The historical dimension of this larp focuses on the chance to follow and recreate the feats of some of the men and women who greatly contributed to the first creation of the Czechoslovakian Republic.
The year is 1918: the Czechoslovak Legion finds itself stranded in the middle of Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution. Without any clear allies and amidst the extremely unstable Russian situation, its men and women strenuously try to reach the port of Vladivostok, at the eastern end of Siberia, from where they will embark via ship to France and continue the fighting on the Western front.
A fundamental part of this larp relies on physically experiencing the march: the idea of salvation associated with its final destination becomes the beacon of hope that in many moments of the game is the main driving force for both players and characters.
|Name:||Legion: Siberian Story (3° international run - relentless)|
|Organized by:||Rolling International (English FB page; this is the website, in Czech)|
|Where:||One hour driving distance from Prague, Czech Republic. Near the village of Hrádek|
|When:||16th to 19th February 2017|
|Game system:||historical setting, official in-game language: English (for the international run), immersive play, non-stop. Physical discomfort is part of the game experience: the “relentless run” implies marching in the snow for roughly 30km over two days, in cold weather conditions, while carrying all your gear with you; for the in-game night only chemical toilets are available. Play to flow, WYSIWYG, safety codes. Characters created by the organizers and assigned through a casting process, based on a questionnaire and the choice of still life images representing each one of the characters.|
Before getting into the details about the game experience and the storytelling, we feel compelled to talk about the overall organization of the larp, which, in our experience, was perfect, despite the inherent difficulties associated with larps of this kind.
First of all, the cost of the event covers not only the actual participation, but includes transport from Prague city center and back and other transportation necessary before and after the larp, an almost complete historical costume, all the in-game meals and accommodation.
We found that in particular the organization of the in-game meals at the stops during the march was perfectly managed. Being able to always get abundant warm soup (with both veg and meat options, and also special requirements options pre-arranged with the organizers), hot water and tea in each of the main stop locations went far in reducing our actual real-life discomfort.
Do not expect to be overfed though: the fundamental lack of food and general supplies is an integral part of this larp experience and is instrumental in promoting barter among the players, to exchange food, alcohol, cigarettes or ammunitions.
Let's now get to the pre-live preparation: the afternoon of the first day was fully dedicated to costume fitting and theoretical workshops, while Friday morning focused on the practical ones. Those who were playing a soldier in one of the military units had to wake up at dawn, to be ready and assembled at 7am, in full costume, in the freezing Czech morning air.
Part of the workshops were in costume, with full gear and half in-game: we found this very interesting and useful in creating the necessary team spirit that would otherwise take a long time to build up. As we were going to spend the next 36 hours in it, this gave everyone a chance to test both costume and equipment for last minute modifications.
The actual game started on Friday afternoon and lasted non-stop until Saturday late night, with a total of almost 30km by foot, carrying our whole day and night equipment, weapons and seldom our own wounded on stretches.
Locations and Costumes
The visual impact and the atmosphere of the game were very convincing and contributed greatly in giving credibility to the historical dimension of the larp. The quality of the costumes, weapons and equipment provided by the organizers was very high.
The game area was extremely vast and offered a multitude of different landscapes, mostly free from anachronisms: snowy forests, open fields running to the horizon, narrow valleys with steep drops on frozen rivers. The in-game buildings were pretty evocative too, including a monastery with a real in-game church, several WW2 bunkers disseminated in the countryside and an old abandoned farmhouse, half-destroyed.
The non-stop nature of the game and the extenuating marches between the various locations, during both night and day, added an unexpected depth to the game experience. The perception of the player's surrounding was strongly impacted by the specific moment in which one was to cross them.
Style and storytelling
Legion: Siberian Story is characterized by a light plot evolution, articulated over the various stops that break the long marches. The story and personal bonds of each character were carefully designed by the organizers, in what we think was a very good job. The choice of characters takes place several months before the event. Every character gets an in-game diary, divided in sections corresponding to the various stops along the march. The storytelling is linear and follows the diary different paragraphs, which should be open and read in chronological order as the game proceeds. They contain several suggestions and indications about both the general and the various personal plotlines. It also include a very effective method for managing firefights, which could otherwise get quickly confused or unrealistic. Each paragraph, corresponding to each location, contains a number: this represent the entity of the injuries (from light injuries to sudden death) that a character will sustain in case of a firefight at a given location.
This idea, which appears simple, goes a long way in making the fighting scenes so much better: heroic deaths, suicide attacks and in general wonderful fight scenes are easily developed with no need for external guidance, while at the same time putting an efficient obstacle in the way of metagame. We really appreciated this idea, as it had an extremely positive impact on the game.
The story narrated through the larp is dramatic and heroic. The characters' motivations (family, homeland, love, dreams of greatness) are so strong that the players can empathize with them easily and immediately.
Most of the game is focused on the personal dimension of each character. His internal struggles, his burdens, and traumas are lived intimately and gradually brought to the surface in a devastating explosion of emotions.
The long marches and moments of silence are actually welcomed as a much-needed time for the player to concentrate on his character's intimate dimension and fully experience its depths. This aspect was possibly the single most important one in making this a truly unforgettable and emotionally impacting experience.
This larp is a well-oiled machine. We took part in was the 13th run of the event, and a 14th one in Czech followed a week later. On a practical level, Legion is basically perfect. The character creation and their relations are almost spotless too.
If we were forced to be extremely picky, we could say that we didn't particularly appreciate the transport by bus at the beginning and end of the larp, to get the players to the initial location and back to the off-game accommodation. We although recognize the necessities of logistics and appreciate that the players were blindfolded for the duration of this trips, limiting the consequences on their immersion to a very minimum. Another minor note is that we would have loved to use and explore a bit more the (real!) bunkers and structures encountered during the march.
Legion: Siberian Story is one of those larps that leaves a deep emotional mark, a both happy and painful one. We came back extremely excited by the experience and strongly encourage anyone who might be interested to give it a try. The relentless run is not in for everyone, but we think it is totally worth it if you are looking for a total and genuine immersion.
As one of us commented at the end of the event:“Siberia changes you. It gives you the illusion that happiness is finally within reach, and then, without notice, it rips your heart from your chest, leaving you to bleed on the frozen ground.”
Written by Lisa Muner and Francesco Serra. Translated by Andrea Schiavi.
Photos by Thief of Souls