By: Kelly Allard, staff writer
Editor’s note: Sometimes we don’t have a lesson to teach. Sometimes we just need to share a great story about a gaming experience we had with our kids. This is our friend (and regular writer) Kelly sharing her LARPing story. If you have a story to share please send it in to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It might just get featured on Mommy Monday!
The night was abuzz with the energy of the group of young adventurers gathered in the lone tavern in the small hamlet of Fairdale. The group gathered together to complete the same mission: to fight the minions of evil (without cessation) and to return the lost strength and magic of the realm’s adults before it was lost for good. These brave children would face many challenges on their path to complete this quest: living storybook characters, mighty orcs, tricky goblins, and, for the most stalwart, the embodiment of the nightmare lurking in the dark recesses of their minds. Would it prove too much for these miniature heroes? We would have one weekend to find out.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of taking my pre-schooler to her first Alliance LARP event, the 2013 Kid’s Event at Alliance LARP HQ (http://alliancelarp.com) in Montrose, PA. The event is a weekend-long “soft” version of the adult game that I have been playing for the last decade (give or take), geared towards giving children a chance to fight monsters and solve puzzles and dress up in costume like their parents do.
I describe it as a “soft” version because the current 200+ page rule book is boiled down to a simplistic set of rules that barely fills a single page. Children are allowed 2 weapon skills from a list and first time players are given the choice of 3 different abilities from a list of 9 actual grown-up game powers. Each year the child attends, they gain one more ability choice from that list that they then add to their 3”x5” hand-written character card.
Friday night, once all the children had arrived, we sat in the tavern and helped the players prepare. We sorted out character cards, did a rules orientation, and brought them to Monster Camp (the place on site where all the weapons and costuming for NPCs, non-player characters, are stored for use in entertaining players) to borrow boffer swords (padded weapons) and spell packets (birdseed “bean bags” used to represent spell energy when magic is used). Shortly after that, the game started with a brief combat encounter and some adult characters entering the game to explain what was going on and how these brave heroes could help.
One of the main rules for children is that they cannot fight each other, only the adults that are there to play with them (for safety reasons – the adults are better able to fight safely against a smaller child). This gives an interesting dynamic to the game since all of the parents and volunteer adults make up the game world that the kids play in. Children must always have an adult to supervise, which allows for the parents to have some fun of their own. It’s very easy to trade-off who is interacting with and entertaining your child, while you are entertaining someone else’s!
Over the course of the weekend the children were split into groups based on age and experience and their self-admitted ability to handle “scary things”. They solved puzzles, found clues, fought monsters, and gained treasure. There were small adventures based on CandyLand, fights against giants and rats and even gingerbread men, even some time to cool off with a mermaid at a stream. There were fireworks and marshmallow roasting, birthday parties and library cards, and friendships forged in the heat of battle. The children worked together and helped out the best they could. Older heroes took the younger under their wings, and even the youngest would fight with everything to protect their friends from whatever threat happened by.
The plot of the weekend was fluid, and at multiple times it was affected completely by something one of the children said or did. Especially for the older adventurers, this power to affect the game and to see their impact on the world was empowering and exciting. The younger kids got to spend their hard-earned “Goblin Gold” on books and necklaces and glowsticks they got to take home, while the elder characters managed magic wands and powerful swords.
What was most impressive to the parents, however, wasn’t the teamwork, nor how well their children fought, or even how exhausted they were – it was what they learned about their kids over the weekend. The oldest players were taken on an adventure in the dark woods to face their nightmares; they had to fight their way through creatures completely cloaked in the black of night, whispering their names from all areas of the wood. They fought bravely and impressively against the adults that played the threat, but that wasn’t what left the impression.
Upon returning, one of them relayed the story of what happened to the adults and the other adventurers still awake in the tavern. He enthralled so many people with his storytelling that everyone who was nearby moved in closer to hear his tale. Everyone who listened – especially his mother – was so impressed that a fourteen year old was capable of that level of mastery of the spoken word that they were nearly in shock.
We even noticed a difference in our daughter, the youngest among them; the focus on books and finding clues in the words led her to spend the entire way home telling stories and asking us to spell words so that she could learn to read – so that she could help all her new friends find the clues inside the books.
The Alliance LARP Kid’s Event is an annual event hosted by Alliance HQ in Montrose, PA in the Summer Months for children ages 5-15. For more information, check outhttp://AllianceLarp.com or Alliance LARP Ashbury Campaign on Facebook.
(Full Disclosure: Stephen Duetzmann currently holds a position as the head of National Customer Service for the Alliance LARP organization.)