LARPING in a Pandemic

LARPING in a Pandemic

I’d be lying if I tried to tell you all that 2020 wasn’t a strange year. A global pandemic shut down most of the world. Face masks became a part of our daily lives. Major events and conventions were canceled.

As a fledgling LARPer, it was the last one that hurt the most.

I had planned to look for a local LARP group to join in 2020. However, the pandemic took that away, not just from myself, but from every single LARPer in the world.

It hit the LARP industry hard, and different groups had different ways of coping with it. Large blockbuster LARP events were pushed out or rescheduled. Some monthly groups were able to switch to more online events through Discord servers and video chats. By 2021, some groups even had to shut down entirely due to lack of funds.

(Rest in peace, New World Magischola. You were my first LARP and you will be missed.)

But even in this, there was a surprising bright spot to my fledgling LARPer life, and it may surprise you all to know that that bright spot was TikTok.

For anyone unfamiliar with the app, TikTok is an app where content varies wildly. People lipsync to popular songs or create new dances in short videos. People share video updates about their lives or create new audio for other people to relate to and utilize in their own content.

But that’s not all it is.

When the pandemic started to shut things down, creatives from all walks of life started utilizing the app, too, in the hopes of finding a new creative outlet to replace what they had lost.

Dancers started dance chains. Actors came up with skits for other users to duet and fill in the missing lines. Singers and musicians came up with a variety of minute-long original pieces or sang songs for others to duet and harmonize with them or add to the beauty of what they had made.

And let me tell you, it’s glorious.

Even LARPers started using it, and believe it or not, there’s actually some precedent for this.

See, cosplayers use TikTok, too. And while some of these are people who are creating costumes of characters from established fictional works (anime, as always, is fairly popular), people are also creating costumes for wholly original characters.

Maybe it’s the character they play in Dungeons and Dragons. Maybe it’s a generic werewolf OC that could fit in anywhere. Doesn’t matter what it is. They’ll make videos for their character and use the audios on TikTok to create a story for their character that other people can interact with and respond to.

There are entire tags dedicated to this, too. I’ve seen pirates, merfolk, vampires, and even some Harry Potter-inspired story arcs.

And whether the people who participate in these tags want to admit it or not, that sounds a lot like LARPing, doesn’t it? Some communities have even gone and created entire LARPs on the platform itself.

In fact, let me share with you all a selection of what you might find if you go looking:

  • A variety of Dungeons and Dragons inspired taverns and shops (Quincy’s Tavern, and The Rosewood Inn are popular destinations)
  • The Hogwarts Professors is inspired by a certain fantasy series that shall remain nameless. This was the first story tag I ever found on TikTok and the first time I saw epic narratives being created. When I first saw it, I wanted to participate, but I was too nervous at the time to do so.
  • The Daisy Chain takes inspiration from various fantasy settings such as Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and various fantasy LARP settings. Started by a LARPer looking for an outlet during the pandemic, The Daisy Chain focuses on a group of people fond of flowers and femininity. Sometimes, their adventures overlap with other D&D cosplay tags.
  • Deadenders is a zombie apocalypse storyline focusing on a ragtag bunch of survivors that found their way to each other and are trying to carve out a space for themselves in the world that remains. Some epic events early into the tag included a zombie horde and a group of raiders that left a decent chunk of the camp traumatized.
  • Briarthorne University is a magical university that recently went through a complete timeline shift. Magical creatures come from all over the world to gain an education and learn control of their powers. (If you’re looking for a large magical school tag with epic and emotional storylines, this is where you’re going to want to look.)
  • Exeter by Night, which I also participate in, is a virtual Vampire: The Masquerade chronicle that tells the story of the fictional city of Exeter and the kindred who live within it. Full of strong narrative choices and gothic romance, no one ever said being undead was boring. As of this writing, the tag is wrapping up a Second Inquisition assault on a local Anarch event.

As different as all of these tags are, they all have one thing in common. People want to share stories with other people. They want to be able to tell these stories with others, too, much like one would during a LARP. And to be quite honest, I find that beautiful.

I’m forever going to be grateful that TikTok gave me a way to express myself and continue to LARP during the coronavirus pandemic. I look forward to continuing to play virtually while also eventually engaging in LARP events when things safely open up again.

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