Lesson 1: When you’re blindfolded on the floor with a stomach full of Nightmare Draught, it’s important to remember your Auror training. Don’t panic.
You’re a Senior Auror after all and soiling yourself isn’t becoming of an aspiring Dark Wizard catcher. Sophie Flammel, the formidable but lovely, Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor has just poisoned one of your classmates with Living Death. They have 60 seconds to live. Professor Flammel says the poisoning is an exercise to teach you how to manage your fear in life and death situations… but you think it’s more likely she’s getting revenge for one of the students stealing a very magical and rare stone that belongs to her family. You know, that stone. That Flammel.
If Professors poisoning their students is prohibited at the Czhocha College of Wizardry, then you’ve never seen any evidence of it. You begin to reminisce about all the times you were poisoned your Junior year by Professor Loeye, when sudden screams focus your attention back to the poisoned body on the old wooden floor. Across the room you hear a Prefect from House Libussa shout “Accio Bezor!”… Genius. The summoning charm sends the Bezor whizzing into the room from the potions cellar downstairs, a quick tap of the wand “Aguamente”, and water washes down the medicine. Your classmate is cured. Of course you’re thrilled Faye is going to be ok, but your heart sinks a little when Professor Flammel awards 10 points to House Libussa for quick thinking under pressure. House Molin is already in last place for the House Cup and you curse yourself for not thinking of the summoning charm first.
After class, you eat some Joy Beans to cure the Nightmare Draught hangover. It works a little too well. You’re bumbling around like a happy idiot clumsily packing your bags as you slip through the secret passage downstairs into the Ancient Library for Charms class. Hopefully you’ll work on Memory Spells today…
If you’re reading this, chances are you already know what a LARP is. If you don’t, here’s the basics. LARP stands for Live Action Role Playing. It’s an event where you role play a character set in a certain world while other people also role play their characters to create a story together. Sometimes that world is fantasy (like Dungeons & Dragons or in this case Harry Potter), sometimes it’s set in history (like Civil War Reenactment) with all sorts of other variations in between. The best way I’ve heard LARP described is “it’s like a giant improvised movie where there’s a hundred stories going on at once and everyone is their own main character”. It certainly feels that way.
LARPing is commonly portrayed in popular culture as being the ‘lowest of the low’ on the nerdy totem pole. The group that even kids who play Magic: The Gathering on Friday nights make fun of. “At least we don’t LARP” they say as they their drink orange soda and eat their Funyuns — Just for the record, I am a Magic player and I LOVE orange soda and Funyuns, so no insult intended. If there’s one thing Magic players know better than anyone, it’s snacks. Don’t mess with us on the snack level. But I digress. If you do know of LARPing, you probably know that scene in “Role Models” or the famous “Lightning Bolt” YouTube video. This is how most people view LARPing and I’m already looking forward to the comments section here where young men and women will no doubt hypothesize about my virginity, hate the whole universe for LARP even existing in the first place, and just generally taking a huge dump all over my existence. But not to worry, I don’t plan on having an existential crisis over it. I am, after all, a wizard…
Lesson 2: When fighting a Minotaur in the Dark Forest after midnight, it’s important to remember to aim your spells at the legs. That’s where it’s weakest.
Your Stupify spells don’t seem to phase it and he’s getting closer. The giant beast raises his mallet for a crushing blow… “Iiinnnnnncendio! Long flames burst from Nina’s wand to your right as white hot fire drives the Minotaur screaming back into the brush.
Five students sit stunned and out of breath as Professor Crumplebottom, hearing the commotion, comes hustling out to yell at you for being off campus grounds after dark. “What are you doing out here anyways”? Some quick thinking by Nikolai and he tells the professor we’re out for “Houseplant Appreciation Club”, and you chime in with “Yeah, we’re doing a report on Devil’s Snare, you know it only grows at night”. No response. A shifty eyed look from Professor Crumplebottom and she sends you back to the castle. “What’s your House?”, she asks you as you get to the ancient gate. “House Molin, ma’am”. “Right, 5 points will be taken from House Molin for being out after dark”. And your heart sinks… But with a smile she ads, “And 10 points will be awarded to House Molin for bravery and cunning in a most epic Minotaur battle.”
The College of Wizardry LARP was without a doubt one of the coolest things I’ve eve done. And yes, I do mean coolest. Like in the James Dean sort of way. I got to live in a thousand year old castle in Poland for a weekend partying, playing, and meeting people in what is arguably the biggest and most elaborate theme party of the year (if you care to look at it that way). Usually people don’t think of the word cool, or awesome when they think of LARPing, but those people just clearly don’t understand what fun is. I mean, what do you think is fun? Drinking at a bar?! Meanwhile, I’m hexing a fucking Dementor in a thousand year old dungeon. How often do you get to be a real life wizard? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Lesson 3: When bribing House Elves to steal Counselor Gray’s Deatheater Mask from the Teacher’s Lounge, make sure you bring an extra pair of socks in case there’s more than one Elf whom needs convincing.
Lesson 4: When arguing with a Religious Wizard trying to bridge the gap between Christianity and Wizardry, make sure not to laugh when the Professor replies with “I don’t think Jesus would’ve passed his O.W.L.s.”
Lesson 5: When dueling, don’t mess with the girls from Durmstrang. And when betting years of your life at Blackjack with the Witchdoctor over drinks in the Tavern, quit while you’re ahead
Lesson 6: When drinking Dragon’s Blood, know that it affects some people more strongly than others. May lead to impromptu arm wrestling matches during class and irresponsible fearlessness
That’s what you learn at the College of Wizardry while you’re there. But when you get home, and you settle back to the “real” world, there’s a whole host of other lessons you take with you, and these are the ones that really matter.
Lesson 7: When you’re caught up in the stress of life, don’t forget to ‘Play’ now and then. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Lesson 8: When you have the chance to make a friend, do it. Be more open to people
Lesson 9: When you have the chance to say “yes” in life, do it. You’ll find yourself on adventures you never even dreamed
Lesson 10: When partying with hardcore LARPers from Denmark and Sweden, make sure to pace yourself. They’re fucking crazy.
Lesson 11: When you’re judging something without trying it, don’t. Be open minded and let other people have fun their way
And, most importantly…
Lesson 12: When you worry there’s no magic left in the world, know that there’s a small, ancient castle in Poland where you make your own magic and dreams come true.
Learn more about the College of Wizardry here!
Photos by Christina Molbech