When I started having the idea for LARP: The Blog Project, I imagined that 2016 would be a year full of multiple weekend events across the South and that by the end of the year I would have gone to all of them at least twice. Then reality hit and I was sidelined with sciatica, dental issues, and a brutal ankle injury that effectively put an end to those plans. However, I am happy to say that I am very much on the mend and that this project is back in full swing. I say all of this as a preface to my first blog entry below because it is dealing with these issues at the games that have made for some of the more interesting things I’ve experienced. Enjoy.
LARPWorks has as one of its core philosophies that, as we grow and can reach out to do so, we want to support as much of the LARP community as we can. This is particularly true for upcoming games, as we are still an upcoming game ourselves. With that in mind, I decided for March 2016 as the first stop on my Blog tour, I would attend SOLAR: AFTERMATH, one of the newest games in the region.
The game is, for the most part, classic SOLAR rules, with some minor tweaks for it being in a post-Apocalyptic world. It is a full speed, ‘light touch’ combat system using classic ‘boffer’ weapons and bird seed packets. Since this was the style of system I grew up on, and I have some experience at AFTERMATH’S sister chapter, Cerroneth, it was fairly easy for me to pick up the rules. Learning all the specific effects of each spell is still proving a challenge, but nothing simply asking can’t fix. Even though I was familiar with the system, I decided that the best way to approach the game was from the tried and true, good old fashioned, sword-o-mancy. Really, all that means is that I was a warrior with lots of health, armor, and weapons. It’s the lazy way to start a game, but it generally makes learning the game easier as you tend to live longer early on when you spend most of your time running for your life. With that in mind, I created a simple level 3 Human Warrior and set off for my adventure.
The game is played at Camp Camellia just north of Hattiesburg, MS. In fact, it’s just a 12 minute or so drive from the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi. I’ve played at this site before under a different name, but everything was pretty much as it always had been. Upon arriving, I immediately parked once pulling in and went to get checked in. Checking In turned out to be a two part process and part one was simple and painless, lengthened only by the time it took for me to fill out some crucial legal paperwork and my asking of some questions about the available cabin spaces. All of this was taking place in the spacious tavern building that, though plain and white at the moment, would soon be transformed by many window drapes and hanging tapestries.
Part two of checking in required me to actually make my character because I wasn’t totally sure about using the nifty character creation program they use online. This process was also fairly quick and painless, facilitated by the fact that I already had a clear grasp of what I wanted. After checking in, I moved my stuff to the cabin I was going to stay in and just dropped it off before heading back for opening ceremonies. The cabins are very nice. There are four of them and each one holds about 30 people in bunk beds. The beds are in nice wooden frames and the mattresses are thick and soft. The bathrooms are fairly basic and standard, with two stalls, sinks, and showers. Though, these bathrooms are actually much more spacious than what I am used to in Louisiana State Parks, so that was pretty nice.
Opening ceremonies was done around 10pm the first time I was there, which is refreshing to see after some past SOLAR experiences. It was pretty standard, everyone was hyped up, staff was introduced, new players were acknowledged, followed by a few In Play announcements/rumors. Then it was about half an hour to game on. I got into character pretty easily, wearing a nice red shirt and all my black leather armor on top of it. Simple Human Warrior from the Scrublands, trying to survive.
Admittedly, I’ve gone through so many characters at games, that, in a game where I can gain lives fairly easy at low level, I have no fear of losing my character. And, admittedly, since I need content, going all in from the get go is probably the best way to experience awesome things as a solo player. So, that’s exactly what I did. I sword-o-mancied anything that wasn’t a spell caster, a few spell casters, and definitely a few things that I should not have been messing with. I even accidentally walked in on the town council meeting while they were talking with a big baddie and basically ignored that fact to ask the big baddie questions…the council was unhappy, good times were had! However, as cool as all that sounds, I spent a bunch of time running for my damn life! Luckily, the wide open field next to the cabins (which also has a large pavilion in it for mods and such) and tavern leads to a series of excellently developed trails with a creek and valley running through it that are great for ‘mods’, nefarious deeds, and saving ones skin.
Unfortunately, I had to leave my first experience a little more than halfway through the game because of work. In doing so, I had a freak dumb accident and badly injured my left ankle. This had me in a boot for about three months. Because of that, I had to return to AFTERMATH in April but my ankle wasn’t having it. After going on the newbie mod and mostly just standing there, medically Out of Play, and some actually pretty good roleplaying with the Guild Mistress of the Armorsmiths, I had to pull the plug. After finally getting out of the boot, I went back again in June for the second half of that game. Finally, I would have my full experience to write about!
Needless to say, June has some intense heat. But it also had some intense role-playing as characters were having their worldviews challenged as they had to face the ramifications of decisions that lead to warfare, disease, famine, and death. Plot also pulled out a pair of excellently costumed and made up NPCs in the form of a Wendigo, dressed as a traditional indigenous American Indian with an excellent black light paint job, and a greater skeleton with glowing red eyes. Cannibals were everywhere also…and a couple eventually ate me. But it was still fun because, losing thirty minutes of your life after you die, I needed people to tell me how I died. Hearing the stories of what your character did as told by other people In Character is pretty damn cool.
Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten much food out of the tavern, but it is a lot like having a lower cost ballpark concession stand. I had a pretty good meal of chili cheese dogs, chips, and a drink for $5. They have heftier meals for dinner and breakfast, I hear, is pretty good. But I didn’t get to try any of those yet.
The community was largely very helpful and inviting, particularly once they found out I was alone. People were offering me all sorts of advice, letting me in on a few things here and there about their cabin, making sure I was comfortable, etc. And with an average of around 40 or so players, the percentage of people who went out of their way to talk to me was pretty high. I was really impressed. Once we got into character things were slightly different, but my character was almost never ignored or turned away just because he was new.
The only quibbles that I have are fairly simple. First, there is, for my personal tastes, far too much out of play that can happen. Staff has been taking steps to curb this and making announcements stressing the need to stay In Character and designating a couple of site areas that are meant to be where you can congregate Out of Play and smoke cigarettes. Second, there is a really cool fire pit and ring of benches near the woods next to one of the cabins. But the sites septic tank is located near that area and sometimes it smells pretty nasty, making an otherwise awesome spot, mostly unplayable. Third, I find it difficult to break into the stories that are going on. There are several reasons for this, in my opinion, but I feel like most of it has to do with the lack of plot people available. With so few plot people, relative to the number of story lines being run, plot members must spend more of their time as specific NPCs or doing specific plot things, they have little time to be out as other things. Luckily I was able to hang around enough players who were getting plot attention to be able to get swept along in crazy stories. My final quibble is that getting information out of the characters at the game was largely a difficult endeavor. But I suspect this has to do more with characters being themselves and having less information that I had hoped for, than plot not handing out information.
Overall, I had a good time. Being a solo character is hard, but I’ve roleplayed my way into to some friendships and alliances, as it should be. And I definitely plan on going back.