Under Angmar’s Shadow: shady business

Under Angmar’s Shadow (formerly known as The Cardolani Succession) is a 39-player larp in the uk-freeform style, written by Brian Williams – one of the pioneers of this form of larp, who’s written a fascinating account of the origins of his involvement.

Despite being 15 years old, Under Angmar’s Shadow had its first UK run last month in south-east London, and I was lucky enough to be invited. As the name suggests, it’s set in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth; during the Third Age, about 1400 years before the events of The Lord of the Rings. Cardolan is a small Dunedain kingdom, allied to Arnor and Gondor. Its orphaned princess is coming of age: who will she marry, how will she keep happy the ambitious nobles who have been running the place during her minority, how will she balance her powerful allies?… and, of course, lurking on the border is the threat of the dark magics of the Witch-King of Angmar.

It’s a larp about power, alliances, deals, and intrigue; it’s divided into four sessions with game-time passing inbetween, to allow space for economic developments, troop movements, and so on, to play out.

In style, Shadows over Angmar is pretty gamist; much more so than most uk-freeforms. There’s an explicit economic system, mediated by spreadsheet; there’s a wargame system for resolving mass battles; individual conflicts are resolved by scissors-paper-stone; and there’s a general understanding that all characters are trying to ‘win’. This made it a real blast from the past for me, because it’s many years now since I regularly played larps like that. And to be honest, it’s not really my thing these days. But, because for various reasons I was pretty low on brain-power at the time, I asked for a character who had as little as possible to do with the mechanics, and who I could just role-play without expectation; and Brian very kindly found me the perfect one.

I had a lot of fun playing a rather vainglorious and foolish character with an exaggerated opinion of his own charm and capability, who essentially swanned about causing trouble and irritating people. And, as often happens to such people in real life, he ended the larp in a very fortunate and happy situation; not having to pay the price for any of his many misjudgements and follies.

I probably would have had a good time myself whatever, because I was surrounded by old friends; but anyway the stories are interesting, the plots are clever and thoughtful, the characters are fun, and the various systems seemed to work pretty well. So if this sounds like it might be your sort of thing, then I believe Under Angmar’s Shadow is running at Intercon next year!

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