Character Options at College of Wizardry Anniversary: Echoes of the Past

Hi all, it’s John here from the Story team. I just wanted to throw together a little note to explain some design choices we have made for the Anniversary CoW, why we made them and what they mean to you as a player and your stories. Specifically around our desire for no active use of the Bound Arts, and no Fae NPCs.

At the centre of our thinking for this larp, was the desire to enable the return of any character from any run, whilst still providing a larp that was comprehensible and inclusive for new players and new characters. Over the years, CoW has varied wildly in its themes, feel, and level of epicness (not sure that’s even a word, but I hope you understand what I mean); and trying to meld that into a coherent single game is always going to be a challenge. 

We could, of course, have returned to an open sandbox game, and shrugged and left you to figure out the mess of timelines and conflicting realities. There is some merit in that, and it was considered, but we also realise that any new players (and many of us returning types) would be utterly confused by it, and it would risk the loudest voices imposing “their reality” on everyone else. Given the emotional investment that we all have in our stories, we felt that this would result in a bad experience for some who might feel sidelined or devalued by the reduction of their character to a “visitor” to another timeline.

We decided, then, instead, to look at a story contrivance to enable all these different characters from the Witchards universe to return. This ensures that the reality is shared, and gives us a jumping off point for the organiser-inspired plots that we’ve discovered are really valuable for larpers who are less sure about bringing their own stories. Inconsistencies abound between runs and especially the first 3 CoWs which were run as the franchise that shall not be named, and we will need to ask the returning characters from those 3 runs to slot themselves into our inclusive new world. But weaving these differing realities into our story allows us to make it a feature not a bug. 

So why no bound arts? 

Well, firstly the ask is no “active use” of the bound arts. Feel free to have them in your backstories. Your mother can be a notorious necromancer; you can have spent time under investigation for demonology; and your best friend can have vanished into a time hole through ill-advised use of chronomancy. But please don’t request your mum to show up with a cadre of ghoul sidekicks (taking angry mums to a whole new level!); your demonic patron to arrive in person to squash any rumours of wrongdoing; or your lost friend to pop back through a time portal. 

But why? Well, several reasons. Firstly, they add confusion to an already confusing situation. We are making a plot point of the fact that all these different characters are arriving at school in a jumble of half remembered timelines; if we add time-travelling characters to that too, we end up with the potential for even deeper bewilderment. We’d like the plot we’re offering to be something people can opt-into to investigate and get to the bottom of the mystery, and chronomancy in particular risks clouding things so much that it becomes impossible to do so.

We want the game to focus on characters not events. People are magic. And their stories are the most interesting ones. The love triangle that leaves hearts broken, the redemption story between a bully and their victim, or the triumph of the underdog house overcoming the odds. These stories are at the heart of College of Wizardry, and we’d prefer that the game focus on the personal than the epic. Of course, it’s a magic school, and that plays a major role in our tales, but it is about the people, not the millions of demons we met on the way.

Bound arts are bound. Of course, it’s fun to break the rules. But we have several breaches of the bound arts tradition each run. If even half of the characters involved in those breaches return for the anniversary game, we will run out of room in the dungeon and the forest for forbidden magics! There is a serious risk that the characters that don’t spend all their spare time raising the dead become the exception not the norm. 

What about the Fae?

There are probably more divisions about the “Fae” in College of Wizardry than any other subject. For some they are Cottingly faeries, resident on mushrooms at the bottom of the garden; for others they are the terrible and brutal Tuath Dé. Everyone has an opinion, and over the years at CoW they have been all of these and more. 

It is important to note, that we don’t mind your character having Fae stuff in their backstory. If they are half-fae or whatever, that’s ok. In the anniversary game, however, that brings with it no more or less power than a normal student (or staff member should they be such). There are story reasons for this, but more than anything it is to even out perceived power in the larp. 

NPC fae are what we are really trying to avoid. They almost always possess powers beyond those of the “ordinary” witchard, and so they become problematic in a game such as our 10th anniversary one. This game is supposed to be about your characters, and when someone else’s story brings an entity with such a power disparity into the game, it can marginalise your play. We’d really like to avoid that.

I hope that this clarifies these design decisions for you all, and that you can find a way to integrate your stories into the game, in a way that is satisfying for you and your co-players. Our hope is to provide a celebratory 10th anniversary event which allows you to bring your much loved characters back, as well as welcoming new people into our community. We’re really excited to bring this larp to life and hope that you are too, even the necromancers lurking at the back… don’t think we don’t see you…

Because we do, and we’ve anticipated some of your questions…

I want to bring a new character to the event, is that ok? Will I be left out?

Yes, that’s fine and no, you won’t be left out. It is possible to request a pre-written character or bring a new one, and join the fun at the castle. The story team are endeavouring to co-create with you a story that is exciting and interesting, as well as being open to all players regardless of their chosen character.  We do anticipate that returning players will bring storylines that they play out with their groups of friends, but we encourage those players to make their plots as open and as welcoming as possible to new friends.

I want to bring a character back from a previous CoW, what do I need to know?

We are aiming to enable the return of a character from any run of College of Wizardry or other Witchards events. There are some caveats around this though (mainly to facilitate the game structures). We expect there to be a high demand for staff positions, and whilst we’d love to give you all whatever you’d like, we can’t have a school with 100 staff and 15 students. We also wish you to understand that we do not expect to be able to place you all into your first preference of House, Year or Path, but we have an idea around this that feeds into the story. As a general guideline, please do not tie your enjoyment of the game to any particular House, Year or Path. 

I’d like to bring my character from CoW 1, 2, or 3, is that possible?

Of course. We’d like you to erase any of the franchise specific stuff from your character, as we don’t want to get sued, but we’d love to see your characters back!

I see that returning characters will be involved in the story somehow, is it possible to play this game as a returning character, but as a regular student?

We have a story justification for the returning characters to come back, and for in-game confusion around what is happening. We anticipate that whilst it will be a mystery for players to investigate and hope that it will be fun, some people might prefer to opt-out entirely from this and yet still wish to bring their characters back. If you wish to do so, you are welcome, but you will need to be happy to amend your character submission to fit with the overall game. In practice this means compromise on your choice of year, path and house, and possibly some small parts of your character background.

My character has always been a Necromancer/Demonologist/Chronomancer, but you say no Bound Arts, what can I do?

We have asked for no “active use” of the Bound Arts. You can find our reasoning in the blog post about it on the website; but this does not stop you from having such things in your background. You can even be a bound arts practitioner, but please be aware that for reasons, your bound art will not work during the game.

What about the fae? My character is a fae… 

Similar to the bound arts, we have reasons for not wanting a massive pile of Fae at the game. However, that should not stop you from playing your character as one if it is important to you. In the context of the anniversary run, Fae will have no more power (or less power) than a regular Witchard, and whilst we don’t anticipate it being an issue for the game, will have no greater life expectancy.

I have a question about a specific character that isn’t answered here…

For those really specific details or a character you’re not quite sure about, we’ll be happy to work with you and find a way for them to be included.  We want the anniversary event to be a place to celebrate any character that’s been part of the tide of the centuries.

David Norris
David Norris
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