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Title: First person: 'I am a teenage elf'

Source: The Independent, December 19th, 2009

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First person: 'I am a teenage elf'
Chioma Nri, 17
Interview by Charlotte Philby

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Dressing up as an elf and heading out to the woods to engage in battle with a whole cast of other elves, humans and "half-orcs" is not how you'd imagine an average kid from south London would spend his weekend. But if you knew the feeling you get when it is 1.30 in the morning, it's pitch black, you're in the middle of a forest and you know there's a big nasty monster out there who wants to kill you, then you'd understand why. At this point, you completely forget that you're in character and all you can think is: Oh my God, I'm going to die! It's the best adrenaline rush I've ever had.

In case you haven't already realised, getting your head around what Live Action Role Playing (LARP) is about requires a certain suspension of disbelief. To put it simply, it's rather like a medieval version of paintballing, with an element of improvisational theatre, using swords instead of guns, with everyone dressed up as a different character, all of whom have different strengths and weaknesses.

I have been part of the same LARP club since I was nine years old. Our battles take place within a world we've created called Orin Rakatha, which is reminiscent of Middle Earth. Most weekends around 20 of us head out to the woods or to a castle or a campsite and are given a plot, with different scenarios; we act out our parts against a crew who play the opposition in various different characters. Maybe one of our cities will be in trouble and it will be up to us to protect it, or perhaps the opposing faction is getting too strong and it will be our job to bring them down.

Orin Rakatha is governed by a complex system of politics and hierachy, and there are generally three races: elves, humans and half-orcs, with various healers and gods as well. Following a great war, the elves have been split into two factions. Centuries back there was a battle and one of the factions was driven underground. Over thousands of years without sunlight, the elves have grown darker in skin colour and in character; these are evil elves, called "drows". I have been a drow elf since I was nine years old.

Elves are generally clever, deeply political characters with a sense of self-importance. My character is something of an outcast. Most of the people who belong to my club are white, but I am mixed race. While the other drow elves wear dark paint on their faces, my skin tone is naturally lighter, so I have created my character as a half-drow: I am unpure, and not as evil as the other elves.

In our world there are different colours of magic: yellow involves lightning bolts, red is for flames and black is used to make others weaker. The importance of hierachy within the realm of the elves is such that you aim to kill those above you in order to get an immediate promotion. At the moment, my drow is sucking up as much as possible to the high people in order to move himself forward.

As well as my club, which revolves around plot-based scenarios, known as linear games, there are huge festival events where as many as 1,000 people gather in different countries and join a different faction, and do their best to achieve the objective set out for them. The longest event my club, Hero Quest, has held lasted for 11 days, during which you could spend from 9am to 3am immersed in a series of battles.

Most people see what we do as something geeky. When I was younger I wouldn't admit to my friends what I do. But then I realised that it was so much fun that I didn't care. If someone told me about it now, I would probably think it's incredibly nerdy, but once you go out into the forest and get to hit monsters with a latex sword, there's no going back.

For details of how to join Chioma's club visit heroquest-larp.co.uk; or to buy weapons or costumes for events visit darkblade.co.uk

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