What is LARP?
Live Action Role Play.
An offline, real life, physical, MMO where you suspend disbelief and play act all weekend. It is similar to Improv. drama where the story is created as you play. You play a character, others play characters and nearly anything can happen within the rules and settings.
I love and do Curious Pastimes in the UK.
I talk about my time in LARP.
How it all began
I first encountered LARP last year when hunting online for a costume for a ball. A quick Google search discovered LRPstore had what I needed. To get a cheaper price I “liked” the website on Facebook and got a small discount. Job’s a good’un. Soon later my trusty pistols turned up and I was ready for the pirate ball, all was forgotten.
Fast forward to a few weeks later. I’d just finished work and was ready for a solid weekend of playing StarCraft II. I notice a plea on the Facebook of my new like:
“Please, is anyone going to CP Event 2 2012, who could help me set up my stall?”
I thought, “Why not?” and offered my services. I knew of LARP from one place and one place only…
I started as a Dark Ages reenactor, re-enacting the glorious Vikings, Saxons and Normans about 11 years ago. I fought weekly for around 7 years. I slowly worked my way up to events across the UK and I, like most reenactors, turned my nose up at the “kids that played dress up”. I USED REAL WEAPONS….
In fact… here I am at a training session at the back of the line where you can see the damage done to the shield from the metal combat.
I’m the one with the blue shield.
And me looking awful in the pass-me-downs with my little nan:
My nans tiny.
You see, I was a proud reenactor. I LOVED fighting and for whatever reason I was good at it. I actively trained, I practiced weekly and I attempted to be the best.
I figured if I went and “watched” LARP or tried it and it was bad, I’d just work all weekend on the LRPStore stall. If I liked it, I’d get stuck in.
I was asked by Richard of LRPStore If I had done LARP before. After a brief pause to my reply he offered me some kit to use and assurances I’d have fun. I agreed to meet with him and he picked me up on route to Curious Pastimes. I had one night to read the rules. I’m a gamer, I love video games. If you are a LARPer reading this then you’ll figure from the rest of the site here I’m actually REALLY big into games. In my fair share of games I’ve played RPGs, I know all about GMing, roleplay and I pride myself on my story telling abilities.
I read those rules like a demon. In fact, I sat up all night reading rules and getting fairly excited with ideas of what I could be. I had no solid foundation, or expectation… in fact I was clueless.
I decided, like all newbies, to go as “Alex” but with a new name. I pulled a name from my own homebrew worlds and stories and played “Karvok Beltharn”. The story was simple: I was a warrior, banished. Karvok found himself on a boat, when a stormy night ended him up in the world of CP. Simple. I knew my backstory and that’s all that mattered: I was a mercernary trying to make do.
I packed up my chainmail, gambeson and, casting the look which would turn out to be the final look at my metal weapons, I headed out of the door to my first LARP session.
That’s me in my chain.
My First event at Curious Pastimes and my mental shift stage 1.
I borrowed weapons, trousers and was looked after by the Mercenaries. When I say I cannot really remember what I did, it’s the honest truth. I was run ragged. I was hired by a mage to protect him. I was accepted into the Teutonian faction due to my martial prowess in battle. I was tasked to look after Lucius, a battle mage that made a terrible first impression and seemed to disappear if I blinked (this mage later on became a very good close friend in and out of the game). I was attacked by the undead and invited to join a Brotherhood of warriors. I had daemons, wards and more ghosts of the dead attacking left, right and centre, and I fought in battle at the front lines.
I can say it was the most welcome I’ve ever felt. I had people offer me food, seating, water, kit, weapons, clothes and the most important of all friendship.
On the first ever night, I felt like a wally. I felt the most stupid I’ve felt in a while. I was walking down a path in full chainmail, my latex sword in my belt, my latex shield on my arm. I was Karvok, a mercenary. I was… wait a minute… at a scout camp with a bunch of grown up adults pretending to throw magic around whilst hitting each other with plastic/latex weapons. What… would… people… think?
You know what? By the next day, I was running about, roaring, fighting daemons that attacked the gate, shouting at enemies, and I felt like I belonged. Fuck what people think. This is FUN.
I remember my first mental shift and I remember it clearly. I was hired by a mage, a powerful mage, a rich mage and a drunk mage all rolled into one. In fact my first encounter with him was when I bumbled through arranging a higher-than-usual daily wage to bodyguard him all event. I remember…
“And you are worth that MUCH!?” he hiccuped.
“Yes” I affirmed with a curt nod.
He eyed me up, sniffed and stuck out his hand with 4 silver pieces… twice the normal rate. I talked to him about his life, his encounters, his magics and the world. It felt like real life but we were very much in the fantastic world of Curious Pastimes. Yet… I had no idea how fantastic this world was.
I stood at the gate. My moment of mental shift. Eying up a charging wave of red-faced imp like daemons. I stood my ground and got ready to fight.
“YOU FEAR!!” screamed an imp in robes pointing at me.
You see… in CP the realms of magic and monsters as well as players have the ability to cast spells. All 6ft’3 of me wearing the biggest, toughest armour with the biggest shield make an easy target for spell casting, and after hearing “FEAR” I was running away from the lines at full pelt. The mechanic works that if I cannot resist it, or if the spell is resisted for me, I have to run and/or cower for 30 seconds. I – having room to run – ran in terror. It was at this moment when I looked back at the gate after the fear wore off, what I saw switched me from “Me playing a character” to “Me as the character.” The Red Mage, MY mage, the one who paid ME to bodyguard him was getting advanced upon by three monsters. I snapped. I charged and I roared. I was told after that they’d never seen someone in 22kgs of steel chainmail move so fast. I cannoned into them slashing my blade, blocking blows and downing all three with a roar.
As it finished I stood as Karvok and turned, naturally, without thinking and bowed my head to my employer. I had almost failed him… and that would not do.
My first “Real” Character and the CP world.
After such a great event I emailed my re-enactment group and told them I quit. I sold off my gear (minus my sword which sits behind me still now) and became a proud LARPer.
I decided to scrap Karvok, as he was me, and I wanted to RP. I had seen mages, wizards, Vikings, shamans, pirates, orcs, ogres, trolls, Romans, Celtic warriors, Oriental beasts, mystics, knights, paladins, gladiators, elves, spearmen, jesters, goblins and beastmen. I could go on…. but you get the picture.
You see, Curious Pastimes is set in a world of High Fantasy. The world is split into factions with players sitting themselves in groups which are essentially geographical in origin. Thus they will draw the vast majority of their members from a specific area of the known world. Each Faction has its own distinct ‘personality’, to which each member is expected (to a greater or lesser degree) to conform.
Check out the links direct to CP for more information but to get an idea you have:
- AlGaia - Pagans, Elven, Skirmishers, Religious.
- Fir Cruthen - Celtic Warriors
- Jhereg - A mix of shady bastards
- Lions - Albion, Excalibur, Britons
- Steppe Alliance - Nomads, Mongols, slightly Russian
- Teutonians - Germanic, Roman, slightly Russian, like the Undead
- Wolves - Vikings, Norse
- Mercenaries – Anyone
- Akesh – Persian, Arabian
Players choose a “faction” and follow a slight OOC schedule. At 2 hour slots each faction rotates to give each other faction a “monster” slot. You’d take off your kit, put on black or generic kit and play a “monster”. It could be undead, an orc, a samurai, a vampire, an ogre, a dryad, human traders, spys, ninjas and so on… It can be anything and it is a GREAT mechanic to learn plot, experience different character designs, meet people, meet factions, see story and generally a good excuse for a scrap without a long term threat to your own character.
You see, a full day has play from 10:00am to 2:00am. It does not stop, it does not pause, it is constantly In Character. For just 2 hours you may have to monster and I’d encourage to volunteer.
In the RPG side of the world each character has a set number of skill points. Skill points are gifted at character creation where you build you character. After this you may get a “Veteran” pick IF you survive the event called Renewal. Otherwise the rest of your progression is dependent on your roleplay.
I decided to make a man of no faction and try various factions, but I decided to come from the woods. I wanted a wildman who possessed the ability to speak with the spirits. I wanted a powerful caster but a caster who could fight with sword and shield. I juggled my skills and went for a “squishy” character with Shaman 2. I opted for Sword, Shield, Shaman 2, Light Armour and Throwing. You can check out the full list of skills, costs and such here. The amount for a new character is limited to 20.
I became the 2 hit per location wildman known as Sèitheach (pronounced Shay-uck).
I wandered about the world, grunting with a growl and speaking with a gravelly tone. I would act ignorant, drop money on the floor, refuse to shake hands, ignore greetings and respond to everything at face value. I was a man who had only ever dealt with minor trade and had literally lived in the woods. It was GREAT fun and I really really enjoyed it. I had no real goal, and no idea what I wanted to do with the character but I knew one thing: I enjoyed playing him.
My first character
And the one thing that makes CP stand out… I can die.
To write all about my kit creation which cost around £35 in total (faux fur, scissors and hats) character creation, ideas, times, events, etc etc would take hours… so lets move on.
Ignoring of course my excellent shield, sword and spear from Saxon Violence.
Sèitheach and the Wolves and my mental shift 2
The event that inspired this blog post.
I went as Sèitheach and was ready. I had decided pre-event to go to the Wolves and join them for the event. Get to know them, fight alongside them and see if I enjoyed the company. You see, while Sèitheach was my first “real” character, I still had no idea where I wanted to go. I had enjoyed the Teutonian people, but It didn’t feel like the right place for Sèitheach as a character.
I arrived at the Wolves and wandered about, greeted a few and asked them all questions. I felt In Character. I never felt like I was “Alex playing a character”… I felt like “Sèitheach”. It may be hard to understand as it is to explain, but if you’ve roleplayed or been immersed in a really good book, you’ll know that you lose track of the other reality and simply enjoy.
I met fighters, admired ladies and drank beer.
The story was that the Mempo, oriental orcs similar to Samurai, were attacking the area. I did not understand the full story, but from what I learned it is an ongoing plot arching over many years. The Mempo came to the Wolves and challenged the faction to duels. Various wolves stood and fought the samurai one-on-one. Some won, some lost. It was at this point Sèitheach felt it was time to make himself known.
He strode forward.
“Ugh, I will fight” he grunted, his tones guttural and tribal.
“Oooh, okay!” snapped the Mempo and motioned to his men.
Two Mempo warriors stepped out ready to fight.
“Nooo, just one!” the general shouted.
I held up my fingers as a two and said.
“No, two is fair” and grunted.
The Wolves cheered, the General laughed and two Mempo warriors stepped up.
I downed them both.
The Wolves cheered louder and the General bowed his head in respect.
“Now three” I grunted before much else could be said.
I downed two, but the third got me. It didn’t matter. I had made my mark.
Photo by Steve “Flasher” Mitchell, me fighting the Mempo
I as a player felt great. I was happy. I started chasing plot, I understood a little about the world in CP and I was buzzing. I had stepped out of my comfort zone, I put myself in the spot light, I had gambled and I had failed… but I tried. I was seen as proactive, and this is the one piece of advice I’d share with any newbie.
You see I think it is important here to mention another system. I attended a very similar system which held no threat, no danger, no real risk and the plot was almost impossible to find. I even became a shadow to a faction general and yet I still could not find plot. The game was a very different game. A game where it was almost so open, so free, that players themselves were expected to set the plot and amuse themselves while the organisers gave the foundation of a system. I intend to try this other system one more time, some may figure out, but I’d prefer not to name the system just yet. I do not want to create an SEO link for the system which I regard as “bad”. There, I said it.
Curious Pastimes, on the other hand, is awesome. It has has plot everywhere and that I was willing to demonstrate that I was ready to RP, I had it falling over me.
It was at this time I had my mental shift. I stopped worrying, I felt confident. I was my character, I was not Alex. I was in the world of CP and that… was amazing. From this point I have no worry about any character I want to play. I have no worry about if I’ll have fun, or if my character will “work”. It’s more about just doing it. Just getting on with it as another life. It’s a LARP’ers mindset.
Why should you go to Curious Pastimes
It easily caters to both sides of the coin as it is great for newbies and it is great for veterans to LARP.
While newbies get a friendly, welcoming environment, with access to help, assistance and encouragement to get involved, veterans will quickly understand the goings on and find plot constantly rewarding the active roleplayer with the system of “risk vs reward”.
The physical sites I’ve experienced are great, with a big battlefield in a woodland or clearing. There is a dirt track/road in a loop with glades and entrances for each faction. The natural land easily gave an enclosed feeling, and each area lends itself to providing immersion with ease. Events are held around the UK at various locations providing even more immersion by mixing it up.
The rules, system, GOD and refs are fantastic. All experienced, I can say in both battles I’ve been guided carefully by a ref I didn’t see who protected my back against a tree stump or even stood over my dying body to ensure I was not stamped on. They melted away when required and stood out like beacons when required. Refs floated around following huge monsters and acting out roleplay commands, and this was only the battle.
I stood in a camp and a ref would appear behind me and whisper plot to me. Another time I was trying to figure out why a stone would teleport into a person’s hands by casting spells and checking out the item. Refs stood around telling all the players in the area the results, refs played NPCS, refs arranged interactions and refs made the game work, while the people behind CP created the foundation. I must say the Refs who step up and run the game make it great.
So here is my virtual hat tip to you Refs. *tip* Thank you.
To you refs
The game feels balanced: as a gamer this is something I find important. A warrior is tough, a mage is powerful but cannot wear armour. The two cancel one another out and promote working together. Monsters, NPCS and HUGE Bosses ARE KILLABLE. It may not be easy, and you need more than one person, but the world is killable.
CP is dangerous, your character can die, and indeed my Sèitheach character died last event. I was gutted, sad, and I was disappointed that I never got to explore that character as I wanted. Yet at the same time that is life. That is CP. That is normal, great and I loved it. I was chuffed I got to roleplay my character to be inspired by the Wolves to charge forward in battle that led my demise. It was natural, it was great. I loved it.
CP feels like a world, and any character you design can normally find a home. Design a character then play it. You may die, you may become the most powerful necromancer in the world… but you won’t do it quickly.
What are you waiting for?
If you have done LARP but not CP, I recommend you do it now. Run, quick, GO, book the next event!
It is a world you step into and threat is around every corner. You can play a guard and be required. You can play an alchemist and be sought after. You can play a wizard and be powerful. Each section feels balanced, each faction offers a new world within a world. Each player, interaction and bit of plot overlaps in a wonderful, seamless way.
Maybe you sit in the In Character Tavern, maybe you are roaming the dark scouting for your faction, the risk of death higher than you can imagine. Maybe you are scribbling in a book trying to figure out how to get out of the accidental deal you made with a daemon. Maybe you traded some poison and broke a law of a faction. Maybe you offended the King of the Lions. Maybe you spar with a Roman legionary. Maybe you practice cutting someone up in surgery to improve your skills. Maybe you struck down two fighters in a duel. Maybe you drunk some warriors under a table. Maybe you protected a healer priest in a glorious charge that killed your character… All these things are things I’ve witnessed. All these things happened at ONE event to a few people.
Now I’m sitting back planning my next character and I have too many ideas…
If you have enough money for a big night out getting pissed in town, save that money, arrange transport, get a ticket, borrow some kit and try LARP at Curious Pastimes.
You’ll thank me for it.
To read another “newbies experience” check out John C. Kirk as he plays a bikes to the event, buys his first weapon, wears nothing but tracksuit bottoms and a tunic and at the end of it pledges to join them all. Highly recommended.