Thursday, November 4

Warcraft and LARPing: A Match Made In Helheim

Reports of WoW’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Whilst scaremongers have made great hay from falling subscription numbers when viewed in the long term, there are still 26 million dedicated WoW players who log in every week to guide the fate of Azeroth. But for more and more players, just logging in is not enough. A growing slice of the WoW community is seeking to bring the vivid characters and lore of the WoW canon through into the real world – and they don’t even need a Ritual of Summoning to do it. We are speaking, of course, of Warcraft and LARPing.

I Am The Lore

LARP (live-action roleplay) is a general term for a whole range of different roleplaying games, philosophies and martial arts that all revolve around the idea of portraying your character with your own body and actions. Whilst individual organizations and clubs might have a uniting theme and some basic rules, there are no limits for the self-expression that players can wield when LARPing – and WoW provides a rich mythology to situate your own character within. Players might painstakingly create their own armor, weaponry and equipment to go with their character, or they might purchase high-quality off-the-shelf equipment from a reputable LARP store. A whole new subculture specifically dedicated to WoW-themed LARP is springing up – have a look at these fantastic pictures from a WoW-themed LARP battle in the Czech Republic in 2018.

World of Boffcraft

Live action roleplay (or LARP) used to have a bad name, or at least a pretty tragic reputation. Stereotypes abound of people running around in the woods in flappy home-made costumes, and whacking one another with sticks wrapped in pillows. And, in all fairness, the stereotypes do have a grain of truth. Like all pursuits and hobbies, LARP has different trends who focus on different elements, and the most caricatured is the ‘boffer’ subculture. Emerging in the 1970s, ‘boffer’ LARP sought to bring the fantastical high-fantasy worlds of the time (Lord of the Rings, mostly) to life, mixing it with the early tabletop wargaming craze. Forerunners like the ‘Hobbit War’, organized by Washington DC college student Brian Wiese, took place in 1977 and 1978: participants met in woodland to carry out Capture-The-Flag scenarios whilst armed with crude ‘boffers’ made from sticks wrapped in padding. Wiese maintains that he had never even heard of medieval re-enactment or even Dungeons and Dragons – he was watching the 1976 classic Robin and Marian at the same time as reading Tolkein’s epic Lord of the Rings, and simply thought, ‘I want to do that’!

Nowadays, the medieval-inspired ‘Dagorhir’ that grew from Wiese’s college japes has become closer to a martial art, with a global organization, stringent rules for safety and combat scoring, and a national US meetup that regularly boasts 2,000 attendees. In terms of its lore, ‘Dagorhir’ is very much open to all comers: faithful historical re-enactment meets wild flights of fantasy with Saxons and Roman Legionaries doing battle with Elves and Orcs. If you’ve ever been tempted to bring your melee DPS character into the real world, a ‘boffer’ event might be a fantastic way to do it – whilst having a good laugh!

Northrend LARP

Whilst ‘boffers’ might focus on bringing the martial aspect of wargaming to life (as well as not taking themselves remotely seriously), Warcraft and LARPing can be explored in more roleplay-focused ways. The ‘Nordic LARP’ trend which emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s sees LARP almost more as an artform, characterized by serious themes and collective storytelling. Although it began as a Scandinavian phenomenon, it has gained a worldwide following – it frequently borrows techniques from theatre and improvisational art to deepen the experience, like workshop sessions, debriefs and analysis. It seeks to create an utterly immersive illusion where you can almost forget that you aren’t actually stalking your quarry through the alpine woods of Ashenvale. It has made a conscious effort to include more diverse narratives in fantasy, drawing in feminist and Black perspectives – which, as Blizzard’s current problems attest, are more vital in the world of fantasy than ever.

So, in short, we need to ditch our self-consciousness. Life is too short not to grab experiences that we want to have – and if you want to truly be your Warcraft character, LARP is a fantastic way to do it.

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