On Larp and Community

Content Warning: I will be speaking about a traumatic death in my family. Please do not feel the need to read this if that is upsetting to you. The story has a good message, I think, but I do not want anyone troubled by my telling of it.


I am coming up on big anniversary for me, which is a sad anniversary, but also in a silver lining, bittersweet, sort of way is also a happy anniversary.

 

I want to get the sad anniversary out of the way so that the awkward part is over and we can move on to the happy part, which is the moral of the story, but needs the sad part for context.

 

Ten years ago in September my mother died in a very sudden car accident. I did not get to say goodbye. I did not get to process it in anything resembling a healthy way. I was a disaster for a long time.

 

I was the oldest of three, I was also an adopted child, and my younger brothers were her biological sons, their father was out of the picture, and as I was over eighteen it all very suddenly fell on my shoulders.

 

(Awkward part over, thanks for sticking through it!)

 

I had begun Larping a few months before, the first game I tried was not a good fit for me, but I had just begun a new campaign with a whole new group of people over the summer. By the second event in August I was so impressed by the community that I had convinced my two younger brothers to come. My youngest brother was sixteen at the time, so our mother had to sign a permission form indicating that I would be responsible for him. A four-hour bus ride from Maine later and he was finally at his first LARP!

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This is probably the earliest Larping photo of all three Gnolls. (It’s from a Be Epic steampunk larp in the spring of 2009) Middle Child Gnolls is extremely sun sensitive, so he wears almost complete skin coverage. This was taken early on a Sunday morning and you can see it in our grump faces.

 

Then, of course, September came, and everything changed for us. I dropped my life, my apartment in Boston, and moved back to Maine as I was now the default legal guardian of my brother and tried to figure out how I was going to keep us all afloat. I didn’t forget about Larping, but it was no longer prevalent in my mind, and I probably would have quit altogether. 

 

However, something amazing happened. This community of larpers, the Be Epic community, who I had known for only the span of two weekend events quietly and without fanfare or expectation pooled money and time and sent a gift up to us, groceries and lots of frozen prepared food. It was a stunning and extremely needed offering, as our mother had been a struggling single parent working factory jobs, we were not left in a great situation. I was floored. 

 

I had never been a member of a community that would be there for each other like that. I didn’t grow up in a religious setting or have a large family support network. I had been an introverted loner with massive social anxiety for my entire twentyish years of life thus far, and this action of these people who I had NO IDEA cared about me at all made me realize that I had found my people. I had found something I didn’t know I needed all my life. I found a home.

 

And a home it has been for these past ten years. My youngest brother is now on the Board of the organization that essentially helped raise him, and he is the Game Director of the current campaign it runs. That little bit of kindness shaped who we have become as adults in a way I do not think I can ever measure.

 

I love my Larp Family.

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I don’t have a good photo on hand of all three of us now. But this is fairly recent of Cory and I.

“When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.”

― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

When I came to realize that this spring marks my official ten years of LARP-iversary, I did a lot of thinking about how I have changed as a LARPer, the various experiences I have had, and where my future lies in the community. Over several months I have been jotting down thoughts into a journal about larp theory, my experience, the changes I have seen in the world of LARP and I am now in the process of organizing all of those ideas and stories, memories, and critiques into something I am excited to share.

In these ten years, I have been a player, I have been a staffer, I have directed my own game and many little roles in the middle. I have done boffer larp, theatre larp, and other more experimental designs that lie somewhere in between. LARP has caused me to hone skills I had before, and pick up new skills I never dreamed I would love. I have seen a lot of drama, a lot of breakdowns in communication, and a lot of failures. I have also seen beautiful friendships blossom out of this shared experience, people grow and evolve their ethics based on the challenges presented in fiction, and I have seen people successfully use social tools they attained through LARP to get them through issues in real life, be it public speaking, or conflict management, or social anxiety, the list is incredible. LARP is a valuable mechanism for fun, and for growth, a creative outlet, a social network, a community.

 

 

A sampling of some of my personas throughout the years.

Sometimes I hear people say “I have been LARPing for fifteen years and this is the way we have always done it, so it’s the RIGHT way.” I have always found those people to be a little tiresome because I find the idea of LARPing the same way for fifteen years and not changing or evolving to be a sign that one is doing it wrong, not that they are an expert. Now I am never going to claim to be an expert, I do not feel there are many LARP experts. I think LARP is an experience where we can all teach each other new tricks, and I think that I may be able to add something positive to the constant learning process by adding my voice.

LARP is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I have so many stories and thoughts to share.