Full Moon Special #2 – Being a Larper

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Welcome to the second Full Moon Special at Skirts’n’Wolves! A month ago I talked about planning a mystery trip for your pack, and now I tackle a subject even closer to home – one of the things I identify as – being a larper.

I’d never dare say I speak for everyone – but I’m certain some things are universal. With that in mind, here are just a few of the things people mean when they say “I’m a larper”. It’s not just “I’m a person who larps”. Ooooh, no. Being a larper means…

#1 Stepping outside of your comfort zone

It’s one of the first things common to larpers, at least in the beginning of their trip into the game. It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be constant – you can get very comfortable at larps very soon – but it’s there. For some it’s the interaction, especially since larping tends to attract stay-at-home geeks. For some it’s the “I have no idea what’s gonna happen next” and maybe even “I have no clue what I’m gonna do next” – people really like their routines. Nothing can shake up your life a bit like a good larp. On the other hand, I actually know a guy who claims having started larping when the doctor told him he needs to get up sometimes from his videogames otherwise his health issues might get even worse. There’s also the occasional physicality of larping, especially with fantasy events, which is unusual for people who are not into sports in their everyday lives. Not to mention camping! For grown ups! In costumes! With basically no electricity!

#2 Exploration of self/selves

No matter what’s your immersion (basically, emotional involvement in a larp) or experiment level, you get to explore a different part of yourself – maybe even an alternate version of your own personality. Or something completely different. My first character ever (played on the steampunk larp I mentioned in this post) was a full-blown religious anti-feminist librarian. Hell of a time. And one of the best experiences I’ve had so far was playing, basically, a high school version of myself at a fantasy larp. I was totally kicking it. Best part? Going back (agewise) was not even that bad of an experience.

There are people – some of them very dear to me – who use larping as a way to get to know themselves a bit better. Since it’s closely related to psychodrama (at least the types of games I usually play), larp can be an awesome tool for that, too. And what if you wanted to understand a person whose life is the exact opposite from yours? (Say, a family member? Or a murderer? I just hope those two don’t overlap at your family dinners…) My co-alpha and I have overseen a couple of runs of a chamber larp of our own design where we incidentally cast a few really nice people in the worst roles. To everyone’s surprise, they were awesome at it – only to report at the post-larp workshop that the roles were incredibly hard on them. Still, not once did they complain about the experience.

#3 Safe adrenaline

I’m not just talking about fighting – although that can be fun – but also flirting, fearing for your life and other brilliant “synthetic” feelings. If a larp is done properly and your co-players are great (happens regularly to me – if you’re reading this, thanks!) – the excitement feels more than real. In the end, if the feelings are strong, it doesn’t really matter than the context is safe – although, with larps, things are never as controlled as in a laboratory, no matter how much the game runners try. (And trust me, we do try.) Sometimes this can turn on the bad side – especially when your co-players are as involved as you – but most of the time it’s for everyone’s benefit.

#4 More connections with people in the flesh

You can live as the world’s biggest recluse, but you still can’t avoid playing with other people, at least not in typical larps played worldwide. Although the best bonding – sometimes for life – usually happens after an event, you can’t ignore the possibility of meeting a bunch of new people – even better, bunch of new geeks – during a game. You don’t have to befriend them – no one’s forcing you. But you don’t have to deny the opportunity to get to know them, either.

#5 A hobby to bind them all – hobbies, that is

Every creative, personal and professional skill you’ve ever ever had can be used in larping. You sew? Brilliant! (Just make sure you start charging people early enough, so you don’t end up using all of your free time on other people’s projects if you don’t want to.) You build computer networks from scratch? A friend has recently tried to design a brand new network on a couple of ancient machines for a sci-fi larp he was running… Your passion is bookkeeping? Weave a serious passion towards numbers into you character’s backstory and you can be the most believable medieval clerk ever.

#6 Yet another thing which makes you unique

Of course, being a larper in a group of friends where everyone’s one, too, is nothing special (lol, it almost sounds as if it were a prestigious thing – or maybe a disease?) – but being a larper at your day job, or in your family, or at school – yeah, that’s something unique indeed. I’m sure there’s people trying to conform every day and everywhere. But among larpers I know there’s not that many. Sometimes it feels like it’s a secret you get to share with only a few select friends. (And if you think I’m kidding, try explaining larping to a complete outsider. True, it’s not as hard as explaining, err, steampunk. But it’s not that easy either.) Sometimes – especially when a longer larp is getting heavy, or you’re in the middle of a random Monday seriously sick with PostLarpDepression – it’s like this thing you really want to share with your co-workers, but you really can’t, and you’re sick of your life and sick of larping and why did the weekend have to end…? But, sometimes, it’s just another proof that all of us are completely and beautifully unique just as we are.

For some of us, that “who we are” also means being a larper.

So I’m taking this Full Moon Friday – Valentine’s Day, no less – to appreciate my fellow larpers all over Croatia and the world and to wish you a very, very larpy month ahead. The 2014 outdoor larp season’s almost begun… May it be as awesome as you are.

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