Our First Practice  

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With the wedding finally behind us we now have some semblance of free time (as much free time as parents of a 7 month old have) and we made it a priority to head out to the Acheron Monday practice at Liberty Park.

When we arrived attendance seemed pretty slim, just a couple guys (in garb) with their equipment bags.  Loptr and Burke were completely welcoming and friendly and sharing of equipment and guidance to (very) green fighters.

I've always meant to learn some form of martial art, whether unarmed or armed, but never set aside the time for it.  I lived for about a year with a guy who trained in jujitsu for MMA matches and he gave me a few tips here and there but nothing extensive.  I was pretty much as green as they come.

Burke was good about explaining stances, a couple different guards, trying to get in multiple strikes when you go on the offensive, that you need to keep moving, and throwing shots from your hip rather than just your shoulder. It's tough, especially being so new to it all, to keep all of that in mind, but I like to think I picked up some of it.  I wish we'd remembered to pull out the camera to show my goofy ass flailing around.

Both Loptr and Burke were great about explaining things to my wife and going the rounds with her to give her a feeling for things as well.  They mentioned an Amtgard group that meets on Tuesdays and Saturdays at the park but she really does want hard hitting combat over finesse fighting.

We went two on two with another member that showed up (I'm sorry, I can't recall his name) and I got to try some Florentine style fighting which felt a little awkward but was still fun.  I got a few kills in, though I definitely died more.  I tasted my first good jaw-shot that still smarts but nothing I won't get over quickly.

All in all I would say we both enjoyed ourselves quite a bit and we're looking forward to making our own weapons to practice with.  I definitely look forward to meeting more guys from the realm and putting what Burke taught me into practice.  God I need to get in better shape as well.

My Introduction to Belegarth  

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So Forkbeard.

This guy kept popping up everywhere I looked, with bits of advice here and there and reasonable pimping of his well-crafted wares.  Like Gamhain, he also listed Belegarth as his game of choice.  I think images of some of the stuff he made finally encouraged me to search for the Belegarth site proper.

I skimmed over most of the site and learned it was very much in the vein of Dagorhir. (Which I later learned was the organization it split from after some differences in managerial opinion)  Less heavy on the role-playing, more heavy on the sport and combat aspect.  Which seemed to scratch the itch I didn't know I had.

I had started looking into LARP at roughly the same time I began planning a swordfight for my wedding. (Pirate wedding, wife suggested it and I had no problem with that.)  I'd watched a few videos on fencing basics and had even started looking into local clubs just as I found Belegarth.  I realized I wanted flourishes of fantasy but I was more interested in learning how to fight as well as exercising in a fun way while learning.

So I dove into the forums and lurked, and read about weapon construction, garb creation, armor, politics with other groups, units, training methods, pretty much anything and everything on the first two or three pages of every subforum.  It gave me a good idea of the overall state of the game, where to get or make gear, who were the leading voices (at least on the boards) and who was playing in my area.

These were the guys playing in my realm?  How could you not want to swing swords with guys dressed like that?  Fork looks like a goddamn modern day viking.  I finally decided to create an account on the board and get in touch with Cedric and Magnus to express my interest in joining Acheron.  Of course I did this right in the middle of planning the previously mentioned pirate wedding, when I had absolutely no free time.  I also happened to join the board about a week before Chaos Wars 15 so it was pretty dead while people were making preparations.

A funny thing happened during the swordfight practices with my wife for the wedding, though.  She discovered she enjoyed fighting just as much as I do.

Utah LARP  

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I began my first apprehensive prodding into the LARP world like any good geek raised on the internet, by googling "Utah LARP."

Unsurprisingly, LARP Utah was the top result.  I looked to see how active the group was, browsed through their forums, examined the ruleset, and discovered that my preconceptions of LARPing were partially unfounded.  There were still more goth clubbers and furries than I was comfortable with, based on their image galleries.  The weapons and armor had come a long way, though.  The weekend long campout adventures sounded like a blast as well.

A foam & latex cutlass from Strongblade.com

I looked through some of the other search results to see what groups played in my area and found Mythic Realms.  They seemed a little larger, a little more organized, and their website a little more up to date.  Which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how structured you want your hobby to be.

I generally lurked on both forums and contemplated signing up for Mythic Realms when I noticed a post by a player named Gamhain, where he talked about being an ex Dagorhirrim and that he had joined a local Belegarth realm.  He mentioned Belegarth not being "too huge" on characterization and so he was looking for an additional group to enjoy that part of the hobby.

Through either a thread on the forums, or through a more general LARP search I found a few videos and documentaries about Darkon, Monster Camp, and Dagorhir.  Netflix had Monster Camp streaming so I loaded it up and, while it looked like fun, it just wasn't quite what I was looking for.  The tap-fighting, calling damage amounts and elements in the middle of battle, and spells just didn't appeal to me.  Soft-skilling isn't something I was interested in either.

So I started looking more into Dagorhir and discovered they eschewed magic and opted to use a hit-location based damage system.  More importantly, because the weapons were boffer type, you could hit as hard as you wanted.  What they lacked in aesthetics of the latex tap-style weapons they made up for in facilitating a more visceral combat experience.  I struggled more than I like to admit with the look of the equipment, just because it reminded me so much of the goofy bastards I used to see all the time at my local park.  Duct-taped pool noodles for swords and foam taped to cardboard for shields.

The more I read and watched about these medieval combat, not-character-sheet-driven LARP groups the more they appealed to me.  One thing that I was pleased about was they, too, included the weekend campout adventures but unlike Mythic Realms and LARP Utah there was a decidedly more party aspect to the gatherings.  I get that they want to keep it family-friendly in those groups, especially in Mormon-filled Utah but I was still disappointed when I read the restrictions on their websites.  I had visions of Vikings or Scotsmen laughing around a campfire with mugs full of ale and it sounded like this delivered.  So I was happy to discover other groups that also shared this same vision.

I was striking out when looking more closely at the groups, finding that Darkon was limited to a small area back east and that there were no chapters of Dagorhir in Utah.  But I kept seeing this guy popup on all the different local boards whenever folks would talk about armor, and like Gamhain he also mentioned Belegarth.  Some guy that went by the name Forkbeard.

There I Was, Reading MMORPG.Com  

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The column was titled "LARP & Player Generated Content" by Angela Webb, where she explained her experiences in LARPing.  She also started the column with this picture, which was a very smart choice on her part:

This was the particular quote that got me:

In many LARPs, players have a choice when they attend an event: work or play. When players work they actually play the monsters and the NPCs. When players are the monsters and NPCs, they become the content and that is the purest form of PGC there is.

This is exactly how I started LARPing. At my first event, I was given a boffer weapon and a costume, a few instructions, and off I went to terrorize the town as a level-2 goblin. I had a blast ambushing players on dark trails with my foam weapon that did a crappy two points of damage. I was such a noob. But, I learned how to use a sword, contributed to the fun of others, and figured out some basic rules of the game.

 Now, I've been playing tabletop RPG's since I was 12; maybe younger. (I'm 33 as I type this)  But LARPing was something entirely different.  It was something nerdy drama students did, or poser girls that went to goth clubs did, or social outcasts with no shame did on the weekends at the local park.  They were a rung lower than even me, a tabletop gamer, in the hierarchy of people mocked by society at large.  Hell, I'd recently mocked a group of dorks at the local park that had graduated from LARPing to Quidditch.

But I was getting burnt out on tabletop.  Creating new personas every few months and trying to inhabit their mental space just didn't appeal anymore.  D&D4E played as a straight up dungeon crawl was sounding better and better but none of my regular group were interested.  Then this column comes along and trying out a LARP as a monster focused solely on combat suddenly didn't sound so bad.

I'd either hit the bottom of the gaming barrel or the start of something new.