Live action role-play enthusiasts prepare for upcoming battle


Nathan Goldsmith

Thomas Abruzzese, playing an ogre character, thrusts his greatsword at an enemy during a live action role playing game Sunday. The prop weapons used by players are padded to reduce the risk of injury.

Karin Samelson

For a few hours every few months a small group of Austinites live in a world of monsters, gnomes, spell bags, swords and elves. The Austin chapter of Heroic Interactive Theatre participates in live action role-play, or LARP, and have been involved in events since January.

The first role-playing games were played in the ’70s and have many different styles. In some groups, participants play upon a set of rules and create elaborate characters and costumes. The interaction is very game-like and was influenced by tabletop games where role-playing was used, like Dungeons and Dragons.

“It’s kind of like improvisational theater,” said Donald McCullough, also known by his character name Thurgar the Warrior.

The main goal of LARP is to have fun while interacting and uncovering secrets along the intended story line. Killing monsters before they kill you is another goal. The next event will take place on June 23, but the group hopes that the events could become monthly sometime in the near future.

“I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons since I was four and I’m 37 this year,” McCullough said. “I’ve studied various forms of weapon combat for just as long and I thought I would put my skills to good use.”

Costumes play a vital role in the events. Since all participants have their own characters, the costumes are sometimes elaborate and their weapons are intricate and includes spears, swords, glaives and battle-axes with spear tips on the end.

McCullough’s costume consists of chainmail armor that acts as extra hit points, so he can take some hits before it affects his character’s health.

Some outfits are more complicated than others, but the group had the idea to make painted masks this time, since wiping off face paint while switching characters seemed to be too difficult at the last event.

The weapons have to follow certain protocol, like not being too long and having to have two hands on the weapon at all times if you want to gain points in battle. All of the weapons are made of PVC pipe covered in pipe insulation foam. Everything used is relatively soft and hitting places like the head, hands and groin are off limits.

“It’s not like online play. It’s a fun bunch of people to play with and have real simulated sword combat which isn’t that common,” said Charles Bowling, or Bufurd the Two-Handed Warrior.

LARP isn’t only about killing the monsters and surviving; it’s about interaction with the other players and puzzle solving. At the last event, there was a locked chest full of in-game money, and monsters would drop papers that turned into a combination that could eventually open the lock.

Each person will play the same character throughout the events unless they are killed too many times; this is when the head of plot and logistics’ fantasy plan comes into play. John Garcia, the group’s leader and head of plot, decided that once you’re killed a number of times, your character will die off and you will have to invent a new one.

“Sometimes bad stuff happens to your character or your friend’s character,” Garcia said. “It gets emotional.”

Each player has a character with a specific weapon, power and points. There is a general rulebook, but the head of plot and logistics makes up secret plans, a general plot and scenarios that the rest of the characters act out. The only time a person can break character is if they need clarification of a rule.

Garcia will play several different monsters for the June event.

“I could be the scorpion that fights them and then I could be a skeleton boss,” Garcia said.

Garcia knows all the secrets, since he has written the plot, and other characters don’t know some of the consequences like getting killed too many times. He keeps a lot of the story line to himself so the game will be exciting the entire time.
McCullough, or Thurgar, runs the tavern where he charges in-game currency for meals. He has a feast planned: chicken skewers, pita bread, stuffed mushrooms, sausage, sweet tea and much more. Each item is paid for with gold or silver currency that has been acquired in one way or another throughout the game.

Yvonne McCullough, a.k.a. Torlia of the Sun Settler Clan and wife of Donald, is a blue sea elf that doubles as a spell caster. She plans on painting her entire body blue for the event.

“I like the sense of community and combining all my favorite hobbies together: we can hike in the woods, create costumes, live in a fantasy world and make a bunch of really cool friends,” Garcia said.

Printed on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 as: No dice necessary