The art of LARP: 2 nights with Binghamton’s most magical club

A quest with sorcerers and thieves

There are three types of people who go to this school: people who LARP, people who want to try LARP and people who are lying. LARP, or Live Action Role Playing Club, is one of the most intriguing groups on campus — seen everywhere, but known by few. Whether they’re yelling incantations outside of Glenn G. Bartle Library or having a sword fight in the Fine Arts Building, LARP has a presence on campus that is here to stay. But what do they do, exactly? Beyond the costumes and the combat, the makeup and magic, what is the true art of LARPing? I decided to find out.

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To begin my adventure, I attended LARP’s general interest meeting to find out what I was in for. My first step was creating my player, Giselle, a mermaid-gypsy with a dark past. It would be easy, I figured. It was nothing more than jousting and running around. Was I ever wrong.

The first thing I learned during my adventure was that you can’t just go ahead and LARP like it’s not a big deal. Before I began, I got an 87-page rulebook. Thinking that it wasn’t necessary, I merely skimmed the “pamphlet” and was more confused than ever before. I had powers? I had armor? How would I use these things? Was any of this real? We began our quest, and I learned that the only thing harder than learning to play was playing itself.

My first encounter with LARPing was frustrating. I didn’t dress properly. I didn’t understand how the game worked. As we “transported” ourselves from Student Wing to Bartle, I prepared to use my imagination to its fullest extent, but to no avail. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t become Giselle or revel in child-like wonder.

After traveling to the Bartle basement, I was called forth for my “gypsy powers” to fight the “chameleons.” Less than 45 minutes into the game, I was needed for a solo mission. The only thing greater than my fear was my confusion. As I arrived in the Memorial Courtyard in Fine Arts, I was unsure how to proceed. As I stood there dumbstruck, I was mortally wounded by the swoosh of a sword.

Feeling dejected, I looked for guidance within the club before my next attempt.

“It helps a lot playing a character when you lose some of that inhibition and don’t worry about looking silly,” said Eirik Kunz, a local resident and avid LARPer. “Everyone else looks silly too, and they know they look silly and they don’t care that you look silly.”

With these words of inspiration, I waited for the second quest to begin. We were given two options: go left if you think you’re tough, right if you’d like a calmer adventure. I took the chance and went left.

The call was sent out, and the quest began. As the newbie I was, I forgot to get a weapon before facing the first bandits. Completely defenseless, I hung back, hoping I could get through by sheer luck. I soon made a LARP friend, Thantos, who kindly lent me his sword. I was mortally wounded in the first 30 minutes of combat by an enemy LARPer, but was kindly revived by teammates. Using cunning means of distraction, I tricked my opponent into receiving a hit and losing a leg.

But not two minutes later, I was in more danger. Another player yelled an incantation, and everyone who was not his ally was put under his sleeping spell. I was not his ally and, according to Thantos, the only way I could be saved would be by losing an arm.

One appendage short, I forged on. As the game unfolded, so did the plot. We were on a “museum quest,” venturing through an “exhibit” located in Fine Arts, fighting thieves along the way. This was by far the most I’ve ever seen of the Fine Arts Building, and it was incredible how many student groups were practicing there. As we ran around various dance teams, we met “generous bandits,” who gave us presents that included even their own shoes. As we ventured into the basement, I became unsure of how we were faring.

“Well, I’m going to get out OK, I don’t know about the rest of them,” said Oriax, a half-demon monk from the second layer of hell (the lust layer), known in the mortal world as George Jaray, a senior majoring in computer science. “Got some horns, going to make some poisons, going to have some fun.”

Reaching the end of our quest, we were treated to a skit in the museum, followed by a final battle in Academic B. I fought valiantly, until I dramatically lost and sat down on the side near Harpur Academic Advising. Once the quest was over, we all got milkshakes at the College-in-the-Woods Night Owl.

Through my LARPing adventure, I found not only a club, but a community. I was amazed by their commitment to the sport, and to each other. They get lunch together every day in CIW, and they help each other sell Girl Scout cookies for their siblings. LARP does what LARP wants, and doesn’t care who knows it. For those brave enough to take part, they meet Wednesdays and Thursdays in the Student Wing (room subject to change).