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Witcher School – Where I Became a Cat School Ambassador and Made Adepts Howl at the Moon

Lashing Witcher School

Spoilers for episode 1 of Witcher School. 

Okay, where to begin?

I got home from my second Witcher School LARP Sunday evening. At the time of writing this, it’s Tuesday and I finally feel like I can lift my arms for long enough to write this post.

If you want to read about my first time at Witcher School, you can find it here. That one might be more entertaining, because this time I got out with most of my dignity intact.


Before the LARP

This was my second time at Witcher School, but it was also another season, and that caused both fun and confusion. Each Witcher School season follows roughly the same storyline and has most of the same NPCs, but they also share many of the same actors playing said NPCs… just not necessarily the NPCs they play in other seasons.

This was quite funny, because when we received the NPC list, I realized there was a very real chance that my tutor would end up being one of the Temerians I had spent all my last game picking fights with. Also, the Master my personal character sheet told me I was supposed to stop from doing anything stupid was played by the guy playing Master Bastian in my other season, and “doing something stupid” is basically Bastian’s M.O.

My Character

Personally, I was playing a character quite different from the one in my other season.
Stella of Nilfgaard Witcher School

Stella grew up in Nilfgaard where she couldn’t expect anything from life except being married off to some man her parents chose for her and start raising children. She was not interested in that, and she ran away from home, only to later be captured by bandits who intended to sell her to slavers.

She was saved from that fate when they encountered a group of Cat School witchers, and their Grandmaster, Astrid, offered to play a game of Gwent for Stella’s life. She won, and Stella went with her to Kaer Marter and underwent the Trial of the Grasses. The Trial, however, didn’t go quite as planned, and even though Stella survived, she and many of the other Cat adepts ended up suffering from far more after effects than they should have.

The base character in itself is honestly not that interesting: she doesn’t have a deeply tragic backstory, or any powerful conviction that drives her, but there’s a lot to work with with her. In the beginning, I thought I would play mostly on the fact that she was suffering strongly from the after effects of the Trial of the Grasses, but once the game started I ended up focusing a lot more on her identity as a Cat School witcher.

My Stella ended being a perfectly pleasant person (to people’s face, anyway), but she made it a point to tell the Wolf adepts that you should never trust a Cat.


Witcher School

This was season 4 episode 1, and took place during 10.-13. October.

Moszna Castle Witcher School

Arriving

I’m not sure if the wonder ever wears off, but as I turned around the corner to see Moszna Castle, I was once again stunned by how freaking beautiful this castle is.

It’s even easier to appreciate it when you know your way around and do not spend all your time being lost…

I’m not going to spent a lot of time describing all the work the organizers do to make the experience as immersive as possible, because I know most people reading this post will be my fellow witchers, and the rest of you can go read my more effusive post from the last game.

Workshops

As usual, we had to go through a series of workshops to make sure that most of us would make it through the game without having to go to the hospital or becoming emotionally scarred. Once again, go read my other post if you want more details. It can be summed up by saying that we were taught safe words and told not to set ourselves, others, or the castle on fire.

Also: don’t kill Bertram.

Before the Game

Because I didn’t get lost 3 times every time I had to go somewhere, I actually had time to put on my makeup before the game started, and I got a lot of compliments on my veined face.

Just before the game was supposed to start, Konrad, who was playing Master Reinicke, the only Cat School Master at Kaer Tiele, took the 9 Cat School players aside for a briefing (he did this by going “here, kitty, kitty” and expecting us to follow him). He told us a bit of how the Cat School differed from the Wolf School, about how his own character would be with us (because most of our characters would know Reinicke from when he taught at the Cat School), and then he asked if anyone volunteered to be slapped in the face with a smoked mackerel.

Cat School Witcher School Season 4
Cat School Ambassadors
Photo: Kamil Nowakowski

The Game Begins

At the game’s beginning, the Cat School witchers were just arriving at Kaer Tiele, so we were herded around the castle to wait just before the game started. With us were three NPCs we had met on the road and who had hired us to escort them: a merchant, Marcus Ortenbeck, his bodyguard, the dwarf Sandor Gottlieb, and Robin the bard.

When the game started we walked back to the courtyard, the Cats immediately falling into character and making mildly condescending comments about the Wolves and their castle. We arrived at the courtyard to see Masters and adepts lined up in front of the castle, and we were eventually introduced as the Kaer Marter delegation. We got to approach their Grandmaster, Svar, with a message from our own Grandmaster.

We were soon forgotten, however, as another delegation arrived. This one was from Redania, led by the sorceress Philippa Eilhart.

Now… the timeline for Witcher School takes place around 200 years before the Witcher games, but everyone who’s played the games or read the books will still know Philippa Eilhart.

Trust me, she’s just as much of a bitch here.

Unlike the Cats, who had to wait for their chance to approach the Grandmaster, Philippa marched straight through the crowd, dragging a young girl behind her on a chain.

Already getting good, right?

Honestly, I had a hard time hearing everything that was said next, but we all got the picture. Soon we were told to go inside for dinner and as the adepts got in line, the Cats were approached by an elderly mage who introduced himself as Cosimo Malaspina. Obviously, we all knew about him, because one of the reasons we had gone to Kaer Tiele was to find him and ask him to fix our botched mutagens, seeing as he was the one who made the first witchers. He beat us to it, however, immediately asking if he could examine us later.

Sure, it was something we had intended to ask him to do anyway, but I still find it slightly worrying when someone asks me to get up on a dissection table within 5 minutes of meeting me…

We had only just finished our conversation and gotten in line behind the Wolf adepts when we had our next encounter with one of the charming residents of Kaer Tiele. The Cats were talking among themselves and one of them used the word “Master” in conversation.

Apparently, that’s dangerous, if Master Gedymin happens to pass by at that moment.

Gedymin is a great example of the kind of professionals the Wolf School employs to tutor their students. Scary, scarred, and totally off his rocker on Fisstech. The second he heard the word Master, he was all up in the face of my fellow Cat, saying he was a Master of None, and delivering what can only be described as undisguised threats.

We eventually got our dinner – and I somehow didn’t get beat up commenting on how the Wolves were so obediently lining up to get their dog food – and we went to meet up with our new tutors.

Joining the Ashes

Remember how I mentioned there was a good chance I could end up with a tutor played by someone I spent my last game insulting…?

You bet your ass I ended up with a tutor I kept insulting last game.

My tutor this time was the aging Skellige witcher, Master Gunhild. In a previous life, she played the Temerian officer Corinne Dennetz, a woman my own former incarnation, Eydis, pissed off to the point where she made it her personal mission to break me.

Master Gunhild
Photo: Piotr Müller

To get to know her group, she took us all into the forest. It was already dark at this point and she didn’t tell us where we were going, so most of us probably expected something quite horrible. Instead we ended up making a fire and she sat us all down around it, served us tea, and told us to tell the her about the life we left behind and what we sought to achieve as witchers.

It basically turned into a rehab therapy session.

Gunhild also told us a bit about herself, and how her own Trial of the Grasses had gone wrong, leaving her as the only witcher aging normally and having to deal with aching joints. Then, she told us to pick a name for our group.

And that’s where real-life Michelle began influencing Stella…

The very first suggestion was something along the lines of this: “What about that bird we heard earlier? An owl, wasn’t it?”

And Stella very vehemently protested: “We’re not naming ourselves after owls. Only sorcerers like owls.”

Because I am not, I repeat, I am not going all the way to Poland to pretend to be someone else and still be end up being known as the “owl girl”.

I also vetoed the next suggestions which were all bird-related. In the end Gunhild told us that if we didn’t make a decision, she would pick a name and it would be an embarrassing one. We eventually ended up on “the Phoenixes”, and I was willing to accept a bird name if it was at least a bird that was on fire. We ended up playing a bit with the phoenix analogy and in the end we decided on “Ashes” for our name.

And that’s how my character ended up hating birds in general, and owls in particular.

Ashes Witcher School
The Ashes
Photo: Kamil Nowakowski

Plotting Murder and Other Crimes

I ran into my fellow Cats, Adrian and Marissa, after the Ashes got back from the forest.

I told them how my group basically went to have a tea party and talk about our feelings, and when asked about his group, Adrian went, “Oh, I stabbed an adept.”

Apparently, Adrian was assigned Gedymin as a tutor…

But Marissa had other worries. Earlier, she had run into someone from her past. Someone she had been sure she had killed, and as such, she was slightly miffed at seeing him alive and well in Kaer Tiele. She wasn’t willing to tell us a lot about why she had tried to kill him, but she did say that he had tried to kill her first.

And she was very determined to make another stab at killing him for good.

Now, Cats are not usually the kind to help others if they don’t get anything out of it. Unless we’re taking pranks or revenge. So Adrian and Stella pledged their help to Marissa, though we thought that straight up killing a man in the middle of the school we had been sent to as ambassadors might not be the best approach. We did a bit of brainstorming, agreeing that we wanted him discredited at least. I eventually suggested a plan:

“Let’s ask Master Reinicke what to do.”

Everyone who participated in season 4 will know this incarnation of Reinicke. You can not avoid noticing Reinicke. Because Reinicke knows how to cause trouble.

Because Reinicke was the only Cat Master at the Wolf School, having left Kaer Marter 6 months earlier, we as Cats had a certain connection with him. But that hadn’t prevented him from being dismissive with us every time one of us went to him with what the Wolves would probably call “reasonable” matters. But as soon as Marissa went to him for ideas for revenge, he was all too happy to help.

Reinicke’s suggestion was to get the guy in question, a sergeant of the Blue Stripes, kicked out of his unit. He also had an idea on how to do it and said we could try framing him for rape.

Once again, the teachers at Kaer Tiele are model citizens.

Marissa informed Adrian and Stella of the plan. We weren’t totally sold on it, but Marissa assured us that it was exactly what he deserved. Adrian did suggest to just spike the guy’s drink with enough Fisstech to send him on a rampage, but Marissa wanted to keep that as a backup plan. In the end, we assured her we would help with whatever she found necessary, and she went off to recruit some help for our plot.

Werewolf on the Loose

As it was getting a little cold, I went upstairs to my room to put on warmer clothes and when I got back down the first thing I heard was someone in the corridor saying, “The princess is a fucking werewolf!”

Remember the girl Philippa Eilhart was dragging around on a chain? Well, apparently she was an illegimate Redanian princess and a werewolf on top of that. She had also very much escaped from her guards and was at that moment wreaking havoc in the forest.

I didn’t get to join the groups going to the forest to hunt her down. Instead I was stuck patrolling the perimeter, in case the werewolf got close to the castle. That would all have been well and good, if we hadn’t been ordered not to harm her.

I tried to explain to the others that at Kaer Marter they told us how to kill werewolves, and that I had no idea how to contain one without hurting it. Not hurting monsters is just not something Cat School witchers have a habit of considering.

In the end, the patrol wasn’t needed, because we never saw the werewolf. We did, however, see the hunting parties carrying their wounded and dead back, and later them bringing back the princess in her human form, the poor girl weeping and hysterical.

Accepting that I wasn’t going to get to kill something, I eventually went to bed.

Classes Begin

The next morning, after we were woken up by a Master with powerful lungs yelling outside our rooms, I spent enough time doing my stupid veiny makeup that I would have been late to morning workout. Knowing that he expected his Cats to take their physical training very seriously (he would be fine with us ditching Signs or Monster Knowledge, but Cats are expected to be expert fighters) I was a little afraid of what Reinicke would do to me if he saw me late to the morning workout. So I just skipped it altogether and decided to stay clear of him all day.

But I was so focused on what Reinicke would think that I had forgotten I had another tutor now, and I wasn’t prepared when Master Gunhild cornered me in the dining hall and confronted me about skipping the workout. It’s a good thing that Stella as a Cat isn’t one to feel shame, because Gunhild fought dirty and, instead of getting angry, she just showed disappointment.

Michelle wanted to hang her head in shame; Stella wanted breakfast.

She did, however, win back a bit of Gunhild’s approval when she was early to her first class. As Master Gunhild was a bit of a mother hen to her adepts, she wanted to sit in on many of our classes, and our first class was Monster Knowledge with Master Ylia.

It was a good thing she was there as well, because Master Ylia was epically late and we might all have left if we hadn’t been chatting with our new witcher mom.

When Ylia, a very pretty and cheery Wolf Master, finally did arrive, we started out the lesson by discussing what qualifies as a monster, and if a monster should always be killed, no matter the circumstances. Once again, Stella had a bit of a hard time figuring out the Wolves’ approach to witchering.

The Cats’ philosophy is a bit more like this: If someone will pay you for killing a monster, you kill the monster. End of story.

But Master Ylia is quite a lovely person, so I did my best to keep an open mind during her lesson. After the theoretical discussion, we went to the alchemy lab (which also happens to contain the entrance to the crypt) and Ylia went inside to see if “their guest was still angry”. While waiting outside for her to return, one member of the Ashes, Alastair (who, together with his pal Crowley, had quickly earned the nickname “the Idiots”) turned to Victor (a guy who had been kept as a personal plaything by a vampire until rescued by witchers) and went: “15 orens if you hug whatever’s in there.”

Victor agreed worryingly easily.

Ylia returned and let us down into the crypt to meet the lovely lady kept imprisoned by an Yrden sign down there.

And that’s when we got our lesson on grave hags.

Since I don’t have any pictures from the game yet, I urge anyone not familiar with the Witcher games to go google what Victor agreed to cuddle with.

After discussing grave hags and other necrophages, Ylia asked if anyone wanted to try and approach the grave hag, considering how she had been perfectly docile during the lesson. Victor, of course, had already volunteered, so he stepped into the circle of the Yrden and immediately had to be saved by the rest of us, but everyone, including Alastair, agreed that the brutal assault counted as a hug.

Promising us that we were now going to have some fun, Ylia took us into the forest. There we met another humanoid lady – though this one was slightly more pleasing to the eyes.

When you got a beautiful, lightly-dressed woman, you’re willing to overlook the horns and the hooves.

This was quite obviously a succubus, but unlike the grave hag, she had made a deal with the witchers at Kaer Tiele, and was helping out with our lessons voluntarily. She was very accomodating, answering all our questions, and she was also happy to help when Ylia suggested a demonstration.

Halvar, another Cat, was picked to try and resist the succubus’s charm and the Idiots were told to restrain him if he moved.

To be fair to Halvar, he did last almost 30 seconds before he had to be physically restrained, but he did have to be taken away from the class for a while after. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately, if you consider Halvar’s pride), Grandmaster Svar had come to supervise the class and took him aside, telling him to think about trees.

Of course, at a distance, half of us heard it as “Think about beef” and spent a lot of time being confused…

After we had another – very eager – female Ashes member trying and failing to withstand the succubus’s charm, we went back and moved on to our first Fencing class.

Now, I have been dealing with a mildly sprained wrist for some time now, so I had been fearing fencing class, but I figured I would be okay because it would just be LARP swords.

Guess who were given steel training swords this time…?

The teacher for this class was Master Edwin. My first impression was that he was a good and fair teacher, and I sort of stand by that statement even after I was certain he would send me to the hospital before class was over.

I enjoyed the class, even though I got a bit of performance anxiety. The first thing anyone says about the Cat School is that their witchers are experts at fencing (unless you’re Master Dirk, in which case the first thing he says is, “Cats are fucked up”), so I didn’t want to embarrass myself.

It’s always challenging when Stella is supposed to be good at something Michelle sucks at.

It was a lot different to the Fencing class I took in my last game. Not only were we just using LARP swords then, we also mostly did footwork. This time, using blunt steel swords, we were paired up and did a lot of parrying and attempts at disarming each other. We also learned how to jump a blade if someone went for our legs, and it’s always fun to be flashy as fuck when fighting with a sword.

So why was I afraid of being sent to the hospital, you might ask?

Well, I wasn’t angling my sword right when parrying, so Master Edwin took it upon himself to show me. It was all calm and slow at first… but then I started getting the hang of it, and Edwin just started raining attacks down on my head, forcing me to rapidly block each strike or get bashed in the skull with rod of steel.

I mean… I know the instructors are professionals, and I have to believe he would somehow be able to stop himself from hurting me if I fucked up a parry, but it was honestly hard to imagine how he would do so. Luckily, I didn’t fuck up my parries and avoided adding a concussion to my sprained wrist (which, at that point, was killing me).

During the lunch break, I did some light plotting with Marissa, and then it was off to Alchemy class.

To the Cats’ luck, we had the sorcerer, Cosimo Malaspina, as our teacher, though he insisted that he was not actually an Alchemy teacher and that his speciality was witcher mutagens. He did teach us to make a Swallow potion, and demonstrated the effects of the Cat potion (some pretty cool special effects going on there), but the most interesting part of the lesson was him telling us about the motivation behind creating witchers (or as he refered to us, ‘monsters’) in the first place. He called us his “favorite mistake”, because his intention had been to improve the human race, and, while he succeeded in making his subjects stronger and less prone to erratic emotions, they became sterile and as such he couldn’t give those gifts to all of mankind without wiping out their species.

…Cosimo is basically a mad eugenics scientist.

There was also the brief interlude when Master Dirk, the Signs teacher, visited the alchemy lab. I can’t quite remember what prompted the conversation, but it ended with Cosimo having to explain to Dirk why having sex with a werewolf is a bad idea. Not to mention bestiality.

Master Dirk appeared unconcerned (once again showcasing the high standards of the Kaer Tiele faculty).

As the lesson ended, the Cats asked Cosimo if he wanted to come to Kaer Marter to help them fix their mutagens and he said he would be more than happy to, and agreed to discuss it with us later. We agreed to meet up the next day.

But more on that later…

(The people reading who were there are cackling right now.)

The last class of the day was Archery for my group. Considering archery is something I actually know how to do, it’s the class I look forward to the most.

Less so with a sprained wrist, true, but I managed.

Our archery teacher was Master Toril, a small woman who manages to be rather terrifying if you’re late or messes around in her class. But she did let us shoot arrows at the dick of a Master who yells at us every single time we’re gathered in the courtyard, Harval (who in my other season plays Master Niall, the most good-natured guy ever) at the end of the lesson, so she did endear herself to me.

Time for Monster Hunting

After dinner, we returned to Marissa’s plotting which had hit a bit of a snag. The other Cats got involved at this point and, after a few of us pointed out that perhaps we shouldn’t be plotting murder in a large group in the middle of the tavern, we relocated to the courtyard where we got absolutely nowhere.

The Cats eventually dispersed and went to join the rest of the Wolf School witchers for the nightly monster hunt. Master Gunhild rounded up the Ashes and gave us a pep talk.

Which, for the Skelliger, apparently involved handing out dried fish to all of us…

After dutifully eating our smelly treat, the Ashes were split into two groups, one going with Gunhild, the other with Master Reinicke, and I was left holding a fish tail while we waited to be sent off (and mentally cursing Kaer Tiele’s lack of trash cans).

Master Gunhild’s group was one of the first to depart, so once I got rid of my fish tail and Gunhild acquired a torch, we were on our way.

Walking around in a dark forest when you know you can be attacked at any moment is always nerve-wracking, but we held it together pretty well. The first encounter involved three drowners and – despite our formation being pretty awful – we made it through without injuries to our team. Next, we came by a strange man sitting by a table in the middle of the forest. Because of the horns and the hooves our first thought was “incubus”, but the creature was severely insulted and made us apologize when someone voiced said thought. A closer look revealed furry legs as well, so we thought he must be a satyr, but apparently “satyrs are just losers always trying to steal his look”. He made us solve three riddles and eventually told us he was a sylvan. He also offered to play a game, consisting of removing a number of coins from a pile and winning by not being the last one to remove a coin, with one of us. One of the others had already sat down at the table before I felt the need to ask what the stakes were (something I really feel anyone should have asked before agreeing) and he told me we could ask him one question if we won.

I still didn’t trust him at all, but at least I wasn’t the one playing.

The one of us playing won the game, and none of us had any idea what to ask him. We settled on, “What’s the difference between a satyr and a sylvan?” Gunhild thought it was a bit silly to ask a wise, 200-year old creature something you could have asked in Monster Knowledge class. But as we would later find out that Alastair (who had gone with Reinicke) had asked, “Can chickens swim?”… I feel it could have been worse.

We returned to the castle and met Master Gregor outside the alchemy lab.

Now, I don’t know what Master Gregor’s deal is. He kinda looks and acts like the guide on a ghost walk, and I never once saw him show the slightest hint of emotion, but compared to many of the other Masters, he seems like a decent guy. He’s a bit scary, but only because you sort of expect to find him lurking in dark corners, whereas someone like Master Meinard is scary because he always looks like he’s planning to cut you open and figure out how your insides work.

Anyway, Master Gregor told us we were going to discover the true story of Kaer Tiele before leading us up into a part of the castle none of us had ever been to. He gave us a Cat potion before opening the door to a large room and ushering us inside, telling us to be ready.

And that’s when we were attacked by wraiths.

I can’t even begin to explain how much I hate fighting in dark rooms, so I made sure to stay back when the rest of my group went on the offensive. Unfortunately, that also meant that I was not really sure what was going on at that time, and only got the full story in bits and pieces during the following day. All I saw were my companions taking down the screaming wraiths, before we all heard a voice yell something about making sure to kill the baby.

Of course I would later find out that what we witnessed was the violent story of how Grandmaster Svar and the other original witchers of Kaer Tiele came to acquire the castle by murdering the original baron and his family. More on that later.

This time we didn’t make it out without injuries, but we did make it out. Outside in the courtyard, Victor, who had barely held it together, succumbed to his injuries, and we had to carry him to the tavern. When we got him into a chair we quickly discovered that his physical injuries weren’t the real problem. I guess it’s not really a surprise to discover that you get PTSD from being held captive by vampires for god knows how long, but the wraiths had brought forth some bad memories, and the poor guy was quickly losing his grip on reality.

And really, you had to admire the acting skills going on here. I was just about ready to admit him to the insane asylum.

Once we had gotten Victor to stop laughing hysterically and creeping everybody out, we all got settled in front of the fire in the tavern and Gunhild went to buy all of us drinks, simultaneously impressing us by carrying like eight beers in her hands at once.

Skellige skills, y’all.

(Also, later at the afterparty, I was told this was a crossover beer in my case, because I had tried so very hard to get Corinne Dennetz to buy me a beer in season 2. Success!)

While in the tavern, I ended up striking up a conversation with Philippa Eilhart, of all people. Considering Philippa is a cold-hearted bitch who likes to turn into an owl, you would think this was a recipe for disaster, but she seemed to take a shine to Stella, who shared many of her own views. And don’t get me wrong, Stella knew perfectly well that Philippa wasn’t to be trusted, but she also knew that you keep your enemies close (and preferably unaware of the fact that you know they’re up to no good).

Philippa was deeply frustrated at being sent off to play babysitter to some cursed princess, and she was pleased to hear that Stella, unlike so many of the Wolf School witchers, didn’t believe trying to help the princess instead of killing her was the best cause of action.

Eventually the Ashes found a more secluded corner, free of sorceresses, and I got to know my group a bit better. I was telling one of them, Sigi, more about the Cat School, and I went, “Never trust a Cat. Take it from me” and she straight up told me she didn’t believe me. I had to ask her if she was honestly saying she didn’t trust me when I was telling her not to trust me.

Wolves… Cue eyeroll

Morning Workout and Other Punishments

The next day, I was once again late to morning workout, but knowing that I had Master Reinicke for fencing later that day, I knew I couldn’t skip. While I was standing by the door to the courtyard, hesitating, the castle’s steward, Bertram, showed up and asked me if anything was wrong. I decided to go with honesty and saying that I was running late and I was slightly worried about what Master Reinicke would do to me. Bertram, being a generally nice guy, tried to reassure me:

“Oh, Reinicke won’t do a thing. It’s Dagna you need to worry about.”

Master Dagna wasn’t anywhere to be seen, but Master Toril swooped in as soon as I stepped through the door. Bertram, who had followed me outside, immediately stepped forward and, though I couldn’t hear exactly what he told her as I was busy hurrying to get into line and join the workout, it sounded very much like he told her that I had just been helping him with something in the kitchen. Either way, I, unlike all the late adepts that came after me, wasn’t yelled at or made to do extra pushups, and Bertram rose considerably in Stella’s estimation.

It might have been a small gesture, but anyone who’s willing to lie for you without having a reason to earns himself some of Stella’s rare Cat respect.

…Which really just made the scene after the workout so much worse.

I had heard rumors that Bertram was being blamed for the princess escaping the first night, but I hadn’t thought much more of it before Grandmaster Svar stepped in front of the assembled adepts and started talking about punishment. Then Bertram, Gedymin (who apparently had done some shit as well) and a row of adepts who (for some reason) had offered to share the punishment were called up in front of the crowd and told to take off their shirts.

Each of the adepts were lashed once, Gedymin five times and poor Bertram (who, unlike Gedymin, was neither a witcher nor probably numb from Fisstech) got six, as far as I could see.

I never had the chance to find out exactly what Bertram did that resulted in the werewolf escaping, but as far as I can tell it was an accident. And no matter what, I find it rather unfair that – in a castle filled with witchers, sorcerers and soldiers – you put the responsibility to keep a werewolf contained on the one person who doesn’t have the training to deal with such shit.

Seriously, Philippa, you can’t just drag a werewolf into someone else’s castle and dump it on the servants!

Lashing Witcher School
Photo: Piotr Müller

Morning Classes and Morning Murders

My first lesson of the day was Craft with Master Ian. Which was nice, because it seemed like a nice, chill thing to just sit inside in a warm room and make leather equipment. And it was…

Mostly.

We got seated in the Grandmaster’s suite, given all the materials we needed, and told we could make either a pouch or a potion holder. I went with the potion holder, and we all set to work, cutting leather and hammering in rivets, everything proceeding perfectly peacefully until the moment a servant stormed into the room, yelling “Where’s the Grandmaster?!”

I shrugged and said, “Well, not here”, and the servant yelled “Malaspina’s dead!”, then rushed out without another word.

And then we all kind of forgot our leatherwork for a moment.

A few of us rushed out on the balcony overlooking the courtyard together with Master Ian, trying to see if anything was going on down there, while the Idiots went after the frantic servant. They later came back, telling us about how Cosimo’s brain had been splattered all across the walls.

I might be a slightly terrible person, because I admit that my first thought was, “Fuck! Now I have to keep doing this stupid makeup…”

But hey, at least the Cats’ schedule cleared up a bit, right?

Cosimo Death Witcher School
Photo: Piotr Müller

Not really knowing what else to do, we finished up our class, and then a large number of the post-Trial adepts met up with Grandmaster Svar, who asked for volunteers to help the Masters with the Trials later that night. After we agreed, we made him tell us a bit more about the Cosimo incident. Apparently, the mage had received a package and then left to go open it. Whatever was inside blew his head off.

Honestly, not a good day for the Kaer Tiele servants, if I do say so. At least a simple stabbing doesn’t take that long to clean up after.

Anyway, we sorted ourselves into groups, so we knew who would be going with Master Ylia, Master Dirk and Master Eckhard respectively during the Trials. I ended up in Master Dirk’s group, a man with whom my only experience at that moment was him talking about banging werewolves.

Good thing I had Master Bestiality for my Signs class that afternoon, right?

But first I had Survival with Master “Four Lines!” Harlav. I’m not sure I would call it a class, because he literally taught us nothing. He asked us to make a fire, and then a shelter. If we sucked at it, it was our problem.

After lunch, the Cats were hanging out in the courtyard. Reinicke had pretty much ignored us the moment he laid eyes on a cup of coffee, but we eyed him curiously when we saw him leaned over it, saying “Fuck off. Fuck off. Fuck off” over and over.

“Is Master Reinicke arguing with his coffee?”

It turned out that a bee had gotten into his mug, but it says something about Reinicke’s character that this wasn’t the first explanation that came to mind.

Next up was Signs, which was a class I had originally planned to skip. But since the mage I had a meeting with went and got himself blown up, I figured I might as well go, since I had nothing better to do.

Master Dirk (“Just call me Dirk”) led us out into the forest and gave the new adepts their witcher medallions.

Then we were attacked by ladybugs.

Seriously, they were everywhere. I didn’t even know ladybugs came in swarms.

Once we had gotten all the ladybugs out of our eyes and ears, we practiced the Quen sign, before Dirk led the new adepts away from the group one-by-one to practice Aard while the rest of us watched from afar. And, as always happens when you leave a group of people with nothing to do, we started talking among ourselves.

I lost count of how many conversations I had about bestiality during this game, but apparently Cosimo making it clear that a werewolf was likely to change by accident during intercourse would not deter these guys, and I can’t believe that “prepare arguments for why bestiality is not cool” is now on my to-do list for episode 2… but there it is.

Luckily, we got some entertainment when it was Alastair’s turn to practice Aard.

Apparently, his character is afraid of magic, so not only did he have to almost be dragged over to the target to practice, he also soon stormed away while, in his wonderfully thick Cockney accent, going “It’s not natural! It’s fucking witchcraft, it is!” and looking like he was about to burst into tears as he ran out of the class. I only just had time to shout after him, “That’s why we’re called WITCHERS” before he was gone and we didn’t see him again for a long time.

Dirk made us move on, so we could put what we learned into practice. At Witcher School, this means leading us to a captured ghoul, making us hand over all our weapons, telling us to trap the ghoul again, and then setting it loose on us.

Health and safety isn’t a big concern at Kaer Tiele.

When the ghoul was successfully forced back and restrained with Yrden, it was time for our very last class – Fencing with Master Reinicke.

This was something I knew would be interesting. Because while everyone who had been within a 50 meters radius of Reinicke knew he was someone who loved telling stories and doing pranks, the Cat School witchers, at least, knew that he got extremely serious about fencing.

As evidenced when Alastair, looking like he had sought refuge from the evil witchcraft inside the tavern, stumbled into class late and Reinicke beat the absolute shit out of him.

However, it was not long after that Bertram marched into the training field, very firmly informing Reinicke that he would appreciate it if he would keep his opinions about Grandmaster Svar to himself and that he was having his “wall art” removed.

Reinicke asked him how he could know it was him, and Bertram’s voice was nearly dripping with contempt when he told him that, as the steward of Kaer Tiele, he knew things, and that he, Reinicke, was now banned from coal. Bertram also informed him that he would post a guard with a crossbow.

Bertram was barely out of earshot before Reinicke started giggling like a child and told us that he drew a dick on the wall.

Before we proceeded with class, Reinicke also made a point out of telling the new adepts that he didn’t want to teach anyone how to be a Cat School witcher, so they better stop asking. He told them how his last words to Grandmaster Astrid before leaving had been, “I would rather suck Gedymin’s dick for free than return to Kaer Marter”.

We didn’t even have to ask for him to inform us that the price for sucking Gedymin’s dick would be 3000 orens.

Ahem… We did actually also do some fencing. This time we used LARP swords, which was a good thing, because Reinicke cared less about correct footwork and more about us managing to hit each other.

We had to take another short break when Gedymin approached the class (thankfully not having heard the previous conversation) with the succubus in tow. We patiently waited while our fencing master had a conversation with the succubus, while Gedymin stood there grinning like a hyena, until finally they left and Reinicke told us to wait for a moment while his blood returned to his head. Then Reinicke proceeded to tell us about a bet he made once back at Kaer Marter (which my character would obviously know about, but which was news to me) where they had encountered a succubus and Reinicke told one of the other Masters that he would bang her once for every adept she managed to seduce, fully believing that trained witchers would be able to withstand her.

But as etablished, Cat School witchers are arseholes, so the Master told all the adepts about the bet and they all willingly succumbed to the succubus’s charms, forcing Reinicke to sleep with her forty times and nearly dying as a result. And, apparently, that very same succubus was the one we were introduced to during Monster Knowledge, and someone had told Gedymin the story.

I love how these people are all such bastards.

Wolf School Drama

I mentioned how, apparently, Grandmaster Svar had been involved in killing the original owners of Kaer Tiele, right?

It seems that, while it had always been known that the witchers had killed the baron and his family, the excuse for doing it has not been… entirely truthful. The baron had been accused of necromancy, but this seems not to have been true.

This was all brought up after the surviving daughter of the baron had come to Kaer Tiele, disguised as a bard, and now wanted justice for her family.

It also appeared that Svar had killed the former Grandmaster, Raven, many years earlier (instead of it being an accident during a monster hunt). Not sure how this was revealed, but Svar suddenly had a lot of shady shit to explain.

Master Meinard, Cosimo’s apprentice, was also charged with being involved in the whole “slaughtering a family to take over their castle”-debacle.

Master Meinard is pretty damn terrifying, so I’m not sure anyone was all that surprised there.

All this was a bit much to take, even for witchers, so every witcher at Kaer Tiele was called to a Gathering to vote on the fate of Svar and Meinard. Only the Cat School witchers, being a delegation from another school, were allowed to withstand from voting if they so wished.

Gathering Witcher School
Photo: Piotr Müller

Every Master who wished to speak at the Gathering got the chance to do so. The baron’s daughter, Sorena, didn’t actually have the right to speak, as she wasn’t a witcher, but Master Dirk allowed her to speak in his stead. Several of the other Masters spoke either for or against exiling Svar and Meinard, while both of the accused got to speak as well, before the voting started.

Every witcher was told to stand in one of two lines, symbolizing either letting Svar remain Grandmaster, or exiling both him and Meinard from Kaer Tiele.

All but one of the Cat witchers stood steadfastly by Master Reinicke’s side, refusing to get involved in Wolf School business. Reinicke himself hadn’t wanted to vote, and had thought he might get out of it by claiming his status as a Cat, but as a Master at Kaer Tiele he was not actually allowed to refuse when Svar yelled at him to “make a choice, you bastard!”‘

(I might be paraphrasing a bit here, but even with my failing memory, I feel like I’m conveying the mood…)

There was even more drama when Dirk, who had supported Sorena’s right to speak, walked towards Svar’s line and, when someone yelled it was the wrong line, yelled back, “I know what I’m doing!”

It’s not often it’s quiet enough around the witchers to hear everyone gasp.

In the end, the supporters for Svar outnumbered the rest by only 7 votes.

(A bit funny, considering there were exactly 8 Cat witchers staying neutral.)

So Svar got to stay on as Grandmaster, Meinard got to keep performing shady medical procedures on adepts, and what do Svar do…?

He stands up in front of everyone and informs them that he has decided to leave Kaer Tiele on his own volition.

Goddamnit, dude.

The Trials (or “When Dirk’s Group Just Started Fucking with Adepts”)

Now that all the drama was over with, the Gathering dissolved and everyone got ready for the Trials. I went with Dirk and the 5 other witchers who had volunteered to assist him. One of us had to borrow a sword from the guy who had two, but we were all more or less ready to go. The girl who borrowed the sword went to do something and was supposed to come back quickly, but by the time we were told to get going, we still hadn’t seen her, so we went out into the forest without her.

(After about an hour, we turned to the guy who had lent her a sword, and said, “I think she robbed you.”)

Dirk had been put in charge of the second of the Trials the new adepts had to go through before they were to undergo the Trial of the Grasses. Our station was at the bridge at the edge of the forest. The mood on the trip there was pretty somber, Dirk being rather gloomy about his actions during the Gathering, but it soon got better once we arrived at the bridge. Dirk found a great outlet for his angst in what I have dubbed his “Emo Svar” impression, which consisted mostly of putting on a deep, grave voice and going, “I am Grandmaster Svar. I must send myself into exile.”

He did it for at least 3 hours, and it somehow never stopped being funny.

The Trial we were going to pose to the adepts involved them playing the “Bridge game”. In theory, it’s quite simple:

You got two groups of equal size. All but one of them has a sword. They’re placed on either side of a bridge and in the middle of the bridge is a sack with a chain in it. The goal is to grab the chain and get it to the opposite side of the bridge. Only the one not carrying a sword is allowed to grab the chain. If any player is hit with a weapon by a player of the opposing team, they have to stop what they’re doing and do 10 pushups/squats/sit-ups etc.

We introduced another rule that said that we were going to be walking around the bridge as well and if we booped any player on the head with the flat of our sword, they also had to stop and do whatever we told them.

For the first couple of groups, we just made them do push-ups or sit-ups. Or, that means, I tried to get them to do sit-ups, but apparently every single adept thinks “sit-ups” means “squats”.

Jeez, what are they teaching people at this school…?

It didn’t take us long to get bored with this, however. While waiting for the next group, we looked at each other and went, “We should make them sing.”

And here’s why I’m glad I ended up in Dirk’s group, because I don’t think any other Master would have allowed the chaos we caused for the next few hours.

Sure, for the next group, we just made them sing. And I must say, I’m impressed that none of them hesitated, even though it would be fair to be confused when you’re booped on the head with a sword and someone demands that you sing. But they obeyed on the spot. There were several renditions of “What do you do with a drunken witcher?” and many going “La la la la la la”, but my favorites were the ones that went “I don’t know any songs, so I’m just going to do this…” and “I hate this stupid game…”, but still sang it flawlessly to a melody.

Of course, seeing how easily we got them to sing… we had to keep going, right?

Obviously we made the next group dance. And then that one left, I looked at the others and said, “They’re Wolf adepts… We should make them howl at the moon.”

It was a beautiful full moon as well, and it was far more beautiful when we got 9 adepts to howl at it all at the same time, and no one questioned their orders.

Oh, and one of my favorite moments of the whole game was when we later heard weird sounds from the direction of the third Trial and we looked at each other and went, “Wait… Are they still howling? They left here ages ago.”

That group now has a special place in my heart, because we were all laughing hysterically while I’m sure everyone up at the castle were so very confused.

When we started running out of ideas, we began asking the Masters accompanying each group what they wanted us to make them do.

Once we made them act like chickens.

Once we made them hiss like cats.

Once we told them to act like princesses, and one of them immediately went, “Servant, where is my horse?! I’m tired of this place!” and that girl got to join the howling group in my heart.

Once, when Master Gregor came around, our only instruction was, “Gregor likes manticores”, and the following confused conversation ensued:

“How do you act like a manticore?”

“I have no idea. Just tell the adepts to do it and let’s see what they come up with.”

None of the adepts imitated the same kind of animal, so I think we might need a talk with the Monster Knowledge teachers…

But really, whatever we told them to do, they just did it. Stella might have made a lot of dog jokes about the Wolf School witchers, but she did honestly not expect them to be this obedient.

(Honestly, we were at the 9th group before someone thought to ask what the point of the exercise was. We just told them not to ask questions…)

This all took place over maybe 3 or 4 hours, so we spent a lot of time between groups just waiting on a dark bridge… but I can’t remember when I last had this much fun. I’m not sure I can repeat most of the insane jokes we did there, because they were so completely inappropiate that if there had been any sensible people around, someone would have stopped us. Marissa (who was also part of this group) and I told Dirk the story of how we had tried to capture a Barghest on our way from Kaer Marter to Kaer Tiele, to give it as a “present” to the Wolf School witchers, but that it had gotten loose in a tavern and we had to put it down.

Master Dirk was sorely disappointed that he didn’t get a Barghest, and blamed us for making him sad.

A long line of Svar impressions cheered all of us up greatly, though, until we saw a silhouette in the dark approaching us.

“Oh shit… We summoned him.”

I’m still not quite sure why the Grandmaster decided to come out there himself to ask if we had everything we needed, but we managed to keep it together until he was halfway back to the castle before we started laughing again.

It was almost 1 in the morning before we made it back to the castle. I stayed around the tavern, singing along to the bards’ songs and congratulating each of the Ashes adepts as they made it out alive from the Trial of the Grasses. I admit I also once got together with someone from Dirk’s group and booped a random adept on the head to see if she would howl if we told her to (she did). At one point, the horn sounded, calling us into the courtyard for the final scene of the LARP. We all lined up before the Grandmaster and he started talking about the investigation into the death of Cosimo Malaspina, and accused Master Vester, the alchemy teacher with speciality in witcher bombs and a strained relationship with the mage, of being behind the explosion. Vester, understandably, demanded proof, at which point one of the tutors, Jodok, stepped forward and confessed to killing Cosimo.

There was a brief fight, then Jodok took an Igni to the chest, and died.

And that’s how the episode ended.

The Afterparty and the Day After

This time I was actually not so exhausted that I couldn’t take part in the afterparty, so I went around and hugged all the people who had only moments before been tough, unapproachable witchers. There were a few scuffles trying to beat the other groups to the photobooth, but I did manage to get a picture with both the Ashes and the Cat School witchers, so I have something to anxiously look forward to now that the post-LARP blues are starting to set in.

I ended up going to bed at 5 am, which is rather impressive for a person who usually gets testy if she gets past her 21.30 bedtime.

There’s not much to say about the following day, as it mostly consisted of everyone going home, but the conversation I had to Marissa and Adrian’s real life counterparts made my day. Adrian, the drug-using Cat I had spent 3 days planning murder and so many other horrible crimes with, were grieving the thought of having to go to work at 7 am the next day.

“What do you do for a living?”

“Oh, I’m a policeman.”


That’s it (she says, after writing a blog post a sixth of the length of her first book).

I really do hope I’ll get some pictures soon to add to this ridiculous wall of text, but I don’t dare get my hopes up.

Also, I’m not entirely sure why I’m still writing, because there’s no way anyone got to the end of this shit.

 

Oh, one more thing:

I forgot to add this part, and right now I can’t be assed to rewrite anything to make it fit, so I’ll just shove it in here: Victor agreed on a dare to use the pickup line “I have never been with a human before, and I don’t want to die without trying it” on Master Meinard.

He didn’t get the chance in episode 1, but Stella and Halvar are fucking holding him to it.


Photos by Piotr Müller and Kamil Nowakowski.

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Witcher School – Where I Got Beaten Up by Elementals and Strigas, and Almost Stabbed a Cat

Moszna Castle

OBS: Spoilers for episode 5 of Witcher School.

I got home from Poland Sunday night. When I woke the next day, it wasn’t fully light out and I was like “Wow, I managed to wake up before noon?”

…Nope. I slept through 3 alarms and woke at 7:30 in the evening.

If you have been following my posts, you of course know that I went to Moszna Castle in Poland to attend Witcher School for three days. It was my first time going to this LARP and I’m honestly not sure I can cram all the amazing stuff that happened into one blog post.

But damn it if I ain’t gonna try!

Disclaimer: This post is going to have stronger language than usual, because it would feel a little silly staying all PG when talking about an event where we were woken up in the morning by someone yelling “Rise and fucking shine!”… 


My Character

Let me start by introducing my character. I already talked a bit about Eydis of Clan Tordarroch, the daughter of a Skellige jarl, in an earlier blog post.

Eydis is a total badass, who grew up disappointed in her father, who she viewed as weak, because he, unlike most Skelliger, didn’t care for invasion and conquest and didn’t stand up to the ones who mocked their family name. As she refused to sit back quietly and spent her life as someone’s wife or mother, she got involved in Skellige politics in an attempt to prove herself and regain respect for her clan.

Her father did not approve and sent her off with a witcher to teach her a lesson.

Eydis was a difficult character for me to play, as her confidence and arrogance comes from being a good fighter, and Michelle is… not a good fighter. I will probably be playing her one more time, as it seems like next episode will be the final one in the season and it would be silly to create a new character for one episode, but I will definitely work towards getting a character more suited to me the next time around.

Witcher School

The event ran from the afternoon on Thursday 4th of April to 3-fucking-am on Sunday 7th.

Arriving

I got to Poland on Thursday and met up with the other players at around noon at Wroclaw Airport to catch a bus to Moszna Castle where we were going to live for the next three days. After signing a bunch of papers, basically saying “If you die, it’s not our fault” or something, I was standing around awkwardly, because everyone else were traveling with friends or knew people from earlier episodes.

Luckily, some guy from Bulgaria took pity on me and approached me, so I didn’t have to be a total wallflower. We talked about everything from previous LARP experience to murder, and the only time there seemed to be a language barrier was when I mentioned living with an owl and he said he wasn’t sure he was understanding me correctly. I’m pretty sure he was.

After a 1½ hour bus ride to the middle of nowhere, we finally arrived at Moszna Zamek, and as we approached the castle, my first thought was “Oh my god… I’m at Hogwarts.”

Guys, I can’t even begin to describe how utterly beautiful this castle is when you see it in person, knowing that you’re going to live there for the next three days.

Moszna Castle

The organizers had rented out the entire castle for the event and decorated the inside, so all modern things were covered up. The only areas that were off-game during the event was the parking lot, the basement where the crew areas were, the bathrooms and the player rooms if we chose to make them so.

Meaning that, except from when nature called, you could be in-game non-stop unless you chose to take a break.

This had both advantages and disadvantages. It was much, much easier to roleplay when you never had to break character, but my room was on the third floor and you very quickly get tired of navigating stairs at night with only the light of the tiny LED candles placed around the castle.

Luckily, “for fuck’s sake!” is perfectly in-character Witcher language, so skipping a step didn’t make me break character.

Also, no matter how beautiful Moszna Zamek is, after the third time I got lost trying to find my room, I did find myself thinking, “Authencity is all well and good, but would it kill them to put up some signs?!”

Organizers Making Sure We Don’t Kill Each Other (and Ideally Don’t Even Have to go to the Hospital)

After finding our rooms and receiving our costumes, we had to go to the introductory workshops.

This was basically a lot of different workshops where we were told how we all got through this LARP without:

  • Sending ourselves to the hospital
  • Sending the crew to the hospital
  • Setting fire to the woods
  • Setting fire to each other
  • Setting fire to ourselves
  • Wreaking havoc in general

We also sat through a workshop where we got a sex talk, and a combat safety workshop, which was by far my favorite because it included the advice, “Be careful in the woods. It’s full of trees and shit.”

We were herded around to 6 or 7 workshops, and half of them had at least one segment dedicated to telling us not to use lit torches as weapons, so I can only assume that, at some point in the past, someone got set on fire…

The Game Begins

After the workshops, we were finally ready to begin.

A bit of backstory:
The story took place about a hundred years before the Witcher books/video games and was centered at Kaer Marter, the Witcher School of Cat.

As a new player, you weren’t told anything about what happened in earlier episodes (this was episode 5), but we soon learned that the King of Temeria was trying to get the Witcher Guild to give up their independence, sign a treaty and bend the knee to Temeria. The Grandmaster of Kaer Marter had refused, and as a response the Temerian army had laid siege to the castle.

From our character sheets, the new players knew they had been captured by Temerian soldiers, but the returning players didn’t know how we would be introduced before the game started.

This brings me back to the game. Just before game start, I was marched into the darkening forest together with the other new players and the Temerian NPCs, and when the game started for real, we were all ushered into two lines and frogmarched back to the castle by the soldiers.

We got to the courtyard where everyone were waiting for us, and the witcher masters confronted the Temerians about what was going on. Unfortunately, I was at the back, so I couldn’t see what was happening, but it was clear that a fight was breaking out and someone was screaming. After that, the Temerians left, leaving behind the captured adepts in the care of the witchers.

After that, we all met up with our respective groups. Mine were the Blue Birds, and after meeting with them I found out that the master of our unit, Master Vester, had been killed in combat when he defied the Temerians after we arrived. We were assigned a new master, Master Jaeger, but Jaeger made it clear to us that he was not interested in replacing Vester and that he wasn’t going to order us around, but would be there to give us advice if we wanted it. Instead he entrusted the senior member of our group, Falk, with leading us.

Drinking and Gambling at the Tavern

We didn’t have classes that first night, so eventually I ended up at the tavern with a fellow Blue Bird (I believe his name was Yorrick). We joined a Zerrikanian witcher who taught us a couple of dice games and then proceeded to beat our asses at them all night. There was also a fair bit of drinking, and even though Michelle doesn’t like beer, Eydis is a true Skellige girl and would never refuse an ale, so I ended up drinking more beer than I ever have in my life. Seeing as the bar only accepted Temerian currency (or, as it was called off-game, Zloty) and I only had Skellige coins (Euro), I ended up either getting others to buy me beer or, failing that, simply “confiscating” it from others.

It’s not stealing when I inform you I’m doing it.

It was at the tavern that I first met Baron Vulko Stenger, the Temerian commissioner. He explained to me and a few other adepts about how we should all sign the treaty, and that all this bloodshed was completely unnecessary. All the while Eydis was slinging insults at him, getting slightly miffed at how he kept up his diplomatic facade while she was obviously trying to pick a fight with him.

Rather unconvinced by the baron’s talk about how forcing the treaty on the witchers was completely reasonable and how it wouldn’t change anything for us, I went for a walk with the others and caught a bit of conversation suggesting the other witchers were going out to hunt a werewolf.

We all decided that we didn’t feel like being torn to pieces that night and went back to drinking.

At some point, me and another female adept was asked by some guy with a beer mug in each hand to come with him for a minute. I told him that was an awful lot of beer for a minute, but we went with him anyway. I’m still not sure exactly why we needed to go to the courtyard with him to meet some big Master with a beer of his own, but I have a feeling the Master simply had made a bet that he couldn’t fetch a couple of girls. Eydis didn’t really care. But she did confiscate the first guy’s beer.

It turned out that the big guy was Master Njall, and in Eydis’ character sheet, it said that the witcher she had been sent away with was a Skelliger named Njall, who had tried to defend her when the Temerian soldiers arrested her. So once we etablished our shared history, we caught up on the “good old times”, mainly by exchanging off-hand comments about how it was nice to see the other hadn’t been killed off.

When I got back to the tavern, we had been joined by a couple of bards, so I got back to gambling with Yorrick and the others. As I couldn’t buy anyone drinks and didn’t own anything of value, I started betting favors instead. By the end of the night, Yorrick owed me two, while everyone else had lost everything they owned to the Zerrikanian witcher, Aynye. But the beer was still flowing, so soon Yorrick was arm-in-arm with another adept, singing along to the rather raucy songs one of the bards were playing.

This went on until far into the night, and at 2 am I decided that everyone had lost enough of their dignity and went to bed.

Classes Begin

The next morning, at exactly 7 am, the whole castle shook with some guy yelling, “WAKEY, WAKEY!” at the top of his lungs. He started two floor below us and we still heard him clear as day in my room. He kept on yelling, until we all dragged ourselves out of bed and got down to the courtyard for morning workout.

After a grueling workout, we were lined up in the courtyard, waiting to be told breakfast was ready.

What we were told instead was that we would have to prove ourselves deserving of breakfast.

We were only allowed into the dining hall in groups, and if we wanted to be the next to go, someone from our group could challenge someone else and defeat them in a sword fight.

This little charade would turn out to occur at every damn meal, and the Blue Bird challengers weren’t having a lot of success, so soon the rest of us cheered them on with truly inspiring battle cries like, “Go, Blue Birds! We’re hungry!”

Luckily we got to eat in the end, and afterwards we waited for the horn to blow, signaling our first class.

We met up with Master Bastian, who was going to teach us how to throw and fight with axes.

Real axes. We were actually throwing around sharp metal weapons.

We were all getting ready, axes in hand, when Baron Vulko marched up and went to Yorrick, telling him he did a good job and that he could change into proper clothes. And that’s when the bastard I had spent all night drinking with removed his witcher adept gambeson to reveal a blue insignia with three white lilies on it.

The fucking Temerian Coat of Arms.

The one friend I made in my group and he turned out to be a Temerian spy. Eydis was not amused. But Michelle really should have seen it coming – his moustache was way too perfect for him not to be an evil NPC…

Surprisingly, no one axed him and brought the Temerian army outside the castle down on us, and we went on with the lesson. The great thing about the class was that Master Bastian could turn absolutely anything into an innuendo, and axe-throwing is a rich subject in that area. We were taught how to block and attack with the tomahawks, and Master Bastian went through all the useful body areas you could aim for. His most notable advice was “going FOR THE PLUMS!”

I tried that when he had me help with a demonstration, and I have never seen a man so pleased that I tried to hit him in the balls with an axe.

I turned out to be kind of shit at throwing the axes. But at least no one died.

Our next class was Alchemy. We were led down in the rather creepy alchemy lab with Master Killian, the rather creepy Alchemy teacher, and I spent the next half hour paying about as much attention as I used to do in High School Chemistry.

Meaning, not at all.

After the theory, we went into the forest to pick flowers. Then we were attacked by a ghoul. Then Master Killian went, “screw the flowers”. Then we dissected the ghoul.

Good times were had by all. Except the ghoul.

After that, I went to sit in the courtyard in the beautiful sunshine. There, I was approached by Yorrick the Temerian Whoreson, who apologized for the deceit and tried to tell me how he wanted to help us out. Unfortunately, he was called away before I could tell him to go fuck himself (I searched for him for the rest of the game in order to tell him just that, but I think he had to go play other characters, because I was unsuccesful).

For lunch we once again had to fight for our food, and after that, it was time for Hunting with Master Jaeger. Jaeger wanted ghoul blood, but since Master Killian got there first, we were all out of luck while hunting for something to provide it. Instead we went off to get spinal fluid from a fiend.

Fiends are these guys:

Fiend Witcher 3

Fiends are fucking terrifying.

Did I mention that I was unarmed?

I was unarmed.

To sedate the fiend (we weren’t going to kill it, as it’s always good to have a supply of spinal fluid nearby), we made a toxic smoke. And obviously, anything that would stun a fiend was strong enough to cause a horrible and painful death for the rest of us, so we were adviced to stay up-wind during our ambush.

We found the fiend, and while I know it was just an actor in a costume, it was a damn impressive costume and I was totally prepared to believe I was closing in on a monster capable of tearing me apart.

We spread out and surrounded it, approaching carefully… and then the people with smoke and swords charged it, while the rest of us stayed back and were generally rather useless.

We got our spinal fluid, Jaeger decided that he could just steal some ghoul blood from the alchemy lab, and everyone was happy. Possibly except the fiend (and maybe later Master Killian).

Last up was Signs. This was also the class where we got our witcher medallions. Out of the 6 different witcher schools, we got to choose whether we wanted to join the School of the Cat or the School of the Wolf. I went with the last one, and got an awesome metal medallion shaped like a snarling wolf (the same one that appears on the logos for the various Witcher games).

Witcher Wolf School Medallion

Then we were ready to go to the woods to practice signs.

To the ones unfamiliar with the Witcher universe, a Sign is a sort of spell witchers use. The ones you’re introduced to in the video games are Aard, Axi, Igni, Quen and Yrden.

We were taught Quen, Aard and Igni.

Quen is a defensive spell, basically a magical shield, and the way we illustrated that in the LARP was to cross our arms in front of us and yell “Quen!” If we weren’t any good at it, Master Dirk hit us very hard in the ribs with a latex sword. Don’t be fooled: A latex sword might not break anything, but it can certainly still hurt like hell!

Next up was Aard, which is used for blasting an opponent, a locked door, or anything else that’s in your way. For that, we had to assume a combat stance, draw the sign in the air before us, then thrust out our arm and yell, you guessed it, “Aard!”

We practiced this on a training dummy named Bob, and some hidden strings made sure that our spell was able to knock over both Bob and nearby foliage, depending on how succesful we were.

Last, but so very definitely not last: Igni.

Anyone who’s into Witcher knows why I’m excited for that one.

It sets stuff on fire.

The casting technique was just like with Aard, but instead of strings, the special effects crew has prepared pyrotechnics. It is so very satisfying to yell “Igni!” and have something burst into flames 5 meters in front of you.

I went to dinner that night, very pleased with myself, and it only got better when a Temerian officer joined the Blue Birds at their table and tried to recruit us. Eydis’ teammates were carefully choosing their words, while Eydis jumped on the chance to insult another Temerian official, since she hadn’t been able to find Yorrick, and the baron had been boring. This woman, Corinne, on the other hand, was not having any of Eydis’ shit and gave as good as she got.

I’m sorry to say I probably lost this Bitch Off.

She asked me if death was really better than bending the knee, and one of my fellow Blue Birds told her I was from Skellige and fighting was what we did. After commenting on how I clearly wasn’t one of the more impressive of my countrymen, the Temerian went, “Do you also drink like a Skelliger?”

And I went, “Oh, I do. Are you buying?”

…I was so close to getting someone to buy me lots of beer just because I was a bitch and she wanted the chance to break me, and I missed it by not having time to lurk around the tavern later that night. I was having no luck finding my Temerians when I needed them.

After dinner, I went up to my room to take a break. Me and my roommate (her character being Agnise) had decided to keep our room off-game, so I was sprawled on my bed, reading a book when Arina/Agnise came in, slightly out of breath. I asked her if anything interesting were going on down there, and as our room overlooked the courtyard, she took a look and went, “Oh, they’re hanging the bard.”

“They’re WHAT?!”

Remember the bard singing raucy songs at the tavern the first night? Oh yeah, he ended up dangling in the courtyard, executed by the Temerian baron. Apparently he was a Redanian spy.

All my drinking buddies were goddamn spies.

Monster Hunt by Torchlight

After dark, I found the Blue Birds, along with a large percentage of the other witchers and adepts, assembled in the courtyard, waiting for something. I asked Falk what was going on and he told me we were going hunting. I decided to join them (after all, I was almost out of drinking buddies) and the Blue Birds split into two groups, one being led by Master Jaeger, the other by Master Hakon, this incredibly terrifying Skelliger with an eyepatch, a permanent grim expression, and a heavy Eastern European accent to go with his whole ‘Russian murderer’-vibe.

Of course my group went with the Master who looked like he was ready to murder us all if the monsters didn’t do it themselves.

We were one of the last groups to leave. We went into the forest with 8 people, one of them being a Master not prone to providing reassurances, and just a single torch. It was pitch black in the forest and we could hardly see anything outside the circle of light cast by the torch.

That’s not terrifying at all when you know there’s monsters out there, right?

We were all on edge, going through the silent forest, and it didn’t take long before our first adversary rushed past us, nearly making all of us scream like little girls.

…It turned out to be a cat.

Master Hakon scoffed and said, “It’s a cat school. What did you expect?” and walked on, radiating indifference, while the rest of us struggled to regain our composure.

The next encounter turned out to be far more difficult.

We saw the fuses before we saw the monsters and as soon as we realized it was a distraction, we formed a circle, protecting the torchbearer. Soon, the entire area was filled with thick fog and we all knew that could only mean one thing:

Foglets.

Foglets are horrible, not because they are all that powerful, but because they work in groups and only attack in fog that won’t hinder their own sight, but will effectively blind the enemy. As soon as we were surrounded and disoriented by the fog, they came out at us from all sides. Only the fact that we kept up our formation and didn’t panic meant that we all got out of the fight alive and defeated the foglets.

When the smoke cleared, we stepped over our fallen foes and went deeper into the forest. It wasn’t long before we glimpsed something glowing in the distance and someone quietly told us there would be an earth elemental ahead. The more experienced members of our group told us that we might as well put away our swords, because they wouldn’t have any effect, and not to bother with the Quen sign, because while that might defend you from an arrow, it wasn’t going to do much good against a creature that shattered your bones when it hit you.

The way to defeat it was to collect the magical stones that would be lying in the forest close by (the ones emitting the light we saw) and make a circle around the elemental to trap it. While a few of us collected the stones, the rest would distract the elemental.

I have absolutely no idea how well the rest of my team did, because we weren’t very far into the fight before Pebbles (which is apparently what this monstrocity was called) knocked me over and started pummeling with stone fists, each one roughly the size of my whole body, while I laid helplessly on the ground.

My teammates managed to distract it, while one of them grabbed me under the arms and dragged me off to the side, frantically pouring a Swallow potion (a powerful, but rather toxic, healing potion) down my throat and deposited me on a nearby bench (but for the sake of roleplaying reasons, I was otherwise pretending there wasn’t a nice park bench in the monster-riddled forest) before going back to the fight.

So I was sitting there, watching my teammates entrap the elemental and everything seemed to be going well. Then, suddenly, light flared to my right (opposite of the elemental and my team, meaning I was trapped between) and a loud, obviously evil voice started mocking us. Before I knew it, I heard someone from my team scream, “Run, run!” just before the mage released Pebbles from his prison. I sat there frozen in the dark, staring wide-eyed at the mage’s silhouette, and then turned back to see my team fleeing in wild panic, Pebbles chasing after them…

…leaving me alone in the dark.

It took me a bit too long to realize that, broken bones or not, I would have to get away before Pebbles came back. I started limping through the undergrowth, the only light source being the illuminated mage behind me and the torch that was disappearing into the distance together with my team. The forest floor was absolutely covered in leaves, so every step I took made a lot of noise.

And then Pebbles came back.

Of course that meant my fellow Blue Birds had gotten away safely, but it also meant that I now stood paralyzed in the dark, about 10 meters from the raging monster that would hear me and kill me (with no one around to save me) as soon as I made another step.

Let me tell you: Even if the logical part of your brain knows it’s just a person in a costume, the more primal part is totally panicking at being abandoned in a dark forest with a monster about to kill you if you breathe too loudly.

Luckily, my team was organized enough to do a count off after a flight, so after a while I could hear them panic in the distance as they realized they had left me behind. I’ll be honest with you, I’m glad Falk was the unofficial leader of the Blue Birds, because I’m not entirely sure Master Hakon would have made the decision to come back for me.

But they did. I saw the torch come closer and heard my team agree to distract the elemental, while someone called for me. As soon as Pebbles was distracted, I called back and when Pebbles charged, Falk pushed me ahead and yelled “Run, run, RUN!!!”

Technically, my bones should still have been too shattered for me to run, but at that moment I decided to say screw roleplaying. I fucking RAN.

This endeavor had resulted in two grievously injured Blue Birds, but Master Hakon still had one more task for us. He led us back to the castle and down in a small basement room behind the alchemy lab. There he told us the witchers kept a striga, a cursed creature created from the body of a stillborn baby or a dead child, and that we had go get her back in her coffin.

Yep, this school is more unsafe than fucking Hogwarts.

We went in, me at the back because of my injuries, and that was fortunate (for me) because the first guy who went in were tackled by a wraith.

No one told us there would be wraiths.

Once again, I’m not quite sure how we managed to defeat the wraiths and push the striga back in her coffin. I just know that I was in a small, dark tomb, and screaming ghost women were coming at me from all sides. I was totally useless down there, but my teammates got the job done.

After that, we staggered back to the courtyard and I stumbled back to my room. I nearly shat myself when I turned a corner in the dark halls and saw a big guy walking towards me in the opposite direction, for a second thinking I was about to be charged by Pebbles again, before I got my shit together.

Apparently, LARP PTSD is a thing.

Another Day Dawns

When the wake-up guy announced his presence at 7 am the next morning by yelling “RISE AND FUCKING SHINE!” downstairs, I woke up feeling nauseous and running a mild fever.

All in all, not in the shape for morning workout.

I reasoned with myself that since they had given me a toxic healing potion last night, and I hadn’t yet undergone the rituals to become a proper witcher (and as such immune to toxins), I had a good excuse for being too sick for workout, both in-game and off-game. Of course this didn’t mean that I didn’t do my very best to sneak past all the Masters when I went for breakfast after skipping it, though…

The fever and nausea had eased somewhat after breakfast, allowing me to enjoy my lesson in archery with Master Niklas – the one subject I was actually skilled at – but after that we had Fencing with Master Diarmind and I quickly realized that I was in no shape to be training pirouette movements.

By the time we finally got to take a break, my head just kept on spinning even though my feet had stopped.

Luckily, I managed not to throw up on someone’s boots and I was feeling alright for the Monster Knowledge lesson with Master Rodrick after lunch.

Good thing, too, because that was the most fucking insane class I have ever taken.

It started out alright. We sat with Master Rodrick in the tavern and he taught us the importance of knowing what kind of creature you were dealing with before engaging it in combat. He told us a bit about curses, but in my humble opinion, not enough for what he put us through right afterwards.

He took us back to the room with the striga.

At first, he rounded up the whole class and took us into the tomb, explaining a bit about the striga and why she was there.

Then the lunatic let her out of her coffin.

Again, it’s hard to imagine a normal person being inside the costume when they shoot out of a coffin with the speed of a cheetah on acid, snarling and clawing at you. Luckily, she was chained, so she couldn’t get at us as we all, very quickly, backed up when Rodrick went to the coffin.

Master Rodrick must have had a rather sick sense of humor, because when it seemed like the striga had calmed down, he promised a beer to anyone who touched her. One of the Blue Birds slowly approached her with his arm out and the striga sat there watching him, growling softly, but not aggressively.

That is, until he came within the reach of her chain, and she charged at him before he could even blink. The entire class had to rush in to save him as she dragged him back and tried to tear him apart.

After that, we left the basement and went back out into the sunlight. We were all relieved to be out in more or less one piece.

Then Rodrick told us we had to go back in.

Separating us into groups of 3, he told us that we had to get past the striga and get an item from her coffin. I nearly told him to go fuck himself.

My group got together and discussed our battle plan. One said that he would run to the coffin if we distracted her, so we decided that I would bait her and another would be behind me, ready to stun her with the Aard sign as soon as the last one ran.

Of course, that all went out the window when we actually got down there and the striga wasn’t letting herself be distracted at all. At some point, one of the others kept screaming at me, “Why aren’t you running?!” and I kept screaming back, “Since when was THAT the plan?!”  and in the end I just had to take the chance once I thought there was an opening.

I was tackled immediately and then the striga had me in a deathgrip from behind as she clawed at my throat. Once again, my teammates had to get me free and we fled from the room. Once we were outside again, I staggered up to our self-appointed group leader and very pointedly told him,

“If you decide to change the plan, YOU TELL PEOPLE ABOUT IT!”

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. The crew had a professional makeup team in the off-game area, so when I got the chance, I went down there and told them I took a striga to the throat and they made me a little souvenir:

Special effects scar

The last lesson we had was Survival with Master Ansgar and Master Rewald. Compared to our last class, this was pretty dull, but Master Ansgar insisted we proceed into the forest, even when we started hearing explosions coming from the castle. Apparently, it was “just some sorcerer teleporting” and it could just as well be our own sorceress, Francesca Findabair, as an enemy one attacking. Eventually, we stopped arguing, but we did exchange glances when the explosions kept happening and our Masters kept ignoring the fact that Findabair wouldn’t need to teleport that many times in a row.

The class was very similar to a boy scout lesson. We learned how to make a fire with knife and flint, and how to make a water filter. Quite unexpectedly, nothing burst out of the lake to attack us.

When we came back, the castle was still standing (though I did notice how there always seemed to be more bloodstains every time I returned to the stairs by the courtyard…) and if Gildart (Pebbles’ lovely master) had attacked and engaged Francesca in some epic mage duel, no one told me about it.

There was only one last thing on the agenda after dinner:

The Trial of Grasses.

Again, to everyone not familiar with Witcher lore, the Trial of Grasses is the horrifying process adepts have to go through to become true witchers. They had to undergo a series of mutations and most don’t survive.

Of course, the adepts knew that there would be a bit more to it, but no one would tell us anything. I passed the Blue Birds’ leader on the way out to the courtyard and he just said, “Don’t die”.

I took the time to yell back at him, “Oh thanks, that strategy didn’t even occur to me!”

Now, the Trial of Grasses is a witcher secret, and I’m not going to tell you about what happened. Let’s just say that it was fairly terrifying.

But I survived. I became a witcher.

…Just in time to be rushed out of the castle right after my trial and being told that we were abandoning Kaer Marter and breaking through the Temerian siege.

No one gave me a sword, so I just had to stay out of the way while we rushed through the forest, fought our way through Temerian soldiers and then ended up at a standstill at a Temerian camp.

By this time, it was far after midnight, my blood sugar was dangerously low and I hadn’t had time to grab a drink before leaving the castle, so I was feeling quite horrible and was, unfortunately, unable to enjoy the end of the game. It didn’t help that the final showdown started by Pebbles charging out of the dark, meaning I had to flee the spot where I had collapsed in the grass.

I’m not ashamed to say I hid in the cover of darkness while everyone else went to fight Gildart and I was immensely relieved by the time the organizers announced the end of the game.

It was 3 am by the time we got back to the castle to take a group photo and start the afterparty. I did feel better after raiding the snack buffet, but after a quick search to see if I could find anyone I knew, I went upstairs, thankful that I finally got to navigate the stairs with overhead lighting, and then collapsed into my bed.

The Startling Return to Normalcy

The next morning, I went down to breakfast, slightly confused at having to judge elderly tourists on the way. When I got to the dining hall, I had to stop for a moment and take it all in, because seeing the people I had gotten to know only as Witcher characters over the last 3 days in normal clothes was so. Fucking. Weird.

After a bit, Falk (who I still didn’t know the real name of) joined me and eventually some of the other Blue Birds showed up as well.

I left them to go outside and take in the castle one last time. It was beautiful out, just at it had been all the time we had been there, and I must admit I almost got a bit emotional at the thought that I would no longer be waking up to this place. Having finally received my phone, I took a few pictures, then went to join the others taking the bus back to the airport.

I had almost 7 hours to kill at Wroclaw Airport, so I spent as much time as I could chatting with the other players before they left. One of them looked at me and burst out laughing, telling me I might want to wash my face before going through security.

Yep, I still had the striga scar.

Also, when you’re removing a fake scar in an airport bathroom, in the same way you would peel the scab off of a barely-healed real wound, and accidentally makes eyecontact with someone in the mirror… it gets a little awkward.


Today I was back at work as a web designer, having to go through a mountain of emails, and feeling the crushing boredom of everyday life. Usually, I would be immensely relieved to be home after something even a tenth as strenous as this trip, but right now I’m just feeling a little lost at the thought that it’s all over.

I’m taking comfort in the fact that the dress code at my office is very lax, so I haven’t had to give up my witcher medallion yet.

I do miss my scar, though.

I’m sad that there’s so few pictures in this post, but obviously I couldn’t take any photos while we were in-game. Hopefully the official pictures will be up soon!

Here’s a few of the castle after the game (and the one I snapped from my window of the morning workout I skipped):