A few months ago, I went to a larp called Secrets of Caldera. At this larp I played Vruuk Thissle, a roguish orc. Her character inspiration came mostly from Han Solo. I also had played a large orc in an Elderscrolls game who was a master lock pick! Vruuk’s costuming came from many years of planning and donations from the larp community. I have been working on for some time and playing her is very special to me.
Vruuk’s original appearance was at a Darkon event.
This is an earlier video of mine but worth taking a look at.
Because I have a love for Vruuk’s character, I have wrote her in many of my larp character’s histories. Here is here appearance in Vonlyn’s story.
One morning she set her fire. She warmed up a heavy meat stew and waited for the children to throw rocks at her door. She would open it and chase them off. Soon Vruuk, an orc with a knack for breaking into houses, would come by for tea. Vonlyn often bought special herbs off of her. After tea, she would hang her sign in the window offering to mend wounds of those who might need it. She would keep it hung until the sunset and she would eat dinner alone and go to bed. If it were the weekend she would go hunting all day. However today, the children did not throw the stones and she could not hear Vruuk singing from over the hill. Instead she heard silence. That noise that screams louder then an army. Her heart began to panic. The routine had been so consistent. Vonlyn ran to the door. She quickly opened it and saw no one. She stepped outside. It was snowing. Winter was so close, but at the marshes it often snowed most of the year. For that moment, Vonlyn enjoyed the calming of her nerves to see nothing was the matter. The alert happened once every few months. Triggered when something didn’t go to plan. She turned to look at the door and saw an arrow had been shot in the middle. The panic returned. She ran inside to grab her things. The silence piercing her so. She packed a bad, kicked out the fire and bolted away.
Vruuk also showed up in Marisol’s character history!
Marisol rarely left her home. If she did, it was to learn about the fae realm. Though she was not often able to visit Magesta, it was the home of a few of her friends. An orc named Vruuk once stumbled in to their pocket demention, after running away from some armored humans. Vruuk would come by every year or so to trade with Marisol. They would exchange plants and herbs for Marisol to have. Marisol usually asking for the most shiny things Vruuk would have. Shea’s woods is also where Marisol met Tatonga. They spent a few nights dancing under the stars. He came often for a week, but eventually he did not come back for months, Marisol simply figured he had died. She found herself easily among many friends in these woods, mostly animals, but a few were friends of her foster parents. Even a stolen rose.
Vruuk Thissle Character History
“Your path is not defined by the many but by the one. That path comes with a purpose, just for you.” These words of a shaman rang in Vruuk’s head always. She felt like she was in was almost in the winter of her life. Vruuk Thissle had made a name for herself among her friends as a great rouge. She rarely stole anything, but she did had a good habit of finding things that were valuable to others. Vruuk traveled around, rarely spending time in one place for long. She had a few friends she would see every so often, though she never really felt close to anyone. Vruuk grew up in a traditional orc home. Her parents have long passed but their names were Sarod and Kahigig. They did not live together for long. 2 years after Vruuk was born, her father was gone. He had been hired by a band of mercenaries and on his 40th birthday he passed in his sleep. Kahigig was buried under a rock by the ocean. Vruuks mother was gone a lot and left the rearing of Vruuk to the others in the village. She grew up leaning on the generosity of others.
When it became Vruuk’s time to become a woman within the community she took to her combat with a full head. She cut down her opponent and was awarded a blade to honor her right as an orc. But as she looked down at the blade a fear grew inside of her. Life was almost over. Adulthood could be shorter then what had came before. The pommel had a piece missing on the bottom. She toyed with it as the history of the weapon was given to her. To this day, she can’t remember what the shaman said, but she did know that it had felt less fulfilling then she thought. She packed her things that night and went out on her own. For sometime she crashed with the mercenaries who fought alongside her father. The Blood Axe Merc Troupe were good people. They fed her and took her to battle a few times. Something about that didn’t feel right but she still appreciated her time with them. Eventually Vruuk got onto the right path.
She spent time on the road, trading, selling and living. Being out made her feel alive and restored the youth within her heart. She began to have a life she loved. She even took up painting to commune with the One God. Vruuk would so this by sitting below a tree and meditate. This mediation made her restless. She had a hard time sitting still for too long. Eventually she found a brush and began to paint. She was never good at it, but it cleared her mind enough to listen to what the one god may have been trying to say at the time. Traits: Enthusiastic, depressed, compulsive, sincere, hopeful and kind. She tends to beat herself up a lot. She enjoys finding things and traded them for other things she wants. She has a curiosity for strange things. In hard times Vruuk has been known to be a bit of a runner, or else she will lose herself in the thrill of a fight. When this happens, Vruuk is usually embarrassed by her own actions. This leads to a few pouting sessions by the fire.
Goals: Vruuk is looking for a place to stay to begin a heist or find a large amount of money to buy a ship. She would like to make friends and share her wealth if she gets the opportunity. Sell some of her artwork
Friends: Urz was Vruuk’s first love. He was tall with dark green skin. His tusks were large and he wore armor well. He died during his coming of age ritual against Vruuk in combat. The odds had not been in his favor. It was a quick death and a few mourned him. Snaha is a warrior orc. He is smaller than the other warriors and taught Vruuk how to fight when they were children. Em is a young commoner who Vruuk often finds on the road during travels. She has red hair and sticks out. Sometimes Vruuk looks for her or tries to pick up on her track. Em was cursed with forgetfulness, which often gets her into trouble. If a memory isn’t recorded in her spell book, she will surely forget it ever happened. Vruuk doesn’t know much about Willow, other then she tends to show up in the best taverns. A few times Willow, Vruuk and Em will travel together to dig up old things in caves. Willow has a big laugh and is the most silly out of Vruuk’s friends. Vruuk always notices Willow wears gloves to cover her hands. Sometimes when Vruuk gets into a bind and needs time to recover, she will go to two different people. Vruuk will trade herbs to Raeathwen, a medicine woman living in the marshes. She is often referred to as a witch, but her stitches are the best in the lands! According to Vruuk. If she is in need of mental rest, Vruuk will visit with Brennena. She enjoys staying at her little cottage by the stream. Vruuk also enjoys watching over then children while Brennena is away. They often cooked together.
Secrets of Caldera: Event 1
I arrived to Secrets of Caldera to play at their opening event. In my opinion, an opening event is a very special experience. Being able to be apart of the founding of a new town, or first run of a new rules system, serves a helpful within hand in the community that I find incredibly fun to explore.
To me, it reminds me of the same feeling I get from midnight launches for video games. Everyone starts out on the same level and know nothing about the story. This is also a great time to enter a larp because everyone has about the same knowledge of the rules. This might mean more flexibility for players who are new to learning how to play. Opening events are a great time to get involved with a larp. For Secrets of Caldera I was looking forward to a slower pace for learning the rules and players starting out on the same page.
The lands in Secrets of Caldera were new to explore and a town needed to be formed! Larpers from all around gathered to start building a new life in this setting.
At Secrets of Caldera there are no out of game announcements. At their opening event, they had players enter the larp and at a certain time game on is called. Unfortunately, I was not there for the founding of the town. However, I hear that the first thing everyone remembers about the town is that they all woke up from death.
Saturday morning, a charming orc came into town! Vruuk Thissle had arrived and she was looking for some easy coin. The players had already settled into town when I arrived. Vruuk noticed a familiar face! Viotlet, played by a coven friend of mine Clara, was given the task to be the town bailiff. Vruuk had remembered Violet mentioned on the road wishing to be a knight. I can’t remember if Vruuk managed to convince Violet it was a good idea or not to be the town bailiff, but one thing was sure! Vruuk was happy to be friends with the local law official. The role of the town bailiff meant that Violet is in-charge of upholding the law. After checking in after the the event, we both agreed this was a great opportunity for Violet to begin the quest of becoming a knight. That moment was particularly fun because I had spoken to Clara about her character’s goals before the larp. I knew what would make her event excellent. This lead to making one of my goals at this larp to uplift her story.
Another member of town was Brother Julian, played by my boyfriend Casey. Brother Juilian was a fresh face from a local abbey and looking to spread the word of the six gods. Interacting with Brother Julian is always a good time. At this event, he offered mindful religious debate’s to Vruuk. He often asked her questions to challenge her belief in the One God. At Secrets of Caldera, there are a few different religions. The orcs typically follow the One God. This was fun play for us because Casey and I know each other pretty well when it comes to spiritual philosophies and are generally on believe in the same things. This trust in each other made it fun for us to role play our character’s not meeting eye to eye all the time. I can’t say Vruuk and Julian have ever argued or had a disagreement. They are both pretty peaceful. However, we do often pick each other’s minds with in-game philosophies.
I have two really great memories from Secrets of Caldera’s opening event.
The first one begins as I arrived into town on Saturday. There was a bit of down time, so I decided to create some fun! Vruuk overheard how someone had been recently buried. Vruuk insisted that she be given the opportunity to inspect the grave. Most of the group thought this was a bad idea. Vruuk slowly convinced the group of 5 people to dig up a grave. I applaud everyone involved for their “yes and” play. I also managed to convince Violet this was a lawful thing to do because if someone had tampered with the remains, we would have to report it. So we all dug up this grave! Vruuk dug with haste to find the gold the person may have been buried with or that others left to pay their respects. Brother Julian even said a prayer for us before and after so their gods wouldn’t be upset. To this day when I hear Clara explain Violet’s narrative of the scene it really gives me a little chuckle.
The second memory part of the event was when I went around the town doing different tasks. Vruuk began asking people around the town if they needed help with anything. If she could go get them some water, or carry their belongings. Vruuk even made promises to be a lawful town guard if Violet needed her. All of this came from one small mishap. Vruuk had gone into the trading post and found a very special item. A crystal butterfly! A beautiful part of Secerts of Caldera is that their in-game shop, the Trading Post, has real items for you to keep. Any larp that has this, I will do all I can to bring home a sovereign. The crystal butterfly was going to belong to Vruuk if it was the last thing that I ever did! I was told by many it could never be so, that the cost was too high! Finally after a day’s worth of scrounging around, making promises and getting into a little bit of trouble, I managed to afford the crystal butterfly. It was a great moment. After I paid the people of the Trading Post for the item I carried it above my head for all to see! I left the event shortly after that moment.
Secrets of Caldera: Event 2
My second event of Secrets of Caldera ended up being the larp’s third official event. Due to larp overlap, I wasn’t able to attend their second event. Also due to budget, I couldn’t afford to attend the entire weekend. I would only be playing again for Saturday.
A moment of appreciation: Thank you to the wonderful people on Ko-fi, I was able to attend this Secrets of Caldera event. I use Ko-fi to fund special projects and event fees for larps. It means a lot to me that the larp community helps fund these adventures. Thank you again for these amazing memories.
For this event at Secrets of Caldera, I was interested in hearing how the town had developed. I was also given the information that others had not been kind to Violet as she held her position as a local law official. It was one of my personal goals to help her with this leadership position, I decided to be her muscle. This way she could at least tell me what to do, and I’d carry it out with hopes that others would pick up on the play. Clara, who players Violet, is a close friend of mine. Because we are close, I believe it is okay to talk about this next part. Clara is soft spoken. Something I sometimes struggle with too. I think she offers a lot of wonderful things to say. When others don’t listen to her, it really breaks my heart. It isn’t that she doesn’t have confidence or can’t raise her voice, it is often that others chose to speak over her. Going into this larp event, I hoped she could learn that it wasn’t okay for others to do that to her. I also hoped she would find a way to over come it. When she was first appointed the town bailiff, I saw that both Violet and Clara were excited for the responsibilities of the role!
Unfortunately, the event did not go well for us. I admit that I had some beautiful role play moments with my friends. It is pretty easy to have a good time when your surrounded by people you love. What ended up being a problem was interactions with the other players and cast playing at a much different pace then us. My friends and I were interested in exploring the story of the larp. The impression I was left with made me feel like the other players were more interested in murdering people in the woods. I do not believe there is anything wrong with that experience. It just made it hard to connect and resolve issues in the town.
There was a few times when the players were not as kind to us as I would have liked. Some of the players came from different larps and they really enjoyed player vs player or as they called it CvC. CvC or character versus character is when the larp supports players working against one another. This might mean that a player could be attacked by another player. I’ve attended a series of larps that supports this play and I am comfortable in that environment. However, I strictly believe that this style of play should be handled with care. I believe that at Secrets of Caldera the concept of fairness and emotional safety is still new. This means I understood it may take some time for others to be mindful of their actions.
I will not write every detail of what went wrong at Secrets of Calera, however I will write about one scene that did hurt me because I believe the knowledge of it can help others in the future. I could not register for the event, which meant I lost my ability for my character to travel between events. Larps sometimes offer special traveling opportunities that serve as what your character does for the rest of the month. Vruuk was supposed to visit her clan and return with knowledge to give to a the town’s local orcs. This seemed like a big ask and I figured I had some time to work on it. Though that was not the case. I went to say hello to the orcs and ended up being berated, humiliated and triggered for 30 minutes. I stood there nearly in silence as an orc cast member picked me apart. I tried at first to offer “yes and” opportunities to why I hadn’t completed the task. My response was not good enough and I simply got “No but” responses from the cast member. This cast member, playing the orc chieftain, broke me down. The took my responses and challenged me. It would have been fine, however mixed into the one sided discussion he would comment on how short I was and little my tusks were. The cast member rarely let me speak, he would speak over me and the whole scene was too hard for me to participate in. I felt discouraged and wanted out. He did this in front of a large group of players which made me uncomfortable. As I expressed my discomfort with words, he would not let up on the scene. I understood he had to illustrate his power but this was not okay.
I don’t expect players and staff to know my trauma, but I do expect them to read my body language, listen to my words and provide me, a paying customer, the ability to leave something I don’t want to participate in. By the end of the scene the chief broke my honor blade. I didn’t even get a moment to role play how sad that must have made Vruuk, because the cast member had completely dragged me to an out of game head space. I sat in my cabin for some time reflecting on the lack of care the cast member offered me. My friends came to check in and we talked about how the play was unnecessary but decided it wasn’t worth calling it a ruined event. Besides, Vruuk was there to help tell Violet’s story!
Later that night a troll came to town. This was a hard moment for a lot of us. Thanks to the play of some friends from Blessings
, I managed to have an okay time with the big fight. However, I was extremely disappointed with how unkind the players were to Violet. The troll was a hard fight and I don’t believe we won. We managed to wear the troll down after leading an assault on the creature. At some point, most of the town gave up and sat by a fire. They did this as my friends, myself and a few others protected them against the troll. As the good samaritans of the town, we didn’t want citizens to die. At Secrets of Caldera, death can be permanent, so it is important to be mindful of situations where someone could die. Since they weren’t going to fight and the troll was still a problem, we began oppertating as the town guard. The entire time we did so, this group of players complained about how we weren’t doing a good job. This really hurt my friends and I.
I ran into this cast member who berated as an orc chieftain during the attack of the troll. He was one of the people “guarding” the fire. He was really unkind to me during a moment I needed clarification. My sword had been taken and I asked if anyone by the fire had seen it. He and others told me they hadn’t several times. I searched for a long time and since I couldn’t find it began to panic. I asked him again if he has seen my blade and he had it the entire time! He barked orders at me not to leave it laying around for people to take. He wasn’t happy with my response and commented on my attitude. My final straw was when he called me “little miss orc”. To me that was a over the line. I don’t believe in name calling and he chose to use my gender to demean me. In no fantasy larp setting should anyone ever use someone gender to label them in a hurtful way. Those things don’t exist in the fantasy worlds I want to play in. With that cast member inviting sexism into the role play, I decided I was done.
I would be leaving soon, so I decided to sit in the tavern and wait for staff. I saw alone with a few tears in my eyes as I wanted to report the issue to staff. Each larp will handle problems like this differently. My favorite being from the larps like Armistice Arcane
and Marked Larp
, where they have a check in system that allows players and staff to address problems immediately. After reporting the problem to staff, I packed my belongings and went home.
After the Event
Sometimes during events I will sneak away to post selfies, or “elfies” on my social media pages. I do this so that the people who support my work know that I’m thinking about them during the weekend. For me it is also just a lot of fun to share the magical experiences of larp with everyone as soon as possible! My favorite message I received was from a friend who plays Bicolline
with me! She was also playing an orc that weekend at a different larp. In my new head canon her orc is now Vruuk’s sister. I also sent a picture to Larp House
who inspired me to step up my costuming and make up for this character. Asrai always offers great advice. It gave me more happiness to see that she loved my character so much that now she is planning her own half orc character! Vruuk’s family just continues to grow. Who needs an old blade, when you have orc sisters!?
After the event was over, I invited my friends to come to my home and enjoy some tea and snacks for a debrief of the event. Debriefs are a great way to communicate about a larp experience. This is usually done to understand how we feel about the experiences we had as our characters and unbox anything that is unresolved. I asked each of my friends to tell me from start to finish what the event was like for them. Soon our tea ran out and we ordered take out Chinese food. Simply, there was just too much to discuss. I ended up feeling inspired to go back to the larp, try the scene again and hopefully bridge the gap with town’s citizens.
At this point, I have not yet decided if I want to go back to Secrets of Caldera. I had a good time with my friends, however it was a good time I could have had anywhere else. An important message we all came to understand, was that sometimes larp events don’t work out. We can try to make it work or we can spend our time in a place that value’s our play.
With that being said, disconnecting from a larp is a hard conclusion to come to. I encourage anyone who has these feelings to communicate with friends and staff to set up a debrief. Stay true to your feelings in those moments. If you have had a discouraging time at a larp, it can help future players if you fill out your PEL or event survey. Remember to reflect honestly on what your experience was like. An issue can be fixed if we follow a path to communicate how it should be resolved.
In my mind I wanted to leave myself with how I would end the scene that caused me so much grief at the larp event. This next part is going to be the story as I would have liked to see it go. Again, I don’t know if I’ll ever return to Secrets of Caldera, but I felt such a personal connection to this character I had been working on for years, that I couldn’t help but give her a good ending.
Vruuk hurried back to the orc chief with two large banners in her arms. Though when she arrived, she took her time planting the two banners into the ground. She did this respectfully to honor the tradtions that came with them.
“This is the banner of my clan!”
She pointed to a red banner with a black symbol.
“I honor my clan of the Nuhtuk by bringing it to you today. At the first year of my life, I earned my path under the One God when I defeated my the mate the One God offered me. His blood is on my hands but it was what was meant to be to free me from a path that was not my own. My family and clan said goodbye to me as I left. My honor blade at my side.”
Vruuk held the broken honor blade in her hand for a moment. She looked down on it as she usually did. Some old blade that didn’t really speak for her.
“You orc chieftain question my honor. You take from me a blade I earned and would break it to challenge me.”
Vruuk then threw the blade at his feet.
“You cannot challenge me for you are the one who is without honor. You are the one who disrespects the One God. I am his child and you disgrace his teachings by mocking how I live.”
Vruuk stands in front of the other banner. It is orange with a green symbol. She crosses her arms over her chest and speaks with he tusks out more so then before.
“My challenge is with the shaman, for he is the only one who can stand as my equal.”
It is at that time, I hoped that Vruuk and the old shaman would fight. He is crippled and often short of breath. The fight would be quick. Vruuk would hope to give him a death that would honor the One God. She would then ask the Chief to leave until he reconnected with his clan and could present his banner along side her’s.