Horror In The Make Believe: Part 1

This will be a two-part post the first of which will focus on some personal background while explaining fear in general and the second part which will focus on LARP specifically.

This morning I went outside with my fur child and could finally feel the chill of Autumn in the air. I have always loved this time of year even as a child. While most were bemoaning the new school year I was already figuring out my costume for Halloween. One year I decided to go as a werewolf in a long black robe and riding roller skates. Why roller skates? I thought gliding around would be creepier than just walking. I guess that might be where this all started in earnest but by far is not were my love solidified. In fact, I was unable to deal with fear for a very long time. It wasn't until my cousin made me watch Children Of The Corn that I could actually handle fear in any measure. I remember thinking to myself at the tender age of seven or so "If I don't want to be afraid, I can just be the scary thing."

Thanks Isaac Chroner.

Anyone who has spent more than a few hours around me knows that I am a huge fan of horror. I don't mean just movies which are usually cheap; rife with pointless jump scares that do nothing more than cause anxiety (more on that in a minute). I mean actual mind shattering horror. I think that fear is the basest of human instinct beyond every other instinct. It drives us to and from our goals, it puts wedges between us, it grips us making us unable to move or act. It fascinates me on a somewhat obsessive level and I'm ok with that. The conquering of fear, the molding it and using it for an ends is on my mind most days. 

I have terrible nightmares most nights that have become a new normal. I don't even mention them now unless they are something noteworthy. It's the reason I can no longer eat prosciutto. Isn't that oddly specific? That's what fear is, mostly learned behaviors. 

Take this for example, click the gif:


 Click The Gif

Click The Gif

It's not much and some people may not be frightened by it but I bet there are plenty who felt a sense of fear and anxiety surrounding the idea of clicking the image. What did you see? Better question, what did you think you would see?

Going back to the difference between fear and anxiety, there is a difference even though the difference might be difficult to distinguish. Fear is the sensation you feel when you are alone in the woods and hear a branch crack. You feel a sense of anxiety but more importantly your senses heighten. That feeling of your hair standing on end, your ears perking up to the point you might even hear your own blood flow and the acute sense of dread is what fear is. Anxiety lacks many of the physical attributes for survival while fear grips us and allows us the tools necessary to live.

I mentioned that fear is mostly learned and while that is true, take for example universal fears. There is fear when we hear a branch crack in the woods, we fear the slightly open closet door, we fear under the bed or just around the bend in the dark alley. We aren't taught these things usually. My parents never taught me that there was a monster in my closet but I know I feared one before I was ever told a story. We are biologically programmed to see eyes, faces and other potentially threatening shapes for our own survival. It's why when looking into the deep darkness of the woods we see the shadows move in a way that is a person or an animal and despite our best efforts to override our emotions with our logic we sometimes slip and think that maybe it's something worse.

There is even a hierarchy of fear which shows and explains the five universal fears we have no matter who you are or what culture you are from.  Below is an explanation for this heirarchy.



" Extinction—the fear of annihilation, of ceasing to exist. This is a more fundamental way to express it than just calling it "fear of death." The idea of no longer being arouses a primary existential anxiety in all normal humans. Consider that panicky feeling you get when you look over the edge of a high building.
Mutilation—the fear of losing any part of our precious bodily structure; the thought of having our body's boundaries invaded, or of losing the integrity of any organ, body part, or natural function. Anxiety, about animals, such as bugs, spiders, snakes, and other creepy things arises from fear of mutilation.
Loss of Autonomy—the fear of being immobilized, paralyzed, restricted, enveloped, overwhelmed, entrapped, imprisoned, smothered, or otherwise controlled by circumstances beyond our control. In physical form, it's commonly known as claustrophobia, but it also extends to our social interactions and relationships.
Separation—the fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss of connectedness; of becoming a non-person—not wanted, respected, or valued by anyone else. The "silent treatment," when imposed by a group, can have a devastating psychological effect on its target.
Ego-death—the fear of humiliation, shame, or any other mechanism of profound self-disapproval that threatens the loss of integrity of the Self; the fear of the shattering or disintegration of one's constructed sense of lovability, capability, and worthiness. "
Credit: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brainsnacks/201203/the-only-5-fears-we-all-share

I'd love to tell you why I can't eat prosciutto anymore, why the smell of it turns my stomach and makes my face go white. I'd like to tell you over a beer though and for the meantime let your mind wander.

Player to Director

I was at the most recent Dystopia Rising New Jersey game. It was my last game as a player. What that means is the very next weekend I would be standing in front of a hundred plus people giving opening announcements, running plots, assisting my outstanding team, addressing issues on the fly that I had rehearsed in my head a few hundred times.

I was sitting, smoking hookah after all the NPC's had gone to sleep when a sudden and inexplicable fear took hold of me. This wasn't some normal in game fear, this was a genuine fear that I could not place.

It sat with me for the rest of the night and I was able to shake it before falling asleep. Not until the next morning did I know what it was. It was a sudden realization that I wouldn't be able to plan everything. In that moment, a wash of understanding came over me. My social media presence was now no longer one hundred percent mine. My actions have to be curated because I was now a public figure at least on some small niche level. People would look to me not as "Tom" or "Squatch" but as a face and employee of a business that caters to the entertainment of hundreds of people and thousands across the nation. It took until that moment to realize that my life was no longer just my own.

This isn't a complaint about this understanding, consider it a record. Having had time to process I have come to terms with everything as much as I can.

I was told that this fear would never subside as long as I was a Director, and I see that now. Fear is a hell of a thing.

I'm not afraid that I will lose my ability to express or remain autonomous though I know my social life is no longer fully my own. I'm afraid to let people down. I'm afraid I will inadvertantly insult someone. I'm afraid that my decisions on very real and very important real world matters will negatively effect people. There is an old saying that you can't please everyone all the time but I had no idea how true it was until having to juggle the wants and needs of this amazing community.

I'm afraid I won't be able to be open with my friends, that to them I shouldn't have to worry and I can just be myself all of the time. I'm afraid they won't "get it" and worse, I'm afraid I will start to resent them.

I've had my share of leading teams before in a real world setting but never on this scale.

I wanted to express this while it was still fresh and I am sure I am missing somethings but it needed to be brought to light. This isn't for me, this is for all the would be Directors and community leaders to understand what is to come and that you can cope with it. Live with the fear, take ownership of your choices. This is for players of all kinds to understand that no action is taken lightly by either myself or other community leaders. When a call is made both in game and in a real life setting, know that we have grappled with the decision on every imaginable level and at the end of the day, just like clicking post here, there is a fear sitting in the back of our minds.

This fear and feeling won't subside but I am already seeing I can handle it.

Despite everything, I wouldn't change this for the world. My dream has always been to work in a creative field, to do something that is more than just pushing papers or saying "thank you for calling...". I would have never guessed five years ago this would be where I am today and out of all these fears and changes to my life I've just discussed I think the biggest one that shakes me to my core is wondering if I will still be doing this in some capacity in another five.

I can't imagine life without this sort of drive and passion I now feel and I don't want my hang ups to get in the way. 

Now to get really real.

  Denise Kelly and Kevin Kelly

Denise Kelly and Kevin Kelly

My Dad died hating his job. He loved me, he loved his wife, he loved his siblings but he hated his job and, I think, his own life. He used to tell me not to just do what I needed, but do what I wanted. "Defending Your LIfe" (great movie, go watch it) was his favorite movie of all time and it has taken until this moment to understand why. He lived in fear for a multitude of reasons that are beyond painful for me to discuss but he taught me to tackle them head on. He always wanted to write and be a creator but he always had a fear of being seen. Right behiund me in my closet is volumes of his work from short stories and memoires to jokes and a letter of him even applying to write for David Letterman. I will be the terminus of all those stories, hopes and dreams.

Now here I sit, on display for anyone to see, writing for the best and most caring community of people I can imagine. If he couldn't overcome or cope with these fears, then I owe it to him to do it in his honor.

Ok, let's do this.

"Fear is like a giant fog. It sits on your brain and blocks everything - real feelings, true happiness, real joy. They can't get through that fog. But you lift it, and buddy, you're in for the ride of your life." 
-Bob Diamond, "Defending Your Life"


I Still Have Warpaint On My Elbow

Urban Sasquatch and Storytelling Director of DR:NY

I've never really been good at writing introductions about myself, so I'm going to explain why I went with "Wrap Shot" as the name of my blog instead.

I'm a power gamer.

I fully admit it and I'll continue to explain below.

I came from a gaming background in tabletop, MMO RP and full contact combat sports. My experience in tabletop focused more on the fat loot and creating a mechanically sound character than on trying to create an interesting and cohesive story. I was also nine at the time so I guess it was understandable. 

My MMO experience was focused mostly around Tavern RP and RP-PVP which was interesting. It was at this time in 2006 that I began to actually start to enjoy role playing and got deep into it in Star Wars Galaxies and Age of Conan.

The setting of Age of Conan was conducive to what I wanted and was a setting I could fully immerse myself into role playing in. Even so, I still focused on a mechanically OP character.

When I began participating in weekly fight practices and park battles the idea of story stopped at the name of the character I had fabricated. The goal of the full contact games I played was always to win the battle by any means necessary. I would wield giant axes that could hook something seven feet away or a max length, minimum weight two handed weapon that was quick and dirty.

A few of my friends had tried Dystopia Rising back in 2011/2012 and told me how great it was. At this point I had begun to think I wanted something more than just beating people with a giant war hammer and I really wanted to try role playing face to face with someone.

February of 2012 I came to Dystopia Rising and made a primitive beat stick named Bjorn (later changed to Amaroq). This is where things began to change and finally brings me to why I call this Blog "Wrap Shot"

A wrap shot is a type of weapon throw that goes out with the blade tip facing away from the target. After passing the individuals zone of control, you turn the wrist and essentially pull the opposite edge into the persons back or other target.

It's highly effective and not allowed in most lightest touch larps for safety reasons.

The point is it's at this point in 2012 that I began to turn. When I was once going straight down the line of someone who just gamed for the hollow rewards and victories, I pulled a twist. It still took a while but over the course of my time at Dystopia Rising and making amazing friends within the community there I fully embraced the story side of gaming. I knew my proverbial wrap shot struck true when I had my first character give up his life on the stairs of the Double Tap many years ago. At that point I knew I was in it for the story, my friends, my friends I hadn't yet met and furthering everyone's enjoyment.

So now going back to the top. Why say I'm a power gamer?

Because I have the ability to be and I want to ask anyone who also has the ability to be to use their powers for good and not exploitation. A power gamer knows how to make their characters strong, how to say "technically" when citing rules, how to combine those seven obscure things to make an unbeatable combination.

If a power gamer turns those abilities towards building up others, towards building story and community, towards helping those potentially exploitable rules not be spread but quietly brought up to game runners then I believe we could help create an even better experience for everyone.

Now I'm looking forward to being the Storytelling Director at the new Dystopia Rising: New York chapter and I hope I can help to weave not only an amazing story but an amazing community in the process.