Senior Katie Ohlrich, the vice president of the Live Action Role Playing Club, is sipping a Monster energy drink while she wears a pillow under her shirt as part of her costume. Her character is pregnant, and attempting to gather a force that can help the city of Chicago. She places out a call to death mages, prime mages.
Club members stand up and proceed to the center of the set, the second floor common area of Old Main: a space co-opted by the club to serve as a piece in a complex plot currently being acted out in the Chicago Unveiled game. Ohlrich begins to expound on what is destroying the city in the plot, advising the actors on how to go about saving Chicago. She mentions rituals, statues, soul jars, combat experience, “a s*** ton of mana” and “a thing that must go to sleep.”
Every person in the room, regardless of dialogue or onstage action, is part of the plot. Ohlrich may be talking now, but by virtue of the involvement of every person in the room with the plot at hand, there are no starring characters. Everyone here can drastically change the plot or direction of the game.
“I actually became involved with LARP at Knox when I visited the campus for the first time,” Ohlrich said, much more bashful than her character in the Chicago Unveiled game. “I played with the club as a quiet character and was going to sit in the back, but I spoke up and ended up drastically changing the rules of the game.”
The malleability of the story due to the improvised nature of LARPing may be one of the most interesting facets of the game, but what seems to attract players more than anything is the power of embodying another person. In the Old Main common room, there are characters dressed in red velvet robes with hoods pulled over their heads and others with their hair curled up wearing plaid mini skirts.
“I like predators, like cheetahs, lions, wolves … just getting into that mindset, like what’s it actually like to be a predator, how I can put that into a human context,” senior and president of LARP Casey Kizior said. “It’s kind of like writing a story — this is actually a storytelling game. We aren’t these people, but we can pretend to be these people. Stephen King isn’t actually a psychopathic clown thing-a-ma-bob, but he can pretend to be one.”
Before the game began, a pair of players quietly applied their makeup in an empty classroom. Galesburg community members Colin Orondorf and Colleen Ducet,who play in the Mage LARP and ST (storyteller) for the Vampire LARP are preparing for the game tonight by themselves, 20 minutes before most of the other players have arrived.
“It’s a release,” Orondorf said. “It’s a way of becoming who you want to be, things about yourself you want to play up and improve upon … you’re in charge. You’re in charge of your own destiny. You have a sense of power and a sense of freedom. It’s the sense of having something, a person, a character, you have charge over.”
Ducet nodded in agreement and said, “Why do little kids play dress up? Because they want to be like Mommy and Daddy. I would love to be exceptionally wealthy and run a Fortune 500 company. I drive a bus in my real life. Here I can be something I would love to be.”