RenQuest puts live-action, gamer-inspired spin on Bristol Renaissance Faire
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It’s easy to take local treasures for granted. The Safe House only seems to get a visit when relatives are in from out of town; the Harley-Davidson Museum only attracts leather-clad pilgrims; and one of the most awarded renaissance faires in the country, the Bristol Renaissance Faire, exists a short 30-minute drive to the south. A trick to making these experiences unique, however, is to change up how you experience them. Hit the Safe House with someone worthy of a "Hail To The Chief" entrance. Check out the museum during the insanity of the 110th Anniversary. And, for those looking for a full ren faire experience without dropping a few grand on leather pants and fencing lessons, sign up for Bristol’s RenQuest.
RenQuest is brought to you by the same team that runs Bristol’s Pub Crawl. It starts out in the same area, but rather than a leisurely jaunt to the various drinking establishments around the grounds, RenQuest is geared toward those who have a few World Of Warcraft or Dungeons & Dragons campaigns notched in their Belt of Giant Strength. RenQuest is built for people who want to actively engage with the dozens of costumed performers rather than watch them with bemused looks. It’s also a chance to head around the park seeking out people, places, and things, rather than hitting main attractions like the joust, the turkey leg stand, and the sword guy booth (which is one of the few places that has a worse linger-to-buy ratio than Barnes & Noble).
The quest is $10 a day, which buys a wristband and a notebook. (There’s a kids’ version, too, for half the price and a much shorter storyline.) The backstory gets told by one of the scribes hanging around the starting area. The story itself is a standard fantasy setup, but there’s a reason to pay attention: At the end of the spiel, the participants must pick between the Lunar Tribe and the Order of the Sun. The more points one side gets, the more influence they have on the storyline, which has been running and changing for the past six years.
The quests send you to find a certain cast member at a certain location and interact with them to solve the puzzle. The tour is entirely self-guided, but the earlier the quests are started the more likely they’ll be finished by the end of the day. In between quests, a visit to the original booth allows participants to update point totals and chat about performance. The quests are amusing, simple fare, like inquiring at the hat maker about a lost hat, singing a lullaby to a cast member, or making a glum character laugh to brighten everyone’s day. Pro tip: The glum cast member is particularly susceptible to the following knock-knock one-two punch:
Much like its forebearers born in parents’ basements and computer labs, RenQuest is something that’s more fun when done with a group of people. Strangers quickly turn into hearty adventurers wandering around the grounds. Being paired with a regular—even one not done up in a bodice and boots—makes the legwork of finding a character far less difficult. For those able to complete all the quests, or those willing to spread their work out between multiple days, each of the storylines has a big ending scene only available to those who complete it.
Bristol’s RenQuest makes use of the best resource the park has: the people. It’s a chance for the performers to use the 20-page backstory they’ve come up with, and a chance for the guests to finally approach the guy with the hand-carved staff without needing to make a quick exit back to the DeLorean.