Many dream of a day when a game is so realistic, that you can no longer tell the difference between reality and computer. Well friends, this day has come thanks to those behind the launch of the Witcher 2 enhanced edition for Xbox 360. Welcome to larping, what has to be the most uncool yet enjoyable experience Pocket-lint has had for a long time.
Larping, or live action role-playing games, is when a group of people dress up in costumes and act out their favourite series, game or whatever else they fancy. It usually takes place in woods, or in areas well away from the piercing gaze of non-larpers. This is largely because you look ridiculous. It is also a space thing, as larping can get pretty action packed. Brandishing plastic swords and axes, large groups of larpers will frequently re-enact entire battles, bashing each other over the head with foam swords in a sort of geek-filled version of 1066.
Our first larping experience was a little different. We were in Hackney. Don’t let the East London setting fool you though, it makes walking around one of the trendiest parts of London with a group of men dressed as elves even more hilarious.
That’s a nice outfit
The larping in question was very much based upon the same kind of story as the intro to the Witcher 2 itself. First, however, we had to park our bike. This was where the hilarity began:
In a rainy East London street, a soaking wet Pocket-linter is confronted by a group of men dressed as monks.
“Hi guys, so this is the event. Where can I put my bike?”
“What is this bizarre metal contraption, young sir?,” the monks ask us.
“A bike. I need to lock it up.”
“A 'bike'? We have not heard of such a thing.”
“Okay. Well, it’s very expensive. Where can I put it?”
Metallic steed secured, we push open the door to the transformed pub and are instantly transported to the Witcher 2 universe. The detail these guys have gone to is spectacular. The floor is strewn with hay. Groups of men dressed as all sorts of creatures are gambling in the background - one even challenges us to an arm wrestle in exchange for a gold coin. We decline.
Medieval music and a broad selection of what can only be best described as wenches complete the scene as they wonder around cleaning, serving and and taking part in other wench-associated activities.
A man dressed as a monk (these guys seemed to be running the show), grabs us and tells us that we're to go and dine with the king. Joined a group of fellow larpers, we're led upstairs. We know we're supposed to be taking this seriously but it's impossible not to be in a state of permanent giggle.
Sitting at the king's table and immediate banter ensues as the characters reminisce a recent battle involving a man called Foltest which turns out to be the king's name, a king fresh with a major victory. There's a lot of celebrating, some invisible win drunk invisible wine, some pretend food torn from imaginary legs of lamb, and then we kill the king.
We're not really sure how this happened but fingers were pointed and the word "poison" shouted out. With little time to piece it together, we're led downstairs quickly by a cloaked man who thrusts a bag of herbs into the hands of one of our team mates. It might look like a bag of basil - largely because it is a bag of basil - but it's actually some magic herbs, of course, and prove vital in our quest later.
So, king offed - for which, it turns out later, we were framed - we head over to meet some elves. Naturally, these aren't just any elves. These are elves who, bizarrely, have chosen to inhabit a small park near Old Street station.
We tell the East London elves that the king is dead and they don't take it too well. In fact, they decide to take one of our gang hostage and only decide to let him go after some heavy pleading and persuasion. Convinced and appeased, the elves point us to a nearby pub to meet a women who turns out to be the wife of the dead king.
“Please join me for a wash in my bath,” she says as we find her semi-naked in the tub in her room. Licking her lips and beckoning us over, she does not appear to be grieving.
“No it’s okay, we just had a shower this morning.”
She does not take the rejection well and is only stopped from slapping the whole lot of us when a witcher from some other part of the kingdom turns up. He explains that this lady has been put under some sort of spell and is in need of a selection of herbs from us to cure her, herbs that look a lot like basil - largely because they are basil - but are actually some magic herbs. No. We forgot them.
Nonetheless we're informed of the location of the king’s assassin by the witcher. He tells us he must be stabbed in the back using a silver sword while two of us attack him from the front.
“Two in the front, one in the behind,” we repeat.
“Precisely,” he replies with not so much as a smirk.
Off we jog, with our elven guide in tow, through the streets of Shoreditch. Heading to the finale of the whole thing, we're apprehensive as to how it might pan out. Lined up on the floor outside the imaginary medieval pub is a set of silver foam swords. Yes, that's right - silver and yet foam, apparently.
Up on the roof terrace of a trendy Hoxton pub, complete with cigarette bin in the background, is an elaborately dressed witcher brandishing a pair of swords looking fairly anxious. A monologue and some brief masculine posing and we're at it. The rest of the gang start bashing the bloke fairly hard and you can tell, despite the acting, that it's hurting him a fair bit. He gets in one decent hit that causes one of our number to whimper in pain but it's not long until we end him as advised, with a quick stab to the back. We follow with a shoeing as he rolls around on the floor just to make certain.
Walking down the stairs post kill, one of our gang shout back, "thanks", to the dead witcher. He doesn't move. Never breaking character, this is what these guys are all about - even when giving us a gold coin to spend behind the bar for an ale afterwards. Now that's class.
A fun afternoon indeed and enough to inspire us to try to tackle the Witcher 2 again, which has returned in an extended edition form for the Xbox 360. Maybe we'll stick to video games for the time being. Larping is amusing but perhaps best left to the hardcore fans. After all, those foam swords hurt. We have the bruises to prove it.
Ever been larping? Let us know in the comments below ...