This will be my third year playing my alter ego Lady G, a medieval alchemist, and I thought I'd share why spending weekends under canvas pretending to hit monsters with a latex sword is such good fun. No, really.
- It's the ultimate in fresh air and exercise. Events start on Friday evening and run to Sunday or Monday afternoons, and the only permanent building you'll enter in that time is the toilet block... if the site doesn't rely on portaloos. You'll be soaking up vitamin D and running between camps sorting out plot, or running away from refs wielding The Plot Stick. Sometimes you'll be running for cover when the inevitable rain arrives, but other evenings you'll be sat around the campfire keeping warm until long after the stars come out. In the immortal words of the late High King of the Faction: "There is no such thing as inappropriate weather, only inappropriate clothing... I'm wearing inappropriate clothing!"
- I can wear a corset with a warm skirt and sensible boots. I'm a bit obsessed with corsets, it has to be said (at last count I had 5 with another on order), but I usually team them with Silly Shoes, a pretty skirt and hoisery I ladder within half an hour of putting it on. This is why I only *play* a Lady, rather than being one!
- There's always live music around the campfire and in the tavern. I always join in. Playing to a packed tavern and carrying the audience with the rhythm is an indescribable feeling! There's an eclectic mix of traditional folk, modern folk, filk and acoustic versions of alternative rock. "Nothing Else Matters" is haunting and beautiful when played like this and I'm working on a folkified version of "Holding Out For A Hero" since the lyrics require no adaptation at all. I'm hoping to debut it at the Bards Competition at the July event... but don't hold me to that.
- There's no technology. Now, I'm sat on a train, typing this on a smartphone, listening to an iPod, having given up reading uni PDFs on my Kindle, so I'm no technical philistine! However, not being able to follow FB, Twitter, email, RSS or anything else for a weekend forces actual, in-depth person-to-person interaction (of the giggedty sort too, if that's your thing) and I thrive on that. Which leads me to...
- Awesome characters. Some of the best LARPers I know are totally different in body language, voice, opinions and personality from their real selves. It's like a BOGOF of making friends. Separation between character and person is an interesting dichotomy and something I'll explore in a further post on RPG-induced-schizophrenia. For now, suffice to say there are characters which Lady G can't stand but players Saffron really likes, and vice versa.
- I mentioned The Plot Stick earlier. Plot comes in two main forms: head-hurty plot and head-hurty plot. The first kind is where your head (or arm, hip, shin, back, or thigh) hurts from being hit by gribblies and having a darn good time hitting them back. The second kind is intellectual, where you are given a problem and need to use in-game knowledge you have, or can acquire in character, to stop Bad Stuff Happening. Never let it be said LARP is a single-dimensional pastime. Lady G much prefers the latter type of plot, rather than having to run around getting sweaty and waving a sword. Really, isn't that what we have Knights for? Saffron, on the other hand, will happily monster (play a disposable character for other players to fight) with much more gusto than skill. Did I mention the fresh air and exercise aspect yet?
- Immersion. Oh wow, the immersion. The system I play is very hot on in-keeping costume and props (but not necessarily historically accurate: we have elves, magic and beastmen, so you can suspend your disbelief right there on that hook by the gate) and people regularly spend hundreds of pounds kitting out a character. It's a real mental gear change returning to the Real World. I'm an escapist at heart, and this Does It For Me.
- Finally there's Spiced Mead, which is truly a nectar from the gods
(All photos are Steve "Flasher" Mitchell. Used with permission.)
This week, Saffron is mostly worrying about uni exams, and fervently wishing she were somewhere else.