Raven Walczak and Heather Huston partake in a target practice exercise before the “Star Hunter” event at Burgundar in Harrison begins last weekend. Players from around Maine came to participate in the space-themed live action role playing event. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

HARRISON — In the woods of this southern Maine town, a harrowing battle cry pierced the silence. Bounty hunters had announced their rebellion against the six noble houses of the commonwealth.

“We are hack!!!” was the unusual battle cry.

The cry was a turning point in “Star Hunter,” a fictional tale set in the fantasy world of Burgundar and brought to life by dozens of live-action role-playing participants turned into lawless bounty hunters, self-governing androids, legendary warriors and creatures of an ancient reptilian race.

It’s a lot. Noah Hersom designed it that way.

Eliza Beckford, left, and Ze’ev Shames enter the village in character as players in the foreground review the contracts they have been given in the larp game “Star Hunter,” in Harrison. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Last Saturday saw the first game installment of Burgundar creator Hersom’s newest brainchild “Star Hunter,” an amalgamation of ‘The Mandalorian’ (the “Star Wars” series), “Mass Effect” (a military science fiction video game), and “Dune” (a science fiction novel). Simply put, it’s an epic space western.

The live action role playing (larp) takes place on 11 acres of evergreen forests, winding trails, and six thematic buildings, including a tavern, watchtower and alchemy hut — a prime location for larping fans to let the imagination run wild.

It’s about picking up a (padded) sword or (Nerf) blaster, and heading out into the woods to enter a new world complete with props, sets and actors,” according to Burgundar’s “Star Hunter: Origins” rule book.

Within the borders of Burgundar, participants step into a scene from a fantasy novel or video game where they can bring their favorite characters to life and re-enact their most memorable scenes. Or go scriptless. 

“It’s a challenge, but it’s a good challenge,” said Candin Landry of Otisfield, a staff member at Burgundar. “In a video game, the story line is fixed. You have to follow a certain set of rules. But in larping you can’t predict what someone’s gonna do. It’s constantly evolving.”

After reading a detailed rule book describing the world of “Star Hunter” and its inhabitants, participating larpers chose characters to personify. 

“To allow the players to really get involved and make it their own, they create their own characters,” Landry said. “What race they are, whatever traits they have and class rank are all unique to them. They come with their own costumes and backstories.”

Noah Hersom, right, demonstrates on Glenn O’Brien, from Windham, the proper technique for transporting someone under “carbon freezing,” a fantasy technique that immobilizes a player and allows for them, through a serious of gestures and voice commands, to be transported “against their will.” Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Two participants last weekend who are dating in real life were waiting to reveal their backstory’s plot twist as “Star Hunter” began.

“I am a prince of a nobility house. I’m just out here goofing off, neglecting my duties and I find a stow-away on my ship,” said Ty Guerin of Winslow, playing Sunt the smuggler. 

“He came to the planet I was on and I hacked into his ship to get on board,” said Heather Huston, playing Serenity the slicer. “Because I’m a hacker he let me stay. I’m like ‘I can help.’” 

Once participants choose their characters, they become apart of the Hunter’s Guild. 

“All bounty hunters are a part of the guild and they have a creed they must honor to not kill one another,” Landry said. “But you don’t have to get along with each other.”

When the game began, the hunters had to find a contract and figure out how to deliver on their bounty. It’s every man for himself.

‘WEIRD THINGS IN THE WOODS’ 

For the past six years, Hersom has been creating Burgundar, the only larp location in southern Maine, to offer the ultimate sci-fi escape. 

From left, Candin Landry, Eliza Beckford and Ze’ev Shames sit in front of the tavern during the “Star Hunter” game at Burgundar in Harrison last weekend. The three staff members were playing the part of townspeople. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Hersom says an ex-girlfriend introduced him to the culture because of his interest in “Dungeons and Dragons,” a fantasy tabletop role-playing game. 

“She was like, ‘You have to watch this documentary about these people who do this weird thing in the woods,’” Hersom said. “She thought I was going to laugh at it but it took over my life.” 

Living in Bridgton, he wanted to have a site closer to home than the Maine Adventure Society in Jefferson, the only larp location in the state at the time. 

“I was a theater kid so I love performing and telling stories,” Hersom said. “This is a great opportunity to tell a story in which I don’t even know the outcome.”

He purchased a plot of land at 45 Upton Road in Harrison and began work on the site, paving a road and creating a trail system, constructing actual, permanent buildings and clearing a campsite for overnight visitors. 

Ultimately, Hersom enlisted the help of two friends to take on leadership roles, Douglas Andrews and Dylan Sirois, transferring the rights of the business to a board of directors while still maintaining ownership of the property. 

Sirois and Andrews have been larping since their time at Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale. Their physics teacher Truax McFarland, who owns the Maine Adventure Society, hosted a boffer club after school in which members used foam weapons to engage in combat. On graduation, he gave them a game invite to the larp site, which is at his house in Jefferson. 

“I used the gift certificate and I brought my father, and we’ve been larping ever since,” said Dylan Sirois. 

“I feel bad for people who don’t do it. It’s so much fun,” said David Sirois, Dylan’s father and a Burgundar board member.

During a three-day weekend event, most larpers will camp and cook out at Burgundar. The cost for playing is $40, $30 for a partial weekend. The fees primarily fund the existence of the organization. Various games are scheduled throughout the year, but the season picks up during the summer months.

Samantha Williams puts on makeup, adding the final touches to her character, before the “Star Hunter” game begins at Burgundar in Harrison last weekend. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Nine years ago, Andrews, who is now CEO of Burgundar, became a co-writer for McFarland’s larp game idea, “MystWood,” which is set during the Middle Ages, several hundred years after the Roman Empire. 

“Pulling inspiration from times and cultures between 800 and 1500 AD, with heavy doses of the folktales and mythologies of the people and places of those times, we create a world of magic, intrigue and danger,” reads the “MystWood” rule book.

Now there are four chapters of the game across two states. Burgundar has even coined “MystWood” as its flagship game drawing in 50 or more participants during weekend events. 

“’Mystwood’ is very much like a day in the life of. You’re not Rex the thrasher, killer of the dragon. You’re Herald the blacksmith who lives in the town,” said Andrews. “It also has a robust internal economy. There’s a lot of trade and barter, so your occupation is everything.” 

One of Andrews’ long-term goals is to install a working blacksmith forge within the village.

“I have this dream of starting a youth program during the week where we can actually pay teachers to run adventures out here,” Andrews said. “Kids just come with that suspension of disbelief, they don’t need to be convinced.”

At the beginning of August, Burgundar hosted a new event, “Monsters & Mayhem.” Normally players want to imitate a heroic figure. In this game, the roles are reversed. 

Burgundar CEO Douglas Andrews explains the ground rules of the larp facility to participants in the “Star Hunter” game in Harrison last weekend. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“The players are orcs, goblins, trolls, zombies, brigands and other ‘monsters,’ who must defend themselves from (staff who are playing) brave knights, stalwart soldiers, elves, dwarfs, adventurers and each other,” according to the “Monsters and Mayhem” rule book. 

“At the end of the game, there was a meteor that hit the land and on it were these creatures that were evolving,” said Landry, who played one of the creatures. “At first, we had rocks and sticks, then we (evolved and) came back with guns. At the end of the night under the full moon we loaded up our vehicle and drove into town on the back of the car with Nerf guns, blasting metal music,” Landry said. “It was awesome.”

Landry was invited to Burgundar as a staff member for “Star Hunter.” She said she wanted to find a hobby during quarantine that would allow her to be around other people and get her outdoors, away from her computer screen. 

“I’ve been having fun ever since,” said Landry. “Probably my favorite part out of this is the costuming.”

It’s not hard to imagine why, given Burgundar has a whole shed brimming to the top with costumes, masks and weapons of choice. 

Andrews recommends coming to a larp event and emerging as deeply as possible into the game play. 

If a participant decides to continue doing it, Andrews recommends making a homemade costume and creating your first character. 

Glenn O’Brien, Raven Walczak and Samantha Williams walk past the alchemy hut, one of the volunteer-built structures meant to enhance the fantasy experience at Burgundar in Harrison. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“It’s good to see how little effort it takes to look decent,” said Andrews. “All you need is a pair of brown or black pants, a long T-shirt, cut a quarter of the way down, and some string to cinch your waistline.”

There’s a joke about the progression of a larper,” Andrews said. “When you buy your first outfit you realize you need armor, so you buy armor. Then you’re like, I need more armor. Then eventually you get to the point where you think you need silly hats. When you get to that phase, you know you need to stop.” 

Ze’ev Shames, a student at University of Maine Farmington, was participating in his first larp as a staff member last weekend. 

Larping and tabletop games is kind of like my alcohol. It’s a nice way to just kind of forget about the world for a few days in a healthy way,” said Shames.

As a transplant from Massachusetts, the first thing he did on arrival at Farmington was check for nearby larps. He said he’s met some of his closest friends through these events. 

“Especially in Maine, I really love the community both in character and out of character. It feels more like a family,” Shames said.


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