Revenge of the Nerds

For most of us, the perfect definition of a nerd consists of only two words: Dungeons & Dragons.

For those who have been sheltered from the world of the overly-intellectual and hyper-fantasized, Dungeons & Dragons is rightfully the nerdiest thing in the world. But within this magical realm of Wizards and Halflings exists a group of people who greatly surpass D&Ders in their nerdy thirst for questing and goblin killing: we’re talking about Live Action Role Playing (LARPing for short).

The hobby of sitting in a friend’s Mom’s basement, drinking energy drinks, eating Cheetos and navigating through fictitious worlds of yore, started a long time ago and blossomed into a community of highly imaginative dreamers, who found a way they could escape their less than satisfying lives as students, accountants, corporate guinea pigs, etc. with the roll of a multi-sided die. But the new phenomenon called LARPing has taken that imaginative whimsy to a level that will forever claim ultimate nerdom.

...LARPing in actionIn the original setup of Dungeons & Dragons, a player creates a character using attributes such as charisma, intelligence, dexterity, strength, constitution and wisdom. Players get to choose a race and class for their character, which they also name and bestow a physical description upon. This way, everyone playing has a persona they have built from the ground up. When the role-playing commences, battles and luck-based events are decided due to the role of the dice, with attributes and special abilities of the characters taken into account to determine if warrior kills orc or orc kills warrior.

Now this all sounds extremely nerdy and you may be asking: Carlin, how can anything top this nerdy-ass past time? To that question I proffer this: Imagine a whole swarm of Dungeons & Dragons nerds deciding to brave the sunlight and come out of their parents’ basements to try and make their characters come to life. Literally. Is this already sounding worse? It should.

Much like Civil War reenactors, those who participate in LARPing don costumes, paint on make-up and become their fantasy characters to take part in battles that are 100% fake.

For an accurate portrayal of what goes down in these LARPing sessions, please do yourself the favor of going to and watching some videos of the height of nerdocity (WARNING: If cardboard armor, tinfoil lightning bolts and quasi-choreographed shadow boxing skits get to you, watch at your own risk!).

The amount of time put into the elaborate costumes can be admired, but the lack of self-respect cannot. The battlefields of unreal skirmishes show a propensity for the melodramatic and exude a downright sense of confusion. Example: In D&D, rolling dice decide how much damage a player gives or sustains, while in LARPing the rules of when to live and when to die seem to exist only in the ill-fitting wigged heads of its participants. The days of arguing who wins a battle of attributes from the comfort of an old couch are long gone for those who LARP. Now they can settle their disputes like the ruffians of medieval times: with foam weapons.

Note the symbolically flaccid swordMany people who created LARPing characters have supposedly said they did so to offer them a chance to become what they long wished they could be. And when they slip into these new personas on the weekend, they feel powerful and are able to exercise real control over their lives – even if it is complete fantasy. If that is what keeps you happy in life, so be it.

As someone who has had experience playing Dungeons & Dragons, I understand the draw to fantasy world explorations. So to all LARPers out there I say this: More power to you, but you’re still the biggest nerds on this planet!

P.S. – For those wanting more than what the Internet can offer of this LARPing, just wait for the documentary “Darkon” to come out on DVD. I know I’m anxiously awaiting its release.


  1. Thumper says

    Oh boy, sounds like some would-be politicians I know! Seriously though, good for them. I'm glad they have an outlet to enjoy themselves.

  2. Dell says

    As a (recovering, thank you) D&D nerd, even I find this LARPing stuff a bit much. Keep it where it belongs kids. Dark musty basements that smell of feet and B.O.
    I can recall a few nerdathons in the mid 80's. One night we got off work at 11PM, convened for a quick quest-where we were going to slay this or find that or whatever-and we wound up playing for almost 13 hours straight.
    "I tell you lads," Ramy the Half Elf said with a chuckle, "I was certainly glad I had my +2 Cloak of Invisibility on this day, for one mustn't trifle with the undead when one's hit points are waning…"

  3. Carlin says


    Awesome comment! It really made me laugh. Maybe you should have written the article. It's also good to know that there are other recovering D&D nerds out there.

  4. says

    I, of course, had way too many girlfriends in high school to actually play any DnD. Ahem.
    But maybe you're a little hard on the LARPers. It seems to me that LARPers are people who are the shock troops in the virtual reality revolution. Their stories , their media is so real to that they are compelled to live them out. If they could plug themselves into some sort of holodeck and not exist in the "real" world at all, they would. Thats pretty neat, when you think about it. And given the way technology moves, I think we'll see that in our lifetime. If Second Life had a VR component, why would those people ever come back to first life?
    And when you think about it, who isnt a Live Action Role Player of some sort or another? Every day is a game where you have to play a role, assume a character and hope you have enough hit points to make it through. People role play as politicians, as teachers, cops, priests, pretentious online journalists. :)
    Now you want to talk about crazies, lets talk about the Furries.THEY have problems….

  5. Carlin says


    I liked how you pointed out how we are all LARPers in one way or another. I guess kissing ass at your place of employment on a daily basis is LARPing. Although now since i realize they are one in the same, maybe I will start bringing some balls of foil to work and start striking down all of the awful people with my lightning bolt! Lightning bolt! Lightning bolt!

  6. says


    Thanks! I could muse for days on my forays into the world of the RPG as a lad.

    I had em all, D&D, Top Secret (who didn't want to be James Bond?), Star Frontiers (who didn't want to be Han Solo?),Twilight 2000 (post WWIII apocalyptic Europe). Nerds unite!

    Had we been able to play DOOM, or Quake, or Call of Duty, TSR would have never made the leap "across the pond", as it were.

    I agree with Josh. If the LARPer could plug in and tune out, they'd be gone, baby.

    But then who'd work at that wierd comic book store at the strip mall?

  7. says

    There’s nothing wrong with LARP. It started about the same time as “organised” tabletop RPG games, with the same sort of ideas. It does seem to be more geeky than tabletop, but at the same time it allows you to pretend to be someone you aren’t in a way you can’t with tabletop – if you’re using dice then there is far more down-time than when you’re physically hitting someone with a sword.

    There are more styles of LARP than it first appears, with hundreds (maybe thousands) of different groups with different rules. While there are some semi-standard things where there’s only a small range (like allowing headshots, or body locations etc) there are other ideas with seemingly more range than tabletop.

    The one thing with LARP is that it is for fun. You might end a weekend covered head to foot in mud, having half your hair blown off by the wind, and enough water soaked into your clothes to fill several baths – but you had fun (NOTE: that sort of weather isn’t *that* common…).

    I run a LARP group and have made a guidebook for converting d20 (ie, Dungeons and Dragons) rules to LARP. In fact, my group is using the Forgotten Realms setting quite happily. What can I say; “I liked it so much I bought the company” (well, started my own) ;-P


  8. Kat says

    Robin, I’ve got to give you some sort of kudos, cause it takes a real geek to pick up a thread about LARPing that has run cold since November.

  9. Chu says

    Oh Lord,
    u really call this Shit LARP?
    OmfG, ur Costumes look like Crap..
    If this is LARP i’m the Drow Goddess Lloth..