I started my LARPing tenure at pre-split NERO in New Hampshire and Connecticut. I was sixteen, and by the time I made my first character a year later, I only had a vague idea of what I was doing. Not just in LARPing, either. Mostly in life. I was about to graduate High School with middling grades while my mother was dealing with an aggressive breast cancer chemotherapy; I didn’t have much enthusiasm for anything and I certainly didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Pretending to be a hero out in the woods sounded okay to me.
Not being one for noble knights and damsels in distress, I made a savage wild elf with a terrible and tragic backstory named Sevaria. She was an okay character, as far as LARP characters go. I had half an idea what I was doing from years of theatre and everyone at game was fresh and new and exciting. It was a way to escape the things that were happening in the real world and take control of a false-life instead. In other words, a pretty typical LARP story.
Being seventeen, Sevaria grew as I grew. She found a purpose and a goal. I went to college for Creative Writing. She dealt with the ghosts of her past and became a better person for it. I came to terms with my mother’s cancer and began to figure out who I was in the wake of it. She became an errant knight of the land, protecting not the people, but the causes of the earth itself as she became a warrior. I started getting physically fit and more social active, encouraged by wanting to succeed better at game. She fell in love; I got engaged. Neither of us thought that would be a thing.
LARP characters are a part of you, especially when you’re young. That’s what made it so difficult for me when I lost Sevaria about a month ago and the character permanently died in battle. It was unexpected in some ways and expected in others; Alliance has a random chance of permanent death that increases every time you die, and Sevaria had kicked the bucket a lot lately. But no one could really prep me for having to say goodbye to her. In truth, I didn’t even realize how significant the character had been to my life until that moment.
It was not dissimilar to closing a book and having to return it to the shelf. There’s a bittersweet feeling, because it was a good story and you learned from it, but now it’s over and you won’t quite relive it the same way again. I talk a lot about how LARP changes you as a person, but this cemented it. Ten years of playing this character taught me more than many real life institutions ever did. I learned how to manage people and how to resolve conflicts; I learned how to stand up for myself and what I believed in. I learned what my body can and cannot do. LARP isn’t just a hobby. It’s a lifestyle, a culture, and one that can leave you a much better person than when you started. I’ve seen it every day in other people, in my players and my staff, and for the first time I got an opportunity to see it in myself.
So: thanks, Sevaria. Go rest. We did good.