As regular readers may have noticed, I’ve been doing quite a bit of LARPing lately with several different organizations, and my curiosity was piqued when I heard about a brand new, supernatural, alternate-history, Wild West-themed LARP in Pennsylvania called Dead Legends. I have a few friends from Knight Realms who recommended it, and my partner Andy was interested in giving it a go, so last weekend I plopped my bowler hat on, gathered up some relics of my steampunk phase, and drove up to Lancaster to see what it was all about. Unfortunately, the reality fell short of its glowing reviews. While the game mechanics, theme, and atmosphere are well thought out and pretty ambitious, the game itself was quite disorganized and definitely suffered because of the staff’s inexperience. There were certainly many elements that worked, and the game could be genuinely great if properly managed, but overall, the player experience really needs to be shored up quite a bit to put Dead Legends on par with other LARP games I’ve experienced.
As some of you may recall, I’ve had a pretty meh experience with the LARP group Darkon over the last few months and was hoping to find something else to fill the elf-shaped hole in my life. Well, good news, friends: salvation has come in the form of Knight Realms, a high fantasy LARP organization in rural New Jersey. Besides having overall better game mechanics, facilities, and cohesive narratives, the social aspects of Knight Realms are much more positive than what I experienced with Darkon. Although the rules can seem dauntingly complex at first, the structure of the game and the overall culture of the community is very accommodating to new players, and after just two events I’ve got a pretty good handle on the system and I’ve been having a stellar time.
I’ve recently become involved with a live-action roleplay group called Darkon, reportedly the largest LARP group on the east coast. Darkon is meant to be a more “real” physical version of high fantasy tabletop games such as Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer. Elements of in-game mythos are taken from D&D worldbuilding materials as well as classic high fantasy stories like Lord of the Rings. The idea is that during Darkon events and camp outs, you can become a fantasy character, escape your daily life, and—within the parameters of the rules—act out any scenario you like. This was what I had in mind when I began attending events earlier this year, but the reality of Darkon culture has proven rather disappointing, in that it relies less on actual roleplay and more on your ability to hit other people really really hard.
As we all wait (and wait and wait and wait) for Catching Fire to open in theaters, we Hunger Games fans need something to occupy our time. In lieu of reading the book again, which I feel will just lead to more disappointment when the movie ends up changing details, how about we get up, get out, and volunteer as tribute in a fun, non-lethal version of The Hunger Games? Get your friends together and try out this playable version created by some campers at the summer camp I work for.
- Large Playing Space- We used a Dek Hockey court as our arena, but any large space will work such as an open field, a beach, or even some sparse woods
- Obstacles/Barriers- If you’re using a flat playing field you’re gonna want some cover, so set up whatever kind of barriers you can manage which will be large enough to hide behind. We used stiff yoga mats set up on their sides but you can use just about anything. Perhaps some folding chairs with a sheet draped between them or a sheet of plywood propped up with sticks. Get creative! If you’re playing in the woods the trees would make excellent cover.
- Ammunition- For our purposes dodge-balls worked perfectly, but depending on what you have at your disposal/how seriously you want to play this, you can use almost any kind of ball. NERF guns would be a pretty excellent addition, if available. Please be safe though and don’t use real weapons. I don’t want to turn on the news and see someone took a spear to the chest (or an arrow to the knee) while playing a live version of The Hunger Games!
- Players- The more the merrier! If you have an even number I suggest making teams of two and assigning districts, but if you have an odd number feel free to adjust accordingly.
- Paper, Pencil, and Container- For the Reaping. Write down each player’s name on a slip of paper, fold it in half, and place it into a container of your choosing in order to randomly select teams.