Half-human “changelings” who try to regain their humanity and fight evil forces came to life in the minds of members of the Mind’s Eye Society on April 14th.
Members of the society’s UNM chapter met in the SUB, but the characters they play met at the Alvarado Hotel, which is accessed by portals behind the Alvarado Transportation Center.
The characters are part of “Changeling: The Lost,” one of two live action role-playing (LARP) games hosted by the Mind’s Eye Society at UNM. Group member Amber Griffis said LARP is similar to imaginative tabletop games like “Dungeons and Dragons,” except LARPers incorporate acting and movement into the game.
“You get up, you move around, you can wear costumes,” she said.
“When you’re table-topping, you’re not always in character, you’re just kind of reacting to what the storyteller tells you, whereas in a LARP, a lot of the experience and joy of gaming comes from interaction.”
Costumes are optional but many players wear them. One woman wears a hat with a giant fake peacock and carries a cane, offering butterscotches to everyone. Another wears a revealing, black leather shirt, the straps of which attach to a studded collar around her neck. A man wears a three piece suit and sunglasses for the indoor game.
The Mind’s Eye Society at UNM formed in 2005, and the “Changeling” game, along with many of its players, has remained the same since the group’s beginning.
LARPers begin the “Changeling” game and sit around a large table, discussing various threats from Santa Fe that could jeopardize their safety. One character says she has intimate knowledge of one of the issues.
“I seduced that girl, as well as a few others, not necessarily women, mind. I have an in with each of the four big bads,” she said.
Griffis said her character sleeps with anything that looks at her twice.
As the game progresses, voices get higher and the content becomes more emotional. A woman is forced to recount her husband’s death, and her arms tremble as she shrieks in protest, face reddening.
Griffis said the characters are revisiting a traumatic event characters experienced than three years ago.
Players create characters with various skills, then act out those characters with guidance from the storyteller, who has formulated a basic plot for the evening.
Group member Evan Prieskop said the rules can be accessed online via his iPhone.
The rules the players follow were created by White Wolf Publishing, the creator of the “Changeling” game and the other game the group plays, “Vampire.” The company creates new games every 10 years. Once a new one is created, players typically discontinue playing the old one. Players often keep the same character throughout the span of a game. Griffis said she has played her “Changeling” character for six years. This means that players develop intimate relationships with their characters, but per game rules, characters’ lives depend on the roll of a die.
When a character dies, the LARPer cannot play it anymore, but can create a new character.
“When you are fully immersed in your character, you get attached and it’s not just dots on a piece of paper,” she said. “You live and breathe and you think like those characters, you’re trying to be them. So when you kill a character, of course they’re sad and upset. If they killed my character tonight, I would be kind of devastated, but I wouldn’t cry and never come back.”
Griffis said players draw from personal experiences to create their characters, but they also choose characters that have very different qualities from themselves. She said sometimes people act out fears they have, which can help them overcome those fears.
“One of the players plays a character who is a mustache-twirling villain who likes to pontificate at people, but the player himself has trouble speaking in public,” she said. “He’ll come into LARPs and be able to speak and ramble on … He’s been doing this for 100 years. There are personal challenges you can work on.”
Griffis said she came to Mind’s Eye Society looking for a larger social network in Albuquerque. Through Mind’s Eye Society she met her boyfriend, whom she‘s been dating for more than five years.
“I used to be really shy, like I don’t want to talk to people, stranger danger,” she said. “When I came to do the LARPs, I tried to play characters that were more outgoing than I was. In order to do that, I had to put myself out there and consequently, six years later, I’m loud-mouthed and pushy.”
“Changeling” storyteller Irene Zaugg said LARP is just a type of social interaction, not a nerd fest.
“Some people have knitting or quilting groups and we have a social group around role-playing,” she said. “I don’t think we’re any more exceptional than another nerd out there. We show up to IHOP still wearing our costuming. We look a little weird, but there isn’t a hostile reaction to all that. There’s actually more acceptance.”