Raise your hand if you’ve dreamed of becoming a witch or wizard. Raise your other hand if that longing increased significantly after you read the Harry Potter books. Yeah, that’s what I thought. While the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry doesn’t exist in this realm (as far as us Muggles know), you can pretend you’ve been swept away to a more magical place with the College of Wizardry.
The college isn’t like any other. It’s a four day live action roleplaying (LARP) event where you can live your dreams and play a witch or wizard in an actual castle in Poland. No. Really. When something sounds this good, it’s usually not true, but this is the real deal. The College of Wizardry needs a little assistance though. They’ve turned to Indiegogo to raise funds for additional LARP events because the first two sold out in record time and they’d also like to be able to purchase structures for use in future LARPs. I talked with College of Wizardry Project Coordinator Claus Raasted about the project and what’s ahead.
Nerdist: What is your LARPing background?
Claus Raasted: I’ve been LARPing since 1993 and started organizing LARPs in 1995. In 2002 I quit my studies at the university, and started working as a professional LARPer full time. When I’m not doing volunteer projects like College of Wizardry, I do LARPs for libraries, banks, worker unions, schools, churches, and a wide array of other customers. I also lecture and write about LARP and recently published my 17th book.
Nerdist: The College of Wizardry seems like quite the immersive experience. Tell me a little about what went into the development and coming up with courses.
Raasted: Designing the College of Wizardry was a joint effort. Our game design team is located in Denmark, but a lot of the fiction stuff happens in Poland. So while the Danish game design team came up with the basic structure of the game (Houses, classes, schedules, etc.), it was the Polish Fiction Team that created most of the characters, fictional world, and back story. In the end, the participants also create quite a lot. For example, the players playing Professors have more or less total freedom when designing their classes–as long as they make them interesting and they fit the setting.
Nerdist: How did you find such an ideal location?
Raasted: Our Polish organization, Liveform, had been dreaming of doing a LARP there for some time. They just didn’t have the resources to make it happen or a player base with enough money. So when I had a late night meeting with Dracan Dembinski (our Fiction Lead) at the international LARP conference Knutepunkt, we joined forces.
Nerdist: What sort of limitations do you place on technology in order to keep the experience authentic (for this and Fairweather Manor)?
Raasted: There are a few central guidelines when it comes to doing a LARP and keeping technology/scenography from ruining the immersive experience. First off, some things don’t matter that much. As the Finnish LARP designer Henri Hakkarainen said back in 2007, “If you’re doing a 17th century LARP about romantic intrigue at a castle, it doesn’t matter if the toilets are modern toilets. That’s not where the romantic intrigue happens anyway.” His point is that it doesn’t matter too much if there’s a fire extinguisher hanging in a corridor that people walk through, even if it’s a 12th century LARP about Robin Hood, and we are in complete agreement. Another thing we do is tell people to keep their tech stashed away most of the time. Speakers can be hidden. iPhones can be left in luggage. And while your soles may be rubber instead of leather, it really doesn’t matter that much.
Nerdist: Do people have to bring their own costumes and if so, is there an approval process?
Raasted: For College of Wizardry, everyone was given a school uniform (a magician’s robe) and a tie in House colors. Whatever costume they brought besides that was up to them. But in that regard, it’s a very forgiving setting. It’s the world of 2015, with the small added fact, that magic exists in the shadows. This means that modern day clothes work just fine but also that more outrageous costumes are just as fine. In our Design Document, we describe it as “Dragontooth wands and long-flowing robes meet jeans and leather jackets.” It’s more or less impossible to fail in a setting like that.
Nerdist: What advice would you give to those who are interested in trying LARPing for the first time?
Raasted: I’d recommend that they find a LARP which has a high production value. Some trained LARPers can play in the most sparse surroundings, but the first time you travel to another universe (even if it’s the 1980s), it’s a lot easier to feel that you’re there if it looks right. Also, I’d recommend going to something with simple rules. Some LARPs have extremely advanced rule systems, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it can be a bit overwhelming to have to memorize a 70-page rule book while pretending to be a 17th century noblewoman or an elf!
You can support the College of Wizardry and other LARP sessions on Indiegogo for a few more days. You can purchase tickets for one of the LARP events, name a character or place within the College of Wizardry universe (no Harry Potter references allowed), a custom wand, and more.