Somewhere, back in the mid 70’s Mark discovered D&D (a thin blue paperback edition imported by Games Workshop from his local model shop) and he was hooked. Both playing and DMing regular games throughout the remaining 70’s and 80’s, he still runs occasional AD&D games when time allows.
When he left school and headed up to Nottingham to do his degree in Theatre Design at the start of the 80’s he came across an advert for Treasure Trap in the old Asgard shop. The idea of combining his two favourite hobbies; fantasy gaming and making ‘stuff’ was too intriguing not to check out.
Together with a friend, he booked his first visit to “The Castle” sometime late in 1983, (armed only with a chunky knit jumper that looked vaguely like chainmail and a gaffer tape sword that had all the style of a cricket bat), and once again he was hooked. Inspired by the creative potential of this new hobby.
He visited Treasure Trap a few times over the following years and, after leaving college and returning to Gloucester, he decided to try running a ‘Treasure Trap’ game himself in the Forest of Dean. He had minimal budget for costume and props and, without any real experience in running a game like this, his ‘8hr game’ eventually finished 13hrs later at (4am the following morning!)
But it was fun, well-received and he wanted to run more.
A couple more games, (this time with much better scheduling thankfully) and a year or so later, he set up Mythlore as a business.
With two friends and the government ‘Enterprise Allowance’ scheme that was in place at the time, they ended up running around 4 games every weekend for almost 2 and a half years culminating in a 6 month hire of an indoor site – The Dragon’s Lair – near Derby.
Mythlore was quite possibly the first system in the UK to create custom-made latex masks and full creature costumes for all their games.
The infamous Shambling Mound still exists and even gets an occasional outing over 30 years after i was built.
However, back in the pre-internet 80’s, the hobby had a relatively small following. It was tough work attracting players and organising weekly games, with advertising and trading being pretty much limited to flyers in local shops, adverts or articles in either GM or White Dwarf magazines and trade stands at various Games Days. There simply wasn’t a huge market for the hobby back then, so eventually he decided to get a proper job, move to Cardiff and start full time in the TV and Film industry.
There he worked on such programmes as Maid Marian and Her Merry Men,
Knightmare, and eventually Doctor Who.
But the LARP bug was still there and he continued as a player at various events and festivals. He occasionally ran a few modern day and Lovecraftian horror games throughout that period, whenever a suitable venue could be found.
Eventually he left Cardiff and, in the early 2000’s, moved to the countryside with his wife. He gradually got back into LARP, between commercial work, by making kit and creatures for various customers and systems in the UK and Europe. Supplying the hobby, (now hugely expanded, compared to its relatively humble beginnings), probably accounts for at least 50% of his work these days.
When the 30th anniversary of Mythlore came around there were 3 ‘Reunion’ events for the Mythlore ‘Old-Timers’ (run by Burnt Is Clean and Irregular Productions) and these inspired him, along with a sterling crew of fellow organisers, to create a trilogy of brand new Mythlore events inspired by the world of 1,001 Arabian Nights – the ‘New Lands’ games.
He knows he’ll never be likely to make a living actually running a LARP; it’s a huge amount of work, relying on the passion and enthusiasm of dedicated people usually working for free, but it’s the sort of thing that gets under your skin and never really lets go.
Whether he’ll be involved in running any more games is unknown at this point. He’s not getting any younger, and if the New Lands were his signing-off as an organiser he’d probably be happy with that.
However, there’s still that original plan for a 4th New Lands game set in the seedy underground of a city…
And an idea for a modern day horror ‘In Darkness Dwells’ that just won’t stop nagging at the back of his head, so, never say never…