LARP for the Physically Borked

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I have several physical issues, and while I would love nothing more than to play a badass Amazon, my body tells me, “No way in hell.” Normally this would not be as big of a deal if my local group didn’t bill itself as HARP: Heavy Action Role-Play. Just yesterday one of the member was waxing nostalgic over when they didn’t pad their weapons and bragged about how he chipped a tooth during some warm-up fights just before this weekend’s mission. That’s all fine and dandy for him, but what about those of us where being tackled almost always ends in a trip to the hospital? My group, Medieval Chaos, gives people the option of being non-combatant. The non-com wears a neon orange stripe of duct tape somewhere it can easily be seen. The person is not to be hit under any circumstances, however, this means that if a combatant comes within striking distance and yells at them, they’re dead. My first session out, I tried to go non-combatant. Then when my arcane apprentice was talked into drawing from the Deck of Many Things and subsequently became dim-witted (aka unable to read and therefore cannot cast arcane spells), I had the choice of sitting sober and bored in the tavern or ripping off the badge and picking up a weapon. I went with the latter and charged towards combat, yet when faced with actual melee, I role-played being paralyzed with fear. Both in and out of character I had little to no experience with two-handed maces (the weapons that happened to be discarded), so I held them in front of me as if to hide behind them. During a siege on the fort, I turned to one of the few healers and asked if she needed an apprentice. The weapon was traded for potions of resurrect and I gained some basic abilities and spells. Despite my chosen class and physical issues, I still go to our practice nights a few times a week, but have had to hold myself back from trying to keep up with the teenagers, the people who weight 100 lbs less, and/or are more physically capable of keeping up with our ex-military leader. The difficult part is getting it through my head that I don’t have anything to prove to anyone but myself. The first time out for practice, I didn’t have my inhaler and tried to keep up with everyone else. 20 minutes in the asthma kicked in.  I realized that I had two choices: go all out, end up in pain, and unable to breathe after a very short time or go at my own pace, stopping when I need to, have a good time, and still be able to function later. Now I moderate myself and when the asthma starts up while sparring, I step back to let it calm down. I still apologize profusely, but no one has a problem with it. After all, where’s the sport if your opponent is gasping for breath? 
When signing in at gate, we are asked to leave as much of our gear in our cars/tents as possible in order to make the experience real. Inhalers and other necessary items are kept in a pouch or pocket, and are listed on our membership paperwork. I go one step further and ensure that most of my friends know where I keep my inhaler, where the first aid kit is in my car, and that I have medical training. 
Before and after every mission, MC has meetings that we call “conch.” Someone blows a conch shell and we all gather in town. Before the mission, the NPC’s step forward so we’ll recognize them (as opposed to their characters), non-combatants announce themselves, and we can all generally get an idea of how the day is going to go. After the mission, we can all share something that we enjoyed/appreciated and constructive criticism. For example, last weekend I thanked people for the most part recognizing that I can’t be hit very hard (one solid blow and the resulting flinch/startled reaction could re-injure my back). Most people will hit you as hard as you hit them. That being said, you can’t say, “Please don’t hit me hard!” and then turn around and wail on them. Nor can you not acknowledge a hit. Because I don’t wear armour, I will take even the lightest of hits for both realism and honesty.
Most of the time when on site, I use a sturdy, carved walking stick and when in melee, I hold it behind my back in order to avoid the instinct of whacking my opponent with it. Once I have the money, I’m going to invest in a staff in order to avoid anyone getting hurt accidentally. Only once or twice has the bar’s bouncer tried to make me leave it outside, at which point I break character to inform him that do need it. Enough people have seen me fall flat on my ass when one of my ankles decides to go out and I’m stubbornly avoiding using it that it’s barely even noticed anymore. Although it was both entertaining and humiliating when this happened as an NPC zombie (i.e. no stick, and I thought that the limp added to the authenticity) I was “invisibly” on my way to the outhouse and everyone broke character to see if I was all right. I even took the crippled trait in order to at least get some in-character benefit from my issues. In short, work within your limits, have fun with it both in and out of character, remember to laugh, and stand up for yourself and your needs when necessary.

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