Wayfinder Wisdom

In this series each post focuses on a specific aspect of camp. It is our attempt to share some of the knowledge we have accumulated in more than a decade of LARPing.

New blog post: Mailbag

Mailbag

We wanted to know what you! Our readers were interested in knowing more about. Here are the first ( of hopefully many) questions answered. Do you have a question you want answers too? Email them to Trine@Wayfinderexperience.com and check back here!

1.I’ve been to a couple different Larp camps/games, and a lot of them run more like DND than improv. What made you guys decide to run your system the way that you do? And secondly, who invented said system?

Wayfinder grew off a similar organization called Adventure Game Theater, which has since been absorbed into Wayfinder. Our programming grew directly from the systems and work that AGT did. Many parts of our system were built around DND spells and other systems that people were familiar with, but as with many LARPs our systems have evolved to reflect the people in the community and the ways in which we play our games. The Adventure Game as a LARP system started in 1986 (before Magic the Gathering for some nerd street cred) and has been being updated, tweaked, and adapted ever since. There is no one person who created our system (which contains a base system of 5 classes and over 100 abilities, with other auxiliary powers and classes available for use in less standard game settings and several variations on improv magic instead of our class based system). There have been a number of people who have worked on it over the years. The current system that is in play was largely developed and updated by Conor Gillespie, Griffin Johnston, Jack Covell, and Brennan Lee Mulligan in the mid aughts, but it has since been updated by our administrative staff and is undergoing regular updates and reworkings to keep it feeling fresh and in line with the way that games our played today!

2. I know this isn’t a question you can as easily answer on your own, but I love to hear what people’s favorite adventure games are and why.

I can’t speak to everyone’s favorite games, but my two favorite games growing up were the original run of Finals and the 80’s Horror Game from Decades camp. The first Finals gave me, personally, a new experience of being central to a lot of the flow of the game and getting to be a part of big scenes, while delivering an intense and emotional storyline. Everyone was very invested in the game and the world was fun and exciting. I loved getting to play Solomon, get dragged along behind Tiriel all night, and getting to be an accessory to the (almost) end of the world. Getting to replay that and play Tiriel the second time was a very special game for me, and one of the rare chances to have a new experience in an Adventure Game as someone who has been doing this for over two decades. The 80’s Horror Game was just peak camp (both the place and the genre). The game was scary and ridiculous and fun. I got to be the Apprentice for it so I had a peek under the hood as to how everything would work. We spent the night running from Clown Zombies (Clombies for short) and one Clombear (Clown Zombie Bear). It was simultaneously one of the funniest and scariest games I have ever played and will stay with me forever (it was a big inspiration when Corrie and I were writing Prom of the Living Dead a few years ago!).

3. Why do you think sword games became such a big part of Wayfinder as a whole, when in reality, we don’t even use them nearly as much in game?

The swords are central to what we do. It is the easiest way to grasp LARP for an outsider. It can be hard to take on a character, to tell a story, to invest in the small details of a world that isn’t your own, but it is very easy to understand that getting hit with a sword is bad and getting a chance to swordfight is fun. On top of the access to different types of play, swords are a hugely appealing thing to many participants (new, returning, young, and old). There aren’t that many chances to safely hit each other with things or to simulate battle. As purely an experience, it’s a fun and fairly unique one (not a ton of drop in LARPs that are easily accessible for kids). For many of us who want to be active but are not necessarily the most athletic, it provides the chance to get to play in some athletics with some leveling in the reality of there’s always the chance to fight your way out. Add on top the ability to scream and die together, live out the epic battles you’ve seen or read in so many books, movies, and video games, and the list of reasons to love swords stretches on almost endlessly.

4. Who is the REAL Horatio Wayfinder?

Privacy, especially in today’s digital age, is a difficult thing to attain and an easy thing to destroy. As such, I can’t speak today to the REAL Horatio Wayfinder, our mysterious benefactor, but I can say that the people who are putting the time and effort into making these spaces the safe and fun realities that they are have all of their hearts and minds invested in our campers and the spaces that we build for them. It’s not the same people every time. It’s not the same story every time. It’s not the same Adventure every time. It is an act of love every time though, and does Horatio, or anyone, owe us anything more than that?

Written by Judson Easton Packard May 2024

Campaign Style Play

Campaign Style Play

At Wayfinder, the majority of our Adventure Games are written as One Shots. We imagine worlds that we visit only once, stepping into them to shape the course of monumental events, before moving onto the next, carrying those stories and characters only in our memories. We do, on occasion, delve deeper into worlds and engage in campaign style play, returning to the same world across multiple camps or One Day events and allowing player choices, and the stories that they shape, to run their course. 

Campaign play allows us to spend more time with a particular character and story line, to carry our characters forward through a series of events and construct singular narratives around the different stories they find themselves at the center of. Characters always provide us a reflection of ourselves, a vision into another way that we could be and interact with those around us. Returning to a character can feel like coming home to yourself. Characters can share a lot with us, they may be good, they may be evil, but whoever they are, the distance they provide from our everyday selves brings a newness into the body that can be very welcoming. The longer you play as a particular character, the more of that character’s life you will hold in your memory.

We often talk about the opportunity for self-exploration that is afforded to us through Live Action Role-Play (LARP). One Shot play doesn’t afford us less of this, but it is simply different. For years, our One Day Adventure Games have offered linked storylines, allowing players to continue the same character across multiple games for as long as that character survives. It provides us with a personal stake and investment in a storyline that is different than may be offered to us anywhere else. Anyone who’s played in a tabletop campaign may have experienced this kind of character play. I have found that there is a difference when I am physically embodying the character. The stakes feel more personal, the intensity more immediate, and the joys more personal.

Last summer we returned to having linked Campaign style Adventure Games as a part of our summer offerings. Over the course of two weeks of camp players were introduced to a world that our staff had collaborated to build the mythology of. People built characters that had to face off against an ancient evil, a lich who had found a way to once again crawl out of death. In our first week characters fought an increasingly desperate battle to stem the tides of undeath, to hold this evil back before it swallowed the world. They were successful, but at the price of a large number of their own, including some heroes they had grown to care about. In the second week we opened with a funeral for one of those characters who had passed. Campers and staff alike gave impromptu elegies that brought a solemn warmth to the scene, and made it all the more upsetting when the character rose again possessed by the lich. Playing in the same world over the course of multiple weeks, made everything feel more familiar, more lived in. Campers were able to share stories and lore with one another. The world became truly collaborative. 

After the summer we had two opportunities to return to our campaign world. At our Adult Retreat we played a prequel that took place in the same world, giving a perspective to characters and storylines from the summer. Many of our staff, having worked over the summer, found themselves getting the chance to play as PCs in earlier storylines that tied into their experiences over the summer. A number of them found this deepened their experience, they already felt connected to the mythology and the chance to build into that world in its early days provided a unique LARP experience for them. 

We also returned to this world for our Winter Game, bringing a new problem that arose directly out of choices that the campers made in Games over the summer. Demons arrived, ready to claim the world and lay waste to it, having been given the power to do so inadvertently by a deal the campers had made this summer. Once again the forces of good had to rally to hold off the certain destruction of their world. Before the Adventure began though, I saw campers teaching each other lore and mythology that they had built this summer, telling stories about their characters, helping to ensure that the players who were joining this campaign for the first time would share in that same depth of experience and mythology as the ones who had already been there to be in the world. 

Take it directly from Finn, one of our campers who played in all of the Song of the Dead series except for the adult retreat, “I had a fantastic time playing the three Song of the Dead games, each addition to the trilogy adding a unique level of depth to the world that I already knew and loved. Being able to play on the same PC team numerous times gave us the time to add our own little details, like a few words of a language, and it was really cool to see the new players of that same group change up bits and pieces and use it as their own! (OSIMALNI HOO HOO HOO)”

This summer we will be having two more linked games. Building out these games is a fun design challenge. We have to craft two games that are stand alone stories, but played together they show a full story arc, and as with all of our Adventure Games, the storyline that we play wraps up, the campaign does not stretch forward forever. It is a hallmark of our Adventure Games that we build these worlds and these characters, inhabit them, and continue into the next story. This summer at our first two weeks of Overnight Camp we will be playing linked games and hope to see you there! What will you build with us? Where does your story lead?

 

Written by Judson Easton Packard. Jan. 2024

Always Coming Back Home To You

WFE1Always Coming Back Home To You

In all of the Where Are They Now interviews the interviewees (members of our community who have been away from the physical space of camp for some time now) have brought up an important facet of the Wayfinder community. The idea that you can leave camp for any amount of time, and you will always be welcomed back in. The way I have always pictured it is to see camp and our community within that physical space (even though we’re not always at the same location the physical space when the community comes together for an event) as a circle. No matter how long you step away from that circle, we will always have a spot for you to return to. There is no guarantee that you will come back to see the same faces as when you left, and more than likely there will be more new ones than familiar ones. I can promise though that you will be welcomed with the same warmth, the same love that you had when you left.

It helps this idea (both the circle I picture in my head, and the reality of returning to camp) that we put a lot of practice into doing this. At the start of every camp, and then again each morning, we open with a circle. During this time everyone is invited to share how they are feeling, what new experiences they have had since the last circle they were a part of, whether it has been hours or years since they held that space. An exercise I’ve always loved in our circles is when we take a silent moment, look around the circle person by person, and smile at every face that we see. It doesn’t matter who they are or how well you know them, every face you come across is returning that feeling to you.

WFE2Due to the setup of our community around a summer camp, there is always going to be some change in the people who are attending. People’s lives move forward. They go to college. They get jobs. They move on to whatever the world holds next for them. Spending summers at camp you get used to the rotating nature of the people around you. Every time someone new comes to camp it’s a chance to bring someone new into the fold. It’s always exciting to see what they bring into the space with them. New games. New ideas. There’s also, almost guaranteed, to be a friend who has been long absent. Someone who wasn’t able to be at camp for whatever reasons, or you two just haven’t been at the same weeks. Every camp is a chance to reenter these friendships. The function of being a summer camp means that the majority of the people at camp will not see each other maybe nine months out of the year. The friendships we have suspend in time, they tie to the space we hold at camp. It’s why it’s so easy for us to come and go in each other’s lives, to maintain relevance, as Marika put it so well a few weeks ago. We have grown use to coming home to each other.

It can be hard to understand making your home in other people. The idea of home we are always sold probably attaches to a specific structure or town. My home is Wayfinder. It has been since I was 13 years old and came to my first camp. Since then I’ve spent time with Wayfinder at upwards of twenty different lands and locations. No matter where we go, no matter what difficulties that land possesses (everything from giant mosquitos to non-potable water) I know I will be home. Home is the place where you can be yourself, whatever the most honest version of that looks like. Camp is a place where not only are we encouraged to be our real selves, we take time to work on that piece. I talked a couple weeks ago about how characters help us build ourselves so I don’t need to go deeply into it again here, but feeling at home in that space is a big portion of being able to do that work.

WFE3I’ve lived in six states and three time zones. I’ve told myself more springs than I’d like to admit that the coming summer would be my last one at camp, that it was time for me to grow up and move on to a new home. In 2014 I didn’t go to camp for the first time since I started in 2003. The year that followed was one of the hardest, most isolated of my life. There were a lot of external strains that led to this throughout the year as well, but I would be lying if I didn’t notice the weight of not getting to come home to camp and be me. Not having the time to put my stress aside and sit in a circle and fall asleep in the grass when I’m probably not supposed to (OK I’m definitely not supposed to and am probably supposed to be running the circle). Camp is my home. Who knows how long we get to call any one particular place home? If you get the chance to, come back. We miss you.

Written by Judson Easton Packard.

Published 4/7/2017