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Amtgard in Croatia
[11/22/2011] [Eques]

(This article originally appeared as a thread in the forums. The unedited version can be found here. It is reposted here with the author's permission. The original thread about Amtgard in Croatia is worth reading in its entirety.)

This is an absurdly long post. Sorry, a lot happened. The pictures from my trip are on Facebook.

This weekend, I visited a LARP in Croatia based off the Amtgard rules. It was a 24-hour event, starting Saturday around 10 am, ending Sunday the same. It was certainly an awesome experience, with a lot of interesting similarities and differences to Amtgard in the states. There were about 25 people at the event, I believe.

I have been to 24-hour roleplay Amtgard events in the past, Knoblander twice and ZAMA once. I was expecting something along those lines, perhaps with a bit more character development. I was sorta right, and entirely unprepared.

We showed up a bit late Saturday, and the game started almost immediately. The people who had attended the previous event started in one location, with one GM setting the scene, while those who had not started a bit in the other direction.

Now might be a good time to point out that I don’t know a word of Croatian. While most, if not all, of the people at the event also speak English, almost everything was conducted in Croatian. Some individuals even spoke English, but their characters did not, and thus they could not communicate with me during the game. This was probably my largest frustration with the entire event.

So after a description by the GM, in Croatian, hastily translated for me by Izalac (who was awesome and really helpful with translations), we set off. Apparently we were travelers into town, who had all met upon the road and decided to travel together briefly. We walked down the path, and saw that the other group was being attacked! We ran up and helped defeat the attackers.

As another aside, there appear to have been about 3 GMs/organizers and maybe two other monster NPCs (there were also two NPCs within the questers). They did an amazing job with so few people. I was very impressed. They made some use of shattered individuals, and occasionally grabbed a payer to help monster, but for the most part they managed to make five individuals terrifying and effective.

After defeating the attackers we all went back to the camp. There was only one camp/tavern and people began talking. Those had been savages attacking the Dwarf King Eric, but no one knew why. Some helpful individuals told me a bit of the backstory from previous events, and it flowed seamlessly into this one.

The savages continued attacking the camp, and eventually we managed to capture one of them. He spoke an entirely different language, so they attempted to learn it or teach him theirs. It was all in Croatian, so I’m not entirely certain what was learned, but they kept trying for several hours, and did apparently make progress.

I managed to talk a few people into sparing a few rounds with me during some down time, and people gathered to bet on the fight outcomes. That was pretty awesome; it added a lot to the in character feel of the sparing. I mostly just wanted to fight. I also learned that their combat system was a bit different than ours, though they claim that section is not changed. They do not allow double taps (I think they were mostly not used to a sword moving as fast as an Amtgard noodle bat, and couldn’t keep track of the hits). They also have some sort of minimum force rule. However, they do not announce ‘point’ or ‘light’ when hit. This was also somewhat frustrating and confusing, but didn’t take long to adapt to once it was explained.

They prepared a meal in pots over the fire, which really added to the ambiance. Eventually someone announced that they had found a cave, and we went out to explore it. Again, the GM led us through verbally, in Croatian. The cave was huge, but was not represented physically by anything beyond a path in the forest, something I really don't think I'd see at an Amtgard event. There was a split and we took the left, where we found only a pile of troll shit. We went back and took the right, and we found a dead troll, whose face we cut off and whose body we burned. Then we went back. There was no combat at all.

While we were troll hunting, some flagging tape was put up surrounding a rather large distance around the camp. After a little while, a fog sprang up outside it, making it so we could not see past it unless we had a light with us. And people actually played as if they couldn’t. I was very impressed. We could see people massing outside it, but didn’t react until they crossed. Some wizard threw a remain active fireball out there, to help light the way, while others carried actual lit lanterns. They were very effective harriers, even with a small number of people.

It continued mostly like that for a while. There was a great deal of intrigue. Clearly the characters all had histories with each other, histories that I couldn’t begin to comprehend in just one event. At one point a demon came for Gareth (a fellow American, and former NERO player). It spoke English for him, so I actually understood when it said that the evil he was searching for was in the area, and he was to start his paladin quest (again, not true Amtgard, and they are so far from the main, they do knighthood and paladin/antipaladin a bit differently).

A doppleganger came into town to kill some players, and then some other long-time characters were conducting a ritual. They said it was to remove the fog, but a different character said it was to summon a demon. The characters who were more trusted by the other characters were believed, on that basis alone. Naturally, they were summoning demons. The demon garb was very simple, but made especially effective by the firelight. Eventually we defeated them, and the other healer and I were asked to conduct a ritual to cleanse the land. We did. That part was really cool, because the GM just told us to make one up, and we did. It felt rather more meaningful that way, and I think is part of how they accomplish the making each person feel like it is their story.

I later learned that this was something the players had asked to do, and had spent the whole previous year leading up to. And none of it was organized by the quest runners, as far as I am aware. This was a novel idea, and something I really wish we had people do at Amtgard. Another player told me (I eventually coaxed some of them out of character to talk a bit, about Amtgard and such) that the gem he was searching for was something that he had started, the GM had no hand in it, and that he also had no in or out of character idea who had it, or if he would ever find it. And he liked it that way. This kinda blew my mind, but the more I think about it, the more I think it is key to their kind of event. The story is entirely player driven, and not just that we need them to go on our quests. This seems to be the largest difference from Amtgard in the states, though I wonder how things differ at their larger events.

There were several parts of the night that felt more like a play than a quest, and everyone gave it its proper due, without having been given instructions in advance. I was also impressed with this, they did not have that one asshole who interrupts the scene setting moments by starting a conversation with his friend when he isn’t involved in the action. I suppose this is because they are all involved, in some way.

There was some more standing around and talking, when first an imp, then a demon came by, asking for the Dwarf King's magic ring, which he had apparently found at a previous event. They had a fairly epic showdown, that seemed much more like a play than anything else. Remember, Eric is a mostly player character, not an NPC. He was getting to live his own epic. This is another common theme I seemed to see, that is likely why it is so effective, and different from our events. In Croatia, it really felt like everyone was having their chance to be special and have their own scene in the play, not just the generals or NPCs.

Eventually someone destroyed the ring that the demon wanted, killing himself in the process. He professed himself satisfied, so I’m assuming there was another epic, playlike moment involved there. There was also something about a box that was trapped, but I never understood it, at all.

The Dwarf King Eric was challenged, and lost his crown, but we all decided to stay with him anyway. We all had in character reasons for doing so, he was part of some honorable company who supported him, and I had spent five rezes on him already, and didn’t want those to be a waste. Apparently staying meant that we were going to be besieged, so people built a palisade wall out of sticks, and we formed a shieldwall at the opening.

Then we gave up waiting, and sat around the fire, but every single broken branch or imagined light had us back up in line. It was a fairly intense night. Eventually they attacked, and we held the line. There were some attempts at tactics, but not too much, and, particularly after Eric was no longer king, there was little organized scouting. It was nothing compared to some of the set ups we have had at events. Things were also significantly darker, as there was little artificial light used.

In the morning (though few people slept), two NPCs ran through the clearing, one yelling that the Kentar (apparently the leader of the bad guys) was in the meadow, the other that an army was coming. So the entire camp went to defeat the Kentar before the army arrived. Which we did. Then we did again, for the camera. And again. Taking multiple shots (with only the first one deciding the outcome of the quest) in order to produce an epic video, is an idea that Amtgard might want to try occasionally, at least enough to produce a nice, professional-looking promotional video.

Killing the Kentar apparently removed the army, and things settled into relative peace, until the next event. Oh, and all the local groups events use storylines that tie into each other, so characters killed in one event stay dead at everything, and agreements and such cary over as well.

I had an amazing time at the event, and I am going to attempt to go back again before my year of grad school here in England is finished. If anyone can make it there, I would recommend it. Just be aware of what you are getting into. Have a character in mind, with some sort of motivation, and reason for travel, and everything. If you go to something that isn’t proper Amtgard, read up on the rules differences a bit. They do a simple multiclass thing, and there are a few other changes. Also try and learn a bit of Croatian, though I think after my time there, they are hopefully thinking of ways to better integrate someone who can’t speak the language.

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