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Straight from the Shire: L.A.R.P-ing in Denton
Role-playing games have existed in one form or another since the 1960s, originating in schools with mock trials. Dungeons and Dragons came about in 1974 and soon after became nearly synonymous with the term role-playing.
Tabletop gaming like Dungeons and Dragons is a channel for acting out medieval fantasies. Online gaming provides a modern outlet, with games like World of Warcraft and The Elder Scrolls.
There are those in the gaming community who take role-playing one step further with live action role-playing or L.A.R.P.
L.A.R.P.ing takes the game out of the confines of the home and out into the real world, with an ample supply of fantasy. Players fashion foam weapons and period-specific garb and take to the woods on adventures straight from the dungeon master’s guide.
Many L.A.R.P.ing communities have strict rules for combat, dress and even players’ speech. Denton’s Shire of the Arlac Woods has a simpler approach.
“We wanted to do something without magic and without taking it too seriously,” said Jeremy Smith, co-founder and College of Education IT specialist. He helped start the group in March of 2009 with some like-minded gamers.
Three times a week, members meet at Shin Kappa house, the organization’s headquarters, to practice their fighting moves. A monthly tournament or adventure takes place at a nature reserve near Denton’s dog park.
“I think at every event, there’s at least one dog walker,” co-founder and geography graduate student Jesse Jones said. Many bystanders simply pass through on their way but some stop to enjoy the foam-padded combat, Jones said.
Most of the group got their start role-playing at an early age. L.A.R.P.ing has given them, in their adult lives, an excuse to get outdoors and a chance to get creative.
Library science graduate student Caroline Clavell designs costumes for the group and leads an all-female guild within the Shire.
“I got my undergraduate degree in costume design,” Clavell said. “I’m in charge of all the garb in this group.”
Most organized events involve crafting of some sort, be it medieval bread baking, leather working, “foam-smithing” new weapons and a beer brewing competition coming up in a year.
The Shire of the Arlac Woods is an open group and is willing to admit new members. More information can be found at www.arlacwoods.com or on the group’s Facebook page, Shire of Arlac Woods.