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Interview: Ognjeni Mač OzOI candidates for next year

Ognjeni Mač is the biggest larp group in Croatia. Since last year, it's games have been organized by a plot team of three, called OzOI, which is short for "Odbor za Organizaciju Igre" (Board for Game Organization) and which gets re-elected every year. The last year's OzOI was Lovro Radovčić, Andrija Urban and Pavle Pelikan (later replaced by Petar Ratković). In 2012 new (and currently active) OzOI was selected, consisting of Mladen Miletić, Andrej Mihajlović and Fran Putar.

We already got four candidates who plan to run for 2013 OzOI elections: Damjan Gavran, Petar Janković, Ines Josić and Tijana Migić (in alphabetical order). Of the four candidates (at the moment of writing), three will be eventually elected. The task of the OzOI members is a demanding one - next year they'll have to co-organize Crolarp 2013, run Jaska larps (one or two), Maksimir larps, and possibly some more. They'll have to come up with the storyline, decide how larps are run and what else do they want to do with them.

It's a lot of responsibility and a lot of work, but it's an opportunity for every member of Ognjeni Mač who wishes to run for the position to share his or her ideas and shape where Ognjeni Mač larps go next... What will Ognjeni Mač larps look like next year? Let's ask those who will likely run them, Damjan, Petar, Ines and Tijana...

1. Can you tell us something about yourself?

Damjan: Hi, my name is Damjan. I'm a student and a gaming junkie.

Petar: Well, my name is Petar Janković, I am 29 years old, and at the moment, I am working on finishing my masters degree in computer education and archival sciences. Apart from larp, my hobbies include all sorts of gaming (mostly pen & paper these days, with Pathfinder being top), airsoft, music, movies, etc. I was born and raised in Zagreb, and larping has been a long time hobby for me.

Ines: My name is Ines Josić, I'm 24 years old and I'm ginger. Okay, not a real one but I like good jokes, obviously. And yes I HAVE a soul.
I'm on Polytechnic of Zagreb, studying Electrical engineering. Yes, I'm a girl. I like books, music, boardgames, pen & paper games, all other geeky stuff, dancing, cooking, making costumes, hiding in woods and I'm really, really loud.

Tijana: I'm a fashion designer who dislikes most of today’s fashion, I love making costumes, sewing unique pieces of clothing, drawing and painting fantasy related (and any other) art, and making things myself in general.

2. How long have you been larping? Which was your first larp ever?

Damjan: I have been larping for several years. If I remember correctly, my first LARP was Jaska 2.

Petar: Wow, thats a long time, My first larp ever was Kutina Summer Session, I believe in 2002, where I joined because you, Ivan, spent the past year blabbering how larp was cool, since you started only one year before that. :D I think that year was awesome because we had a full newbie group of some 12 or so people who all went there, had a good time, and came back full of stories, laughs, and different adventures. That one larp made my mind up that I want to continue doing this, and that I want to help make larping a better expirience for everyone involved.

Ines: I started larping two years ago. My first larp was a one day event on Maksimir. I played a few more of them, before going to my first longer event, Jaska VIII.

Tijana: I’ve been larping for a year and a half now, I started with a Maksimir larp in March of 2011.

3. Have you had previous experience in running larps? Or other RPGs? What did you run?

Damjan: I ran two events and hosted one feast. Besides larp, I have been runing DND campaigns for almost 8 years now.

Petar: Well, I had only a bit of larp organization experience, back when the groups were far less organized, and people had to jump in with additional plotlines to fill in the gaps when people wrapped up quest plots too soon. It was a different time for larping in Croatia. Far less complex, a very small number of events per year, with a large number of people from diverse groups coming in. And for more recent events, Ines and myself ran the feast that was a wake for her character and a suicide for my own char, with the help of the current OzOI, and of course, a big thank you to Fran for hosting the event at his home.

Ines: I organized a feast with Petar last weekend, it was my debut as an organizer and, as far as comments on Facebook and forums go, a complete success. With other RPGs I have quite a history. I ran several PbF's (Play by Forum), most of them Tolkien inspired. I also ran an alternative PbF set in Victorian London with a lot of gears, steam, weird inventions and of course more gears. :)
I ran a number of PnP (Pen and Paper) Campagins, how many exactly I can't remember. Modern day, future or historic earth, fantastic worlds written by great minds, or a whole new place that I've created in my own imagination.

Tijana: I’ve run short D&D and Warhammer FRP campaigns.

4. Apart from Ognjeni Mač larps, which other larps have you visited?

Damjan: I haven't had much free time to visit other larps :(

Petar: I visited old Kutina Summer Sessions Regularly from my earliest beginnings, also, Motovun larps up until they got cancelled, I visited the Fortress of light in Osijek once, and I was at Rajski Vrhovi numerous times, both when they first started, and lately, also, I was at Lubena once, and apart from that I visited Bukulja larp in Serbia twice, and I'd like to try and attend Vlarp and Šabac larp next year, and any other Serbian larps I might catch. A side note, I also was npc-ing at the Terra Nova feast. Also, this year I was at Drachenfest and Conquest of Mythodea in Germany, which was a truly breathtaking experience. Next, I plan on attending some Czech larps and to try and connect our larp scene with the Czech scene, since I'll be there a lot.

Ines: So far: Terra Nova feast, Rajski vrhovi, Utvrda Svjetlosti, feast in Istočna Anarhija and of course Crolarp. Sadly I couldn't go to some events I wanted. The events that I really want to see next season are: VLarp, Majčin Gaj, Steampunk and at least one Lateralus event.

Tijana: Only the larp on Rajski Vrhovi and Krvomeđe. Mostly I had to give up on visiting other larps due to (no) finances.

5. Which was your favorite larp ever?

Damjan: This is a hard one. I will have to go with my first event ever, Jaska 2. It was just a completely new experience for me, I had a great time and in my opinion it is still one of the best event so far.

Petar: Well, I have to say Drachenfest this year was something to be seen. Conquest of Mythodea was also great, but If I'd really have to choose, I'd go with this year's Crolarp, Jaska 8, or my first Kutina ever. I really cant make up my mind, since all of these events had that personal experience, which really gave me the opportunity to flesh out my character, to build on existing character relations, build new ones, and so forth. They were all very intense, both physically and mentally, but also, extremely rewarding. The kind of larp after which you go home and you have a grin on your face for the next couple of days/weeks? That kind of feeling.

Ines: It is really hard to tell, all larps have something differrent and special. If I have to choose I would say Jaska IX.

Tijana: I’ll have to say it was the Jaska in October 2011. I think it’s mostly because it lasted just enough to tire us all out, and then it didn’t continue so there was no sleep deprived zombie players. There should be more 24 hour events.

6. Could you name some larps which have particularly inspired you?

Damjan: Mostly Crolarp and Jaska 10, because of the story, NPCs, way it was organized, number of people, quests, etc.

Petar: Inspiring? I'd say that German larps (Drachenfest and Conquest of Mythodea) really made me see what I want to bring closer to the local groups. Not in sheer size and scale, but the extra effort put into roleplaying, the details, and the general attitude towards larping itself. My intention is to try and make our larp world more immersive, to make the NPC's even more constant and believeable, and to make the plotlines even more personal.

Ines: I can't really point a finger at it, because this whole season I've studied how other GMs organize their events (good things and bad) so I could prepare myself for the next season.

Tijana: Any larp inspires me, or to specify, certain events inspire me. Like the wraith’s dungeon on CroLarp, or the attacks of the lycans in the foggy forrest… scenes like that.

7. What did you like about this year's OzOI's way of organizing larps?

Damjan: Great storytelling. The soul of any larp or other rpg is a great story which drives the people to continue playing and this is the first time I have seen such a story in larp. Every single event was connected, sometimes in a way none could have understood until the very end, and when all pieces of the puzzle were put together it was mind-blowing.

Petar: This year's OzOI really made an effort to build on character development, but pack it all into an epic storyline. Jaska 10 was one of the finest larp expiriences ever, and Crolarp was great as well. The storyline with the shades and the wraith were great and very powerful, in the sense that they added a lot of tension even when action and the threat was not present physically. There were some really fun NPC's, and I liked the way they really made an effort in having them constant, and to make the world of Bergamot/Dragoncourt seem like a living, breathing place. We intend to build upon that, and expand their ideas further, with adding our own stuff into the mix.

Ines: In how many words? We could talk about the season for hours, but I'll say the most important things.
I liked the pace and the breaks for lunch. PvP was active all the time but the NPCs left us to have at least a few hours of sleep each night and a proper meal. Also, they were available all the time in their camp or on cellphone, and some logistic things were improved during this season.
The thing that I liked the most was the fact that the whole story was intertwined with various character backstories and events from past larps. People who wanted to play and get involved with the quests got what they wanted.

Tijana: I didn’t meddle with ways of the OzOI as long as it didn’t concern me, so I can say only a player’s perspective on this. I liked that players were allowed to sleep (without monster attacks) on big events during the late night and morning. I think that’s one of the crucial things for a good event, because grumpy sleepy players just make a mess. Lack of great big monsters (like the dragon) that no one can seemingly kill was refreshing, there was a lot of nature-related monsters and phenomenon which fit in with the forest environment nicely and it was easy to imagine it all being real.

8. What did you like about last year's OzOI's way of organizing larps?

Damjan: I was not impresed with the story, but I liked how they managed to still pull out a great year. Events were fun, npcs were great, there was a lot of effort put into that year and overall it was fun.

Petar: Last year, we had a lot more action, and I really liked the whole storyline with the dragon Hrašćelukavski. It really triggered a massive avalanche of political intrigue within our game. Our intention is to try and focus even more on roleplay, and intercharacter relations, with action being more in the manner of this year's OzOI. The first OzOI did a great job, and they triggered all the tripwires, and paved the way for this year's OzOI, and of course, our own OzOI, which will hopefully, be elected after new year.

Ines: I have a feeling that last years OzOI had more one day events, especially during the summer. I liked the frequent battlegames for training. Also I must give them a commendation for working in fall weather conditions, masks and costumes. And of course I liked the UOM organized meals.

Tijana: My memory is kinda bad, and it was my first year of larping. Everything was new and exciting for me, I hated that I was constantly afraid that my character will die, but it was damn fun in the same time.

9. What do you identify as key problems with Ognjeni Mač larps?

Damjan: Democracy. Sadly, it is a tool used by fools to act as idiots and often argue with each other due to the ''equality and freedom of speach''. It is just too abused.

Petar: Well, problems is a hard word. I would say that Ognjeni Mač larps just have a lot of room to develop even further. We need to work even more on character development, focusing on fleshing out characters as best possible. Also, the costumes have come a long way within the last year or two, but there is always room for improvement in that department as well. Within the past few years, Ognjeni Mač has had a rebirth, and a steady influx of older players coming back, as well as new people joining. I think its a trend we need to keep up, and nothing works better than making awesome larp events. Problem we have is communication with some of the other groups. And I believe we should work on that. Too many people still cling to old disputes. Its been over two years since we've taken out the trash, now, it should be smooth sailing, and great larp events for all players.

Ines: Honestly? All groups have the same problem and that is too much bad blood from the past between some players and groups.
Situations and people change, and we should all work together to improve Croatian larp. Ognjeni Mač doesn't have any big problems as far as I'm concerned, but every group has has it's minor problems, and so does UOM. It will take time but hopefully we will solve them soon. I can say  that in our larps there is material for different kinds of players, characters and stories. And I sincerely ask everyone to forget the past and to come and see what we have to offer now.

Tijana: People playing to ‘win’ and not to understand the storyline. Most of the players want to be individual heroes and not to group up and join forces. The inability of one to stop thinking about other player’s abilities according to what they are playing. The offgame ‘hate’ because of the ingame quarrels…

Tijana Migić

10. How do you plan to improve the current situation?

Damjan: Since I am not very good a crafting equipment, I will stick to what I do best, which is storytelling. Over the last two years, many older quests and stories were completed and I believe that we are finally ready for a fresh start. I also wish to improve our world(since I believe that there is a lot of improving and detailing to do) and the way PCs interact with it and shape it. Give them a bit more freedom and a bigger understanding of the consequences of their actions.

Petar: For other situations, I think we just need to get closer to other local and regional groups so we can build more cohesion with plots and stories. Also, visiting other group larps is extremely important, sort of like a foreign exchange of larpers. New groups very often mean new people to meet, new ideas, new stories, and for me at least, inspiration on how to improve my own game and my group.

Ines: The current situation is pretty good. The players and NPCs costumes get much better, partly thanks to HNK's costume donations and partly because of some player's determination. Also the relationships with other larp groups and player exchange improved this year, and I plan to work on it next year  as well.

Tijana: I plan to give my best to help with the costumes since visual credibility is half of RP. And rest of the issues I’d try to fix as I walk into them, though most of the things I disliked in the question before are mostly up to players to fix.

11. What will be different next year?

Damjan: As I have mentioned above, the players will be given a bit more freedom and the world will start making much more sense.

Petar: Next year, we will attempt to learn from all the experience of previous two OzOI's and to implement our own style into the mix. You can expect a lot of NPC's, a lot of drama and RP, and action, of course. You can expect great larp events, where we will try to do our best to give you a living, breathing world to experience. Even better NPC costumes, even more plot hooks, and I think every larping enthusiast should check it out.

Ines: Why would I tell you that? You'll have to come and see. I'll give you just one hint: we want to make you all play and experience the game like you are part of the world.

Tijana: More female npc’s? =) I think next year will be fun and exciting and full of random characters which will help the players understand the plot.

12. Do you already have a storyline in mind?

Damjan: Several. The main story is already done :)

Petar: Yes, a few ideas were discussed and outlined among our team, but we cant make a solid plan until after we are elected, and we review the report from this year, and see all the loose ends, and the background stories of certain events. Only then we can begin building a solid storyline. However, we are not lacking in the ideas department. Being experienced gamers and larpers, I think the players for next year should have a great time larping.

Ines: Of course I have, or better to say we have. I have already discussed some story ideas with Petar and some costume and NPC creations with Tijana and I'll be really glad to work with them.  Of course, we'll start with more detailed plans after the election in January.

Tijana: Oh man, I think there’s already a bunch of stories all over our minds, once we choose the final OzOI team we’ll have to sit down together and filter the good ones out.

Damjan Gavran


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