15 Minutes of Fame: Making the RP-LARP connection

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15 Minutes of Fame is WoW.com's look at World of Warcraft personalities of all shapes and sizes -- from the renowned to the relatively anonymous, from the remarkable to the player next door. Tip us off to players you'd like to hear more about.

Those silly LARPers ... Everyone loves to poke fun at a guy in costume, right? We uncovered a group of WoW roleplayers who have been dipping into LARP (Live Action Role Play) on the side -- and we have to say, the only fun being poked is the excellent variety on the blades of their weapons at their local events. If you're not familiar with the concept, LARPing is a form of roleplaying in which players physically act out their characters' actions. With elaborate costumes, weaponry and character histories, players engage not only in combat but also diplomacy, scouting and simple in-character socializing over a good drink. While fantasy is by far the most common genre of LARPers, historical, western and sci-fi groups get their fair share of attention, too.

"I find LARP both a relaxing and strenuous past-time which stretches me physically and creatively," says Skulleater of EU The Venture Co, leader of roleplaying guild The Shatterskull Marauders and experienced LARPer. "This in turn was to have a distinct impact on my roleplaying in World of Warcraft, and Live Action Role Playing has helped create a solid foundation for ideas and rules for events in which members of my guild have had the chance to participate in. People who began roleplaying in WoW have found enjoyment in participating in Live Action Role Playing with us, while many LARPers I know of have begun roleplaying in WoW as a result of their enjoyable experiences at LARP."

It seems other players would agree. "In a small community, it's very easy for things to become stale, but because of his unconventional inspirations from other forms of RP (DnD, LARP, etc.), Skulleater has become something of a breath of fresh air," wrote tipster Samuel. "I met Skully through WoW and have since met him in real life. He's a great bloke and would have convinced me to try LARP if it weren't for a recent surgery that prevented such activities. I'll definitely be trying it next year."

Main character Skulleater "Kharn Blackeye"
Guild The Shatterskull Marauders
Server EU The Venture Co (RP PvP)
WoWstyle Originally (since June 2005) a casual, average WoW player and raider; now heavy RPer

15 Minutes of Fame: Let's start off with the roleplaying you do in the guild you currently lead in WoW, The Shatterskull Marauders.

Skulleater: The Shatterskull Marauders as a guild are a long-standing war band within the Horde. While Horde politics and power have fluctuated and changed, the Shatterskull Marauders remain a fighting force on the front line against the Burning Legion, Scourge and Alliance. Currently led by the Chieftain Kharn Blackeye, backed up by his warcaller, Yuska of the Darkspear, the war band continues to battle for profit and glory to this very day.

As a result of this, our guild's focus is primarily in RP and RP PvP. However, this has not stopped us from engaging in raiding, and our dedicated 10-man team is currently clearing its way through ICC and has downed 5/11 bosses. The war band has also got links to a former RP raiding society known as Plunda Klub, which holds 25-man raids for RPers and people who generally do not wish to leave their current guilds yet still wish to raid.

Tell us a little about roleplaying on your WoW realm.

I guess the beauty of our community is that not only is there so much going on, but it's small, close and personal. We all know each other to a degree, and stories can be tailored to specific guilds and characters very easily, without alienating people or making them feel that their character isn't welcome or indeed cared about. Patch 3.1/3.2 has also been really beneficial for the community, as Alliance RPers who have fought against us in the past have come over to give the Horde side a try and vice versa, particularly from one Alliance guild known as The Observers. Overall, the small, close feeling of the community has made me feel welcome for the last few years, even when other larger RP servers seem to do more actual RPing. The Venture Co feels like my home.
For all of the newbies out there among our readers, what exactly is LARP?

LARP is generally known as "Live Action Role Playing" and quintessentially can be described as instead of imagining your character or controlling an avatar of them, you actually take on the role yourself -- donning a costume, picking up a weapon and adopting a persona. I've heard it as being described as two different things, both of which really sum up LARP pretty well. One I've heard is that it's "amateur dramatics without a script." You don't have to be a thespian actor to LARP; you can go as serious or as silly as you like. The second description I've heard is "cross-country pantomime," which probably reinforces how silly it can be but also the serious amount of running you could end up doing.

And who do you LARP with?

In some LARP systems and events, there is a system to allow for "groups." These act in many ways like a guild in WoW -- they act as a focus for a community of people with similar aims and themes to work together. I run such a LARP group in the Lorien Trust system, a fantasy system based in the UK. The Lorien Trusts story focuses on a world known as Edjera, which is populated by all manner of fantasy species, along with 10 factions which represent different cultures based on the stereotypical fantasy archetypes. My group is currently based in a faction known as the Harts, whose back story is very much based on the ideas and principles of King Arthur and England. Our group, known as the "Crows of Albion," is relatively young in the faction.

And now you're getting guild members involved?

Last year, I was lucky enough to be able to host a meet-up between me and a few of my guildies at my home. Beneficially, the dates for the real life meet-up were tied closely enough to the biggest LARP event in the country. With a few months allowed for preparation, I was able to help some guild members prepare for the event. In the case of those from abroad, we even pulled together to supply tents and camping equipment where possible to make their first experience at LARPing as comfortable and exciting as possible.

It was quite the experience to see two of my guild members, who had never met each other face to face before, dressed in matching kilts and armor, after organizing the uniform and back stories of their characters between them -- all through WoW. Those who came to the real-life meeting but were unable to join us for LARP have expressly presented an interest in coming next year, and a number of new players within the United Kingdom and outside it have pledged to try and join us this year at some of our events in our group, which is really a "LARP guild," as it were.

So the two sides, in-game roleplaying and LARPing, are becoming more closely tied?

The LARP group and our World of Warcraft community are linked quite well. You see, after I began LARPing, I began to encourage others to give it a go. Similarly, people who I was currently LARPing with, I also encouraged to give World of Warcraft a go by joining the community on The Venture Co. As a result, not only were we able to increase the number of the roleplayers on the server but we were also able to increase the number which joined us last year at the biggest LARP event in the UK, run by the Lorien Trust, known as "The Gathering."

How do the LARP events feed your in-game RP?

In LARP, some parts of a story may only involve a limited number of people, set on a restricted path with a certain objective. On this "linear," they will encounter monsters, problems, and challenges, all the time watched over by a referee or game master.

We as a community essentially took up this idea and tried to adapt it for World of Warcraft, building upon elements not only from LARP but also from pen-and-paper roleplaying sessions. As a result, we were able to create events known as "linear RPs" amongst the community. These involve usually three teams -- one team made up of the player characters themselves, another made up of alts or player characters acting as "monsters" who must slow the player characters down, and a third team which does not participate in the roleplay at all but instead acts as referees and game master, ensuring the story bends to the will of the characters taking part.

While we at first hit a few problems, events have included mysterious plant and soil samples in Un'goro Crater, rounding up escaped prisoners and answering riddles to set free a poor trapped, lost soul ... Oh, and a failed attempt to blow up the Stonewrought Dam.

I am also to believe that one RP guild on the server known as Wings of Reality also has a story which is connected both between World of Warcraft and a LARP system, I believe somewhere in Russia. It is probably the closest I've personally heard of LARP and World of Warcraft RP being connected.

Sounds like you're building more and more connections on your own! Thanks for visiting with us, Skulleater, and best of luck at your upcoming moots and meetups.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- neither did we, until we talked with these players. From an Oscar-winning 3-D effects director to a rising pop singer ... from a quadriplegic player to a bunch of guys who get together for dinner and raiding in person every week ... Catch our 2009 year-end retrospective for a year's worth of WoW personalities.

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