If you have read my previous entry on Dungeons and Dragons, then you have been properly educated on how it is played. Because of that, you may think that there is nothing dorkier than sitting around a table pretending to be a warrior or a sorcerer.
Oh, how wrong you are my friends.
For, although D&D is, without question, one of the premier activities for nerds the world around, it doesn’t hold a candle to Live Action Role Playing (LARP). This is an activity that snaps the needle off the dorkometer.
It goes without saying that I’ve tried it.
How could I not? I had played D&D for many years at that point. This just seemed like the logical next step. The next stage in the evolutionary process that would ultimately produce a mature adult nerd.
The basic premise of the game is the same as D&D. One notable difference, however, is that when you want to hit someone with your sword, you don’t roll dice… you actually hit them with your sword.
Before you run over to the Christian Life Ministries and tell them to fire up the printing press… These weapons are not real. They are soft(ish) foam(ish) replicas. Your weapon is actually a couple of pieces of PVC pipe with pipe insulation around it, held together by a generous amount of duct tape. Most of them are about the size of a railroad tie but, thanks to their lightweight materials and cutting-edge design, allow you to swing it like a person wielding a lightweight railroad tie.
Like the tabletop game, you have to choose a type of character to be. I decided to be a rogue. I have always liked the idea of hiding in shadows and sneaking up on my victims instead of fighting them the “fair” way. I’ve never really been a big fan of “fair”. And, as an added bonus, my weapon wasn’t one of the gigantic swords, but instead it was a dagger, which is much smaller.
With my choice of character made, I moved onto the next challenge: My costume. A hooded cloak, a tunic, a pair of boots, etc. In the end, I created a look that I think speaks for itself:
Now I was ready.
The game that I went to was run at a 4H camp. It ran for three days, included all meals, and cost only $35. It really was a good deal. Unless you considered the fact that it was wintertime, and we were housed in unheated cabins in the middle of the woods.
I don’t usually mind being cold, but since I knew about the cabins in advance, one of the few things that I brought with me from the world of normal people was a small pile of chemical hand warmers, and I am very glad I did. For, while I found them to be pretty nice to have, other people looked upon them with thinly disguised lust.
Not one to pass up an opportunity, I sold some of them on the first day (for in-game money). I would probably have sold all of them, but then I realized that, because of the cold, these people were desperate enough to buy used hand-warmers from me. So, I used a few of my hand-warmers each night, and sold them in the morning. They were still a little warm at that time, but I could almost guarantee that by nighttime (when they would actually want to USE them) they would be stone cold. But hey… I was supposed to be playing a rogue, right?
One of the people I peddled my wares to was a lovely young lady who clearly hated being cold. She was practically orgasmic when I handed her the almost completely spent hand-warmer. She started rubbing it against her face and moaning with pleasure. Thankfully, she didn’t know that the small bag of carbon that she was so lovingly caressing against her cheeks had spent the previous night warming mine (yeah, those ones).
But LARP isn’t only about hoodwinking lovely young ladies. No, like the tabletop game, it has its share of “Combat Encounters”. You needed to be on your guard in this 4H camp. At any time, danger could come calling…
So, there we were, my friends and I, three brave adventurers out for our first foray into the wild when, suddenly, out of the forest charges an Orc! In unison, we…
Wait, I have to stop here to explain something. When I described how D&D is played, I mentioned that, as a player, your heroism is off the charts. Even if the odds are overwhelming, you fight. And you will fight until there is no breath left in your body. This is important to understand so that you can put this next part into context.
…in unison, we ran screaming like schoolgirls. That’s right, three fully grown men totally chickened out when faced with a dweeb in a poorly constructed Orc costume.
Our skills at combat did not increase appreciably during that weekend, and all encounters generally ended with us retreating as fast as our stubby legs could carry us. In the quiet hours of the night, when I had sufficient time to reflect on the events of the day, I realized that this behavior should not have surprised me. We are nerds, and not typically constructed for actual combat. Our physique is more optimized for maintaining a sitting position for long periods of time than it is for trading blows with someone.
After a little while there, however, I began to wonder… who were these other people with us? Because it seemed like we were the only ones running away. I imagined that if we were ever to actually engage in combat with someone, and gain the upper hand, they would start to smile because they are “not left handed”.
It wasn’t until the second day of the event that we realized who these people were. These seemingly combat-ready individuals were all fencers (they know how to fight with a sword, not put a boundary around a yard. Keep up with me here). This seemed a tad unfair to me. The whole reason that I like playing fantasy games was because in them, I don’t get my ass kicked. This wasn’t shaping up to be a good weekend.
A short while after that epiphany, I realized that there was yet another category of people attending this game because, if I had to guess, I would say that roughly two thirds of the people there didn’t engage in combat at all… they just spent their time hovering around the “town center”, being… whatever they were. These people were… thespians (not lesbians! THESpians! Stop giggling!).
It kinda made sense, when I thought about it. Here, they had the opportunity to play a role all day long for three whole days. The problem with this idea, for the rest of us, is that they clearly refused to communicate with you unless you also played a role. You have no idea how annoying this can be until you witness it…
Me: Hey, buddy! You know where the bathroom is?
Robart: Well, hello my good man! I am Robart the Grey, a wizard of some renown in these regions. Perhaps you have heard of me?
Me: Of course. Your ability to locate bathrooms is known o’re the land. Care to point me towards one?
Robart: You speak a strange tongue. From what land do you hail?
Me: A far away land without any bathrooms called Urinea.
Robart: A strange land, no doubt! Have you come here to escape the tyrany of some evil overlord? Or mayhap to live a life of adventure and to seek your fortune?
Me: No, I have come here to urinate. Blink twice if there’s a normal person in there somewhere.
Robart: Haha! You are a curious fellow! Are you perhaps the court jester?
Me: Haha! I am going to pee on you.
I was tempted to run back into the woods and talk with the Orc (what’s the Orcish word for “bathroom”?). At that point, I was pretty convinced that we were the only people in the entire camp that had ever actually played D&D.
We spent most of the remainder of the weekend in hiding, coming out only for meals and bathroom breaks.
So, in conclusion, if you are a D&D player, then LARP may not be your cup of tea, but if you are a fencer or actor, then I highly recommend it.
Before you go, however, don’t forget to get some chemical hand warmers.
I have a few I can sell you… cheap!