LARPing: To Boldly Go…
Captain’s log: Stardate 40247.3
At the edge of the Alpha Quadrant, we’ve picked up a distress beacon coming from a nearby M-Class planet. We initially proceeded with a routine rescue response until our science officer discovered it was not only a beacon of Starfleet design, but it was 17 years old! Could it be? The lost away team of the USS Krofft? We would have to send out the away team for these pour souls that Starfleet has waited 17 years for… and bring those people home!
A Star Trek/70s SciFi LARP for 16 people.
This is my newest LARP and will be featured at next year’s DundraCon! For those of you who have never heard of a LARP, it is “Live Action Role-Playing,” or as Joe likes to describe it: impromptu theater improvisation, alternatively murder mystery theater on crack. Imagine for a moment that you are going to act in a production (movie, play, etc.), however when you show up to grab your script you are given a character’s background, motivations, goals, and friends/enemies/acquaintances instead. “This is stupid, I don’t know what to do without lines!” Yes, yes, I felt the same way and had to get a pat on the head from other players at one point as well. This is the part where you take that character’s personality and make it your own, have fun with it!
“But what would Uhura do at a con besides get ogled by fanboys?” That’s the beauty of a LARP; the fluorescent-lit, sleep-deprived, caffeine-run con-goers all disappear and the setting of the LARP takes over the room that you’re in. It is no longer a carpeted conference room with fold out chairs and a flimsy wall divider, but with the proper setting description, props, and possibly lighting provided by the GM(s), coupled with strong characters as well as even stronger player imagination, the room is transformed into our beloved bridge on a Starfleet issue Starship, crew and all. But you don’t have to take my word for it…
Now that we all have Geordi singing Reading Rainbow stuck in our heads, it’s hard to buckle down and get serious about taking on someone’s persona and spending the next 4 hours or so completely in character. Guess what… not every LARP is serious! There are many many themes that go along with each individual game: drama, horror, mystery, action, etc., etc., and comedy.
Comedy is arguably one of the hardest LARP themes to write, but also one of the most fun to play in, when done correctly. It’s relatively easy to take a Lovecraftian theme, give each character dark and dismal backgrounds, twisted families, throw in a murder, some crazy sleeper cultists and ta-da! You have a horror/mystery LARP. But comedy is tricky. You need each character not not only have a good reason to be there, but also each add their own level of humor and fun to a pre-defined scenario… and also not too over the top to be unbelievable. Everything can be silly, but believably silly – the players have to be able to wrap their heads around the scenario to enjoy it properly.
An example of a well executed comedy LARP is one that Joe wrote years ago called “The Butler Did It.” It’s a murder mystery turned comedy when there’s a murder at the annual Butler’s convention. Each butler has his (or her) own set of problems, quirks, and many are based off of cartoon or movie butlers that we would all recognize. That recognition of a character that we’ve seen before allows us to take and expand upon them in a parody-like way and fuel the comedy scenario.
“I still don’t know what to do without a script…”
And that is why most LARPs are also home to veteran LARPers, people skilled in character role-playing (tabletop, not bedroom!), improvisation and a knack for including new initiates. These people carry the game, and tend to play characters that influence a large number of other players over the few hours you are together.
One thing I strive to do in my LARPs is to write every character with the potential to be a strong and influential game-changer. With that, I could give the strongest veteran player the smallest character and they would just go with it, wrapping everyone else around their finger on the way. Alternatively, an aspiring newbie could also potentially take any character and do the same, much to the surprise of “the regulars.”
All that being said, “To Boldly Go” is my first comedy LARP attempt, and I anticipate it will take more work than the rest of the games I’ve written. Because of this, I also anticipate that increased amount of
torture work to show in the finished product and hopefully to the players as well! I don’t want to give out any spoilers in the event that you’ll play in it in February, but imagine a Star Trek/cheesy 70s SciFi mashup (I’m not going to give away what it’s mashed with… not potatoes…) that promises fun and hilarity for the full 4+ hours.
If you haven’t played in a LARP before, I highly recommend finding one in your area to be a part of. And I don’t mean the boffer-weapon, SCA, out-in-the-woods-throwing-bean-bags-at-a-fake-dragon type of game. I mean the invigorating and imagination provoking impromptu theater production, or murder mystery on crack type of game. Hell, there are even paintball teams that give out character sheets and war against one another. If that’s not LARPing (albeit in its most mainstream sense possible) I don’t know what is. Regardless of what avenue you take, if you’re a fan of role-playing get out and find a LARP. If you don’t like it, so what? You tried something new. You never know though, you could get sucked in to the fun and fantastical world of LARPing. But in the immortal words of Geordi La Forge, “you don’t have to take my word for it…”