LARP Requires Costuming...Immersion, and Phys Reps


Imagine this: You walk into a room that’s decked out from floor to ceiling in post-apocalyptic finery. There is what looks like a working still on one side, and someone takes out some rusty tools from a workbench in a corner as he uncoils some copper wiring. There are a few people quietly discussing things at a bar in the back over drinks in tin cups. For that moment, you feel like you’re in the apocalypse.

And then someone walks by with a Gatorade bottle that hasn’t been covered up, yelling, “Hey! Who here knows ‘parry?’”

Today, I want to talk to something near and dear to my heart when it comes to live experiences: immersion.

First off, I want to say that this blog post relates to Dystopia Rising, a post-apocalyptic game that takes place across the United states in several states each month. This game clearly advertises that it's a wysi-wig (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) game, and requires props and costuming to aim for a full-immersion experience rather than a narrative-style game. I’m sure a few tips could relate to other games, but I’ll largely be using terms found in Dystopia Rising rather than in other experiences.

The term you may see me using time and again is “phys rep,” which is “physical representation.” Dystopia Rising uses item cards for brews, augments, and other things that can give your character mechanical benefits in the game. However, these item cards SHOULD be paired with physical items. If you have a brew card, you should have a bottle with some liquid in it to represent that card.

One of the amazing things about Dystopia Rising is that it’s a full-immersion game, 24/7. This means that you eat, drink, and even sleep in character. So it always baffles me when I see individuals who don’t bother with phys reps and instead carry around a stack of cards, or people who slap their chests in the battlefield while screaming, “Mother’s Milk!” instead of actually having a phys rep for the brew they’re using. I’ve even seen people gnaw on a card in lieu of actual food for the “meal” card they have. Similarly, I’m always disappointed to check on a still or workbench to find that it doesn’t exist, or it’s just a card pasted on a table with nothing else on it.

“But wait, Catie,” you may say. “Isn’t requiring phys reps elitist?”

Let me break it down for you. A game of Dystopia Rising costs $50 at base. This includes sleeping on a campsite from Friday to Sunday, along with entertainment running the entire weekend. A pack of 6, 4 oz. bottles on Amazon costs $8, which is just a little over a dollar per bottle. You can also buy these in bulk on other sites to pay cents per bottle. In other words, you can work with your friends to buy a pack of 100 bottles for about 50 cents per bottle (or less).

Similarly, workbenches, stills, and other large items can be used by multiple people. This means that you can have people pitch in a certain amount to build something absolutely amazing.

In addition, you need to realize that each month you’re effectively going on a mini vacation. This hobby isn’t cheap. Dystopia Rising is certainly cheaper than many other games (and many other hobbies), but it’s still not as cheap as staying at home and saving the cash.

“But Catie,” you say. “That’s not the type of game I play.”

Actually, it is. Each item requires a phys rep, as stated in the books and on many of the prints. Some even say “extensive phys rep” for a reason. This means that if you don’t have the phys rep, you don’t have the mechanical benefit. I’m always seeing the term “LARP requires costuming,” but in addition, it also requires phys reps and immersion.

Having a phys rep gives more immersion to the world you’re in. It gives more of an experience to those around you and yourself. Fumbling at your pocket as you try and take out a brew in the middle of a battle and then chugging down its contents is more realistic than slapping your chest and calling out the brew that you used. We all have imaginations. We all use our suspension of disbelief, but let’s make it a bit easier on ourselves.

Keep the item cards you don’t have phys reps for in a giant trunk or box, and then switch out item cards on the phys reps after the ones attached to them have been used. Wear a bandolier of bottles to drink when you need to. Have several syringes on your belt to help those in battle. Create a badass armor suit to wear for that armor card that you possess.

Make a bit more effort when it comes to immersion and your phys reps. I promise you won’t be disappointed.