Tuesday, 14 June 2011

L is for... LARP!

There could really be no other subject for the letter L. LARP stands for live action roleplaying, and there is a great description of what that actually is on the Wikipedia page for LARP:

a form of role-playing game where the participants physically act out their character's actions

I first got introduced to LARP, not at university as most people would assume, but in sixth form. My boyfriend at the time (the person also responsible for my introduction to Dungeons & Dragons) used to go up to Coventry to the Portly Pixie (sadly no longer operating) to play; they ran short adventures of up to six hours in length. He eventually convinced us to go along, and we took a road trip in my friend's beaten up old Peugeot estate. All I remember of the trip was how much fun the LARPing was, with fighting and magic and coded messages to crack, crawling through tunnels and solving puzzles, and how eerily empty the countryside seemed on our drive up, for it was the summer of the foot and mouth outbreak and none of the fields had any livestock in them!

So when I went to university, and was introduced to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, it was only natural that their enthusiasm for LARP would draw me in.

The main system they went to was Curious Pastimes. CP is a fantasy system, and I started out playing a goblin called Lix.

You very quickly get used to being green, to the point of not really noticing it when you're in the service station on the way home and getting funny looks from the other folks in Burger King. I have heard small children exclaiming "Mummy, why is that man green?" as they saw me and my fellow goblins walk by.

My goblin character lasted years. I'm not big on the fighting aspect of LARP, although I love the inherent danger in wandering the paths alone at night. My preferred weapon of choice is the bow. Yes, in LARP you can shoot people with arrows! It's great!

Here I am on the battlefield, with my bow, chatting to a referee.
In fact, this was the battle in which my character died.
There's a lot more to LARPing than just fighting though. The Plot is where it's at. A bunch of folks write out the storyline that is then run at the events, with crew and referees acting out the parts of the bad guys and monsters. Plot is where Lix really got stuck into things (yeah, you do find yourself talking about yourself in the third person after a while, as your characters take on personalities of their own!). Although, getting too involved in Plot can be bad for you, as I discovered when Lix was killed in a battle by the main Bad Guy from the current world plot at the time!

When your character dies, you just get a new one and start over. If you're lucky, you die at the same time as a bunch of your mates, and you get to start a whole new group together (far more fun than trying to play a new character/group concept by yourself).

When Lix died, I had been playing her for over 4 years. She had risen from lowly goblin child to Queen of the Goblins, ambassador of her faction and all round friend to everyone. I had no idea what to do next.
Here I am with my Queenly crown and royal robes.
By this point, I had got together with Jamie. We'd met at an event in early 2005:
He was crewing the event, I was playing.
I believe this picture captures the moment where Jamie was playing a dancing bear trainer, and the bear had attacked us (that's the bear, lying in the foreground). We had fought back, and were now arguing with Jamie's character over whether we were going to kill him or not.

When Lix died, Jamie's group were playing in a different faction, an archery unit in the Lions, a faction loosley based on Arthurian legend. Of course, archery being right up my street, I joined them.

Yeoman Peg
I only did two events with that group, before they were wiped out in the first battle of the year in 2007. I wasn't at the event, because for the last 4 years my exams have prevented me from going to the first two events of the year. As there are only four events a year, this means I miss an awful lot of what goes on.

The group stayed together, we came back as a noble house in a different faction, this time based on the history of Europe, particularly the Italian dynasties of Medici, Sforza etc. We were totally based on the Borgias.
Why, yes, our House colours were red and black.

Baronessa Katerina Daga
House Daga gave us far more leeway with excessive costume and tent decorating. That marquee you see behind us there is ours, and was filled with decadence. In fact, you can see we had a picket fence, shrubs and an outdoor "patio" area outside our tent! Such decadence has a price though, and the cost of transporting the tent, tables, benches, cooking equipment, garden furniture etc rapidly led to the group breaking down and everyone going their separate ways. LARP can get very expensive, if you let it!

Jamie and I took a break, then, because we had both really enjoyed playing our characters from this group. We probably felt like we'd been let down by everyone not giving the group a chance, or something, but soon got over it. Jamie went back to the game after a year's absence, joining the crew and helping to run the game, instead of playing his own character.

My enforced absence ended in 2010, when I came back to CP to see if I still wanted to play or not. I rejoined the faction I'd been in when I left, playing in a different noble house.
Elena Sforzare di Marco, of House Sforza

She only lasted one event! I've found it increasingly more difficult to get into a character as the years have gone by, I'm certain that having to take half the year off to do my exams has something to do with it. Jamie being on the ref crew and not playing probably has an influence too, as I'd much rather play with him and my friends, than stuck on my own. I hardly get to see Jamie at the events, he's so busy.

My new character I can't show you, because there aren't any awesome picture of her yet. But after my last three characters were all boring humans, I've gone back to playing something slightly more fantastical. An Elf. Pointy ears and everything. I've also gone back to the faction where I started out; it's very weird to be around characters who knew my old character, Lix. But nice to be back among friends!

I actually got my sewing machine out for this character, and made some of my costume myself:
The shirt and waistcoat on the left are made by me.
Everything else came from eBay!
And of course I've recently been hooking myself gloves and snoods to wear as this character. The next event is in July, so hopefully I will get some good photos of me then.

A lot of people think LARPing is a very weird hobby. But it's worth it for those moments when you are so immersed in the game, everything feels real. Characters die, and you do get very emotional. I've lost count of the number of times I've cried at LARP. The sheer terror and exhilaration you feel in battle, when the player and monster lines clash, is unbelievable.
Players (left) crash into the monster lines (right) in the second
battle at the Renewal 2010 event.
Hours spent in serious roleplay, drinking in the tavern, singing songs around the campfire. These are the reasons we go, and the memories we take away from the events with us.


  1. You make it sound so much more fun than anyone else I know ever has! It's not something I've ever done (I'm frightfully shy about making new friends!) but it does sound really fun, playing a different character for a while. Great photos too :)

  2. No LARPing here.  But gaming yes.  We play White Wolf games and I know how easy it is to be attached to a character.  I've been playing Lily for about 3 years.  I'd actually have to mourn her if something happened.  Also, for me gaming sessions are also a day of knitting time.  (Though I can see how that wouldn't be the case while in the forest.)

  3. When I did the noble house stuff, I took cross stitch with me to events, because that kind of worked with the noble lady thing. Knitting, not so much! I do get a lot of crochet done at our weekly games night though!

  4. I guess I was a "LARP"er in the sense that I grew up (age 4 to 18) in Civil War Re-enacting. We had it all just with a historical event rather than fantasy. I tried getting into AMPGARD but that didn't work out so well (renaissance larp). I think it is a very FUN hobby but obviously, dependent upon the person - and of course, not every person will like every era. OH - and you like DnD too? FUN!

  5. That sounds like alot of fun. I've looked alittle bit into SCA and historical reenactment, I'm not ready to jump in yet, but I'm thinking of getting involved in this type of thing someday.  I haven't decided if I want to go with the LARP side of things or actual reenactment. 

  6. my husband is a member of the SCA and although we've moved away from his group he is trying to hook up with a group down here. He does the fighting but is more interested in the science aspect of it. i had a full-size trebuchet and a stack of bowling balls in my back yard for the longest time. Your costumes are fantastic.

  7. Are you following a script or book or movie or just making it up as you go along?  I've heard of Dungeons and Dragons but thought it was role playing on a board game.  What neat fun to have imaginative play for adults!

  8. Go for it! It's so much fun :)

  9. One of my friends is really into building trebuchets. We did have one at CP a few years ago but it wasn't practical for the scale of game they run.

  10. Making it up as we go! There's plot written that the game follows, but player actions have a huge influence so things often go wrong for the carefully planned story arcs the Game Team write! It's a lot more flexible than tabletop.

  11. I used to LARP in the Maelstrom system. MrK still does. His char was something of a VIP and I was just a spod and mostly hung around drinking and playing poker with the rest of our colony until it was time to mob up and go kill someone. Then most of our group died and it got a bit lonely in the tavern without them! It's good fun when you're doing it with mates.

  12. We did Maelstrom a couple of times, but it wasn't as exciting as CP for us. You're right, though, having a good bunch of mates around really makes it better!

  13. Hi Tink. Don't know why this has come up with my real name as opposed to Maytheweed. Could you delete for me please? I don't seem to be able to do it! Will recomment after - sorry.

  14. Alittlebitsheepish14 June 2011 at 20:57

    Sounds great, I always thought it was an American thing and not really done over here. Might have to see if there is anything not too far from here to find out more

  15. I used to LARP in the MAelstrom system. It was great but MrK was a VIP and I was just a spod (drinking and playing poker while waiting for the fights to kick off) and when all our mates characters dies it got a bit lonely in the tavern :( I would like to go again sometime though. Mates make it a lot more fun though!

  16. We did Maelstrom a couple of times. I played with Raddock Bay. It wasn't as much fun as CP though. You are right, having a good bunch of mates to play with makes all the difference!


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