Tag: college of wizardry

Setting Sun

She grabbed the leash from the hook by the door and stepped outside. “Buddy, come on, boy”, Rose called. It was late and the dog needed his walk. She smiled as the bassethound came careening around the corner of the farmhouse.

She clasped the leash to his collar and started down the dusty road leading to the village. She’d often imagine herself in fairytales when taking Buddy for his evening walk. Evening walks were something special to her. They had been ever since she’d started meeting the old man. He’d always be there, on the bench by the pond, cane resting by his side. The stories he told her were filled with adventure and excitement. One time he even tried to convince her that he was a wizard, plucking a gleaming red light from behind her ear and putting it in his pocket. “For safe keeping”, he’d said.

As she walked past Stevensons apple orchard she remembered a story he’d told her. About a young Knight on a quest to save a beautiful Princess. The Princess had fallen terribly ill, and all the doctors of the land had tried to save her. The Princess was dying and the Knight, loving her dearly, had vowed to do all he could to prevent that from happening. The Knight had travelled far and wide on his quest for something that could save the Princess. During his travels the Knight had heard stories of an ancient jewel, that possessed magical healing powers. Believing it to be the only way of saving the Princess the Knight set out in search of the stone.

Rose loved that story. It was full of fantastic adventures and magic. The old man hadn’t finished it yet, but she very much looked forward to hearing more of it.

She crossed the small town square, and remembered another of the old man’s stories. It was one of the scary ones, and she didn’t like this one as much, even though she found it very exciting. It was about a band of heroes. Beset on all sides by monsters and villains, they fought a desperate battle. In the end they’d won, but suffered greatly along the way. They’d been trying to do right, but being young and scared, they chose poorly and ended up causing more harm than good.

Rose had remarked once that the old man’s stories never ended as fairy tales normally ended. He’d asked what she meant by that, and she said “They’re all so sad”. The old man had thought about that for a while before replying.
“You don’t need half a kingdom when you have great friends standing by your side”, he’d said.

She remembered another of his stories as she crossed main street. A story of a brother and sister trapped in old catacombs beneath an even older city. They’d been on a quest for the Book of Knowledge and fallen into the hands of brigangs. The sister had been kind and caring, the boy scared and reckless. The bond had been what kept them from succumbing. The boy’s fury had almost been their undoing, but she had pulled them from the Darkness, and brought them into the light. She thought of herself that way, guiding her little brother, holding his hand.

She crossed out into the park, and felt a surge of warmth as she saw him sitting where he always sat. The light from the streetlamp made him cast a long shadow, but it was him.

She walked the path around the pond, with Buddy going this way and that, sniffing out squirrels and marking his territory. It was a clear night, the moon shining brightly in the sky. His cane was resting on the ground in front of his feet.

She sat down next to him. He looked at her and smiled, a gleam in his eye. “So, Rose, another night, another story”, he said.

“Yea”, she said, “I was hoping you’d finish the story about the Knight and the Princess”.

He smiled warmly and said “Well, it’s your lucky night”.

“Really? Does he save her”, she asked.

The old man put his hand in his pocket, and said “It’s not one of those stories, young one”.

“So … he doesn’t save her?”, she asked, feeling fear grip her.

“Not in the way you would think of it, but it does have a happy ending”, the old man replied, with a wink of his eye.

A wind rustled the trees and Buddy barked somewhere across the pond.

“No, the Knight’s story will be a sad one”, the old man said. “You see, once he found the Jewel and returned to the kingdom, the Princess had died”.

Rose gasped, and felt a tightness in her chest. She had wished so badly for the Princess to be saved. “So … the Knight failed?”, she asked.

“Yes, he did. Some times no matter how hard you try, things don’t turn out the way you imagine”, the old man said. He looked out across the pond at Buddy chasing the ducks.

He pulled his clenched fist from his pocket, drew a deep breath, exhaled and relaxed his grip. Hundreds of tiny red motes sprang into the air and danced away into the evening sky. The old man sat there. Still.

No no, thank you

Yes, I threw money at Claus and Charles to keep the College of Wizardry magic going. You too can get your own silly thank you video by donating 20$ towards their IndieGoGo campaign. If they raise 1.000.000$ they’re gonna buy a castle. That’s pretty goddamn cool, if you ask me. Which you should.

Villains and evildoers

Quite a few times I’ve played the villain of LARPs, and over the years I’ve seen a development in the way I’ve tried to play and portray these characters. Most profound was the impact the latest villainous character had on me. In november of 2014 I participated in the College of Wizardry LARP in Poland. It was a magnificent and amazing experience.

At this LARP I was given the character of Octavius Landsvik. A pureblood with a vendetta. He’d lost everything after the Second Wizarding War in ’98, and blamed just about everything around him for the hardship he’d endured.

They wanted a villain? Well, wish granted! You’ll give them all a villain all right, one they truly deserve.
The character description for O. Landsvik

While the experience was awesome, the character read to me as a bit one-sided. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised that often villains are evil, but it’s rarely explained what led them down that specific path. What influenced them to choose to hurt people? What happened in their past to shape their perception of reality, so what they do is somehow perceived by themselves to be okay?

In Landsviks case it was a combination of things that led to his unfortunate demise. He lost nearly his entire family overnight after the war in ’98. After that times became tough, and he watched as his father (an already weak man previously ruled over by a fierce and stern matriarch) crumble further and removed himself from the world. Now at that time Landsvik would’ve been 7 or 8, and so I imagined that experience to be the start of his downward trajectory. Unable to understand why, it was only natural for a kid at that age to get a feeling of immense injustice.

Now, granted, these thoughts are shaped around the fact that I don’t believe any person is born evil. We’re also not born good. But we are given choices and options during our lives. And it’s those decisions that ultimately end up defining the kind of person we are.

The choices we make dictate the lives we lead.
William Shakespeare in Hamlet

To me, the most interesting and scary villains are the ones you can relate to. You might object to their actions. You might find them reprehensible and despicable. But on some basic level you can understand their actions, because maybe – just maybe – you’d do the same if you were in their shoes.

That’s what I tried to do with Landsvik. He wasn’t inherently evil or bad. He was angry and desperate. He felt isolated and alone, even amongst his friends. And so he relied on the only person he believed he could trust – himself. And like many young adults he greatly misjudged his own capabilities. The story ended in tragedy when he was sentenced to death for his crimes, which subsequently led to his girlfriends suicide, when she learned what had happened to him.

Of course, evil is rarely this easy or convenient. In the real world evil often springs from psychosis or a warped moral compass. Some people simply do not possess compassion, and horrific events take place each and every day. But once we start to delve into the self-rationalisations and motivations of people who can at best be described as aberrant, it can at times become increasingly difficult not to empathise with them. Most come from broken homes, having experienced massive trauma during their younger years. While we can’t point to a single event that ruined a person (that would also be massively reductive), we can often see, retroactively, the path that ultimately ruined the person.

You might as well ask why a middle-aged man with no criminal record might put a paper bag over his head and rob a bank. I acted out of personal desperation.
Aldrich Ames

But evil is an interesting concept if portrayed correctly. I think it’s because when we’re presented with villains we can relate to, we’re presented with the fact that we all have great capacity for evil. It’s part of human nature, and it’s something we’re all capable of. The only difference is whether we’ve been pushed or moved to a point where we can justify and rationalise these acts.

I think, what I mean is that being evil for the sake of being evil quickly becomes one-dimensional. Where evil with motives you can understand, and perhaps relate to, creates a much more compelling and chilling narrative.

Octavius Landsvik

About a week ago I attended a Harry Potter inspired LARP in Poland, where I played the role of Octavius Landsvik, prefect of House Durentius.