Thursday, September 11, 2014

Swordmaster for Summer, by Samantha Swords

Editor's Note: The article was originally written for Samantha Swords' Tumblr,  and is reprinted with permission here.

At last, I have been able to do a proper write up about my outstandingly fun summer!

I’ve always wanted to be part of an ‘American Summer Camp’ experience. Coming from the distant South Pacific, where holidays are a few weeks long at most, the idea of months of endless fun in a camp setting was a real draw for me.

Then I was invited to take part in Guard Up’s Wizards and Warriors summer camps, which are live action role play adventures themed as an apocalyptic zombie war (with Nerf blasters and water pistols) followed by two medieval-fantasy sessions. Each camp is unique, with a continuous and completely dynamic storyline that adapts to the decisions young Heroes make within the world.

Run by a team of multi-skilled actor/counselor/educators, the fantasy world is populated by monsters and NPCs, and filled with quests that build up to an overall story.
(For more on Zombie Camp, check out my previous post or see the camp video)

Above: My character seeks aid from the greater spirit Coyote, a master trickster who is only engaged when he is entertained. To achieve this, she burst into spontaneous singing and dancing for his (and the Heroes’) amusement.

One does not simply waste summer...

There is a strong educational component (cunningly disguised as ways to upskill a character) and young heroes have the ability to solve problems together that lead to solutions within the game. The camps are set in the world of Sidleterra, a place that has the power to summon beings from mythology or literature, and Heroes to fight for the good of the land. This year was a combined Doctor Who and Norse theme, and my character was revealed to be really be Muninn, one of the Ravens of Odin.

Above: Charging into Battle with Fellow Heroes
Roleplaying a character every hour of the day for weeks on end was wonderful fun.Samwyn Silverheart was a shapeshifting warrior who was fierce, decisive and brave. She had a deep moral code, was quick to act against enemies, and could be ridiculously silly in the company of friends. Having spent thousands of years changing into raven form she had some very birdlike mannerisms, was very proud and sometimes easily offended, especially when other characters joked about birds. She could also be overwhelmed by masses of Heroes running at her, and definitely did not like dogs.

Samwyn was initially a virtuous paladin-style character, but I adapted her into a mysterious figure throughout the course of the story. I did this to work with the young heroes who were making questionable choices in their role play, to show the complexity of still being a hero even when faced with dark decisions and surrounded by monsters. As a counsellor, I crafted a character that could relate to those whom I felt needed guidance the most.

Despite walking in the shadows, Samwyn/Muninn was very pious, especially in the presence of the Norse gods or greater spirits of Sidleterra.
Another aspect of my role with the camps was to work with the Rangers, the older campers who were ready to expand themselves and become leaders to others. The Rangers spent a lot of time together on special quests or doing personal development like warrior meditation, stealth exercises, and honing their fighting skills. It was a wonderful rewarding experience to work with these young people in a story setting, but seeing them develop real-world values and abilities.

Instructing a young fighter in the use of swords. Even though the weapons were made of foam and latex, many of the physics from real combat still apply.

My overall role was Swordsmaster to all of the heroes of Sidleterra, so I worked with the fighters guild teaching skills that could be adapted within the foam sword game system. Spatial awareness, blade dynamics and self control were useful for heroes of all ages, but with the older fighters I was able to teach more complex skills that related to their chosen weapon.

It was a constant challenge to adapt real combat skills into a safe gameplay system of latex and foam, but the sheer level of fun that drove the camp and everyone that was a part of it made the experience a joy at all times.

For more, check out the great news story on Guard Up’s YouTube channel or check out Wizards and Warriors Summer Camps.

The wonderful team of counsellors bonded over an intense week of training- this included mandatory foam sword wars and water fights.

The camp directors gave all the staff personalised Lego figures of our characters- hand painted with love over several long nights.

Camp photographs courtesy of Guard Up! Inc.

Australian Raven photograph by Julian Robinson

Specialty green armour provided by Shari Finn, New Zealand.

Samantha Swords is a multi-time champion of Longsword competitions, and all around badass renaissance lady of stage, screen and graphic novel. She can be found on her Tumblr.

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