Improvised D&D – Tales of Adventure

Sessions of D&D are usually not short. Any session that I have been to has ranged between 2-4 hours in general, so I was intrigued to go and see a specifically designed 90 minute D&D base show at The Improv Theatre in Bristol. I was very interested to see how this would work and being a fan of things like Critical Role, and the Acquisitions Incorporated sessions I had no idea how they would make it work and was very pleased with the result.

Sessions of D&D are usually not short. Any session that I have been to has ranged between 2-4 hours in general, so I was intrigued to go and see a specifically designed 90 minute D&D base show at The Improv Theatre in Bristol. I was very interested to see how this would work and being a fan of things like Critical Role, and the Acquisitions Incorporated sessions I had no idea how they would make it work and was very pleased with the result.

Continue reading “Improvised D&D – Tales of Adventure”

Top 10 – Improvised Weapons

GeekOut Top 10s

Oops, we’re running out of puns… Quick, find something nearby and fire it off at our readers. Um, umm… Baloney Fudge and Mustard! There, now that I’ve got that off my chest, it’s time for us to look forward to this weeks’ list, as chosen by you, our dear Top 10 readers. Right now, both Joel and Timlah are at AmeCon, enjoying the convention – But we couldn’t forget to do our Top 10 for this week now could we?

You demanded it, so you’ve got it, this is our Top 10 Improvised Weapons list, but let’s get some ground rules going here. If it’s just there and it happens to be usable, then sure, it’s an improvised weapon. Also, if it’s something that people just wouldn’t generally use, then it’s also an improvised weapon. The room for scope on this one is massive, so read on for our list!


Top 10

10) Shoe – Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

“That really hurt! Who throws a shoe, honestly?”

Who said that everything was groovy to Austin Powers? The international man of mystery (though it’s dubious as to how he even got that title) is known to be susceptible to the occasional hit. It doesn’t matter that he’s a spy, he’s certainly not the best out there, even though Basil would probably try to get you to believe otherwise. Occasionally thought, Austin has been known to get hit by flying projectiles.

Such as shoes! In this scene in the first Austin Powers film, an assassin comes in and instead of throwing a knife into his throat, or poisoning Austin or anything logical, he throws his shoe at Austins head. This obviously hurts, so Austin shows his frustration by telling the assassin that it really hurt… And he’s right! Who would throw a shoe, honestly?!

9) Paint Cans – Home Alone

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Of all of the many clever traps we could have picked, this one’s a favourite of Kevin McAllister’s when defending stairs. Tie off paint cans so that they swing and collide with the intruder firmly in the face, sending them flying backwards and severely wounding in the process. He liked it so much that he brought it back for the second film with a major upgrade, but I’d like to raise a few issues here.

The Wet/Sticky Bandits are drastically different heights. How’d he hit them square in the face the first time? They’d have to be on the right side of the stairs, and he’d have to have judged the height perfectly during prep work, along with all of the other crazy stuff he puts together. The pipe from Home Alone 2 was inspired, as it sweeps the whole staircase, hits them simultaneously and when they least expect it, but the cans were perversely well placed, and not to mention genuinely lethal!

Thank slapstick rules those guys lived, otherwise Home Alone 2 would have been a very different film. One without paint cans.

8) Milk From A Cow – Kung Pow: Enter the Fist

Okay, this isn’t a list of Top 10 Cows, that’s already happened hasn’t it? But this is a list of Top 10 Improvised weapons and to be honest, if you’re a kung-fu cow, you have very little in the way of weaponry. You have your hoofs and you have your body weight, which is significantly more than a human, but there’s very little else in your favour when you’re going one on one with a martial arts master.

Except, cows are female and therefore produces milk. In a scene that evokes the purest of reactions including “What am I watching?”, a cow attacks our protagonist by doing a cartwheel of sorts mid-air, whilst firing off stream of milk that it milks out of itself then and there. Aha, I guess the old adage of “Use what you’re given” rang a bit too true to this bovine. Moo-ving on, then.

7) Spoon – Mewtwo

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Now, it’s arguable that this isn’t improvised at all, but instead is actually one of Mewtwos weapons. Yes, you’re reading this right, Mewtwo has a spoon in some adaptations of the character. Often seen in the manga with his spoon, Mewtwo is no better than an Alakazam, because y’know, spoons are the most obvious form of intelligent life, right? Whatever, why has this made our list?

Basically, the spoon isn’t really a spoon, but rather something that Mewtwo conjured. This means that Mewtwo had to think of something to produce as his weapon… So why would he choose a spoon? Perhaps it’s simply to mimic Alakazam, perhaps it was Pokemons way of saying “He’s a psychic type!”, but if you ask me, I just think that Mewtwo had a lovely bowl of soup once and wanted to use the spoon he ate it with… But also to make said spoon a lot bigger.

6) Wet Fish – Lots of things

The wet fish is a staple in comedy now. From the Holy Mackerel as we covered in our Top 10 Fish list a few weeks back, to just a wet tuna being slapped in someone’s face, the wet fish is a running gag which can also sometimes be taken to extremes, by making them into incredibly vicious weapons. You can be sure that if you get hit by a wet fish, you’re going to be extremely embarrassed.

I’m not sure where slapping someone with a wet fish first came from, but you can be sure that it’s been thrown around for ages. I’m sure that someone out there will know where this first came from, so if you know, leave us a comment below with your knowledge on slapping people with a wet fish… But hey, at least it accompanies the Scout’s favourite energy drink: Bonk!

5) Chair – Everything

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Whilst lacking in originality, the chair is rather a classic, being something easy to lift, suitably heavy, and readily available in most fight situations like bar-brawls, stadium riots and cage fights. As bottles fly faster than harsh language, and people are being politely shown the exit head first, you can guarantee that somewhere in the midst of the carnage will be a chair, quite literally on its last legs.

When it comes to the matter of offering someone a seat, this method may be seen as a little over the top, but when they’re agitated and causing a fuss the best thing to do is get them a chair and make them calm down. Apply to the affected area, and repeat as necessary.

4) Microwave – Gremlins

Microwave-Gremlin

This was inspired. One of the most fearful monsters in horror-comedy history is small enough to be shoved in a microwave and cooked until paste. For the monstrous spawn of Gizmo the kitchen is a source of food, mischief, and dangerous weapons, ones that they can use, and ones that can be used against them.

Though they are surprisingly strong, agile and deadly for their size, you can easily take a few gremlins down with a steak knife, a blender and flash photography, but one afternoon in a bathtub and they can regroup in terrifying numbers. Still, if you’re in a pinch, a powerful dose of radiation can really take care of things. Interestingly, the gremlin in question was nicknamed Grumpy, and was one of the first of Gizmo’s brood alongside Stripe, unlike Stripe, he does not reappear in the sequel.

3) Insults – Monkey Island

Mi3-fight

Insult Sword Fighting is a staple of the Monkey Island series, which took on many incarnations, including a rather weird turn for Insult Arm Wrestling too. As such, it’s obvious to me that the real weapon in these fights were not the physical activity, but clearly the wit to defeat your opponents in an insult-off. With quips such as “En garde, touche!” “Oh that is so cliche” and “You’re as repulsive as a monkey in a negligee!” “I look that much like your fiancee?”, you can bet that the insults are sharp!

But the curious part about this is the limited knowledge that Guybrush Threepwood possesses (he’s a mighty pirate, you know?) When he starts out, especially in The Curse of Monkey Island, he basically knows nothing about insults. He has to try to make do, but be humbled in defeat and learn from his defeats to progress and to learn to be wittier. Effectively, he’s making it up as he goes along – and that’s the ultimate form of improv.

2) Willing Allies, and Unwitting Enemies

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You may have heard this one referred to in less polite terms, but in short this is the practice of bludgeoning someone with another someone. Be it a projectile halfling, a legion of reanimated corpses, or swinging the guy you knocked unconscious around by the ankles until his buddies have joined him, there are many uses for friends and enemies alike.

Whether you’re a fan of the M:tG card Fling or the practice of turning people into weapons like in Soul Eater, there’s no denying that the greatest and most terrifying weapon that’s always readily available is somebody… well some body, doesn’t matter if they’re cooperative or not. Only one rule applies when wielding people as weapons, never toss a dwarf, and if you do, don’t tell anyone.

1) Health bar – Deadpool, Marvel Avengers Alliance

Deadpool_Level_6_Ability

Oh would you look who’s back at the top of the list? It’s our favourite reoccurring character. Well it’s not our fault Deadpool does so many things better than anyone else, and amongst them is improvising in his specialist field: sarcasm! And I guess weapons.

If you’ve ever played Marvel Avengers Alliance you’ll know it to be a surprisingly good “freemium” social media game, interesting stories, interesting mechanics, a surprising amount of engaging gameplay, but after a while, if you’re not winning all of the tournaments or paying real money you’re missing some of the best elements. I am not ashamed I paid money for Deadpool.

Like the badass he is, he’s well aware he’s in a game, and plays up to it, including the absolute best move in his arsenal (if not the most powerful), ripping his health and power bar from the GUI and smashing his opponent over the head with it. Now that’s thinking outside the box.


Honourable Mentions

Some weapons are just not what you’d expect, but it’s not exactly the most improvised. In these next two cases, we show you two weapons that are indeed improvised to a point, but neither of them qualify properly for the list. Still, it’s worth mentioning them as they’re both weapons that are pretty unique to their titles.

Whatever You Can Grab – Dead Rising

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It was perhaps the biggest selling point for Dead Rising that weapon creation got… well, creative. Most famous of all must be the double-ended-chainsaw-paddle, but the franchise also includes lightsabers, burning gloves, a pitchfork-shotgun, toy helicopter with blades, a lawnmower helmet, a heavily armed wheelchair, burning bull-skull helmets… you know what? There are lists on the internet, just have a look around, it gets silly.

But when you’re facing down hordes of zombies and you’re options are limited then necessity really is the mother of invention. Even when your shopping malls have guns readily available they can only get you so far, and then you need to get messy. Alright, so I’m not sure how necessary it is for you to strap a bunch of sawblades into a vacuum cleaner, but when inspiration takes you, you’ve really just got to go with it.

Proton Pack – Ghostbusters

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On first appearance, the Proton Pack really shouldn’t be included on a list of improvised weapons, because the Ghostbusters went out specifically with these weapons. It isn’t until you actually stop to think about the facts of the Ghostbusters do you realise that this is a very highly specialised kind of improvisation.

The Proton Pack was created based upon a few basic theories which include:

  1. Ghosts exist
  2. Ghosts could be stopped
  3. How ghosts work (In theory)

They put together their weapon and they put their suits on based entirely on conjecture and theories. In my eyes, this makes them amongst the ultimate improvisational characters of all time… But what do you think?


That’s it, I’m going to put down my keyboard and instead throw it between your eyes! You’ve now bared witness to the greatest improvised weapons that have ever existed – at least to us. As always, we’ll be back next week with another list that we put together last minute (Or several days in advance, since you know, writing schedules and all that jazz). In the meantime, you get to sway the vote in your favour:

We’re done for this week, so it’s time to put down that pool cue, stop mincing our words and time for us all to celebrate that it’s all over with… By throwing some farmyard animals around. What do you think of our improvised weapons list? Were they zany and outlandish enough, or do you think we could have done better than this bunch? As always, let us know what you think in the comments below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.

BathLARP

Physically challenging, immensely creative and a unique hobby. If you’re one of the geeks of the world who loves the world of role play, then chances are you’d love the transition into an activity that allows you to get out and about whilst still getting your fix of fantasy. Read on to hear from real LARPers and their experiences of their group, BathLARP.

LARP or Live Action Role Play is a booming industry here in the UK and abroad. A lot of people aren’t aware that you can find LARP groups on your door step if you know where to look. I’ve reached out and spoken to some members of BathLARP this past week in hopes to learn more about the hobby.

Why LARP?

Physically challenging, immensely creative and a unique hobby. If you’re one of the geeks of the world who loves the world of role play, then chances are you’d love the transition into an activity that allows you to get out and about whilst still getting your fix of fantasy.

A player will pursue a goal, set out by a games master, whilst performing what is akin to improv theatre. In a tabletop RPG, players will play out their characters, sometimes even going so far as to doing the voices. LARP is a step further then. Create your very own character, get in gear and fight through a series of events to achieve your or your teams goal.

Most areas of the UK have a LARP group nearby. In the South-West, one such group is BathLARP. I’ve been lucky enough to get some time from some of the BathLARP members and even a member of their committee. I was keen to get to know more about the hobby, so in true GeekOut style, I posed some questions to the LARPers.


 

Interview with the LARPers – Members of BathLARP

Interview with the LARPer - Bath LARP

Q: How did you first get into LARP and how long have you been LARPing for?

Judith: I first heard about LARP through my sister – she used to be part of a Vampire: the Masquerade group in Bristol – but although I was aware of the Bath University group (BLADES) I didn’t join until my final year for various reasons. I’ve been LARPing ever since – which is eight years and makes me suddenly feel very old! That said, I’ve met LARPers who have been in one system or another pretty much since LARP took off in the UK, which is over 30 years at this point.

Louisa: I have been LARPing for around 6 years now, though I had my first go at LARPing 2 years before that. I was introduced to the hobby by a friend who was a LARPer already and knew I liked dressing up and reading fantasy novels.

Greg: I first got into LARPing as a Fresher at university of Bath. I saw a bunch of people in costume advertising the society, at first I was too nervous to approach them and walked past. Almost immediately afterwards I thought “what’s the worst that can happen” and turned around to introduce myself. I’d not been part of role playing as a hobby before that at all really but it looked like a laugh and I could certainly use the exercise. Since then I’ve been hooked! It’s far more immersive than tabletop games, has improved my confidence no end and I’ve met some amazing people! I graduated a few years ago and have been LARPing for seven years in total now and still love every minute of it!

Doug: My first LARP was on October 12th, 2003, so that means I’ve been LARPing for 11 years, 9 months, 17 days and this evening…

Guard Captain Gerrard Knight
Guard Captain Gerrard Knight

My first introduction was a few days before, at the societies introduction days during Freshers Week when I came to Bath Uni as a PhD student. Walking along the main concourse, I saw two people fighting each other. In broad daylight. With weapons. I remember my first words well:

“Excuse me…sorry for saying this, but what the hell are you doing?”

I was answered by a very enthusiastic guy dressed as a highland warrior (who is now a professional stuntman) who invited me to Google ‘Blades Bath’ and come along to the first game on the Sunday, and it all went from there. I showed up (I say showed up…I hid out of sight until I saw someone else dressed oddly) wearing a green t-shirt, black tracksuit bottoms, a pair of belts strapped across my chest like braces, and for some reason I still can’t quite work out, black shoe polish under my eyes as war paint. I was rocking the look.

I had an idea of what I wanted to play (one of my Everquest characters brought to life), the more experienced players helped me translate MMORPG stats into LARP stats, and away we went. We fought goblins, a couple of skeletons, and almost bricked it when we came up against an ogre…but we won!

Q: What does having a group such as BathLARP mean to you?

Judith: For me, it’s a community where I know everyone is as bizarre as I am. In a small system like ours we all know each other fairly well and look after newcomers to the group – we know who can help with various aspects of the game, from kit to combat to role play. There’s also that sense of shared history, both Out of Character and In Character – you’ll often hear war stories of The Day My Character Did Something Heroic/Stupid or That Patrol Where Something Really Weird Happened told in the pub after a game.

Louisa: I love being a member of BathLARP! When I was new to the area it helped me make friends and I’ve always found it to be a really welcoming group. I also love the fact it’s weekly, so I get to do lots of LARP!

Greg: Having a group where I know and trust the members is really important to me. I’d have never been able to get into the hobby without BathLARP and the members have been supporting me in upping my game since turning up at my first session with pretty much nothing to the point that I’ve made some of my own armour and own more kit than I could ever use. The sense of camaraderie within the club is really important to me and I count it’s members among my closest friends.

Doug: BathLARP (and its Bath University equivalent – BLADES) has been a constant in my life for over a decade. When I came to Bath, I was still coming to terms with advanced and alien concepts such as ‘friends’ (a strange thing that I experienced as an undergraduate in Bristol, after a school life entirely devoid of such things and filled instead with all the malice that children can visit upon one another), and ‘independence’ (I had spent all three years at Bristol in halls of residence, so it was still quite new to me). I knew I liked the fantasy genre, but the idea of actually being it – putting on the kit and running around a forest hitting each other – required some very welcoming people to avoid making me feel horribly out of place.

Sergeant Jorael Starke
Sergeant Jorael Starke

I have met some amazing people, had some crazy arguments, defended my opinions, learned to patch up some of the gaping holes in my understanding of social interaction, and been educated in a variety of social issues in which my understanding was sorely lacking. I also met the most utterly perfect, utterly beautiful, utterly magnificent individual ever to grace my existence, and just under three years ago, I was lucky enough to marry her. BathLARP made it possible.

I am really, really glad I pushed through the apprehension, bit the bullet and stepped out of hiding on that first morning back in 2003. Look at all I would have missed had I not!

Q: Across the UK, there are various different groups. Have you ever been to and partaken in the activities of another group?

Judith: So far I’ve played in Curious Pastimes and Lorien Trust – two of the big national ‘fest’ systems – and Winter in the Willows, which was a short-lived Post-Apocalyptic Steampunk game based on Wind in the Willows. Yes, it was as strange as it sounds. These days due to time, money and energy considerations I haven’t really felt the need to stray from BathLARP, but it’s nice to have the option out there.

Louisa: Yes! I played the local World of Darkness vampire game (now sadly come to an end though a new one is planned) and I have been a member of the Unicorns in LT, a creepy borg-like rabbit in a post apocalyptic steampunk winter in the willows game (Winter in the Willows) and a noble lady airship owner in a tiny steampunk system (Clockwork Monkey).

Louisa ready for battle in harsh, snowy conditions
Louisa ready for battle in harsh, snowy conditions

Greg: Yep. BathLARP runs small, relatively short “linear” games. This means that there are at most about 30 people attending the game, they last less than a day (4-6 hours) and have a defined goal to them. The events that I’ve been to most outside of BathLARP are the national events run by the Lorien Trust. These events last for a weekend or a long weekend, have several thousand people in attendance and the plots are sprawling and multi-layered. It’s great to be able to enjoy these two really different forms of the hobby.

Doug: In addition to TL (Tony Live) in Bath, I have been known to do a little creative nomading when it comes to LARP. Nationally, I have spent several years in the LT (Lorien Trust), several more in CP (Curious Pastimes), and have shown up to Maelstrom in the past. Distributed across the UK, I have played systems called White City (which had the best magic system I have ever seen), Arborea Interactive, Crooked House (the best assembled LARP I have ever played), Shadow Wars, and Winter in the Willows (who doesn’t love a ferret road warrior?). Closer to home in Bath, I have played Vampire (rather badly), a horror system called Tales of a Scorched Earth, and I even had a hand in writing my own system, called Elysium.

Q: Are there any other ‘Geeky’ hobbies you take part in?

Judith: I’m also part of a Mistborn RPG tabletop group, and I read sci-fi and fantasy fairly voraciously. Next year will be my third DiscworldCon and I’m probably going to be made to cosplay again – or at least help my partner with his troll hall costume. I also code for fun (primarily the website for BathLARP), write (material for BathLARP), make costumes (for LARP)…

Louisa: I’m part of two semi-regular table top games and one really occasional one (we’ve managed 4 games in three years…). More recently I’ve joined a medieval martial arts class and I sew my own costumes.

Greg: I’ve been known to take part in tabletop role play games, enjoy a wide range of board games and, when I find something my elderly laptop can run, enjoy computer games as well. I’ve always been a fan of fantasy/ sci-fi literature as well, which probably explains the LARPing.

Doug: I have played Everquest (and later Everquest II) since late in 1999, making it probably my longest running geekdom (and also the reason for the first internet connection being obtained in my family home). Before that, I played Magic: The Gathering, but never had enough money to make a decent go of it (anyone who has played on a shoestring against those with money to spend will feel my pain).

Unlike most LARPers, I came into role play from the stage (where I had been since I was seven years old) rather than the table top. My first tabletop role play experience came after I had started LARP, but since then I have played Shadowrun, Call of Cthulu, SLA Industries, Exalted, Vampire, Promethean, Amber and Warhammer FRP (but curiously, never D&D). I also ran a weekly Shadowrun game for six years – at one point, we got into such detail that there was an in character debate between two characters about taking out the rubbish.

Doug gets into the role as Watcher
Doug gets into the role as Watcher

I also like collecting and watching bad fantasy films (plenty of those around), and mulling over such fundamental questions as “Will there ever be the perfect adaptation of Wind in the Willows?” and “Will we ever see an Iain M. Banks movie?” These are questions that can keep you warm at night.

Q: A person has approached you asking for advice on getting into the hobby. They don’t have any friends who LARP, but have some who said they’d give it a go with them. What should these new LARPers prepare themselves for?

Judith: Anything.

From personal experience LARPers tend to be keen, friendly, and enthusiastic, and if you’re willing to join in there’s a good chance that someone will take you under their wing and help navigate you through your first game(s). The key thing is finding the sort of system that follows a genre and style and level of commitment you might enjoy; there are systems out there that cover everything from high fantasy high combat mosh-fests to steampunk politics and horror, from big budget sci fi down to low-budget noir.

After that, what you prepare for could be anything from glorious battle to scheming deviousness to polite society to having the bejeezus scared out of you; there will be war stories and battle scars, there will be camaraderie and friendly rivalry.

Louisa: Make sure you have really good boots. You’ll thank me later, I promise! Also, be prepared for Weather and layer your clothing accordingly. During the course of a typical English day LARPing you will be hot, cold and rained on at least once. Beyond that, read the rules of the system you’re going to, but don’t worry too much if they don’t make sense. Most LARPers are willing to stop and explain to newbies and a lot of systems will have a new person briefing before the game starts to go over things with you. It can be a little confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it really quickly!

Greg: To have a great time!

In all seriousness I’d let them know when and where we meet, to bring some food and water with them and find out what sort of character appeals to them. I’d then be asking around the club/rummaging through my kit to find costume that will let them be the hero that they want to be. The only thing that you need to have a good time at LARP (especially BathLARP) is an open mind, sensible shoes and something to keep you full of energy all day.

Doug: Something very different. LARP is unlike any other form of role play you have experienced so far, and you may feel apprehensive about the concept, or the way you might look. Please, please, push through that, step out of the hiding place, and give it a try. The chances are you will not regret it, and that you will have a blast. If it turns out it’s not for you, you’ve had a good walk and a day out in the forest.

Be ready to spend the day outside, running around in a variety of different weather conditions. Most LARP sites are in wooded areas, so can be hilly, rocky, damp, muddy and slippery. Wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty (hard-wearing trousers, but not jeans, are ideal), and stout footwear (walking boots or walking shoes) are your very best friend. Bring lunch, and definitely bring water. If it’s spring, autumn or winter, bring multiple thin layers of clothing – these are better than big, thick layers. In summer, bring multiple removable layers. Just because it’s summer in the UK doesn’t mean it can’t rain at the drop of a hat.

Seekers like Juilin Fortrayre know how to have fun
Seekers like Juilin Fortrayre know how to have fun

Don’t worry about getting hit. In LARP, weapon strikes are pulled, meaning that the only impact is a light tap. If it hurts, the person hitting you has hit you too hard. Full stop.

If you’re coming along to play, it’s a good idea to think about the kind of system you are playing in, and the kind of character you might like to play within that system. The more experienced players you meet can help you make your idea into a reality (which is exactly what happened with me) when you arrive. Alternatively, come along and play a ‘Monster’ for a while to learn about the system. Monsters are the NPCs the characters meet throughout the game – you might be an enemy combatant, a diplomatic envoy, a dead body, a shambling corpse, anything the GM running the game has in mind for the players to interact with. It’s an excellent way to learn about a system without having to create a character to play in it.

Be prepared to be sore the next day. Not because you were hit too hard, but instead because unless you play regular competitive sport, you will be using muscles you didn’t even know you had, and they will be decidedly unimpressed with you after using them for the first time in a long while. This will get better.


Summary

If you’re around Bath or the surrounding areas, cities such as Bristol, then you really should speak to the BathLARP committee. They’re a bunch of really kind people, who are truly dedicated to making fun events for the LARP community. I am enthralled with the response I had for interviews with these wonderful people, who are a very welcoming group.

I’d like to extend my thanks to all four of the LARPers who took the time to answer our questions today. LARP is such a personal experience to people, so it’s truly inspiring to hear from them. Whilst you’re at it, you should check out Louisa’s blog where she talks about all of her geekdoms!

Have you ever done any LARPing before? Have you ever had interest but didn’t know how to get started? Let us know what you think about LARP in the comments below, over on Facebook or on our Twitter page.