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15 Life Lessons I’ve Learned from LARPing (Part 1)

You’d be surprised at how much you learn about the real world by going out into the woods and spending time living in a fake one. For more than a decade now I’ve regularly spent my summers (and some of my winters) beating other people with weapons made of pvc pipe and foam while pretending to be a completely different person. For at least five of those ten years, I’ve been in charge of making sure things are going down, and for the last couple of years, I’ve been full out running things. As a person who isn’t particularly comfortable with large groups, social interaction in general, or doing things that make me stand out and look silly, it is incredibly liberating to have a retreat I can go to, assume the role of a different person, and just be for a while.

You can find the truth of yourself behind the mask you wear when you portray another.

1) Looks Aren’t Everything

In the LARP (Live Action Role Play) world physical representation (Phys Rep) can sometimes seem pretty important. Most players

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This picture is only here as an excuse to show off my awesome new staff.
seem to think that it is absolutely necessary for immersion into the game world, and that is what we’re all there for. Although I encourage players to do their best when it comes to phys rep, I disagree with its importance. Yes, it adds atmosphere, yes it add flair, and in many cases it will even add to the amount of envy you spark from other players. Who doesn’t want to be the badass looking dude with the awesome garb? It’s something that can be used to judge your level of dedication and involvement in the game. However, some of the best and most important role play I’ve been apart of has taken place impromptu in jeans and t-shirts in someone’s garage after a fighter practice, or wrapped in winter coats around a campfire in late October.

 

Look cool all you want, it’s the actual substance of the player and their character that shows their dedication.

2) Reputation is Powerful

In a situation that lives and dies on how people interact with each other, the right preconceptions can really make a difference. It isn’t just when role playing, either. More than once I’ve seen fighters of above average reputation walk through a group of players because they were afraid to face that one person. There are a select handful that even have such a reputation that they can make other combatants balk just by bearing down on them. I can even think of one particular example in which seasoned, veteran fighters have flinched at the idea of fighting him. It’s a definite advantage.

It can be a double edged sword, though. A bad reputation can kill you, too. More than once a player has earned a bad reputation on the battlefield which leads to other players either avoiding them or gunning for them with more force than they should. It can be hard to bounce back from, too. In a system that is driven by the concept of honor, having a reputation as being dishonorable can really alienate you.

It’s important to cultivate the right reputation, either way, chances are players will still be talking about you years down the line.

3) The Classics are Classic for a Reason

Something I’ve seen a lot of is the tendency people have to try to re-invent the wheel. There is a reason that people fought with the same basic weapons from the discovery of tools to the invention of gun powder. Somethings just work well. I always recommend to new fighters that they start off with the basics and learn to use a single short sword before they move on to anything else. For 80% of human history we have been killing each other with a short sword or a spear. They are the staples of warfare. Most modern militaries still train soldiers in their use to this day.

This rule translates pretty directly into everything else in life. Learn the basics, the foundation of what works and build from there.

4) Don’t Let That Keep You From Being Original

In the time I’ve been playing Eldaraenth, we’ve gone from using PVC and Pipe foam weapons covered in duct tape to using some pretty sweet looking things made from camp foam, graphite and plastidip. Someone had to think of it and try it before anyone else, so you might come up with the next big thing. Being different and unique really helps you stand out and shows what you bring to the table. Diversity is the spice of life. Besides when you’ve been around for a while, you’ll realize how annoying it is to have every other person think they’re Drzzt Do’Urden or Aragorn. Ironically, if you want fit in, you have to stand out.

I think that’s probably the tag line for an ABC Family movie.

5) Better to Ask a Stupid Question than Do Something Stupid

The old adage is, “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” Well, that’s wrong. I’ve heard plenty of stupid questions over the years. The good thing is, as long as you’re asking the questions you’re not doing something stupid, like sticking your hand in a fire pit. Yes, that is something I’ve had to remind people, “Don’t stick your hand in the fire, Sam.”

Besides, people like answering questions, even seemingly dumb ones. It makes me them feel smart.

 

Check out Part 2 or Part 3

Published by M.A. Brotherton

M.A. Brotherton is a writer, blogger, artist, and fat-kid from the suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri. He’s tasted a little bit of everything the Midwest has to offer, ranging from meth-tweaking rednecks in massive underground cave complexes to those legendary amber waves of grain. When he’s not writing, he spends most of his time screwing around on the internet.