Finding the Way

One uncommon aspect of Philadelphia culture which bears special consideration in stories set in a modern version of Philly is the LARPers.  Live-Action Role Playing exists wherever a handful or more of semi-active nerds gathers, but Philadelphia has a thriving LARPing community centered around the Wayfinder Experience, an organization founded on the principle of interactive, all-inclusive theater.  Wayfinder runs long camps several times a year in Philadelphia and elsewhere, but more importantly, they run weekly games of capture the flag in several parks scattered throughout the city.  This isn’t normal, run-of-the-mill capture the flag, though; this is CTF with foam swords.  Don’t write this off as a shameless plug, though, I do have a point to make.

Any place which has an active LARPing community is uniquely prepared in the even that fantasy breaks out, for regular LARPers are well-versed in the tropes of fantasy and science fiction.  This bears taking into consideration when using Philly as the setting of your urban fantasy, especially in cases where fantasy breaks out suddenly.  These people are your survivors; they will be more likely to keep a cool head when the whole world starts turning upside down.

One of the expected things that can be done when you have a group of LARPers, or any other role players, is to throw them into a fantasy world.  Hijinks ensue.  You’ve seen it in movies and TV shows too many times; you know better.  The canny thing to do would be to use them sparingly, or if they’re going to be the focus of your story, flip the convention.  Show readers that the skills that your group of LARPers has acquired are of no use to them in a real fantasy world.

Of course, to use this second option, you must tread carefully, for many have gone that way before.  Better to use your LARPers sparingly, but remember that they are there, for they are still a useful resource.  My mantra is always “do the expected poorly and you will lose your readers, do the unexpected well and they’ll beg for more.”

If you find yourself in west Philly on a Saturday afternoon, head to Clark Park between 1:00pm and 4:00pm, and you may well find me there, wielding foam with wild abandon.


About Hilary B. Bisenieks

Hilary B. Bisenieks (Biss-en-yex) n. 1. An author of fact, fancy, and opinion based out of Oakland, CA. 2. A graduate of the Creative Writing program at Warren Wilson college and Mary Robinette Kowal's Short Story Workshop. 3. A man unable to be trusted to update basic biographical information with any regularity. View all posts by Hilary B. Bisenieks

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