|Black Flies and Sweat Pant Royalty
||[Jan. 27th, 2014|08:51 pm]
I promised myself I'd never go back to LARP. My first time had been so awful. It started promisingly enough, with a personal invitation to play from a plot member. She had a role for me, and thought I'd be just perfect. I was a dryad spiritually bound to a tree, and the tree had been destroyed. Madness and grief were my motivations. And so we drove for a couple of hours deep into the New Brunswick wilderness, down a few dirt roads, well past any sign of urban civilization. There were no street lights, gas stations, or corner stores.
It was with reluctance that I got out of the car. Late summer in New Brunswick is black fly season, and the air was thick with them. I raced to put on bug dope, smearing the blood-bloated corpses of feeding insects into my skin and clothing. I was grateful I wore long sleeves and pants, then gaped in surprise as I saw a couple of bug-bitten women stride by in tiny leather bikinis and loin cloths followed by armoured men with puppy-dog eyes. There were two buildings at the site: a run-down ranch house, and an outbuilding. I went into the house and down into the basement where all the LARPers were staying. It smelled of BO, mildew, and bug dope. People were donning fantasy makeup. I tried talking with a few of them, but no one was interested in talking to me, so I went back outdoors and wandered over to the outbuilding.
"Hi," I said, smiling. A few people looked at me, but no one returned my greeting. They were busy, I suppose, putting on costumes and doing mysterious things with mysterious props. A strange thing made of duct tape and foam was right beside me. I reached out to touch it, and froze when I heard the angry shriek of "DON'T TOUCH THAT!" from a woman with murderous eyes. I backed up a few steps, then turned and left the building.
I wandered around for a few hours, not having any clue as to what was going on. Although I'd played tabletop RPGs for several years, I knew next to nothing about this game, other than it was a high fantasy setting. Realizing that no one was willing to talk to me about story or mechanics or anything at all, really, I decided to make the best of the situation and just watch how people interacted with one another.
I saw an unsupervised toddler running amok. No one paid him any heed. Most of the men I saw treated everyone else with derision. They swaggered in armour, sweat pants, and running shoes acting like they were royalty and everyone else was a lowly serf on the verge of incurring royal displeasure. Well, not quite everyone else. Attitudes changed whenever the two scantily-clad women were nearby. Then the men competed with one another for the women's attention. The other women at the game--the ones who were covered up against bug bites and tree branches--were ignored by almost all the men, and made do with interacting amongst one another. I didn't understand how they were having fun.
Hours later, I was called on to do my dryad scene, and although it was enjoyable, it was too little and too late. Afterwards, I went and waited until the wee hours in the car, wishing I'd brought a book. When we finally got to go home, the woman who'd invited me was angry for the way I'd been treated, and terribly apologetic about the whole thing.
I promised myself I'd never go back to a LARP. But about ten years later, I let another friend talk me into trying out a different one. Here it is, another eight years later, and I am a LARPer. Friendly, welcoming people make all the difference in the world.