runners of Empire. The traders, the crew, the other staff, the people I was with, the people I encountered and the people who have given me an event that I didn't want to leave, despite 50% of my clothes being soaked and me living in a tent at the time LOL
I can't wait to get back to Empire!