College of Wizardry is a Polish high-immersion larp set in a castle in Poland. We heard it would be “the next step in LARPing”, so expectations were high! I think all of us (Jan, Linus, Frosty and me) were very happy with what we got, even though our experiences were very different.
Madeline “Maddy” Owen is a mundaneborn senior cursebreaker who is a thrillseeker floozy with a heart of gold.
“Thrillseeker” seemed like a good way to get into adventure but I quickly found out that:
1) Everyone was doing that! The whole concept of the school is basically 100 people going wild and trying to do as much crazy stuff as possible
2) I was MUCH more into the subtle play of classes and school interactions than the so-manieth creature summoning.
Still, I got a lot of mileage out of my “fear of boredom”. I didn’t want to commit to a very set storyline, but I had tossed up some ideas and done a bit of pre-play. In the end, I mostly had three balls in the air.
Ancient Order of Mischief
Because no one else was doing it, I ended up in charge of the Ancient Order! I had set up a meeting on Thursday at midnight. The people who arrived early (okay, on time) got chased off by a professor and had to feel through a series of secret passages, and then sneak back to their dorms.
The second group showed up 10 minutes later in rather impressive numbers! We handed out prank targets to all the new members: a person that they would have to prank this weekend in order to be allowed in the order.
Then we put a silence bubble around the room and played Russian Potion Roulette! Everyone had brought an unlabeled potion they made so we had a table full of weird potions. One by one we drank them (imagine loud chants of CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!) and observed the effects. People were forced to dance like ballerina’s, do silly walks, go through a variety of animal forms, think they were cats, and so on. I got to ride a junior who thought he was a horse through the room until he bucked and threw me off!
By the end we had a ton of hugging potion left, so we drank it one by one and piled up into a big hug pile. Someone said “You know, we don’t need a potion for a group hug” and someone else said “Chemically induced is always better!”. The prank club was underway!
Doing the prank club meeting very early in the game was a good idea, because it set up pranks for the rest of the game, and it was a fun activity to loosen up new players. The junior / new players were still a bit nervous and unsure, and the idea of drinking a potion and having to do something weird clearly scared the crap out of them. Fortunately my pre-game contacts got on board and helped fuel the enthusiasm. Go go Hangover Crew! By the end, everyone had potioned, and the juniors came up to me to ask if we could do this again tomorrow <3
We also had two professors in the prank club, and they provided us with hall passes and tons of cursed runes to spread around the school. After the meeting the prank club spread around school like true forces of chaos. It was out of my hands!
Near the end of the game one of the prank professors came up to me and said “Maddy, someone pulled a prank on me! If you don’t tell me who it is, I will give you five negative house points. If you do tell me who it is, I’ll consider giving them positive points!”, so then I had to run around and figure out who was doing what. I also got cursed myself and made out with a Goblin!
Durentius is one of the houses in Czocha College. In our game Durentius, the house of the Rooster, was a really fun and supportive house filled with nice jocks, cheerleaders and tricksters. I got to sleep in the common room! Man, what a place.
The house eats together, plays in the fireball cup together, and strives for house points together. They select juniors to join the house and initiate them. All this interaction gives you a pretty close bond with your housemates. This is one of the coolest aspects of the game, and in hindsight I would have loved to spend (even) more time on it. We had a whole bunch of shared highlights!
- The rooster house comes with a lot of cock jokes. You can wait until the other houses make them, but it’s way more fun to it yourself! We kept this going all weekend. You’d think that would get old, but it keeps being fun!”.
- The Fireball dragon games. We had a great fireball team, and everyone, every single rooster, was there when the team played. In rain. We cheer-leaded again (“Feast on Faust, give them cock!”) and the games were great! They really made us a team.
- Our combined house efforts to make Monty the greatest Monty that ever was! Monty played the second game topless with his tie tied around his head and everyone went wild!
- Picking new juniors together. We didn’t look at points, we just looked at people that were fun or who did something we liked – or who were good at fireball (“The juniors have their own chant? Whoever thought of that, they’re in!”). Then we cheered each and everyone of them as they were called into their house and hugged them. They were the best Roosters right away, they brought so much energy into the house!
- We gave the new Roosters an initiation ritual. The newly sorted juniors arrived to find their new house members standing in a half-circle, hooded and singing the Durentius song. The person next to me grabbed my arm and said “I have goosebumps!” It was a magical moment of solemnity in between all the Durentius silliness. Glad the song gave depth to the house. All the juniors wrote down their worst fear onto a piece of paper, read it aloud and threw it into the fire. We explained that, whatever you do as a Durentian, you should do it with full conviction! “If you’re going to be a screw up, be the most magnificent screw up you can be!” Then we all danced a very, VERY silly dance and partied. Really fun!
- We also banded together to save our vampire friend from her Faustian friend and a monster hunter. It was fun to do one action plot together with the house!
- We got cursed to sing “Chicken, Chicken” instead of Rooster Rooster and cluck around like chickens anytime someone said “Durentius”. The curse wasn’t super good, but because we liked the idea so much we did it anyway (and sang our chicken chant during the next game).
- I got scolded by a housemate because a professor was “slightly disappointed” in me: “You’re Durentius, if he’s going to be disappointed in you, he should be the most disappointed ever!”.
- Getting wing-manned by three Durentians while flirting with a professor in a bar was awesome!
“I have so much house pride, even now”.
Playing the magical academia field
One of the little story jokes that had come up in the pre-game is that I had convinced all three professors of my favorite classes that they (alone) were my favorite professor. Maddy was always on the lookout for excitement, the nice-until-I’m-not invocation professor Scholtz would sometimes drop an exciting new ritual, the affable runes professor Wraithwood was working on the most exciting Space and Time Bending runes. And Ritual Magic professor McKenzie, the most boring man in the world, had spent the last 10 years working on a ritual that would CHANGE THE WITCHARD WORLD AS WE KNOW IT”. Oh yeah! “No one can actually be that boring, he must be working on something super epic!” my character was sure of it.
I mail all the professors in advance to see if I can get some advance study material! Scholtz and Wraithwood are super nice about it. They happily answer my questions and discuss their research with me. But McKenzie is a bit tricky as the professor doesn’t care about students enough to remember their name or anything else about them. He only answers in one sentence mails with weeks delay. But after sticking in there, I’m finally allowed to help professor McKenzie with this practical research.
As a test subject.
I’ll take it!
At the first dinner, I get an invitation to help with the ritual and a hall pass for the entire night – very valuable in-game currency. I am pumped! The ritual is at the same time as the prank club meeting – the only thing I really wanted to do. So I reluctantly postpone the prank club, causing lots of confusion for the pranksters later on. The first of many sacrifices I will make for this epic world-changing ritual.
So that night at midnight I climb the tower. There’s about seven students sitting in the dark in a circle around professor McKenzie. As we sit, he explains that tomorrow we will be gathering data on our magical abilities to serve as a baseline for comparison after tomorrow’s ritual. Wait, what? If there’s no ritual today, what the hell did I just climb all the way up the tower for? Jeez! I’m getting grumbly, but then the professor awards us all house points for participating. He makes everyone call out their house one by one since he can’t be bothered to remember who belongs where, but when he gets to me, he simply says “Durentius” and writes it down. The other students stare at me in shock, I do a fist pump, disgruntlement completely wiped away! Damnit, my character is SO easy to reel in.
The chocolate problem
I had brought all my favorite professor chocolates during the break to suck up to them.
No way this could ever go wrong, right? I gave one to the invocation professor, who said “Thank you, I’ll put this in the teacher’s lounge”. Whoops! I guess that’s how it could wrong ;-) I hand out some more chocolates to the Runes professor in class, and he mentions that whoever finds the master rune that’s hidden in the school could get an apprenticeship with him. I consider my academic options, and that sounds pretty great!
Ritual Magic class is in the courtyard, but sadly there’s no ritual… again. Just theory. Still, it’s a very good class. We talk about the elements, geometrical shapes, reagents and directions. I’m very vocal and the professor refers to my latest term paper (Essentials of Ritual Magic: Location, location, location) in his lecture. YES!! Who wants to be a stupid runic apprentice!
That afternoon I get caught in the hallway between the professors Wraithwood and McKenzie. They corner me in the hallway. Eek! Professor McKenzie says he saw my chocolates in the staff lounge and HE wasn’t the one who put them there… so would I care to explain myself? I make helpless squeaky sounds. He says he is very disappointed in me and wanders off.
DAMNIT! I’ve fucked it all up and now I’ll never get to participate in the ritual that would CHANGE THE WITCHARD WORLD AS WE KNOW IT! How can I make this right? This is the moment where I go what I can sadly only describe as “Balls-deep on McKenzie”. I write him a card apologizing and formally asking if I can be his apprentice and I put it in the mailbox.
Then I have an even better idea! I take the chocolates that I never got around to giving to him, and break into his quarters, and arrange a mending ritual on his table using all the information we just got in his class. Stalking? Yes! Awesome? OH YES!
We have lunch and professor McKenzie passes by. “Good effort, Maddy. A nice save”. YES!!!! By now I am fully emotionally invested in this silly academic roller coaster: every acknowledgement is an ecstatic high, every disappointment a devastating low.
Professor Wraithwood asks if I need a hall pass for tonight. I say, “No thank you, professor, I already got one from professor McKenzie”. He goes away, disappointed.
After all my hard work, I go to Mind Magic class. I’m retaking Mind Magic because I don’t have mental resistance, so I step into a very full class of sophomores where the teacher makes me publically explain why I’m retaking the class. Then she says “You are Maddy Owen? We need to have a talk about breaking into Teacher’s Quarters”.
FUCK! She takes me aside. By “aside” I mean about one meter away from the other students who are practicing in groups and who can easily overhear the entire conversation. As it turns out, she shares Teacher’s Quarters with professor McKenzie and is really fucking pissed that I broke into them. “If you want to talk to the professor, you should see him after class or send him a mail. Minus one housepoint.” . My relationship with the Mind Magic professor stays disastrous for the entire game. Damnit!
2nd Ritual: classic mid-game turn around!
That night, we finally meet at 1 am for the second ritual. I do a bunch of stuff before that, but I forgo on the super secret doomy doom summoning because that might keep me too long, or kill me, and I can’t die now, I’m going to CHANGE THE WITCHARD WORLD AS I KNOW IT. There’s only a few students this time, we’re with four. We hand in our observational notes of the first day.
Then he starts explaining what we will be doing. I am fricking excited! He explains that he has been studying mundane magic, what we call shamanism. Big rituals that used to be shared by large amounts of mundanes and received their power from that communion of masses of people doing the same thing as the same time. If that power could be structuralised or ritualised, we could use it to enhance our own magical potency.
So he wants us to focus on the parts of our morning ritual that we share with all of humanity, like brushing your teeth or your hair, and really focus on this action. Then we should observe the effect on our spell casting, and report back tomorrow.
The other students are asking detailed questions about the experiment. I try to lock eyes with them. One of them is sincerely interested, one gives me a look that says “Oh, those silly professors”. I, on the other hand, am having a mental break down.
“I have a question”, I say voice shaking with suppressed emotion. “So your experiment that would CHANGE THE WITCHARD WORLD AS WE KNOW IT is trying to see if mindfully brushing your teeth changes anything? Are you fucking serious? THIS is what you’ve been working on for the past TEN years?”.
“Why yes, it is. It’s been working wonders for me.”
“What will you do with the next ten years, flossing?”
“We’ll have to see how this experiment goes first!”
I burned my bridges with ALL the other professors for this? I made all these sacrifices and spent the entire weekend trying to suck up for… dental hygiene??! OH MY GOD I ASKED FOR AN APPRENTICESHIP!!
I storm out of the class into an empty main hall and let out a big yell of frustration. Zoe is on the balcony and asks me what’s up. I want to tell her, but I don’t even know where to start, so I start yelling again. I run to the mailbox, shake out all the mail, but it doesn’t help: my apprenticeship request is already sent. I head for the bar and start drinking.
Maddy’s worst fear isn’t losing her soul or being buried alive or eaten by a demon. Those things are all at least still interesting. No, Maddy’s fear is being confined to a life of boredom and it is rapidly becoming reality. For the past two days she has been hooked and tethered with small compliments and the promise of a big payoff and now she is so emotionally invested it looks like there is no way back. “Dude, I’m not even coming to your class tomorrow”, I say to the player. “Yeah, you will”, he laughs, “you’re committed”.
Yeah, I will. I will become a dental hygiene wizard. :/
Professor McKenzie comes to the bar to see me, and says that I should have faith and trust him. For once, it’s not enough. I go to bed devastated!
In the morning, I mindfully brush my teeth while saying “FUCK FUCK FUCK” to myself and feeling full of self-loathing. I faithfully write down my observations (“Performed ritual with the addition of a one word, four letter mantra to increase focus. Observing a high emotional response.”).
Then I go to Arithmancy. For the first time in my life I sit on the first row, because suddenly I see the value of semantics. We talk about prophecies and how prophecies NEVER turn out the way you want them. You got that right, I think. I was so stupid. EVERYTHING changes the the Witchard World as we know it, everything is always changing in minute ways. That doesn’t mean anything! McKenzie is the king of empty promises and I interpreted this prophecy ALL wrong.
But then professor Morgan starts talking about self-fulfilling prophecies and how hearing prophecies often makes them come to pass. She explains that for this reason it’s very important that Witchards should always interpret prophecies in the most positive way possible – in order to get the best possible results. “When you read a prophecy, it may seem like you don’t have a choice, but you are the one that interprets it. YOU ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE.”
Professor Morgan is speaking straight into my soul! This has a huge effect on me, and I start formulating a plan on how I can turn this situation around.
I talk to the other classmates in the ritual magic class and they are STILL interested in this bullshit tooth-brushing theory. Mellie thinks it could be a way to make magic accessible for mundanes, and Hannibal it could be an interesting gateway to further research on mass ritual. They have also applied to be research assistants.
That afternoon in Ritual Magic class we finally do a ritual but my heart is not in it. Until the Minotaur knocks professor McKenzie down and the healer student needs someone to pull McKenzie’s arm back into its socket. “This is going to hurt a lot, isn’t it?” I say. I gleefully inflict as much pain as possible and then report my increased strength in my research notes. On paper, it very much looks like the tooth brushing experiment is working and knowing he will interpret is this way just makes my blood boil.
When he passes me in the hallway, he notices my headwound from an earlier class and says “Be careful, I wouldn’t want one of my favorite students to get hurt”. Even in my disgruntled state, I’m… still a bit pleased… DAMNIT!
At the end of the day, I turn in my research notes. “It seems to be working!” he says. “Yeah, I think there might be a few confounding variables at play here”, I say. I ask if he had received my request for apprenticeship. I tell him that I talked to the other students and that they’re still on board with his theories and ask him if he would prefer a research assistant that agrees with him, or that’s a bit more critical.
“Of course I want someone who’s critical. You think my ideas are bullshit?”
“They ARE bullshit, I know that! But they work, and we need to find out how! The position is yours if you want it.”
As it turns out, the professor has just received tenure, and has room for a research assistant with limited budget who could work on their own project in addition to the Dental Hygiene one! MY WORLD IS SAVED!
After the ball, we celebrate in the tavern, and talk a bit. As it turns out McKenzie is only 26 years old, because he was so smart he started college at 12. He was bullied and missed out on all of the college experience. Aww! Maddy’s ‘hopeless cause’ heart starts beating. She tries to convince him that it’s not too late to have a true college experience, but that some things will need to change.
“You’ll need to lose those glasses. I will need to teach you about contact lenses.”
“I don’t like touching my eyes.”
“Also, you need to lose the bow tie. There’s only one doctor who can get away with a bowtie.”
After this small make over, we join a game of Witchard Never Have I Ever and a set of Durentius juniors soon turn out to be the best wingmen as they lead us through increasingly probing Never have I evers to reveal information. Soon we find out that not only is the professor a virgin, he’s also never been kissed. It’s starting to look like Maddy Owen will need to do some practical dental hygiene research after all!
And that’s where we timed out. So whereas everyone returned from Czocha with epic personal stories about vanquishing demons, reuniting with lost brothers and parents, grand love trysts and betrayals, mine was about mindful tooth brushing.
I wouldn’t have it any other way! I got masterfully manipulated by Zack who pulled me back in with the tiniest of favors every time I lost interest and now I will have bleed every time I brush my teeth in the morning. It was subtly played, very frustrating and funny as hell. Just the way I like it <3
We had a starting workshop to get to know the people in our year. I had a lot of classes with Mellie who was making up for lack of talent with hard work, and Dahlia who always annoyed the hell out of class by asking teachers questions about really boring things, and thus hijacking the class. This year she realized she didn’t have anything outside of classes and thus wanted to try more stuff. I pretty much only saw these two in class, but that meant we could play small scenes together on a regular basis, one of my favorite play styles!
My very first class was arithmancy, and I had arranged in pre-play to fall asleep in class and get scolded or kicked out. I tried falling asleep, but my two buddies kept poking me and waking me up! Then, when we had to do group work, they made all the examples about me so that I would be interested enough to pay attention. I instantly fell in love with my classmates <3
Mellie was around for my Dental Hygiene plot and made terrible fun of me over it for the entire weekend, which was great fun. I kept forgetting about her leg injury and kept telling her to catch up. When she asked me to tell the professor in the tower that she would be late, I said “Why? Are you going somewhere else first?”.
It was very, very fun to see Dahlia change throughout the weekend. Friends took her to the Mischief meeting without telling her what it was, and we had to goad her into taking a potion. I kept poking her whenever she would lift her hand to ask a question. During magic we had to help each other do something we were uncomfortable with, so she cast Confidentio Mind Magic on me, and I ask Confidentio get out of class on her and then she ran into the hallway, freaking out the professor who I then (confident) pushed aside saying “Don’t worry, professor, I got this!”, and then stopped the spell. The professor was not amused :/
My favorite one was when someone *else* asked a very nerdy question in class. I poked Dahlia and said “Look, it’s a nerd like you, you should take him to the ball” and she turns around to face me and is blowing bubble gum, looking completely cool and disinterested. Transformation complete!
Things I would have liked to do more with
The parts I enjoyed most were the character growth stories that were told within small recurrent actions throughout the weekend. If I play again, I will try to set up a few stories like those, put my energy in those, and not worry too much about all the flashy stuff happening around me.
In the pre-play Maddy was the poster child for the mundaneborn class and that was kind of fun. I was looking forward to some hexist interactions in game. Sadly, that didn’t work very well. I would go up to them, or greet them or try to interact with them, and they would just ignore me, literally see through me like I wasn’t there. That made me, Jules, pretty sad, like I was shut out of the game.
But in the end a few small scenes emerged. Lazarro got drunk and could finally talk to me (I was so happy!). I got to talk Quincy into not rejecting his friend Katheryn, who had turned out to be a vampire. I explained hexblood privilege and the glass ceiling to professor Hemlock. And, of course, Cordy was still keeping an eye on me. A few of the players came up to me after the game to explain that they just had a really hard time shitting on my adorable character. Still, there was more opportunity for play here, which I guess I should have set up more myself.
There were a ton of people who I only hung out with sporadically and whose storylines would have loved to be involved in: Loki & Baz, the hangover crew (Soelle, Balo, Ewan), all the Durentians, Cordy, Zoe, Cammie and Deidre, the fae, and so on. I fell between a lot of plots and missed a lot of stuff. But I guess that’s how it always goes!