Monday 15 July 2013

Dr Strange-Nerf or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned To Love the LARP

A while ago I was asked to help write a review for some Nerf LARP organisations. This was no small task as I have little to no knowledge of what Nerf LARP is all about. Knowing that others must feel the same, I wrote this instead. It is a review of the LARP group, 'Big Damn Heroes', but it is also an article for those who want to try Nerf LARP, but do not know where to begin. Enjoy!

Growing up, I used to live near a place called Oxleas Woods in South East London. A vast woodland area with a huge sloping field at its centre. It's haunted too apparently. Anyway. It was here that I first encountered those who partook in Live Action Role Play (LARP). A group of around eight or so people, would dress up like Knights and maidens and would fight with swords.

It seemed odd and complicated to and ten year old boy, but what made it worse was how these people (who where in a public woodland remember) treated those around them. They where the rudest people I had ever met, actually chasing one boy with what looked like a real sword after he had been mocking them for too long. Fast Forward to 2013 and this leaves me in a very unusual position. Due to my earlier experiences, I had steered clear of LARP, but each year Nerf LARP is becoming more and more impressive. Nerf LARP is everywhere. The blasters are perfect for it, and to be honest, I have a vast collection which is doing nothing but looking awesome and gathering dust. I would very much like to try out an event, see if I liked it, and more importantly, use my blasters for what they where made to do, namely shoot others before others shoot me. (I don't care HASBRO, that is what they are made to do.) Luckily, I have a friend, UKNerfWar (whether or not he wants to admit it, we're friends) who was in contact with the good people of Big Damn Heroes who had an event coming up, so I tagged along.

Some 'Big Damn Heroes', looking for monsters to crush.

On the way to meet the Big Damn Heroes, a thought struck me. If it where not for  UKNW arranging when and where to go, I would've had no idea how to approach Nerf LARP sites or organisations hosting events. There must be others like me in the same situation? I did some research and it appears that there are more people than me living in the world!

I have so many questions that needed answering, hence this article (which is also a review of sorts). LARP 101. A beginners guide, for beginners, written by a beginner. To help with these questions

I travelled with UKNerfWar to Fort Amhurst in Chatham, Kent on Saturday 22nd June for the first day of the Big Damn Heroes two day event. Once there, I met David Shea, Coordinator of the Big Dam Heroes. If these guys couldn't answer my questions, no-one could. 

Where does one begin?

Everyone I spoke to on the day said different things and gave me a list of websites to try regarding LARP. The one quoted by all was the BDH Facebook Group. I would recommend it too. The people you will find there will be more than happy to answer your questions. they get straight to the point, something I am thankful for when trying new things.

How do I get involved?

Whoever I asked, from those trying it for the first time to experienced members of the group, all gave me (more or less) the same and simple response... "try it yourself". To quote one Referee, "dive right in and see what happens!". A true salesman in LARP's clothing. "That's very vague and easier said than done" I hear you cry, but in all honesty, it is the best way of starting out. LARP requires a suspense of disbelief which for some is nigh on impossible. For others, it's as simple as changing socks (or in this case, dart clips).

Players En Route to an Encounter

Once you can let go of the mental blocks your brain tries to put in your way, (it's not real, we are out in the open with toys etc.) the real fun can begin.

LARP is odd, then so is every activity when you think about it.

Consider football. Twenty two men running around like idiots kicking about a leather globe for ninety minutes. Sound pretty odd to me! But once they let go of the 'everyones staring' factor, magic games happen.

On the day, as an outside reporter looking in, I watched in wonder as people slowly developed character personalities and traits to help the situations they where in. Others were totally immersed in the characters they portrayed. It will come to you too. If you let it.

The next question is the most important to answer.

What should I expect?

It must be noted that all LARP groups are different. From what I saw that weekend, Big Damn Heroes is very well organised, well thought out and well planned. It was better than anything I could have expected. All involved where told to show up as early as possible to register and pay (which I have been informed was around £30 for the weekend, including camping). Players then have to fill out their 'Player Card' which contains details about their character such as health, weapons, equipment and abilities. This would then be used to track the players progress throughout the event. There was then a briefing to inform the players of the story and when the battles would begin.

Players Receiving a Briefing.

Initially when I thought of LARP I thought 'costumes' and internally I'd wince. Clothes and I don't really get along. That's not to say that I run around naked all day, but I come from the school of thought that says 'wear it until it's not comfy anymore'. Fashion is not my forte and neither is costume. Thankfully, with the Nerf Blasters' futuristic look, the direction for Nerf LARP is now far more on a Sci-Fi feel. Imagine 'haggered war-weary space soldiers' (which even in writing sounds cool) rather than complicated wardrobes and costly made to measure attire. Put it this way, I was (as always) in jeans, t-shirt and a suit jacket. I would have fit like a glove in the world of BDH. Okay, maybe if I had lost the suit jacket.

Now the very most important thing... The blasters.

Is that a Vulcan EBF-25 in your Pocket...?

Do you need the latest fully modded Elite blasters to fit in and stand toe to toe with the others in LARP? The answer, thankfully, is no. Of course not. What many modders assume is more power and range is better, but with LARP, the mirror opposite is best. Most battles end up at very close range and therefore any blaster, modded or not, will be useful. On the day we saw everything from modded (and beautifully painted) Vulcans, Elite Stryfes and Stockades; all the way down to everybody's favourite blaster, the N-Strike Maverick (don't throw them away just yet!). To put it as bluntly as I can. Even if you only had one blaster, of any series and enough darts/disks to refill it and If you wore comfortable clothes that you didn't mind getting muddy, you are ready for Nerf LARPing. Unless you make a nuisance of yourself, the good people of Big Dam Heroes will add you to there ranks, with open arms.

Lots of Stock Blasters on Show at BDH.

This leads me onto a sub-question that needs answering:

How is the day, its battles and skirmishes sorted out?

All of the activities are planned by the organisers. When the 'action' begins, they become the Referees. These 'Refs' are an important factor when LARPing and (in my opinion) prevent the events from becoming a mindless run around blasting at anything in front of you. They are your 'outside of time' guides, providing information of where you are, your mission objectives and goals. They are also responsible for informing players of their remaining HP or Health Points (although they probably shouldn't be, remember those Player Cards?). In the real world they are in communication with the other Refs, so battles, stand-offs and even surprise charges by the enemy can be planned as the day goes on. Some are also First Aiders who deal with real injuries should the need arise. They have the power to decide if a team have succeeded or failed in their objectives. For example, imagine if you where faced with a locked door. You would ask the Ref if you could open it. Then you and the ref would play a simple two out of three game of 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' to see if the door opened for you or stayed shut. At first, I thought this method was a little childish but thinking about it more, I now realise why. Using this system to make decisions is brilliant. The game itself is simple to learn, impossible to master and either player can win. (Side note, I don't count the 'Laser, Lizard, Spock' thing. I'm a traditionalist all the way). Above all, it's fun. It shows the playfulness of what is happening here. Remember... it's rolePLAY. Too many people (myself included,) seem to be under the impression that all LARP aficionados take everything to its most serious 'this is real' point. That is simply not the case.

The Decision Making Mechanic in Effect

Sadly it was soon time to leave Chatham. I know in my heart that I will join Big Damn Heroes again at their next event. Not as a reporter but as a player. The people of Big Damn Heroes where inviting, open, fun and honest. For anyone in the same position as me and wants to put his or her Nerf arsenal to some good use, I cannot think of a better place to start than with them.

MerryUnBirthday. due to ninja related problems (I forgot my password) my Twitter has changed! follow me @BadFormPeterPan

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