Booking sites

Booking sites for LARPs can be an interesting chore. To some degree, it depends on whether the site you’re looking at has had LARP groups at it before.

John Lee’s Wood Scout Camp, for example, has had LARPs in attendance so often that they have special rules in place for LARP groups on their website. Other scout camps might have a “LARP Group” section in their booking form for when you’re saying what type of group you are. All in all, it’s a lot more common for the types of sites used by small-medium LARPs (typically scout camps and similar sites) to have some understanding of what you’re doing even if they’re not familiar with your group in particular. This is quite useful as it saves time in explaining what you’re doing.

Well, usually saves time. We had an event at Featherstone Castle in March, and we did have a discussion about what we were doing even though they’d hosted LARPs before. One of the problems with less-used sites is that the people booking may be less up-front about what they’re doing to prevent awkward questions. As someone who’s done it before, I know all about how you can explain LARP as “interactive freeform theatre which involves the participants as actors playing parts they conceive themselves”. That’s not a great thing to do long-term, as it can lead to holdovers and stigmas that never go away. Our local “parlour LARP” in Edinburgh is booked in as the “drama group” at the venue we use and I frequently get questions about when we’re putting on our next production and what sort of play we’re doing – this is obviously counter-productive.

When we started No Rest for the Wicked, one of the things we were doing was starting a LARP in Scotland, which left us with an awkward situation – LARP events don’t happen much up here. There wasn’t a list of recommended sites to use for what we were doing, and we had to scout out the territory ourselves. We did get a list of sites used by another LARP in the past, but most of that list was places they’d used several years before and not been to since. What this meant was that we had to explain what we were doing, and sometimes that took a while. The response has been varied, with only a few hiccups. While the people running the sites may not understand the hobby, they do understand when you tell them you want to book the site for an entire weekend and you’re willing to pay for it.

Being open about what you’re doing is important – it builds up a better relationship with the site, and the staff may have ideas that make for a better event. Talking to the staff at Douglaswood Scout Centre about what we were planning to do meant that we found out about the WW2 pillboxes at the corners of the site (one being lived in by bats, so not usable), and the underground tunnel system. They’ve still not managed to clean out the tunnels yet, but knowing that they’re there has sparked ideas for things we can do with the site once they’re available.

One of the biggest problems we had was when we were initially booking¬†Douglaswood for a No Rest for the Wicked event. The person in charge of the site (who wasn’t familiar with the other events that had been done there in the past) was very excited to have us come along and was really interested in what we were doing to the point we were almost trying to get him to come along and play. The problem was that the Dundee Scout Council have rules about firing arrows and rifles at human targets, and they were arguing that allowing us to use Nerf guns to fire at each other was breaking that rule. The point at which we heard about it was when Chris (the Douglaswood site warden) was telling us about it and how he’d told them that firing foam darts is very different to potentially deadly ammunition, and that the site could really use the money we were bringing in. This is just one of the reasons I will recommend Douglaswood as a site to people running in Scotland – the people behind it are really helpful to groups like ours.

There are some tips I’d recommend anyone looking at booking a site for a LARP keep in mind:

  1. Book as far in advance as you can (six months is a good minimum if possible) – the site will appreciate it, and you’ll save stress from last-minute booking
  2. Make sure you get to the site for a visit and walk-around with the staff before you confirm bookings – even if you’ve been to the site as a player, this is always a good idea
  3. Get a quote for the weekend and figure out how many players you need to cover your costs
  4. Make sure you know about any required deposits
  5. Get a quote for the weekend and figure out how many players you need to cover your costs
  6. Find out the rules on cancellation – some sites will require you to pay the full site fee even if you cancel the booking
  7. Check transport links and closeness to mainline stations
  8. Check when you can be on site from, and when you need to leave
  9. Check where you can leave rubbish
  10. Check on the available cooking equipment
  11. If possible, arrange to arrive the night before and leave the morning after – it gives you more time to set-up before players arrive, and to clean up after them
  12. Contact other groups to see if they’ve used the site before – it may save you some unexpected and unforeseen issues
  13. Make sure you get filled in on any fire safety procedures
  14. Talk to the site about what you do, and any activities that may be objectionable1)using realistic imitation firearms is something that may be objected to
  15. Find out the details of the local police force if you need to contact them about potential callouts that could occur2)such as if you’re using realistic imitation firearms – always notify the police in this instance so that they don’t bring the armed response unit if they get a call about someone running around with assault weaponry
  16. Be friendly and responsible – leave a legacy of good feeling for future LARP groups using the site

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. using realistic imitation firearms is something that may be objected to
2. such as if you’re using realistic imitation firearms – always notify the police in this instance so that they don’t bring the armed response unit if they get a call about someone running around with assault weaponry