Why LARP?

This hobby wouldn't be such an obsession if it wasn't so much fun. That fun comes from the combined efforts of a lot of very smart and creative people. This page names some of the guilty parties responsible for me coming back time and time again to this thing called LARP.

Some of the Guilty Parties

Pete Hadiaris, Brian Downey, and Paul Cook

These three started off my role-playing career. I dropped in on Pete's room in South Quad at the University of Michigan in the fall of 1976. They were playing an interesting new game called Dungeons and Dragons. I asked if I could play. They said no. There wasn't space in the game.

I decided that I could learn this tabletop "role-playing" game on my own...

Johnson

I needed a player for my own D&D game. Johnson volunteered. It was the start of a twenty year tabletop series of campaigns, all set in my own world.

Anton Chernoff, Roberta Berry, and Jill Poland

In 1986, Anton came up to me at work and said "You're a sleazy GM. I need some help." He was referring to his role as Todd Enfield, in Twenty Years After, a murder mystery written by Roberta Berry. Anton was the killer. He showed me his character sheet. I was intrigued, and started to figure out the various plots in the game.

When the game was over, I asked how I could get into the next game. He said I couldn't. The games were always full, with a waiting list, and there was no way to get in.

Given that I really wanted to play, and that I'd seen one character sheet, I said "how hard could it be to write one?" I had a new Macintosh computer (128k memory, with a floppy drive and 9" screen), so I was all set. Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll was the result. Jill, who I was married to at the time, gave me the chance to write the game. When it was done, Jill and I called a bunch of friends to help play. Surprisingly enough, it was a success.

Roberta Berry and George Berry

Where There's A Will... was my third game, and I'd gotten seriously bogged down during the writing. It was mostly the result of changes in my life. My daughter Julie was three going on four, and my son Jordan was coming into the world. There was half a game sitting there, with interesting plots and characters, and I couldn't finish it.

Enter Roberta and George. They'd been doing weekend murder mysteries for years, and they didn't have a new game. I suggested Will... and they decided to take a look at it. Then they decided to run with it. They finished the game up, with my input.

While I'd had several amazing experiences with people playing my characters as I'd seen them in my head (such as the performance of Hormones on Parade), Will... went to the next level. Here were the characters, as I'd imagined them, but even larger. Whether it was Bambi and Phillip's entrance and the gunplay that ensued, to the serenade by Stuart to Olivia, to the incomparable and unsurpassable entrance of Elvis, Will... reenergized me.

Gail Freedman

Communicating over the Internet, there was this person in Chicago who also wrote murder mystery games. (You can actually buy one of her early works, one of the boxed sets, in quality game stores.) She wanted to try out my The Treaty of Berlin game. I sold her a copy.

GMs play parts in Berlin. Her character did something unique to the game, in conjunction with another player - Dig Freedman. The two of them are married now, in real life, and they hold Berlin partially responsible. It was the start of an amazing friendship.

Jesse Sanford and Christine Carpenter

They also heard about The Treaty of Berlin over the Internet. They wanted to know more, but since Jesse was a high school student at Philip Exeter Academy, he didn't have any money to buy the game. Instead, he and Christine were running something called The Chicago Conference. I offered to give them a copy of Berlin in exchange for a chance to play in The Chicago Conference. It was a deal. It was a fabulous time, even if Jill managed to change the entire course of the game at the very last minute. (The Chicago Conference evolved into the magnificent Conjunction, which I was fortunate enough to play in. Conjunction, at Intercon XII, was one of those games that was absolutely phenomenal - one of the high points of my LARPing experience.)

Ryan Smart, John Dunkelberg, and Matt Adwin

My life had some very dark moments after my separation. Ryan was running this game called Elysium, along with John and Matt. He called me up and asked if I wanted to play, even after the game was starting up. He insisted that I should play, if only to get out. I decided to take him up on the offer. I asked for a character as different as possible from who I was, and worked with John to flesh out the part. Valjean Guy was the result - a womanizing Impressionist painter who lived as a result of his service to female vampires. I had to do some research for the role, and fell in love with art as a result.

In game, I played it as outrageously as I could, and there were some people who gave me the opportunity to really push myself. Tara Halwes, Carolyn Day, and especially Lisa Patacchiola and Mark Simpson will always be memorable as a result.

Gail Freedman, Dig Freedman, Jesse Sanford, Christine Carpenter, Mike Young, Ryan Smart, and Jonathan Drummey

Despite Elysium, my birthday started looming, my first alone in a very long time. Gail and Dig had been talking to me about their next game, a murder mystery in the style of Berlin. They were going to run it at Intercon XI, a gaming convention in Maryland. I'd heard about these conventions, but wasn't all that interested. Gail, Dig and I were talking about game theory and murder mysteries as a result, and that seemed enough. Then Jesse and Christine chimed in. They were running their What the Cat Dragged In at the con, and they were going to be on a panel to discuss murder mysteries. So were Gail and Dig. Then Mike chimed in. He'd been talking to me independently about how to package games for sale - he had this game called Miskatonic Class Reunion he'd written and run. He was also the co-con-chair for Intercon XI.

They all insisted that I should come to the con. In fact, they conspired to get me there.

When Ryan found out I was thinking about it, he said that he was going down with Jonathan, and that there was room in the car for me. I think that was what decided it.

As soon as I agreed, Gail and Dig stopped talking to me about game theory. They insisted that I play in their game, called Til Death Do Us Part. They said they knew who I had to play. (Realize that we'd never met at this point.)

Intercon XI was the most amazing birthday I'd ever had. It was the gift that just keeps on giving. The first person I met in game was Terilee Edwards-Hewitt, who I walked up to and said "Allow me to introduce myself. I'll be your husband for the evening." I was so hosed in that game - and Terilee and I had such fun playing a relationship that was just doomed. We still celebrate "our anniversary" as a result.

There was so much more out of the con. I was hosed in Jesse and Christine's game, and it was just a joy. I wrote a character called "Z" for the all-cat game Hairball, which was a riot. (Z stayed with me, and has reappeared in another all-cat game near to my heart.) The rest of the games were also amazing, and so were the people.

Sean Butler, Steve McCann, the rest of the Sic Semper Tyrannis crew, and Rebecca Kletnieks

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. I was visiting Rebecca when Sean called to worry about one of his players dropping out of Sic Semper Tyrannis. The person was supposed to be playing Mycroft Holmes, one of the central characters in the game. Despite Intercon XI, I was still a little leery of the trip down south, and how I might be received. When I heard that Sean needed a detective, I decided that it was a part I would be interested in going out of my way for. With Rebecca's help, it was arranged.

I consider myself fairly reasonable at detection, as I have to be in order to plot murder mystery games. Mycroft is Sherlock Holmes' smarter brother - very big shoes to step into. I wasn't sure that I was up to it.

When I arrived at the game, I was thrilled by the reception I got; it was like walking into a room with a bunch of old friends (who I'd just met at Intercon XI and wasn't even sure of their real names).

The game rocked. With Dirk Parham and Gary Rumain as James West and Artemis Gordon, I felt like I was in a great episode of The Wild, Wild West, which I'd loved as a kid. With Denis Roma as John Wilkes Booth, and John Corrado, Jr. as President Johnson, I had my own Holmesian crisis to decipher.

On Sunday morning, I had a Mycroft moment, when I transcended my own limitations and cracked the case. It was sublime. I was hooked, and trips south to LARP have become a regular occurrence.

Gail Freedman and Dig Freedman

Gail was working with Dig to help a friend set up a murder mystery friendly B&B not too far from Champaign, Illinois. She wanted me to bring out The Idol Hands of Death. I was paying a significant fraction of my income as child support. I had a car that was pushing too many miles. Gail and Dig were responsible for too much fun. How could I refuse?

I drove, by myself, to Champaign. My Idol Hands co-conspirators, Tim Lasko and Susan Giusto flew out to help. Christine Carpenter drove several hundred miles to join us. Jesse Sanford took a bus from near Detroit.

There are good reasons why Gail and I are the Vortexes of Chaos. With the two of us together, the chaos was even more chaotic. Despite that, the game ran amazingly well.

The Northern contingent

After Intercon XI, there was talk about running an Intercon in the Boston area. There were many who were interested, and several urged me to help organize it. I'd met a lot of people who were willing to help.

As the time drew near to organize a bid, it became clear that it needed a focus. I put together a bid. Less than six months after Intercon XI, I was the con chair for Intercon the Thirteenth.

In eighteen months, we organized the first of the modern Boston Intercons. Intercon the Thirteenth held the record as the largest Intercon for eight years. Intercon has grown significantly over time, all with great slates of LARPs filling the schedules, with lots of players, new and old. I am thrilled to have played a small part in these efforts. (There are so many who deserve credit for making this happen.)

Cameron Betts

I hadn't written a game since The Idol Hands of Death. There were games on the back-burner that hadn't gone anywhere. Cameron agreed to help put together A Night At Club Ivory, which we cranked out in a week! It convinced me that I could write again.

Lackey Chaney, Quick LaPorte, and Sven Skoog

They wrote Balance of Power and gave me the part of Virgil Thorne, a Toreador painter. I hadn't painted anything since grade school. Nevertheless, I decided that if I was going to play a painter, I was going to paint! In the third game session, when the Toreador were hosting, it was set at an art showing. Between the works that I had painted to that point, and the works that Amy Reed had painted, we had a real art gallery.

The works continued, as Virgil's story continued in some very powerful ways. I ended up with almost twenty works. They hang in "Virgil's gallery", where you can trace Virgil's emotional state through the series of works. They would not be so profound without the play of Amy Reed, Keri Goldenoak, Scott Lutz, and Shawn Zimmerman, as the others involved in our intense little clan. Vortex, the image on the left, is the last of Virgil's works.

Julie Diewald and Jordan Diewald

My two children knew how much fun I have at these games. Jules was at Intercon the Thirteenth, and helped as part of my staff. Jordan helped with some other con things. One night, we talked about something we could do together and Whose LARP Is It, Anyways? was born. It was a success, and both helped to run it.

Brian Williams

I met Brian at Intercon 13.5, where we were at odds in a game called Nepenthe. At the last minute of the game, I double-crossed him terribly. In the very next game, Intrigue in the Clouds, I found myself in just the opposite position, having to convince him that I really was up to good, that I wasn't the heinous bad guy I appeared to be, which was all true. That was the intense start to a stunningly brilliant game. We plotted our way through several difficult situations, surrounded by some of my all-time favorite LARPers. The result was simply the best possible ending to the game I could have dreamed of.

I invited Brian to come over to the US again, to play at the northern Intercon, and maybe to bring one of his games with him. He did, and he brought his friend AJ - and they've brought other friends with them over the years. I love our British contingent at Intercon - they are wonderful friends now, and they always bring some fabulous, must-play games with them.

Mark Waks

I volunteered to be con-chair for Intercon XV, with Mark as my vice-chair. About seven months before the con, my children came to live with me full-time. It was quite a shift in responsibility, and my efforts towards the con had to be cut back. Fortunately, Mark was able to step in and take charge, becoming the con-chair. The success of Intercon XV was thrown into his lap, and he did a wonderful job.

John Corrado Jr., Anne Cross, Philip Goetz, David Lichtenstein, Michael McAfee, Uncle Don Ross, Alexandra Thorn, and Mark Waks

We were the BYOG team for Intercon 15.5. You couldn't ask to partnered up with a better team of LARP writers. Over the span of the weekend, we wrote and ran the first run of Collision Imminent!. That's probably why it's been run several times since - it may, in fact, be the most successful Build Your Own Game effort so far. I love that game!

I'd never written with such a big team before. It was an enlightening experience. The games that these people had already written! Wow! It was great to be in the room and in the mix with them.

This has also led to several other BYOG experiences...

Susan Giusto, Tim Lasko, and Barry Tannenbaum, joined later by Charlie McCutcheon

We started working together as TNT Productions and look what's happened since. I mean, c'mon! We wrote a game about what's under the couch - and they didn't look at me too suspiciously... well, not very often.

Brandon Brylawski and the rest of the Tales of Pendragon team

Early in 2004, I played in Tales of Pendragon, and was just blown away by the Tale-telling structure of the game. On the plane flight back from the game, I started scribbling furiously. The ideas would not stop coming, and I wrote a lot - a crazy number of pages. By the time I was done, Across the Sea of Stars would fill two 4" notebooks of printed materials. It is a monstrously huge game.

And it was produced in pain, as there was too much Real-Life™ involved during the process. However, after two years of work, we ran the game - and it was amazing to watch.

What's been even more amazing to watch has been the other authors who were influenced by the game. There have been several other wonderful games that were birthed out of the experiences from Across the Sea of Stars - and I've enjoyed playing as many of them as I can get into.

There are more responsible parties, and I'll continue to point the finger as needed. I appreciate all of them, and am thankful that they've included me in the experience. I am the better for it.