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Title: A 'shoot-out' at the Hyatt Morristown... all in good fun

Source: nj.com, July 14th 2009

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A 'shoot-out' at the Hyatt Morristown...all in good fun

by George!
Tuesday July 14, 2009, 5:40 PM

Meet the LARPS: Dexcon 12 in Morristown

We're still not sure exactly how LARPs work, even after watching one for hours at the Hyatt Morristown over the weekend. But whatever the mechanics...these Live Action Role Playing games sure looked like fun! The video above (8 mins.) has highlights from our webcast of what must go down as one of the hotel's most colorful conventions.

This particular LARP--short for "live action role-playing" game--was called "Deadlands," one of several such games at the Dexcon 12 convention that ran from Wednesday through Sunday.

"Deadlands" is a futuristic cowboy tale set on a dirigible, inspired by a tabletop game from a New Brunswick-based consortium called Fish Devil.

There were over-the-top costumes, toy six-guns, hysterical over-acting and lots of make-believe for eight straight hours, stretching from Saturday into Sunday's pre-dawn. Pixy Stix, potato chips and soda fueled the event. No victors were declared; as a great LARPer once explained, "The play's the thing."

Or, as Jeff Marrow of Cedar Knolls put it:

"Sleep is for the weak!"

Jeff, 32, works as a factory inspector in Cedar Knolls. A friend introduced him to LARPs when he was 19, and now he participates in role playing games every week at Tower Games in Denville.

"I get to channel all the bad stuff I go through in a positive way," he said, adding that LARPs--which assign each player statistical values that shape his or her behavior--actually have improved his math skills.

For "Deadlands," Jeff portrayed a menacing storyteller who toted a shrunken head. But this hobby has kept him out of trouble in real life.

"I knew people who were doing bad stuff. I wanted to get away from it, but I didn't know what to do," he said. "People think this is geeky or crazy. But there are a lot worse things in this world that you could be doing."


Lauren Seyler, a Rutgers graduate student studying oceanography, brandished a toy rifle.

"It's fun to play dress-up," she said. "It's like playing Pretend, but with rules."

Lizzie Stark of Edison has been following players of "Deadlands," "Knight Realms" and "L5R" (Lord of the Five Rings) at conventions for 18 months, for a book about LARPs.

She said the first LARP was hatched in Maryland in 1977. The pastime has spread around the world. Premises for some games come from production companies and books. Other, like Knight Realm, are "home brews" cooked up by players.

Crucial elements--who lives or dies--can be determined by rolling dice, pulling cards from a deck, or even resorting to rock-paper-scissors, Lizzie said.

She described "Deadlands" as a gothic wild west tale set on an airship, where everyone is gassed into unconsciousness.

"There's next to no script. A lot of it is improvised," Lizzie said.

Gary Escabedo manages a movie theater in Denville. LARPs enable him to do "goofy things you never see in movies," he said.

"You meet cool people, dress up...it's one of the most entertaining things I've ever done."

"It's like a release," said Amanda Suralik, a communications student at Rutgers. "It's nice to get out of your boring life and play someone else."


Megan Whiting was having an especially good time, playing a bounty hunter with no magical powers. She tumbled on the Hyatt carpet and waved her six-gun at anything that moved.

"It's like make-believe, only you never grow out of it," said Megan, an environmental science student at the University of Maryland.

She considers LARPing more fun than theatrical acting because "you make it up as you go along."

While video games like "World of Warcraft" and "The Sims" also appeal to her, LARPs offer more personal interaction and camaraderie.

Between "L5R" and "Deadlands," Megan logged about 12 hours of LARPing over the weekend.

"In everyday life, you get to be serious. But you can come here for a couple of days and have fun. It makes you feel like when you were a kid. It's great to be a cowboy, or a space adventurer."


Some more colorful imagery from Dexcon 12 in Morristown

Live from Morristown: The Dexcon 12 gaming convention

Live LARPing: Dexcon 12 in Morristown

LARPing the night away in Morristown

Choirs from Cambridge, starlight movies, late-night LARPs: Another typical evening in Morristown

In Morristown, life is just a game

Let the games begin: Dreamation at the Morristown Hyatt

Dreamation convention invades Morristown...all in good fun

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