PyramidHeadcrab Goes LARPing: Episode 1, The Introductionism.

I've been putting this off for a long time, and I should be in bed, but fuck it's let's do this thing. I always thought LARPing was retarded - a bunch of dorks running around a field shouting "MAGIC MISSILE!" at each other and calling damage counts out loud like an ill 1980's computer. While I won't claim these sorts don't exist (and they totally do), LARPing is actually an extremely diverse hobby followed by people from all walks of life. While it definitely attracts the sorts into typical "nerd" hobbies, it also attracts anyone interested in acting, storytelling, camping, or just hanging out with friends. It's a nice, diverse mix.

A couple of weekends ago, I attended my first game of Elegy: A Doompunk LARP. Elegy is set in a post-apocalypse world, drawing from a number of fictional sources - Fallout of course being my main inspiration. As the game is based on Ontario, the campaign is set in a "100 years from tomorrow" version of southern Ontario, where STALKER-style zones of chaos and absurdity have isolated the region from the rest of the world. The rifts brought scores of monsters, diseases, mutations, and rendered electricity almost impossible. Because physics. The locales all mirror "pre-calamity" versions of real-life Ontario, such as the Conclave (set in the Kingston Penitentiary; think the Pentagon from Fallout 3), Steeltown (an industrial city carved out of the remnants of Hamilton, run by a capitalist-fascist dictatorship known as "The Board"), and Bartertown, a neutral trading post where the campaign of Elegy is set.

Although I technically started as a different character, I play Talfourd Blackwell, an engineer originating from the Steeltown outpost of Petrolia (which is Petrolia in real life as well; I actually wrote this setting, so I feel pride). Engineers can repair and build weapons, armour, machinery, and basically anything that could never heal itself - that's what the medics are for. I've chosen to specialize in armour, because, at least for now, there are no other armour dealers in Bartertown. Talfourd is a Penitent (think Brotherhood of Steel, Followers of The Apocalypse, and whatever bastard child those two could create) by culture, offering knowledge of the oil-drilling technology in Petrolia (real-life Petrolia still produces oil with pre-industrial equipment as part of a museum) in exchange for rare access to the Conclave's libraries and stores of information. He gathers "lost" information like it's going out of style, and may be providing it to another party entirely...

I could write soooooooooooooooooooooo much more about the stuff about, you have no idea. If you think the lore is thick in Bioware games, shit man, hop into a LARP sometime. If you're craving storytelling depth and ACTUAL choice of action and dialogue, you'll find no better place.

So what is the LARP event itself? Well, to critically over-simplify it, the people running the game book out a campsite in the middle of nowhere, and from Friday night 'til Sunday afternoon, it's Bartertown. The game is active for the entire period; you set up camp in "town" (which is basically a tent city), and unless you have health concerns and need to sleep out of game, nothing is off limits - though tent raids are rare, and only allowed when the plot calls for it. Before the event gets underway, the Directors will give you some plot for the event. There will usually be a general plot condition to start with (last event, there was an outbreak of mutant rabies, which meant all mutant characters needed to get a bottle of water from the medic tent several times a day to live), but there are also skill-specific plotlines. For instance, my character, having an ability called Mental Awareness (which makes you aware when your mind has been read or tampered with), knew that we had "skipped" a day - people without the ability thought it was Friday, but I knew it was Saturday. We also knew that a group of thoughtbenders (it's what you think it is) had tampered with the water supply, and that they were trying to "protect us" from a group of evil thoughtbenders that had blanked out that whole day. It was impossible to know who they were controlling, or what they had actually done, so keeping that knowledge to yourself might be critical for survival; but it might also be key information to stopping their plans completely.

It's a lot of jargon, but trust me, it's so much more interesting when you're immersed in the experience. :P

Since plot is perpetual, frequent events called "mods" will happen. Mods could be as simple as a hoard of monsters attacking, or a group of NPCs seeking help or information in town. Mods can also be plot events; one of the best ones I saw involved a PC (player character) getting captured by a religious faction. A group of us went to save him, and when we came back, there was a group of "crusaders" (religious militant types) blockading the town. That's the premise. The best part comes in the improv acting. These events are never really scripted; if I were to start firing at the crusaders without warning, that action would become part of the narrative. If we decided to invite the crusaders to a game of cards to discuss the situation, that may happen, if they accept it. I could explain what actually happened, but it would take to long; rest assured though, it was good enough to make my jaw drop, and that's without even knowing the characters involved. We're talking Game of Thrones level writing here, but it's all improv.

I'll be back later in the week with more articles about the LARP experience. There's much more to talk about, including the weapons, the costumes, the immersion (that could be a long one!), the knitty-gritty RPG technical stuff... Trying to explain LARP is like trying to explain the entire gaming hobby to someone. And I'm just a rookie. :P

Hope you enjoyed - please leave feedback, don't eat my lungs, don't trust surfer vikings, etc. :>