College of Wizardry – A magical larp in a Polish castle

Czocha College of Wizardry and Witchcraft. Ingame. Photo: John Paul Bichard

Czocha College of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Ingame. Photo: John Paul Bichard

I went to College in November – magic College. 
In the fan-made production College of Wizardry myself and almost two hundred others travelled to Czocha Castle in Poland to attend college Harry Potter-style. I’ve interviewed Claus Raasted from the organizing team about the production the media attention it has received afterwards.

College of Wizardry (CoW) is a larp inspired by theHarry Potter books by J. K. Rowling. It is a fan event created by volunteers from Denmark and Poland, and takes place at the Polish castle of Czocha. In the larp, participants play the roles of  students, teachers and other people at the fictional Czocha College of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

College of Wizardry – Website

In this post you will also find numerous links to great articles from news sites such as this one in VICE: LARPers Have Created a Real Hogwarts School in Poland

As well as amazing stories from the players such as this by J-Mac Macdonald: Larp and the joy of collective bullshit

You will also find the 20 min documentary and a big load of amazing photos from the larp. Enjoy!

Behind the scenes of College of Wizardry

I had the opportunity to interview Claus Raasted from the organizing team about the larp and his thought on larp documentation.

Promotional trailer

The main reason for the widespread media attention of the larp is because of this beautiful video made by Cosmic Joke, the makers of the larp documentary Treasure Trapped. The promotional trailer was made from material an upcoming short documentary about the larp. The music is The College of Wizardry Theme by Anni Tolvanen.

Documentary

Documentary made by Cosmic Joke

Photo gallery

Photos by John Paul Bichard. See the full album.

Photos by Christina Molbech. See the full album.

Photos by Nadina Wiórkiewicz and Maciek Nitka from Liveform. See the full album.

Other photos

There is of course even more photos to bee seen
Album 1 and album 2 from Cosmic Joke
The Making of an Artefactorium by Christopher Sandberg
Student polaroids by Sofie Falk

Teachers at the balcony. Ingame. Photo: John Paul Bichard

Teachers at the balcony. Ingame. Photo: John Paul Bichard

Organizer thoughts

The larp was made by a Polish and Danish team of volunteers from Liveform and Rollespilsfabrikken. See the full team here.

Aleksandra Hedere Ososińska
Writer of background and setting, Liveform

Aleksandra Hedere Ososińska

Aleksandra Hedere Ososińska

It all happened because of a dream. We grew up with Harry Potter – I was 10 years old when the first book came out in Poland in 2000. Back then I obviously knew, that it’s just a fiction, but deep down in my heart I was hoping that I was going to receive a letter form Hogwarts (and I’m kind of still hoping for it a little). In elementary school me and my friends used to pretend that our classes aren’t in fact math, chemistry and biology, but arithmancy, potions and care for magical creatures. We wanted to incorporate a little bit of Potter Magic to our lives, I guess. So I believe creating something that would let us feel like we’re really attending to School of Magic was always my — our — dream. And Liveform’s motto is “Larp your dreams”. How could we resist?

I’m glad we are doing rerun of College of Wizardry. We are happy to have this chance to improve things that didn’t work out and learn from our mistakes, which is always a good things. I hope the next time we will be able to deliver even better experience to our players. I was never a big fan of sequels though. It is better to leave players wanting more that creating continuations which might not live up to the expectations — but I have to admit, seeing this amounts of players enthusiasm has shaken a little bit my beliefs in this matter. We’ll do our best to make a sequel even more memorable than the first game and to make our players to crave for even more.

I know that most of the organizers expected some interest from media, but I wasn’t one of them. But no one expected this kind of hype, articles in various major newspapers in the whole world, going viral, memes… this might sounds awfully cliche, but I still cannot believe it. It’s crazy, and awesome, and crazy, and also terrific. I have already lost the count of pieces about College of Wizardry. Madness.

I’m really glad I had — and have — the chance to work on this project. I was creating amazing things in cooperation with and for the people I used to look up to. How awesome is that? And being there during the game, seeing people bringing our stories to life in this amazing castle was unbelievable. I would never believe it that 15 years ago, when I was reading first Potter book. It was just childhood, impossible dream becoming true. Magic just happened.

Charles Bo Nielsen
Game designer, Rollespilsfabrikken

Charles Bo Nielsen at Czocha Castle. Off-game. Photo Sebastian Böiken

Charles Bo Nielsen at Czocha Castle. Off-game. Photo Sebastian Böiken

The Harry Potter books, was the first books I really read as a child, before them I really didn’t like to read and only read some of what was assigned at school, but the warmth, the engaging and thoughtful humor and still the serious tone was totally my thing and combined with the interest of larping and exploring fantasy worlds it was a perfect series to read. But in my time of larping I have always been skeptical about how to do magic, how to do it right, to make it feel awesome, because it rarely does. So this was also the biggest challenge, I mean after Claus told me about his deal with Dracan (from Liveform) and a Castle I knew I just had to be part of it, but my fear was always the magic. When we got down to see Czocha, the castle was amazing, but the most important ingredient we added to the magic potion for me, was the Polish spell casting system, it was mind blowing… Mostly because it was so simple and intuitive. It was perfect just perfect for our game Harry Potter inspired larp! From that point on, I knew it would be a success! Maybe not how much of a success.

Then, the media attention. Oh my god! The hype has been going insane, I had planned to be off Facebook for the whole month of December, but when I got the call, that we were on ‘USAToday’ and the internet was exploding about CoW, I had to see it with my own eyes and join in on the fun! It is really a strong motivator and we are trying to use it as best we can, not just for ourselves but also for others in our community, I really hope it is going to give us a good and boosting image of larp, and what it can do!

Physical education class. Ingame. Photo: Nadina Wiórkiewicz and Maciek Nitka

Physical education class. Ingame. Photo: Nadina Wiórkiewicz and Maciek Nitka

At this point the world wide hype about the game is very rewarding and the amount of people wanting us to make a second run and sequel, this is very motivating and with this game, we had from early in the process been planning for the possibility to make another game, so it just feels great to be able to deliver to what people want and also getting rewarded for working for rerunning. Our Design document makes everything so much easier, because we don not have to backtrack in a thousand emails and memories, what we actually did and wrote and promised. It is all saved one place, ready to use again and also easily improve on.

I think the really big question is. Where do we go from here. We are getting messages from people from Mexico to Japan of people who just love our thing or might even want to do anything for a seat to participate. At the moment right now it is really overwhelming and extremely difficult to predict how long the hype is going to last? I mean, before we announces the first run, we where unsure about the price, and how much time we needed to get all the participants and would it all work out. After two days BOOM, full house! This time the same thing seems to be happening, we where sitting discussion how to price it, and maybe now the most hardcore people have tired it and can we be sure to fill it again. And suddenly it goes viral and social media all over the world is sharing the Cosmic Joke teaser video of our game and talking about the real Hogwarts and we get so many people writing us.

But can it really keep going like this, I feel I need to stay grounded and realistic, that it might all suddenly just calm down and yeah. But then again, everything seems to be pointing to the contrary: “One does not simply stop the College of wizardry hype!”

Dinner in great hall. Ingame. Photo: John Paul Bichard

Dinner in great hall. Ingame. Photo: John Paul Bichard

Further reading

Blog posts

By the time the game ended on Saturday night I had prophesied the resurrection of a dark wizard, fed a faun a lollipop, snuck down a secret passageway in my pajamas to join a secret society, and battled a fellow student to a standstill in a magic duel while trying not to trip on the dress I’d worn for the dance.

Kill Screen – Here is what it’s like to spend a weekend at a castle in Poland doing a Harry Potter Larp
American game designer Shoshana Kessock about her experience as a player

The illusion was really strong. The castle was great, it was wonderfully decorated by the set designers and the participants, the costumes were great, everybody played wonderfully, and there were enough special effects and costumed monsters to really create the feeling of living in a world of magic.

Mike Pohjola – Teaching Dark Arts at a Magic School
Mike Pohjola – Tests, flyers and letters from the College of Wizardry
Finnish author and game designer Mike Pohjola shares his thoughts from playing a professor

Never trust a house-elf, as they will get you into an abundance of troubles.

KimTomas.no – College of Wizardry – A larp in the realm of Rowling’s Harry Potter
Norwegian player Kim Tomas shares his experience

A magnificent, intense and powerful larp that should be experienced for the joy and the amazement by those looking for drama, atmosphere and immersion over competition and achieving goals. Check the next runs and just go. You will not regret it.

Otro laberinto de espejos – College of Wizardry – the glory, the frenzy, the chaos (review)
Juan Ignacio Ros from spain summarizes the larp

The enthusiasm of the org team was evident whenever you needed something, and they were able to motivate you just by being there.

Diary of a Croatian larper – College of Wizardry review
Croatian player Ivan Zalac does a through evalution.

Meet Alexander Zamoyski. He is nineteen years old, and hails from Warsaw, Poland. But he is nobody’s typical hero.

Black Market Café – Czocha College of Wizardry: A Weekend in the World of Harry Potter
Danish writer and game designer Nicolas Hornyak shares his thoughts on the larp in a story-centred way.

“I’m nearly 40 years old; what did we just do?”
“I’m not sure, but it was totally awesome.”

Medium – Larp and the joy of collective bullshit
Canadian/Finnish artist J-Mac Macdonald playing Professor Crumplebottom about making shit up.

Lessons in the library. Ingame. Photo: Nadina Wiórkiewicz and Maciek Nitka

Lessons in the library. Ingame. Photo: Nadina Wiórkiewicz and Maciek Nitka

News articles

The media attention for College of Wizardry have been above all exceptions. Here are a few picks from the list.

The Danish organizers of the Harry Potter simulation state that they’re disciples of the Nordic larp movement, which is all about creating a convincing world and then dumping characters into it unscripted. Without prompting, there’s no guarantee that the good guys will win, no telling how the scenario will play out. That freedom, they hope, will make wizarding feel real, create engaging stakes in the events, and perhaps dig up new emotions and insights.

VICE – LARPers Have Created a Real Hogwarts School in Poland

“It was amazing,” she tells PEOPLE. “It was like being a part of the movies.”

People Magazine – Hogwarts Is Real – Here’s How You Can Become a Real-Life Harry Potter

They’re also spent, as much as possible, completely in character, which in this case meant participating in the unscripted drama of wizarding life as well as playing along with the idea that spells were real and magical creatures like house-elves roamed the castle.

The Verge – This Harry Potter larp is probably the closest you’ll ever get to Hogwarts, and applications open this week

Harry Potter fans with dreams of being a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry may have their wish come true!

USA Today – Real-life ‘Hogwarts’ is godsend for Harry Potter wannabes (video)

Start checking the sky for owls, because the second session of the Czocha College of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been scheduled for April 9-12, 2015.

Vanity Fair – You Can Now Attend Hogwarts. Sort of.

The one regret of fans of JK Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter universe is that its Muggle readers cannot attend Hogwarts, but now there is a solution – if you can wait until you are 18.

The Telegraph – Harry Potter fans can finally study at ‘Hogwarts’

Also, according to organizers, emotional drama is encouraged, be it by way of a devoted friendshp or a mischievous Harry vs. Draco-style rivalry!

E! – These Harry Potter Fans Created Their Own Wizarding World in a Polish Castle—and We Want to Go to There!

It’s really a surprise then, that it took many years since the finish of the last novel, for someone to put together an amazing Harry Potter Larp. And that is just what the team at Liveform and Rollespilsfabrikken have done.

Larping.org – The Harry Potter Larp You’ve Always Dreamed Of

io9 – This Insane Harry Potter LARP Is Practically Set In A Real Hogwarts
Huffington Post – If You Want To Attend Hogwarts, Go To Poland
MTV.COM – You Can Attend Hogwarts IRL For The Price Of A Polish Plane Ticket
CNET – Harry Potter wannabes can now enroll in real-life Hogwarts
Future of Storytelling – Czocha College of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Entertainment Weekly – Polish LARPers create real-life Hogwarts for aspiring wizards
DR – Nu kan du gå i skole på ’Hogwarts’ (Danish)
ABC Nyheter – Lekte Harry Potter på ekte slott (Norwegian)
Sydsvenskan – Lajvlycka väckt i trollkarlsplugg (Swedish)
Lundagård – Snart öppnar anmälan till College of Wizardry (Swedish)
Helsingin Sanomat – Puolassa avattiin velhokoulu Potter-faneille (Finnish)

Waiting for announcements. Ingame. Photo: Nadina Wiórkiewicz and Maciek Nitka

Waiting for announcements. Ingame. Photo: Nadina Wiórkiewicz and Maciek Nitka

Other

College of Wizardry at the Nordic Larp Wiki

College of Wizardry – Website

3 thoughts on “College of Wizardry – A magical larp in a Polish castle

  1. Pingback: College of Wizardry 2014 Round-up | Nordiclarp.org

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