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Title: LARPing: Real Life Adventures

Source: SLCC Globe, November 25th, 2009

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LARPing: Real Life Adventures

By: N.L. Thi

Posted: 11/25/09

Never attend a gypsy party if you want to keep your soul and have a night out that excludes fighting possessed dolls, pumpkin kings, juggernauts or vampires. But, if you're looking for fun, this is the place for you.

Enter LARPing, Live Action Role Playing, akin to Dungeons and Dragons or World of War Craft sans computer monitor and mouse.

Here, people don costumes, from glitter and horns to face paint and elfish ears, carry foam weapons, cast spells with bird-seed-filled packets, create original characters, utilize strategy and teamwork, battle mythical creatures and share real life adventures. It's vast, bizarre and unbelievably entertaining.

"It's an active adventure theater game," says Michael McComas, 25, Executive Staff Officer of Mythic Realms, the Salt Lake chapter of LARP. McComas has taken classes at SLCC and is an Equity Compensation Stock Broker for E*TRADE Financial. He's LARPed 13 years.

Some stereotypes are widespread. Your typical LARPer is in college, lives at home, has weight issues, has never had a girlfriend and is an all-around nerd. Others have even thought they're cultists or Satanists.

Of the 75 people at SLCC surveyed, 62% believe they're nerds. Though "nerd" connotatively encompasses who you'll see, they're much more diverse. There're chefs, actors, computer programmers, entrepreneurs, medical professionals, lawyers, members of the National Guard and pizza delivery guys. Ages range from 10-50. And they don't worship Satan.

Adam Long, Mythic Realm's Update Coordinator, now 24, has LARPed since 2001. This former SLCC student works as a network administrator for Community Nursing Services.

At 6'8", bearing two realistic looking axes, in chain mail, tunic, cat ears and whiskers, Long is intimidating.

SLCC student, Caleb Brackas, believes LARPers are "socially awkward in any other circumstance" except while playing. However, Long whose now happily married, was single before LARPing. Some players LARP alongside spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends and, of course, friends. Joshua Reynolds, 21, marketer at Achieve Technologies, who has taken a few SLCC classes, though single, now, has convinced previous girlfriends to try out LARPing who all had fun.

"It's weird to say a bunch of nerds developed my social skills, but all my friends are here," Kari Keoni, who started at LARPing , admitted.

Outside Mythic Realms, most players hang out together. Long believes anyone who joins could "gain friends for life."

Until he can't physically, Long will continue doing what he loves.

And it is physical.

After my first event NCPing, or non-character playing, my knee was torn up, back aching and legs sore.

My objective NCPing was thwarting the PC's or player character's goals by attacking them non-stop as a lizard, a wolf, an elemental cloud, an enchanted sword, a bat and other mindless monsters.

Crouching amongst the weeds at the park, I waited for the PC's to come down the gravel path, literally about to pee my pants.

The imaginary becomes very real when every single person's in the moment, in-character. With everyone in the zone, it's silly not to play along. As awkward as shouting out "Five Normal" when you bonk someone with your padded weapon may be, it's a blast.

By NCPing, you get an idea of the rules and how to fight for free. PCing is generally $5. Prices range depending on the event. There's Half-Day Adventures, Full Day Adventures, Overnight Adventures, and Weekend Events, during the day or night, indoors and outdoors.

Membership costs $25 at the beginning of the year and NCPing gives you credit for the next event.

While it can be cheap, some choose otherwise.

Long, for example, has spent $100 on make up, $200 on clothes and $300 on weapons. Though it's been pricey, it's "all been worth it" for him.

When I PCed, with my own background story and skills sheet including abilities and hit points, I was still just as nervous. Now, I yielded a long arm, a spear-like weapon about as tall as me.

My favorite event was an "all-nighter" held in a haunted house, Nightmare Mansion. Two rival gypsy clans were announcing a wedding uniting the clans. There was belly dancing to drum beats, guitar accompanied by song, fire eating and juggling.

However, the celebration ended abruptly when the father killed his daughter's lover. Once resurrected, the lover then incanted a spell devastating every single guest, plunging the entire building into darkness and scattering our souls.

During the following 16 hours, I darted through the maze, through rooms with fake bodies and black lights, feeling nauseous because of the strobe lights and, again, about to wet myself.

Though I suck at improv, embracing the fear and emotions, just going with the flow can come pretty naturally.

I wrote eight pages of history for Drenna Eulrig (spell the name backwards.) You worry about your character surviving; in a sense, it is you, this alter ego. Reynolds, for example, created his character to "act out parts" of himself he "dared not try in real life."

Nerdiness is a definite draw to this hobby. However, I've met a motley crew including musicians, poets, writers, actors, athletes and truly brilliant, multi-talented people who are engaging, charismatic, comical and don't hesitate to express themselves. The highlight of my escapades was chatting to the other players, getting to know them out-of-character.

These people have historically faced ridicule but deserve the utmost respect. It takes mad skills and complete confidence to break out of your shell as they do.

As cheesy as "being yourself" sounds, I've never seen so many people do just that. It isn't so much becoming a geek or giving into dorky temptations, but admitting we're all nerds, in some way or another, at heart.

"I think people should lighten up and enjoy playing pretend more. Being a little kid again," Reynolds encouraged.

Students can gain "a new frame of reference, a new hobby, a new social crowd" McComas said, along with "friends, joy, exercise, entertainment, personal growth and adventure."

For more information, check out mythicrealms.com.
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