My LARPing Experience
In 1991, I was working in a costume armor shop in the Hudson Bay area of New York. We made plastic armor for various movies, TV and other shows (my big claim to fame is outfitting all of the warriors at the end of the movie “Evil Dead, Part II”). One day a couple of gentlemen come in looking for some specialized armor pieces. When I ask them what they need them for, they hand me the second edition player’s guide to the New England Roleplaying Organization (NERO). Flipping through the yellowed pages, my interest in LARPing was born – although I never attended an event then.
I moved out to California in 1992 and saw a flyer at a local game convention for a full weekend LARP by Living Fiction. They advertised that they would supply food, costuming, weapons and all I had to bring was a sleeping bag and my imagination. I went with two of my friends and had a BLAST! It was such a grueling game that to this day I have an ‘old LARPing injury’ that will flare up in my right knee if I am gaming too hard. On our way home, I made a comment that not only was it fun but it seemed rather simple to put one on. Little did I know…
When I got back home, I checked for other LARPs in the area. A chapter of NERO just opened up an hour a way from me and I went down to check it out. I showed up at a fighter practice and was a bit disillusioned by it as I watched a fighter run into the middle of a bunch of orcs and while they beat upon him repeatedly with weapons, he picked up the treasure and ran out of the mob, apparently with hit points to spare. This was not the style I was looking for. Living Fiction had used a ‘paint sword’ style of combat where certain colors of paint were stopped by certain types of armor but a single, valid hit could take out a limb or your life. I preferred a more ‘realistic’ style of combat. It didn’t stop me from joining up as a player though, but it wasn’t one I wanted to invest time in developing.
I then found out that there was a group of the International Fantasy Gaming Society (IFGS) in the area who was looking for someone to run their chapter. I was there in a flash seeing what they needed. But when I found out that every event I would want to put on would have to be approved first by a committee in another state, I decided against it. Again, I joined up as a player but I didn’t want someone else dictating what I could or could not have my players do.
Shortly thereafter, I was informed that I was being ‘downsized’ at my company but was given an incredibly generous severance package. During my last couple of days at work, I called around and found not only an insurance carrier that would handle a LARP but a park that would allow me to hold events. A couple more days had a basic ruleset hammered out, a DBA registered with the county and Adventures Unlimited (AU) was born.
The game ran for seven years. It was a ‘low fantasy’ based game where magic was either rare or rather weak until you became a much more experienced wizard but the majority of battles were settled with the sword. Magic wasn’t just another way to hurt someone but was a powerful force that had to be carefully wielded and used in other ways to aid people. Monsters were rare and the common enemy was other humans. I felt that the same fun could be had fighting a group of bandits in the woods as would be fighting a group of kobolds in a castle. And with my way, you didn’t have to suspend disbelief. In fact, you never had to ask ‘what do I see?’ at AU. What you saw WAS what you saw. The game grew into the most popular fantasy boffer game in the Bay Area with upwards of 100+ people at every game.
However, the will of the players began to move the game in a direction more of high fantasy than low fantasy and instead of forcing them to remain within my vision, I found people who were willing to continue it in the direction it was heading and turned the game over to them.
This didn’t diminish my accomplishment or my desire for LARPs. I began to immerse myself into any and all types of LARPs I could find. I would attend convention games, vampire games and even take trips as far as Estonia to try out other systems. Those that I couldn’t attend in person I bought copies of the rules and devoured them. This was a recreational system that was still in its infancy but had great potential. I spent the next few years promoting LARPs in general, holding symposiums on LARP development and building bonds and connections between all the LARPs.
My current project, the LARPing Net, is to create a simple, low fantasy based LARPing system that any group can use to run their own games. And these games will be interconnected so that the individual chapters will have some shared storylines and characters can freely move between chapters. Currently, there are only a couple of game systems out there that have this ability but they are using a ruleset that has been virtually unchanged for two decades and has many things in them that I feel do not help instill the feeling of grand adventure as well as grand peril that is in many popular fantasy stories today.