A Year in the Life: Adventures in British Subcultures

By Lucy Leonelli

An A to Z of British subcultures

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

According to the Evening Standard, one-third of British adults 'still sleep with childhood teddy'

There's lovely.

... and by some mad coincidence, FOMO is now one-third of the way up that steep ole’ crowdfunding mountain! Or, to put it another way, if each one of you lovely people who has supported the book so far were able to persuade 3 of your friends/ family/ long-lost acquaintances to support the book as well, FOMO would be at 100% funding, and all of the ridiculous rewards would be on their way to you. Now there’s a tantalizing thought.

This is fantastically brilliant news, and as a way of saying a massive thank you and showing just how much I appreciate having you lovely folks on-board, I’m delighted to share with you an exclusive extract of FOMO to whet your appetites for the real thing. Enjoy! 



L is for … LARPers

“Where are you off to then?” Dave the plumber scans his eyes over my camping gear, as I laden myself for the trip down to the car.

“Oh,” I make a waving gesture with a bottle of port, “something called LARPing. You probably haven’t heard of it, but …”

“No way!” He retracts with a start from the bowels of our misbehaving dishwasher, bumping his head on the way up. He looks me in the eyes for the first time, “are you going to the Renewal of Magic?”

I nod dumbly, my eyebrows almost reaching my hairline.

“Well, if you see Savjenni Nightwing of the Dragons faction, tell him that his head mage sends greetings, and begs forgiveness for his absence.”

The world is upside down.

Naturally, I had presumed LARP to be a Clandestine community, known only to the super geek - this time last year I had never even heard the word before - but not only did my super cool plumber Dave know what it was, he was one of them.

The world is inside out.

Four hours later I join 900 fellow LARPers at a scout camp in Buckinghamshire, arriving to an assembly of long-haired men in band t-shirts and baggy jeans, greeting each other with enthusiastic bear hugs. I unpack my tent in an area signposted as ‘OOC’ (Out Of Character) and strike up conversation with Dave, a friendly fellow with a thick Scottish accent and a smile that puts me instantly at ease.

Dave leads me into the IC (In Character) forest, teaming with dwarves, elves, goblins and orcs complete with pointed prosthetic ears, painted skin and mysteriously attached horns. Sounds come from speakers in the bushes, suspended lights give the path an eerie green glow and smoke flows from dry ice machines hidden in the bushes.

Hang on a minute - let’s take a step back - what the bloody hell is LARPing? Well, have you ever watched a Fantasy film, like Lord of the Rings, and thought to yourself, I wonder what it would be like to live in that world? Well, Live Action Role Play (LARP) gives you that opportunity. Affectionately referred to as ‘cross country pantomime’, it is pretty much Dungeons and Dragons acted out in the real world, complete with foam weapons and elaborate costumes.

As we walk, Dave gives me the rundown of what to expect this weekend.

“People usually sleep off-site,” he says, pointing to the field we had just walked out of. “But you are supposed to stay in character between 10am and 2am, and everything inside the forest - including the faction camps, the tavern and the trader tents - is in-play for those 16 hours.”

Deciding that I wouldn’t make a very convincing Orc - the grey bodysuit would clash with my eyes - I choose to join 'a group of chivalrous and earnest knights, known as The Lions. 

Once we make it to the IC Lions camping area, Dave hands me a latex sword and a dagger to examine.

“So, how does the fighting work?” I ask him, marveling at the detailed paintwork on the weapons.

“Well, there is a point count for each location,” he explains, “head, torso and limbs, and that point count is defined by how magical or strong you are, or how much armour you are wearing.” I nod, sort of following. “And every time a player receives a hit, they lose a point.”

“Like in a computer game?” I risk, my mouth opening into an ‘I might have just said something really offensive’ grimace.

“Exactly,” Dave nods, “and when the characters head or torso locations reach zero, the player falls to the floor and counts down from 120. If they finish this ‘death count’ without being healed by someone with the right magical skills, their character dies and they have to create a new one.”

Feeling frazzled by this barrage of information, I look down at the scorecard Dave hands me. It contains a shopping list of skills to pick from, each one with an associated point cost.

“As a new character, you have 20 points in total,” he says, before wandering off to help erect a huge round table in the main tent behind us.

“How on earth do I choose when I have no idea what this stuff means?” I ask Rufus, another fellow Lion who is busy wrestling his two young kids into their costumes.

“Well, what kind of character do you want to be?” he asks calmly, sensing my exasperation.

“One that does a bit of everything.”

“How about a Ranger?” He looks hopeful. “That way you can fight, do some magic and go off on scouting missions.” I picture Strider from Lord of the Rings, and my eyes widen. I have always wanted to be Strider from Lord of the Rings.

“OK, then,” Dave says when he sits back down and learns of the latest development. “You will need a one-handed weapon, a shield, a contribute to ritual, shaman magic, medium armour… ” I try and keep up with him, adding up all the points as I tick the boxes on my sheet.

“How about a wild ranger who has been taken in to be civilised by Queen Cersei?” Rufus suggests. I nod encouragingly, excited by the prospect of embracing my not-so-inner Tomboy.

“OK, so I guess I will need a name". I look back at Dave, "do I need a surname too?” 

“Not really, especially if you’re wild.”

“Ooo, how about Luna?” I sit up onto my heels, “maybe I was raised by wolves?

“Yeah that works,” Dave nods, “but you will need to be careful because that’s a bit unnatural, and the Lions are straight down the line when it comes to things like shape-shifters and werewolves.”

He gives me a serious look.

Is he for real? I can’t tell and decide to play it safe. “OK, so not Luna, in case I’m mistaken for a werewolf. What about Storm?”

Everybody nods in agreement as I stand up, ready to head for GOD - the Game Organisation Division - to register my new character.

I reach the entrance to the Lions camp before Dave calls me back in a panic, “hang on a minute,” he says, “you didn’t pick the numeracy skill, so you won’t make a very good scout.”

I look back at him blankly.

“You can’t count if you don’t have numeracy,” he says, in the same tone you would use when explaining something simple to a child. “So if you are asked to go out and count the enemy on a scouting mission you’re screwed.”

“Maybe I can ask somebody else to count the enemy for me and hand me the appropriate amount of stones to bring back as a message?” I ask, feeling smug with my response, but wondering if I am taking all of this a bit too seriously. 

Dave shakes his head, “No, that won’t work. You can’t trust anybody here. It’s too risky.”

Apparently you can never take LARP too seriously.


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