A Personal Odyssey

On August 14, 2012 by aquarion

People of the civilized world, listen, for your gods speak!

Alexander of Macedon, he whom you called Great, is dead.

He shall not be remembered as the king who united the Greeks, nor as the conqueror who laid waste to the nations of Egypt and Persia. He shall not be remembered as the mightiest of generals, who gathered the hosts of three empires to battle and threatened the warring powers of Carthage and Rome.

He will be remembered as one who challenged the gods and failed.

Odyssey is a LARP system, based on a custom Mythic setting of gods and heroes. It runs a couple of events a year, with many hundreds of players attending. Central to it is the Great Game, where warbands from the nations of the world (Egypt, Greece, Persia, Carthage, Rome and a brand new one) fight for control of cities and the tribute they bring, and they do so in a giant gladiatorial arena; Where philosophers discover the mysteries of the universe and the World Forge, a complicated machine whose precise mechanisms and controls are almost as strange as the Watcher who oversees it; Where bands of heroes are sent on epic quests to retrieve and protect people and items of great power and importance; Where Priests of all the Gods fight less literally for the attention and favour of those whom they serve, and sometimes more literally too; Where people talk as people, interact, form friendships and rivalries.

Where we spend three days in a muddy field in Banbury waving rubber swords around and pretending to be Heroes and Gods.

Right now, I’m very tired.

I’m a referee for Odyssey. Specifically, I man the Games Operation Desk, primarily the first point of contact with a player who needs to interact with a non-literal game mechanic, along with a small team of “Blue hat”s (Different departments at PD events get different coloured hats. Mine’s yellow). So sacrifices to the Gods come to us (Via the other referees as well as directly), and when a player uses their mystical powers to divine the precise nature of a magical object, they bring their mystical powers and magical object to me. I function as an interface between the players and the back-stage story team, who weave a massive and majestic tapestry of interwoven threads, characters and tales within a detailed metaphysical framework of which I know enough to give the wrong answer with disturbing confidence (Which is why I ask), taking tales of Player derring-do to a Story team member to say “They did *WHAT*” at, and giving out the slips that tell the players what the favour or displeasure of the Gods has done to – or with – them this time.

Odyssey is a 24 hour time-in series, so once we kick off on Friday evening, the entire player field is in-character until Sunday afternoon when we call it a day. A lot of players sleep in character too, in tents on the player field. Others have tents outside the play area and their characters will “Go home” though mystical portals to sleep, and other characters will use the quiet and the cover of darkness to perform their most secret and antisocial acts. Generally the GameOps desk will close around 4am or whenever I decide to go to bed, and reopen at 9am when I’ve had enough sleep to be awake again and enough breakfast to survive the day. I am incredibly bad at sleeping and eating at Odyssey.

During the day, the players will fight their epic battles for control of the cities of the known world, they will be sent on the aforementioned epic quests, their priests will try to get things done for their gods, and the philosophers will solve the riddles of the universe and gather the resources of the world, and I’ll deal with a more or less constant stream of players with new and interesting things they want to play with, answer what I can and pass the rest to the people who write it all. The rest of the ref team are out on the field arbitrating the fights in the arena, making sure everything stays as safe as a full-contact sport leaves possible, and fielding rules queries.

It’s a lot of hard work, even for me just running the Ops desk, and that’s without mentioning the awesome work of the site crews in getting all the tents and the giant arena constructed, and the site set up with working toilets, (HOT!) showers and reliable electricity that makes the hardship of camping a lot easier, and the event to run at all.

Between the lack of sleep since I went up on Thursday (I’m at 12 hours in four hour blocks since Friday morning) and the traveling back to London today, I’m a little wiped. But next year we get to do it all over again for another couple of events. 43 weeks, 89 hours, 30 minutes left.

(Photo by Chiara )


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