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Rajski Vrhovi XXI review

Most larp campaigns in Croatia so far died before they reached a double digit number of weekend events, and only a few had reached their teens. Rajski Vrhovi, running continuously from 2004., had their 21st event this weekend.

The history of Rajski Vrhovi is now long and complex. It was started by a group of enthusiasts, many of whom formed a core of the Amtgard chapter of Krvomedje when the latter was formed. On this blog you'll find reviews of all Rajski Vrhovi events from 15 onwards, except for the Rajski Vrhovi XX this June on which I was not present because it was on a weekend between Terra Nova and Demgard.

The organizational model, however, evolved in that time - the group of organizers spread, and the larp now stands on its' own, introducing expanded organizer team, permanent death (since last year) and latex weapons (since this event). Despite that, they remain the most "classic" event around, representing the structure and playstyle that has existed since first Croatian larps.

Due to personal reasons I was not able to be on Rajski Vrhovi camping for the full weekend, so instead I just came on the main day: I would arrive in the morning and leave at some point at night. So after a hearty breakfast at home, drinking a large pot of Turkish coffee and starting later than I hoped to (oh well), I was finally on my way, stopping only at the store to buy myself a balanced meal plan of for the day (actually bananas and beer).

Or so I thought. I regretted the massive amounts of coffee I had as I had to stop on the mountain road and take a leak. Only to be noticed by fellow players who also traveled up there at the same time who noticed me and thought something must be wrong with my car, so they turned back to see if I need help... oh well. Sometimes funny (or embarrasing) stories happen while you're traveling.

I took no photos, and nobody who did has them up at this point.
Things were not overly different from other RV events though,
so enjoy this stock photo of the terrain instead or check
older reviews to see what Rajski Vrhovi look like.

Despite the fact I arrived later, everybody was still out of character. Even when I dressed up. Asking other players how it was the last night, those I asked were not pleased: apparently, there was minimal RP, plenty of off-game time, rain which soaked some tents and... interestingly enough, the Night Hunt battlegame, which has not been organized in a while. While the days were warm, the night temperatures dropped to just above freezing. In mid-August. But yeah, that's the mountain weather.

Talking to some friends in the remote camp, it came to my attention that not only the larp started but suddenly nobody was in camp anymore. I got recruited to play a skeleton NPC for a while. We walked for a long time, climbed uphill across the slippery ground and ended up in front of the players near the hilltop, and a mysterious hooded figure near some altar. Suddenly, a GM declared that the earth has opened and swallowed us. Which was quite an unsatisfactory result for all that walking and climbing, especially since we expected there would be some fight. And we didn't see the scene, since the next thing that happened is that we went downhill... We did set up an ambush though, and had a good fight with a few players so at least that happened.

Getting back to my own character, Luc, I met some other characters with whom I haven't interacted in over a year - he was shelved but now I'm playing it again due to a variety of politics about characters which took place lately. I took a chance to look around. I didn't really count, but there were some 40-ish players separated in three camps. A major faction were the players from the city of Osijek, who arrived in large numbers. There were plenty players who were not present at other fantasy larps. And many players who started their characters at Ognjeni Mač, but after their reset of the world continued playing those characters here. So it was a colorful bunch of characters.

At this moment I was already beginning to be slightly annoyed at the story. Undead attacking for some reason, big bad guy etc. - it all reminded me of... well, most Rajski Vrhovi events I've ever seen to be honest, and I was beginning to wonder if what we're getting is only another version of the same story as pretty much everything. The way that the quest was going was rather uninspiring - "we need to find artifacts", people told me - but when asked what the purpose of the artifacts was, I got the answer "umm to banish the undead".

Yeah, I did not buy it - to say it seemed very suspicious would be an understatement. As the time progressed, it seemed there would be no plot twists to this story, which seemed to be exactly what it is and on the rails. And then came the lunch break proclaimed by GMs. Yet again, nobody would role-play for over an hour and after that it would continue where it stopped. By this time, I was already quite frustrated as most players were locked in an instanced plane and there would be little else to do except getting attacked by random skeletons that kept spawning (after the break). Luckily, apart from these times where everybody was out-of-character, people tended to stay IC during gameplay.

However, some interesting plot twists DID happen and the story slowly unfolded. The undead ended up not being necessarily bad guys, but victims of circumstance and betrayal. I have to say the Saturday afternoon part was much more enjoyable story-wise, as it was better than the usual kill-the-baddie plot. The players as well did some interesting interactions and pushed some personal agendas, and there were some interesting parts such as when a player arrived playing a goblin.

There were some issues with the plot, though nothing major for the type of the event Rajski Vrhovi are - just a bit rough around the edges. GM would at times whisper stuff in a player's ear and... he'd keep whispering. For. Quite. A. While. The rest of us waited for it to be done, because neither the player nor the GM would be available at that time. Additionally, NPCs kept threathening us with the vanguard of 30,000 undead despite having no real way of representing it other than 5-ish continuously respawning NPCs. One of the players got a Mjollnir-like hammer, which could summon thunder and lightning at will and he often used to demonstrate it... but it was all imagined, and with a simple black hammer - no special effects or at least paintwork, so it was a bit underwhelming, just as imagined ground swallowing up the undead. All of this kept happening a lot, and I found it to be a bit jarring as I want to experience stuff, not act on the narrative. Something smoother which would not break immersion or the flow of the larp would be much more preferrable in my opinion. But still, despite these issues the later part of the Saturday was way more fun than the first part of the day.

I got recruited as a skeleton again for the end fight, which I was perfectly OK with - on this larp I was looking forward to some fighting, and I got it. There was a showy part near the end of the event which saw the PC champion and the undead champion in a mock fight situation, which caused the undead to start fighting one another. And afterwards, several waves attacked the PCs until they were defeated.

After that, I said my goodbyes and went home, while most people left to continue to play, party and sleep over in their tents. I went down the mountain road in the dark, and it was wet, winding, unlit, damaged and at parts covered in ground from the last rain... and just as unfun as it sounds to drive on. Arrived safely home, took a shower and went to sleep...

Overall, the event was rough around the edges but I was pleasantly surprised with many aspects of it.

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