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I Was Nearly Murdered By A Giant In A Harry Potter Roleplay Server

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I Was Nearly Murdered By A Giant In A Harry Potter Roleplay Server

"Ok, who can tell me the difference between Transfiguration and an Animagus?" asked Professor McGonagall.

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She was met with silence, bar the sounds of pencils clattering on desks and murmured voices from the classroom along from us.

"Are you all AFK?" she said, standing imperiously at the front of the room and surveying the vacant faces gazing back.

"No," someone piped up.

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"Then why has no one answered me?" intoned the professor with irritation. I glanced at my classmates in panic, praying that one of them would save us from the embarrassment. I wasn't aware that they'd actually be testing us on this subject in Hogwarts - Harry and co. appeared to sail through all seven years without needing magical GCSEs and A-Levels. Then, the room was invaded by whooping latecomers, herded by Hagrid who was riding a dragon. This is Hogwarts RP, and if you count yourself as a Harry Potter fan, I'll tell you why you should give it a go.

Lots of Harry Potter fans are champing at the bit to get their mitts on Hogwarts Legacy. Introducing us to new characters and offering a new story set hundreds of years before the events of the books, it sounds like the dream of getting that Hogwarts acceptance letter through the (owl) post will finally be realised. With an immersive interactive experience like this waiting in the wings, the news that the game was delayed into 2022 was disheartening for fans. It's all for the best, though, as the extra time allows the team to refine the final product.

Speaking of which, feast your eyes on the trailer for Hogwarts Legacy, featuring the iconic castle grounds, library, lush courtyards, and the unpredictability of Potions classes.

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Still, it's a long while til the game launches. What's more is that it's not like Call of Duty or Battlefield, where the community might hang on for the next entry to the series, but they've got the current release to keep themselves occupied. To be clear, I'm not discounting Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, but as a game that relies on exploration to achieve gameplay goals, it's been kneecapped by the pandemic. There's also Pottermore, which has a handful of interactive elements, but a lot of these were lost in the redesign to become WizardingWorld.com and serve as a vessel for J. K. Rowling's further writings on Harry Potter. The older games are great, but they're definitely dated now. Arguably, the best of the lot were the LEGO series of Harry Potter games, though they're relegated to consoles you've likely left buried in a box in the attic.

Well, let's not run rings round ourselves here, because I've got good news. There's a Harry Potter game set in the halls of Hogwarts available right now, and I've played it.

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Hogwarts RP in 'Garry's Mod'
Hogwarts RP in 'Garry's Mod'

May I introduce the Hogwarts RP server hosted by Star by Star Gaming. Aiming to "build an expansive community with diverse interests," the community offers not only the Harry Potter role-playing server, but also Clone Wars and Halo servers. It uses Garry's Mod, a physics sandbox game that you can usually get for about a fiver in a sale, to run models taken from the official Harry Potter games, The Witcher 3 and more from an enormous library of assets. Star by Star Gaming confidently states that it is the number one Harry Potter server in Garry's Mod, and it's been going strong for five years.

The chosen setting is the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, where the characters are under threat from Lord Voldemort's forces which are waiting in the Forbidden Forest for the opportune moment to strike. Professor Dumbledore has gotten assistance from Aurors from the Ministry who will protect the faculty and students. As a result, classes and the daily routine of Hogwarts continues, though evil is only a stone's throw from its grounds. In the yawning chasm for an immersive game set in the Wizarding World, I wanted to know what it was that set this server apart from the rest.

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Hogwarts RP in 'Garry's Mod'
Hogwarts RP in 'Garry's Mod'

My first "day" technically took place in the evening, and like my first day at secondary school, my anxiety was off the scale. What if I didn't know where to go? What if the other students thought I was weird? What if I got in trouble?

You see, there are actually a set of rules that players need to adhere to while in game, as a role-playing experience. Students are to attend their classes on time and stay seated throughout the lesson and at the end, the teacher will give out homework to be completed by pressing "E" on the book. Using voice chat, you must remain in character the entire time that you are roleplaying, and you must not metagame by informing other players where you are via Discord or Teamspeak.

You must obey the orders of your higher roleplay leaders (students are on the lowest rung and a headmaster is on the highest, for example) as long as the orders do not encourage you to break another rule. Neutrals, like mythical creatures that roam the grounds of Hogwarts, operate outside of these rules, but they also have their own set of rules to follow.

Like I was, you might be a bit daunted by the numbers of dos and don'ts. But, I'll be honest - it's not a consistently well-oiled machine. As the teachers are also other players, sometimes classes are unsupervised for stretches of time til someone remembers that they should be delivering a lesson. Rabble-rousing ensues, and this happened in one fateful Herbology class.

I'd been accompanied by Neville Longbottom (a.k.a. someone using his character model) for the majority of the session, and because Professor Sprout hadn't turned up, I decided to explore alternative education. Remember that rickety bridge between the grounds of Hogwarts and the Forbidden Forest? Trusting that in the chaos no one would notice one missing student, I scarpered along to see what I could find without the watchful eyes of Prefects on me. Hagrid's Hut was regrettably empty, and the Great Lake was still. But, I found myself on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. There was a giant sign that told me that Voldemort's army lay just beyond, and I should return to school if I knew what was good for me.

Hogwarts RP in 'Garry's Mod'
Hogwarts RP in 'Garry's Mod'

Tragically, I can't read. I won't lie - I was scared. But, walking further and further into the forest, the spooky_woodland_ambience.wav enclosing my ears, I was unbothered. I wasn't sure just how much of the Forbidden Forest had been reproduced by the server, and then I had a strange sense that I was perhaps pushing my luck. Quickly, I turned and retraced my steps. I'd explored. Tick. Done. Thank you.

I then became aware that there was a second set of footsteps blending into mine. I've seen enough horror movies, and I continued marching onwards. If I made it to the edge of the forest in time, then no harm, no foul, right? When I turned, I saw Grawp the giant.

"Hello," they said.

"Hello," I replied.

"Do you like mushrooms?"

"...They're ok."

"Just 'ok'?!"

"Were you going to give me mushrooms before I said that?"

"Well. No. I won't give you mushrooms now if you think they're just 'ok'. I'll give you Jaffa cakes and Ovaltine, if you come to my cave."

A slightly too-long silence came and went. I had to reply, though I thought to myself, this is definitely sketch. I'm definitely going to get murdered by this player.

"Ok."

"Great! Come with me. I have to say, I do have a terrible memory. I do forget where my cave is sometimes. If I forget where my cave is, I'm very sorry."

Great. This is the part where they murder me. I continued following the giant into the forest.

"Ok."

...

"Hello! Who are you?"

Oh. This is a part of their roleplaying. Right.

"You were taki-"

Wait. If they were planning on killing me, this forgetfulness is my out. I'll leave them and run to Hogwarts and to safety.

"I'm just a lost student," I replied.

"Oh no! That's terrible. Come to my cave and we can have Jaffa cakes and Ovaltine, you don't have to worry about being lost."

They played me like a fiddle. I couldn't even be mad about it. We both walked further and further into the forest, awaiting my fate. Surely there must be something I could do, I thought, surveying my surroundings. That's when I noticed that the leafy foliage that ensconced us was... moving.

"There's something following us."

"What? Following us?" The giant swivelled round in concern. "I don't see anything."

"No, this person that's following us, they're behind the tree. There."

At this point, there was nothing to lose. I'd either die to the giant or I'd die to this other person, who was using a Demiguise character model to go invisible against the bright green surroundings. Once they'd been rumbled, the two creatures antagonised each other, the giant referring to me as the "guest" and the Demiguise gleefully teasing and swiping at them. Again, I couldn't disappear as they stood between me and the exit to the Forbidden Forest. I was warming to my host, too, truth be told.

"Come here," commanded the giant. "Come really close. Stand still." Well. This was definitely it. Definitely murder time. I walked slowly towards them, though everything told me that this was the stupidest idea I'd ever had.

"How much money do you have?" they asked me.

"6,800 Galleons."

"That's not very much. That's not very much at all."

Is that why they were keeping me alive? They thought I had money that they'd steal off my corpse? Or perhaps they'd planned that I'd buy my survival and 6,800 Galleons won't cut it?

"I'll give you some money," offered the player cheerfully. 10,000 Galleons appeared in my wallet. Right. I saw what was happening here. They'd give me this money, as a "charitable act," and then kill me and loot that cash straight away. I thanked them nonetheless, though derision had crept into my voice.

"No, that's not a round number now. I'll give you 100,000."

I had been at Hogwarts for one day, and 116,800 Galleons were in my pocket. Who was I, the boy who lived?

"Still not a nice round number. Can't have that."

152,900 Galleons. Don't worry, my riches hadn't gone to my head. I knew this was hardly going to be an expensive outing for the giant, once they'd ground my bones to make their bread. But, I'd play along.

"This is so generous. Do you not want something from me in return?" I asked. I don't think they heard me, as they then transformed into a dragon and flew into the sky. The Demiguise, who had been watching this exchange, then piped up.

"Run away! Run away, they're going to kill you! They're a dragon, they're going to kill you!"

I seized that chance, suspicions confirmed, and sped off. Scanning the sky, I couldn't tell which way they'd swoop, and I had only the sound of flapping wings to alert me that I could be toast at any second. In the end, my feeble attempt at scarpering was fruitless. The dragon landed...

... And it was tiny. It was the size of a dog. In fact, it was the Terrible Terror from How To Train Your Dragon.

"Hey," said the dragon, formerly a giant. "Jump on my back. I'll take you to your class."

"You sit with 'Alt'. Look at them and then use 'Alt' and 'E'. It's kind of tricky sometimes," said the other player. Once I'd managed it, the dragon took me to see the sights of the castle and its environments. The edge of the Great Lake. The towers that touched the clouds. The Quidditch hoops and stadium. The halls and corridors of the school I hadn't discovered yet. They pottered through the archway leading to my Potions class, and I hopped off there, and our arrival didn't even stir the class.

"Thank you," I said.

"You're welcome," they replied, and then they were gone.

There had been one death in this session, roleplaying as a first-year Gryffindor student at Hogwarts. And it was the assumption that all online gamers want to kill a newbie for the crime of being a newbie.

Hogwarts RP in 'Garry's Mod'
Hogwarts RP in 'Garry's Mod'

The setting of Hogwarts is grand and clearly a product of the efforts of those who came together to create such a space all that time ago. But, evidently, it's the community that elevates this beyond a recognisable backdrop. There's a saying that goes "if you build it, they will come," and Harry Potter is a safe bet for encouraging a fandom to try out online roleplaying. Years pass, and the popularity of the property waxes and wanes. How does one cultivate these friendships to last in the face of possible anonymity and navigating the IRL responsibilities of their personal and professional lives? "It filled a place in my heart," said Avellaa, one of the moderators for the server, who in fact met their partner through Hogwarts RP. "I've always wanted some sort of online Hogwarts experience and discovering the server was a very pleasant surprise. It's a bit hectic sometimes because it is Garry's Mod after all, but it's a super fun place that's easy to make friends for Harry Potter lovers like myself."

"The best way I can explain it is with one word; unexpected," said The Guy, who is the founder of Star by Star Gaming, and actually didn't have much interest in Harry Potter before they gave the movies a chance at the behest of their cousin. "Things took off fairly quickly, so I had to learn a lot very quickly. I could have never anticipated [SBS] Hogwarts RP to become what it has today, let alone to still be thriving after so many years." The Guy told me that they are stunned that this community has been "brought together by their fandom of the same story and a love for gaming" and that this only boosts their commitment to supporting this space for as long as fans want it. "Seeing the lifetime relationships and friendships that have formed simply because of our communities [sic] existence has been an experience that has changed my outlook on life entirely. I would not be who I am today or where I am today without this community, and for that I'm forever grateful," they said, and encouraged curious Harry Potter fans to give Hogwarts RP a try. "After over five years of existence, I couldn't possibly believe that we aren't doing something right. But I like to leave those kinds of things for everyone to decide for themselves!"

With Hogwarts Legacy needing a little more time in the oven, joining Hogwarts RP is literally the next best thing, and it might even surprise you at times. "It's somewhere where you do not have [to] worry about normal life," said SpookieMel, who describes themselves as "addicted" to roleplaying in this space. "It's great."

Featured Image Credit: Hogwarts RP, Avalanche Software

Topics: Hogwarts Legacy, Features

Imogen Donovan
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