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Chronicles of Demgard - The Secret of Hartwigstein

Chronicles of Demgard (or Demgardi Krónikák as it is known in Hungarian) is a fantasy larp campaign played on the outskirts of Tatabánya, a city in northwestern Hungary, some 60 km west of Budapest. A group of Hungarian players which is gathered around that larp visited us on Terra Nova 2012 where they made almost half the population. Terra Nova was made an international event where English was used for communication - they liked the concept, so this event, ninth in Chronicles of Demgard series, would also be an international event where English was used, and game documents were translated to English: Brief guide to Demgard, Core rules, Magic system, Character creation and Equipment standards. Important to note: all events from Chronicles of Demgard make a campaign, but each one is more like a one-shot - a larp with characters mostly generated for that one larp, and a wrapped-up storyline with a few ties with previous or upcoming events.

Unfortunately, plenty of people canceled so only me and Siro came from Croatia, but it still worked excellently as an international event. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. We started from Zagreb on Friday afternoon and drove for about four hours until we reached the location, a parking lot of a shopping center just off the M1 motorway. We'd walk to the campsite and set up our tents in the night. I called Sándor (aka Kildar, GM of Chronicles of Demgard) and they came down to meet us and several more people arriving at the same time.

The welcoming committee
After that, we started on foot to the terrain. Along the way I realized I made a mistake and packed too much stuff (next time, I'm packing really light). The parking lot was easy to find - the way to the terrain was... challenging. We walked for some 20-25 minutes along the road, over fields and in the woods until we reached the game terrain. We quickly said hi to people, then went off to set up our tent in darkness near the off-game camp. I changed to in-game clothes because they were warmer than my regular clothes. It was party time. We stayed in the off-game camp, as we were a bit unfamiliar with the terrain and a little tired to go back to the monastery where a larger group of players was. There was a smaller group of larpers there, so we got to know each other, talked about our past experiences, got to know why each one of us started larping... etc. We went to sleep, and got to meet more people next morning.

We actually got to do that more than we thought so - the game would start a couple of hours late. Delays seem to be normal and expected here. I also took some time to familiarize myself with terrain - which was nothing short of amazing (despite the long climb, no toilets and motorway being in audible range). It's a complex, wooded, hilly terrain with plenty of flat surfaces, chasms, passageways etc. which help make a very interesting and diverse game terrain. On top of that, there was some wooden construction from previous larps - they can stay in place as long as they don't block the wildlife. This made plenty of structures, walls and fences available, more than on existing Croatian larps.

The village tavern
And a friendly tavern wench
There are also high visual standards as there should be no visible modern items anywhere. All modern tents had to go to off-game camp. Canvas tents (regardless of era) were acceptable in in-game area, and actually most players used those. Apart from off-game area, the game consisted of a village of Hartwigstein and a monastery which was above it.

Stairs leading from the village to the monastery
I did the character check-in. Characters would all receive a fitting amount of in-game money (depending on their character histories). Small, tin coins were represented by washers (smaller than ones used on Ognjeni Mač events), but silver and gold pieces were cast and they really looked impressive.

Ashi and Kildar holding gold coins from various countries

A silver coin
I also received printed game materials - rules excerpts for my abilities (should I need a reference), item cards, an alchemy recipe, and several alchemical components. All quite detailed and prepared in English.

Sonir and his potions
Just before the game started, there was an intro speech which was also nicely done. One more time, the basic info about the setting and rules were repeated, to make sure everyone remembers as much as possible. Key characters were introduced. If you haven't read the setting linked above, it's basically happening in a medieval German-like state in a Warhammer Fantasy-influenced world.

And then the game started. It was a rather low-intensity for a start, basically it started as a simulation of a village life, with a newly-arrived caravan and a monastery on top of it. Some stuff created an atmosphere of mystery - personal stories of travelers, or the disappearance of the tavern owners Dragomir and Abigail (their players didn't show up, so it was immediately spun into a mystery). Others was just people going about their daily lives. I was playing an alcoholic herbalist by the name of Bogdan, trying to sell his potions to earn enough money to earn for some booze. I got lucky because Horst Lindemann, the brewmaster, wanted to procure some for his experiments to do a very special brew. I drunk a lot (of juice which simulated alcohol - getting boozed is not appreciated there), helped some people a bit, wobbled around, and ascended the way to the monastery on my knees (because it was more holy that way). Brother Ignatz was acting somewhat funky. And there was more.

A potion with an effect card tied to it
Despite it being rather low-intensity (as there was not much drama yet), people did not drop much out of character that I could see (that was probably one of the benefits of not speaking Hungarian - not realizing if they're speaking in character or not). But I have to say that most players, even when they would speak Hungarian between themselves, switched to English when they saw me or Siro nearby, or just thought that we might be nearby enough to overhear what they were saying (the in-character explanation was simple: English wasn't like another language, it was like a dub-over). They certainly made a huge effort to make us feel welcome and really integrated into larp, despite outnumbering us 15 to 1.

Kildar as Abbot Konrad of Hartwigstein
At the dusk, a sermon was held in the monastery which was a quite nice moment. Afterwards, the local wealthy guy called Felix Ostermann decided to throw one of his feasts, but it was cut short by a sudden appearance of a Chaos daemon, demanding the blood of the Abbot. It was almost dark then, so we only saw a silhouette of someone standing on the cliff edge above us, against only a slightly brighter sky... with a right hand twice the size of what it should be, ending in a nasty claw.

It is then when the attempts on Abbot's life - and other strange events started. All ending in either a connection to Chaos or a dead body. Eventually, all the monks received strange visions and Abbot Konrad was murdered by brother Ignatz...

Daemon started appearing more often (usually with Konrad's spirit), killing a few people (me included, though my character died not long before the game ended) and basically made a very effective harrier. He was played by Ashi who really knows the terrain well and is a bit of a stuntman and a daredevil (OK, more than a bit) - when he attacked us at the top of the monastery, he jumped down in darkness in what looked like certain hospital time for the rest of us should we dare to follow him...

Not all of it was dark and gloomy though - there were plenty of bright moments, such as antics of the two surviving monks, a seductive tavern wench, and others - and some deep moments with some characters facing their tough past and uncertain future. In the end, the Abbot's journal was eventually found, deciphered, and the connection between him and the daemon was finally understood - and the daemon was banished back to the Realm of Chaos... The event was finished. It was party time again for the rest of the night.

The morning had us packing, going downhill to the parking lot and meeting everyone on a post-larp lunch in the Burger King (on that same parking lot). It was there where we said most of our goodbyes, and started our return trip to Croatia...

Though plenty of things didn't go as planned (or they were late) and the cancellation rate was high, I'd say it was a very good larp, made even more awesome by people who were on it and made us feel really welcome. The amount of preparation to translate all the necessary game materials to English, and the willingness of others to play that way is really awesome. Larp costs for this larp were quite low (except for fuel, but that one was manageable too), and this was a larp I'll certainly remember and return to.

There are two photo galleries up at the moment, mine and Sonir's, so check them out.


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