Editors Note: This is the first of our “Blast from the Past” series where we feature top Gumboot posts of years past. This post – on the art of “larping” is the second most popular of all articles (placing behind only your “Douchebag Digital Fill”). Our kudos to the amazing writing skills of Fake Pete – our German correspondent and resident Larping expert. This story was first posted March 26, 2010.
What do you do, when you really want to get away from it all? When you want to clear your head? Some people go running. Some people do narcotics (not recommended or endorsed by the Gumboot-Team and John Horn’s parents). Well, dear gumbooteers – I go LARPing. LARP is the acronym for “Live Adventure Role Playing”. And yes, this probably gives me away as a real nerd now.
All of you probably know “Dungeons & Dragons” or have heard of it or other pen & paper roleplaying games. You sit around a table with a few players while one of the guys figures as the Game Master (GM). It’s like an interactive story, your classical gaming: The players steer the PCs (player characters) whereas the GM wields control over the entire scenario he prepared and launches the NPCs (non player characters) whose roles he also plays. So the GM will enact the ork-horde attacking the PCs, outlining their actions and so on, as well as portraying the old sorceress they might meet in a market. Whenever an action is unclear (e.g. one of the heroes jumps over an abyss or shoots someone with a longbow) checks are made by rolling dice. Gaming is a cool hobby in itself, but still, you’re in jeans and t-shirts and you’re in someone’s living room. LARPing takes it to the next level.
Ever carried a wounded man through a forest, while you wore chainmail-armour? Ever tried to shoot an opponent with a longbow at more than thirty paces at dusk? Ever sneaked into a troll-camp in order to rescue your friend they’d captured? LARP is pure excitement. In Germany there are about 100.000 active players (official estimate) and there are even entire medieval castles that you can rent for events. And “the hobby” is becoming more and more popular. I’ve done this for three years now and it really beats anything else I’ve done in terms of organized recreational activities. If you meet the right people with a knack for interesting characters and stories and a bit of an inclination towards acting or improvisational theatre, it’s the ultimate thrill. Trent Reznor would probably call it “the perfect drug”.
And it really creates a special kind of bond within the community of the people you play with. I remember almost
dying after a battle under the hands of a friend of mine who plays a healer. Well, I didn’t know we were such actors. I did the whole “It’s cold, so cold – do you see that light?”-routine and Christian actually started crying: “Angus!!! (name of the Celtic character I played at the time) Don’t walk into the light!” while he tended to my wounds (those Drow-suckers had got me in the back and smashed my legs…) It may sound cheesy, but when you lie on your back in a cold German forest with the bodies of slain enemies around you and you can still hear the sound of the battle carried on a few hundred meters away – well it can get very real and very moving.
I’ve also “rescued” close friends in situations like that – by the skin of our teeth. Needless to say – the weapons aren’t real, they are foam-props with a latex coating (they only look real at a distance), and you count down according to a hit-point system. Each normal human being has three hit-points, and, well you guessed it, wearing armour gives you more hit points (but it’s a bastard to pull off, in summer). So there’s also the outdoor-sports element.
Ah, and one more thing about the mechanisms of the game: There is a also a GM, yet in LARP it’s mostly several people, who act more or less as directors of the event they organized. Because there are always NPCs (like extras in a movie) who take on various roles, and those need to be coordinated. At an average event, you get around 20 PCs and sometimes up to 30 NPCs – so we’re really talking logistics here.
But the most interesting aspect is the psychological insight. I never thought I’d ever go berserk if someone attacked my sister (she’s also heavily into larping) or that I’d ever like to play the role of a religious fanatic (the cleric I now play is something like a Norse Taliban XD). Basically – you get to do stuff you’d never do otherwise. One time I even played the big villain-character as an NPC in 2008 – man, it can be so much fun to be evil… If you want an entirely new take on your community, go and do a LARP-event together.
Here’s a British documentary on LARP – it explains everything in a nut-shell (and then some!):
And here’s a slide-show of one of the last conventions that I organized with some friends – “Askland 6 – The Ore of the Gods”. Enjoy!