I am a curious person. I will try almost anything once. So when I was randomly asked by a friend to go Live Action Role Playing (LARP) with her one weekend, I just couldn’t resist the new experience. It seemed interesting enough. I rearranged my schedule and immediately said yes.
All I had known about LARP before this was what I had seen in the movie “Role Models” starring Sean William Scott, Paul Rudd, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (aka McLovin’ from Superbad). For those of you unfamiliar with LARP, it’s a role-playing game where players pursue goals within a fictional setting while interacting with each other while in character. The outcome of player actions may be mediated by game rules, or determined by consensus among players. Basically, you get dressed up in costume and do character “improv” in different scenarios.
Despite what anyone said after I told them I was going LARPing for the weekend, positive or negative, I was determined to keep an open mind. Little did I know that my weekend would involve lots of tears, running away from my friends and lesbian sex games with Swiss chocolates.
Here’s the story of how I lost my LARP virginity. If you have any comments, then please post them below.
Preparing for a LARP Weekend
I was a little nervous, but with free room and board and running around the woods in costume with two fun friends, it was a no-brainer. What could go wrong? And if I could find a Paul Rudd there (one of the stars from the movie Role Models), it would be well worth the 3-hour road trip from Manhattan to a forest in upstate Connecticut. I’ve performed at The New York Renaissance Faire (@nyrenfair) for 4 seasons now so I knew it would be easy for me to act my way through the weekend as the different characters.
I registered as a “cast” player. The “Cast” play the supporting roles to the main characters. The Cast might be a monster one minute and a townsperson, the next. I thought this would give me the most variety and give me a more robust LARP experience in a short amount of time.
LARP Day 1: Friday Night
My friend Amy and her parents picked me up at my place in New York City at around 8:30 pm and we were off. First stop, Amy’s house in Westchester so she could change and so we could meet up with Emilie, the 17-year old that I would be the legal guardian for over the weekend. Soon enough the three of us were off, an odd group of friends brought together by the Renaissance Faire earlier this year. The car ride up was fun. We talked about everything 3 girls would talk about, boys, boys, and boys. Next stop was Dunkin’ Donuts, which was closing as we arrived. Unfortunately, all they had left was decaf coffee! Without coffee and donuts in hand, we moved on.
We arrived at the Pomfret Center later that night. We immediately threw our stuff down, grabbed a mattress spot on the floor and went off to explore and have fun.
We were given a late night tour of the area by a Mythical Journeys staff member (the organization in charge of this LARP) and a very quick lesson about all the important rules. Honestly, I only remember one rule right now: Clarify. When someone says “Clarify” they come out of character for a second and explain something in the story you might need to know.
Then there are the styrofoam weapons. We had to quickly learn the “hits” you can do with these fake weapons in order to “kill” or “maim” someone. If you hit someone’s leg, for example, and say, “I maim you” they have to drop to the ground on that leg and continue to fight until they die or kill the other person. If they do survive, someone with the right powers has to tie a rag around their leg and “heal” them before they can walk again. Now thoroughly confused, and my mind reeling from all the new information swirling inside of it, I was ready to go out into the “game.”
We were all separated into different groups. My friend Amy went off with her experienced friends and Emilie and me, the newbies, were paired up with a third girl who would help us lose our LARP virginity. Amy has been doing LARP since she was 16 and didn’t need the noob orientation stuff.
Amy had paid extra for this LARP weekend experience and was assigned a proper character called Elzymerhlda. Emilie and I were assigned supporting role characters. We were sisters who had sneaked away from the farm in the middle of the night to go to the tavern. Both of us chose our middle names as our character names because we didn’t have time to think up names like “Thalian” or “Vulture.” My middle name is Dorcas. I am sure the other LARPers thought I was poking fun at them by picking a name like that. And maybe I was. But Dorcas really is my middle name and a legitimate name to use for LARP.
We picked out our costumes from a huge stock that they had. So far, so good. Emilie and I decided it would be cute to make me the dumb, younger sister and make Emilie be the nasty, older sister named Miriam, her middle name. Emilie couldn’t resist calling me Dorc for short and we poked fun at each other the entire time.
We encountered all sorts of characters both on the street and inside a Tavern. There were Shaman and animal creatures and elves and militia and the jolly, busty tavern lady who made sure we had clean cups and drinks. Our job at the tavern was to be a rumor mill and spread the word that the Shaman should go back to where they came from. Although we quickly realized no one cared about our rumors and it was a lame rumor anyway.
This was not bad, this I could handle. Emilie and I were really good. We were well trained and knew how to play along. We made everyone laugh! I would like to think we were making them laugh because we were clever, but they may have just been laughing at us. I couldn’t figure out which. I mentioned that Dorcas was a name in Bible at one point and got yelled at, “Clarify, no Bible.” Gah, I should have read the rule book.
Around 2 am, the militia agreed to walk the farm girls home from the tavern. As we were leaving, someone ran from behind me and boffed me on the back with a floppy weapon. I screamed, “Oh God what do I do, I don’t remember what to do.” I decided to drop to the ground and be dead and Emilie, although she wasn’t hit dropped dead too in solidarity. Luckily the militiaman who was supposed to be protecting me knelt down and healed me by tying a strip of material around my arm. I was laughing hysterically the whole time. It was a strange evening, but interesting. Emilie summed it up best when she said it was more like kids playing dress up then acting. We were asleep by 3 am.
LARP Day 2: Saturday
Wake up bright and early at 8 am to eat breakfast and off at 9 am to play the game. That was the plan, only I heard a lot of noise coming from the kitchen (which we were sleeping right next to) at around 5:30 am so I decided to get up and help. I love the Food Network and had always wanted to work in a big kitchen feeding a ton of people. So there I was trimming meat, making the dry rub, cleaning dishes and learning about the LARP culinary arts all before the sun rose.
After a delicious breakfast of biscuits, gravy, and potatoes, Emilie and I were sent off into the game with 4 other girls as “Harpies” (vicious bird women trying to mate with and eat whoever they can trap). We couldn’t talk and had to communicate by making bird noises. Our goal was to build nests for mating, lure people to their death and send them to “fate” (a shed they go to in order to decide if their character permanently dies or comes back to life in the game.)
Here is where this game lost me. I felt ridiculous wearing a plastic beak, squawking around, collecting leaves and twigs to make a nest and getting killed every 5 minutes. Then somehow we were able to come back to life only to get killed again. It was daunting because when I would hit people and they wouldn’t die. I had no idea what was going on half of the time! Were they cheating or did they have special powers that kept them from dying? I kept thinking to myself, “What would my professional friends think of me making bird noises, flapping my arms like a bird and not getting paid to do it?” I had to pretend to eat people as well, “Nom, nom, nom, tasty, squawk, squawk!” Luckily some other Harpie had to mate with a warrior and I was left out of that activity.
“Squawk! Squawk! We want to mate with you… and then eat you!”
After being told over and over again what a “good-looking group of Harpies” we were and dying and coming back to life 3 times, we regrouped and all went back out as secret female assassins. The set-up: 5 drunken girls plus one drunken bride at a bachelorette party equals trouble. Our assignment was to kill some of the main characters without anyone seeing. This time my name was Hyacinth (what my name Italian name Giacinta translates into). We entered the Tavern, downed several shots of green sugar water and stumbled around loudly. No one really paid attention to us because everyone was too into their own storylines to notice.
Here is where things really started to deteriorate for me. This group of girls we were with started becoming intolerable. They had gotten a hold of some Swiss Lindt chocolates and were seductively passing them to each other with their mouths. Soon they were bringing some guys into the action and all of a sudden the story got lost. They weren’t assassinating people, they were making the beginnings of a porn film.
After they tried to pass Emilie a Lindt chocolate, we decided we had to make a run for it. So we waited until everyone was distracted and ran, we literally ran until we were out of sight. We put our foam daggers on our head signifying we were dead spirits and went back to home base.
No one would know we didn’t really die, right? Besides, we were hungry and it was time for lunch. Then we were busted by someone from Mythical Journeys and it was the inquisition.
- Guy: You died?
- Me: Yes.
- Guy: What happened?
- Me: Well we tried to kill the redhead and we were caught and they killed us.
- Guy: No one healed you?
- Me: No.
- Guy: Do they know who you are? Did they question you?
- Me: No, our cover was not blown.
- Guy: Good.
Phew! I felt bad lying, but I didn’t know what else to do. After lunch, I implemented PLAN B and called a friend who lived nearby. I begged him to come pick us up, but he couldn’t find a car. I was done. I couldn’t go back out anymore. I was miserable and stuck in the middle of a weird forest sex game with no way out and surrounded by people who were so wrapped up in their own LARP make-believe that they didn’t notice how I felt. After realizing that it would be too expensive and rude to Amy to get a car service and leave, I wrapped myself up in my sleeping bag and took a nap. It was the only kind of escape I could figure out.
When I woke up, I decided to pull myself together and help out in the kitchen where I knew they needed me. Dinner service came and went and I was proud to have helped cook and serve the meal that we all ate. At this point, Emilie the Assassin had found a cute guy her age to talk with and I needed to find a way to avoid going back into the game.
I decided to take my trusty iPod and go for a long walk in the woods. I found a beautiful hiding spot under a cabin by the lake in the full moonlight. No one would find me here. I listened to music for what seemed like hours. I wrote poems, froze in the wind and cried. The tears weren’t because of LARP, but because I felt alone. I watched people pass nearby on their different missions completely unaware that I was there.
After a while, I was ready to go back. I looked around to be sure the coast was clear and started to leave my secret place. Within seconds I was caught by a group of masked creatures that began hissing at me. I could just tell they were about to “boff” me with their weapons and kill me. But I wasn’t having it. I forgot all of the code words I was suppose to use in situations like these and simply said very sternly, “I am not in the mood. I am really upset right now, please leave me alone.” I could feel their puzzled expressions through their masks. I immediately felt bad. I was selfishly ruining their game. I was a certified kill-joy! I hurried off and managed to avoid any other encounters before I arrived at the home base. I went straight into my sleeping bag and went to sleep.
LARP Day 3: Sunday
The next morning I awoke to find that one of the Mythical Journeys kitchen staff had fallen ill and was rushed to the hospital (she ended up being OK). They really needed my help and I jumped at the chance. I really liked working in the kitchen and learning from the chef. I worked all morning until it was time to go.
The Ride Home
I WILL go LARPing next season for sure, but not as a character, but as kitchen staff. I was asked to come aboard and help out with food preparation! On the way back to the city, the three of us chatted and exchanged stories about the weekend. Emilie had gone out on Saturday night without me and really started to like LARP, but only at night. Amy was able to complete a task she worked really hard on and earn a sword she desperately wanted.
Each of us enjoyed our experiences for different reasons. I went off on this adventure looking for one thing and found another. I am glad I stayed and didn’t run away. This weekend taught me so much about myself, others, Harpies, Shaman, foam weapons (did you know they have foam bows and arrows too?) and cooking. Thanks Amy for inviting me. It was a wonderful weekend and please don’t be mad at me for writing this piece, warts and all.
You can see all my LARP and New York Renaissance Faire photos on my Facebook page.
Thank you for reading my LARP story. If you liked it, then please share it or leave a comment below.