Castle Forged is an open world fantasy live-action role-playing game held in Israel every two years. The game hosts about 500 players for a five-day event. Players are divided into four warring camps and a neutral one, whose main objective is to gain the most “minerals”.
Although militaristic in nature, Castle Forged offers other, more peaceful role play experiences such as trade, diplomacy, espionage, treasure hunt and more.
This review is about the third installment of the game: Castle Forge 3, held in April 2019.
About Castle forged
When is Castle Forged
Castle Forged is a five-day event held every two years during the Passover holiday (usually in April). The five days include an assembly day, disassembly day and three days of hardcore larp in between.
Next game, Castle Forged 4, will be held in spring 2021.
Where is Castle Forged
Castle Forged is held in a national park in the south of Israel, an hour drive from Tel-Aviv. As the location is close to the Negev desert, the climate is usually hot and dry in the time the game is held.
Main quest: The mineral war
The goal of each camp is to get as many “minerals” as possible. Minerals can be acquired by capturing the castle, winning a fighting tournament, winning auctions, and even winning a song contest at the inn. Not just fighting.
As Castle Forged is an open world game, not everyone was focused on the mineral war. Some choose to ignore it and enjoy other quests and objectives, while the mineral war played as a background story.
Castle Forged camps
The main story of the game focuses on the conflict between four camps, and the strategy they use against one another: they fight each other, make alliances with one another and betray those alliances frequently.
Castle Forge camps include:
- The Light camp: Paladins and angel’s
- The Wild camp: Elves and free-folks
- The Iron camp: Disciplined army
- The Apocalypse camp: Demons and undead
- The Mineral town: Neutral place
Leading each camp is an Avatar and sometimes one or more seconds in command (second to the Avatar, general. or council). Those leaders handle diplomacy and tactics, but also their camp’s logistics and the strategy of the game itself.
Groups within camps
Each camp has internal groups or individuals that create a function for themselves inside the camp. For instance: a healing tent, mercenary soldiers group, a tavern, etc. Those groups function also as an off-play hub for the players of that group, in terms of food, drink, and logistics.
The groups are the product of the player’s imagination and are done entirely by them, with the approval of the organizers and the individual camp the group belongs to.
So, if you have an idea for a group or stand, contact your camp leaders and game organizers, long before the event, and they will be happy to try and fit it into the overall game.
“I was part of the Iron camp’s inn group. We gave the players a place to hang out and interact, thus increasing the immersion of everyone.
Serving food and drink also gave me the opportunity to interact and role play with almost all members of our camp, when they came to feast and trade war stories”.
The Mineral Town
The mineral town is a neutral camp that takes no sides in the mineral war. It is also the less restrictive of camps as there is no martial law, no uniforms, and no uniformity in style is required.
Examples of Castle Forged groups and stands:
Castle Forged layout
The game area is roughly half a square mile of lightly wooded hills. In that space, the four camps, town, and castle were constructed.
Close to the center of the game area, a wooden castle was built. That was the focus of many mass battles.
The four camps were spread around the edges of the game area. Each with its own gate, battlements, sometimes a surrounding wall, banners, and distinctive style:
The Wild camp got the greenest area which they enhanced further with more green motifs and decoration. The Light camp was mostly white and gold (and too close to the iron camp, if you ask me). The Iron camp looked the most militaristic of camps with red banners hanging all over the camp. The Apocalypse camp was the creepiest of them all, with severed hands hanging from trees.
The town was a bit more chaotic, with different stands and tents spread all over the area. Each with its own unique style and function.
Off-play (out time) areas
In Castle Forged 2 players pitched sleeping tents in their camps. Most used regular modern tents so it broke immersion. In the last installment, those tents were moved to a designated area outside each camp and out of sight.
Castle Forged game mechanics
Castle Forge uses a point-based character creation system. Players can spend points on general skills (such as light armor and brewing) and choose one or more specialized skill groups, which give access to more skills.
Castle Forged skill groups include:
Castle Forged utilizes a full-contact, hit point based larp combat system. Characters start with two hit points and can raise it with armor, skills, and spells. As in most larps, hits to the head, neck, and groin are forbidden.
In large fights it was common to use field tactics as well, such as a shield wall, flanking and other maneuvers. Some players spent months before the game training in martial art classes for this.
When storming the castle or another camp’s wall, some used foam hurling siege engines such as ballista, trebuchet, and explosives.
When characters dies, they must go to the “death shrine”, where Death, Destiny and Luck (three NPCs) will give them a death quest before resurrecting them.
“They wrote the story of my death in a book and sent me on amazing quests related to my death. Quests that forced me deeper into Castle Forged lore”.
A welcoming larp
Castle Forged is family friendly with parents and children larping side by side. Some young couples even came with infants and babies.
Minors must have an adult guardian and can’t take part in mass combat. They must also wear a white bracelet that notifies other players (with black bracelets) that they can’t fight them or be relay gentle with them if they do.
Although the game is child-friendly in keeping them safe, the content of the game is violent and, depending on the parents, not always suited for children. There is violence, torture, and executions and children can be exposed to those scenes. It’s up to the parents or guardians to supervise.
“Two hours into the game and my 8 years old hooked up with some other kids and off they went to find their own adventures, freeing me to go commit acts of violence with the grown-ups”.
No language barrier
In Castle forged English is very common and players speak it. Not only that many Hebrew speaking players choose to roleplay in English anyway. As in the rest of the country, there are other common languages spoken by participants, such as Rusian, French and Spanish, to number a few.
I’ve met a few players that came all the way from Europe and the U.S for this larp. So most get-togethers, speeches, and instructions were conducted in English, for our larping tourist friends. And when not, there was always someone whispering a translation to them.
Castle Forged production
Castle Forged is a product of the vibrant Israeli larping community, organized in a grassroots fashion. It is produced by Elad Poterman and about 50 other organizers. Legally it’s a nonprofit organization that raises money for the events via crowdfunding.
The goal of Poterman and his team was to raise the bar for the small larping community and produce events in scope and quality that were not seen in Israel before.
The first installment of the game had a different organization structure, but after larping in DrachenFest, the team has decided to borrow some managerial tactics and logistics from it and implement them in their next game.
Poterman manages several organizers, each responsible for different verticals: each camp, the GMs, equipment, dealing with authorities, lore, quests, etc.
Game Masters (aka red caps) are always present. Their responsibility is to enforce the rules, inspect weapons for safety, referee siege warfare and mass combat, coordinate between the field and the production headquarters, and much much more.
“In one mass battle, I was killed with my back to the castle wall, so I drooped to the ground. The red caps paused the game and escorted me out of the battle zone, so I won’t get stampeded.
The game has grown from eight organizers and a little over 200 players in Castle Forged one, to 50 organizers and close to 500 players in Castle Forged 3.
There was a big social media hype in the months prior to the game. Players posted every minute about their progress, complemented each other on their costume pictures, gave tips on how to build stuff, and could not contain their excitement about the coming game.
Also in the months prior to the game, camps and groups got together on occasion to build costumes, banners, and camp equipment together, while other organized martial art gatherings to practice larp fights and maneuvers.
There was a last minute issue with permits to hold the game in that park. The game got delayed for half a day while officials were inspecting the game site.
Although spring, it gets pretty hot for a couple of hours at noon. The physical aspects of larping, such as fighting, can be hard at that time. Many choose to pause and rest, or at least play in the shade for an hour or so.
…”specially geniuses like me, that choose to wear fur costumes”.
How to join Castle Forged larp
- Buy ticket via event’s crowdfunding platform
- Choose camp
- Join or create a group
- Create a character
- Acquire costume and equipment
- Get there
Long before each game, Castle Forged opens a crowdfunding page to raise money for the project. Price raises as time passes, so buy early.
Then you need to join a camp. There is information about each camp in Castle Forged’s website and each one also has it’s own Facebook page, so contact them to learn about each camp’s requirements, groups available and so forth. You will be required to pay a fee for the expenses of the camp, which varies depending on the camp.
Next, you need to contact a group and learn about them. Groups are usually small and organize themselves via messaging apps. Each has a captain that is responsible for logistics and in most cases, the leader during the game and battles. Each group is responsible to feed its members, so expect some expenses here too (or pitch in with a trip to the supermarket).
Alternative, veteran larpers can create their own group. Consult your camp leaders on this one, as it needs to fit into the camp and game lore.
Now it’s time to build your character. Read the information in Castle Forged website on mechanics and character building. Download a character sheet and fill it.
Consult your camp and group on costume requirements. For example, an order of knights might require full plate armor and red tunics, while others choose to go with furs and a wooden looking shied. Follow this, as it makes the game world more believable.
The last thing you’ll need to do is get yourself some camping equipment: A tent, toiletry bag, etc. Oh, and get yourself a (medieval looking) water-skin. I can’t stress this enough.
For sleeping aragment most go with tents, but some use caravans. A drive away there are hotels in the neighboring towns.
Getting there is mostly done by car, as public transportation doesn’t get you close to the game area. Pay attention to the Facebook pages, as some ask or offer rides, while others organize buses for larger groups.
Note: Close to the next event, I’ll update this part with more accurate information.
Castle Forged is a well-organized game, the product of a vibrant larping community. Participants spend many months preparing and organizers spend years. Its mechanics are well balanced, easy to learn and follow. The lore and background story is consistent, allowing for many quests to be based on it. Most of those quests are entertaining and exciting. Players and organizers alike are very forthcoming, making players feel very welcome.
Note on the article: I mention the iron camp a lot in this post. It’s not that I recommend or endorse it over others. I simply played there, so most of my experiences (and pictures) were from there. There were other camps in the game – all equally amazing!
Visit Castle forged website and Facebook pages for more information and media.