Although geek culture in general is more popular than ever, certain aspects remain little known to mainstream audiences. Larping, or live action role-playing, is inspired by tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), and firmly rooted in genre fiction. Players portray specific characters in a fictional setting, and act out their characters’ actions in a series of events. Although it is a mainstay component of geek culture, larping is often the object of ridicule and mockery. Seen as the geekiest of the geeks in the overall geek hierarchy, Larpers must contend with their fair share of stigma both inside and outside the culture.
To be a Muslim larper comes, of course, with its own set of difficulties. Look, prancing around the house in your wood elf regalia will probably not do wonders to abate you mother’s fears that you will remain single forever, but an elf’s gotta do what an elf’s gotta do. So, whether it’s trying to prove your sanity to your increasingly concerned family and friends, attempting to devise a hijab-friendly costume, or finding ways to impeach your larping from encroaching on your daily prayers, being Muslim while larping will undeniably have its challenges. But, despair not fellow Muslim geeks. Where there’s a will, there is a way.
Here are 5 essential steps to facilitate one’s path to larping bliss:
STEP ONE: FIND YOUR NICHE
So, here you are. Ready to enter into the wonderful world of larping, engage in epic fantasy battles, destroy your enemies on the battlefield, and feast on their tears like the sweet nectar of victory. Except, you have no idea where to start. Well, the first thing you must do is to find your niche. Larping encompasses everything from fantasy, to science fiction, to horror…. yes, even vampires (hopefully not the sparkling type though).
As an avid D&D player in my youth, fantasy larps were for me almost a natural progression. High fantasy is where it all began, but it is certainly not the only larp I’ve tried. It is crucial that you figure out what you are looking for in a larp. While some enjoy the physical challenge of battles and quests, others prefer stories revolving around character development. For some, the experience is all about amusement and having a good time; for others however, it is about something more than entertainment. They are looking for an opportunity to engage in meaningful stories that allow them to explore the multiple facets of their personality.
Once you’ve figured out what genre interests you, it is time to search for existing larping groups in your city or region. Depending on where you dwell, finding a group might prove itself challenging. Once you get in touch with a group, ask for as much information as possible about the story and the venue. It is important that you feel comfortable with every aspect of your larp. If you feel that the story, or the characters, or even the venue, are not compatible with your general religious ethos, then keep searching for a better fit.
STEP TWO: CREATE YOUR CHARACTER
Let’s be honest, you’ve always known that the heart of a warrior resides within you. A pox on your frail exterior and a rather dull career that hide so well your true nature. But you are ready to leave the mundane behind and unleash your inner Kraken.
Now, depending on the larp you are partaking in and the chosen method of character creation, you might get a chance to create a brand new character, or end up with a pre-written one by the game master. Whether you become a warrior, a mage, a bard, a merchant, a chamber pot servant, or agent Mulder from the year 2525, every character is important and an integral part of the story. Don’t get too caught up with becoming a hero. Larping is about enjoying yourself and meeting new folks. The golden rule of larping is to never get too attached to your characters. This is larping guys, and bad things are bound to happen to your beloved characters. Much like the beheading of Ned Stark, it might be painful but it is part of the story. Be stoic, and when the time comes…….
STEP THREE: REMEMBER, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE COSTUME
Most larps require a costume. While some might buy their costumes or have them custom-made, others choose to make them themselves. Whatever option you opt for, if you are a Hijabi, finding a hijab-friendly costume is a must. Whether your larp is high fantasy, Steampunk, or science fiction, striving to devise creative, authentic, and unique costumes that embrace the Hijabi ethos is part of the experience for any Hijabi larper. Medieval clothing and steampunk costumes especially tend to offer a variety of dresses, long skirts, coats, cloaks, and veils that could easily go hand in hand with your hijab. One of the best larping attire I’ve ever seen remains a fellow hijabi’s take on a steampunk pilot costume. So, go on with your bad self Lady Arwen, and show them how it’s done…. Hijabi style.
STEP FOUR: ASSUME YOUR GEEKY HOBBIES
While larping is rumoured to be mainstream in Nordic countries, there is still unfortunately a great deal of stigma surrounding live action role-playing in North America. The idea that adults could embrace and commit with gusto to what is essentially a fantasy is often met with social ridicule and shaming.
According to popular culture, the “typical larper” is often an individual riddled with social anxieties, incapable of forging real relationships, and desperately trying to escape reality.
But what this rather dubious portrayal of larping in movies and TV shows often leaves out is the sheer diversity of the participants’ background. There is no such a thing as a “typical larper”. While most embrace it for entertainment purposes, those individuals that gravitate toward larping in order to experience a sense of community often credit this activity for helping them overcome isolation and find confidence in themselves.
As a Muslim, deciding to partake in larping—casually or more seriously—is often met with bewilderment within the Muslim community. While some might see it as a waste of time, others might perceive in it the sign of something far more ominous going on with you. It is not unusual to have your sanity or maturity questioned by those who never experienced larping. This is where one needs to put on their big girl/boy pants and assumes their geeky hobbies.
Look, not everyone will understand or even approve of your choice of hobbies. Not everyone will cheer you on as you beat a fellow larper senseless with your foam sword. And yes, you will often get concerned looks as you proudly stride around in your body armor on your way to your larp. But like many other hobbies, this is an experience that is profoundly personal. Feel free however to use questions as an occasion to introduce larping to the uninitiated, and who knows maybe one day we larping Muslim ladies could end up with our own larping community…Oh the possibilities!
STEP FIVE: EMBRACE THE LARP
You are done with all the preparations and are now ready to head out to your first larp. First of all, congrats on boldly going where…some people have gone before. Since larps can last from a few hours to a few days, make sure you put aside the necessary time to perform your daily prayers.
Now that you are all set to go, there is one last thing you must remember:DON’T FORGET TO ENJOY YOURSELF! It can be a tad bit intimidating for first-time larpers to find themselves amongst veterans. Larping in more ways than one is an immersive experience: everyone is there to partake in the story and play their part, no matter the size.The hardest part is getting over one’s own hang-ups, and giving in completely to one’s character. Forget about looking ridiculous or making mistakes. Don’t be bogged down by all the rules, focus instead on becoming your character. Play, frolic, and fight to your heart’s content – it’s time to leave the mundane behind and embrace the larping bliss.