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Title: They only come out at night—Vampire players write game as they play

Source: City Pulse (Lansing, MI)

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HALLOWEEN: They only come out at night—Vampire players write game as they play
Written by Joe Torok
Wednesday, 24 October 2007

(City PULSE contributor Joe Torok spent some time walking in vampire shoes with a group of live action role players who meet regularly at Gone Wired Café. Here is his report on his time walking among the un-undead.)

For over six hours I became a lazy, disinterested vampire named Hotspur. I lived as he might live, speaking to vampires and humans as he might speak. He was sociable and had average intelligence, a former cop who had been “embraced” into the “kindred” of vampires just a few years ago. He had a quick temper, and he liked to manipulate people.

Hotspur belonged to a pack of five vampires named “The Nameless.” We roamed the grounds of Gone Wired Café on Michigan Avenue, encountering other vampire packs and mysterious denizens of a story created by Josh Routhier in a live-action role playing (or LARP) game called “Vampire: The Masquerade.”

In the vein of Dungeons and Dragons, Vampire: The Masquerade is a role playing game that allows players to create and play a character with superhuman powers or flaws. Players use a modified version of rock, paper, scissors to determine the results of game play, acting out (within reason) whatever actions their characters experience.

“I see it as improv theater,” Routhier says. “You see real actors try to get into the head of the character they’re playing. I think (the game) takes it one step further — we create the characters, then we have to fill the shoes of them.”

Routhier spends hours that morph into days developing a storyline that will encompass more than 30 players. He is responsible for not only creating a narrative thread to drive the action, but also must integrate as many characters as possible into the action on any meeting night.

The group has been meeting for over three years and is just one of several LARP groups in the Lansing area.

While players will tell you there are negative stereotypes that come with playing, few of them care. Some celebrate outsider status.

“If the only other alternative is the mass group of consumer driven zombies, I would far rather be a geek,” says Mike Henderson, 18, our pack priest. His character has an involuntary twitch. At an all-night restaurant after the game, he had trouble remembering he didn’t really have a nervous tic.

I myself had a more difficult time embracing my inner geek; self-consciousness nagged. But despite some hesitation in realizing my character, I felt welcome in the game. When all else failed, I held out my hand with fingers crossed, a sign that I was temporarily removing myself from the game and going out of character — after all, vampires have no bodily functions aside from the desire to feed.

When it comes to game play, there can be problems. People (like me) who are not fully committed to role-playing can become a drag and slow down the action. Others, known as “power gamers,” take it too seriously.

Unlike traditional board games, LARPs don’t always have clear winners and losers.

Competition exists to be sure; Packs of rivals approached and challenged our group, and we did have a mission within the game’s narrative. But “winning” is not the name of the game, the experiential aspect of role-playing is.

The group welcomes new members (must be 18 or older) and Routhier would be comfortable with tripling the number of players to over 100.

“I love people who are new to the game,” Routhier says. “Older players get set in their ways. You can teach an old dog new tricks sometimes, but I love new players.”

Halloween party
Friday, Oct. 26
7 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Gone Wired Café
2021 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing $10
Regular meetings held on second and fourth Friday of every month. $2
(517) 482-0942

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