Friday Featured LARP: ConQuest of Mythodea 2013
The biggest larp event in the world. Over 8,000 players, over 1,200 NPCs, over 700 pages of plot written for it. How do you even write a review for that? Heck, there are only about 5-8 other larps in the world which have more players than ConQuest has NPCs. Played on a horse property in a small German town of Brokeloh, the huge number of people make Mythodea a living fantasy country – there’s so much going on that pretty much every player gets a unique experience.
The basic structure of ConQuest is very different from the one for Drachenfest. While both have some similarities – being two of the largest larps around, with similar rulesets and fighting styles, featuring out-of-character GMs who watch out for safety issues and remove the arrows from the battlefield, showers, paramedics, a huge working town with a lot of shops, plenty of camps with cool gates and certain avatars – that’s where similarities between the two end. While Drachenfest is essentially a larp about many factions fighting for rulership of the land for one year (and going very sandboxy about that), ConQuest is a much deeper storyline experience with incredible amounts of lore, a large plot team, and a grand overarching storyline – which, I have to admit, is railroaded to a degree. A lot of plot is prewritten, and events feature interactive plot locations. Dead characters on ConQuest stay dead instead of passing through Limbus, and all players are allies (to a degree) – NPCs are the main enemy.
Same as last year, I was an NPC – I joined the Swarm 1 of the Black Ice. Compared to Drachenfest’s charged atmosphere, being in the out-of-character NPC camp at ConQuest of Mythodea is peaceful (if we ignore Swarms 8 and 13, which have a party setup – however, it’s not noticeable from an in-game area), and it gave us two days of rest and light activity to prepare for what awaited us. The familiar area, nice green grass, and the awesome shade of the treeline we were close to had a calming effect. For some reason, Mythodea felt like home.
In that time we also hung out with some friends that we met. Besides our friends from Swarm 1, we hanged a lot with the Grand Expedition (organized by Rick and Anja; this time in the Camp of the West), where my wife and son would stay once the larp started. Expedition also featured many amazing people from around the world – players from Great Britain, Ireland, USA, Germany, Israel, Denmark, Norway, etc. It also gave me the opportunity to finally meet a lot of people face-to-face whom I’ve previously only chatted with on the Internet.
One such person is Kristin Brumley, author of the Stay in Character vlog and producer of the upcoming Basic Adventuring 101 webseries – she was in the Grand Expedition camp playing her character Iris. She was featured on our site in June. Another was Martin aka the LazyLarper, who’s producing LarpForge videos which have been shown regularly on our site too. He was with his fiancée Sophie and their friends in a group called The Kettles, in the Fire camp. They brought out their fabulous homemade mead, and I saw an episode of Cookforge being filmed.
Besides player camps, plenty of people from Copper camp at Drachenfest also played NPCs here. There were a couple of the undead players in the undead lairdom of Flowerfield, one guy in the lairdom of Corpsedale, and a girl who was cast as one of the Viinshar. One guy I met on the Expedition at Drachenfest would be a Black Ice here, Swarm 13. All of these people I knew just being around made Mythodea even more welcoming than the last year.
The layout of the camps changed a lot this year, since it was a new in-character location, and there were a couple of new camps (and like last year, a part of the terrain was set for an out-of-character medieval and fantasy festival that all players could access – only players were allowed into playing area though, no festival visitors).
All of this made for a huge forest of tents wherever you went. The terrain was bigger and more varied than the one for Drachenfest (due to treelines breaking line of sight), so it doesn’t feel as crowded despite being twice the size and population of Drachenfest. The city – as the one last year – is bigger than the one at Drachenfest and features more shops, so I bought a lot of stuff that I couldn’t find at Drachenfest (although I couldn’t find a Calimacil vendor this year at either larp, which I found odd). But really, the city is awesome, and not only due to stores. There are plenty of taverns, restaurants, guilds, entertainers, several rival gangs which cause trouble, and so much more. You can learn new skills, eat, drink, buy stuff both for real money and in-game coin. You can get mugged or swindled easily, you can hire dancers for your private party, buy some slaves (or sell yourself into slavery), and much, much more. Mythodea’s city lives, and it has its own rules and night life.
Despite the fact that there’s a supermarket at Mythodea (in a tent next to the city), after Drachenfest I found myself yearning for normal cooked food. I signed up for an NPC tavern deal – for 45€ I’d get three meals a day for four days (Wednesday – Saturday), plus dinner on Tuesday and a breakfast on Sunday. Great food for the cost, and quite varied. Plus, meals were scheduled around fights and shifts.
Fighting NPCs at ConQuest (the majority, at least) are scheduled around shifts. There are a few big battles (where everyone is active), and every day there’s active duty, a state of preparedness, and rest. I should note here that this was a special ConQuest – after ten years, the first chapter of the story came to a close – so they were determined to make it more epic than ever. Last year there was only one big battle, at the end. This year there was one every day except the Wednesday; though everyone thought they were in for a big battle, we’d actually had choreography (which we practiced earlier) and fell down in a “1200-person domino effect” in a power surge when Argus (the big bad guy of Mythodea) opened the last seal.
That area had powerful speakers (to make the bad guys and sound effects heard), but they were still too weak for most people; as NPCs we were standing relatively close to them and could barely hear it. It was a special area (where the last seal was located) refered to as “Point of Creation” of “Forge of Creation” or “Smithy of Creation” (depends on whom you asked).
Its downside was that it took us three kilometers to march to it and three kilometers to march back. In fact, three out of four days we were marching there or close to it. There was a lot of walking in general. I believe I walked around 10 km every day (in armor) while on duty. If you’re NPCing at ConQuest, make sure you’re fine with walking; there’s a lot of it! Luckily, there’s also a support wagon and they haul water, making sure you don’t dehydrate.
At the end of the opening scene, Argus was captured. There was a big battle on Thursday morning where we tried to recapture him. The fight lasted a long time as Argus switched hands several times (he was caged and on a cart which could only be moved slowly and with painful consequences for PCs), but we lost him in the end. There was a day break which I spent resting in the shade in my own camp, and one more action that evening. When my shift was done, I took a shower (a word of warning for the faint-hearted: Mythodea has military-style showers, so there will be nudity if you go there. There’s much more privacy at Drachenfest, but Mythodea has way more showers and you almost never have to wait). Instead of turning in early, I dressed up as one of my regular characters (Kain) and went to the Grand Expedition to hang out with my wife and other members of the Expedition (we could go out and role-play with our regular characters while off-duty, provided that we don’t get involved in the storyline since that’s for players).
The Grand Expedition (as an English-speaking group) was easy to role-play with, and they had a great-looking camp, mead hall, and sometimes some entertainment. This year the Expedition was more scattered, and people spent less time in their camp. They often went out to do stuff together.
I went there every day. Since by the time I arrived it was usually dark, I spent some time there with my wife and son, and when they turned in to sleep I went to the city to one of the taverns where the rest of the folks from the Expedition went. These nights were full of having fun, drinking, dicing and sharing stories. I didn’t stay there for too long, though. There would always be the next day where I would have my duties as a Black Ice rakh.
Friday morning we had an “instanced” assault scenario where we attacked a part of the East camp in waves for an hour. During the main heat of the day we rested, chatted together, and napped. Swarm 1 is actually a nice place for a non-German speaker. Most people speak at least some English, and there’s a large group of Dutch people, so everything important gets translated. There were a couple of new faces and plenty of familiar ones – with a lot of nice people, Swarm 1 almost felt like family this time around. Fighting and chilling together creates a lot of bonding.
In the afternoon there was another big battle – the Black Ice focused on the Earth camp, which undead twice failed to conquer. We took it for ourselves and then repelled the reinforcements, returning to the camp without dying. It was the most glorious battle that I was in at ConQuest.
After this battle, even though we were tired, we wanted more (since we didn’t lose). We almost begged the GMs to let us have a go at another camp, but that was it for the evening. March back to the camp, showers, and another evening in light clothes, barefoot, and without wearing armor. Felt like freedom, and that way I could easily limp to the West camp. This was probably the evening when I did the most role-play.
Friday morning we only had a small battle against Grosse Heer camp (Grand Army – they have a high standard of viking costuming) and blocked the passage towards the Fire camp. Nothing much, and our last R&R together in the cool shade south of the Swarm 1 campsite. Then came the end battle, again at the location of the seal, but this time we approached from the back side, adding some half kilometer to our journey. It was scheduled to last for four hours and it was long and hard. In the end, we lost (of course), and Argus died. We’d be more amazed if we weren’t so dead tired, but that was the end of an Age and the beginning of another one. It really felt that way: an end and a new beginning.
A summary of the main plotline from the event website is:
It took a whole year to open the Iron Gate again and follow Argus. But then everything did not go as expected: As soon as the settlers had entered the field facing Argus at the least seal, the seal opened a crack and revealed not the greatest enemy of creation but actually the source of all life on Mythodea.
Argus is captured and Phileas Strongbow is made captive. The settlers bring him to court where a fatal mistake leads to Paolo Armatio’s death. Finally, Argus is sentenced and executed. At the same time, the scholars and mages try to understand why the Ancients Rulers had put a seal over this place, the greatest sanctuary of the elements of Mythodea. Finally they realize that the Ratio had made it possible for the Primordial Sceptics to bring new things into this world, which was never part of the plan of the elements. Putting the source of this creative power the “Smithy of Creation” under a seal seemed to be the only way to hold the blasphemers at bay.
NPC debriefing was full of cheering and saying goodbyes. We greeted Linus (the player of Argus) one last time for all the good times we had, and then we got a short presentation about some stuff coming next year. Mythodea stayed in character for one last evening, and then in the morning we packed our stuff. There were plenty of hugs, goodbyes, and directly translated German such as “we’ll see each other” (“see you”). Saying goodbye to the wonderful people of Swarm 1 and The Grand Expedition, we loaded our car, drank a goodbye slushie and started the long journey home. A couple of downsides (GM intrusiveness, ruleset change 10 days before the event, etc.) were put aside as we were slowly digesting our experience of the world’s biggest fantasy larp.
The Live Adventure team wasted no time, and in two weeks the new website for the ConQuest 2014 was up (as are the ticket sales), detailing all the upcoming changes for the next year (with the exception of a new ruleset, which is scheduled for December). Changes will really be huge. First of all, the next ConQuest will take place on a different world – the Mirrorworld. Mythodea will still be the setting of several smaller events throughout the year – but it has been largely conquered. ConQuest 2014 will also see players organized very differently – element camps have been disbanded, and all PCs will be bunched together in the centre of the terrain as a member of the Large Host of over 5000 players, organized into five “wards”: Adamant, Explorer, Freedom, Retinue and Unity.
Several photos have been used from the ConQuest website or official ConQuest photo CD. These photos are (c) Live Adventure 2013. http://www.live-adventure.deAnd there will be some new enemies around to fight – or to join, if you decide to take the NPC route. It is, after all, a new beginning.