I’m pretty sure it was “Role Models” that first introduced me to the concept of Live Action Role Playing, aka LARPing. At the time I wasn’t sure that such a thing actually existed, believing it more likely to be some exaggerated work of fiction than something real. Well after discussing the show “LARPs” with the creators I’m fairly confident that such a thing is actually real.
For the uninitiated Live Action Role Playing involves the creation of a character with certain skills and attributes suitable to an invented world governed by the strict rules of the Game Master. The Game Master is the inventor of the game, the creator of the scenarios and the person charged with enforcing the rules and guiding the story. It’s all a sort of mix of acting, role-playing, sporting and highbrow nerdiness. It’s very much akin to a Civil War reenactment, but more like reenacting the battle of Helm’s Deep, or the latest battle you fought in DnD.
The show, written by long time LARPer Jon Verrall, is excellent no matter what angle I try and look at it from. As an outsider to the LARPing community I found the show insightful, hilarious and deeply honest. From what the creators shared with me, it seems that LARPers have felt the same way, embracing the show.
I think the show’s success stems from a script that tries to make light of the oddity of the LARPing movement, while at the same time being decidedly born from it. The characters are so well done – we see the allure of the culture, the disconnect from a mundane reality, a strong camaraderie, an outlet for creativity and for some the opportunity to act a little closer to the person they want to be.
Simultaneously the characters recognize the way others might see their hobby, even going as far as treating a fellow LARPer they meet in a restaurant in the same way one might treat a co-worker who tries to tell you about their fantasy football team. For LARPers the experience is clearly personal, and strangely unrelatable to others. We see it throughout the series, none of the characters seem to have the ability to fully understand the others – something that hints at some mildly stunted social behavior.
Ultimately it’s that honest, warts and all take that makes this one of the best scripts I’ve come across this year. While not every viewer will be able to identify with learning an accent, inventing spells and dressing up as an elf on weekends I believe the underlying reasons why these characters are so invested in this lifestyle are universal. We all dream of being more heroic, more capable, more important; and we are all guilty of creating unrealistic caricatures of people before truly getting to know them.
So I don’t want to spend the whole time gushing about the script, and the characters when I can briefly mention that this show is laugh out loud funny. If you are a fan of awkward social behavior, hits to the groin area, and nerf gun gun kata, you will find loads of laughs with LARPs.
On the production side, LARPs had all of their elaborate costumes provided to them by a local LARP costume provider Artisans d’Azure. They also shot the bulk of the series out in the woods, which I imagine made those 12 straight days of shooting a lot more productive than they would’ve been had they set the series in a myriad of locations. With the bulk of the locations controlled and the impressive costumes covered they rounded out the cast with a group of people they already knew were capable of pulling off the script. Lastly they added Joe Baron, a talented DOP who puts forth some really great work. While “LARPs” is not the most beautiful to look at series Baron managed to make a lot of mundane interiors and tree filled forests into some really interesting photography.
All-n-all “LARPs” gets as good of a recommendation as I’ll give a show, both as a fan and as a producer. So be sure to check it out! You can find it at http://larpstheseries.com