The Black Hart of Camelot

I played this last Saturday and I’ve been mulling over the experience since then. It’s taken me this long to seperate my emotional experience from a subjective look at the game.

It’s hard for me to say when I didn’t have a good time. In part this is ‘if you can’t say anything nice…’ but in part this is because I worry that I will look like a whiner, or I will insult the people who I gamed with, or the Lovely Scott who ran the game, or the people who wrote the game, if they should find this blog. I don’t want to upset anyone.

But I didn’t have a good time playing Black Hart of Camelot. Overall, that is. There were lots of good things about the game, such as in character moments, the lovely setting Scott, Luke and Sam arranged for us, the effort everyone had put into costuming and the atmospheric weather.

I couldn’t put my finger on why not for a few days. I put it down to having a cold, and therefore feeling fragile when people called me ‘whore’ before and after the game. (In a loving, caring, smack-talk way). I guessed it was maybe because I am over the emo-love thing, and the game for me was about agonising over not being with the person I loved. All my friends who played the game had a brilliant time, after all, so if my experience of it wasn’t the best then it must be my problem.

I also know that I had difficultly getting into character at first. There are so many stories about Guinevere, I didn’t know which would be appropriate to mimic. I also am unsure about the court etiquette and whether I should stand when Arthur did, etc. This is largely my own fault, and could have been solved with more research. I am usually pretty good about immersing myself in characters quickly, so I felt wrong footed to start with.

I had a revelation a couple of days later. Guinevere was isolated. Almost completely. Unlike everyone else in the game who had at least one person they could completely trust I had no one. I’m going to dive into spoiler territory here, so if you haven’t played the game and wish to you should stop reading now.

Guinevere had Arthur of course. But she was betraying him, and feeling awful about it. He also had the power to have her killed, in fact, he would have to if the betrayal got out (so I thought.) Besides that, King Arthur was run off his feet with the number of people who wanted to speak to him. This means that he had almost no time to spend with me.
There was Lancelot, whom I knew cared for me deeply. However, Arthur asked us not to be seen together, to keep up appearances. Lancelot was therefore largely absent from me, and I got to watch him have long conversations with Elaine, whom I knew wanted to make him her king.
My family was there, but I did not feel I could confide in them entirely. My sister Guineth appeared to be all sweetness and light, but she was secretly plotting my downfall and ended up betrothed to Mordred. (ew, by the way. I’m going to be his step-mother/sister-in-law?)
My father appeared to be concerned about me but was actually possessed by a demon.

Most of the other characters either had no need or wish to speak to me or were actively avoiding me because they knew of my adultery.

It turns out that LARPing is less fun when you don’t have people to talk to. Now, for all I know, the character of Guinevere is written in exactly this way to create a feeling of isolation in the player. Or it could have been just the way our particular run of it worked out. Lancelot discovered early in the game that people knew about our affair and he was terrified of the consequences. We agreed to speak to Arthur early in the game and come clean. If we hadn’t done this, perhaps the game would have been different.
I’d love to hear from the previous player of Guinevere, as depending on events within the game, the isolation may not have happened to the same extent.

I don’t regret playing in Black Hart of Camelot. I am a bit scared to post this, because it seems so negative, but at the same time I should express my experience of the game.

The GM and the other players did a fantastic job. I especially want to thank Bryn, Norm, Sophie, Jackie and Donna. It was in many ways, an excellent game. I’m especially pleased that I pursued something that wasn’t a specified goal (do something about my inability to grow pregnant) and Nimue’s gift was determined by the GM to have worked. So, rather than cause Camelot’s downfall, I have actually strengthened it. I’m going to focus on that for my experience of Camelot.


10 thoughts on “The Black Hart of Camelot

  1. *hugs*

    I’m unsurprised Guinevere didn’t have a good time. the entire LARP is full of characters who are in tragic circumstances, it’s pretty much designed for the characters to not have a good time.

    That you didn’t have anyone you could confide in wasn’t that unusual though. I didn’t trust anyone except Tristram, and I only trusted him to be Tristram, so I couldn’t confide in him and tell him my nefarious schemes because he wouldn’t approve of them.

    On the other hand I did have lots of reasons to talk to people. King Mark didn’t know about the Queen’s infidelity, and had no reason to talk to the Queen, and the game seemed to pass so quickly that I didn’t really find myself with time for small talk, except near the end when Mark was being emo anyway.

  2. Yep, I didn’t really have anyone to confide in either. I distrusted my mother because I felt she distrusted me.* I knew Lancelot from childhood, but wasn’t inclined to share my plans with him. I didn’t really know anyone else. When I realised how isolated my character was I ignored the bit about how I didn’t trust my mother. All my reasons to talk to people were initially through her, so I’m not sure what I would have done otherwise. It took me a while to feel comfortable with the game though.

    If Guinevere had confided in me I would have kept her secret. There was no reason for her to do that though. Lancelot could have, but I didn’t push him. He was a childhood friend, so I wasn’t about to cause trouble for him. Given that I planned to marry Arthur myself, I was really not in a position to judge. 😉

    * She had pretty good reason to distrust me really… I ended up putting her into an awkward situation with a man she had happily avoided for years.

  3. “All my friends who played the game had a brilliant time”

    – Not true. It was a rather less than brilliant time for me; which I put down to poor character selection on my part. I think the game was well run, I just didn’t really enjoy it.

    • Yes, I should have clarified that to all my friends who I have spoken to about the game.

  4. I think you did a really job of saying in this post that you didn’t enjoy the game rather than saying that you thought it was a bad game. Well done you!

    I suspect I would have felt the same way. I find I enjoy LARPs more when I have in-game friends. Lets always make sure we are friends in LARPs ok? 😉 Or at least that we always have friends.

  5. I had a lot less fun in the first run of the game in Auckland when I was playing Elaine – she was primarily interested in talking to Lancelot and he was (a) very busy and (b) not wanting to talk to her.

    In the Auckland game Guineth started in the court of Camelot rather than Cameliard acting as a lady-in-waiting to Guinevere, so the dynamic between them was probably quite different (in that version they used magic to trade places so that Guinevere could run off with Lancelot).

  6. My experience kinda echos yours and some of the other folks who had commented here too. I had a really good experience, but I also found that it took longer then a usual LARP to get into character. I noticed that for the first 15 mins a lot of the conversations were very stifled as we all tried to figure out how to establish our characters in the setting (concerns about language and conversation topic etc.)

    My big driving secret was that I couldn’t give away the presence of angels that walk amongst us as this was what I witnessed when I achieved the grail. While I revealed this to only one person in game, I had to keep deflecting all the other questions that I got about this all game.

    Lots of things made the game for me, Bryn as Lancelot, the woman playing the angel, Sophie as Elaine and for being able to play a different kind of Emo, someone who was fed up with the world and all the corruption/evil that infested it.

    I’m sorry that I never got the opportunity to speak to you, I really wanted to but you were always occupied when I had a moment. Also, I was concerned about addressing the queen in the forward manner that I wanted to.

    I think that’s what you need to do, play some different kinds of emo characters 🙂

  7. I’m sorry you didn’t have a good time Jenni. For future reference, if you’re ever feeling a bit out of sorts at a LARP, grab me and pull me away and give me a quick OOC word. I may not be able to do anything ICly but can give you a moment to maybe get your bearings and brainstorm before approaching a GM.

    It’s good feedback to be able to pass to the writer of the game that this particular character doesn’t have anyone to confide in or confess her feelings to other than Lancelot.

    • Thanks Jackie, it’s good to know.

      I’ve passed on feedback to Scott for him to give to the writers 🙂

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