Live Action Role-Playing (larp)
I consider live action role playing to be an ancient, global art form. It began in the early days of humanity, when shamans would wear animal skins and re-enact the Hunt. Larp, to me, is essentially improvisational acting where everyone participating is both actor and audience and have a certain amount of agency to determine where the narrative goes, that is, through their actions they can decide when, or if, Hamlet kills Claudius.
I think that larp (an unfortunate name that I have learned to accept) is the rare art form that can exercise a person’s physical, mental, and emotional aspects. I think that we are in a larp Renaissance now, as the individual groups who play-pretend begin to communicate with one another, share information and ideas, and collaborate to make truly influential larps that have a profound impact not only on individuals, but on society as a whole.
To me, not all larps are fantasy-oriented foam weapon weekend camping games. In fact, I don’t consider all larps to be games by Salen & Zimmerman’s definition. I do consider all of the following to be live action role playing experiences: mock trials, model United Nations clubs, military simulations, disaster simulations, some psychodrama therapies, the Stanford Prison Experiment, playing cops and robbers in the backyard or a tea party with friends and stuffed animals in the bedroom. These are all facets of a thrilling, complex, diverse, and powerful art form.
I have been involved with larp since grade school. In 2006 I realized how widespread larp was, and only in the last few years have I attempted to make larp design and production my vocation: I founded and ran Seekers Unlimited, a nonprofit (501c3) corporation that made 17 educational larps for four schools in the Los Angeles area from 2011-2015. I also co-founded the defunct Live Game Labs, a loose collection of SoCal based larpwrights. I currently serve as vice-president of The Game Academy, a 501c3 nonprofit that develops and uses role-playing games to educate life-long learners.
- The Volitron – An item for use with the Call of Cthulhu (7e) RPG, published in the July 2018 issue of The Unspeakable Oath (#25)
- Let’s Play With Fire! Using Risk and Its Power for Personal Transformation online only as part of Knutpunkt 2018 companion book. Co-authored with Bettina Beck. Edited by Johannes Axner and Annika Waern (2018). Used as text for MFA Thesis Production/Creative Theory-Method-Practice in the Dance Department, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University.
LARPs for Learning: Live Action Role-Play in Gamify Literacy: Boost Comprehension, Collaboration and Learning – Edited by Michele Haiken (2017)
- Former Editor in chief of Larp World Magazine (2016)
- Live Action Role-Playing (Larp): Insight into an Underutilized Educational Tool (with Andrew Peterson) in Learning, Education and Games – Volume Two: Bringing Games into Educational Contexts – Edited by Karen Schrier, peer-reviewed (2016)
- Co-creator of the Larp Census. RPGnet article here (2014-15)
- Co-editor of the 2013 Wyrd Con Companion Book
- Co-editor of the 2012 Wyrd Con Companion Book
- Documentation for STEEDS in States of Play, Solmukohta 2012 book, available here
- “The Non-United LARP States of America” in Talk Knutepunkt 2011 book
- Blueprint for Rock Band Murder Mystery (with Morgan Joeck) in Do, Knutepunkt 2011 book
- “Predictions for LARP” in Journeys to Another World, the Wyrd Con 2010 LARP Summit Companion Book
- Former contributor to Larping.org
- Cooler Than You Think: Understanding Live Action Role-Playing (2009): A required text for the University of Washington class “Heroes & Monsters“.
- Contributor to Playground Magazine (issues #6 and #7)
I have done many interviews about larp, you can see and read some of them here.
Past client list:
- The Girl Scouts of America
- Paul Biane Library in Rancho Cucamonga (Recipient of the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, partly due to the larp activities run there)
- West Hollywood Book Fair
- New Roads School/GameDesk
- UCLA Game Lab
- New Heights Charter School
- Sanrio, Inc.
- Texas State University
- San Diego Public Library
- Green Dot Charter Schools
Selected credits as lead designer or co-designer:
- Call of Cthulhu (1990)
- UCLA Spy Adventure (1991)
- Sandman: Season of Mists (1993)
- Silver & Sage (1999)
- Hogwarts (2001)
- Spirited Away (2003)
- ChronoAgents Road Rally (2004)
- Limbo! (2005, and part II, 2007)
- Space Cadets: Guardians of the High Frontier (2006)
- Gatsby & the Great Race (2007)
- Rock Band Murder Mystery (2010)
- The Road Not Taken (runner-up in Larpwriter 2010 challenge, this was run in Belarus and Palestine)
- Trail of the Necronomicon (for West Hollywood Book Fair) (2010)
- Harry Potter Family Fun Day (for Paul Biane Library in Rancho Cucamonga) (2010 and 2011)
- ChronoAgents Reloaded – Road Rally (2011)
- STEEDS (2011)
- Live Effects Messina fantasy campaign (2009-2011) – advisory GM/designer
- The Magnificent Market of Marvelous Curious and Miraculous Contraptions (photos) (2012)
- The Game of Sunken Places (2012)
- Two Fat Women and a Scent of Marzipan (second place in the Scenario Design Challenge for Fastaval 2012)
- Dockside Dogs (2013)
- Bookworm (2014) (ARG for San Diego Public Library)
- Dog Day Afternoon (2016)
- Syrian Refugee Simulation by 10th grade Humanities students at High Tech High in Chula Vista (consultant) (info) (2016)
- Something Wicked This Way, an ARG for the Shakespeare First Folio Exhibition at the San Diego Public Library (2016)
- Disaster Popup – A one-day disaster larp to build community interaction, knowledge, and involvement in a Palo Alto neighborhood (2017 x2) (link)
- Fallen Stars at the Charity Sale, a staged adaptation of the Norwegian larp “Fallen Stars” for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (2017) (link)
- Green Piñatas, an original scavenger hunt-style larp based on the Delta Green RPG that ran at GenCon 50 (2017).
- One Last Thing Before You Go, an original immersive and interactive play for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (2018). Winner of the ENCORE! Producer’s Award and the Double Sweet – Critics and Audiences Agree Award from Better Lemons. (link)
- Redefining Pi, the second Delta Green larp to run at the Indiana Medical History Museum for GenCon (2018) Photos here
- Presentation on Larp Definition, History, and Design – with Kirsten Hageleit: guest lecture to UCLA Role-Playing & Games course. PowerPoint presentation later shared with students in course 08:206:722 MFA Thesis Production/Creative Theory-Method-Practice in the Dance Department, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University
At UCLA I took as many film and screenwriting classes as a non-film major could take. I also interned for Roger Corman’s company Concorde/New Horizons. After I received my degree in 1993, I made the fateful decision to attend graduate school rather than face my “whopping” $6,000 student loan.
I moved to Chicago to attend Columbia College‘s Master of Fine Arts in Film & Video program. Besides making movies, I also worked for Learn Television, an educational video game company that later became Jellyvision, makers of the popular trivia game You Don’t Know Jack!, Screen magazine (for the weekly print periodical as a staff writer), Terraglyph Interactive Studios as a staff video game designer, and finally a video rental store (customer service representative).
I was also making short films during this time. One of my early school films, The Outsider, coupled with an email request I made to Andrew Migliore of Beyond Books, helped catalyze the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival® in Portland, Oregon (full story here).
After being laid off by Terraglyph with 9/10 of the company and a long dreary spring season, Kirsten and I returned to Los Angeles, and we have been here ever since. I expect to be cremated with my grad school student loan debt.
In Los Angeles I worked in various capacities in the movie business: as a non-union production manager for student films, as an assistant to writer/director Charlie Carner, as the office manager of Next Wave Films, as the assistant production accountant on the movie I’m Losing You, as a freelance editor, cameraman, and production assistant.
I became the Columbia College Alumni coordinator for the west coast, a part time position, but later left to make movies. My imdb credits are listed here.
In 2010 I started a franchise of the long-running Portland-based H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival® in Los Angeles. I have been the organizer, manager, producer, programmer, etc., from 2010 until its final year in 2016.
In 2003 I received the “Howie” lifetime achievement award for contributions to Lovecraft cinema and culture from the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival® in Portland. I looked at it as inspiration to do more, not satisfaction with what has already been done.
You can see some of my movies on YouTube:
- A trailer for The Yellow Sign
- Lady Luck
- R is for Roaches (creepy crawly)
- My Necronomicon
- Call of Tutu
- Morning Commute (thesis)
I have played and designed games of various types for most of my life. A few of these have been sold commercially:
- “The Trembling Giant” in Out of the Woods, a scenario collection for Trail of Cthulhu
- “They Sleep by Twilight” in Worlds of Cthulhu magazine (issue #5) – a Call of Cthulhu RPG scenario
- Farewell, My Sanity – two Call of Cthulhu RPG scenarios
- Umbrage of the Automaton – a steampunk RPG scenario for überGoober Games
- My video game credits, such as they are, are listed here
I am still designing RPGs, and hope to publish more in the future. Because live action role playing games (larps) are such a big part of my life now, they are detailed separately.
I have many published pieces outside of my game material, almost all of them journalistic. I started with an internship for Midnight Graffiti horror fiction magazine, and, later, Film Threat magazine.
- ilm Threat
- Film Threat Video Guide
Columbia College Chronicle
Sci-fi Universe (also Chicago Bureau Chief)
Wild Cartoon Kingdom
- Screen magazine
- Third Word
Chicago Imaging and Sound
Sculptus in Tenebris
- Comics Scene (cover story)
- Solid Citizen
- Los Angeles Times
Funny, almost all of those periodicals are now defunct.
- Space Gamer / Fantasy Gamer
- The Unspeakable Oath
“Second Eve” in When the Bough Breaks
- “Anniversary” in Horrors! 365 Scary Stories (Bram Stoker winner, Best Anthology)
- Enigmata (UCLA’s Enigma fanzine)
- Call Sheet (Columbia College Chicago west coast alumni newsletter)
- The Wyrd Con Companion Book 2012
- The Wyrd Con Companion Book 2013
- Larp World Magazine (one issue)
From March 2009 to February 2013 I blogged about cocktails for Examiner.com. The pay was third world but the perks were princely. Almost all of my articles remained online until the company thankfully folded. The one they cut was this gem, which links to my favorite or most important pieces. I learned a lot in those four years, not the least of which is how to make a good stiff drink. The Liquid Muse also published a few of my original articles.