Good vs Evil
Right. Or wrong. Or maybe neutral? How hard can it be to decide what kind of character you'd want to play at a larp event? It can be pretty hard, I can assure you.
Movies, internet, and videogames have – in my humble opinion – created the image that the madman, the evil scientist, the mafia boss, basically anything that is evil, are SO cool. After all, they get the girl and all the money. They can plot and laugh as James, Mike, or Martin and Will try to figure out what their next move will be. Truth be told, they seem all-powerful (at least until they are finally thrown from their throne because how many bad endings are there in movies nowadays?)
And then there's mister or miss Goody Two-Shoes. He scrambles and begs to find out where Evil is going next, or where he can get the gear to fight him. It seems almost pathetic at times, though I must say that Pierce does a good job at staying hot during all this.
Of course, real life hardly ever gives you the choice to become evil and not pay dearly for the consequences of your actions. And as boring as life may seem without the driving around in fast & furious (stolen) cars, it's safe and keeps you out of jail.
Now luckily we people of Elfwood have our minds to escape to. We can dream and write and draw about being good or evil. You are the creator of your own Batman & Robin, Dr Evil & Mini Me. Whatever you imagine becomes real in writing or in art.
Now the step back to larp.
Think about what it would be like to run around in the forest, being your own worst enemy or the savior of any damsel in distress. Plotting against the people who in daily life are your best friends, luring unsuspecting villagers into the forest to cut their purses or throats, or tracking down the villain who kidnapped the bartender's daughter.
Of course, the crème de la crème of the Good side are paladins. Knights in shining armor, dressed in the whitest of whites which makes them practically a beacon in the night. Unable to lie, cheat, or steal, playing a paladin can be quite a challenge. But paladins have responsibilities. First of all, there are the services, prayers and other things that come with the religion of your 'pallie'. Furthermore, they have to protect the innocent, save the village & kill the dragon and more of that bombastic crap.
Now look at the power of the dark side (I'm not talking Jedi here, mind you). Being evil can be quite fun. Especially at a larp. The people you ruthlessly murder can just create a new character and have more fun. Anything your character steals will be returned to the rightful owner at the end of the larp. And just think how cool it would be to just enter the inn and start whacking people all 'round?! That is, until the pallies get up and spoil the fun by imprisoning you.
Now these are extremes of course. Most characters are more nuanced. Extremes like these are in the larp world called "power players" - a person who has too much power and influence, and can hardly be destroyed. Champion of the army, chief necromancer, head magician, professional damsel-rescuer or master assassin. It is fun to be a power player, but it's lonely at the top and even your friends will try to take over your position. And as much fun as it is to be really strong, it's twice as bad when your character is executed for its crimes, when the paladin severs your head from your body, or when one of the cutthroats lures you into the alley.
Personally, I've never experienced the death of one of my major characters, but I've seen the influence it has had on my friends. When a friend of mine lost his paladin character, he got so frustrated, he practically begged the dungeon master to let him return as an undead. Post character syndrome can be as bad as being clubbed. After all, your character is a good friend, or even a part of you. It can be a disastrous experience to have him or her die.
I for myself am very much in love with my ranger, Anna. She is a complicated person, chaotic good in alignment, and in love with a paladin. I think I would go mad with sorrow if she were to die. And last time I played her, I came so close a few times…
Annet Nijmeijer is a student in Holland who spends more time on Larp than on studying. She designs Larp costumes for her friends and herself. She has attended ten Lives so far, and doesn't intend to stop any time soon.
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