JEFFERSON — Not far from Augusta Road in Jefferson, live-action adventurers went exploring Saturday as characters in a world of fantasy.

On Saturday morning, role players embarked on quests through Navarre, one of the regional settings for Mystwood – a large, live-action role-playing game modeled after medieval Europe. Players told the Kennebec Journal on Saturday the the hobby allows them to momentarily escape from day-to-day life and creates opportunities to connect with one’s inner child.

The 80-acre playing area is a short walk into the woods from a grass parking lot. Carved wooden signs point players to their destination alongside peak fall foliage.

The property in Jefferson is dubbed the “Mystwood Keep” for storytelling purposes. The game’s lore describes The Keep as a “burgeoning trade town” threatened by “the incursion of Chaos,” or monsters that dwell in ruins beneath the village. Truax McFarland, co-director of Saturday’s event, said the game’s setting is “loosely based on medieval Europe, though with fantasy creatures, magic (and) religion.” The Keep is modeled after France, called Navarre in the game.

About 15 players took part in two quests. During the first quest, half a dozen adventurers set off to find an opulent gift suitable for a duchess, who ruled this section of Navarre, for her upcoming wedding. Along the way, the players had to navigate combat, puzzles, traps and attempted assassinations.

Mystwood players are bound by a 112-page, massively detailed handbook. Players create characters that have hundreds of possible combinations of identities, occupations and abilities. All of these selections, which usually help build a backstory for the character, influence how they perform during the game.

The selections can give them more in-game currency or advantages during combat or other events. For example, one archer has the skills to enter a library with multiple traps but, without the ability to read, is unable to help find clues from books. These nuances in character-building make collaboration key during the quests – characters were often found huddled during quest events trying to find the best way to accomplish tasks without using all of their resources.

Many of the characters come equipped with detailed foam weapons and unique armor, which make their characters more dangerous in combat. One hit point, generally, translates to being able to be hit with a weapon one time. Magic and bows also may be used in combat in Mystwood – magic users and archers throw beanbags at targets to deal damage.

As the game progresses and the character moves through the storyline, they earn “moonstones” which can be used to improve their character. At the end of Saturday’s event, players received five moonstones, which co-director Pat Fitzgibbons, who wrote the script for Saturday, said was a lot to new characters, but not so many for experienced characters.

Immersion is key during the game and players are fined five crown – the in-game currency, each one equivalent to about $3.50, according to the handbook – for speaking about outside topics during the campaign.

William Cooper, of Augusta, said he modeled his character after his ancestors, who were English barrel-makers. He said his character began as a woodworker, then became a miller. His character specializes in shooting a bow but also has the ability to shift into a werewolf for a limited time. Cooper, who has attended live-action role-playing events since 1994, said he’ll put on special makeup when he is a werewolf and become unable to communicate with other players normally.

Cooper said the hobby offers him the opportunity transcend his day-to-day self.

“It’s like getting away from the real world and not having to worry about social media or anything else,” he said. “You can get away from it and pretend to be something you’re not. I don’t consider myself super dexterous or super tough or anything, but here I can pretend that I’m someone that I’m not.”

The playing area includes a number of buildings and a village, but Mystwood’s detail is more than physical. The handbook details the history of the game’s world and offers information about the economy, social structure and unique religious systems.

The Mystwood campaign is entering its eighth year and features a total of 11 events. Other events are held in Harrison, Maine, and North Sandwich, New Hampshire. McFarland said Saturday’s quest event was more strenuous than the other Mystwood events and geared toward more serious players.

Ahead of the quest, McFarland gave out roles to the nonplayer characters, who help move the story along. He told them where to position themselves and what clothes or armor to wear to give the adventure the correct feel. He joked that it was like he was directing a play.

“It is really just a very elaborate form of theater, but I like that it tests your limits,” he said.

Fitzgibbons said it’s a misconception that live-action role-playing is “incredibly nerdy.”

“You’re going to get the folks that think … that only people on the extremes of society will come to this,” he said. “You’ll find that the people that do this are very normal, everyday human beings that just want to get out and have fun.”

Fox Buck, of Belmont, said live-action role-playing is “good therapy.” She began attending events this year after someone in her amateur acting troupe persuaded her to try it. She said it was a natural progression from her troupe’s work because they use swords and black powder weapons in their acting.

“It sounded like fun, so I thought I’d try it,” she said. “Adults need to be able to get out and let loose and play.”

Fitzgibbons, whose character is an oafish hunter, said he and his friends would make foam weapons in high school. He said he began larping four years ago because he found out about the group playing Mystwood.

“I found a group of people that do this on the regular and I thought how much fun it would be to pretend that I’m a kid again and run around and pretend to be a wizard or a knight,” he said. “I came out here and I did that and it was hilarious.”


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