Live action role-playing comes to Pomfret
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Pomfret - posted Tue., Sep. 18, 2012
The Windham Tolland 4-H Camp in Pomfret turned into a medieval fantasy world on Sept. 14. Crew members from Mythical Journeys transformed the main lodge into a tavern and stockpiled swords, staffs, daggers and crossbows in the basement. There were plastic tubs full of wigs and masks, crowns and headpieces. Long dresses, wide leather belts, capes, furry vests and peasant blouses hung on racks that lined one long wall in the basement. By the time 10 p.m. rolled around, gone was present-day Pomfret. In its place was Eldyrwood, a world inhabited by humans, goblins, dragon people and monsters. It was game on.
According to MJ Event Coordinator Eric Tetreault, more than 80 people registered for the live action role-playing (larp) game that started Friday night and ended Sunday at noon. For the duration of that time, registrants wore garb and became characters of their own making. Among them was a tavern keep, a pirate, an armor-plated fighter looking for adventure. They were playing their characters, as well as immersing themselves in a world with its own sets of rules and regulations.
Fighting is a big draw at MJ weekends, but weapons are soft, foam-covered things. Hits to the face, hands and groin area are not allowed. But just one swipe of a foam sword against an arm can “maim” a player, which is why there are a long list of rules governing fighting, as well as casting spells, healing and dying. New players go through an hour-long introductory session explaining what they have to do if they are maimed, paralyzed, or turned into a spirit. The list of rules runs 166 pages.
Sara McElwain knows the rules well; she has been playing for 10 years. “You get to be so creative,” she said. “You get to write your own story.” McElwain becomes Delphi Alephelia Thais for the MJ game. When she is in character, she wears black leggings, black leather boots, a green peasant style blouse covered with black bodice and 22 pieces of jewelry, including rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces. Each piece has its own story.
And story is a huge part of what live action role-playing is all about. MJ plot writer Michael Romatelli started larping 22 years when he was in college. It took table-top games like Dungeons and Dragons to a live level, he said. Players have to come prepared to play. That preparation includes compiling a history for the character they play, and sharing that history with the organizers of the game. A group of writers create story lines for players. During the game, players act out the plots set for them. But larping requires that all story lines be open-ended. A character might be 'killed' in battle, for instance, and sent back into the game changed by Fate, who is played by a cast member.
“It's cooperative storytelling,” said Romatelli. “Half of the story is written by the players. I love it when players surprise me. I love it when stories collide.”
MJ has several plot writers who collaborate on the stories for each weekend event. There are battle plots, religious plots (MJ created it own religions) and monster plots. Players register for the events and provide information about their characters on an online database.
According to Romatelli, it usually takes a few events to refine a character. “A lot of character histories and ideas don't survive the first event,” he said. At his first MJ event, his character cast spells. But he discovered that he had so much fun buying and selling things that he turned his character into a merchant.
The chance to be anyone you want and the entertainment and escapism the game provides draws in all sorts of people. Michael Buonagurio is a International Technical Publications Manager for Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. A huge Renaissance fair fan, Buonagurio turned into the warrior Khmai for the MJ weekend. His garb of dragonscale armor, helmet, chain mail war skirt, gorget with attached pauldrons, and greaves over nine-button Sandal leather boots cost more than $2,000. But he was well protected from ambush in the dark woods of Eldyrwood.
The adrenaline rush of walking through the woods in the dark is what makes the game special for Romatelli. “You actually have that fight or flight reaction in your head,” he said. “That's the addiction you get here.” And sure enough, in the casting room downstairs, monsters and goblins and dragon people dressed for their parts in the story, choosing weapons with which to attack players who had journeyed there.