Peasant Problem: The End

Peasant Problem: The End

Dec 01

The End.

There was a natural meadow between Camp Lavery’s arts and crafts hut and the old staff campsite. Full of high, thick grass and wild plants and brush, it was rough ground that didn’t reward an offensive surge over it, and that was why Wayne chose it as the field for the closing battle of the war.

Absentmindedly, he mused that it might also be the final battle of the Battle Country, too. Among his ranks, murmurs about the death of the game were spreading and some players were even researching where they were going to play next season. Katie, the de facto leader of the Arbor Elves, was so mortified by her kidnapping that she and her tribe of wannabe-Wiccan followers were in the midst of designing their own game, splintering away from Darren’s game and wicking off another rivulet of players with them.

Terra Elva, Katie was calling it. In a stroke of either sheer onanism or marketing genius, all of the player characters would be one of several varieties of elf. According to one of the young dark elf players, there would be wood elves and mystic elves and steel elves and dark elves and water elves and frost elves and fire elves and rock elves and at least four other types of elves. Terra Elva, according to Fat Chris, sounded like “a complete shitshow,” but Wayne knew it would last at least a few seasons. Hell, he thought, it could even thrive under the right circumstances.

Seven Skulls orcs, dwarves, dark elves and gnomes stood in ranks across the meadow. Behind Wayne’s army, the camp truck sat, a working catapult erected in the bed. A team of engineers had built the thing with hand tools, expert knotwork and lots of duct tape. The catapult would launch massive foam balls wrapped in thick, double-sided tape. The missiles would, in theory, stick to whoever they struck and serve as an annoying distraction from their charge; they were a gnomish innovation.

Wayne felt a bit of a pang. Not guilt, not really, but nostalgia maybe. If Battle Country was doomed, he was sad that it was his hand that doomed it. That was never his intention, just sowing chaos and trying to change the game up. Just to have some damn fun again.

That the game wasn’t fun anymore was exactly why Darren had convinced Wayne and the rest of them to leave Ioun and start their own game.

“It’s just politics,” he told them, as they drove Darren’s mother’s minivan back from an Ioun weekend. “The nepotism is really starting to get obvious – it’s all the same clique becoming staff and they reward their friends with everything.”

“We have to drive two hours just to get there,” said Tom Courts in the back seat. Wayne and Darren had met Courts in “Survey of the Renaissance” during freshman year, and he got an invite to weekly D&D and, soonafter, to LARP weekends, and he was quickly becoming one of the guys, taking Jimmy Yeung’s spot now that Jimmy was at Princeton. “Seriously, we can’t just come down here to hang out all the time just to curry favors.”

“I would be okay with just nothing but one big battle all weekend, honestly,” Wayne piped up. He sat shotgun with Darren and was engrossed in the important task of keeping the music going. He was going through a hefty pleather folio, looking for Darren’s road trip mix from that summer.

That was where the name came from.

Every LARP that Wayne had ever played, seen or heard of was the byproduct of infighting or outright collapse at some other LARP somewhere else, as though LARPers were whirlygigging seed pods, sprouting up new pool-noodle swords and handmade costumes where they landed. If so, how did the first live-action game start? It seemed that each LARP was a literal child of divorce, with all the dysfunction that came with it.

At any minute, Darren and what was left of his loyalists would march on them and attack. They would walk straight into an ambush: while they were being harried with arrow and catapult fire, Aldomar’s wizards would come in from cover and cast a devastating combination of spells that would debilitate and kill the enemy as well as making it more difficult for them to come back to life.

But if the Seven Skulls did kill off the staff’s characters and the in-game government, what next? The staff was still the staff and they still called the shots. Wayne had no plan to replace what he was tearing down, and he was acutely aware of that as he stood at the head of his army.

Behind Wayne, Chris and Aaron, in full makeup and costume, worked the ranks of revolutionaries, stirring them into a frenzy. The crisp air was alive with shouts and chanting.

The chants and shouts died out, though, as the sound of drumming and singing grew. Coming down the wide path, with The Count’s golf cart at the head, the Hawk riding on the back, one arm hanging onto the roof while the other waved the Battle Country’s flag, the loyalists’ diminished numbers marched in lock step, their voices raised in hastily improvised battle hymns.

It was eleven o’clock Sunday morning; while the world slept, brunched and clipped coupons, the fate of a world hinged on an unseen, imaginary war.

Without preamble, the Country Guard charged across the meadow. One of the charging guards was knocked onto his back by the impact of a catapult strike. The gnomes scrambled onto the camp truck, resetting the slapdash siege engine and loading another foam bullet.

Worked up into a frenzy, Aaron roared as he led a half-dozen insurgents in a premature counter-charge, oblivious to the plan in the heat of battle. Wayne saw Aldomar leading his spellcasters in front the left flank, ready to unleash hell. They paid no heed to the small band of orcs and dark elves.

Another shot from the catapult took down a member of the Hawk’s detachment just as they came into melee with Sniksnak’s party. The teenager and the guardsman clashed – FWAP! FWAP! FWAP! as foam and tape met foam and tape. The Hawk swung a devastating roundhouse blow with his two-handed sword; Aaron struggled to parry the blow, catching the blade on the crux of his crossed swords. With a sneer of frustration, the guard captain delivered a knee to the orc rogue’s solar plexus.

Aaron doubled over with a shout; the loyalists advanced over him carelessly.

Aldo was nearly in position and the front ranks of the charge were almost out of spell range.

From behind Wayne, Fat Chris ran forward, snarling in rage. With a whirlwind blow, he knocked the sword free of the Hawk’s hands and dropped his massive axe and punched the Hawk in the face. Blood fanned out, spattering Chris’s tunic and those closest to the melee heard the crunch of the guard’s breaking nose. With a squeal, he dropped to the ground. Chris lumbered over to Aaron’s side, shoving aside a gargoyle who was about to trample him.

Aldomar raised his arms to give the signal to his mages. Wayne stared on, watching helplessly as his lieutenants – who was he kidding, his friends – were caught in the line of fire. This was, he thought again, supposed to be fun, right?

Above the din of the fight, Wayne’s voice bellowed out “HOLD!” and, instantly, the war paused.

***

Aaron had a sprained wrist to match the Hawk’s broken nose. Nobody knew just who trampled him. Under other circumstances, there might have been finger-pointing, and maybe there still would be; the immediate concern, though, was getting first aid for the wounded combatants and getting them to an emergency room. A couple of players who were also Scouts took charge as soon as the hold was called. As they worked, Wayne sat on the ground next to a bruised and crying Aaron, holding his good hand while his wrist was splinted. His green orc makeup was streaked from tears and sweat and marred by sneaker treads in places. Wayne apologized five times.

Across the camp, in an abandoned campsite, the dark elf guards untied their prisoners and released them on the orc chieftain’s orders.

Play did not resume.

As Wayne watched Chris drive the Hawk – Steve, he finally remembered – and Aaron out to civilization, Darren approached him quietly. He was in his street clothes, a frame backpack slung over his slight shoulders containing his costume and gear. He looked exhausted.

“The orcs,” he said to break the silence, “are getting a seat on the Council. I just talked it over with Tom Courts and the rest of them.”

Without turning to face him, Wayne replied, “That’s surprising, actually. It should go to Chris. He’s a good guy.”

“I was hoping it would be you, man.”

Wayne turned, glanced at his friend, looked at the ground beyond them. Looked at the volleyball court where his rebellion began earlier that weekend. “Darren, I nearly ruined your game.”

Darren reached out toward him, but Wayne cut him off.

“No, dude. I know what you’re gonna say, and it’s not the way you think it is. This wasn’t about ideals or principles or equity. That was convenient after the fact. It got the right people on my side. I just wanted to stir some shit up, exert some force. And it got people hurt. I need to do some thinking about that.”

“Maybe so, but you didn’t do it all by yourself. Those tensions were there. We were being too cliquey. We were playing favorites, marginalizing people the way we hated being marginalized at the old game. You acted out because you were frustrated. I get it; everybody gets it. The problem, you know, with any collective is that everybody is ostensibly equal, but someone has to be the guy who takes out the trash. Not everybody gets to be the king; someone has to be the peasant, you know?

Wayne dared a knowing grin. “The peasant problem, yeah. I’ve heard it before. So…I’m not being kicked out?”

Darren chuckled. “Not yet. But we’ve lost our Arbor Elf playerbase, so we might need you to switch characters for awhile.”

“Okay, so you just hate me.”

Darren sighed. “Wayne, I don’t. You’ve stuck by me since we were kids. This? This isn’t real.”

It wasn’t real. Wayne knew that, but there were times when you could almost suspend disbelief and forget it.

Wayne stuck out his hand; Darren grabbed it, and his more rotund friend pulled him into an awkward, bromance-y hug.

“I’m glad you don’t hate me,” Wayne confided. “You’re my ride home.”

Peasant Problem

The End.

There was a natural meadow between Camp Lavery’s arts and crafts hut and the old staff campsite. Full of high, thick grass and wild plants and brush, it was rough ground that didn’t reward an offensive surge over it, and that was why Wayne chose it as the field for the closing battle of the war.

Absentmindedly, he mused that it might also be the final battle of the Battle Country, too. Among his ranks, murmurs about the death of the game were spreading and some players were even researching where they were going to play next season. Katie, the de facto leader of the Arbor Elves, was so mortified by her kidnapping that she and her tribe of wannabe-Wiccan followers were in the midst of designing their own game, splintering away from Darren’s game and wicking off another rivulet of players with them.

Terra Elva, Katie was calling it. In a stroke of either sheer onanism or marketing genius, all of the player characters would be one of several varieties of elf. According to one of the young dark elf players, there would be wood elves and mystic elves and steel elves and dark elves and water elves and frost elves and fire elves and rock elves and at least four other types of elves. Terra Elva, according to Fat Chris, sounded like “a complete shitshow,” but Wayne knew it would last at least a few seasons. Hell, he thought, it could even thrive under the right circumstances.

Seven Skulls orcs, dwarves, dark elves and gnomes stood in ranks across the meadow. Behind Wayne’s army, the camp truck sat, a working catapult erected in the bed. A team of engineers had built the thing with hand tools, expert knotwork and lots of duct tape. The catapult would launch massive foam balls wrapped in thick, double-sided tape. The missiles would, in theory, stick to whoever they struck and serve as an annoying distraction from their charge; they were a gnomish innovation.

Wayne felt a bit of a pang. Not guilt, not really, but nostalgia maybe. If Battle Country was doomed, he was sad that it was his hand that doomed it. That was never his intention, just sowing chaos and trying to change the game up. Just to have some damn fun again.

That the game wasn’t fun anymore was exactly why Darren had convinced Wayne and the rest of them to leave Ioun and start their own game.

“It’s just politics,” he told them, as they drove Darren’s mother’s minivan back from an Ioun weekend. “The nepotism is really starting to get obvious – it’s all the same clique becoming staff and they reward their friends with everything.”

“We have to drive two hours just to get there,” said Tom Courts in the back seat. Wayne and Darren had met Courts in “Survey of the Renaissance” during freshman year, and he got an invite to weekly D&D and, soonafter, to LARP weekends, and he was quickly becoming one of the guys, taking Jimmy Yeung’s spot now that Jimmy was at Princeton. “Seriously, we can’t just come down here to hang out all the time just to curry favors.”

“I would be okay with just nothing but one big battle all weekend, honestly,” Wayne piped up. He sat shotgun with Darren and was engrossed in the important task of keeping the music going. He was going through a hefty pleather folio, looking for Darren’s road trip mix from that summer.

That was where the name came from.

Every LARP that Wayne had ever played, seen or heard of was the byproduct of infighting or outright collapse at some other LARP somewhere else, as though LARPers were whirlygigging seed pods, sprouting up new pool-noodle swords and handmade costumes where they landed. If so, how did the first live-action game start? It seemed that each LARP was a literal child of divorce, with all the dysfunction that came with it.

At any minute, Darren and what was left of his loyalists would march on them and attack. They would walk straight into an ambush: while they were being harried with arrow and catapult fire, Aldomar’s wizards would come in from cover and cast a devastating combination of spells that would debilitate and kill the enemy as well as making it more difficult for them to come back to life.

But if the Seven Skulls did kill off the staff’s characters and the in-game government, what next? The staff was still the staff and they still called the shots. Wayne had no plan to replace what he was tearing down, and he was acutely aware of that as he stood at the head of his army.

Behind Wayne, Chris and Aaron, in full makeup and costume, worked the ranks of revolutionaries, stirring them into a frenzy. The crisp air was alive with shouts and chanting.

The chants and shouts died out, though, as the sound of drumming and singing grew. Coming down the wide path, with The Count’s golf cart at the head, the Hawk riding on the back, one arm hanging onto the roof while the other waved the Battle Country’s flag, the loyalists’ diminished numbers marched in lock step, their voices raised in hastily improvised battle hymns.

It was eleven o’clock Sunday morning; while the world slept, brunched and clipped coupons, the fate of a world hinged on an unseen, imaginary war.

Without preamble, the Country Guard charged across the meadow. One of the charging guards was knocked onto his back by the impact of a catapult strike. The gnomes scrambled onto the camp truck, resetting the slapdash siege engine and loading another foam bullet.

Worked up into a frenzy, Aaron roared as he led a half-dozen insurgents in a premature counter-charge, oblivious to the plan in the heat of battle. Wayne saw Aldomar leading his spellcasters in front the left flank, ready to unleash hell. They paid no heed to the small band of orcs and dark elves.

Another shot from the catapult took down a member of the Hawk’s detachment just as they came into melee with Sniksnak’s party. The teenager and the guardsman clashed – FWAP! FWAP! FWAP! as foam and tape met foam and tape. The Hawk swung a devastating roundhouse blow with his two-handed sword; Aaron struggled to parry the blow, catching the blade on the crux of his crossed swords. With a sneer of frustration, the guard captain delivered a knee to the orc rogue’s solar plexus.

Aaron doubled over with a shout; the loyalists advanced over him carelessly.

Aldo was nearly in position and the front ranks of the charge were almost out of spell range.

From behind Wayne, Fat Chris ran forward, snarling in rage. With a whirlwind blow, he knocked the sword free of the Hawk’s hands and dropped his massive axe and punched the Hawk in the face. Blood fanned out, spattering Chris’s tunic and those closest to the melee heard the crunch of the guard’s breaking nose. With a squeal, he dropped to the ground. Chris lumbered over to Aaron’s side, shoving aside a gargoyle who was about to trample him.

Aldomar raised his arms to give the signal to his mages. Wayne stared on, watching helplessly as his lieutenants – who was he kidding, his friends – were caught in the line of fire. This was, he thought again, supposed to be fun, right?

Above the din of the fight, Wayne’s voice bellowed out “HOLD!” and, instantly, the war paused.

***

Aaron had a sprained wrist to match the Hawk’s broken nose. Nobody knew just who trampled him. Under other circumstances, there might have been finger-pointing, and maybe there still would be; the immediate concern, though, was getting first aid for the wounded combatants and getting them to an emergency room. A couple of players who were also Scouts took charge as soon as the hold was called. As they worked, Wayne sat on the ground next to a bruised and crying Aaron, holding his good hand while his wrist was splinted. His green orc makeup was streaked from tears and sweat and marred by sneaker treads in places. Wayne apologized five times.

Across the camp, in an abandoned campsite, the dark elf guards untied their prisoners and released them on the orc chieftain’s orders.

Play did not resume.

As Wayne watched Chris drive the Hawk – Steve, he finally remembered – and Aaron out to civilization, Darren approached him quietly. He was in his street clothes, a frame backpack slung over his slight shoulders containing his costume and gear. He looked exhausted.

“The orcs,” he said to break the silence, “are getting a seat on the Council. I just talked it over with Tom Courts and the rest of them.”

Without turning to face him, Wayne replied, “That’s surprising, actually. It should go to Chris. He’s a good guy.”

“I was hoping it would be you, man.”

Wayne turned, glanced at his friend, looked at the ground beyond them. Looked at the volleyball court where his rebellion began earlier that weekend. “Darren, I nearly ruined your game.”

Darren reached out toward him, but Wayne cut him off.

“No, dude. I know what you’re gonna say, and it’s not the way you think it is. This wasn’t about ideals or principles or equity. That was convenient after the fact. It got the right people on my side. I just wanted to stir some shit up, exert some force. And it got people hurt. I need to do some thinking about that.”

“Maybe so, but you didn’t do it all by yourself. Those tensions were there. We were being too cliquey. We were playing favorites, marginalizing people the way we hated being marginalized at the old game. You acted out because you were frustrated. I get it; everybody gets it. The problem, you know, with any collective is that everybody is ostensibly equal, but someone has to be the guy who takes out the trash. Not everybody gets to be the king; someone has to be the peasant, you know?

Wayne dared a knowing grin. “The peasant problem, yeah. I’ve heard it before. So…I’m not being kicked out?”

Darren chuckled. “Not yet. But we’ve lost our Arbor Elf playerbase, so we might need you to switch characters for awhile.”

“Okay, so you just hate me.”

Darren sighed. “Wayne, I don’t. You’ve stuck by me since we were kids. This? This isn’t real.”

It wasn’t real. Wayne knew that, but there were times when you could almost suspend disbelief and forget it.

Wayne stuck out his hand; Darren grabbed it, and his more rotund friend pulled him into an awkward, bromance-y hug.

“I’m glad you don’t hate me,” Wayne confided. “You’re my ride home.”

1 comment

  1. Eric

    Good stuff! This is an old story that I wish LARP administrators would read and take to heart.

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