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Interview: Rick Wynne

To put it simply, Rick is one of the most awesome, friendly and helpful larpers I've ever met. The first time I contacted him was in April 2011, as someone who's interested in going to Drachenfest. Rick was just starting the Grand Expedition to Drachenfest and Mythodea, which is nowadays probably the best-known English-speaking group on those two larps. We didn't go in 2011, but we met him live when we went there this year. I was not in the Expedition (Petar and Martin were), but I did get to meet Rick and spend some time with him and the Expedition. Anyways, Rick is awesome - get him a drink if you see him.

Apart from the Grand Expedition - which is probably a topic of interest to everyone who wants to visit Drachenfest and ConQuest of Mythodea, has trouble speaking German and would like the RP involved - Rick is also involved with the newest, upcoming big UK larp, Empire. Find out more below...

1. Thank you for your time! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a Yankee crimefighting superhero from NY, living in the UK. Following a colorful career in the US Army and the National Guard of three different states, as well as a patchwork of private security related jobs, I have landed a post as a Constable in the Service of the Queen of Great Britain. Imagine that.
2. How did you start larping? Which was the first larp you went to?
That's tough to say, because it depends on what you consider larp. I was in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) back in the States in the late 90's and was into historical re-enacting even earlier than that. Depending on how you consider some of the military simulation (milsim paintball) games I've been involved with, you can push that back all the way to the late 80's. Even then we wanted more than just to shoot paintguns at people. My mates and I wanted plot, story, props and setting. You could say we were larping before we knew what the term meant.
3. When and why did you decide to organize The Grand Expedition?
In 2010 I went to Drachenfest and Mythodea for the first time. I went on my own. It was a daunting experience but I had a great time, thanks to the help of a German I met on the Mythodea forums. The events were so amazing I wanted to share that experience with people and knew that they would need help, just like I did. So late 2010 I began forming a group concept called, "The Grand Expedition".

4. What can the Expedition offer its members?
The most important thing we offer is a home away from home. We are like a family. With my military experience, I am quite adept at organizing and leading people. My partner Anja handles the "personal touch" aspect. We make a great team and together we ensure Expeditionaries are taken care of in regards to their basic needs, shelter, food, medicine. You might call us the Father and Mother of the group. In addition to a great place to stay, the Expedition helps people enjoy things outside our Mead Hall. We have established an excellent reputation both "in-character" and "out of character". Once people realize a person is an Expeditionary, often doors are opened into different aspects of the game world. And of course there are the financial benefits. Group purchasing gives us powerful negotiating leverage. Bulk buying means we can reduce the costs to the individual members.
5. Where do you stand in-character on Drachenfest and ConQuest?
At Drachenfest we are part of the Gold Camp, which is known for its stance on "Justice". This somewhat "neutral" stance allows for a broad range of character types to be welcome in the camp, which is perfect for the large, international aspect of the Expedition. We have traditionally filled the role of a valued military unit for the Gold Camp Army but our members are welcomed in most camps.
Whereas at Mythodea we definitely are not known for being neutral! Our patron at the ConQuest is Collin, Archon of the West. There is little neutrality tolerated in the war against the Forsaken Elements! Whilst we do form a part of the military forces of the West, Mythodea is a much more "individual" experience compared to Drachenfest. This makes a nice change for our members who do both events.
At both events the Expedition is heavily involved in the various guilds and political organizations. Less so the religious side of things but there is always room to further develop that if we get a member that wants to explore that part of the games.
6. How is the Grand Expedition organized and how difficult it is to organize it?
We've modeled the Expedition in part on the Companions of Whiterun in Skyrim, in part on a more traditional "dark age warband" and somewhat on the British East India Company. Most of the work organizing the Expedition is done online, in particular on Facebook and Skype. It is very difficult to organize and I spend a part of just about every day working on the project. Raising money, recruiting people, making purchases, talking to event organizers, writing plot... giving interviews.

The Grand Expedition on Drachenfest. Regulars to Croatian larps will find a few familiar faces here...
7. 2013. will be the third year in a row for the Expedition. Do you have any plans yet for the future of the Expedition beyond next year?
Someday I hope to turn the Expedition professional and make it my full time job. I want to explore more of the international larp scene and help people come to realize that larp is more than just "Role Models". I am anticipating moving to Germany in 2013, if that happens then I will also likely be organizing an Expedition to attend the Profound Decision's larp Empire in the UK.
8. You were also an in-character GM on ConQuest 2012. How did that work out, considering you were also running the Expedition?
Being an in-character GM at ConQuest was a lot of work. It was fun, but I believe I took on just a bit too much with the starting up of the Wayfarers' Arrival camp. It was a new idea and some players didn't quite get the concept as it was designed. I learned a lot from the Live Adventure game team, they are some amazingly professional people. I'm thankful to have had the opportunity but in the end I decided that it was distracting me too much from my core mission of running the Expedition.
9. Apart from Drachenfest and Mythodea, which other larps do you regularly visit? In Germany, UK or elsewhere?
I've played a number of larps in the UK over the years. I have probably spent the majority of my larp time at Curious Pastimes in the UK. But I did try Profound Decisions' Maelstrom and the Lorien Trust Gathering.

10. Overall, which larps would you consider favorite and why?
My favorite has been Dumnonni, a very immersive low fantasy Dark Ages game. Right now though alot of my time is going into Profound Decisions new larp for 2013, Empire. I'm on the design team (in a very small role) and its amazing seeing the game develop. There are so many gifted artists working on the project. I've learned quite a bit about game design and its been fun to be a part of it.
I am obviously a huge fan of Drachenfest and Mythodea. They are both very different games but they share a sense of scale that is truly amazing. So many awesome people brought together for such a special experience. I'd live at the events if I could.
11. How would you compare larps and larp scenes between USA, UK and Germany?
I've not been to an official larp in the States. I was in the SCA, and whilst I consider it a form of larp, I'm pretty sure many SCAdians would disagree. I've got some American larp mates and it seems to me that American larp is often more about the combat and less about the role play. There is often not the same push for immersion that you'd see in Europe. I find UK larp to be more competitive and rules heavy than German larp. But there are great people in all over the world larping. We are all more alike than different.
12. You're involved with Profound Decisions' newest upcoming big larp - Empire LRP. Can you give us some basic information about what the Empire LRP will be?
Empire is a festival sized larp (roughly 1000+) participants in a closed world medieval fantasy setting. It is primarily low fantasy with some elements of high fantasy. It has a mix of PvP and PvE game play with big battles and very competitive economic, political and religious elements. It has a working economy, player led government and magic. Immersion is important, so there are kit guidelines and a push to have in-character tents where possible. Part of my role is to help make the town feel more alive with a cool market atmosphere where craftsfolk will not just be selling things but actually making things on site.

13. What will Empire try to achieve? What are its goals? How will it be different from other larps?
Empire is all about having fun. Our goal is to create a believable fantasy world where you can suspend your disbelief for the event and find the game you are looking for, whatever your personal taste is. Inspired but what we have seen done at other larps we hope to help people aspire to great kit, great set dressing and great role playing. There will be a basic downtime system, so choices you make for what happens between events can impact your experience at the next event. There will be character development, so as you spend time playing your character evolves. We hope to have a strong rule of law in the town, so the random toilet muggings experienced at other large events should not be such an issue. We are hoping that the players "buy into" our idea that whilst PvP combat is possible in the town, the laws will make it as rare and that people will focus on political, economic and religious competition. Character assassination will not be so much with a dagger as it will be bankrupting your enemies, humiliating them in the Senate, or getting them excommunicated!
14. How are you involved in it?
Technically I'm on the marketing team. I was brought in because of my experience in the international larping community. But I've stuck my nose in other departments, especially the art department. I've had one of the best weekends of my life participating in our trailer video which is due out soon.

15. A couple of months ago you have mentioned that you were planning to organize something similar to the Grand Expedition, but for the foreigners who wish to attend Empire LRP. Can you give us some more details on that?
I am still working on the details. It depends a lot on my possible move to Germany. All I can say is "watch this space".
16. How is larp accepted in UK by people who don't larp?
I would say larp is still "geeky".... but geek is chic. I get grief from some historical re-enactors but many others are coming to accept larp as another fun hobby. Game of Thrones has helped immensely. I am hoping that as the public becomes more and more in love with things like Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit films that medieval fantasy larp will grow in popularity. As it is role playing is being used more commonly in training at the workplace so its something that people can understand.

17. In your opinion, what would be the most important thing that makes a good larp?
The most important thing is good people. I love great costumes and props but you still need good people who want to role play to have a good larp. Kit just helps make a good event great.
18. What do you find most enjoyable in a larp?
What I love are those special moments when just for a second you know its not real, but it could be. Larpgasms I call them. I've had more of them running the Expedition than I have had anywhere else. Giving a speech in the Mead Hall, carrying the body of a fallen Expeditionary back for his funeral, leading the troops in battle.
But also, what I love is seeing people having a good time. And that is the main reason why I put the Expedition together, so that I can hear all the stories of how much fun people had during the trip. When the pictures get posted up and people tell their stories. That is a real sense of accomplishment.
19. Would you visit a larp in Croatia?
Definitely! I am hoping the move to Germany will let me much more of the international larps, and I have enough Croatian friends to make me keen to come and play!

Rick and Anja


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