Queen Kristina Madrid and King Bryce Auburn assembled their warriors, readied their weapons and prepared to charge into battle.
Cries of friendly provocation and excitement rang out as a group of nine South Whidbey High School students rushed towards one another from opposite sides of the field at Castle Park, swords raised, axes — and one comically large fake lobster claw — wielded.
The students are a handful of the 30-40 members of South Whidbey High School’s new club: the Scholarly LARPer’s Society.
LARP, or live action role-playing, is a physical representation of online gaming such as “Dungeons and Dragons” and “World of Warcraft.” Players interact with one another in character while using the real world as a backdrop for a fictional setting. Live action role-playing games began in the 1970s and LARPing has since manifested into several different variations spanning the globe from the United Kingdom to Norway and the United States. The game rules can be determined by the respective group of players or by using guidelines provided by larger organizations such as the medieval combat and role play group Amtgard.
One rule, however, remains consistent. Any intentional harm perpetrated by one LARPer onto another will not be tolerated. For the South Whidbey LARPers, this was of no concern. The atmosphere was consistently friendly and jovial. The worst of any minor injuries came from accidental falls on the wet grass, and fellow LARPers were quick to help each other up.
As in other role-playing games, LARPers build characters which they represent on the battlefield. Madrid said that members of the Scholarly LARPer’s Society filled out character sheets — similar to those used in “Dungeons and Dragons” — where individuals could choose class, race (mythical or human), and other characteristics. In many LARP groups, individuals fully adopt the persona of these characters during the course of the LARP session, some of which can span a number of days.
As with choices in character development, groups are free to choose the fictional or historical setting for their battles. Auburn recalled that he had recently spoken with a man who was developing a LARP based on the popular Halo video games. For the South Whidbey LARPers, however, the fictional world they had chosen was one resembling that of J.R.R. Tolkien’s famed Middle Earth (the mythical place setting for the movie trilogy “Lord of the Rings”) or “World of Warcraft,” with a little medieval influence as well.
Auburn said he and Madrid decided to start the club because the school had previously lacked a group that was favorable to both of them. When they approached friends to ask their opinion about the idea, they were met with plenty of enthusiasm.
The pair said they never expected over 30 students to attend the first meeting, and are welcoming more new players often as the news continues to make its way around the school.
Madrid explained that she and Auburn are queen and king because they are the co-founders of the group. Tony Safford serves as the royal treasurer. The school ASB representative will serve as the prince or princess. A “royal shusher” was also appointed, Madrid said with a chuckle, to ensure a reasonable noise level was maintained in the classroom during club meetings.
Saturday’s battle at Castle Park was a first for both Madrid and Auburn, seniors at South Whidbey High School, and a first for most of their fellow society members.
The players had assembled faux weapons from styrofoam — some fashioned from pool noodles — and had gathered what costumery they could find from their closets and a last-minute stop at the thrift store.
A handful had donned capes or other fantasy/medieval-style accoutrements while others battled in jeans and sweatshirts.
The club is attempting to raise funds in order to purchase more weapons and costume supplies in hopes of having larger-scale battles in the future.
Safford explained that foam is the material of choice for most weaponry because it is highly unlikely to actually hurt fellow LARPers.
Madrid and Auburn explained that if a player sustains an “injury” that would be mortally wounding in real life, he or she is considered “dead” and must step aside, placing their weapon on their head to signify their inability to fight. Sustaining a hit to the chest or head would cause a player to be “tapped out.” Similarly, if a player sustains an injury which would, imaginatively, sever one of their limbs, they may continue to fight but without use of that limb. If a player loses two limbs, they are out.
The group split into two teams. A team could win either by “killing” all of the members of the opposing team or by forcing the opposing team to surrender. Once one team was declared victor, the group exchanged congratulations before reconfiguring and going to battle once again.
As Saturday evening’s storm rolled into Langley, the rain increased steadily, soaking the players and their weapons. But just as no degree of bad weather could have deterred the warriors of great mythical battles such as the Battle of Helm’s Deep (featured in part two of “Lord of the Rings”) , the downpour did little to deter the LARPers.
Unanimously, the players declared the day a success, adding that they are hopeful that more players will attend the next session.
To donate to the Scholarly LARPers Society, visit www.gofundme.com/scholarlylarper.