When it comes to geek culture, I cast a pretty wide net. I play video games and board games, create cosplay, read science fiction and comics, collect action figures, write, draw, review... the list goes on. One hobby, however, is generally absent from my repertoire: LARP.
LARP stands for Live Action Role Playing. Participants create their own characters, then portray their words and actions in real time. It's almost like theatre. Game masters decide the setting, circumstances, and rules. Over time, improvised scenes come together to tell a full story. Games can last just a few hours, several months, or even longer!
I admit, it's hard for me to describe LARP; I'm still mostly an outsider. I do know that there are many kinds of live action role playing game. Settings can be modern, historical, even futuristic. The entire cast can be human, or filled with fantasy creatures like werewolves and vampires. I've heard of games that are overlaid with numerical systems- health points, magic systems, even combat.
Last night, my geek guy and I were hired to be one-off NPCs in my very first LARP. Woo-hoo, low commitment! Best of all, we got to portray my all-time ultimate OTP: Fox Mulder and Dana Scully from The X-Files. You may recall, gentle reader, that I already have the costume.
The event was the final night of a 4-part tale. The entire game had been set in the X-Files universe. Players had spent previous sessions unraveling a dark conspiracy called Project September. Evil things were afoot involving kidnappings, genetic experiments, and (OF COURSE) aliens. Mulder and Scully were brought in by The Lone Gunmen to provide resources and manpower. We listened to the players, tried to grasp the situation, and sent investigation teams out accordingly. ...We also bickered AND flirted, obviously.
I had been REALLY NERVOUS, but there was no reason to be. The GMs made things very comfortable. They were always nearby for questions. So helpful! Everyone's costumes were super fun. There were wigs, colored contacts, even special effects makeup. The building was gorgeous, too. I wanted to explore the old art school WAY more!
The gameplay itself was surprising (in a very good way.) Many moments felt like they'd been pulled straight from the TV show. At one point, Mulder and Scully dashed upstairs to rescue a young woman from "field neurosurgery." In another scene, Mulder thought the main antagonists were vampires. Scully met him with the appropriate skepticism and horror. I even told one character that "Mulder just wants to believe." Snerk. GET IT?!
There were a few confusing moments. I wasn't always sure what tools I could work with. When Scully was asked to medically examine someone, for example, I wasn't sure if I should make up the results, or if a GM would give them to me. At one point, as a suspect was slipping through our fingers, I asked Mulder, "DID WE BRING OUR GUNS??" Way to go, Scully. Heh. Also, some of the players weren't clear on how much knowledge we had come in with. They cited situations and names we hadn't heard of, then were disappointed by our blank stares. Oops. At least it was all in-character!
The most difficult part of LARPing was trying to balance every individual character's needs. Every PC was the hero of their own story. So, players tried hard to participate in as many game-changing moments as possible. Every conversation was poked into by eavesdroppers. I didn't usually mind, but I found myself getting prickly near the end. PCs had been begging me to interrogate the villain all night. When I finally got there, however, so many people kept piping in and diverting the scene that I couldn't give the group what it had asked for. I felt helpless in a situation where I should have been qualified to help... though I suppose that's Scully's struggle, too. :)
When it comes to me trying new things, I'd say LARP was a success. I got way more emotionally invested than I thought I would. My moments with Mulder were the most affecting- frustration, attraction, even deep disappointment. This connection likely spawned from our real-life relationship. I can only imagine the intimacy that grows between a game's regular players.
I won't be signing up for a long-term LARP any time soon. I have several reasons, but they aren't important. What is important is that I now see what makes LARP appealing. A good game can fulfill players' emotional and/or artistic needs. Plus, it's exciting. I've been thinking about the story all day, and how it could have gone differently at a dozen different points. My brain just keeps asking, "What if??"
In the end, I got to portray my childhood idol. Scully concluded the night with one hand holding on to Mulder, and the other holding an alien-human hybrid embryo named Charlie. If that isn't a true X-Files ending, I don't know what is.
Do you LARP? Tell me about YOUR game below! I want to know what's out there.
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