Maelstrom II: Refuge, the latest in a series of ongoing fantasy live-action roleplaying (LARP) events, kicked off on 26 November. I was glad to be on hand as one of the non-player characters (NPCs) participating in the game. Gamers from the local LARP scene suited up in costume and joined in the epic tale of survival and adventure.
Into Maelstrom II: Refuge
The Sungai Chongkak Park and Resort, Hulu Langat is located about an hour’s drive from Shah Alam or Petaling Jaya. Most participants would have to start travelling by 8am. Unfortunately, I was delayed and had to leave home over an hour late.
The park is thickly forested and its road runs alongside a fresh stream; however, some of the facilities are a bit run-down. Some participants who paid for a chalet were disappointed at the poor conditions and opted not to stay the night. Camping overnight in a tent would be a more comfortable solution.
Sacha, the LARP organiser, had rented the campsite, which meant that participants didn’t need to pay for parking or entry. The participation fee was a mere RM35 (RM40 for on-site registration) – a real bargain by any standards. With over 20 participants (players and NPCs alike) the event was a big step up from previous Maelstroms. The organisers provided the NPCs with costumes and foam weapons. Freshly cooked food was also provided on-site.
I was among the late arrivals who showed up just in time for the main player briefing after 11am. The NPCs had already gotten ready, the tents were all pitched and various game locations had been prepared using banners, tarps and other props.
A Saga Continues
Maelstrom tells the story of a fantasy realm that has been broken into shards by a great magical apocalypse. The half-dozen-plus recurring players had escaped many threats in the previous installments of the story. Having escaped the villainous Tuscan Empire, they found themselves in the safe haven known as Refuge. But Refuge was already populated by two squabbling factions, portrayed by my fellow NPCs and I, following the story guidelines laid out beforehand by Sacha.
House Wolfsmane, located downstream from the campsite, was an arrogant noble house with warriors for hire. My friend Razzman Khalif, Sacha’s co-gamemaster, portrayed the leader, Lord Tiberius, with great vigour and a loud voice.
Meanwhile, the Cottontail League, a commune of former peasants who had overthrown their masters, was located upstream from the campsite. This group was led by Sarantea, portrayed by Alissa, and was opposed to the Wolfsmanes. The players would find themselves squeezed between these two factions.
I always choose rabbits over wolves. I played a member of the Cottontails!
The biggest threat of all was the increasing Undead attacks, portrayed by members of the NPC team through some quick costume changes. These enemies could take many hits (from foam weapons, of course) to defeat.
Some of the players found themselves “cursed” with a mysterious red mark drawn on their faces. This happened whenever a player stepped on one of the forbidden foundation areas that the NPCs had warned them about. The factions persecuted these players during the game, accusing them of bringing doom to Refuge.
The players felt the tension grow during the game event, as more and more waves of enemies attacked.
During the pitched battles, the players had to fight side-by-side with members of House Wolfsmane and the Cottontail League to survive.
The action got more intense with each fight, and players got more and more tired. For the first time, the LARP introduced ranged weapons (bows with foam arrows) to increase the threat of the enemies.
The Long Day Wanes
Lunch and dinner were provided at the campsite, and participants from opposing factions would banter side-by-side as they rested and ate.
Some of the best parts of Maelstrom came from just resting by the stream and enjoying the scenery and camaraderie. The foliage and the nearby stream kept the sun’s heat from being too much of a problem. The humidity – and mosquitoes – were a bit of an issue, but fortunately, there was enough mosquito repellent to go around.
A travelling merchant sold potions and other items to the players during the game. Also, in real life, the travelling ice cream man on the nearby road did good business!
I was only able to attend the first day of the event, but as the second day dawned, the adventure continued. Even an all-consuming downpour could not dampen spirits.
As the weekend stretched on, the plot of the rising dead unfolded. A spirit of vengeance arose from the ancient past to haunt Refuge. One of the inhabitants of Refuge was revealed to be a necromancer seeking to use the dead for his own benefit. After the players antagonised the necromancer, he fled. Finally, our heroes confronted the necromancer and some evil cultists in a climactic showdown at the island of Thanos.
But there are many smaller stories to tell within Maelstrom. Each player and NPC experienced their own sub-plots and contributed their own antics. The feuding faction leaders helped to drive conflict and raise temperatures all around. Quirky and eccentric priests and “wise men” dispensed advice – not all of it helpful. A boastful Wolfsmane champion was surprisingly humbled in a duel with one of the newcomer adventurers and ultimately ended up as undead fodder for the necromancer.
Such it is with every LARP. Everyone comes away with a small universe of stories of their own. Like The Matrix, I can’t really describe the LARP life to you.
You really have to experience it for yourself.
You can learn more about the local LARP community at the MyLARP Facebook Group.
And read our other articles about Maelstrom.