44. Eleven weeks of larp adventure

I’ve just landed at Wroclaw airport in Poland. I wrote this on the plane, and posted it while still in the airplane – courtesy of my nice 37-country mobile subscription, which I’m very grateful for.

Today is October 24, and I won’t be back in Denmark until next year. Until the end of November, I’ll be spending my time running six events at three Polish castles, with a team of just shy of 100 people in total. There will be around 750 participants in total, and they’ll be coming from all over the world.

After that, some of us will be flying to the United Arab Emirates, where we’ll hook up with the rest of the 36-person team we’ve gathered for the Legends of Arabia project; a month featuring 500-player larps every evening at Yas Watworld in Abu Dhabi.

It’s going to be an a crazy experience, on many levels. I’ve never been away from Marie for so long before, and that’s not something I’m looking forward to. She’ll be joining me in Berlin in a week’s time, where we’ll be celebrating our twelfth anniversary, but after that we’ll have two months apart. The price to be paid for adventure.

On the plus side, I’ll be living at castles for five weeks now, and after that in a nice hotel in Abu Dhabi. Ironically, our team always live rather crummily at the Polish castle events. We always use all the good rooms for players, and make do with shitty quarters. Still, the days are spent in castles, and that’s pretty damn cool.

The first event we have on our plate is Convention of Thorns, a 180 player vampire larp held in cooperation with White Wolf. Bringing together larpers from many different larp cultures – many of them vampire veterans with massive experience – will be an interesting challenge. Also, this will be our first larp at Zamek Ksiaz, and if I wasn’t a little daunted by the player base, I’d be a bit apprehensive about working with the third largest castle in Poland. It’s huge. Still, I’m confident it’ll work out. And I can’t wait to see what our scenography team has put together!

After CoT, we leave for Zamek Moszna, where another edition of Fairweather Manor awaits us. It’s a kind of sequel-but-not-quite to the two previous Fairweather larps, and our two ingame Game Masters, Anna Westerling and Daniel Sundstrom, will be returning along with quite a few of the characters from the first two larps. It’s been a pleasure taking a backseat on FM3, and letting other people handle the heavy lifting. Now, I’m just looking forward to a few days in 1917, and to see a grand (ingame) wedding take place in absurdly cool surroundings.

From there, it’s on to Zamek Czocha, where College of Wizardry is held. Before CoW9 and CoW10, however, we’re hosting a different event there. The College of Extraordinary Experiences is a one-of-a-kind conference about designing and staging memorable experiences. It’s one of the most high-powered collaborations I’ve been part of, and the organising team counts some external partners I’m super excited to work with. If someone had told me a few years ago that I’d be working with a man who had the title “Executive Producer, Lord of the Rings Trilogy”, then I’d have laughed in disbelief. But now, together with Paul Bulencea, Jane Fleming and Joe Pine, Mark and I are hosting this event.

The weekend after that, it’s CoW time! It may our ninth CoW, but I’m still ridiculously excited. Running College of Wizardry is FUN. And after CoW9 empties out on Sunday morning, the bus from the larp boarding school, Østerskov Efterskole, arrives. Yeah, that’s right. Between CoW9 and CoW10 we’ll be running a special edition of CoW for them. To be fair, I won’t be, since Rene and Sofie from our Danish team will be leading the show. But unless I’m completely toasted, I’ll lend a hand.

After the Østerskov people leave us, shit gets real. At CoW10, I won’t have my customary place in the organiser room (the Dziobak Room, I should say, since that’s its name!). No, I’ll be playing CoW for the first time, as Libussa Prefect Otto “The Lion” Schulz. I’m a little nervous, but I guess that’s just natural. This is my baby, and the larp that changed my life in ways I hadn’t imagined. What if I hate it? Or if the other players think I’m an idiot? Irrational, sure, but the fear is still there, in the back of my mind. Luckily, if I’m not stopped by common sense or rationality, I’m definitely not stopped by petty fear! ;-)

After CoW10, it’s all over. We’ll pack down Czocha once more, and leave everything for our return in spring. Goodbyes and hugs will be taken care of, plans will be made and “We survived” smiles will be shared. But for some of us, it’s far from over. For Maciek, Nadina, Oleg, Paul and I, it’s Next Stop: Abu Dhabi.

Then, the real madness begins. Blockbuster larps in Poland I know my way around by now. They’re still fantastic, magical and grand, and I love doing them, but I feel on familiar ground. Taking a crew of thirty-six international larpers to Abu Dhabi for a month and running larps for non-larpers at a location we’ve never used before? In a foreign culture, for an audience that doesn’t know what larp is, and with partners that have never seen it in the flesh?

To say that I’m not worried would be a lie. I’m looking forward to it – a lot – but I’m also painfully aware that it’s a bit of a leap of faith. It takes risk to make change, though, and if you want to make a splash, it’s hard not risking getting wet. Bringing larp to the Middle East in a big way may involve a lot of unknown factors, but one thing is certain. It’s going to be an unforgettable trip for those of us who are on it.

Needless to say, I’ve been thinking a lot about this trip. And though “Expect nothing. Expect everything.” is good advice in many situations, I’ve tried to put my thoughts into words. What follows is a list of my expectations for these 11 weeks.

New connections

I’m certain I’ll meet new, awesome people. This always happens at our blockbuster larp, and I’m sure it’s no different this time. Add to that the COEE, which has networking built in, and a month in a foreign land, and there’s little chance that I’ll come home with zero new friends and contacts.

New learning

Every time we run a big event, I learn something. Running this many in a row means a massive amount of aha-moments, and I’m especially sure that the new events will bring new knowledge. I love learning new stuff, even if it’s sometimes the hard way!

New mistakes

I’m also 100% certain that I’ll do things wrong. I’m going to be facepalming and shaking my head at my own ineptitude at times – of that there’s no doubt. Luckily, some of those mistakes will become fun stories, and I’m sure that some new sayings will come into existence due to mistakes I’ll make. C’est la vie.

New opportunities

I don’t know what this period will bring of new chances and new ideas. I’m quite sure they will emerge, though, and have the utmost trust in the feeling that this trip will bring about new projects, new partnerships and new plans. Doing interesting things with interesting people always seems to lead to doing more. Just as it should.

New stories

Memories are one thing. They’re added all the time. Stories are something else. They’re constructed, and not everything is story-worthy. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of good story material on this trip, though. It’s hard to imagine otherwise.

New insights

Last, but definitely not least, I have no doubt that I’ll learn new things about myself, the world, and my fellow humans on this trip. Playing together, and creating spaces for play, means shared experiences and those experiences often lead to new understanding. Play is powerful.

Most of all, I’m grateful that I get to do all this. It’s hard work some of the time, and I’m not discounting either my own skill, drive or courage in getting here. But I also recognize, that a lot of it is due to luck and chance. So to all of you, who’ve helped me be able to get to here, where I can write this post – thank you!

And now, the plane is emptying, and adventure awaits!

Director at The College of Extraordinary Experiences, Coach at McKinsey & Founding Partner at The Global Institute For Thought Leadership. Author of 31 books.

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