What is Dragon Crest?
Here’s the short answer: Dragon Crest is a Live Action Role Playing (LARP) game set in a fantasy genre.
To a fair portion of the population, we might as well have quoted something from Alice in Wonderland, so here’s the long answer.
Role playing games are games in which the players basically develop a character persona (much as an author develops characters for a book or story) and act it out. This is facilitated by someone who is in charge (often referred to as the game master or the storyteller) developing the plot line and presenting the players with situations where they can act out their roles. In the classic form, this is done while sitting around a table, using cards or dice to determine the results of random events.
Live action takes it another step. People actually dress and physically act out the characters they have created. Perhaps the best-known version of this to the general public is the murder mystery. People get together at a friend’s house or a hotel or something, and a person or group of persons lead them through a twisted and crazy plotline, pushing the group to solve the mystery and discover the alleged killer.
Well, murder mystery is one genre. The next most common one would be Vampires, quite popular with the teenage ‘goth’ crowd. We have heard of a wild west motif, as well as science fiction. The genre we have chosen for our LARP is fantasy, also known as swords and sorcery, similar to that popularized by J.R.R. Tolkein in The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Players can choose from an assortment of character types for their persona. We have elves, dwarves, ogres, trolls, lizard men, fish men, half man/half beast, barbarians, gypsies, oh and normal humans, too. They can choose to be anything from noble warriors to weasely scoundrels, musicians and merchants, even wise scholars. It all depends on the kind of role the person wants to act out.
How exactly is the game played?
Again, a question with many answers.
We start with people creating their characters and figuring out their motivations. Then, a group who’s job is to create the plot lines and keep the action going (the plot committee) presents the players with a problem of some sort. Save the damsel in distress. Clear a road of brigands. Destroy the evil monsters. Settle a peace negotiation. Figure out why all of the wildlife is fleeing the area. That sort of thing.
From here, things vary quite wildly, with as many varieties as we have players. For the noble warrior, it will be all about honor and glory. For the scoundrel, it will be what’s in it for him. The musician may write a story or song about everyone else’s adventures. The scholars may prod their companions to help seek out the hidden answers. Everyone will react differently and with different motivations. This is what makes it a game, not quite knowing what to expect.
How do you win?
You don’t — not in the traditional sense, anyway. The game is ongoing. The current Dragon Crest campaign has been going on for over 7 years now. Hundreds of people play at various locations across the country. Many of those people play, or have played, more than one character, each with different goals. For some, simply acquiring wealth is their goal, one that is never fully satisfied. For others, they just want the exercise of mock combat. Many just want the enjoyment of acting out the part of someone different from themselves. If a person successfully fulfils all of their goals, then they probably set too few of them. The best way to “win” the DragonCrest game is to have fun and help others have fun.
If you can’t win, why play?
Again, each of us has different reasons. First and foremost would be the social aspect. We get to interact with a group of people who share similar interests. For some it’s the exercise of running around in the woods all weekend. For others, it’s the mental puzzles that the plot committee develops. For everyone it is learning the colorful storyline that unfolds over the years of play.
I’ve seen mock combat, martial arts, and contact sports. What exactly are you doing?
While it is by no means the only aspect of the game, the martial arts/contact sport side of Dragon Crest is extremely popular. We do our absolute best to accommodate those people who do not choose to engage in combat and help them experience the rest of the game to the highest degree possible. However, since most of our players choose to participate, especially the teenagers, we want to go into some detail here.
Just like soccer, football, karate, and even baseball, this is a contact sport. Also, like those other sports, we have safety regulations and protective equipment. Some of the equipment is optional, much of it is mandatory. We will cover them in further detail throughout this section.
OK, we’ve stated it’s a contact sport, but what kind of contact is there? We do mock medieval style combat. Because it is mock combat, the terms we use are combat related, much as they would be in karate, judo, or football. There are two forms of contact attack allowed within the game. The first is melee, or weapon delivered attacks. These weapons are essentially padded sticks which we call boffer weapons. They are designed so that it is very difficult to cause serious injury, even if someone were to try. The primary padding is at least 5/8″ thick closed cell foam. We put this padding on the weapons so that an unprotected opponent will still be protected from harm. On the tips of the weapons, we require an additional layer of open cell foam, as this part of the weapon is occasionally used in thrusting attacks. This is the material used in solid foam pillows and mattresses, typically found in large sheets at cloth and camping stores. Open cell foam gives very easily, and provides a really good cushion in the even that an accidental head or groin shot occurs.
The second form of attack is packet delivered. Packets are small squares of cloth loaded with birdseed. The finished size is about that of a 35mm film canister. At this size, the packet weighs enough to throw it accurately, out to 30 or 40 feet, but it is difficult to cause any harm with. We use birdseed because these items often get left lying on the ground, and the birds and squirrels do an excellent job of insuring that they get blended into the environment. We try to use natural fiber cloth because it more readily decays. We also see the occasional bird nest with our colored material worked in. But our relatively small impact on the environment concern us less than the safety of our participants.
Additionally, players are encouraged, even rewarded, to wear additional safety equipment. Since armor is a huge part of any good medieval costuming, this is relatively easy and popular to implement. Even a simple layer of leather or heavy canvas provides excellent protection from scrapes and bruises caused by the environment. Think similarly to other contact sports. Soccer players wear shin guards because they get kicked a lot, as well as elbow and knee pads because they fall down. Baseball catchers wear facemasks and heavy chest and groin protection, at least in league play. Football players wear helmets and lots of pads.
Our typical high combat players will wear: good boots, shin guards, and a tunic made of padded leather, metal rings, or plastic or metal plates which usually go down to the knees.
Do people get hurt?!
We’ve touched on protective equipment, but just as in other sports, no amount of protective gear or safety rules will prevent every injury. While the numbers are far from scientific and exact, we have been playing this game for several years and can give you a fair idea of what kinds of injuries to expect and how frequently among our gaming population. Among the active chapters, we probably had over 5000 player days in 1999, from a player base of around 400 active players. Keep in mind that in addition to the mock combat, we also are out in the woods in a camping environment.
Nearly everyone came home at least twice with minor bruises from weapon or packet attacks, and a bunch more from tripping and bumping into things. We had around a dozen heat exhaustion and heat stroke cases around the country. About 40 serious asthma attacks (among a very small group of people who warned us ahead of time they were prone to them, and had appropriate medication), at least one requiring a hospital trip. A couple of emergency room visits for insect stings (bee, wasp, hornet, etc). Half a dozen eye injuries that required bandaging and care for more than an hour (wearing sports safety glasses would have prevented all of those). A handful of twisted ankles requiring medical attention, and a lot that didn’t. One broken leg. A half dozen dislocated joints (most of these on one particular person). One mild concussion. 20 or so epileptic seizures (all from two people who notified us ahead of time of their condition). 20 or so popped fingers. Lots of poison ivy/oak/sumac. Several spider and many mosquito, flee, and chigger bites.
Do these numbers seem high? They shouldn’t. They are similar to or lower than what you would see from your average school sports team, scouting activity, etc. While our safety measures are in place to reduce the quantity and severity of injuries, we are realistic and realize that there is no way we can eliminate them entirely. We wish we could. By playing this game, or by consenting for your child to play it, you risk these kinds of injuries, just as you would in any other sporting or camping activity.
We don’t want to list out our entire list of safety rules here, but we will state the most important one. It is what we call the HOLD RULE. It’s very simple. When someone yells, “HOLD!” all action stops. Period. Any player can, at any time, and for any reason, call a HOLD. It’s almost like the old red light, green light game we played as kids, when red light was called everyone froze like statues. This rule is pounded into our players’ heads. We often use holds to stop the action so that a marshal can make a rules call or describe things to the players. However, whenever a safety issue is seen, a HOLD is called to resolve it. Some key examples of how we have used it in safety:
· A weapon breaks or the safety padding comes off
· Someone is about to back over a log or into a tree
· A player falls and we check to make sure they are ok
· Calming someone down who is getting an adrenaline rush and losing a little self control
· Any sports injury requiring attention, no matter how minor
If you are a parent reading this and you want to see how well this works, here’s an experiment to try after your child has played a few times. Next time they are fighting with a sibling or throwing a fit or whatever, yell, “HOLD!” and see what happens…
What benefit is there to playing or to allowing my child to play?
Here comes the fun stuff.
For the average adult, it’s all about entertainment and stress release, with some good exercise thrown in.
For the kids, we get some more important things.
First of all, we run what we refer to as a good guy campaign. The players are rewarded for being good guys. It’s a game, and we certainly allow them to play bad guys, we just don’t encourage it. In fact, we sit the player down and make sure that they are aware that we won’t even play fair. We will make it very difficult for them to succeed at anything shady and underhanded. Mainly, we have found that the player base as a whole has more fun when we, as the people running the game, are the bad guys.
We promote honor. Even our worst bad guys are some of the most honorable villains you could ever meet, and deal most harshly with dishonorable characters. Honesty and keeping one’s word are constantly being promoted.
Problem solving skills. Being a game, players are presented with problems, puzzles, conundrums — all kinds of difficulties to get their brains working. Just like muscles, the brain works best when exercised.
We push leadership skills as well. Groups are constantly forming and reforming within the game. This gives lots of opportunity for individuals to stand out and take charge. If we see someone who is intentionally avoiding such things, we artfully craft a situation where they don’t necessarily have a choice. Many of us spent years in scouts or in the military or as teachers of one form or another, and we have learned how to help people develop.
We give them a place to escape, at least for a while, from the rigors of everyday life. While so many portions of society are turning to some form of chemical abuse or another, we would gladly put our game population up as a shining example of how those numbers can be drastically reduced.
Academics. Yes, academics. We want to work with you as a parent. Do you want you child’s grades to improve? Set limits with us on what they need to achieve to play. We have had several parents do this with amazing results. One parent simply wanted her child to maintain his average, but acceptable grades. One parent keeps upping the ante for her daughter – in order to play for the next grading period, she must have a higher-class average than she did in the prior grading period. You would be totally shocked at how well this works.
Mentoring. These kids are surrounded by adults all weekend long. For the most part, successful adults. We teach by example.
What kinds of adults play this game?
Chapter heads include computer support engineers, an airline pilot, and a college student. Among our player base we have, or have had at times, military personnel, police officers, teachers, book store clerks, travel agents, computer programmers, technicians of every sort, accountants, secretaries, mothers, fathers, grandfathers, whole families in fact, musicians, managers of all kinds of different businesses, shipping company drivers, builders, mechanics, vets…. Just to name a few.
Is this a religion?
No. Dragon Crest does not deal with religion, nor are there any intentional religious references made within the game. This is a very difficult challenge for those of us writing story line, as religion in one form or another is so ingrained in our histories. However, this is something very important to us, as we do not want to influence a person’s choice of religion in any manner. While we do not promote religion within the game, we also do not discourage our players from being religious, only from displaying such within the structure of the game. We go out of our way to keep from hindering people from worshiping as they see fit.
What is your stance on drugs and alcohol?
There is no tolerance of alcohol or drugs of any type at a Dragon Crest event. None. Period. If we had to list a single compelling reason, it would be safety. We don’t want a bunch of out of control drunks getting into combat and swinging (even relatively safe boffer) weapons at each other.
Again, this is a zero tolerance issue. If a player is caught using or under the influence of drugs or alcohol at a Dragon Crest event, they are gone, never to return.
Smoking will not be allowed by anyone under legal age at any events. Even the adults will be under severe restrictions.
· Must be of legal age to smoke
· Must smoke only in an explicitly approved location
· There will be no smoking in any camp building or on any camp trail. None.
Great, but I would like to talk to another parent or player. Can I contact someone else’s parent or another player to ask questions?
Absolutely. We have several parents who are more than willing to talk about Dragon Crest and it’s impact on their children. We don’t know of any player who won’t rattle on about the game for as long as you are willing to listen. We would post a bunch of names here, but we all know that posting names and numbers on the internet is not always the best thing in the world. Please Contact Us and we will put you in contact with as many people as you would like.