The Fifth Reich
An oral history by Ann Chen, Shoshana Kessock, Owen Roberts and Jon Wasserman
The Fifth Reich is the story of a live action roll playing event, part of the Dystopia Rising universe, that took place in June 2011, told by the people who participated in the event.
Dystopia Rising is a live action roleplay game set in a world of zombies, raiders, and the day to day desperate battle for survival in the post apocalypse. The town of Second Hayven is hotly contested territory, represented by a ten-acre camp grounds in Sparta, New Jersey. In June of 2011, the town was was a frontier territory occupied by every kind of post-apocalypse survivor you could imagine. From freed slaves seeking a safe home to pure-blooded elite families and red blooded Mericans, the settlers of Second Hayven were a diverse camp of nearly two hundred and fifty player characters.
The year before, the town had previously been known as New Berlin and was owned by the descendents of neo-Nazi's known as the Fifth Reich. The citizens of New Berlin were driven from the town and it was rechristened as Hayven after the town the settlers had previously lost. That June, the Nazi's returned to take their town back by force.
This is the story of that battle, told from the perspective of the characters who fought it.
The players arrived on Friday night to sign in and get ready for the activities. In anticipation of the Nazi's arrival, the town has prepared their defenses. While the heads of the town planned, those on the ground had very little idea about the hell their characters were about to face. As events ramped up from Friday night into Saturday, tensions ran high and by Saturday evening, everyone knew that the war was truly about to begin.
Caleb March (a freed Iron Slave farmer, played by Josh Harrison): It was springtime, nice and warm. They had told us that the Reich was coming. But nobody quite knew what they were going to try.
Brett McCarren (a weapons repairman of Hayven, played by Allison Heenie): It was my first war, actually, my first real battle. I had trained to use a weapon for this. I was scared. I knew i was going to die. And I had made my peace with that.
Xavier "Medic" Cross (a wandering holy man and medic, played by Gabriel Llopiz): I was assigned as a doctor, a medic, to one of the groups. The groups was assigned to go forward and attack sniper towers from the rear to allow another group to move forward and storm the main hub of New Berlin.
Shea Laguardia (a medic and religious leader, played by Kate Beamen-Martinez): I play a character who is very rough and tumble, follows the three Fs: Fighting, Feeding and Fornication. I stole that from a book.
Andrea Vasilescu as Dusty Lightfoot.
Dusty Lightfoot (a caravan driver, hustler and medic, played by Andrea Vasilescu): Yeah. Yeah I was livin' in Hayven back then. Didn't quite realize I was yet. I'd just, uh, been in town for two months at that point. Was lookin' to find a new trade route. My luck had kinda gone dry. Uh, so, needed to kinda, rebuild. Ya know. Lightfoot Caravans wasn't always what it is these days. But it was a good town to start fresh.
Melody Rapture (the sixteen-year-old daughter of Jack Rapture, played by Abigail Corfman): I don't like talking about this. It hurts. I figure it makes a great deal of sense why it hurts, but its not normal for me, I don't hurt often.
Dusty: But, it doesn't really matter when it comes to war, you know.. How much you know or how much you care. Or, where you really stand in the matter. You get out the way or, it runs you over. So… Usually I get out the fuckin' way. But uh, I didn't have anywhere to go. So, there it was.
Brett: I sat in the dark with those who first welcomed me into town, the Krattikoffs, waiting for the first attack to take place.
Zurok Krattikoff (a communist Red Star fighter, played by Aaron Olsen): I am a Red Star, Zurok Krattikoff, of the Hayven Krattikoff commune. I am just a soldier, so I left the battle plans to people with more experience. As I recall, we set up three main groups to intercept the attackers, set up a choke point between the town entrance and the radio tower, with a final line of defense remaining behind at the end to protect the power supply beneath it. I chose to remain behind in the final line. In a town full of people who think they are heroes, there are not so many who willingly stay behind. Through some combination of fear and humility, I decided to let them be heroes while I held the homefront.
Caleb: We folk on the ground didn't really have any idea what was going on. But they whup us all into a big ole' frenzy. They got us started so's everyone knows the Nazis are coming and they were gonna come across the field with the radio tower. It was our job to make sure they didn't come and hit the Tap and rout Hayven proper. Specially on account of that's where the reactor is. They technically know how it works, so they figured if they got to the reactor then the whole town …
Melody: My father was Jack Rapture. He was a doctor. I only knew him when I was older. And the night the Nazis came … Well I guess I'm getting … Well I'm not good at telling stories. Not good at telling stories at all.
Megan Jaffe as Bessie Cripplecreek.
Bessie Cripplecreek (the Merican bartender wife of Jack Rapture, played by Megan Jaffe): I'd kicked Jack out… a week before? Sumpin? Caught him a last time with my fuckin' cousin. Said, "Goddammit Jack. That's one of the few goddamn things I try an lay down on you is no family. And I found out about his fuckin' tryst with that goddamn sick piece of inquisitor trash. I couldn't. I couldn't take it. I couldn't take it anymore. And I told him to get out. I'd a thrown a little buckshot his way as well.
Shea: Our route was to walk the path between the Double Tap and the radio tower. Before everything started, all the platoons had gone off to their respective areas to get prepped. So King's Court starts praying and preaching, head preacher Two Tone Stratocaster getting us ramped up, getting us to go get ready to fight for our lives, defend our town.
Jack Rapture (doctor of Hayven, played by Jamie Snetsinger): The whole weekend was spent in preparation for this big fight that we knew was coming. Finally it's Saturday night and the players are starting to receive warnings that movement is beginning on the outskirts of town. So we put into action the plan that had been put together by the luminaries and brass in town, which had groups of townsfolk stationed at various points around the campsite – which stands in for the town of Hayven- to intercept Nazis as they came rolling in.
Melody: We all was told that the Nazis was gonna come … And I usually run when that happens, on account of I don't much care about other folks. But the problem was that I love my daddy and my daddy weren't gonna run, so I had to stay.
Shea: Two Tone, he's preaching and I was standing on the other side of the room. I start banging my foot on the ground, gradually picking up more volume and strength. It echoed across the room and moved like a wave until we were really feeling that beat and ready to go smash some faces. And we were gonna win cause we were the Court. And we're screaming and yelling our songs at each other and someone comes over and screams, "Oh dear god stop, we thought you're the Nazis! Go get ready!"
Jack: Me and my friend Sean Jaffe, playing a character called The Reverend, he's a priest, he can heal with the power of his faith. My character is a doctor so its sort of a traditional healer. So we're discussing, sort of jokingly, how we're going to get ourselves through this fight. We're a step back from where we believe the front line is going to be, the front line is on the beach, which is sort of north of where we were set up, so we didn't necessarily see enemies. We didn't expect them to get to us that quickly.
I tell The Reverend, "We're gonna try what's called the reverse panther technique."
Reverend says, "Well, I'm going to do a reverse panther with Jack. What's that?"
"The panther's like this: We're gonna settle into the woods. We're gonna hide there. And then when we see our friends start to fall we'll run out of the woods, grab em, drag em back into hiding and heal them up so they can get back into the fight."
Shea: On one of the points, we stopped at the radio tower, and Shea sees Jack Rapture. Someone who she had kinda been involved with. She had been involved with him but he hasn't been involved with her. He was a hedonist. A hedonistic faith. He believed in sex, sleeping with everything, eating everything, doing a lot of drugs, and being slothful. Jack was a coward. You never saw Jack on the battlefield. He wants to live, he wants to live goddamit! He has other people to screw! Shea had ended it with him.
Meggan Jaffe as an NPC (Non-Player Character) Nazi.
Melody: We fight a lot. Its part of living. Its like eating. Its just what you do, day to day.
Nazi NPC (Non-Player Character, a temporary character created to serve as an antagonist to the players, played by Megan Jaffe): It was past due. All that they did. To New Berlin. Coming from their stinking, tiny town, in the north. Coming upon us unawares. Killing our husbands. Killing our mothers.
The battle began with Nazis invading from the main road and quickly taking over many areas of the town. The plans laid out by the townspeople proved ineffective against an unexpectedly strong Nazi force. What might have been a triumphant battle instead turned into a terrifying fight that had the potential to wipe out every character in town.
Zurok: The silence hung for the longest time, for longer than it should have.
Caleb: I know eventually they come, there was a big ole' flash of light and a big ole' sound and maybe a bomb went off or they done lobbed a mortar or something into the line.
Dusty: I remember my first sight of the Nazis. <Sigh>, <sigh>. I damn near pissed myself. I think… I still get nightmares about it to this day. They came in artillery flashin'. And I couldn't see a goddamn thing. The flashes just kept going off. And it was blinding—it was disorienting. That's a thing people don't fuckin tell ya about, ya know? And… as much as we were prepared, they fuckin' broke our lines. They mowed down our heavy hitters.
The Nazi wave comes.
Jack: An actual line of battle forms. Usually this not a thing that actually happens in LARP, but in this case sort of organically did.
Xavier: We marched forward through the snow and a large explosion rang through the air. Someone had stepped on a landmine and blew off one of his legs as well as the people around him. Everyone within five feet of the blast was hit with shrapnel, legs and arms were blown off. It was terrifying. This is how we got a sense of the danger that lay ahead. As we marched forward, hidden under a blanket of snow and fog. The snipers were alerted to our direction. Now we had a small problem. We had to attend to the wounded while dodging sniper fire.
Shea: They decimated us in seconds. We all dropped because a lot of us were new. We just dropped. There we are, I'm lying on the ground, next to people I know. I get dragged off and fixed. Then starts my night of fixing somebody, getting fixed, getting dropped. I got dropped five times that night. Total of eight.
Jack: Me and the Rev realize two things very quickly, both in game and out of game, first of all, the fight is going badly, the Nazis are really laying into our friends and not being the pushovers that most NPCs tend to be. Our friends are having the fight of their lives out there. The other thing we realize—I mentioned that this line of battle had formed—we're on the wrong side of it. The Nazis are all between us and our friends.
Jamie Snetsinger as Jack Rapture (left) and Allison Heenie as Brett McCarren (right).
Brett: All I could do was scream. I didn't want to die. I really didn't.
Xavier: I wore a very simple white fedora, white lab coat, and white pants. This proved to be to my benefit. When I lay down in the snow, I was near invisible. I would make my way to the wounded and stitch them up. To this day, the scariest thing washed over me. I noticed from my right side, the lasers from the snipers in the trees. I lay perfectly still. I thought I was going to be shot, I thought I was going to die. The lasers washed over me and that was when the realization sunk in, that I was near invisible. I started crawling when the lasers started coming back. I thought I could be seen for sure. But they just moved over me and kept going on.
Shea: Sydney was nearby but not close enough to be touched. We had moved ourselves away from the fighting so that we didn't get trampled.
Shea says, "Hey Sydney, I dont want to die alone. I'm reaching my hand out, you reaching your hand out to me?"
Sydney says, "Yeah, I've got my hand out to you."
The dead and dying.
Zurok: It was a massacre.
Xavier: They had a howitzer and it was aimed right towards us. We had the numbers but they had the firepower. And it would later really show that we were not prepared for this at all. The howitzer launched bullet after bullet after bullet into our ranks and it just slaughtered all of us. It cut through people, it pierced through bodies and hit other people behind. I ducked down and barely managed to survive. A bullet went through my hat and well, that stayed there. Many of my friends were shot, two of my closest friends were shot, though not in lethal areas, they were wounded.
Jack: Normally in a game, gunfire is represented by the sound of people calling their damage. They'll call out the amount of damage their weapon is doing. It'll be like "2, 2, 2" or "3, 3, 3", and you'll hear this cacophony of people calling damage calls when a fight breaks out.
Dusty: When I saw them burst through those doors… I … thought it was all over. I thought every single one of us was gonna be comin' out of that morgue. Or, heh, or not…Ya know? I thought we were done.
Jack: Soon enough we hear German, the NPCs are being all being quite dramatic and talking in actual German with German accents.
Xavier: From this point forward, it becomes blurry on my end. An explosion rang through the building almost killing everyone inside.
Brett: Jack Rapture, and his young one, Melody Sampson, were helping me out. He had a smile on his face. He always did. And he had so much hope for the future. He had just welcomed a pair of twins into the world. Their mother was resting as much as she could. Which means she was probably shooting Nazis, knowing her.
Shea: I have my arm stretched out, and I feel this leather hand, this glove, slide into mine—and there's a skill called 'jolt' that is basically paddles to the chest, and you get revived some—and I feel this hand and i'm like 'what the fuck' and he squeezes my hands and I hear this very quiet jolt. And then eventually the entirety of the mass of the dead, apparently the jolt went through the bodies and we all got up and ran, and they couldn't take care of forty people on the ground when there's twenty of them, so we just ran, and I was one of the first people to get out.
Jack: Characters in Dystopia Rising are able to come back from the dead. They will resurrect on their own a number of times based on their strain—the strain of humanity they are. Jack was all out of lives. He turns to Cal, asks him "Cal, do you think you're coming back from this?" and Cal says, "Yes, I think I am." Jack tells him, "Well i'm not. So I need you to tell people a few things for me, because this is it. I want you to tell Bessie that I loved her, and I want you to tell my kids about their dad.' Cal said, 'I will Jack, I will.' Jack reached out to touch another human being as he went, I think I just got my hand sort of tangled in Cal's hair and Cal bled out and then shortly after that Jack did as well, gazing at the fireflies dancing above him.
Nazi's slaughtering townsfolk.
Dusty: Like I said, it's all kind of a blur. There were people all around me that needed to be treated too. And, I heard Elizabeth. She was, she was, a good friend of mine. I heard her callin' for me. For me specifically… I know if I got to her, I could run her out. I know that. I can carry someone twice my size easy. I know I don't look like much. But… But I was too scared. And that's the truth of it. I was too fuckin' afraid. I was too fuckin' afraid to go back there at all.
Nazi NPC: We ran through the building. I sang as I went. They killed mine. I would kill theirs.
Zurok: Facing foes who could slay me with one strike, I took a deep breath and threw away any care for my own life, ready to join my brothers in the graveyard.
Dusty: I remember, they, they, they burst in through the back, and I remember I was running out the front. And, uh. I was on the porch and I heard someone call my name. I don't even remember who the fuck it was, and I turned back, to go through the front door, to go in and grab 'em. 'Cause, like fuck you're gonna leave someone who calls your name, you know? I'm a coward, but, I got a fuckin' heart.
…And he just fuckinnn' slaughtered me. One fuckin' hit. And I just… He fuckin' cut me stern to bow. And uh, I just I fell. I fell right up the stairs. I was certain I was gonna die. And, then, the youngest Krattikoff… Never fuckin' spoke a word to him in my goddamn life, uh, before that. And still barely speak now. He just… Came around the corner. And… He does psionic stuff, and I … don't claim to know what the fuck he did. But whatever the fuck he did … he healed me. And started fighting 'em. And I fuckin' ran. I fuckin' ran! He told me to—I fuckin' ran.
Josh Harrison as Caleb March (left) and Lifter.
Caleb: He come up, put his hammer against my neck, and then he picked me up and drugged me and he put me down next to Lifter who I barely knew at the time. There's a weird thing about Lifter cause he doesn't really feel feelings the way folk do. So he was just lying there with this weird blank expression on his face. And I knew he wanted to be afraid, he even said that he was feeling fear, which he ain't normally done. We were both dying, we were both bleeding to death right on the field there.
Jack: One blow of his sword is enough to drop Jack into his blood count. So at this point I have five minutes to live. I'm bleeding to death, and without medical treatment, Jack will expire.
Nazi NPC: A few stragglers remaining managed to deactivate the device. Hmm… even a mongrel dog… can sometimes… work out the simplest things. Matters not. It matters not. We were well repaid for the indignity and for the deaths, that January, years ago…
Shea: I'm walking towards the morgue, because I'm going to go meet the dead, because that's what Shea does. And she passes Yossarian, who is a person of great importance in the town of Hayven, standing in front of the open cellar door to where our nuclear reactor is. Shea's like, "Yo, we're dying, we're fucking dying, we aren't going to make it, it's awful down there, and there ain't nothing I can do. I can't do nothing. I'm done."
He looks at her and he's like, "I know. And when it comes to it, I'm gonna put a bullet in that reactor."
Aaron Olson as Zurok Krattikoff.
Zurok: The choke points quickly became chaos. They were too strong. As bodies poured out the back door, I found my brother Sergei and the two of us held our ground as long as we could. Once the ground to our back was open we stepped back, each parried blow offering another second of time for others to escape. Finally the hold narrowed and Sergei stepped behind, leaving me alone face to face with the leading offender. Furiously blocking, my right hand blade slipped from hand and fell to the floor. The Nazi instantly capitalized and struck through. The pain was too great, I could not remain standing.
As I fell back a strong hand grabbed the back of my vest and dragged me. The Nazi blades pierced my body several more times. Through the pain I was happy to shield another who could still run. The stranger carried me through the back door. But once we were outside, the Fifth Reich swarmed and slew my savior. Sergei and I lay there, bleeding out onto the ground just behind the inn. We failed, but at least we would die together.
Melody: I saw an Iron carrying my daddy, and he called me. And I could've gotten him out of there. I can pull people out of tight spots, thats a thing I'm good at. I should've taken him from her. But I didn't on account of I was scared.
Jack: In Dystopia Rising, when you're dead, its not the end, because Dystopia Rising is a zombie game. The character, once they've died, comes back as a zombie. I'm now getting suited up to go out as this zombie. I'm going out as a special kind of zombie called a lost boy. A lost boy will repeat the last three things, sentences, or things they said, before they died.
When the battle finished, the townspeople had barely regained control of Hayven at the cost of nineteen of their allies. Characters who had died in battle went to the morgue for instructions while other characters regrouped for the next day. By Sunday, it was all over, but there was a lot of action to catch up on and trauma to reflect on. Of the nineteen who died in character that night, eighteen would return to game the next month, traumatized but alive. For one Jack Rapture, however, it was the end of the game.
Jack: I was repeating things like "Doctor down, doctor down"—as I was screaming trying to get people to come help me. Eventually this draws the attention of some people who come towards me. They can see my silhouette coming towards them and they realize its Jack. "Oh boy, oh boy, Jack's back, he came back!" As they get close enough to see me that can see that I am in fact all dead and zombified and I remember just watching their faces fall, as I said "Tell Bessie I love her."
And they sort of range out around me, weapons on me, not sure how to deal with this, and eventually one of them is talking to me, as if I can hear him. I'm saying "Tell my kids about their dad." He says—this is my friend Obediah—Jack's friend Obediah—"I will Jack, I will, but I know what needs to be done here, and I reckon it should be one of your countrymen that does it." And he cocks his gun, shoots me down, and he's sitting there waiting to give the final blow and then he says, "I can't Jack, I can't do it, I can't kill my friend Jack."
So eventually they find someone with a little more fortitude who is able to overcome the supernatural patheticness of the lost boy type zombie and grant Jack his final rest.
Brett: We would hear tell later that he had laid dying in the branches, that he did not cry out for his own life, or the lives of those he would leave behind, Bessie, the twins, and Melody. This would be his last battle in life, and I had been part of the reason it happened. Sometimes I still blame myself for that, to this day.
Shea: So the battle's ended, we've clearly lost, but I don't know why we're not leaving, and I'm sitting on the back steps of the double tap, kind of like in shock, like "Oh dear god, now what do we do, its not safe here, why are we still here?" Basically questioning everything.
Dusty: War's ugly. There's no sense to it. Liz died because of me. Caleb did too. Who knows who else I could've maybe saved if I wasn't… if I didn't run. But I lived. You know? Sometimes that's what matters.
Shea: Our friend Kiki says, "Shea, Jack died." And I stop. I pause, and Shea's like "What?" and Kiki says, 'Yeah, we just had to bury him." He came back as a lost boy, which is a type of zombie that comes back and they repeat the last three things that they said. And Shea's like "What did he say?" and Kiki says "Tell Bessie I love her, tell the kids I love them. Tell them I love them." Bessie was the woman he was….his primary, and the woman he was most recently involved with and they'd had twins together and Shea had helped deliver the babies the month before.
Jack: That is my memory of the great Fifth Reich battle of Dystopia Rising, and my last moments as Jack Rapture.
Shea: He didn't know that I loved him and he didn't love me.
Bessie: He was a lankey dumbfuck and a fool. and he could hurt me more than anyone else ever had, but, goddammit I miss that fucker. And I wish. Oh, I wish he were still here.
Caleb: To this day I don't know whether we won or lost that one. We still got the town but, since that day, something's been different. And I think anybody who knew Dr. Jack would tell you the same. Think that's all I have to say about that.
Shea: It was a very rough night, and it was a really good story, and a really good roleplaying moment. It has forever changed my character. She's gotten a little crazy. That's what happened to Shea, from her perspective, and it is something that I don't think I will ever forget. And it is definitely one of my favorite Larp war stories.
Note: All photos are the property of Dystopia Rising LLC and being used only as fan/unofficial tribute for a student project. Credit to original photographer Ben Ehrenreich.