EUGENE, ORE. - A well-dressed man sits at a large table, his most trusted advisers – save one – to either side of him. The missing one, if found to have no good reason for not being present, will be harshly dealt with.
He casts an imperious gaze upon a group of individuals, numbering in the range of a couple dozen, situated in rows of chairs arranged before the lone table. Those assembled speak amongst themselves in hushed voices, discussing the latest scandal or, in even more hushed voices, advancing their personal plans and schemes.
When the man speaks, though, they instantly fall silent. He is the vampiric Prince of the city, and the Masquerade – the law of secrecy that protects the undead from the dangerous attention of the mortal world – has been broken, and now it must be mended.
Such scenes are common on the weekends, when a group of people ranging from college students to middle-aged professionals gather together to engage in some recreational Live Action Role-Playing, or LARPing for short.
“It's basically improvisational acting with rules,” explains player and college student Andrew Worthington, “You build a character from the ground up, as you would in a book. Then you assign him
traits – words that define what he's capable of, and then using that as a template, you portray him in various settings.”
It's not, however, particularly similar to the medieval re-enactment societies or bespectacled gatherings of nerds around a table piled high with Dungeons and Dragons books and figurines that most people tend to think of when they hear “role-playing” mentioned.
This is something that George Vaughn, an IT professional and the “Storyteller” – think stage director – for his local LARP group, is quick to point out.
“It's a much more social game with a much larger focus on acting … our particular game [Vampire: The Masquerade] focuses on sort of a Gothic horror theme where violence isn't acted out – that's where it goes 'off screen.' There's a lot of character development conflict – there's yelling and screaming, but no hitting.”
Where can these LARP groups be found? According to Vaughn, it's actually pretty difficult to not be near one.
“There are troupe games – basically groupings of friends with common interests – all over the place,” he says, “There are also clubs. The one our game is part of is called the Camarilla Fan Club ... the club is global, (and) has thousands of members that play in the same shared world. You probably walk by a LARPer every day without realizing it.”
The Camarilla Fan Club is the official fan club of White Wolf Publishing, and can be found at www.white-wolf.com.