JohnS (ephraim) wrote,
JohnS
ephraim

Empire E1 2015

The build up to the first Empire event of this year was a bit of a strange one. After the Honeybourne horrors that saw Matt find a permanent site, only to have it lost once more due to FUD amongst local residents; the decision to move the site some 15 miles north left the proposed site right on my doorstep. According to google maps, Upper Spernal Farm is 2.6 miles exactly from my doorstep. Almost walking distance, if you are enthusiastic and fit (I’m neither).


Matt was understandably keen to avoid the local troubles that nixed the Honeybourne site, and an initial article in the paper threatened trouble. Closer reading of it showed hope, and Anita and I exchanged emails with him about possible lines of conversation to avoid any trouble. I have no idea if any of it was of any assistance, and I know that Matt was also getting help from Granville, the farmer, and other quarters; but in the end there were some constructive meetings with local councillors and residents.

I spoke with Purity, as a regular customer of theirs I have a decent rapport with them, and they were very happy to have us around. Anita did a sanity check on Matt’s directions and I chucked together a rough guide to the area for PD players, which got put up on the wiki (http://www.profounddecisions.co.uk/mediawiki-public/images/4/4b/Rough_guide_to_Alcester.pdf)
I gatecrashed the site visit as Gareth Davies was up staying over, kept an eye on the state of the bridge for Matt and generally tried my best to be a helpful soul.

Consequently, I was more heavily immersed in the upcoming event than I had been since returning to the hobby a couple of years back. This meant that my emotional investment in the event was much greater and my sense of expectation heightened. Wednesday night and Chinese food with the Heaths at the Summer Palace was lovely, and it was delightful how well Izzy got on with Ellie.
With Ben Mars unable to join us for this event, we thought we might be without the Hex, but he kindly loaned it to us along with his estate car. Thursday of the event I did a couple of runs to and from site, dropping the hex and my personal tent, then heading to Brum to pick up the group yurt. For once we managed to get the majority of the IC tents up on the Thursday, and were able to settle in early evening for drinking and socialising.

Sam Harber was my partner in crime for the evening as we proceeded to attempt to drink all the gin. Roz’s Burgundian-on-loan-from-John was the early hours venue of choice, she left me in charge despite knowing better, and then proceeded to get herself lost somewhere on site. There were many visitors, old faces and new, and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to people. There seemed to be a theme with much “Oh, you’re John Shockley” from people. I’m guessing that it might be down to the site guide or something, but there was a very definite feel that my reputation preceded me. I got very drunk, so many apologies to anyone I may have accidentally been rude or overly drunk at.

Sam and I visited the tavern, walked Roz up to get her taxi and finished the night in the Oxen head tent. I utterly failed to hook up with Russell for sociability and drinks, much to my annoyance.

Friday morning was hangover morning, and there was much shuffling around, drinking coffee and making vain attempts to be helpful. Some lovely relaxing chats over coffee with Wicksey and Maisie helped me recover, and by the time the rest of the gang had arrived I was close to being useful. We trundled over to the brewery to pick up our firkin of communal beer, and shortly afterwards Anita and Izzy came up to site to visit.

We’re taking Izzy to Outcast in a couple of weekends’ time and we needed to get her some costume, and thought this might be a good time to get her used to the way an LRP game looks. Anita fancied catching up with some of her old LRP mates, so it seemed like combining the two might be a good plan. I think that the mud probably reminded Anita why she doesn’t LRP any more, but Izzy seemed really at home. She snagged some of Ellie’s old costume from the Heaths (thanks Matt and Steph), and made big eyes at her father until I bought her a dagger. She is now full of enthusiasm for our coming outing.

It was time to get IC, and I found it easier than ever to fall into being Juha. He’s a grumpy old soul, and the state of the ground by this point helped me no end to find my inner grump. I was planning a ritual pretty close to time in and that helped me get even further into character. Then the plot started to arrive.

I’m not going to go into any detail here about the fun we had this last event. Mostly because all of it is ongoing, or has ongoing repercussions, and is much better left for enjoyment on the field. But suffice it to say that between my own personal made up plot, horrific background choices brought to life by PD and new, intriguing plot happenings (both directed and those we seized); I have never had more plot fun at a fest event. It was an amazing event, not in a breathless-constantly-running-around kind of way, but in a sitting-down-trying-to-expand-my-head-to-fit-it-all-in kind of way. Massive, massive props to Andy Raff and his fellows. So much plot, so much fun!

Interpersonal relationships continue to be the meat and drink of Empire and they continue to be almost universally brilliant. My group has expanded over the time we’ve been playing, and every new person in the group has contributed to the whole being the most horrific, exciting, terrible collection of wrong-uns I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of (neck and neck with the infamous Union Isle). There are so many old faces in the field that I know I can rely upon for fun, but I am constantly surprised by how they exceed my (already high) expectations. And many people that I’ve never before had the pleasure of playing alongside, who contribute so much to my game. Thank you all.

Of course, no event is perfect. Of IC niggles though, there are next to none. Only that I failed to get out and about more and missed interacting with people I’d have liked to have.  And of OOC ones, there aren’t many.

I missed an NPC directed straight at me because I was stuck in GOD fighting with a recalcitrant computer system. I was helping Maisie to try to learn a ritual from an arcane projection and the computer system wouldn’t let her pick an extra ritual slot. A process that should have taken 5 minutes at most took about 30. Typically during that time I missed my NPC. No one’s fault, but very annoying. Hopefully there’ll be another time.

The distance from Varushka to the toilets was only a problem because of the conditions. The locked and unplumbed toilet block sat next to our camp spent the weekend mocking us. But toilet breaks were a massive endeavour, and a time consuming one too.
The conditions were also responsible for another OOC niggle. I had been approached by James Crollie to help out as a referee during our monster slot. I really wanted to, but by that time I’d twisted my ankle, and the prospect of the trudge back to my tent to get my clobber off, and then back to monster HQ and up the hill to the combat field was more than I could face. I went and offered my apologies at the time, but apologies aren’t worth a damn. This is a collaborative hobby, and we should all pitch in. I am sad that I couldn’t face it. I promise to do better next event (though may try and do it before getting into character for the day).

Almost all of my complaints are born of the conditions. I knew it was going to be bad when I looked outside my windows in the run up to the event and saw nothing but rain. It rained for more than a week, pretty much without relent, and it became clear that no matter how good the site drainage we were in for a quagmire of an event. And so it proved.

The accesses cut up, the paths sank and we were ankle deep in gloopy mud. Then it dried out a bit and turned into gluey boot grabbing mud. The plastic road things were awesome, but I understand that they were also very very expensive. The move from the top field to the bottom field for camping was a very sensible one. That there was an event at all owes much to the dedication of the red caps. I can’t adequately express my admiration for the unfailing endeavour and commitment of these guys. Thank you. Feel free to find me before time in at the next one and I’ll buy you a pint.

By Monday the ground was much more solid. By Wednesday, when I popped back for a few hours to help with tidying, it was pretty much completely solid. Hopefully for the remaining 3 events they will not be immediately preceded by constant rain. My fingers are firmly crossed.

The feedback I got from Purity was that they had really enjoyed having us there, helped no doubt by the financial bonus that we represented. The whole move and associated stress has no doubt given Matt many more grey hairs. There are lessons to be learned by the crew about the way that the fields actually work during an event. But for me this ranks as one of the best Fest events I’ve ever attended, and I can’t wait for the next.
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