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Starting a warband at Warsong.

August 19, 2018


Absolutely everyone has an idea for a warband. If you grab a random person on field at any event and ask them: “do you have an idea for a warband?” The answer will be, 99% of the time: “Yes”. If it happens to be that one off: “no”, it probably means that the person you grabbed does have an idea, but just aren’t ready to share it with anyone yet. Perhaps they want to keep it secret for the moment, or they feel there are currently too many warbands on field and they are just waiting for the right time. Each and every person has at least something floating around in their head about the subject.

This isn’t a bad thing. Warbands with hundreds of ideas and inspiration out the wazoo are what drive the creative aspect of Warsong. While warbands can enhance the game in excellent ways, creating and maintaining a functioning warband is one of the hardest most expensive endeavors you will face in your time at The Warsong LARP Brisbane. Remember: LARP isn’t cheap


So, let’s start at the beginning: You have an idea for a warband. Maybe it’s a group of Centaurs called “The Four Hoofed Fletching’s” that only use archery as their form of attack. Or perhaps a group of paleolithic cavemen and women calling themselves the  Paleo-Cave-People that will literally club anyone they come across, all while complaining about any food that isn’t “Raw, straight from the source”. It really doesn’t matter. The idea can be anything that fits within the guidelines that The Warsong has set out. Now you have your idea, next you will need people to join you. This is where the complications begin.

Assuming everyone has, at one point in their lives, been involved in a group assignment of some sort, with other actual human beings. Do you accurately remember what that was like? Do you really? Think back and let’s take a quick walk down memory lane together. Remember that one person in the group who did absolutely no work but was the first to claim all the credit for anything that got done? How great were they? Now  Remember that other person who just had opposing ideas to you on how things should get done? Remember the arguments that got far too heated over something that - now that you look back on it - realize: “it really didn’t matter”? You still talk to that person… right? Remember that other person who simply disappeared the night before it was due leaving your report on the relevance of Hamlet on modern day society without the middle section? How fun was that trying to cobble something together with the few little notes they made to fill in an entire empty section of your presentation? That wasn’t stressful at all was it? Do you remember all that, and those you used to call friend, but for some reason will not even talk to anymore?


I mean maybe, just maybe, you were lucky and had a couple of group assignments that went swimmingly and you and your still friends look back on it fondly. If that was in fact the case, then I applaud you! For you were one of the elite few, because I can assure you, most people have had an experience like the former. This is what you may be dealing with when starting a warband. People have lives and they will come and go making it quite difficult to keep numbers up let alone make up your core five. There will be people that seem super keen at first, full of ideas and suggestions, that unfortunately become just too busy in their day to day activities to contribute anything but a fraction of time and effort into the idea. Then there are those who will want to change the idea to fit their own, which you should be accommodating of because a warband is made up of a group of contributing individuals, not just the OG person dictator. In many ways this step of creating a warband can very much seems like those old high school group assignments you remember while seething through your teeth. Friendships can and have literally ended over this stuff, and that’s just the beginning.


Now you have your idea, and you have your group of like minded people who are all super keen to jump in and get started. The next issue you face in this process is getting your warband approved by the Warsong Admin. You really want to do this before investing in any sort of kit, as ideas and understanding the makeup of a warband are a fluid processes. Things can change, be dropped and altered as the need may be. However, once time, effort and money are put into kit, it is very hard to get any sort of return on that if the overall idea is knocked back.


You see, the admin has certain criteria that need to be met before they can give it the “go ahead”. Each application is taken on a case by case basis and they involve a whole gamut of issues that have to be dealt with in order for your warband to get green lit. “Why is this so?” I hear you ask. “Didn’t you just say that: ‘Warbands with hundreds of ideas and inspiration out the wazoo, are what drive the creative aspect of Warsong’? Why do you have all these criteria that has to be met? I just want to play with my friends! Don’t you want to me to play with my friends? Why do you hate me?” Whoa, whoa, whoa, I say to that. We do not hate you, we don’t have an agenda against you. Please, allow me to explain.


LARPs are fundamentally complicated machines with thousands of moving parts that are constantly evolving and changing to refine and stay relevant in an ever growing and changing world. To make sure that everyone gets a fair and equal chance there has to be rules in place that ensure all our players, current and new, get a fair go. This involves such things as: asking the warband to make a commitment to the Warsong in different forms. Volunteering a marshal from that warband’s core five so that we always have a volunteer pool to call on to keep the games going. Because let’s face it: if we don’t have marshals, then we simply can’t play. Another requirement is having a minimum of five core members to ensure the idea is actually supported by the community. We would much rather see warbands grow and flourish, as opposed to having a completely new roster every couple of months. We endeavor to tell an over arching story, which would be an extremely hard thing to do if all the characters simply come and go with no real impact on events carrying through. These are just a few of the criteria that will need to be met. Each criterion has been created for a reason with our players in mind to help maximize their experience at The Warsong events.

We currently hold a pretty high costume standard in Australia. We are proud of this standard and hope to further better it as the years go on. Warsong games nights average between 60-100 players a week. With a required minimum of five members needed to form a Warband for the night, that means we can have a maximum of twenty warbands filled with only five people each and a minimum of around twelve warbands. We constantly see warband numbers swell and others drop as players tour around as see what else is out there. Occasionally this also leads to people showing up to play in their warband and being all on their own.

If we allowed every warband approval with no criteria or consideration for other existing warbands on field, we would see a rise in the growth and flux of individual warbands. Everyone in the one warband may jump to another newer shinier idea, meaning all that money they spent on their current kit has basically been for naught. We would end up in a situation where people will stop investing in quality gear because they are never sure how long the warband they are with will stay afloat.


If you have ever had to put aside an expensive kit because it has become irrelevant after such a small amount of time, then you will understand the heart ache that causes. If you’re unlucky to have this happen to you twice, you will most likely start to ask why you even bothered in the first place. This will not only lead to a drastic drop in kit standards, but also have a serious effect on attendance, which will have the domino effect of collapsing more already established warbands in a never-ending cycle. It is almost as if there is a whole LARP eco-system at work here. It requires everyone to do their bit and support each other, or the bees become extinct, and as a result most of the human race is wiped out and the world becomes a barren wasteland were those that managed to survive seek out a violent existence fighting over oil to fuel their death machines, and wear a rebreather because the atmosphere is so polluted that the air on its own can no longer sustain life... Okay so maybe I got a little over dramatic there, and accidentally came up with another LARP idea, but you get what I’m saying. These criteria were designed to support all the current warbands while allowing those truly committed to join the ranks.


What happens next? You have come this far, you did it! You got your idea, you got your people and you got admin approval! Yay! Congratulations, but perhaps hold off on the celebrations just yet because this is where things start to become expensive, both financially and time wise. Now that the green light has been lit on your: 'Shaolin monks who only communicate via singing' warband, you’re going to need kit. Not just your own personal kit either. Everyone hoping to field with this warband will need to meet a minimum kit standard (obviously in place to keep our high costuming standards strong). What that means is all of your people are going to have to start making/buying matching outfits, not to mention the extras for anyone who is looking tour with you guys before buying/making their own kit. And you will want tourers! You will need tourers to fill out numbers and assure you can field each week, not only getting to play but being a good advertisement to others on field in hopes of swaying them over and bulking your numbers up. You will already have to miss one player on occasion as they will be taking their marshalling shifts (and god help you if it is the Warband leader who volunteers because that can make a whole bunch of difference). This can cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars, and that is before you even consider armour of any kind. Or, conversely hundreds of hours in front of a sewing machine trying to make your own quality matching gear. And if you think the cost stops there you would be mistaken.

When a warband is approved by admin, the warband leader is asked to sign a form outlining the commitments they are agreeing to by being a warband leader. These commitments are many and, ask any current warband leader, lead to a lot of late night organization and out of pocket expenses. For example, it is a warbands leader’s responsibility to come up with content on games days/weekends for not only their own warband but the other warbands as well. This content may require props, NPC’s, further costumes, additional weapons, food, drinks, and in game currency. Not to mention the immersive structure you will need to supply as a place to house your warband from the sun and the extensive physicality of the day. The level of immersion and content has already been set pretty high, and while there is always leeway for newer warbands to catch up in terms of this sort of thing, it can be tough being that warband, looking around at what everyone else has, compared to what you have managed to gather in the short time you have been running.


These are just some of several commitments you will need to agree to and uphold to keep the warband from being disbanded. Others include but are not limited to: being responsible for those in your war band and their mistakes, and being present at the Warband leader meetings. Usually held on Saturdays, these are extremely important to ensure your warband is kept up to date on everything that is happening, whilst also representing your warband’s feedback and ideas. Failure to present at these meetings puts a massive disadvantage on your warband as you are supposed to be their advocate ensuring their voices are heard. These meetings tend to go for several hours, and while they won’t take up you entire day (unless you’re crazy enough to do a 4-6 hour round trip) they do take up a fair chunk.


“What else could there be?” I can hear you thinking, and let me tell you friend, while we are a fair hunk in, there is still a bit more to go. If you get the chance I would highly recommend having a read through: “The Everal Spiral into the creation of the Marauders Back Story.” Another blog entry by Mathew Kennedy that outlines an absolutely crazy time he went through simply organizing the lore of that warband… Oh did I forget to mention? That would be your job too. While the lore of Neolysium and all it contains is an ongoing story created by the admin, each warband is responsible for their own lore on where they hail from. It will be up to you to collate, rectify, and validate any and all lore that will run with your group. This sounds like fun at first, “I love writing stories!” I’ve heard even myself say at times, but this is different. Just like in Mathew Kennedy’s piece, the managing of lore can become overwhelming. You all of a sudden have at least four other people that need to contribute on some level, and if you’re lucky, another fifteen more who will want to. All of a sudden, you’re reading twenty to thirty-page back stories in your spare time just to make sure it falls in line with your warband’s lore so that you don’t end up with confusion and arguments on field. Of course, you could delegate this to another member of your troop. Delegation is, in fact, highly recommended, but just like we mentioned before, even if someone else in your warband is doing the work, the buck stops with you. As any good tradesman will tell you, they always check their apprentice’s work. Any business that doesn’t, is sure to find itself bankrupt before too long.


How are we half way through page four already? How did that happen? Let me tell you friend, it happened a lot easier than you may think. Couple of topics, couple of explanations and bam, before you know it the word count is at two thousand six hundred and twenty-six! And honestly? We didn’t dive very deep into these issues here at all. The examples used are really surface level stuff. The ideas behind them, barely brought to the forefront. What I’m trying to say - and hopefully succeeding - is that running a warband is one of the hardest, most expensive things you can do as a patron of Warsong. “But I know how to do it on the cheap.” You say? Well who am I to say otherwise? I’ve only seen the creation of every single warband so far. I’ve only seen the fall of those warbands, that for what ever reason are no longer with us. I, like a lot of admin members both current and past have watched many a failed attempt and was saddened by the loss of potential that could have been. Do I know everything? Not at all, but I’m in a position that allows me to see a lot of it, and I’m telling you now, every single one thought they knew how to do it cheap yet remain quality, and they were wrong, even me.


I’ve personally sunk so much time, money and mental health into the warband I’m part of and I’m just the 2ic. I started the same way everyone else did and I made all the same mistakes too. That is why we are here my friend. So that I can help you understand exactly the type of craziness you wish to get yourself involved in and perhaps either give you pause to think and better organize, or perhaps put the idea on hold until you’re in a place in your life where you can handle such responsibilities. Because if you are going to create a warband, and become a warband leader you have a lot of work ahead of you, and if you neglect that responsibility in any way, then you are doing a great disservice to not only those that joined you in your endeavor, but also the rest of the player base at Warsong.


I’ll leave you with one final thought, and it may seem like a sad one, but stay with me to the end, and I’ll do my best to make it worth it. Creating a warband at The Warsong: LARP Brisbane comes with one more caveat. That warband will eventually fail. Sorry, that’s just a simple fact. It will fail. It might fail in a couple of weeks due to lack of support, or in a couple of years when your numbers dwindle as your cohorts run off to join the newest shiny idea. Maybe it lasts a decade, goes through multiple changes of leadership, and theme and purpose, but honestly, nothing lasts forever. The hardest part about creating a warband is knowing that it will die at some point. Like everything else, it’s just inevitable. Your players will leave, your ideals will alter, your kits will change, and eventually, it will be no more.


Now I know I said if you hung in there I would make it worth your while, and while that seems like a pretty sad note it all depends on your perspective. If you have gotten this far, read through all this and still have that burning desire in you and your friends’ hearts to make your idea happen, then "Just do it!" (full Labeouf moment). Put your money where your mouth is and step up. Put in the hard work and make it happen. Take responsibility and carry the burden with a smile. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t going to last forever, get out there and make the absolute best you can of it while you can. Create those stories that will be told around the bar at the brewer’s guild for years to come. Make the time you do have count towards great memories and fun times, because that is what LARP is. It’s the stories we share, not the longevity of our warbands. For they might die, but we always remember them and the better the stories, the better the memories.

So, don’t go in half cocked, go full cocked! It’s not impossible, you can clearly see as you look around at all the hard working warband leaders, running their troops as best they can (and hopefully now with a little more understanding of all the hard work they have to do). While I will always suggest, to anyone that asks (and even those that don’t) that: instead of trying to start a new Warband you should perhaps lend your skills and enthusiasm into an already existing one. I understand that can’t always be the case, if it were, there would only be one, and everyone would be in it. But if you have that idea in your head, one that will bring further enrichment to the player base, and not just a copy of something else that’s already on f