The first and easiest question of any interview is “what is your name,” but for some attendees of the Live Action Role-playing Club (LARC) Phantasmagorical Fling on Oct. 30, the question proved difficult.
“In character or out of character?” said one student, also known as Acanthus mage Angel Nortem. Nortem was one of many Knox students, alumni and area residents who gathered in Knox’s Auxiliary Gym for a night of dancing and role-playing. Although he lived in the Bloomington-Normal area, Nortem came to Knox to role-play with friends.
Knox has live action role-playing (LARP) events every Saturday at 4 p.m. The players create a character and play as that character in campaigns. Because the players dress and act like their characters, live action role-playing has gathered some negative stereotypes. Portrayals of LARPers, like those in the movie “Role Models,” show the players as geeky or out of touch with reality, but players of the game say that that stereotype is unfair.
“It’s more like improv acting with character interactions and game rules,” senior and LARC president Owen Kerschner said.
The club gathers each Saturday to play. Each week’s game is self-contained but the choices players make have consequences that may affect later games. The game is guided by the storyteller who lays out the game’s rules, challenges and quests.
At the dance, everyone was in costume, but instead of wearing their characters’ usual outfits, many people had dressed for Halloween. Many players stood talking in small groups. Some spoke with their hands over their chest, fingers crossed, to signify that they were speaking out of character. Others had moved to the gym’s dance floor.
The mosh pits and grinding bodies that typify many dances and parties were not to be found. Instead the dancers moved alone or in loose groups of two or three. Each danced in their own style, which could be anything from a spritely minuet to modern hip-hop.
During the dance, many players were role-playing. LARC is currently alternating between three different games: Vampire: The Masquerade; Geist: The Sin Eaters and Mage: The Awakening. On the night of the Phantasmagorical Fling, the game was Mage, which, according to Kerschner, is the most popular of the three.
The club hoped to attract non-members to the game at the fling, so that night’s round was designed to be shorter and more self-contained than the club’s weekly games, which—including pregame prep time and postgame trips to the Broadview—can last seven or eight hours.
One visitor, freshman Emily Nield, said she appreciated live action role-playing, even if she did not participate personally. “I respect what they do, but I don’t have the time to commit,” Nield said. “I’m an anime fan, so I appreciate cosplay.”
Freshman Ari Bailey—who plays a Moros mage named Lican which means she deals in death and matter—had never LARPed before this term. Her interest was piqued when she discovered the game at the club fair. She has become a very enthusiastic player of Mage, which she described as “surprisingly political” and “very liberating.”
“The whole reputation of LARPers running around campus in costume isn’t true,” Bailey said. “It’s a type of acting. You might enjoy it.”