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The Wizard's Desk

The Wizard's desk is a blog space where our staff and creative leads offer their insight and experience on engaging with DrachenFest US! We're excited to share what we can, so pull up a seat!

Playing on "Bard Mode"

Let’s talk about music at DrachenFest: We want to dive deeper into what music can do at larps, how it adds to a game, and the unique experience of larping and making music simultaneously. We’ll take a look at the gameplay spaces where music thrives, as well as the mechanics for Bardic Magics.

For starters, making music in gameor as we like to call it, playing on Bard Modeis less about technical skill and more about how and why you do what you do! A well-executed performance can be impressive and awe-inspiring, but making music at a larp can enhance others' roleplay, and is more about connection and “playing to lift” (pun intended). 

Bards at DrachenFest want to tell stories through music and art regardless of experience or proficiency. At the end of the day, music at DrachenFest is less about art for art’s sake and more about sharing and building scenes together. 

So what does music at DrachenFest look like? Just like an artist can use paints to build a landscape, bards build what we call a soundscape - music interwoven with the other sounds of the larp. This includes everything from hushed conversations to fights breaking out to the sound of cooking over an open fire.

As a bard, you’re a part of the soundscape, and add to the experience in some really important ways: you can use your bardic skills (we’ll talk about these soon) to cast spells and make magic happen, and you can also bring music into game actively or reactively. What does that mean? Active music looks like a planned performance - playing songs around a campfire, leading a tavern chorus, or being hired to play a dirge for a character’s funeral. This may be the first kind of music-making you think of when you hear the word ‘bard’, and it plays an important role in the DrachenFest culture. Performances like this set the stage and create a fantasy festival ambience that can draw players into the heart of what we’re all doing here.

Where active music involves performance and can be rehearsed, reactive music is improvised and responsive. An example is a bard playing in the background of an arena fight, using active listening and reacting to the movement of combatants to increase the drama as the fight ramps up. It could be as simple as making a nod to someone else’s character concept by playing a familiar tune in a tavern or as street music. It could also be improvising on a theme to accompany an execution scene, ramping up in intensity right until the axe swings, then ending on silence or dissonance. Reactive music lets a bard really lean into the idea of playing to lift; through music we can acknowledge someone else's play, connect with each other, and say "I see you, and I think what you’re doing is rad.”

In a way, through both active and reactive music, bards bring everyone together, enriching the time we spend together. When a bard adds music to a scene, you may see people’s heads turn that way as the sound captures their attention. Suddenly, what was a fight scene between two or three players is now a shared experience among more players, one where the underscored emotions can be heard and felt by the onlookers and the participants. That’s the real bardic magic, baby!

Speaking of magic, let’s look at the mechanics of bardic magic:

Guild Skill: Bardic Casting

Bardic casting is a unique and less obvious style of magic that allows a bard to spell cast via musical performance, rather than the standard "magic words" incantation. Someone casting a Sleep is obviously casting a spell, whereas a bardic caster can start to sing or play a lullaby to cast the Sleep spell on one person, taking them by surprise.

This is a great trick for getting a drop on a guard, but it's not like you can put an entire crowd to sleep. During the bardic casting class, bards enchant their spell focus (usually an instrument, but could also be a necklace or pin) through which they channel their chosen spell. Some spells (like Orb of Power and Energy Field) are off limits.

To gain the bardic casting skill, players need to attend a guild skill course with the Bardic Guild. It involves music theory learning and practice, communal music making, and the musical bestowing of enchantments. 

Guild Skill: Bardic Ritual Casting

A ritual may require a specific concept or theme, and finding that is a little bit of a scavenger hunt for the ritualists. Bardic ritual casters are able to concentrate the essence of a specific feeling, experience, thought, or concept into a magical component. A bardic ritual caster can improvise on a theme in a way that satisfies one of the ritual's component requirements. Remember reactive music from before? Ritual casting is another great example of that!

To gain the bardic ritual casting skill, players must attend a class with the Bard Society guild that consists of songwriting learning and practice, a short related quest, and a culminating ritual performance.

While using bardic magic is restricted to players who attend guild classes, making music at DrachenFest is open to everyone. Whether you’re a professional, a dabbler, or someone who may be on the fence about bringing their instrument or using their voice at game, you are welcome. Any roleplay about requiring permits, licenses, or endorsements to make music at the festival is explicitly prohibited.

The great news is that any camp players are welcome to play, sing, and holler with the Bard Society during their time at DrachenFest… but if you would rather leave the camps and run away with our little band, you can instead apply to become a full-time Bard Society team member as a part of the Bazaar! 

The Bard Society team is a varied bunch, from songwriters to divas to silly little guys, and we cannot wait to welcome more storytellers, dreamers, and musicians of all sorts to our Bard Society team. If you’d like to join the Bard Society guild team, please apply to be a full-time Bazaar player at this link.

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