Dragon Thrones: Ascension

Note: Photos courtesy of Keith Reilly Photography

Dragon Thrones: Ascension, a Live Action Role Play (LARP) run by The Game Theatre on July 22-25 in New Jersey, was one of the first events held after Pandemic-related postponings.  The Game Theatre typically runs two Dragon Thrones events annually, along with  single day events (including a New Years Eve party). The Game Theatre also held a digital game during the summer of 2020 to keep players engaged as the event was delayed because of Covid. 

My Experience

I played the role of King Drakken Nevermore, the Eminent, Ghastly High Priest of Ardmore. A house that is known for its gold, mines, gems and treachery. I also had the House of Joy, a charismatic brothel, as part of my nation. They were a new addition to Ardmore and brought balance to the conniving and generally untrustworthy nature of this House. The event included a strategic megagame (think Risk meets Civilization) and my team and I joked that in war, we would send out the House of Joy first because no one would dare harm the loved house workers.

Mechanically, for the tabletop game which used the Dungeons and Dragons 5e system, I was a Paladin of the Oath of Wealth – a new subclass that releases with an upcoming Kickstarter. I was given personal goals of winning the Ascension for the glory of the Kingdom, and helping to create a Golden Liche that would serve Ardmore in battle.

Prior to the Event

Before the event, my house had several meetings on Discord. This gave us the chance to get to know each other, talk about our roles going into the game, plan and plot, ask questions about house lore, and help ease the first time LARPer jitters for those new to the game. We had two heir first LARPers – and we did our best to help them and make sure they felt comfortable with everything.

Each of the Houses was given a team room to decorate.  Ardmore showed it’s style with players bringing everything from Absinthe, to gold candy, snakes, paintings and other accessories in green and gold.  Our room oftentimes was the place the party took place for all of the houses!

We also did a good amount of sharing garb concepts and designs. This helped our house look great for House pictures! One of our own actually placed in a costume contest held for favor. Additionally, we discussed different things like entering items into the magic item contest (we had an amazing Painter who won – as well as my custom sword).

Thursday, the Optional Add-on

Thursday was a day of intense tabletop sessions. King Drakken traveled with several rulers from other nations, including lands accompanying magic, draconian peoples, and our illustrious neighbors who grow lots of food and throw parties only second to Ardmore’s own.

It gave us the opportunity to form impressions of other peoples. And I could definitely see alliances being made as the rulers traveled with each other. Many memories are made during the tabletop sessions. Personally, one of my favorites is when my character ran and jumped off the back of the High Magus of Arcadia (she was transformed into a dragon!) – half as a personal insult, half as a means to an end. When area assaults came into place and rulers were in the boundaries of a fireball, there was definitely some discussion if it was worth catching them in the blast and risking a diplomatic incident!

The evening ended with me being able to conjure the spirit of my nation’s elder dragon Sar’gon Mar. We stood side by side and battled an evil manifestation that was plaguing my homeland. My magic sword not only dealt mighty damage, it also changed the blood that spilled from my enemies into gold! That definitely led to some epic tabletop moments.

The Weekend Itself

Dragon Thrones is an intense event! There is always something to do, whether conversing with someone, a mission to partake in, food to eat, or an interactive event to attend. Personally, I focused on Favor-earning opportunities for the weekend. As the King, my hands were involved in everything – mainly to support those who were on my team.

My General was epic! Lady Glorious was that – truly Glorious. She started out by challenging the ruler of our natural enemy, House Helfarian. She won with all the treachery of Ardmore’s ancestors cheering her on. There’s a really great picture of me standing behind her, supporting her, as she demolishes the cocky, young King. Additionally, she placed in the costume contest, led us to conquer several citadels on the Megagame map, and danced and sang. Did I tell you she was glorious? I take ownership of all the failures we had on the Megagame map because she was quite amazing. I would make deals and partnerships with the Golden Dragon Court (go destroy this Kingdom and I’ll give you favor), other nations (let’s go destroy this nation), and she would make these dreams become reality. She delivered results!

Ardmore’s chief Diplomat, Roderich, embodied the Greed of the house and earned “Greed of Ardmore” as a title for his excellent performance. Roderich visited every High Council meeting, and surprised me with a giant golden statue of myself with the Golden Dragon King! Quite appropriate for the eventual win we would have. He made amazing deals with the in game store, run by the Guild.He also stole from the Golden Dragon King’s Council. I may have turned him in for his crime and sentenced him to death, but our team earned favor for it… so it was not a total loss!

Ardmore’s House of Joy had three members: a great madame, a seductive bard employee, and a touched-by-a-god jeweler who stole a 10-foot golden pole (or maybe it was a 15-foot pole because everything is bigger in Kambria…). There was an endless supply of naughty innuendos, which were always kept classy and in good taste. The House of Joy helped people not hate Ardmore – which was not an easy task. Our house animal is a snake, and we did some very sneaky things.

How Did It End

On Sunday, the Golden Dragon King started to announce all of the victories across several categories. These victories were in things like, War, Diplomacy, Favor, etc. I watched the faces of my House as other Houses were named winners in several categories while our name remained uncalled.. We ended up placing second in one thing, and first in Favor.

Then they started to announce the overall winners. I watched, highly skeptical because we didn’t seem to place high enough in the categories to win. Third place was our good friends from House Lancaster. Second place was the destructive Kara’Kung nation (who we spent most of the game secretly undermining – especially with a road they wanted to build), and then they called first place – Ardmore!

The surprise on my face and those of my people was well worth it. Earlier that morning, we had gathered, and I bestowed upon everyone an honorary title and gave them a piece of my jewelry to signify their new station. I did not expect to win, but believe we were 4th place in nearly everything, and overwhelming in the prime category – Favor.

As a result of winning the Ascension, Ardmore will be the setting for the upcoming game in February, 2022.

Logistics

The weekend was completely taken care of by The Game Theatre. From food, to lodging, and of course the game and entertainment itself. The hotel that hosted both the event and lodging was the Grand Summit, which boasts a beautiful exterior, luxury rooms, free parking, and a unique bar setting.

Food wise, the meals were catered and served by staff for the most part. You pointed at something you wanted, and they would dish it out on your plate for you. For lunch one day, boxed sandwiches with chips, fruits and cookies were given out. The food was great!

There was an optional Thursday add-on that focused on tabletop gaming exclusively. Dragon Thrones has an upcoming kickstarter that will focus on the ability to create gameplay in the Kambrian world – using spells and abilities unique to the Houses and races. This is Dungeons & Dragons 5e supplemental materials, so the system was fairly familiar and easy to pick up.

The Story

Set in a magical world called Kambria, everyone kneels before the Golden Dragon King. Figuratively a Golden Dragon, he led the world’s people in battles against their original oppressors, which were dragons of other varieties. In their wake, magical thrones were left behind which bequeath great power to the rulers of the lands. In exchange for subservience, the great Golden Dragon King bestows great fortune and favor – while destroying those who refuse to bend the knee.

Every 30 years, to delight the Golden Dragon King, the entire world goes to war for a few days. Victories and different types of successes earn favor, and the Golden Dragon King’s court comes to bet on the winners – offering resources, treasure and favor to help win the Ascension. Each member of the court can sponsor a single House or faction, and works behind the scenes to mentor and assist their house reach victory.

The winning house of the Ascension receives great glory until the next event, and their sponsor ascends in ranks. Additionally, the ruler of the Kingdom has the chance to ascend and become part of the Golden Dragon Court themselves – essentially stopping aging, and achieving a god-like level.

A Few Thoughts from Others:

What did you think of Dragon Thrones?

“Dragon Thrones was just what I needed after a year and a half of little socializing. The format was closer to a “larp convention,” with different styles of content running throughout the weekend. Overall the plot was straightforward and enjoyable as a segue into larp events once more.”

  • Alexandra Clinton

“The people at Dragon Thrones are some of the best, most creative and supportive people I know and really make an amazing event even better. Having personalized character sheets with built-in connections made it easy and fun to interact with others. 

Dragon Thrones is a great event where most of my friends come from (this was my second), and I have such a good time creating our stories in character at tabletops, boffering, and in everything larp from costuming to goals and personalities.”

  • Julie DosSantos

As a first-time LARPer, I don’t have anything to compare DT to, but from what I can tell, the experience is expansive and fast-paced, both in terms of the fictional world as well as the operations. That’s great because it’s so vast and agile that you really can carve out your own unique slice of life out of the experience–but it’s also easy for newbies to feel as if they’re lost or playing catch-up at times. However, the extremely inviting and dedicated player community helps solve that, with there being no shortage of people who don’t hesitate to share their wisdom, help others along, and bring newbies into what ends up being a truly collaborative and collective story.

  • Vanessa Carney

Upcoming Event

With the Ascension passed, the world of Kambria enters a new phase of rebuilding and growth. The next event, taking place February 3-6th, 2022 will focus on the individual story of heroes as they visit the majesty of Ardmore.

According to the website,

“Dragon Thrones – Heroes is an immersive roleplaying weekend that explores the Houses, locations, and cultures of Kambria during celebratory times of The Tranquility when the Golden Dragon King has outlawed war, but mystery and deception remain. During The Tranquility, the Houses extend special invitations to outsiders as a gesture of goodwill. However, the true intentions behind the invitations are always unknown.

The Heroes event selects one House each winter as its setting so you experience life in a fantasy realm as a Hero character. In this tradition, House of Whispers will be set in House Ardmore, an infamous land known for its wealth, religion, and extravagance.

As a Hero, you assume a leveled-up character that has received two mysterious invitations. The first Friday invitation is from the enigmatic Count Sendu, the wealthiest noble in all of Kambria who is known to own a majestical country estate. The second invitation is from the Serpent Bank to enter the grandiose Grand Cathedral of Ardmore, a building beyond imagination. You will only learn the reasons for your invitations when you arrive in the “Kingdom of Snakes”. Your character will become deeply involved in a novel-like narrative in an open roleplaying world of thrilling adventure! 

If you like the idea of becoming a high-born Hero in a place of intrigue and dark secrets then House of Whispers is the event for you!”

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