LARP.. and other stuff

Most of my customers know I’m a gamer. I play online games, I play desktop games, I play board games and I play roleplaying games. I met my husband when we were at a LARP event.

For those who aren’t in the know, LARP stands for “Live Action Role Playing” and if you still don’t know what that is, think of a D&D game where everyone actually dresses as their characters and becomes them for a long weekend when also usually camping in a field with potentially hundreds of other people doing the same thing. If you don’t know what D&D is, think of LARP as a sort of unscripted play, where everyone is playing a character, of their own device, which is created from using a set of rules that everyone follows. There’ll usually be some sort of main plot going on, and you’re free to join in with it, or do your own thing.

Many years ago now, I found myself being “2IC” (Second in command) of a large faction at the Gathering. To explain that a little further – the Gathering is the name of the event, and it’s still running nowadays even though I haven’t been for years. When players sign up for the event, they create both their character, and decide what faction they want to belong to. There used to be about 8 factions (give or take) and each had their own guidelines as who belonged. For instance, if your character choice was a Celtic Barbarian who loved wielding a big axe, you probably belonged in the Bears or the Dragons (Scottish or Welsh Celtic factions). If you were an upholder of light & truth, and perhaps felt more like a Paladin – you might like to join the Lions, or maybe a trader, and be in the Unicorns.

I was 2IC of the Tarantulas. I got the job mainly because the organisers of the event (like many) were a misogynistic bunch of white guys. Let me explain further.. Our faction leader was a strong woman. She’d ideally have liked to have her husband to be her 2nd, but if she’d turned up to faction event meetings (yes, the events were so big, there had to be admin) with her husband, the guys running the thing would talk to him, not her. And that wasn’t on. So she roped me in as her 2IC and radio op (there had to be contact between factions etc). It worked pretty well.

The Tarantula faction consisted mainly of Drow. Drow are a race of elves that are subterranean, and have a highly matriarchal society so having a female faction leader made perfect sense. Now, you’d half expect that Drow should be pasty white and sunburn easily, as they spend most of their lives in darkness, but this is fantasy, and real life doesn’t *often* intrude. Drow, instead of being pasty white in skin tone are actually a true blue/black colour, with silver or white hair. This meant that we had to apply a lot of facepaint (hell we should have had shares in Snazaroo, Grimas and DFX!), and most of us wore long, itchy wigs. The things we do for fun.

Looking back, with what I know now, there was a slight twinge of “oh my god did we just blackface?” But I honestly don’t believe that was the case – we weren’t trying to be a different race of human. Drow were a completely different fantasy race of beings. The Goblins wore green facepaint – the Drow wore black. It was part of the costume.

Anyway, the moment that I am getting to happened one morning as we were all prepping for the day, and putting our faces on. We had a new faction member, who came up to us and looked at what we were doing, and smiled wryly. He gestured to himself, and said “Well, I guess I won’t need to do that then”.

We all paused, and looked at him. He was the wrong colour. His skin wasn’t black – it was dark brown. We handed him a pot of facepaint and told him to get busy with it. The look on his face was priceless. “That’s the first time I’ve not been black enough.”

At the time, it was amusing, but it’s only now, looking back on it, that I realise the implications behind that throw-out line. There had obviously been times in his past where his skin colour had meant he was treated differently. We were refreshing because we treated him the same – he was the wrong colour, but so were we all. No one is actually Drow black, without the makeup.

I like Terry Pratchett’s look on racism – “Racism was not a problem on the Discworld, because – what with trolls and dwarfs and so on – speciesism was more interesting. Black and white lived in perfect harmony and ganged up on green.”

Although I think the goblins probably wouldn’t appreciate it.

At the end of the day, I try to live by a message I understood loud and clear from Charles Kingley’s “The Water Babies”. There were two characters in it called “Mrs DoAsYouWouldBeDoneBy” and “Mrs BeDoneByAsYouDid”. My take home was this: If you treat everyone as you hope they’d treat you, then when the tables are turned, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. If you treat them badly then woe betide you when they get the upper hand. This is an interesting article on the characters and how they relate to game theory (

OMG, that turned into a bit of a moral thing didn’t it?

in the words of Bill & Ted  – “Be Excellent to each other”. It’s the same meaning, just a more modern version..

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