Welcome to Monday here on Lawyers & Liquor, June 11, 2018. I’m the Boozy Barrister and we’re gonna skew from the course of talking about the law and legal shit again today for me to tell you a story that I’ve been promising people I’d tell for roughly 7 months now. But the whole purpose of this site is to speak to the muggles, the baby lawyers, and the law students of the world in a manner that can best be described as “uncouth” to educate and elucidate on topics of lawyering and various legal matters, so in some manner I have to tie that shit all together.
We can do that pretty fucking easy, though, because, as I said about a week ago, it’s important that people understand being a lawyer doesn’t mean you sacrifice all other aspects and hobbies you may have. It also shouldn’t restrict you from going out and trying to find new ones. And what better hobby is there for a lawyer to develop than going out into the woods every now and again and beating the living shit out of other people with sticks while pretending to be a bard or some shit?
Of course, I’m talking about LARP, and more specifically about the time I laid down the mantel of the Boozy Barrister to pick up the one of cowardly, craven, but slightly good-hearted man named Dart with the fine folks over at NERO Boston.
Some Background – We gotta world build
Alright, so NERO is a Live Action Role Playing (“LARP”) system that was de developed back in 1988 by a group of New Englanders that decided, instead of trying to commit vehicular homicide everytime they climbed behind the wheel of their death buggies (as New Englanders are wont to do), they’d allow prolific horror writers and the pedestrians of Boston breath a sign of relief. This intrepid group of people ventured into the wilderness for a weekend to become Dungeons & Dragons writ large, with padded weapons and packets of bird seed they fast balled at each other while screaming shit like “3 Normal Damage!” at the top of their lunges. All in all, a fairly accurate recreation of Middle Ages based combat, I assume.
The concept behind NERO was that there would by a single world in which the game was taking place, with persistent characters and a plotline that followed the history of the world and the characters from event to event. A large set of rules was written, hopefully by a lawyer with a fetish for infuriating details and regulations being shouted at large men wearing breeches and vests, and the game was off.. By 1991, that one NERO chapter, the mother chapter if you will, had ground from a few participants to almost 500 players running around screaming at the top of their lungs and insisting on things like “I’m a gnoll!” I imagine.
A decade in, in 1998, the whole rights to the shebang were bought by a guy named Joseph Valenti who started selling off franchise licenses to other groups nationwide that wanted to have their own NERO game, and thus a nationwide epidemic of padded swords and foam crossbows was born. As of the date of this writing, I can say that there are at least 30 states and 2 Canadian provinces with NERO chapters, proving that if you tell a motherfucker they can rename Charlie from Accounting “Calgor the Warrior” and then beat the shit out of his with a padded sword for fixing fish in the break room microwave, people will certainly take you the fuck up on it.
The Birth of Dart – How I ended up running through the woods.
I don’t know if you guys figured this shit out from how quickly I became a giant talking fucking badger after the Furries invaded my goddamn life like it was Normandy, 1944, but I’m a big old fucking nerd. I mean a huge goddamn nerd. I owned, and can name the characters from, every Wing Commander game. I enjoyed Babylon 5 immensely because, you know motherfucking space U.N.! I went to zombie conventions well before I knew there were conventions where a giant goddamn poodle would give me the fuzziest hug in the world. I. Am. A. Dork.
But I’m an elitist dork, and I’d always viewed LARPers a little unfairly. It may have been from my one experience when I was younger going to a Vampire: The Masquerade LARP held on a college campus late at night in the student center, but my image of LARP was essentially the types of people who decided that being Goth wasn’t enough, they then had to go out and become…slightly more Goth? Like, dudes who were really fucking into the whole “suck your blood” shit, and stuff. It wasn’t that it was bad per se, just that…look, my general experience with the folks who really loved the World of Darkness role-playing games was that they were a little unhinged to begin with, so…I mean…being in a room full of people actually pretending to be those characters made me wish for a big old vat of garlic, a handheld UV lamp, and more stakes than Omaha could mail order to me overnight with a C-130.
Then, of course, after I ended up falling into the fuzzy hell that my life has degraded into, I was politely invited out to witness LARPing in all its glory. When I say “I was invited,” what I mean is the dudes that help run NERO Boston, a wonderful group of folk that you should definitely go check out, went behind my back and invited my partner to go to a NERO Boston event. Specifically, they invited my partner to attend their event called “Fables of Fenorra,” a sort of derivative spin-off of the main NERO campaign that takes place in its own special world. Because, you know, one level of “that thing where there’s a video of a kid on the internet running around screaming ‘Magic Missle’ isn’t enough. We need a spin-off series too.” My partner, who…is certainly the type of dork to be a member of the World of Darkness LARP groups and had actually done so in the past, immediately accepted the offer when another request was made:
“Could you bring Boozy along, too?”
This was not a small request.
Full Disclaimer – I’m a Lazy S.O.B.
See, my little shitnuggets clinging to the ass hair of society, I am not a physically active person. Even before my accident, it was well worth my time to pay the kid next door to mow my lawn when I could, not because I was too busy to do it but because I had absolutely no interest in ever doing manual labor again after they appended the word “Esquire” to my name. So for me, roleplaying was something best done at a table in a friend’s basement, surrounded by a couple cases of soda, some nachos, and, even well into my thirties, the lingering specter that their mother may just be in kitchen heating up some pizza rolls. I was a sedentary adventurer, and not prone to making trips outdoors to do, what I assumed, was simply a version of rolling a D20 with slightly more fresh air and less showering than hardcore role players regularly engage in.
So when that request was made to my partner (and it was made clear upon their hesitation that while my attendance would be nice it wasn’t required for the invitation to remain open – thank you for that guys), they were uncertain whether or not I would actually be attending. My partner, however, was not uncertain on this question. They knew exactly how they would get me to attend.
They would lie to me about what I was fucking doing.
It was initially described to me as a camping trip that may involve some light role-playing of the non-naughty schoolgirl variety. Nothing really active! Besides, we would be staying in climate controlled cabins and, because we were bringing a kid along with us, we’d even have the option to stay in the tavern! The Tavern. Motherfuckers, allow me to explain this to you. When I played D&D way back in my days of misspent youth, hoping that I’d devolve into a nonsensical living fantasy world like Tom Hanks, the tavern was my fucking jam. That was where the action was! And the booze! And now I got to reside in the tavern in a fantasy world? Oh, I was down. I was so fucking down.
Plus, you know, there was the lingering threat that a failure to attend and act like I was someone else for the weekend may result in sleeping on the couch for a them indeterminate amount of time.
Plus, I really liked the guys who were inviting us, and I didn’t want to be “that elitist asshole that wouldn’t come into the woods and hit people with swords and shit.”
So, you know, I agreed.
A Coward is Born
I’ll be the first to admit that although they sent me the rule book to the event and the world well in advance of my attendance, I didn’t read the fucking thing. Guys, it was long and I had shit to do.
I figured much like my real D&D sessions in the past, I’d pick shit up as I went along and in the case that I completely fucked up there would be some insufferable rules lawyer like Barry the Bitchy Paladin ready to correct me a dozen times. Seriously Barry, fuck you. There’s a reason the party makes you go into dungeons first.
So, I had no goddamn clue what I was doing when my buddy Ashe, who’s husband helps run the whole shebang, called to help me set up my character. Literally no fucking clue. To the extent that when he asked me what I was thinking about, I just told him “Look, I want to be Dart. That’s the entirety of my concern. I want to be Dart.”
Dart was a former D&D character of mine from way back in the day, a Bard that had no interest in things like going on adventures and gaining loot. Dart would much rather have sat on his happy ass, sang a song or two, quaffed a bit of ale, and sent the adventuring party off to find fame and glory without him. Dart enjoyed living, and recognized that “living” and “going on an epic quest to save the realm” were often two concepts that stood in stark opposition to each other, especially for a fucking songsmith with a heavy debt burden and no gigs to play. However Dart was always, kicking and screaming, dragged from his cozy position by the fire and out into the world at large and, many times by accident, ended up lucking into a situation whereby he would save the party from some horrible event.
But, at his heart, Dart was a coward. An unapologetic coward who would proudly tell people that he was a coward. A coward who combat effectiveness was “I’ll hang back here and sing to you guys while they castrate and then disembowel you.” And that was the character that, if I had to play any character, I would be. I would be the live action version of Dart the Bard, no matter how much my friend tried to convince me that there were other classes and creatures I could and should consider playing ass and extolled the virtues of combat in this game.
Dart was a cowardly bard. And a cowardly bard Dart would remain.
On a sidenote, I also believed that by playing an unbelievably underpowered coward, I would be able to avoid the worst of the combat at the game. This would prove to be an inaccurate representation.
So, it was with some great relief that I took the call that told me Dart had been created as a cowardly alchemist, with limited combat abilities outside of some skill with a crossbow. I assumed, of course, this meant Dart would spend the weekend quaffing and meandering through tales of no consequence.
And…fuck was I wrong.
But we’ve gone on a little long.
So, let’s pick up here next time.