Real-life Polish Witcher School closes amid political concerns as licence is pulled by CD Projekt Red
Seven years, 40 editions and 3117 trained witchers later.
The Witcher School live-action role-play events in Poland, one of which I attended in 2016, have come to an end because of a contractual termination by CD Projekt Red over use of The Witcher name. The exact reasons why are potentially political but also unclear.
5 Żywiołów (5 Elements), the company behind the events, alleges that CD Projekt Red pulled the licence because of a staff member's involvement with the ultra-conservative Polish Catholic organisation Ordo Iuris, which is anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ+, and rejects the idea of gender equality.
The staff member in question, Ania Wawrzyniak, is the wife of 5 Żywiołów founder Dastin Wawrzyniak. And according to a Facebook post co-signed by brothers Dastin and Dominic Wawrzyniak, Ania worked as a lawyer for the company for around two years (between 2017 and 2019, they later specified).
More recently, though, she was commissioned by Ordo Iuris to work on "the legal mechanisms for introducing and enforcing the vaccination obligation and the possible consequences of failure to comply with it", and "the draft of a law penalising illegal abortion", the Facebook post explained.
This involvement was brought to light by Polish media in February - in articles like this and this - and prompted 5 Żywiołów to contact CD Projekt Red with an explanation. It was then that the licence was allegedly, abruptly, terminated.
"When the situation happened, we informed CD Projekt RED about it, which in response, without asking for any explanations, terminated the licence agreement," the more recent Facebook post read (the original February post was more emotive).
I asked CD Projekt Red for verification. It would not be drawn on particulars but vaguely mentioned different reasons for the licence termination.
"In February we decided to end our cooperation with the organisers of Witcher School," CD Projekt Red told me, "and now the contractual notice period of three months has ended. For more context, this cooperation was about the LARP itself, and potential merchandise tied to it. We do not provide further details on the matter."
Without the Witcher School licence, 5 Żywiołów will apparently struggle to continue as a business. "Losses caused by the pandemic and termination of the contract is a burden that will most likely end in bankruptcy of the company," the February Facebook post said. "We will shoulder this blow, but we will definitely not give up." There are talks of fundraising but I haven't seen any evidence of it.
However, in an email sent on Friday - presumably to all previous attendees of Witcher School, which includes me - 5 Żywiołów said it was now working on its own original setting for a new LARP that it hopes to launch in spring 2023.