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An Introduction To Role Playing Games That Led To A Passion

An Introduction To Role Playing Games That Led To A Passion

An Introduction To Role Playing Games That Led To A Passion

It was springtime, the air was warm and the smiles were plentiful. I was innocently passing by when, suddenly, I was struck with intense excitement. There, resting casually in the shade of the massive old Oak tree was the lone, neon pink, foam spear. I approached cautiously, looking around to see if it belonged to someone nearby. There was no way that someone could have abandoned this beautiful work of art. I reached for the weapon and began to admire the fine craftsmanship of its maker. Such care and attention to detail was taken in crafting this impressive tool. As I held it in my hands, I felt a surge of energy pass through me. This toy was just begging to be played with, I could not help but oblige. I swung the spear to my left, then back to my right, took a step forward to jab, then did a 360-degree spin. A hypnotizing magic came over me as the spear and I danced gracefully through the field. My heart was swelling as I gazed lovingly upon my foam partner, breathing life into her with each motion. I had completely lost my awareness of my surroundings and was lifted into a blissful realm where nothing else mattered but swooshing sounds of my spear cutting through the fabric of my reality.

“Saaarah! Saraaah! Sarah! Put that down! It’s not yours,” my friend called to me from across the park. As I floated down from my euphoria, I felt a little embarrassed but mostly just dizzy. I respectfully placed the spear back in it’s original resting place in the shade of the Oak tree. As I walked away, I looked back heavy-hearted but knowing that I was forever changed. I must learn who made this wonderful play weapon so that they may show me how to make one for my own role playing games.

That was two years ago, I was 23 years old. And that neon pink foam spear belonged to non other than Shaggy, the creative mind behind Epic Adventurez and Epic Toys. At my first Capture the Flag game in Clark Park in West Philadelphia I was really nervous. “Are they going to accept me,” I thought. “I am too old for this? Am I going to look stupid?” I approached the field and in the distance I could see a young man, about my age, confidently wielding his sword in combat with his imaginary partner. I was hypnotized by his movements, like a choreographed dance, it was beautiful to watch. He spotted me then and ran over to introduce himself.

“Hello! My name is Stephen,” he said, slightly out of breath. He was about my height, average build with long wavy brown hair way past his shoulders, and magnetic eyes that held such magic they literally sparkled. With one welcoming hug and reassuring smile from Stephen my fears began to melt away and I felt more at ease. He started going over all the rules of all the different games they played.

“The greatest honor is to die well,” he said. He explained that if you are hit by someone’s weapon that you are to “die well” by making your death as theatrical as possible, to have fun with it. This encourages accountability on the field as well as respect for your opponents. Also, when you return to the game after your death you are to yell, “I’m alive!” This not only lets your opponents know you have returned to the game, but serves as an empowering mantra to remind one that they are indeed alive and present in the moment. Another important rule is the “Reality Check.” Sort of like a safe word, you should yell, “Reality check!” to pause the role playing games immediately if someone is scared or hurt or needs a break. I could see very clearly that just as he had put so much care and attention to detail into that pink spear that had brought me here, that Shaggy had also put just as much thought and love into designing this game. They were not just giving these kids something to do on a Saturday afternoon, but they were providing them with a strong community and instilling in them the important morals and principles it takes to be a good person in our society. I was very impressed, and absolutely hooked.

Two shadows approached the field then. It was the first player to show up that day, beside myself. A spunky young girl, no older than ten, and her Dad who carried a cane and sported an impressive beard. Stephen introduced me to the pair and the girl was excited to have a new student whom she could share her abundance of knowledge with. She told me she was especially excited that I was a girl and explained that there was only one other girl who came to Capture-The-Flag regularly. Then, taking my hand, she dragged me out onto the battlefield and began to explain the rules of the role playing games. I listened intently.

“Now we duel,” she exclaimed! With that, she took her battle stance and held her sword out in front of her. I followed suit. “Three, two, one, fight!” she counted down, and with one full swing she sliced open my torso with her blade. I looked down in horror and scrambled to keep my guts from spilling out onto the field but my efforts were futile and I collapsed with a thud at my opponents feet, who was laughing menacingly in my defeat.

“Again, again!” she demanded. This continued for sometime and needless to say I began to get the hang of the whole “die well” thing. Soon enough more children began showing up and I was surprised at the large range in age of the players. There were little dudes, maybe six or seven years old, as well as adolescents and even a few teenagers. What was even more surprising is that they all played together without any problems. When I asked Stephen whether or not he worried about the older kids being too rough with the younger players, he quickly shook his head and explained that most of the older players had been playing since they were small and so that they understood the responsibility of setting a good example for young players as well as holding their blows and not using too much strength when going up against a smaller opponent. The game began and went on for some time as we waged war on our enemies and devised strategies on how to best take the other teams flag while ensuring that our flag remained defended. Passersby from the local farmers market would often stop to enjoy our accidental guerrilla theater. Before I knew it, parents began gathering at the edge of the field and one by one the players were collected from battle and taken home for super. The game came to and end and then suddenly, as if coming out from under a spell, I realized how exhausted I was from running back and fourth across the park for the last few hours. I helped Stephen gather up the swords for the next role playing games and checked the field for any matter that may have been accidentally dropped or forgotten.

On my walk home, I reflected upon the events of the afternoon, the friends I had made, the things I had learned. I felt rejuvenated. The little girl inside me who had often felt odd and out of place was overcome with appreciation and joy for this new found family. I had been searching for a community like this one. One that accepted me fully, that I could express my creativity and silliness with, one that I could nurture and care for, and that would love me in return. I wiped away a tear that had escaped through the corner of my eye. I knew that I had found something special and I could not wait until I could return home to the battlefield to discover more, not only about the game but about myself.

Word On Role Playing Games By Sarah Seymour

I Love Role Playing Games

I Love Role Playing Games


Larp Up Your LARP Bow, Artemis LARP.

Artemis LARP

Larp Up Your LARP Bow.

Larp Up Your LARP Bow.



That’s the sound a bow makes.

Everybody knows that, behind the humorless frown, that’s what Katniss Everdeen is thinking while she’s blasting targets.


As we pointed out before, natural leaders naturally carry swords. Halberds are for servants who die to save your life, axes are for brutes and comic relief, and daggers are for cutthroats.

So who are bows for?

Thieves and cowards. Think Robin Hood, or Greek Paris, hiding behind the walls of Troy from the pointless war he George Bushed for the sake of a pretty face.

At least, that’s what the thugs with swords think. The longbow is indigenous, a hunter’s tool invented in Wales over 1,000 years before it was widely used for military purposes. It’s perfect for smash-and-grab, poorly-funded guerrilla warfare. Not “noble” or “bold,” but effective. Katniss, who symbolizes the least consequential and most exploited of the districts, can make a bow out of a tree if she needs to, like Dutch in PREDATOR. Crafty Katniss, graduate of the school of hard knocks and the university of self-sufficiency, SCL, needs a weapon as dependable as her own fingers.

It’s a feminine weapon. Look at it, smooth and rounded, hourglass-figured. Mmm, sexy. Artemis, goddess of the hunt, is often pictured with a bow, and also presided over virginity, childbirth, and wild animals.

Let’s not forget the fact that, despite Katniss’ surprising and refreshing role as the brave rescuer, this isn’t a society which has transcended gender roles. She’s only learned to be a badass and a leader because her mother couldn’t handle life when her father died.

The bow isn’t a blunt force. Katniss can’t fight hand to hand. She’s been trained to hunt, to kill from a distance. Mothers didn’t hand your LARP Bow down to their daughters because bows, like Katniss’ people, are ephemeral. They wear down, become brittle, and splinter with use. The sword is industry, the bow is agriculture.

Your LARP Bow is the tool of the exploited, but it’s also the unlikely symbol of revolution.

The moment first written 3,000 years ago, when Paris shoots triumphant Achilles in the heel—his one weak point—is precisely reiterated when:


When Katniss finds the weak point and shoots it.


LARP Birthday Party where you make foam weapons at the party.

LARP Birthday Party where you make foam weapons at the party.

LARP Birthday Party

On Saturday, October 18th, there was a party held in Rittenhouse Park in Philadelphia, PA.  This was a LARPing themed birthday party run by Epic Toys.  Captain Shaggy put together this LARP birthday party for kids between the age of 8 to 13.

Shaggy and Zeut in Epic Toys Shirts

Shaggy and Zeut in Epic Toys Shirts

We start in West Philadelphia where we packed up all the supplies including foam and knives and glue.  Sarah was managing the event for all the kids.  She would organize the kids and teach them the rules.  Make sure that every body involved understood.  You could find her here, Sarah Seymour

Sarah with the kids in the park

Sarah Teaching the kids

The event started with the kids designing their own swords.  Then over the course of the party, the Foam Forge, will make each person a weapon that they designed.  It gives the kids a creative outlet and investment in the product that they get to take home.  This could ta

What battle are the foam nunchakus good for?

What battle are the foam nunchakus good for?


Obviously when someone says nunchakus you either think about Michelangelo the turtle or, depending on your age, Napoleon Dynamite.

But how much do we really know about nunchaku? My extensive researching (Googling) of the history of ‘chucks reveals that it isn’t much. Scholars don’t even know the root of the word.

Popular myths say that they descend from the Japanese rice flail, an instrument for threshing rice and soybeans. The story goes that the famously rebellious Okinawa peasants, who, under the Sho Dynasty, were not allowed to use weapons (while their nobles were developing the origins of karate), turned to unconventional tools to defend themselves, such as these short, relatively limited, wooden flails.

The problem with that theory is that nunchaku aren’t particularly great at fighting. In fact, if you were to make a list of things that nunchakus are good at, it would probably start like this:

  1. not fighting

They’re not even that great at threshing rice. It’s too easy to hit yourself in the face, and anyway, popular threshes had handles longer than their beating ends, so that you didn’t have to crouch to hit the stalks stacked on the ground. Really, they’re no kind of defensive or offensive weapon, particularly against the katana or the staff, and we know of no traditional nunchaku kata, evidencing that, most likely, they never were in popular use.

Until recently. As as Alex Levitas says on his – unlikely – Russian nunchaku site, “[t]he nunchaku is so popular today, that almost any new martial art incorporates this weapon into its training.” Why are they popular? Probably because of this guy. Or, if you’re my age, these guys.

But then, as this guy could tell you, there’s lots of martial arts out there that’s useless for combat.  This is why we enjoy the use of foam nunchakus for show and flair.

Through my extensive Youtubing of nunchaku stuff, I have come up with a list of things ‘chucks are apparently good for:

  1. Distraction
  2. Fighting skinheads in the park (but only when you’re a skinhead yourself)
  3. Getting arrested in Norway, Canada, Russia, New York, or Massachusetts.
  4. Hitting yourself in the ankles and face, or injuring yourself in other, more creative ways.  The single greatest reason for foam nunchakus.
  5. Breakin’ tracheas.
  6. Glowing
  7. Wasp-fu.
Ninja With Foam Nunchakus

Ninja With Foam Nunchakus

System Danmarc was an experiment in Nordic LARP in a future world.

System Danmarc was an experiment in Nordic LARP in a future world.

Larp Larp Larp: The History Of The Epic Nordic LARP

Nordic LARP

Nordic LARP

There are these two psychological studies which always seem to pop up together in conversation, probably because of their cynical repercussions. They’ve been immortalized in the pop psych history, and you’ve probably heard of them. They’re the Yale Milgram Study, which examined the power of instruction making students believe they were electrically shocking fellow students by pushing a button, and the Stanford Prison Experiment, which had undergrads play the roles of prisoner and prison guard, and watched them quickly fall into mutual loathing and even physical abuse – despite the fact that everyone knew it was a game.

In a way, System Danmarc, a 350-person socio-political Nordic LARP experiment, could be compared to studies like these. It could also be compared to Burning Man and other social reconstruction experiments which, through the realignment of expectations, situations and freedoms, put the creation of a certain kind of society into the hands of that society’s inhabitants.

System Danmarc was an experiment in which the dystopian, future-world “C Sector” was built out of windowless containers – like storage units – in a penned-off Copenhagen city square. Supported by a fabricated, unbalanced, undemocratic economy, players lived in the sector for 52 hours, sleeping eight to 16 per cramped container, but also going out and partying or working.

At a pre-LARP workshop, players chose roles within the incredibly impoverished but still stratified sector. They could be wealthy butchers/craftsmen, boxers attempting to become famous and escape, the metropolitan rulers, punks, or even “hyperslummers,” an extreme role for which players were coached by ex-junkies in how to live in the streets.

Drugs, beer, live concerts, and partying made it fun, but it also gave reigns to the more brutal, lawless sides of the players, and resulted in fights. The hyperslummers were abused, even urinated upon while they slept. The project ended with all players being brought together to watch a documentary about the lives of homeless people in contemporary Copenhagen.

The end goal was to allow players a fun situation straddling two disparate worlds and then later to bring to their attention the brutality of worlds which already exist, like this, parallel to their own.

In this situation, we see the wider impact Nordic LARP can create, truly tackling the exploratory aspects of theater, social experiment, and even social activism.

A writer and a huntsman from the Danish LARP "Agerbørn - The Crossroads"

A writer and a huntsman from the Danish LARP “Agerbørn – The Crossroads”




CLAUSTROPHILIA is the love of confined spaces. It’s also the name of a new, super popular adventure game for Eastern European tourists.

Think Saw crossed with The DaVinci Code. I didn’t see or read the latter, and I only watched the first of the eighteen Saws (the one with the Princess Bride guy), but I do know that this combination of creepy, no-exit style confinement crossed with puzzles that tingle with Egyptian antiquity and Arabic mystique references the popular draw of both, without actually threatening any of the participants’ lives.

And for older gamers, since hardly anyone’s ever successfully completed the tasks, think live action Myst.

In Claustrophilia (or ParaPark or TRAP or any number of successful businesses doing the same thing right now), a group of two to five players are (effectively) locked into a room in one of Budapest’s many run-down, bombed-out, dilapidated buildings and are locked in. They have a series of tasks they must perform in order to escape, or else their time’s up and they are let out as losers.

And it’s become hugely popular, particularly with tourists.

Maybe less surprising are the zombie survival events recently getting good press in England. Zed Events hires college students to chase you through malls, mansions, or even on weekend-long horror camping trips, while you fight them off with airsoft guns.

I mean, everybody loves zombies now.

But what’s really happening here? Regular, everyday people are LARPing. They may not be putting on costumes or inventing elaborate characters, but this kind of play is no different, and satisfies the same desire. The Zed games include cinematic, overarching plots, designed to satisfy a certain kind of gaming need.

As an increasingly digitalized age formalizes and abstracts our interpersonal interactions, sucking the vitality out of our daily lives, more and more people seek the unpredictable and the fantastic. But this kind of game is more than a fantasy; it is also a catalyst for camaraderie, a basic human need which isn’t satisfied in cubicles, bars and Facebook feeds.

More people are playing Claustrophilia and the people that play are looking for experiences that are more immersive, more interactive, and more unpredictable than Scrabble or Call of Duty.

A Players Guide To Formations In LARP Training

Formations in LARP Training

I’m curious how various LARP groups train their fighters.

According to this uniformity – even tyranny – is key.

“If an army is equipped together, instead of hodgepodge, then they will fight better as a unit.”

For the fun of it, he suggests three kinds of fighting groups – and with them, three kinds of weaponry.

For large groups, he suggests spears – imagine twenty or fifty spears in formations in LARP Training, sweeping the battlefield like water, slow and steady as a flood. For very small groups, he says, two-handed weapons work best.

Five or six iconoclasts charging down the field with massive hammers and axes. Sounds more like a mercenary group than a formation. Here are your hard-hitters, the ones who smash into the long-drilled military line and make a heavy dent. These are the ones who crush the spearmen’s flank.

Medium-sized groups, he suggests, might work best with sword-and-shield.

And “[i]f a few men want something different, explain how the group is more effective together than separate, because if one man gets their way, then the rest will soon follow.”

Keep order, he seems to shout, lest the individual revolt; this is the best way to preserve formation. suggests that intrinsic limitations to LARP formation are the main reason he’ll never LARP.

While it’s been suggested that LARP’s history is deeply rooted in military – and therefore, formation – reenactment, drilling and education and that the idea of formation might have a lot to do with its original implementation, it might be that this particular obsession has largely been cast aside.

Is formation important for you, as a LARPer? Or are character and story – or just waling away at like-minded individuals with foam weapons – more central to your overall experience?

Formations in LARP Training: Sternenfeuer group from Germany Recorded...

Formations in LARP Training: Sternenfeuer group from Germany Recorded at a meeting of the group.

What Foam Shield Designs Could Represent.

What Foam Shield Designs Could Represent.

Shields aren’t just for protection, we know that. If so, they would just be big black walls of steel rather than mobile warlike paintings. Though you don’t want your enemy to see your weapon until they’re close enough to taste it, shields are all about representing.

But what exactly do they represent? If you’ve read Game of Thrones at all, you know all of the lingo that goes with heraldry: gules field with lions rampant, bat over nebuly, a chief vert four axe-heads bentwise argent. offers a (buggy) interface to create your own crest, and this site talks about the heraldry in GoT, but from these two sources you would think that all symbolism was subjective and that design was a matter of taste.

You could certainly throw together all kinds of designs when creating your own shield, but heraldry is a language as rich as Russian or Klingon or Victorian nictitation, and the items and lines on a shield tell your life story to anyone willing to listen.

If you want to learn how to make your own crests, there are some great resources online. I won’t go into that, but I will just share a few of the coolest discoveries I happened upon:

– All of the colors have fun names. Gold is or and silver is argent; green becomes vert, red gules; black goes by sable; and maroon is murray (named after mulberries) or Sanquine

– In fact, heraldry has as many weirdly cute terms as British slang, to the point where it sounds like baby talk: bendy means a diagonal line, and chequy and lozengy are different kinds of checkered; you can even diaper your crest.

– The next most important thing to the color on your crest is the icons. Some icons are more ethereal than others: a bear is strength or cunning, wings are swiftness. Some are more specific. A bat indicates “awareness of the powers of darkness and chaos, which seems a truly subjective indication to pop on your house crest, while a jessant (a leopard head eating a fleur-de-lis) symbolizes the lion of England devouring the lily of France.

So what foam shield designs show your interests and allegiances?

Fantasy Weapons: Fire On The Water

Fantasy Weapons: Fire On The Water

Fantasy Weapons: Fire On The Water

Last week, I wrote about a historically relevant weapon.  This week, I wanted to focus on a fantasy weapon that is far more important: Greek Fire.

It burns on water. When you read about Greek Fire (and there are lots of little articles written about it), that’s what you hear again and again: it burns on water. This fascinated and terrified ancient soldiers. Used by the crusading Byzantine Greeks against their enemies, Greek fire was a liquid or gaseous conflagration that could be lobbed at targets in pots or projected through a tube.

Imagine a fire hose filled with actual fire. Imagine a mechanical dragon. Imagine, too, 1.5 millennia of scientists attempting to recreate it and failing.  It is because of these failed attempts that Greek Fire has fallen into the categories of myth and fantasy weapons.

Its formula was such a closely-kept secret that its owners only used it twice.  It was ultimately lost to history with the death of its inventor.

But in creative consciousness of scientists and fantasists it persists. The ancient step-father of grenades, napalm, flamethrowers, and numerous other inventions, it is re-imagined in Game of Thrones as wildfire, the magical green substance used by Tyron Lannister to annihilate Stannis’ fleet. It also appears in stories like Pirates of the Caribbean and Assassin’s Creed.

In every iteration, it’s a wildcard, a fantasy weapon that can’t lose but terrifies even its handlers.

Just as the most sadistic world leaders hold back their nukes for fear of being nuked, the Byzantines kept their wildfire largely to themselves.  Terrified that enemies might discover the secret and use it against them.

Though it did kill, reportedly, upwards of 60,000 soldiers in its brief period of use.

As we pour out a bit of whiskey for the fallen, we reflect: history might have told a different story had Greek generals been a little less careful. The balance of power, even the fate of the Crusades, could have been radically altered.  This fantasy weapon is an example of the downside of our human nature.  When we have an advantage we often keep it to ourselves and fail to use it.





It’s always good to be prepared.

Don’t be caught skint. Let preparedness define you.

The weapon defines the warrior, we all know that. Who’s Leonardo without his double katana? Who is or Conan without the Atlantean, or Gandalf without that huge staff?

Weapons can define countries, too, and in some cases, sprawling nations and cultures. The gladius, a sword less than two feet in length, took its place as The Most Important Weapon in History by building the Roman empire. This sparky little monster was used for nearly six hundred years.


Because it was light, deadly, and sexy. Developed out of the Spanish gladius hispaniensis, the sword that built the Roman Empire sported a brief, foot and a half long double-edged blade. Short and sassy, this well-developed killer was most excellent when used in formation, meant to come out from under a shield wall to jab at guts and slice at exposed kneecaps.

Bluuuuuugh! Ouch.

Of course, it was well augmented by the pilum, the handheld projectiles carried in the hollow of shields and designed to splinter on impact—deadly and unable to return to sender.

This made Roman legions into, basically, a battalion of amazingly aggressive porcupines. They splintered your ranks from a distance, then closed in like a steamroller.

Beside these add-ons, the gladius was so successful that it became the Latin word for sword, like kleenex or xerox.

For four hundred years this weapon rocked the western world, allowing for the dominion of Gall, Britain, Spain, Greece—and the implementation of aqueducts, public baths, paved roads, sanitation, . . .

The gladius, of course, eventually evolved. It’s a sad fact that your army of five or six isn’t made for shield-walls. The lesson? Prepare. Develop. Arm yourself. Don’t be caught skint.