People of a certain age may remember Dungeons and Dragons, a role-playing game full of wizards, warriors and eight-sided dice. Today, this game and others are brought to life through live action role play, better known as LARP.
“LARPing means role-playing and embodying your character, which is usually one you have created yourself,” said Clara Lawryniuk, a freelance writer and editor from Seattle who takes part in this subculture. “LARPers dress, speak and act like their character.”
According to Bonnie Bruenderman, a LARPer and visual designer from Seattle, the characters and genres can be pretty extravagant, and can occupy such genres as medieval fantasy (think Lord of the Rings) and dystopian science fiction (think Blade Runner).
"I got into LARP via Rise of Aester, a post-apocalyptic Steampunk role play that I did a few times a month for over a year,” she said. “I’ve played a bunch of different original Steampunk characters, a few Magic: The Gathering characters, and I play ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ pretty regularly with friends.”
It’s all good clean fun, but it has its own unique hazards. Indeed, you won’t take an Orc’s mock broadsword to the face at Tuesday night Scrabble club. But whatever dark necromancies the Cthulhu Mythos deities may have in store for role-players, they can be mitigated with the life-giving magic of a solid insurance policy.
Prospective insurers dismiss LARPers as fringe wackos at their own peril. According to the 2014 LARP Census, there are thousands of participants throughout the world, more than enough to comprise a legitimate consumer base. Farmers Insurance in Woodland Hills, California, caters to people involved in this subculture.
“If LARPers are found to be liable of intentionally causing harm or damage to another person or their property, the LARPer could be on the hook to pay damages,” said Pete Ducich, Head of Product Development for Farmers. “For this reason, having an insurance policy in place may be able to help.”
Bruenderman said it’s unlikely that a role-player would need to insure against LARPer-on-LARPer crime. Rather, many of the dangers role-players encounter come from the most innocuous of places -- their own costumes.
“Making sure you’re covered if you trip on your stilts and fall into someone’s Tesla would be great,” she said. “Beyond that, there’s tripping in your platform heels, navigating elevators, escalators, stairs, dealing with the close press of a crowd… so many things can go wrong.”
Lawryniuk agreed, adding that her main area of expertise is "parlor LARP," which mostly takes place indoors.
“There is a lot of focus on complex story development and character interaction,” she said. “Genres I have played around with are Steampunk, vampires and certain anime series.”
Despite her preference for indoor role-playing, she’s been involved in the role-playing subculture for long enough to know what the risks are in outdoor game play.
“A lot of types of LARPing take place outside, often camping in the outdoors, which comes with its own set of risks,” she said. “A lot of LARPing involves combat with boffers (foam weapons) or sometimes even more realistic weapons… when you’re staging combat in the woods there’s always a risk of accidents or physical injury.”
Apart from risks to life and limb, LARPers also face the risk of theft. When that takes place, the LARPer not only takes a significant financial hit, but a demoralizing emotional one as well.
“This stuff if expensive,” Bruenderman said. “It’s hundreds of dollars of curated pieces that have been customized, tailored, painted and otherwise altered. Time, blood, sweat and tears go into a good costume.”
Pete Ducich suggested that LARPers head off such problems by purchasing property coverage. The company could not provide a specific price for this product, due to the variables from customer to customer. But Ducich said that it had a product for every role player, whatever the situation.
“Live action role players may be equipped with a wide array of sometimes eclectic and expensive pieces of costume and equipment,” he said. “Your property, including costumes and other LARP equipment, are covered against theft.”
Bruenderman added that it might be worthwhile for insurers to carry policies that cover property damage.
“I once knocked over a prop wall with my rather fantastic bustle,” Bruenderman said. “Luckily no damage was done, but I had a similar instance happened on stage with expensive equipment… I can see insurance being a wallet saver for all involved.”
To an outsider, LARPing may seem like a strange pursuit, and those who engage in it may seem exotic. However, Bruenderman said they deserve the same goods and services as everyone else, including insurance.
“The biggest misconception is that people that LARP aren’t ‘normal’ people,” she said. “Maybe ‘normal’ people watch TV shows and read bad novels, but you could be out there doing something instead. Sure, you didn’t actually kill a dragon or save the world from a robotic overlord, but you did hang out with some awesome people for a few hours, make a fantastic custom item, or learn something new about yourself.”