Since this winter seems to be a time of awful weather, unexpected temperature shifts and general emotional blahs, thinking back on the pleasure of outdoor larping seems to be the only logical thing to do. Sure, I like chamber larps and urban pervasive larping as much as the next larper, but there’s just something about going out there – like, really out there – and larping with your legs knee deep in mud, your cloak heavy from the rain, your lungs literally bursting with the freshness of the air around you.
In Croatia, we are lucky to have easily accessible, yet remote enough locations available for larping, so that we can get lost in the woods almost every other weekend during larping season, if it happens to be a good one. Even if it’s a perpetuation of the common fantasy-outdoor-larping-is-the-only-type-of-larp-in-the-whole-of-the-universe myth, fantasy weekend larps are one of my favorite types of larping. Because, among many other reasons, they include…
Rock (and stone and tree and…) moss
Said larping locations in my country are not perfect, not by a long shot, but some of the best sites have realistic details, natural or groomed, which help in making yourself believe you’re really somewhere else, not just dressing around to pretend you’re, well, somewhere else. If you’re waking around in your outfit, stuff hanging from your belt, your cloak getting caught in the branches and your eyes resting on the deep greens of moss on rocks and stones and trees by the path in front of you… how could you, for even a second, think about the next week or work or whatever might be bothering you out there, in your everyday life?
For the sitting geek subspecies of humans (including geeky, larping librarians), knee action is something we all crave (our knees especially), but also avoid at the same time. Why go for a walk if you can read another book? Why get up and excercise when there’s yet another episode waiting on your laptop? (Why hike when you can type?) Sure, many people (larpers, too) are both sitting and moving geeks at the same time (there are even larpers who participate in competitive sports, around here), but for the rest of us, that weekend of climbing up and down the hill to get to the shrine (like the forest one featured in the photo here – it was definitely worth the hike, every time), that weekend of fighting and running around the campsite is the closest to physical action as we can get. Chamber larps don’t offer much of that, do they?
Lung action (involving real air)
Living in a relatively small city, I can’t say the air’s that much polluted (compared to the many megapolises of the world), but I still feel that first jolt of fresh air in my lungs every time I step out of (someone else’s) car on the outdoor larping site. You don’t have to go far from your hometown to feel the difference – and it doesn’t take long, once you go back to civilization, to really notice it. Fresh (in our case, mostly mountain) air may be relatively small on the scale of outdoor larping perks, but it definitely counts as one. (Especially if ingame smoking is a thing on larps you participate in.) Don’t take it for granted. (Breathe!)
The true reason for layering larping outfits
The outdoors are cold. In some climates and seasons, they get exceptionally cold, forcing you to make true on your promises of wearing layered larping outfits. Putting the layers to use and actually being warm beneath all of them is something you can’t feel indoors (unless you’re in an abandoned building or choose to switch the heating off for any reason). Seeing your aforementioned breath leave your lungs in front of you, having to stick your fingers deep in your pockets so you can continue to use them, wrapping the cloak around you and hoping you’ll reach someone’s fireplace soon…
The same goes for everything else usually lacking in our everyday urban lives – usually for the better – which reminds me of an article by Holly Lisle, specifically her conclusion: At least once, give yourself something real to hold on to, because if all you know is sanitary plastic, all you will ever write is sanitary plastic. If, as a larper, you want to portray realistic, albeit imaginary lives,shouldn’t you try living from time to time?
The feeling of being alone in the woods
You don’t have to sneak around to go completely alone while you’re out there, but sneaking does help. And once you find yourself alone in the outdoors, it won’t matter that you know the other larpers are nearby, maybe there’s even a road or something (it happens – you’d be surprised how often). It won’t matter that you’ve got your phone fully charged in your hidden pocket (you’ve put it on mute, but you still want to keep it close in case someone breaks a leg or something – literally). It won’t really matter that not a minute ago you were trying to evade some random orcs discussing video games by the fire (yup, it happens, too)… you’ll be out there, surrounded by real trees, your boot-clad toes happily hidden beneath layers of fallen leaves, your mind wrapped around nature’s hushed sounds, when it’s almost quiet enough to hear the scratching of tiny animals going about their lives all around you…
And no matter when you have to go back, no matter what ingame or offgame stuff you have to take care of when you get there, no matter what kind of life awaits you after the game is over – you’ll still have that moment of peace and healthy loneliness, out there, in the woods. Who knows what you might discover?
So, no matter where larping takes you this year, I sure hope you’ll get to get out there, not just to, you know, find the truth (because we all know where it is – especially those of us whose pack involves a Phile), but to find out what else there is, other than the urban life, the secure life, the (oftentimes) tedious life.
Who knows what (or whom) else you might find, out here?