If you ask around the Realms, people will tell you all kinds of things about spirits. Some adventurers believe that spirits are simply the restless dead, while others will tell you that spirits are their own type of being from another plane of existence. Going farther out there, some people will think you’re talking about booze and they’ll get all excited. In Voraniss we have a special relationship with the spirits; for there are many that have chosen to take residence within our borders. Some of these spirits take the shape of animals, and we have built various shrines to them all throughout our territory. One of my favorite spirits is Osag, the Guardian Bear, and it is he who I wish to tell you about.
Osag’s legend is one beloved by our locals. It begins long, long ago when humanity first arrived within the lands presently known as Voraniss. Never before had they seen such ancient trees, and they felt as dwarves beneath a giant’s heel. Fish and game were bountiful, and so the humans were able to wander free from place to place as they followed after that which they hunted.
Osag was one of these early humans; a proud warrior who led his tribe forward by the point of his spear. Osag’s life hadn’t always been so blessed, however. He had grown up without parents, as many adventurers do. His mother had fallen early on to a particularly harsh winter famine, and his father had died a warrior’s death charging into combat against an enemy tribe. The others helped him as best they could, but he was expected to pitch in often; to prove beyond a doubt that he was more than a burden. The labor made him strong, and by the time he was a young man he was larger than most of the adults. Osag’s size made him a natural leader on the hunt, and the strength and wisdom that came with his experiences made him a fierce opponent.
I tell you this so that you might understand what was going through Osag’s mind when he first entered the forest and saw a wounded bear cub struggling to survive on its own. With no parents in sight the weakened creature mewled and cried out in distress. It was a perfect target for the hunters; easy prey for them to enjoy without risking their health or energy. But Osag couldn’t let them take the creature, for something in him related to its predicament. He remembered how alone he had felt without his parents to guide him, and his heart softened. Instead of dinner, the creature became his companion.
As Osag aged, so did the bear. It grew larger and more powerful, towering far above the men of the tribe when it stood on its hind legs. Many of the others in Osag’s tribe were wary of the creature, for they did not trust the instincts of a once wild animal; especially not one as huge as the bear. Osag didn’t mind though, and he continued to treat the bear as a brother. They hunted together, slept next to one another, and even shared their food.
One fateful winter Osag’s tribe was having trouble finding game. They had traveled south towards the thicker forests of the land, but heavy snowfall had left them stranded and hungry while the deer outran them. The people began to get restless, and supplies were running low. As desperation grew one man suggested that Osag let them kill and eat the bear so that they might save themselves. Osag refused, and a fight broke out as tempers flared.
Punches were exchanged as the two men brawled to resolve their differences, and Osag threw his adversary to the ground where he got a mouthful of snow. Furious that he could not beat the mighty Osag with his fists, the man got back to his feet and reached for his spear. Raising his arm behind his head, he threw it forward before Osag could arm himself. Only, he didn’t aim for Osag…he aimed for Osag’s beloved bear. Osag cried out in warning, springing to life as he ran for his companion. There wasn’t enough time to get his own weapon, or to hit the soaring spear out of the way. Sorrow swelled up deep within his heart as the realization dawned upon him.
Osag did the only thing he could think of and threw himself into the spear’s path. The weapon pierced his lungs and pinned him to the ground. Everyone was in shock, but none more so than Osag’s bear who no one now dared touch. It stood up on its hind legs to roar, chasing off the scared and confused tribesmen before returning to Osag’s side to lay down and press a nose into his cheek. Osag knew there was no way he was going to live, and so he used the last of his strength to turn his head and smile at his friend.
When his remaining life finally drained from him, Osag’s strength failed and his forehead rested upon the bear’s nose as his body slumped. For days the bear lay beside Osag, not even bothering to get up and eat. Without his friend, his savior, his heart was broken. The spirits of the forest, those that whisper between the trees, were moved by the brotherhood of bear and man, and they took pity upon Osag who had sacrificed himself to save a creature of the wild. Using their great magic, they pulled the essence of the hero back to the woodland and gave him new form. Osag was to become a bear, a guardian spirit of the creature he had given his life to defend. Joy would return to the earth, and that year Spring came early.
To this day, you can find Osag keeping watch over all of Voraniss by his den near the forest where he fell. He’s more bear than man now that the memories of his former life have faded over time, but they say he’s still always watching out for orphans and lost souls. If you watch long enough, they sometimes even say you can see him playing with the other bears like he’s always been one of them.
In my last article about roleplaying tips and tricks I briefly touched upon the subject of the divine. In a fantasy realm where we’ve literally seen the wrath of the Gods in action, spirituality and religion should play a large role in our culture. A character who isn’t living under a rock should have some opinion about these goings on, and as a result, will have a way to better connect to the immersive world around them. But where does one start with all this rigmarole? How does one decide what one’s character thinks and feels about such a deeply personal subject? Luckily for you, we’re going to break down that process and give you some key points to think about that should help you with your decision making.
1.) The Realms is in a unique situation where you can be any creature and have any backstory that you want. However, this doesn’t mean you should necessarily write in your own deities. As such a long running LARP, Realms has a vast history and lore that has been going on for many, many years. Learn what the setting already has, ask around and see what your options are before you generate new content. You’ll be adding to the continuity of the world and setting yourself up for interactive relationships with other players.
2.) Consider your character’s history and where they grew up. Was there a cathedral or temple in their home town? If so, what Gods/spirits were they exposed to in their early life? Did this affect them in any meaningful way? Some people resent being told how to worship, other people cling to what they know and are familiar with. Find out what kind of character you have and think about their history in a deeper way. In Voraniss, we have Mogar who struggles to have any kind of relationship with the Gods. In his backstory he spent much time trying to survive in a world hostile to Orcs. No matter how much help he needed, he never saw the Gods come to his aid and so Mogar feels betrayed by the divine. He acknowledges their existence, but doesn’t actively worship any of them yet because of his painful history.
3.) If you don’t have a backstory that is super fleshed out, think about your character’s general personality. What is important to them? What are their goals? Sometimes the answers to these simple questions are enough to guide a character towards a particular God’s domain. When my own character, Mouse, first started adventuring and making friends she knew she wanted to protect the people that had become important to her. She also knew that she wanted revenge upon the demons that had made her time in the Abyss unbearable. As it turned out, there was a deity that already existed who had both Protection and Vengeance as domains and Vandor became a perfect fit.
4.) Let’s say that you do all your research and still can’t find a God/divine being that fits with what your ideas are. What do you do? If you’re going to create your own, think about how to make it different from anything else the game has to offer. How does this being like to be worshipped? Is there any organization to your Church? Ranks? Are the members of this religion easily identifiable? Does the God have a symbol? Is this God or religion going to bring something unique and special to the game? Will it be contributing to immersion or are you just trying to be silly? It is important to remember that when you make a deity, they sort of become community property. You aren’t making them just for you, but also the world. A magic marshall may not interpret your ideas the same way that you do. Don’t get angry or upset, just go with the flow.
5.) People may disagree with me on this one, which is fine, but I like to encourage people not to bring real world deities into a fantasy setting. You don’t know what people’s OOC religious backgrounds are, so an easy way to avoid offending anybody is by not touching that subject matter at all. On top of that, I’d like to encourage people to get more creative than relying on something that already exists. It can’t hurt you to push yourself a little further, right?
Hopefully this gives you some stuff to think about as you continue your LARPing adventures. Even though I’m writing this from the perspective of a Realms LARPer, I think some of the points are fairly universal. You can take them with you and brainstorm no matter where you’re making your characters. Have any questions, need help with some research? Hit me up. I’m always available to help with this kind of RP project!
(Featured image photo credit goes out to Samantha B. Flanagan!)
I’ve had plenty thoughts about Realms and Voraniss bouncing around in my head lately and I thought I would share some of them as a sort of reflection on Uncle Cecil’s and the calendar year. I want to sort of sum up my experiences as a newbie. I’ve been thinking a lot about some of this, especially at and after Uncle Cecil’s.
I decided to really expand on this idea after reading the post Renee made about all of our experiences over the weekend. And in that vein, I’ve got more to say about some of you than others. I hate to say it, but that’s mostly because I simply haven’t interacted with some of you enough. I’m really hoping to change that with upcoming events though!
I’ll probably get a bit sentimental in a way, and ramble some; but I hope nobody minds either.
Realms & Voraniss…
Renee has been bugging me for years to join and Derek started too, even before I was told about the forming of the Nation. I avoided the issue for plenty of reasons. I really dislike new situations and people, I feel a weird sort of guilt trying to insert myself into a pre-existing group, I was either not able or not willing to travel; and some other reasons. I knew some people had been in Realms for most of their lives, or did other games, or were just so much more experienced and I was intimidated.
I am actually glad I resisted until now. I was guilted and bribed into trying Voraniss, knowing it would be a small group (to start, at least!). I was made to feel like I was helping to start something new, heading down a fresh path that would also be new to others so that my own broad newness would parallel the experiences of more veteran players in the new Nation. With Renee and Derek being back in NY and recruiting locally, with generous carpooling arrangements to events, and with the willingness of others to travel here to NY for Nation activities I haven’t really felt like the geographic separation mattered.
The Nation of Voraniss is one I would want to be a part of, even OOC. Open, but close-knit. Protective, but not possessive. Welcoming and intimidating, as appropriate. These are the snap-shot impressions I have developed and I feel they are reflective of some of the best aspects of the Nation. We have grown quickly, but with purpose and vision. There is so much respect earned and given within the nation, even to a newbie like me. I feel like I belong, IC & OOC. In that respect, I have blatantly tried to make my character’s experience directly parallel my own.
Frankly, I truly never expected to get this excited about the whole thing. I never thought I would make so many new friends so quickly. I admit to feeling a bit overwhelmed and anxious about it. But I can’t imagine changing it if I could.
Black & White…
The Voraniss coming out party. I was really honored to be a part of that. First time LARP event ever and I was part of something truly spectacular. And that was only the reveal!
The ritual performed there has also stuck with me in a quiet but significant way. It was an aspect of LARP I had never heard of, never considered. And it was pretty well done, and it was done in such a way as to feel a very deep and meaningful.
I got introduced to a handful of people, and I tried to take note of many more. I managed to forget most of their names automatically; there was just so much I was trying to take in, but some of their faces and characters stuck with me. I felt mostly unnoticed except as a part of Hygar’s new venture. But there were a few who took the time to interact with me which I awkwardly appreciated, and that was enough for my first event.
It was also my first chance to get to know large portions of the Pack. I was a bit standoffish, but quickly warmed to people. I took the easy path of “stoic observer” and was accepted, but encouraged to dip my toes in the waters, and rewarded with fun every time I did.
My second event, and my first event where I partook of any sort of questing or fighting. I had a better idea of what I was walking into. Discussions and crafting sessions and even lots of joking around really helped. I truly felt a part of the Pack and Nation at this point. I feel like being accepted by and associated with some players who were well-known and had earned some respect among the Realms was a big help. I never once felt like I thought I might as a “newbie.” I was accepted, involved, and even respected. I felt like I had to prove myself and earn those things. But I also felt like I was being given a real chance to do so.
The second ritual was truly impressive. I was honored to be a part of it, very proud of myself. I had put a lot of thought into the moment I was provided with and as cheesy as it is, once the ritual started, it didn’t feel like role playing at all. Just role filling. I remember watching for reactions from people. Voraniss seems to be getting a reputation for spectacle. And it’s glorious. From where I stood, I saw the crowd grow. I saw them lean in and step closer to hear what was going on. They were literally drawn in. And the crowd participation… There was less than I had hoped, but more than I had expected. But I felt like it was a powerful addition to, and a strong validation of what we were doing. In the moment and in general. I hope others had the same impression.
I know the questing was not plot heavy, but I thought it was well-done from the event side. Things I wished were different were largely the results of other players, or things beyond anyone’s control. I was genuinely pleased and impressed with most of the nation to nation interactions. I had heard plenty of trash talk from all sorts of people; some of it whispered in serious tones, some of it shouted like a 3 Stooges scene… But when it came to the quest and getting things done – I barely noticed any of it, and truly felt unaffected by it. It was refreshing and inspiring.
I drank. A lot. By my standards. I don’t think of myself as a lightweight, but I am not a heavy drinker. I’ve never wanted to be. But I learned a new level of my own intoxication. And I think it was good. I felt safe enough to really let go. I pushed my bounds and learned that super drunk me wanders around giving awkward compliments. I knew I was out of my comfort zone, but I never felt at risk. First of all, the whole hall was mostly looking out for each other. But mostly, I had my Pack. It was loads of fun.
THE CHARACTERS (I am going to try to be mostly IC here)
I sometimes have a difficult time separating Hygar from his alter-ego, Derek. I never really had a chance to get to know one before the other. Hygar is the founder. The leader. The Alpha. But he fills the role in one of the most subtle ways I’ve ever seen. He sets a goal, and he works towards it fastidiously. He gives expectations instead of orders, and he lives up to them himself first and foremost. In character he sets the standards high, and perches himself at that pinnacle; and then he lifts others up with him so that everybody can share in his vision.
At events, he literally leads from the front. We need no standard bearer, for he IS the standard. The point we rally to whenever needed. But I for one have never felt tethered. I’ve been given the freedom to explore this world in my own way, but fully knowing I am never truly on my own. This is the Nation Hygar has created around himself.
I honestly don’t know what to say about Mouse that somebody else hasn’t thought or said before. I sort of think of her as the “perfect companion” for Hygar. They can each function perfectly well on their own, but when together, she pushes things to a whole other level.
I think that’s what she does. She pushes. She pushes people she likes or has an interest in to do more or better. I bet she pushes buttons on people who annoy her. And I’m sure she’d happily push her actual enemies off the nearest cliff. (Maybe this is why she’s so proficient with pro-enchanted?)
Forgive me for gushing, and don’t take offense, but I have been continually amazed by Gavin. Every single time I interact with him, even for a few seconds, he pulls me deeper into the world of Realms. Every. Single. Time. And it’s not just that. He is constantly elevating the experience, and getting others to “up their game” but he does it in such a subtle way. To use a buzz word… He does it IMMERSIVELY.
I’ve come to look to him when I have some sort of issue or difficulty. He has helped me learn and grow both as a player and as a character, without me even knowing I needed that help. He uses the simplest things to help create a richer, deeper experience. From something as small as a feather, to something as simple as an otherwise inconsequential task. I really look forward to being able to quest and fight by his side.
Oh Mogar… I really wasn’t sure what to make of you before this weekend. I was actually worried you and Varrmagn might not get along. But you came out of the box swinging and knocked it out of the park. You managed to make an orc rather endearing. After Uncle Cecil’s, I frown to imagine Voraniss without you!
I know I was a slow student, but you were more than happy to try and teach me anyways. I just wanted to practice calling my shots, but you insisted I learn to fight not lose. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but looking back… Your reputation as a fierce fighter is well-deserved. You were a tougher opponent on the training field than most I faced on the battlefield. (Even though I’m sure you were holding back at least some.)
You are an intriguing fellow. You somehow manage to combine being playful and stoic. I get the impression of you as being soft-spoken, cool and collected while out and about (questing and such). But then at the end of the day, when among Pack or friends, you seem no stranger to letting loose and ramping up the shenanigans. I really appreciate the sort of balance you have and bring to the group.
A little ball of genuine innocent ferocity. It’s tough not to feel protective of your excitable, cute nature. But I’d hate to be the one to rub your fur the wrong way! (Figuratively, I promise!) You have so much enthusiasm for everything that it’s difficult not to get swept up in it!
Your gentle curiosity is a real treat to have as part of the group. So far in our group, you’ve been like the warm soft gooey center of a delicious freshly-baked cookie. I am pretty excited to see just how you grow and find yourself a place in the pack. I wonder what sorts of adventures you’ll find to take us on alongside you.
I think you’re going to end up embodying the phrase “walk softly and carry a big stick.” Armed with just a dagger and a handful of new spells, you were right there in the thick of things behind me. You were a real boon, and a literal life saver. Not to mention, you had the cutest animal companion of the weekend! (I can’t remember, did you ever decide on a name for your friend?)
I admit, I’m a little confused by you… You have embraced the Pack whole-heartedly, and I really hope you feel like you’ve gotten the same back… You’ve been there a lot, but haven’t much jumped into the thick of things. I am worried you might not have found your niche yet… But I see you as a firework… One of the ones that doesn’t draw a lot of attention as it sizzles and sparkles up to the clouds, and then right at the apex, it bursts into something spectacular. I am VERY much wanting to quest with you, and can’t wait for the chance to do so!
Like I mentioned before, there are more of you in the Pack, I just haven’t had much chance to get to know you IC yet. But I have no doubt that it’s my loss, and just a matter of time before we fix that!
Out of character, he’ll work his fingers to the bone, even if he has to use an antique machete to do it. Any expectations he has are simple and reasonable – that everyone contribute what they can – and his rewards to those working beside him are beyond generous.
In the real world, I’ve shown up at varying times. Not once has he seen me at the door and thrust a project in my arms, or said “DSAPS, DO THIS!” But on several occasions, I’ve walked in and after a few minutes offered to help, and usually I’m given a rundown of things that need doing. I’ll pick one, and work on it, trying to give it my full attention, because Voraniss doesn’t do anything half-assed. And even when the reason I am there is to work, he’s always grateful.
It doesn’t come up much, but I’ve known Renee for a long time. Longer than anyone else in the group, I think. So let me mention something that might not be evident to some of you…
When you see how excited she gets about the Pack and the Nation and our adventures together… She’s holding back. What we’re all doing together really makes her happy. She puts so much of herself into this, and she’s too stubborn to really ask for very much in return; even though she deserves it. She just wants this to work, to grow, to be amazing.
You and I have gotten along since the first moment. You’re an interesting and intelligent person, and always seem to have something interesting to say. I really appreciate that and I’m really glad to have met you.
Craig, Cat, Kayla…
I’ve barely begun to get to know any of you, so it’s hard for me to really say much, but you’ve all been great. I was really worried about feeling like an outsider joining a group where most people knew each other already, but you’ve each done plenty to make me feel like an idiot for worrying about that.
It’s been a ton of fun to meet somebody in real life who shares such a wide range of interests and appreciations. It was really unexpected, but awesome.
I feel bad for saying that I was pretty put off by you at first. But damn, if that wasn’t the best example I’ve ever had of not judging a book by its cover! I’m REALLY sorry if I gave you the cold shoulder at first… You’re an awesome guy, and I’m sorry I doubted that!
Honestly, I could ramble on for several more pages, but I’ll be surprised and grateful if you’ve even read this much. Long story short… Realms, Voraniss, The Pack, and all of you… Have really exceeded my expectations in nearly every possible way. I’m hooked; and it’s your fault!