From LotR to LARP
by, 14/Jun/2013 at 12:00 PM (2248 Views)
In my previous blog I briefly alluded to how the Lord of the Rings and the Plaza were a big part of the person I grew up to be. This is true in many different ways, some more subtle than others. But one of the bigger things I would probably never have done if I hadn't been sucked into the fantasy genre by Tolkien, and which in big part also shaped me, is LARP.
LARP stands for Live Action Role-Playing and the most basic explanation of it would be that it is quite literally what it is called. People who attend LARPs dress up as a character and act out a story. It is all improvisational roleplay; the players do not know what to expect and there's no script to follow; everyone acts and reacts as they think their characters would. In a way it is similar to our forum roleplay; the GMs set up a storyline and the participants play with it. But where forum roleplayers write, larpers do.
It wasn't the plaza that first introduced me to the concept, but it was thanks to the Lord of Rings that I started doing it. Before I found the plaza, I had registered on a Dutch LotR fansite and there I met some wonderful people. Some of them I dragged to the plaza with me, and some of you may still remember Laivindil, Herinya or Eamila Bolger. Anyway, it was through Laiv that I started larping.
I knew it existed, from visiting fantasy festivals with these friends a few times before, but I hadn't actually thought about doing it until summer 2004, when a random stranger I had just met invited me to join her group on a larp called Vortex Adventures. That group was called the Noldor. Yes, Tolkien's Noldor. Here I was given an opportunity to not just play Merly on a forum, but be here on a live action roleplaying event. I was rather excited.
Because of circumstances, I didn't do it. I was a little sad about it, but in hindsight it was probably for the best. Merl as a person could never have lived up to Merl the character, and playing her at a larp would never have been as satisfying as I imagined it might have been. That same autumn I did go to a Vortex Adventures event, because of Laiv. A friend of his was already playing there and at a birthday of yet another mutual friend (this gets confusing, like plaza families) he invited us to join. And so we did.
My first larp event was a bundle of confusion, hesitation and doubt. I had arrived at the terrain where the larp was held fairly late, and play had already started. To keep it simple, I had decided to play a healer. Well, it really wasn't that simple, having to remember my magic healing spells as well as the basic game rules and what everyone was doing. I spent my first night walking around looking utterly lost and thinking back it's a miracle my character wasn't killed there and then. Though I did have a tendency to run away screaming whenever someone ran at me with a sword. :P
It got much better after that. Just like established plaza members take the newbies under their wing and show them around, so did a kind larper help me out of the world of confusion in which I had landed myself. I had discovered a taste for it, and I would be coming back again.
This was 2004. Since then, I have attended many larps, as PC, as NPC, even as a GM and organiser, using my Plaza RPG writing skills to write plotlines for LARP. And just as Plaza helped me develop some skills (such as writing and English), so did LARP. I dared more, gained more confidence. My second larp character after the healer was a ritualist. As a ritualist, you are expected to stand before dozens, sometimes hundreds of people (it depended on the larp; the small ones were 60 people max, the largest 400 or more) and speak. Do a dance. Sing a song. I did it to challenge myself; I was incredibly afraid of talking in public and LARP was a kind of safe environment in which to try and fail or succeed without too many consequences. It was a way to explore the possibilities and extend limits. I'm not so afraid of public speaking anymore. ;-)
It has also gained me many good friends, and a wonderful and loving boyfriend. The Dutch larp community is in some ways akin to the Plaza community; a relatively small group of like-minded people that share at least one common interest and often many. And just as on the Plaza, they come in all shapes and sizes; from teachers to surgeons, from retail workers to IT people. Sometimes I think I am blessed with three homes in this life. One, my first home, the place I was born and where my parents still live. Two, the Plaza, where I grew up (a little ;P) and learned of the world. Three, my closest larp friends, who are always in for a good game and a laugh.
I guess the point of this tale is, LotR can change your life in more ways than one. How has LotR made changes, little or big, in your life?