Sanctuary Avalon: Bespoke Spiritual Digital Larp for Femmes

Sanctuary Avalon Larp

Welcome to Sanctuary Avalon. The year is 1220. United by a mighty queen, the Isle of Britain has reached a new stability. Leaders from around the world have recognized the spiritual sanctuary on Avalon as a place for femmes to go, at any stage of life, to experience spiritual growth, self-discovery, and to enhance leadership skills. It is said that Queen Guinevere herself may even attend spiritual training in Avalon soon.

Beyond myths and superstitions about mists and ancient, secret power, Avalon draws femmes from around the world, even places its queen has never heard of. Some are sent, others are called. Femmes train in groups of 5-7 with a leader, typically over the course of a month, before they are sent back out into the world.

Though Britain has a queen, the place of women in society around much of the world is still limited. Those who come to Avalon feel called. Some have escaped or run away; others were sent by rebellious mothers. The rare student comes from a matriarchal society well beyond the reaches of standard European patriarchy.

We are here to learn from each other, explore our own identities, and to create new spiritual traditions and rituals together.

You are safe here, though you may face the dangers of your own mind. And through the portals of your own chambers, you connect with your group for formal training sessions. You may even take meals together this way.

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Guineverian Legend

This larp occurs in a medieval fantasy setting. Guinevere, whose mother’s artisans constructed the famous Table Round, ascended to queenhood after the Lady of the Lake formally recognized that Excalibur’s scabbard gives the famous sword its power. The scabbard, of course, was a gift to her consort, Arthur. Under Guinevere’s reign, a new question of power and authority has come calling among her knights, and among those knights are now several women, and even one person, referred to as “Le Fay,” who reportedly uses magical means and claims affiliation with no gender.

lady of the lake

Guinevere’s women knights have been asked to secure assistance in aiding her many causes, finding femmes from around the world to serve as her counsel. Will you remain in Britain to strengthen her reign, if offered, or return home to make your own land more prosperous and mighty? What allies will you make, and through what spiritual means will you accomplish your goals?

Who is This Larp For?

This is an intimate larp for 5-7 participants per run. Each run contains 4 sessions, lasting three hours each. Participants should be comfortable with playing close to home (a character with one or two key characteristics in common with them); they may look for empowerment and should feel at ease with spiritual topics and seeking solutions during hardship. Participants will have a bit of “homework” outside of the larp, and should feel handy working independently and with a small group.

This larp is for femmes wishing to explore their own potential, spirituality, identity, and empowerment in a private digital environment focused on emotional safety.

Participants must be 18 years of age or older to play. Our games run in English.

GOAL 0: Safety and Inclusion

You, as a player, are more important than this larp. This larp will tackle personal themes and will not be recorded nor streamed. We have a mandatory safety workshop, inclusion and consent policies, and a design structure intended for all participants identifying as femme. We are trans inclusive, and femmes using they/them, she/her, or unique pronouns are welcome.

“Do I ‘count’ as femme? I may feel excluded by your definitions or judgment.”

There have been multiple questions about who is and is not included in the definition of “femme.” Do you identify that way? Fantastic–we are happy to have you. As a designer without every imaginable lived experience, I am certain that you are a better judge of this than I could ever be. There is no checklist or ideal to which you must compare yourself. Are you just starting to explore your femme identity? Are you genderqueer and feel that the word “femme” applies to you? It’s about what feels right to you. You make the call; I get that gender identity is complex, and rarely a strong binary for most people in our community. We are here to welcome you if you decide to join us.

“Most things are made for men by default, but I’m still bothered by the fact that you aren’t including them in this larp.”

I have also fielded concerns about the larp excluding masc-identifying participants. While there’s certainly a place (and strong need for) larps exploring masculinity, femmes are historically and systemically marginalized, and we need our own space to safely explore these issues with ourselves, so that we can know ourselves, explore our identities, and spend time on ourselves instead of consciously or subconsciously facing the scrutinization and judgment of masculine community members. Most of my feminist designs are masc inclusive. The fact that this even needs to be addressed exemplifies the strong need for a femme-only space. I encourage prospective participants of all identities to check out CHARIOT Larp, an online August event, should they have strong doubts about whether this larp is a good fit for them.

“This larp looks kind of Euro-centric. Are people of color welcome to join?”

While the larp is set in a medieval fantasy version of Avalon in which Guinevere is the matriarchal ruler of Britain, Avalon is a spiritual place welcoming femme seekers from the Ivory Coast to Ireland. You are welcome to dress your character in clothing appropriate to their place of origin, but we request you avoid appropriative character selection and costume. All versions of femme-centric-inspired spirituality are welcome, both real and imagined, and will help define our characters’ group rituals. While this medieval fantasy framework relies on a Euro-centric setting, all manners of femme are welcome in Avalon, and in fact make our fictional community stronger, just as they do our larp community.

“What about queer interactions in the larp? What if I want to play a heteroromantic character in this larp?”

This is a queer-friendly larp and it is an explicitly feminist design. Every sexuality is welcome to join. While on and off-screen romances are options for participants, they are not required, and are always opt-in for those who wish to participate. We are happy to welcome aromantic and asexual participants.

Heteroromantic femme characters are welcome. Bisexual or pansexual characters with backstories or off-screen romances with masculine individuals are welcome. I ask that we do not center our plots around men or our relationships with them. This larp is intended to focus on spirituality and the interpersonal relationships of the participants.

“You use the word ‘feminism,’ so I have concerns that you’re a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist).”

The feminism I embrace and support is inclusive of transwomen. I don’t expect you to believe that based on one page I wrote on a website, so I encourage you to browse The Geek Initiative’s articles, mission statement, and ask around. Marginalized community members are more qualified judges of my design than I could ever be, so reach out to others if you want more information, or feel free to email directly at tgilarps@geekinitiative.com.

“I don’t identify as pagan, but I’m open to the beliefs explored in this larp.”

Great! We’re happy to have you play and we welcome the exploration of spirituality. You do not need to actually believe in, or perceive a divine energy as a goddess figure to participate in this larp. I ask that you come in with an open mind and an understanding that many participants are exploring or strengthening their beliefs and self-confidence both in game, and in real life, by playing “close to home” and seeking intentional bleed, or the transference of emotions and experience from person to character or vice versa.

GOAL 1: Parting the Veil: Permissive Exploration of Larp and Spirituality

During my time at Peculiar Crossroads Productions’ Armistice Arcane, I played a close-to-home character that allowed me to explore my heritage and spirituality. I experienced a scene between my character and her god, in a room full of witnesses, in the liminal real-life setting of New Orleans. I felt that we had used dramatic representation and healthy, immersive embodiment to permissively access a spiritual moment, honoring something from the beyond. It felt encouraging, and yet we were in control and retained an awareness that we were larping.

As drama and ritual have long been used in solo, coven, and organized religions’ spiritual practices, this framework makes sense. One goal of this larp is to allow participants to explore spirituality on their own through the use of:

  • Embodying character
  • Journaling in workbooks
  • Group discussion
  • Group ritual
  • Optional solo ritual

 

Larpers will find many common elements between the methods they may employ to embody a character and those required to participate in this larp.

GOAL 2: Inclusive Exploration of the Feminine Divine

In Sanctuary Avalon, we will explore what the feminine divine means to us, and at times, actively redefine it in a healthy, purposeful way.

Participants should be comfortable with widening preconceived notions of goddess spirituality to include the beliefs of all players and characters. For example, some of us find “maiden, mother, crone” to be limiting of our own lives or spiritual journey, still allowing the patriarchy too much leeway in defining our spiritual selves. As a group, we can seek to redefine those roles without excluding them.

GOAL 3: Create Real Rituals for Empowerment

The culmination of our activities will involve the creation of rituals for empowerment or other purposes we may need. These rituals are meant to be transformative; things we can lean on as players and people beyond our characters. Our rituals may include both group and solo activities.

Your Character and Costuming

You may play an original character, created with a character survey, or a character from the legends of the day, re-imagined using the character survey. This includes Guinevere, Morgan Le Fay, the Lady of the Lake, and more. Regardless of what you choose, your character is bespoke and unique to you, created especially for you.

Don’t like something about your character? No problem! You can change it on the editable character sheet.

Please costume in a look appropriate to the era. You are encouraged to costume according to your character’s origins. Medieval fantasy attire will work. From veils to armor, you’re on the right track. Choose something you feel comfortable in and remember–you only have to costume from the waist up, since that’s all we’ll see. We also recommend a plain or fantasy-appropriate backdrop. Alternatively, you can use dim lighting to obscure your background.

We play on Google Hangouts.

What This Larp is Not

While this digital live action experience seeks to pursue a permissive exploration of femme-centered spirituality, it is not an attempt to recreate real Avalonian beliefs, the problematic lifestyle of author Marion Zimmer Bradley, or exclusionary practices. This is not a religion and it is not led by a real spiritual leader with any qualifications beyond ‘game designer and neopagan practitioner.’ There is no organized meetup once the larp ends.

This larp is a starting point for self-exploration and spirituality. It is not a religion, cult, or therapy.

This larp is not for masculine people. It focuses on femme empowerment.

For our participants’ safety and discretion, nudity is not permitted in this larp.

Topics For Discussion and Content Warnings

  • Overcoming patriarchal notions in spirituality
  • Processing trauma, including general mentions of abuse
  • Deep discussions of gender and gender roles
  • Various means femmes may use to feel empowered, from childbirth to violence
  • A place to discuss the modern pandemic (though we will discuss coping with difficulties through spirituality)
  • Fertility and infertility
  • Sexuality (including asexuality)

What You Get

  • A four session private larp (three hours, four sessions) including safety briefing, introductory workshop, and debrief
  • A ten page workbook/journal for you to document your journey
  • Group created, everyday rituals to help you maintain a routine during turbulent times
  • A 1-2 page bespoke character based upon the themes you wish to explore and your character survey results
  • Discord channel for out of character conversation and between session role play
  • Opportunity to create and share an artistic or poetic work depicting your journey

Cost of This Digital Larp and Times of Play

Due to its bespoke, multi-session nature, there is a fee of $50 for participating in this 12 hour larp. Should you be unable to afford to play, accessibility tickets are available for $8. Email tgilarps@gmail.com for more information. Your fee includes digital workbook and journaling materials and there are no additional fees.

Due to requests from our friends outside of the United States, I’ve decided to make one run available during afternoons in Eastern Time, or evening for most of Europe. A second run will take place on weekday evenings for our North American participants working in or out of the home during the day.

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Inspirations and About This Larp

As an undergraduate leaving college in the immediate post-9/11 landscape of 2003, making sense in troubled times, during an immense time of change in my personal life, was not easy. I found myself drawn to the figure of Guinevere in fables, texts, and fantasy/fiction, and couldn’t help but wonder more about this figure’s story and why we heard so much about her famous, Excalibur-wielding husband Arthur. We learn so little of Guinevere but for what we are told are her sins and failings. Our culture really gives Guinevere a terrible reputation. Even in The Mists of Avalon (book and film), Guinevere’s shortcomings (though exacerbated by the patriarchy) are central to her identity as a character.

It’s time to look beyond that, both in this figure and in ourselves. I began thinking about this during my undergraduate thesis all the way back in 2003, and over time and my own thoughts about womanhood, fertility, and my identity (as defined by men, and not), I believe now more than ever that it’s time to re-imagine Arthurian Legend as Guineverian.

Larp inspirations include Learn Larp’s Immerton and Peculiar Crossroads Productions’ Armistice Arcane.

In terms of modern texts, Jailbreaking the Goddess and Dark Goddess Craft are also influential to this design. While neither are required reading to participate, they may be useful as you prepare to get into character and play.

Credits

  • Design, Marketing, and Game Mastering: Tara M. Clapper
  • Administrative Assistance: Shayna Cook
  • Religious and Spiritual Consultation; Character Creation Consultant: Carrie Biermann, Ph.D (Divinity)

Got Questions? Email: tgilarps@gmail.com 

Designer’s note: The images of “femme” presented on this page are not all-encompassing, but limited to available royalty-free images from pexels and nappy.co. We understand that all femme-identifying people do not look a certain way; many of us are not able-bodied or conventionally thin. 

Purchase tickets from the shop!