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Drachenfest 2013

The fourth banner is on the night watch this evening in the Copper camp. The gate guard, who perform that job during the day, are now resting, while we take the shifts. Mine is the first one, probably the busiest one yet the easiest one to stay awake on. People are on top of the gate, scouting, and I'm below near the gate with other soldiers guarding the entrance and helping to check the documents.

Night life seems to be busy. Once the soldiers are done fighting and the air chills to the more comfortable levels, everybody else comes out and mingle. Yet this evening something is wrong. The order comes from above, and we're in lockdown - nobody comes in or out. Priests come out in droves, searching for the cursed dolls around the camp and warning us not to touch them if we encounter any.

Some high positioned people can't go in or out, and that's a problem. Yet we are under orders, and we're not letting them out. Lady Zoe tries to push through. Avatar was angry with her for some reason, and it's probably not a good idea to inquire why. We stop her from passing through. Also, Lady Iskierka is angry that we're not letting her through. But the order and the way of things protect us, as they should.

We get new orders. Regulations are a bit relaxed for some. Then we get an unexpected visit - a Black Avatar! We let her in, and show her the way to our Avatar, a new one since the Great Copper Dragon chose to manifest itself in female form this year.

Eventually, the situation calms down and normal traffic is re-estabilished. The Black Avatar goes out. Soon, my shift is done. I wash up a bit and head to sleep... alarm sounds, a battle before our gates. Black, our allies, are fighting an opposing force. And our Imperator is out! I storm out of the camp with a squad and reinforce their lines. We stand still, and with the help of Black mages who break their lines with their spells we push through, fighting our way through the night and pushing the Green back. I cut one down, but got wounded in my left arm. I'm close to the Imperator and we make a run for... something, I didn't hear it well, but we're passing next to the ritual circle. As we're running, something cuts me down from behind and I fall down.

Two soldiers from my camp found me, barely conscious, and pulled me back to the camp to our Lazaret, the sickbay. My neck wound - too ugly for stitching - is cauterized by a hot iron and left unbandaged. My arm is stitched, placed into a splint and bandaged. I was helped to the bed and told to return in the morning for another look at these wounds...

Returning to Drachenfest this year was a very different feeling than visiting it for the first time. Now there was no overwhelming feeling of awe that I had the last time that accompanied an event a hundred times more populous than what I used to call big events in Croatia. Now there was no culture shock that came with larping with vastly different goals in mind than what I was used to. This time I knew what awaited me, and I knew a lot of people in my camp. I was excited, ready for all challenges that awaited me. Ready to give my blood for Copper - a camp of religious fanatics organized in a way similar to the Star Wars Empire or the Warhammer Empire.

Once again I traveled with my wife, son and a friend (not the same one as last year - this one was from Serbia) for two epic weeks in Germany - Drachenfest and Conquest immediately a week after. After a long drive to the location of the larp terrain (close to Diemelstadt) we unloaded our stuff and went on to say hi to people we knew.

One of the first differences we noted were the changes this year. Silver and Black camps switched places. There was only one Chaos camp, and the Orc camp was staffed by different people than the last year (the old Orc camp switched to Epic Empires, third largest larp in Germany, which started a day prior to publishing this article). Triumvirat split off the Gold Camp, and lodged itself between Red and Blue, taking the old gate with them while Gold got a new, epic looking gate.

There were more tiny changes. There was no Copper party at the start of the larp, but the Blue camp threw one instead. We also had a different avatar. Camp layout was slightly different, and our camp did not seem as fanatical as last year, screaming our shouts less often (and we changed a few of them). Thinking about it, some major changes would probably be easier to adapt to than this plethora of small changes.

Several things didn't change, and one of them is weather. Most of the time on Drachenfest it's either hot - the sun burns so much that you feel like you're probably developing a cancer - or it's a thunderstorm. It can change from one to another and then back again in a span of only a few minutes. We had several storms, and the ground of our camp was a field on which this year nothing was planted. The ground there was bare and incredibly sticky when wet - and dangerous to walk on fast, so we got some hay to put it on the ground of the central fighting place to make it safer.

Our camp politics changed. Last year Copper was alone against everyone, however this time we were in a huge alliance with Black, Red, Gold and Triumvirat against Blue, Green, Silver and Grey. Blue camp won the Drachenfest last year, so this was the year of the Blue dragon - they had their coins minted, their colors flying in the city etc. Last year was the year of the Gold dragon (who won in 2011). This year, the Black dragon won - only one dragon egg ahead of the Silver one - winning this year's Drachenfest, and making the next year the year of the Black dragon. The number of dragon eggs decide the winner in the end, and the dragon eggs are awarded for various deeds (attack, defense, rituals etc.). But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Ich rufe in diesen Kreis, um sich dem Streit zu stellen...
Opening and closing rituals were epic as always, with fire performance before the opening (as well as a performance by some dancers from the Blue camp and the scene when all Orcs got out of their camp with lit torches which looked amazing). All dragon avatars are presented one by one in the Ritual Circle, and most players are there cheering for their dragon. They display affection, respect, hostility or other stuff towards other avatars, and they make a nice show. The opening ritual is not really on the opening - it's on Wednesday evening, while Copper starts role-playing Tuesday evening, and other camps start Wednesday morning.

In this environment which repeats itself every year - dragon eggs, dragon camps, fighting to rule the world for the next year etc. - most things (apart from the avatars themselves) are player-organized and rather sandboxy.

Our altar this year - three dragon eggs are visible on the right, and dragon egg carrying chest in the middle
Camp life is a large part of the Drachenfest experience, and that's very visible in the central square which is almost always busy. People doing their stuff, soldiers resting in the soldier tent (where we could get some water and sometimes coffee or tea), and many places with specific functions (such as the sickbay, temple, library etc.) which are nearby. We even had a store where you could buy symbols of your dedication to the Copper dragon for the in-game currency.

Apart from this, there was fighting - and a lot of it. Especially for me as a soldier. Drachenfest is a huge fighting place, and Copper fights often. We took parts in fights big and small, but one of my favorite ones was a night battle against Chaos in front of our camp. I just got back to tent and took my armor off, when they yelled the alarm. I picked up the sword and ran for the gate. In front of the camp there was a group of Chaos attacking us - we ran out and gave them a good fight. I had a duel with a huge Chaos guy who missed me a couple of times with his huge warhammer while I hacked at him - and he hit me once, I flew away some distance and rolled in the ground. Got up, jumped him, and slayed him with a dagger. Tried to do the same to an orc (as I was surrounded by that point) but they got me defeated... Excellent duels, excellent role-play, I love fighting against these guys (even though we hate them in character) because they play nicely and take their shots (it's similar with orcs too).

Sitting after the battle
This year, I managed to do more stuff than the last year when I could have done little more than playing soldier. I put in some time to train with the Fighter's Guild in the town, at which point I got a very interesting experience - the Red Avatar came out of the temple, pissed at something there, he saw me train and actually came to us, pissed (apparently, that's his natural state) and corrected my stance and strikes. Someone commented: "We still live... he's in a good mood".

Don't mess with the Red Avatar (or his daughter)
I also did some quests in camp for our commander. During one of those I actually learned herbalism, and the entire new world of how things work there opened itself to me. I spent two mornings going to the forest to gather some herbs (which are represented with cocktail umbrellas, or paper tokens which are replaced for umbrellas by the GM if you encounter a herb colony). A walk in the forest was nice and refreshing compared to the heat of the field, and I was sort of surprised by the fact that nobody tried to attack me or rob me of my herbs. There was some other content in the forest - once I encountered a party of Copper and Black soldiers who just returned from disrupting some ritual. I gathered a number of herbs which surprised our alchemists - got myself some in-character cash and a healing potion, and delivered it all just in time to get ready for the big battle.

Martin as Gareyth and his two daughters

Of course, Drachenfest was full of other people whom I know, in other camps. There was Grand Expedition in the Gold camp, run by Rick and Anja - and Martin as Gareyth was with them. No longer working in Slovenia, he will be missed from Croatian fantasy larps. Green camp had the Slovenian trio, the same ones as the last year, while Blue camp had four Hungarians from Chronicles of Demgard (who also play on Terra Nova).

The big battle is the high point of Drachenfest. A battle of thousands, it's very impressive. We didn't last as long this year as we did the last year but the fight was fun - against Orcs and Chaos, our traditional enemies whom we taunted in the passing. Plus someone attacked us from behind. Oh well. At least we had the showers first, and our alliance won anyway.

After that it was basically over, so it was time for some silly fun before the closing ceremony. Playing with props, eating, dancing, playing an interesting ninja game derived from the German larp phenomenon Tyren Nightfire, cracking jokes etc... Like last year, we stayed for an extra day before we left for ConQuest, watching everyone leave, saying goodbyes and hanging out with others who stayed.

Being a part of the Drachenfest 2013 in the Copper camp was unforgettable. This time I got my orientation around so I was able to do more than the last year. Seeing faces old and new, playing with them again in an experience which is similar, yet very different from the one I had last year. But one thing is certain: Drachenfest is an experience few others can match.

Full gallery available here.


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