A few months back, I was asked to be the Head of School at Czocha College of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I’m just back, and this a few thoughts before I forget it all…
It’s one hell of a ride.
I’ve been responsible for players’ enjoyment of a game before – 250-odd Vipers in the Gathering back in the day, anyone who walked into the arena at Odyssey over 13 events and 400 or so arena combats, and 30 or so senators in Empire. (OK, not on my own any of them, but it’s never been a big team.)
College of Wizardry 25 was another ride like those. 75 players, all wanting to come to a college of magic, all wanting a magical experience, all magic. A phalanx of utterly amazing off-game orgas behind me, a staff room of beautifully committed professors with me as the pointy bit.
It was essentially a “sandbox” experience. There was no Big Threat to the World that needed facing. No Chosen One who got all the attention. Folk brought their own fun with them, signed off by orgas, or took a pre-written character, and each of those stories looped-the-loop with all the others. 75 people playing let’s pretend, like we did when we were kids, but with better costume and one amazing castle to do it in.
And through that I walked as Head of School; a name and nod of recognition to a student here, a question or prompt there. A House Point removed for some infraction of the rules, one awarded for something done well.
Damnit, it was fun. I genuinely felt supported and backed up all the way, and I had all the space I needed to do my own thing too. (Notably, naps in the staff room. Snoring loudly, I am told.)
Vanity, vanity all is vanity.
It’s fair to say I took advantage of the space to show off a bit. I’ve done a fair few rituals, some with a weather theme, and I invited a handful to students to an “extra-curricular activity” I shouted a lot, I called on the weather of England, and the brilliant scenography made it thunder, lightning.
The look on the face of at least one of the students who was looking at me chewing the scenery in a brilliantly accousticed inner courtyard, and not above, when it started actually raining on a warm spring night.
And didn’t see the sfx folk pouring water out of leaky buckets from a third floor window.
The obligations of position.
Keeping players up to date with what was happening, avenues of fun available to them, and doing in-game announcements is not unfamiliar territory. Every meal, a speech – which the organisers wrote so I wouldn’t forget anything.
Backing up any professor who couldn’t make a lesson for whatever reason. Appearing in any lesson where a professor wanted a spare pair of hands.
Like I said, this was a team effort, 100%
Not a magic. A college.
CoW is a larp about a magical college. The theme for this run was more of the college, and less of the magical. Most of our student’s problems were college problems: family, dates, and the future. Not The Great Evil Sent To Destroy The World. The orga plot was satisfyingly light touch.
You went to lessons, you learned about magic, you had rivalries with other students, your supported your House for the house cup, you were in a college club, you crept around in corridors after curfew avoiding the prefects on patrol. College stuff.
Specifically, the future. What will you do next was a universal question, and the players really seemed to get into that. We promised, they got it, and we delivered. I’m pretty proud of that – it’s not always true of larp.
The sweat showed.
I was lucky enough to crew WereWar 3 the weekend before, and had a clear week in between to do my preparation. I guess I could have started earlier, but there it is. I took all the Looking for Relations posts everyone had made for their characters, all the pre-written character briefs and too a stab at re-writing them all from the Head’s perspective.
That meant I had a file on each and every character there. (And I used the files the immortal Laura Sirola had bought,which we found in storage, for the purpose…)
That meant when I saw a student at one end of a room, I could shout for them, and by the time they got to me I had a little something from their background primed to ask them about. This was an end-of-year event, and that really helped me feel I knew these people.
I’ve read any number of blog posts about teaching and playering CoW – if I have one genuine bit of advice for a future head, it’s that. Know your students and your staff. Folk were kind to single it out as a good thing.
The staff were professionals.
I tried to treat the staff room like an actual staffroom. I used my files to ask them to find a specific student and have a specific word with them, and it seems that worked out well in making the entire college seem like a real college. (OK, some of the prompts were “Can you see if the Rosenblooms are in fact demonologists?” – so not quite a real school.)
It is an absurd amount of concentration.
I am never going into teaching proper – my respect for teachers has gone up again.
To my marvellous staff, who formed a common room of varied character, fixed on one purpose, the education of the youth. Every staff meeting was a pleasure, every task assigned carried out with professionalism and cheer.
To the outgoing prefects, who led the students in their care with an extraordinary degree of audacity, ambition, creativity, tradition and fire. A superlative body of witchards.
To the incoming prefects, the ones I had predicted and the ones I did not for one moment expect, who I have no doubt will do the same.
To the Seniors, whose future in the wider world I shall follow with great interest. Whether they passed their Trials, Or Did Not.
To the Sophomores, who should approach their final years with a degree of confidence some of their predecessors could not, in all honesty, have shared.
To the Juniors, who, in the main, approached their confirmations with maturity and wisdom beyond their years.
I should – I know – not name any witchards now, marvellous as you all were, but I cannot help but mention a few.
To the Wizard twins, with congratulations on a successful confirmation at the second attempt.
To Bell, for passing her year in some style, confirming I was right to scout her from Niebelungen. I feel certain Locke agrees I made the right choice too.
To Chastain, for the concept of an “infaustation”, which will haunt my dreams for some years.
To Farrington, whose solitary presence first thing every morning at breakfast on the Libussa table was a welcome reassurance that the world had not, in fact, ended the night before.
To the irrepressible Cecilia Hawthorne, for the most surprising academic improvement of the year, and for achieving the near-impossible task of getting me on to the Czocha dancefloor one last time.
To Nox Navarro, with apologies that I did not, in fact, remember to pass on the whoopee cushion I used myself as a mischievous young student, and in thanks for the fine selection of Nox Candies which I shall consume with a considerable degree of caution.
To the Rosenblooms, for commendable concentration on the runic elements of their magical heritage, as opposed to the Banned Art they could so easily have slid into.
And finally, to my successor, Head of School Nightshore, who needs no advice from me, but should know it is always available should they want it.
The College is in the finest of hands.
People are magic.
It’s so very very cool that this sandbox approach, where every player can bring their own character to fit into the college structure and it makes stories happen. Loved it.
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