During the August Bank holiday, 2000, the Lorien Trust held their annual LRP event, called The Gathering. Jenny and I went for the first time.
Day Zero: Preparation
When we got our manuals and instructions and application forms from the Lorien Trust, the first thing we had to do was choose our characters. The system works on a points basis; each person is given 17 points which they can allocate to different skills. Thus, you can put most of your points into magic skill and concentrate on being a mage, or more points into weapons and armour use and became a fighter.
Jenny went for the latter and decided to play a bodyguard. I had no illusions about my ability to wield a sword, and so put most of my skill points into healing, and became a healer.
Day One: Friday
We arrived Friday evening, quite late. We managed to erect our tent in the dark, grabbed some alcohol, and mingled. There was no plot development or fighting, just out of character socialising. People were friendly, very very friendly in some cases, and we collapsed into our tent quite late, watching the lightening and listening to the thunder until we fell asleep.
Day Two: Saturday
We awoke Saturday morning to find that our airbed had terminally deflated and the rain was starting to get in. We resolved to find better accomodation for the next trip. It rained. All day. Not quite hard enough to get drenched and keep us in our tents, but a slow and insistent drizzle that ensured we spent the entire day damp.
We had decided to throw in our lot with the Viper faction, one of half a dozen or so factions present. In order to meet people and try to get a grip on what was going on, we presented ourselves to the high council, and tagged along with one of the ambassadors when she and the queen went to visit the Unicorn faction.
We didn't learn much of the weekend's plot (we never did, and still don't) but we did learn something of the politics. Each faction has an ambassador to each of the other factions, and which faction was an ally and which we were at war with seemed to change on a daily, if not hourly, basis. We learned that the unicorn faction had killed one of our ambassadors, and in retaliation we had killed one of theirs, turned him into a ghoul, and sent him back. Relations with the Unicorns where therefore somewhat strained.
We spent some time shopping, and after walking around the main arena, we decided that we needed weapons. We hadn't brought any with us because, this being our first event, we didn't have any. Jenny Bought a sword (£36 from Eldrich) and 4 throwing knives (£20 from Kin Cheap), Jennifer bought a dagger. Jenny had projectile weapon skills and Jennifer had Healer skills, but she still needed to protect herself.
Arriving back at the Viper emcampment, there seemed to be a muster for an attack on the Unicorns. We gathered our weapons and followed the group towards the unicorn camp. The battle commenced and we both died.
We did learn a few important lessons from our first melee:
Later that afternoon the weather turned ominous and the Viper guardpost was undefended, but sheltered, so we both decided to take a turn at Guard Duty. This turned out to be a good way to meet people and find out some plot. At the very least we learned which people were visiting us, even if we didn't always discover why.
Day Three: Sunday
Sunday the weather improved. It was dry, and several times the sun came out. There didn't seem to be much happening at the viper camp, so we decided to try our hand at monstering.
'Monstering' is the term for playing a 'non-player character', a person who is part of the plot and directed by the Lorien Trust staff. We presented ourselves at the appropriate volunteers tent, and were told that bodyguards were needed for a short time. We were kitted out in Eqyptian guard uniforms, and marched from place to place being an honour guard for one of the other non-player characters.
This would have been a great way of learning more of the plot, if only we'd done rather more of this. As it was we had an enjoyable time, but didn't carry on long enough to learn much.
There is another problem with this. While you are monstering you are out-of-character, and anything you learn while out-of-character you have to forget when you go back into character. You need to maintain a chinese wall in your mind.
The main plot of the weekend was very confused, at least as far as we were concerned, but seemed to involve a pyramid, ten keys, and various undead monsters coming out as various doors were opened. There was a sub-plot concerning the selection of a new pharaoh. As I said, we never did work out the details, but we did spend part of the afternoon watching various groups of people trying to rush into the pyramid and getting killed.
Late afternoon and early evening we spent doing more gate duty, which in my case involved sitting in the sun, reading a book, drinking beer, and pointing a sword at anybody who tried to come in and asking their business.
As dusk fell the Unicorn faction decided to repay our earlier attack on them by attacking us. Being at the gate Jenny and I were the first to see them and raise the alarm. Everywhere in the camp people started buckling on their swords, grabbing their war-axes and hammers, and came running.
Jenny discovered a usefull trick; holding her sword in one hand and throwing knives in the other, her opponent would try to duck and avoid the knives allowing her to attack them with her sword.
We beat off the attack, and settled down to a quiet evening of drinking and socialising.
Day Four: Monday
This was our last day, so first thing after breakfast we packed our tent away ready for a quick getaway to beat the rush
Traditionally, the only thing that happens on the last day is a major battle between all the factions. Various excuses are made for this, but nobody really cares what the reason is, it just always happens. The battle takes place in the afternoon, and the morning is spent making alliences, discussing tactics, and generally preparing for the slaughter
Jenny and I went shopping again. This being the last day, many of the traders were selling the last of their goods cheaply, rather than taking them back unsold, and I bought a very nice sword for only £25.
In the afternoon we all went off for the big battle. We marched off to the battlefield, joined up with all the other factions, and formed two very long lines facing each other. I've mentioned that there were half a dozen or so factions. In total, there were about 3000 people at the Gathering, and all of them were on the battlefield. It was an amazing sight.
Entry to the battlefield was delayed by having a weapons check on the way in. Members of the Lorien Trust made sure that all weapons taken on to the battlefield had sufficient padding to be safe. The logistical problems of getting that many people in the right place at the right time meant that it was at least an hour between arriving at the battlefield and the battle commencing.
The battle itself was as confused as I imagine actual old-style battles must have been. Within a few minutes the lines had broken up and the battle raged in seperate small groups, with nobody having any idea of who was fighting whom. I tried to stick with a small group who I knew belonged to the Viper faction, but I soon lost sight of them and wondered around looking lost and doing my best to look harmless.
Being a healer gave me one big advantage; I wasn't an obvious threat to anybody. I spent my time healing people, not knowing if they were the enemy or on our side, until I'd used up all my healing powers, then tried to watch the course of the battle from far enough away to be out of danger.
In the heat of battle some people did get carried away with the excitement. Despite the earlier weapons check we did have several people carried off the field by ambulance with minor injuries. At least I hope they were minor.
The battle didn't so much end as fizzle out. As I wondered back to the camp, I asked people how the battle had gone and realised that although nobody had any idea of who had won, everybody had had a good time.
Day Five: Afterword
We had already packed up, and as soon as the battle was over we left, in order to beat the rush and avoid the queues.
We had a problem coming down from the weekend, which we're told is a common problem. For days afterward I felt naked without my sword, and tried to pay for groceries with in-character money.
Our main disappointment with the weekend was in not having a full understanding of the plot, and having only a hazy idea of what was going on. This is only a minor complaint, and seemed to be a common problem. Lot's of people didn't worry about it, and were happy as long as somebody told them who to fight. All in all, and despite the less than ideal weather, we had a great time, and I'm quite sure we shall be going back next year.
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