The theme for X-Team Season 3 is Not Done Yet. We're !Done. There's always another city you haven't explored, a race you haven't run, a game you haven't played. Or, in the case of X-Teamer Bartosz Król, there's always another LARP. What's a LARP, you ask? That was my question too. Read the interview below to find out more about Bart's adventures.
Hi Bart, thank you for taking some time out to talk to me! Let’s start at the beginning: what’s a LARP and how did you get into it?
LARP (Live Action Role Play) is a form of role-playing game where the participants physically portray their characters in a fictional setting, improvising their characters’ speech and movements somewhat like actors in improvisational theatre. They last between several hours up to a couple of days. Most of the games require a player to dress as a character from an appropriate setting - fantasy being the most common, but there are plenty of historical, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi or modern games.
To me, LARPs have always been a chance to experience an adventure like a character from a movie or a book. Most of the games are designed to tell some sort of a story - your character is given a set of goals, relations and possible story arcs. But here’s the thing - it’s not scripted, so from the moment you start playing, you never know what happens. I'm always fascinated what kind of stories will emerge - epic duels, romance, feasts, songs, and dances. All of them are possible and it’s always exciting - it’s basically like you are transported to a different world for a couple of days.
That sounds super exciting. And you said you went to a LARP school? What does that mean? What do you do in the three days you said it lasted?
Ah. It wasn’t really a LARP school. The game was called The Witcher School. It’s one of the most famous and probably most detailed blockbuster LARPs in Poland. Participants from all around the world come to the Polish Castle to train to become a Witcher, one of the monster slayers. During their time there they learn some real skills (archery, fencing, smithing, etc...), participate in monster hunts and are immersed in a story before the Witcher books and games.
It’s being played with hundreds of players and a two dozen supporting characters (NPCs) over a period of three days. I went there as an NPC (non-playable character) helping organisers with the game.
As for my story - during this game I portrayed Prince Jost, the king’s nephew, member of the Blue Stripes unit. An official envoy tasked to negotiate a treaty with members of the Witcher School. It was a fascinating story, full of twists and turns - in the end [spoilers] I unfortunately failed - Witchers have proven to be too proud to bend their knees to the King of Temeria, so we’ve ended the game with me tearing up the treaty and promising King’s revenge.
A good explanation of this LARP from a non-LARP person is here:
Had you done other LARPs before? If so, how did this one compare with the others?
Yes, I’ve played many LARPs before that one. The Witcher School is one of the best LARPs in terms of locations, costumes and details, but my role there was a bit different. As I was saying, I was playing as an NPC character. This means that many of my plots were assigned by the game organisers and I was tasked to entertain the players.
I usually go to LARPs as a player and I’ve played so many of them, that it’s hard to summarise them all, but there are a couple that stand out.
BattleQuest is the biggest polish LARP with over 700 participants taking place in a Warhammer setting. It’s a battle LARP, so war and plots surrounding it are the main focus. Not everyone has to fight though. With a neutral city trying to survive (and obviously cash in) there were plenty of opportunities to portray someone else other than soldiers.
During this game I played as Kurt, a simple soldier of the Empire. Equipped with my trusty halberd I went there mainly to experience soldiers life… and the game delivered. I was standing in the front lines fighting with Norsemen hordes, shouting orders with my fellow men, marching to the sound of the drums and trying to survive in the difficult time of war. It was a great experience and exactly what I was hoping for.
The second one worth mentioning is New Age: Tomorrow Never Dies. It was being played in fantasy 1920 and loosely inspired by the Great Gatsby. We’ve all been invited to a famous Great Gatsberg Breakfast to discuss culture and politics. I’ve played the role of a famous illusionist (and infamous robber). The game was a pastiche of many different conventions, so it included many plots in the background - secret spies, dark rituals and even superpowers. I could spend a long time talking about it, but the most important part was that it made me feel like I’m part of a movie and it felt incredible. Here are the photos.
But man, there was many more - Mir, a LARP inspired by Game of Thrones taking place in an old polish castle, telling a story of a turbulent wedding between two conflicted families… Fantazjada, a historical drama about a medieval city, where I played as a thief trying to create his own criminal organisation… Or Shadows of Poland, where I played a vampire hunter tracking ancient monsters hidden in the nights of a Polish city. All of them gave me many great stories to tell and incredible moments to remember.
They sound like incredible experiences. And how much time does it take to create the costumes and weapons etc...?
I was never great with creating my own costumes, so most of the time I buy them from LARP shops or crafters (and yes, there are specialised LARP shops where you can buy everything for LARPing, starting from weapons and armor, but also fake blood, orc mask or latex prostheses. Basically everything you need for your adventure).
But it still takes a lot of time to come up with an idea of the kind of character you want to play and what they would be wearing. How long does it take? Too long, just too long 😄. I first start with concept arts - I spend a couple of hours looking for inspiration on the internet. And once this inspiration is found, then I have to make them real - many costumes from games or movies are not particularly practical, so it requires some time to make them work in a real life. After that, buying materials, finding details, fitting it all together. It takes a long time, but the effect is really worth it 🙂.
It looks like it. All of these costumes are stunning. You can really see the effort you put into it. Can you describe how a LARP battle goes? What’s the experience like?
Surprisingly a LARP battle is very close to how you would imagine an actual battle. Of course we use safe, latex weapons, so the hits don't hurt, but people's emotions are real. It’s chaotic, there is a lot of shouting, but teamwork, equipment and morale are much more important than fencing skills. It’s extremely fun - you really feel like you are part of the actual battle.
As far as the rules go - in Poland we are big on the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you got) rules, so there aren't a lot of mechanics around fighting. Basically, during BattleQuest, when you are hit three times you are out. If you have good enough protection it can sometimes save you (you decide). If you got a hit which feels like you wouldn’t survive it - you are out. Then you have to act as if you’ve fallen down (preferably with a lot of screaming) and then go back to the back lines.
Falling down in a battle is not the end of your character though - during BattleQuest people are wounded, but they don’t die.
After being taken out in a battle they go to the medic’s tent where they try to heal your wounds… with a lot of fake blood, screaming and operations. People portraying medics had tons of fun when playing those operations - it was their chance to shine - after all, it was made to make it as real and fun as possible.
That's brilliant. Thank you so much for the primer on LARPing, Bart. I feel you might have convinced a few readers to try one out themselves. On to the next LARP!