Live Action Role Playing.
For the uninitiated, LARP is a live action version of classic role-playing games. Some might slight it as “playing pretend” and while not wrong, it is not an accurate descriptor as far as how involved it is. For many, its an opportunity to be something or someone they are not. For some, its opportunity to show how crafty they are or how good at non-lethal combat… or how good a role player they can be.
Indeed, staying in character can be difficult- for some, the ability to act is a hard-to-do thing whereas for others, easier than breathing. For me, its somewhere in-between as I have moments of both. Some days, falling into character is as easy as a flick of the switch. And strangely enough, it has come in handy in my day job (if you don’t think EMS have to roleplay with patients at times in order to keep them calm, y’all funny.).
There are a great many groups out there with a wide variety of genre. The most common is sword and sorcery fantasy with elves, dwarfs and orc oh my. Dystopian, Vampire/World of Darkness and Sci Fi are also common (in that order) though the systems vary. There are a few historical-themed ones too but those are more of a Cosplay/Re-Enactment than LARP though there is heavy persona play.
I got into LARP initially not long after I got home in 1992 from Germany. Seems there was a group a few towns over playing and I manage to convince a buddy to give it a whirl. So off to Thompson Park in Jamesburg we went….
… and we had a blast. Unfortunately, I didn’t stick with it at the time and it would be many years later before I jumped into LARP again.
When I did, it was One World By Night’s Vampire and that was… an eye opening experience. Eye opening as to how dirty some people’s morals really are and how some good folks can turn a blind eye to bullies.
Bullies you say? Oh yes, Bullies. All too often, the bully(s) were some of the Popular Players and had tacit backing/support(or at the very least, indifference) of Story Tellers- in one case, an ST was part of their crew.
Yes, that’s pretty damn wrong…. But it happened. And it happened a lot.
This is not to say that efforts weren’t made to combat this or that it was everywhere in their World Wide Organization because it isn’t. Oh no, it isn’t… but it is common enough to be an issue… and it eventually forced change. But not always fast enough or completely enough.
That there were and ARE still good folks who play that larp is a 100% true statement. The bullshit isn’t everywhere…
But the odds of fixing the issue, in some cases, were stacked against those trying to Do The Right Thing- and in one case, one player advocate found herself victim of the same stunts I and my lady at the time were victimized by.
And it was done by the SAME people who bullied us. Not two years after she had cleared them of wrongdoing too. Those ass-hats had leveraged their “friendship” to make her believe everything was legit, playing her for a fool (and trust me- she is a fucking bright and whip smart person who is no one’s patsy) and managed to get away with their bullshit.
There was an irony to the entire series of events though… The irony being that they in turn wolf-packed her with the same shit done to us. And as I recall, got away with it despite her being popular and having allies- for much the same reasons they got away with it so many times before in doing to others.
Yes, the advocate’s apology for not believing us enough was accepted. To my knowledge, those bullies have had their come-uppance and most of them are gone from the game. Doesn’t mean I’ll be back though- I lost my muse for that genre a long time ago…. Though some of the social lessons learned have served me well in other games and in RL office politics too… And ya can’t beat that.
But I digress…
I eventually got back into Boffer LARPing… this time after coming home from overseas a mess. It was about two years after that I made a return to it. The social interaction and all was believed would help in settling my mind and also an activity to do with my lady at the time.
And I took to it, despite a few misgivings over a repeat of the Vampire Experience.
And I am very glad I made the plunge.
It’s a different crowd, a different scene… though some of the same sorts I encountered in Vampire were here, they were a hell of a lot easier to avoid… and oft times, folks were quicker to speak up about nonsense… Which made being a player a far better time.
AS for the experience, well… in essence, you are playing a RPG character with as much life and story as you put into a paper version of the character. And I took to it like a duck to water. I’ve made more than a few friends, probably an enemy or two (can’t have one without the other, people) and it was also exercise- how often is a person going to walk 10-15 miles a day for simple fun?
Yes, I know they exist….
So yeah, low impact exercise with occasional bouts of high energy activity (read: fighting) and as much story/roleplay as you may want. For the most part, you get what you put into it… and while not every event will give you back what you put in, you generally will get back *something*…
And usually enough of something to keep you going back for more.
For me, it was the camaraderie, the adventures gotten into with friends made in game that in many cases transcended to out of game friends. I was also the exercise too, believe it or not. I was a VERY active player, routinely walking some 12 to 15 miles or more throughout a weekend ( one of my group had pacemeter and he did 27 miles one event (Friday Night to Sunday Morning) and I was about as active as he was that event).
It also helped where we usually camped was over a quarter mile into the woods. Two round trips equaled a mile…. And over the course of a weekend, eight to twelve round trips were a thing… That’s not counting the trips to pack in and pack out. Good times…
I had to sit out a bit- Real Life with its various stressors made for some serious issues that needed resolution- but once life righted itself, I went back to LARPing but at a closer game. And made plans for traveling…
The closer game is part of a full network all over the US… and some of their chapters are within reasonable driving distance- or a long weekend (furthest I’ll drive on my own is five and a half hours). And to me, this prospect of being able to take my PC to other games within the network is a really big draw for me.
It helps I can afford to do the travel thing on occasion now… but still, the prospect of traveling to games where I can use my character is a really cool thing.
I thought it was a cool thing and I’ve had opportunity to do is already- the oldest chapter in the org I am in ran its final event (prior to changing hands) and I was able to be at it with a bunch of friends who also play. It was a rich weekend, with a good amount of story, no little fighting and gobs of side plot as old in game grudges came to a head in spots or long-dormant plot lines were finally resolved. A very fun game…
And it helped bring me to deciding I needed to travel.
Plague upended that plan for the last two years… but its hoped that next year, I will be able to travel to some other chapters. New Hampshire, Virginia, NE Pa are on the list for trips next year… as well as a possible excursion to Colorado- I have friends out there and they live about an hour from one of the chapters. They are game to go if I make it out there so good times are to be had…
If you have never tried LARP, I am not going to tell you that you should. But I will say if you enjoy Roleplaying, have an urge to dress up a bit to rep a persona… then LARPing might be a thing for you.
I know for ME, its the folks I’ve made friends with, the roleplay and the occasional fight… Its what does it for me and keeps me returning.
It is a worldwide phenomena… and every part of the world has its own take on it. So I strongly recommend if there is an interest, take the plunge.
Do your research, read up on where you gonna try it… but go. The Experience is usually worth the initial plunge.