LARPers create fantasy stories, community

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published April 2, 2024

 Alicia Secord gets ready to LARP with the Central Action Roleplay Society.

Alicia Secord gets ready to LARP with the Central Action Roleplay Society.

Photo provided by Alicia Secord


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Creating characters and acting out stories are just parts of what makes live action role-playing so fun for these players. The sense of community and belonging makes it ten times better.

Live action role-playing, also called LARPing, is a fantasy-based game played by multiple participants in a live action format and together they create a story. Alicia Secord, a LARPer from St. Clair Shores, said it’s kind of like Dungeons & Dragons, a dice-based tabletop fantasy adventure game, but in real life.

“You dress up as a character, your own invented character within the rules of the game and then you dress up as that character,” Secord said. “You go out to wherever the game is being played, and you role-play and participate in mock combat.”

They engage in boffer combat which uses foam weapons such as swords, arrows and lances as well as tennis balls or packets filled with bird feed used to replicate magic.

“We’ll yell an incantation and then throw a packet and that is a spell being thrown at somebody,” Secord said.

Some of the LARPs Secord participates in are called “lightest touch.”

“You’re expecting to not hit as hard as you can,” Secord said. “Explicitly so that you’re not hurting people. You don’t need to wear armor. If you don’t wear armor, you’re not going to get hurt.”

Secord is a part of several different LARPing groups. She said the main character she plays is a part of Knights and Nobles and Rogues, played in Milan, Michigan. She also said each LARPing group has different rule sets.

“Those rules go through revisions every couple of years to update them and make the game balanced between different types of characters,” Secord said.

There are various committees pertaining to safety and other elements of the games. Secord also said there are people who check weapons at every game to make sure they are as safe as possible.

There are four different classes of characters, Secord said, and those are fighter, rogue, mage and cleric.

“The class that you choose and the race or lineage of person that you choose to be determines what skills you can play with as well as, like, how many experience points it costs to build that character,” Secord said.

Her character in K.A.N.A.R. is a human rogue, and that character gets access to sneaking skills at a lower experience point cost, Secord said. She chose a rogue class so she could utilize a crafting skill at lower experience points. She crafts books, scrolls and other things for the game.

Secord started LARPing in K.A.N.A.R. around her 30th birthday in March of 2019. After that, Secord said, they played every month until the pandemic shifted the LARPs to an online format. They went back in person in June 2021.

“I continued to play nearly every game until November of ’22, and then I started branching out into other games,” Secord said.

Andrew Chipotle, a LARPer from Pontiac, said he’s always been interested in fantasy fiction. When he was in high school, he was interested in D&D and as he got older, LARP became more accessible to him. He has been LARPing for 13 to 14 years, and he is also a part of the K.A.N.A.R. LARP.

“When I was still living in my hometown as a high schooler, I encountered it in my local park,” Chipotle said. “And then as I grew up and went to college, there was a group that would meet there and now as a(n) adult with a grown-up job and stuff, I still find the time on weekends to go out and meet with our group and play our game.”

Chipotle makes his own costumes, but he said it’s not a necessity in LARP.

“It’s just something I like to do because it’s how I’m able to convey the character that I want to,” Chipotle said. “It’s easier for me to just make something then it is for me to go looking for something or have somebody else make it for me.”

Costuming for LARP was a relatively small jump due to his past experience making costumes for cosplay.

Both Secord and Chipotle said LARP characters can be brought to life in other forms of media such as D&D with a few tweaks in skills. Chipotle has been playing one character since he was in high school, but he does know people who have multiple different characters.

“I know people who make different characters when they go to, say, like a travel LARP, like they’re going to one that’s not their usual LARP, and they make a whole new character for it,” Chipotle said. “And that’s cool, too. You are not limited to just one character.”

Chipotle said the people he meets and the community keeps him coming back to LARP.

“It’s sort of this place where there’s a convening of a lot of people who don’t get along great in normal society and they get to go be around a bunch of other people who are like them and that really helps them bring them out of their shell and be who they really are,” Chipotle said.

He added the lifting mentality is good for those who need it.

Chipotle said those who are interested in LARPing should try it to see how well it fits for them.

“There’s a lot of stigma and stuff attached to it,” Chipotle said. “But none of that stuff really matters if you have fun doing it.”