Directed by Liselle Awwal
Head of School Jamie MacDonald
Lead Producer Robin Steen
Created by Christopher Sandberg and College of Wizardry
Written and designed by College of Wizardry with Rogue Events Ltd and Avalon Larp Studio
Made real by the entire College of Wizardry crew and partners, hundreds of volunteers and thousands of players world-wide
All rights reserved, College of Wizardry (c) The company P, 2020
Please direct any correspondence about this guide, the College of Wizardry events or the Witchard Society to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Latest Update: 20.2.2020
Added the Pickingill Order crest and updated spelling and description for Rosencrantz Order.
WereWar is a live action role-play series (larp). This is a stand-alone, persistent storyline in the College of Wizardry fictional universe. Chapter One takes place at Czocha castle (Poland) and Chapter Two at Bothwell castle (UK). Further chapters to be announced. The ticket for Chapter One is all-inclusive and on sale now at Witchards.com. Buses are available at the Berlin airports to and from the castle. On site you’ll get a robe and house tie, and experience four days of overnight stays at the castle, with all meals served for you by our cooks and staff. The entire castle and grounds (including a magical forest and lake) are reserved for the event, with all the amenities of a hotel provided for you. Czocha castle is truly spectacular, complete with grand halls, hidden passageways, magical library, an astronomy tower and ancient cellars. A tavern bar is open throughout the event in the evenings. You need to be 18 years old to participate.
This guide complements the College of Wizardry Player Handbook and the Lorebook. Everything in the Player Handbook and the Lorebook also applies to WereWar events, unless stated otherwise in this guide.
Ever since the First Witchard, that fabled original spellcaster unleashing the power of the first magic, there has been a tension in nature. Something that shifted. Undetectable by normal senses, but there nevertheless–a tremor deep in the souls of all with the gift of magic.
Maybe it’s this dissonance that chases witchards forward in their pursuit of magical knowledge? A need for control, to hold back the fear of the wild. Maybe too, this is what rings in the ears of the magical beasts in the forests of the world? An unease that keeps pitting them against each other like mindless animals, and eventually sent them clashing with the world of witchards.
Something is off keel, something needs to be set right. But this is a truth profoundly pushed out of thought of all spellcasters. And equally driven out of mind of all magic beings.
“WereWar is not a tale about facing truth. It’s one about trying but ultimately failing to run away from it.”
Just over half a decade ago Witchard Society began buzzing with grisly reports of werewolf activity in the Hearthland (the leading European Confluxes, communities in the sorcery world). The great magical Confluxes in and around Germany, France and the United Kingdom reported slain “rabid walkhounds” and attacked witchards. The term “The Were” started to resurface (used centuries ago in conflicts now forgotten by most).
These incidents now were all very remote encounters, and any concrete reports hard to get a hold of, even in this world of scrying and magic postal services. The confluxes tasked the Guardian Order with protecting rural communities and inter-conflux trade and travel.
Witchard Society felt safe again, as the Order pushed through harsher and harsher regulations against magical beings everywhere. For most witchards, this all simply became a bedtime horror story or tavern topic for excited speculation. Most were convinced these incidents would die down and peace restored.
They were wrong.
“On December 1st, 2019, by mundane counting, the Guardian Order issued a wide decree that war was declared by The Were against the Witchard Society.”
The werewolves had allegedly carried out a series of coordinated attacks, referred to as the assault troops for coming armies of magical beings, to be hunted and killed on sight. This is not true, but it is the conviction of almost all witchards today (in 2020).
When Chapter One of our story begins, things at Czocha appear to be almost as they always have been, with Juniors soon to be sorted into their Houses and Sophomores eager to finally be allowed new freedoms when roaming the grounds. While Headmaster Crumplebottom welcomes everyone back for a new semester with the usual speeches of academic achievements and only briefly mentions the abstract perils of faraway war, the thoughts of most students are likely bent towards securing hall passes or ball dates instead. There are murmurs amongst the professors and staff, an odd tension, perhaps a secret, but surely nothing to worry about. But many people notice that werewolves and other non-human students are not present, but the faculty seems to simply ignore the matter. Life continues . . .
Until war knocks on the castle gates. The Guardian Order, militarised in recent years to a degree few witchards realise, enter the school and declare Magical Martial Law in the conflux of Czocha. The Headmaster and faculty now operate under the full mandate of the Head Guardian on site. A number of wounded witchards from a nearby battle are brought in, and students immediately drafted to help with triage and treatment. With the college so near the front line, the syllabus drastically changes and professors are conscripted to teach emergency versions of their classes, focusing on healing, warding off magical beings, and mentally calming of the wounded. Czocha has become a WereWar hospital.
Meanwhile, in the bowels of the castle, the faculty have covertly reopened the ancient runic bridge to Bothwell School of Witchcraft in Britain, receiving and treating refugees from both sides of the conflict, without the knowledge of the Guardian Order which has students treating only humans upstairs. In secret corners of the castle, select students are entrusted to help with the effort to aid all those hurt by the war.
Chapter One will not depict open rebellion, except the ”treasonous” act of treating or communicating with those designated as the ”enemy”, but the seeds of doubt and suspicion that something is terribly wrong in witchard society will grow. This chapter will not see overt acts of resistance or an ”end battle” against the Guardian Order or the Were. And yes, there will be a ball at the end.
Indeed, most characters will wish to assist as best they can, to defend the school and help the victims of the vicious beasts that have declared war on witchardkind.
With WereWar we are exploring how the story can evolve from your actions and collective creativity. Each chapter builds along a preconceived arch, and you decide how it gets there. It’s not a railroad to follow to the letter, but instead a dramatic story to navigate together. Between each event, we’ll take onboard what actually happened before, what you all did and innovated. This will sometimes be edited before being added to canon and lore.
Participants may either write their own characters, subject to approval from character coaches, or receive a prewritten character ready for you to make your own. You will be able to play your character throughout the entire WereWar Special series. And you are more than welcome to go to any event in the series. Each chapter is written as one contained story, so going to a single event will be just as rewarding and fun. You may also change character, exploring different sides of WereWar. Yes, Bothwell students may show up at Czocha and vice versa. And the house flags of either castle could be raised in honour at both places. In addition there will be new houses under the martial law of the WereWar and auspice of the Guardian Order, unique to WereWar.
“Were” is used as a derogatory term for any magical being. It is not just limited to werewolves.
“The Were” is a catchall for all species born with magical abilities, but not human. This is from the human witchard point of view, and one tainted by sorrow, loss and fear. The term is a twist of the word “werewolf”, using the Proto-Indo-European and Latin root words (“wi-ro”, “vir”=man), to signify something “like a human but not”.
The term The Were includes but is not limited to shapeshifters (such as werewolves), merfolk (such as sirens) and vampires. Even fae (fairies, elves) and summoned entities (spirits, demons, golems). In actuality, these are all very different species and phenomena, some alive and sentient, some mere enchanted objects and spectres. And arguments can be made for all witchards (people with the gift of magic) also being beasts of magic. Even to the extent of saying life itself is magic. Now, that is a philosophical distinction entirely lost to all characters at the beginning of this storyline.
The use of The Were in propaganda during the WereWar is intended to drive fear into the hearts of witchards, by implying that all magical beings are an affliction of sorts. Much like werewolves can be referred to as the “moon sickness” by those hunting them. That somehow by association or contact, one could lose oneself to a feral illness and become a plague, ostracised from Witchard Society.
In the storyline of WereWar, this idea of The Were has become the common way to view magical beings. A protracted and fierce war, half a decade in the making, has driven any doubt from witchards. These “beasts” are not lovable, mesmerising parts of nature. They are a ruthless and unforgiving force of death and blood.
“WereWar explores the tension between what we as players know to be a catastrophic disconnect based on lies and fear–and the overwhelming truth our characters see.”
With war comes change, welcome or not. And monumental change is wrought as the Guardian Order disbands the five traditional Houses of Czocha College. Students are instead enlisted into one of the main Orders of Witchard Society.
These inter-conflux, vocational associations span all jurisdictions and departments, with distinct functions and areas of expertise, in addition to being places to form friendships and alliances. Much like the Houses, rivalry between the Orders is fierce, and a merit system, not entirely dissimilar to the Czocha Cup, is introduced for bravery and service in magical wartime. While official life at Czocha is now organised under these factions, of which the former Prefects assume leadership, the unofficial alliances of the five school Houses continue amongst students, in the shadows.
Motto: Shape and Shatter
Area of expertise: Technomancy & Divination (Chronomancy)
Newest among the orders is Artemis, named after the technomancer Gereon Artemis, who pioneered the combination of magic and modern technology. A few years after the founding of the Order, its founder was shunned for his “progressive experiments” with non-human subjects; as a result, Gereon went into exile. It is rumoured that in these final years, Gereon studied the physiological results of using magic; however, his final work was never released. Now presumed dead, he has left a blurred legacy of a genius mind who would let nothing stand in the way of his research.
After the outbreak of the war, this Order has found new ground and more funding has come its way, as many Artemis inventions have been put to use by the Guardian Order. Nowadays, Artemis is home to both members who share the single-minded fervour of their founder, as well as members who distance themselves from Gereon’s morality and look for progress in compromise.
This Order is for those who work with the magic of objects and prophetic predictions. Its members are taught to bind spells in art and to combine mechanical or digital systems with intricate magical matrices to craft complex technomancy artefacts. They read omens and prophecies in patterns they see in the world around them, but looking through time is only one step behind altering it. Some suspect that the inner secrets of Artemis are actually founded in Chronomancy.
Motto: Care and Command
Area of expertise: Beastology
Named for its founder, English witchard George Pickingill, the Pickingill Order is famed for its members’ unparallelled expertise in matters relating to beasts both magical and mundane. George Pickingill practiced and perfected his craft in 19th century England, where his unnatural aptitude for animal husbandry came to the attention of even the mundane population, and thus local Guardians. A staunch believer in witchard supremacy and the need to keep magical bloodlines free of Mundane taint, Pickingill was appalled by the accusations of careless use of magic levied against him, believing it a conspiracy concocted by mixborn lessers. He managed to not only convince the Guardian order to dismiss all charges, but also to allow him to formally create an Order to help control growing and increasingly out-of-control populations of cryptids in the British Isles.
Members of Pickingill receive instruction in both the care and control of beasts, whether mundane animal or cryptid. Advanced methods for attracting or repelling beasts are taught, as well as secret, magical ways of soothing or subduing them through a combination of spells and herbs. For this reason, Pickingill Order members’ expertise is especially sought after in dealing with any non-human beings.
Lingering within this Order are the remnants of George Pickingill’s hexist beliefs, and the opinion that witchards are inherently meant to rule over other beings. Particularly in times of violent conflict, some members have been rumoured to employ a troubling magical discipline, in which the mind of a beast is conditioned and its will is overridden by the will of the witchard.
Motto: Balance and Bind
Area of Expertise: Enchantment and Rituals
The origins of the Le Fay Order are shrouded in mystery and controversy. Owing perhaps to being one of the oldest Orders still in existence, no living witchard, nor any reliable written source, seems able to accurately account for where or when it was founded, but legend that it was by the infamous Morgana Le Fay herself. While its original name is lost to history, this secretive organisation was eventually named for her.
Adding to the controversy surrounding the Order, many scholars maintain that Morgana Le Fay, as her name indicates, was of non-human origin, possibly a fairy or water spirit. Over the years, the Order has boasted several members with fae ancestry; however, since the outbreak of the war, the Order has eagerly sought to distance itself from this fact, and this has led to something of an internal schism.
Those who are inducted into the mysterious Le Fay Order eventually learn the way enchantment, the magical art of misleading the mind and influencing emotion. They are keen adepts in effective ways to untangle dangerous curses, however, it is rumoured that many within the Order become enamoured with the complex art of weaving them instead, and wind up walking the paths of curse makers rather than breakers.
Motto: Heal and Hunt
Area of expertise: Potions and Blood Magic
‘The Lady with the Lamp’, Florence Nightingale, broke the Tradition of Word by practicing magic in front of Mundanes while paving the way for the nurse profession in training medics in the Crimean War (1853-56). One of her specialties was potions, and many of their active ingredients remain in commonly practiced modern medicine. Charged with violating the Treaty of Avalon, she was brought before the Regulators of the Guardian Orders to face justice, but as she had cunningly avoided discovery during her work, wound up fully pardoned, and drafted to build the Order of Healers named for her.
Members of Nightingale are trained especially in the use of medicinal, alchemical and herbal concoctions. Highly sought after as healers during violent conflicts for their ability to set up and maintain sanitary facilities in the field, Nightingales are driven and focused, though primarily on others.
Potions are not the only tool employed by the association, which also teaches its members advanced forms of blood magic, imminently effective in healing, though in desperate times these practices are whispered to sometimes be employed towards other, more sinister uses than mending the body.
Motto: Defend and Detain
Area of expertise: Conflux Law and Runic Magic
One of the largest Orders is the Rosencrantz Order, also known as the Order of the Golden Rose. Founded by Dame Charlott Rosencrantz in the 14th century, it remains a nod to the time where Knights were appointed to uphold magical law. In her time, Charlott was one of the Guardian Order’s most prominent Regulators, with strong virtues of honour and humility she guided Witchard Society through times of trouble. Upon her death, her firstborn took over the Order and since then, the leadership of the order has been passed down from generation to generation of Rosencrantz witchards. It is rumoured that the tragic fate of one of Charlott’s descendants inspired a character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
With the outbreak of the WereWar, the Rosencrantz Order has been tasked with training new Guardians. Some suspect that this was a political move to keep the Rosencrantz family away from the high command of the Guardian Order, where their virtues might get in the way of doing what must be done to win the war. However, the Rosencrantz bide their time, knowing that with the ranks of their Order being bolstered, they will retake their foothold in the Guardian Order to do what is right.
Members of the Rosencrantz Order are trained as Guardians to uphold the law and order of magical society. They also learn the ancient art of Runic Magic, binding magic within inscriptions and writings, specializing in runes of detainment to secure prisoners and inhibit magical abilities. In times of war, they are taught to fight with combat magic to take charge and to lead in the midst of battle. With the strong virtues of the Order, the Guardian students are also prepared to make hard moral decisions, because the Order knows that war brings suffering, and in the face of battle, decisions of life and death become nearly impossible.
There are a few changes to the rules for WereWar that will make it different from a standard run of CoW. They are summarised here. Please read them carefully and ask if you have any questions!
Your character studies a particular path of magic and will join an Order with its own specialisms. It is more fun for everyone if you play on your character’s particular areas of specialism and knowledge rather than being an expert in all forms of magic. For example, if you are a Guardian, skilled in runes and magical defence you are probably not a world class cursebreaker or an expert in healing spells. This creates play. Remember we are making a story together so if you are injured, call for a healer rather than fixing it yourself; ask yourself ‘how can I bring others in to this story?’
Shortly after the war was declared, lycan and fae students started to leave the school. Whilst Czocha always prided itself on being a progressive and inclusive space, the witchard world became increasingly dangerous and, at the start of this term, there are spaces at House dining tables, and seats empty in classrooms as one-time friends are absent. Gone, but perhaps not forgotten.
Rumours persist that not everyone at Czocha is entirely human, but so far the college authorities have resisted any calls to implement checks at the gate. Some students, however, have started to take matters into their own hands, to ensure the safety of their fellows from those who would seek to do them harm.
We’ve already had several requests as to whether there is an option to play a lycan or other ‘were’ creature. The idea of playing an outsider in this setting certainly seems interesting. It could be dangerous, or oppressive, and some of you are looking for that experience. However, this is not the story we are looking to tell at this stage. For a larp to tell the story of the dispossessed or of those suffering from structural or systemic oppression it needs to be designed with that purpose. With that in mind we would prefer it if your characters were human. Whilst there may be one or two exceptions, we reserve the right to say “no” to requests for were-creatures!
Becoming a Lycan
If your character is bitten, scratched, or otherwise infected with lycanthropy you will be told about this by the larp director. Please feel free to play on the fear of becoming a werewolf, but until the director tells you otherwise, your character remains human.
A note on language
We’re seeking to avoid any references to “Purity” or “Blood” in our descriptions of the differences between Were and Human.
At WereWar when you partake in dangerous quests or rituals there will be a very real risk of your character dying. So if a lycan catches you in the woods, your character must actually run for their life (or escape the situation in another way), or that character might die. This is an important difference from other CoW larps, where you can choose yourself whether or not your character should die from a spell, poison, severe injury or similar; at WereWar the choice is made for you. We will explain the mechanics during the workshops.
However, we acknowledge that not every player will want this experience and so it will be sign-posted in the following way:
Prior to activities that are potentially lethal, a Shadow Game Master will inform present players that by continuing with the activity there is a danger of character death, giving you an opportunity to opt out and for them to remain in safety.
We don’t intend character death to be a common occurrence during the first chapter of this story, but we think the experience will benefit from the risk being present.
But what happens if my character dies?
You will have a choice. In some cases, the character may return as a helpful ghost, or you will be able to start a new character, or you can join the NPC crew for the remainder of the event.
I don’t want to risk my character, can I still play this larp?
Yes, of course. By making times and places that character lives are at risk clear we want to give you the opportunity to opt in or opt out of dangerous situations. There will be plenty of activities to choose from where the life of your character is not on the line.
A gamemaster is a “runtime story facilitator for a larp, keeping track of plot flow, solving narrative problems, and, if applicable, making rule-system calls. “ (Larp Design, 2019) Because Werewar will react to what you – the players – do during the larp, we need to be able to know you are doing something or see you do it.
There will be Shadow Gamemasters walking around in between the players, wearing black monk’s robes. They are there to help you to move the story forwards. The Shadow Gamemasters will oversee players during runtime, facilitate plot/story during divination, diagnosis of magical injury, procession and rituals, assist Supporting Characters and Monsters, and occasionally guide players in scenes. Speak to one of them if there is something you want to do or if you have questions about the plot or are stuck. Sometimes they will tell you that the stars suggest that a particular action or activity will be more likely to succeed if it takes place at a specific time or location.
Because WereWar has an organiser led plot we will be running Scene Requests a little differently at this larp. For those who do not know, a scene request is where players can go to the organisers and say “I would like to play a specific scene with these NPCs” it is a part of the sandbox nature of CoW.
First and foremost we will continue to support faculty members with NPC requests for all of their classes and in the normal way. We will try to support prefects for their House/Order related play and initiations.
At WereWar Chapter One we will be offering some general scene requests on Thursday evening but we can not promise to be able to supply everything you ask for as the plot has first call on our helper resources. In addition, whilst you will be able to ask for specific events you will not be able to dictate the outcome.
If you want to summon a demon, what comes next will not be under your control.
After Thursday evening everything will change. We will no longer be taking scene requests in the traditional sense. First of all use the supporting cast (formally known as “NPCs”). If you want a Guardian to be involved in something, find a supporting cast member who is a Guardian and talk to them in character. Most of our supporting cast will have persistent roles. If you can’t find who you are looking for, talk to the shadow Game Masters and they will try to resolve it for you.
More importantly, if you want to do something that you think the Story team should know about – brilliant plans, library investigations, dark rituals, daring rescue missions – talk to the shadow Game Masters or come to the Goblin office. Sometimes they will suggest a specific time for that scene to take place, but again the outcome will be determined in play. These are your replacement scene requests; there will be very few of these available so talk to the players within your Orders and involve as many of them as possible. .
After dark the forest and the upper courtyard may be used to represent places that are ‘not Czocha’. Players may be sent on quests or missions that will be started when they pass through the portal to the other place. If the gates are closed to the forest or the upper courtyard this means that a quest or mission is underway or being prepared. If the gates are closed, please leave them closed.
Please read this part to better grasp how we’re designing WereWar. As we are touching on a lot of sensitive topics, we all need to tread carefully together.
This is not an allegory for real world issues. Below is listed some likely interpretations, which we are aware of and wish to declare the WereWar relationship to. Lycanthropy is not used to talk about transmittable disease, or the attacks on the homosexual community based on the prejudices about HIV/AIDS. Shapeshifting is not a symbol for gender politics, transsexuality, transgender, queer, or gender dysphoria. The word “man” (as in male), specifically as used in the root of the word “were” of werewolf, is not intended to be straight up equivalent to the demonic male hypothesis or toxic masculinity, nor is it directly about rape culture or patriarchy. In WereWar we want to talk about violence feeding violence. All of the real world instances of violence and oppression share underlying mechanisms of fear of the other, a desire for control, and hate creating hate; these are the focus of exploration. The war and its factions is not analogous with the historical world wars or civilisational conflicts today. The creeds of the groups in our story are not commentary on religious sects or faith. The Guardian Order is not a symbol for Fascism, and the attack on The Were is not based on actual European ethnic cleansing.
Conversely, while this is not about these issues per se, College of Wizardry takes an active stand for equality and against bigotry and hate. Any aspect of the WereWar fiction that explores inequalities and violence, will be entirely about the fictional characters and aspects of our story world. No hate or unfairness against any real group of participants will be allowed based on real-world differences. Body shaming, transphobia, ageism, homophobia, ableism, anti-feminism, any type of xenophobia and racism or other forms of hate, transgressions or violations of human rights is expressly forbidden in and around all of our events. Breach of this may result in removal from the events and possible reporting to proper authorities.
In addition, this is fiction and any resemblance to real people or events is unintentional. However, WereWar deals with the deeply rooted fear of the unknown, with the evils of war, and the collective madness of misinformation and radicalisation. It is not a commentary on the state of things today, but it is one of the constant challenges and struggles of humanity. If there is one takeaway we like to give you, it is that hate blinds us and fuels more hate–whereas openness binds us together and breeds love. We are all magical.
In closing, this is entertainment. The dark themes and human morals explored are drama and storytelling. While participating in strong collective experiences can be transformative and healing, this is not therapy. It is meant to entertain and invigorate, to ask questions and tell stories, both scary and fun. While we portray antagonism and conflict, all participants are one community helping one another to have a rich and equal, shared experience.