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LOOK BEFORE YOU LARP

By Jeff Freeman

 

A while back, Ed gave me a call and invited me to join him with Gigi, John and Tim for a gaming session. I figure the batteries in his digital pet must have wound-down and he needed an extra player, since they haven't invited me back since that unfortunate episode with FUDGE.

Ed didn't even insist that I show up early, told me not to worry about character-creation and - this really should have been a red flag - told me not to bring snacks. Ed always tells me to bring my own snacks and actually expects me to do it, too. Usually I just swipe someone else's snacks and raid Ed's refrigerator, which may be why he always tells me to bring my own. Gigi eats bits of vegetation that were never intended to be eaten by humans and Tim is just way too big for a person to even think of snack-swiping, but John... ah! Well, John has good taste in snacks. He needs to have good snacks, I figure, just to help him stay awake.

Last time I played with this group, the only time I'd played with this group, John didn't say anything at all. We played for four hours and I never even figured out what sort of character he had, but John shared his snacks. I suspect that he's really quite lonely, sharing his Cheetohs as some sort of ice-breaker in hopes of making friends. One of these days I'm going to talk to him and find out. Or not.

Sounded like the perfect gaming session for me so far. I never show up early, never worry about character creation, and never bring any snacks. At least I wouldn't disappoint anyone.

Well, actually it isn't quite true that I never bring snacks. Once I got the strangest urge for black olives and ate two full cans in one sitting. That's not as good an idea as you might think.

Another red flag that I overlooked at the time was when Ed told me we were meeting at a bar. Usually we'd just meet where we were playing and dive right in. Having some sort of out-of-game social interaction with this group didn't exactly thrill me, but... well, a bar. I'm there. He told me which one and it seemed all right. It's actually a hotel bar, the sort that is popular now that clubs aren't popular any more. A pseudo-ritzy sort of place, full of accountants and computer-geeks that, strangely enough, also have social lives. It weren't like that when I was a kid, let me tell you.

So we met at the bar and Ed gave me a button and a character sheet. He explained, "The button is so that we can tell who's playing and who isn't. This is your character." I pinned on the button, made my way to the bar and pretended to look over the character sheet. I drank a beer, which was probably out of character, but as long as you're LARPing in a bar, you ought to drink something. Just in case some other players were not being as gracious, I had another beer. I also had a cigarette, which is something a person can do in a bar that a person cannot do at, for example, Ed's house. While having another beer, I began to think that maybe I had this whole LARP thing figured all wrong.

The other players were leaving me the hell alone, for one thing. That was an unexpected plus. Also, I was starting to catch a mild buzz from slamming three beers back to back to back. I hadn't caught a buzz while gaming since that nasty olive experience.

After another beer, I began to get into the whole `roleplaying' thing, so I watched the bar television `in character', instead of just watching it as myself. I hadn't bothered to look at my character sheet, but I figured whatever sort of character I had must watch baseball, drink beer and smoke cigarettes basically the same as anybody else. The difference is purely internal, you see, a matter of feeling - and half-way through my fourth beer I was feeling pretty good, in spite of the Texas Rangers being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

The chick sitting next to me was wearing an `In Character'-button and seemed to want to talk, so naturally that meant she was hot for me. I have a girlfriend and this bar-chick had a nose-ring, so I decided to be polite, but gently let her down. I mean, I can deal with one or the other, but c'mon! She picked-up on it right away, and pretended to be interested in the game instead of picking me up. I humored her and pretended to believe that's all she wanted. She insisted, not only was she only interested in the game, but also she's gay. Sure, baby, whatever you say. That's one of those polite games that we hot guys play with ugly chicks. It sounds cruel but trust me, they appreciate it.

Finally, after a long sigh, she started droning on about the game again. I nodded and pretended to care. I'm good at that. She pointed over to a little table in the corner and told me that was her clan, `bout which time this other joker at the bar piped-in and started talking about his clan. Then they wanted to know what clan I was in. Thinking quickly, I explained that I was Bock of Clan Shiner.

You might not get that reference: `Shiner Bock' is an outrageously popular and tasty beer in Texas. I drink a lot of it. Let me be socially responsible for a moment: If you are under 21, or driving, or both, then you should wait to drink until you turn 21 and/or park the car. And you'll want to stay away from Zima regardless.

We sat there talking for a while and the three of us hit it off. Chris (that was the fellow's name) wanted to join my clan right off, and Emily (the so-called `gay', nose-ringed one) just, you know, wanted me. She did a pretty good job of hiding it, though. Before too long, we were all one clan, although they had some drinking to do in order to catch-up.

A little while later, Ed and two other yo-yo's came up and introduced themselves as being of my clan - big laugh at the bar and perplexed looks from them here - and told me the clan leader wanted to see me. "Sure, sure, I'll be right there." I was disappointed that vampires (or werewolves or mages or whatever the hell we were supposed to be) in my clan were so gullible. They actually believed me and left.

Somehow, the Rangers managed to get mathematically eliminated from next year's playoffs. This left us searching for something with any degree of entertainment value. Another round of drinks and the members of Clan Shiner started Getting Ideas.

Whatever plot the people running the game (if anyone other than the players were running the game) had in mind must have been a lame one, because for the most part people were just sitting around talking. For that matter, most of them were in some other non-bar area of the hotel. There were rules for combat-resolution, relying on the old game of rock-paper-scissors instead of dice, but no one seemed to be using them. You remember the game: Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, paper beats rock. We of Clan Shiner thought that was a terrible waste. So after another beer, we each went back to our respective clans and told them that a big fight was brewing in the middle of the place and to come quickly and yadda yadda yadda.

Ed and the others followed me straight to Chris and his clan. We stood there scowling at one another for a few seconds until Emily showed-up with her clan. Then Chris, Emily and I attacked one another, which of course made all of our clans jump in. Within minutes, every player in the place was locked into deadly games of rock-paper-scissors. The Shiner Clan slipped away to the bar as the aforementioned combat-resolution rules were put to the test. We enjoyed another beer.

The fight really didn't last all that long. About half-way through the beer, things started breaking up. Probably the players were speaking to one another as they were fighting and figuring out that no one really knew who they were supposed to be fighting, or why. A new group showed up and demanded to know what was going on.

"Who-zat?" I asked, pointing at the new group.

"Primogen Council", answered Emily.

"Sounds important," Chris laughed. By that time Chris was laughing a lot. I think he was having a little too much fun, or too much beer, or both. Laughing is a funny thing in itself. Pretty soon Emily and I were laughing, too... also pointing at the weenies we'd managed to dupe so easily, which was everyone. Here's a tip: You can laugh at people and you can point at people, but if you point and laugh at the same time, you're just begging for trouble.

A crowd of players stood around the Council whispering to them and calming down. That was lucky, since the bartender had been growing increasingly impatient with the noise and confusion. Pretty soon one of the players talking to the Council turned around and pointed at the bar - at us, specifically - and a bunch of the others there nodded and also pointed. And they weren't laughing.

"Uh oh," Chris laughed, "I think we're in trouble."

Then the Primogen Council descended upon us. One of them rock-paper-scissor'd at me. One-two-three, he hit me with `paper'. I countered with `pencil', using a particular finger to indicate `pencil' that he didn't enjoy seeing.

It appeared that the combat-resolution rules were about to break down and be tossed out in favor of an older combat-resolution method, one that might be referred to as rock-rock-rock (and `rock beats face, rock beats ribs, rock beats stomach' for those of you unfamiliar with the rules of that one). The rest of the Primogen Council over-ruled their member most in favor of using the alternate combat rules, held him back and motioned for us to leave.

Fortunately, we had someone on our side that out-ranked even the Primogen Council, and that someone was already miffed at the LARPers for their loud and chaotic mass-fight. Also, I'm generous with the tips and Clan Shiner had certainly bought more drinks than everyone else combined.

So the bartender single-handedly defeated the Primogen Council by threatening to cast a `Summon Security' spell on them. Now that would have been an interesting fight to see - since security almost always uses the rock-rock-rock method of combat-resolution and never, ever loses.

Live Action Role Playing is probably not something for the general gamer. Sure, it was fun and all... but the hang-over the next day wasn't worth it. I had to call a cab in order to get home and had to wait for security to protect me through the parking lot, just in case any of the players hadn't gotten word that the game was over.

On the other hand, Chris, Emily and I are forming our own Vampire LARP group, except for the Vampire-part and without any actual roleplaying.

Oh, and Football season is here. The Cowboy's offense is out of jail, the defense is out of rehab' and Coach Switzer is packing heat. The `Boys are back, baby!

One of these days they might even score a touchdown.


Feel free to email Jeff at ack@rpg.net. No, really!

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What do you think?

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All of Jeff Freeman's Acks

  • The One True Way to Roleplay, Online: July 20, 1999
  • What Were We Thinking? September 8, 1998
  • Random Thoughts August 9, 1998
  • Run With It! July 14, 1998
  • Background: I'm Evil! June 9, 1998
  • Who Wants to Role-Play? May 12, 1998
  • Playing Without Brains Apr 8, 1998
  • Ultima Online Looked Good Off March 10, 1998
  • The Perfect Game February 10, 1998
  • "INTRO TO RPGs" January 6, 1998
  • "Do I Have A Point?"
  • "LOOK BEFORE YOU LARP" November 11, 1997
  • "RPGs: Then and Now" October 7, 1997
  • Chicks in Gaming", September 9, 1997 (and its Danish translation)
  • The FUDGE review that inspired it.

    Other columns at RPGnet

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