While many players of role playing games are content sitting around a table or in a computer chair, some take it one step further, actually acting out their characters with others in a gaming method known as live action role playing, or LARP.

Game organizers concoct whole worlds and in-depth storylines, while the players create characters with detailed back stories and motives. Those characters then create alliances, struggle with each other for power, and fight with weapons constructed from PVC pipe and foam.

One such local group, Alliance LARP Ohio, holds weekend-long events at Camp McKinley in Lisbon in the winter and Lewis Aboretum in St. Clairsville in the summer.

Co-owners and organizers of the local chapter, Michael Webb and Matthew Boyd, said that it can take some explaining for people to understand what LARPing is all about.

“Some people just think it’s weird,” said Boyd, adding that he usually tells people that it is similar to a war reenactment because in many ways it’s like a medieval war reenactment.

“Once I actually explain it to people, they seem more interested than anything,” Webb said. “Once people see it’s more than just a bunch of geeks sitting around a table.”

Both said that they have brought friends who were initially skeptical but were won over to LARPing in the end. Boyd said that some of them were afraid of the foam weapons at first but at the end of the weekend were saying, “Man, this is the greatest time I’ve had in my life.”

“I guess it’s all just a matter of perspective in what you like to do and what you don’t,” said Webb, adding that he was initially drawn more to the theatrical element of LARPing rather than the combat. “It’s kind of an improv theater. You get into the story and make it up as you go along. There are twists and turns in the story that you can affect,” he said.

“We get a really wide variety of people there,” said Webb, including doctors, lawyers, paramedics, and policemen. “It’s really neat.”

Boyd said that he, Webb, and a staff of people come up with the storylines but don’t write them out to a conclusion. “If the players choose a different way, we go from there,” he said, adding they can “write as we go.”

The writers can also accommodate players who prefer the fantasy element or are more focused on the combat. “Anyone can have their own personal plot,” Boyd said.

Boyd said some of the players start out afraid to role play and think they may get made fun of. “After a while you get used to it and you realize that you’re all friends,” he said.

Webb said that with the popularity of fantasy films like the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises, as well as online games like World of Warcraft, LARPing is becoming more mainstream. “It’s really grown and become more of its own entity. You can’t go anywhere without tripping over a LARP group,” Webb said, adding that it is especially popular in Ohio and that there are about 30 different groups in about a five-hour drive of the area. ┬áThe East Liverpool, Ohio Review –┬áJuly 13, 2008