LARP – or ‘Live Action Role Play’ – has been around since the very first child in the universe picked up the very first stick that had fallen from the very first tree (probably the infamous apple one) and cried “Sir, You are being hunted!”
Certainly when I was at school I remember every Friday and Saturday night was ‘larp night’ (actually I think the locals used to call it ‘freak night’ – how pleasant some folks can be eh? -) Of course the notion of actually paying hard earned paper-round money to acquire expensive cosplay equipment had not yet trickled down the geek mill to reach our UK-based urban jungle and, on reflection, perhaps we did look a little disconcerting; large mob of teenagers wearing their mother’s eyeliner and their father’s welly boots with strange tin-foil contraptions strapped to their backs, wielding mutilated household appliances and chatting nonchalantly about escaped dragons, invading zombie hoards, dark elf rebellions and their next dimension leap as we queued for our fish and chips.
This was urban fantasy come to life – the town with all its parks and play areas (no I promise we didn’t graffiti and drop fag ends everywhere, we were far too busy fighting for our lives), its abandoned warehouses and multi-story carparks, its back-alleys and rooftops, was the perfect setting for our adventures and our imaginations ran wild without the restriction of rules or dice or ‘I’m sorry but your character doesn’t get that ability until level five-hundred-and-nobody-cares-what.’ We’d spent our whole childhoods thus far playing games. We were pro at it. We didn’t need a costume manufacturer, rpg system designer or player’s handbook to teach us how. And we didn’t want to stop because the dreaded bald pate of adulthood was leering its repugnant self over the horizon of our not-so-far-off-future.
Since those days larp has grown up – a lot! – and although I think it absolutely splendid to be able to tootle off to a country manor house, an underground cave system or even acres of fantasy-inspired landscaped countryside and totally immerse oneself in some excellent adventures, there is a small (…oh OK rather a LARGE) part of me that resents paying hundreds of pounds for costumes and camping and petrol and then to actually play the game… it soon adds up doesn’t it.
I’m in NO WAY belittling organised larp events – they are awesome and should never ever stop. Especially they should be celebrated because there are not many places in this enormous planetary playground where extraordinary ladies and gentlemen can safely meet together and be themselves without fear of being pelted with verbal abuse and air-borne takeaways by The Mundanes.
What I am saying is that, as this ‘grown-up-larping’ becomes ever more popular, lets not lose sight of what larp truly is.
“FUN – WITH – BIG – BRASS – KNOBS – ON”
I say this because recently there have been rather a lot of internet posts around belittling people for the inadequacy of their larp attire or their ineptitude at ‘playing by the rules.’ It’s my sneaking suspicion that these comments have come from folks who are new to the wonderful-world-of-geekdom and its all-embracing nature but, nevertheless, I think it’s plain that we need to address this early (and I was happy to see some sci-fi panels doing just that a few months ago which is grand.)
One of the beautiful things about Steampunk larp is its ‘home-spun’ aesthetic that really works well in that genre. Mad inventors make stuff, they don’t buy it pre-perfectly-fabricated from ebay and thus, genuine mad inventions often have bits that spring hazardously apart at inopportune moments. Lord Archie’s intergalactic armour might be looking a bit weather-beaten, but then that’s a mark of all the wear and tear it has seen in space-battle and as for Lady Tabitha Wingship’s crinoline, well she had to make that unsightly repair to the seam when it caught on the propeller of the dirigible she was leaping out of to escape the evil Barron-Von-übertrieben… have you ever had to make an emergency seam repair whilst dangling from your petticoats at 40,000ft? Well have you? Oh … well then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
So strap on your tin-foiled shoebox and grab your welly boots and your spray-painted nerfgun, or garb yourself in your thousands of pounds worth of chainmail and pristine-polished armour my friends, whichever you prefer, and lets smile at eachothers style instead of putting eachother down.
I’ll leave you with this wonderful Professor E song which my son showed me at the weekend and which really captures what I am trying to say here – larp is about grown ups being able to continue having the fun we still need even though we’re not kids anymore. Lets just remember that that is what it is all about and not sneer at eachother because, frankly, geeks don’t sneer at diversity – we celebrate it.
Published on Jun 19, 2014
All In Together appears on the teaSea records double album ‘The Giddy Limit’
Available now at http://www.professorelemental.com and the usual internet emporiums.