Maelstrom, Malaysia’s First Fantasy Live-Action Roleplaying (LARP) Event, is ending its first year with a bang!
On 26-27 November, Malaysia’s live-action roleplayers will gather at the Sungai Chongkak Park & Resort in Hulu Langat for Maelstrom II: Refuge. In this weekend-long event, gamers will play the role of mighty warriors and cunning wizards fighting to survive in a shattered magical world. And they’ll do it dressed in style.
LARP, the Lowdown
For some roleplayers, the most thrilling games aren’t played around tables with pencil, paper and dice. Instead, they’re all about running around in parks with elaborate costumes and foam weapons and armour, enacting epic adventures. Although LARP was once practically unknown in Malaysia, this exciting form of roleplaying has started to take off in recent years.
Sacha Dijkshoorn, a Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) teacher living in Shah Alam, is the driving force behind the Maelstrom LARP.
When Sacha Dijkshoorn first came to Malaysia, he was disappointed to learn that the LARP hobby wasn’t prevalent here. Back in the Netherlands, typical live-action games could involve as many as hundreds of participants, acting out quests, tournaments or battles. During Sacha’s first LARP at age 16, he had no idea what to expect. Wearing a simple costume (little more than a burlap sack) he was drawn into a convoy mission at night. When his fellow player abandoned him he found himself meeting the convoy alone in the dark. The next thing he knew, he was being ambushed by orcs and had to fight for his life. “What a great start to my first LARP,” he recalls. “I had never been so scared before in my life.”
Sacha wanted to bring that kind of magic to Malaysian roleplaying.
Growing the Live-Action Scene
There have been attempts to run LARP in the region in the past. Most notably, there have been LARP events at Comic Fiesta in KL and a Vampire LARP in Singapore. But there was no organised community for players to gather around.
I became familiar with Sacha and his LARP interests when I joined with him in a couple of smaller-scale LARP events in 2013 and 2014. First he played Thor at a superhero LARP event at Comic Fiesta 2013, which I helped to referee. Next, the two of us worked with Wira Games and Hobbies to run a yearlong Vampire: the Masquerade LARP focused on roleplaying, conspiracies and power struggles. At this time, Sacha started up the MyLARP Facebook Group to help LARPers keep in touch.
Bringing Maelstrom LARP to Life
But Sacha wasn’t satisfied – he wanted to bring a classic “boffer LARP” to Malaysia. The term boffer refers to the harmless but robust foam weapons used for mock combat in certain types of fantasy LARP. There was no precedent, and no existing community to support such an event. So Sacha built one from the ground up, investing time and money to create enough home-made foam weapons to begin with.
It wasn’t easy to find the right materials and designs for the weapons. Each sword needs a solid core of wood or PVC, wrapped with protective foam and given a coat of paint. Build it too cheaply, and it could break after a few hits. But after much hard-won experience and experimentation, Sacha found a good formula for the weapons. Other LARP participants could follow these directions to build their own boffer weapons, or rent from Sacha if they didn’t have time.
Although the first chapter of Maelstrom was scheduled for Merdeka Weekend 2015, circumstances delayed it to 26-27 September 2015. Despite the choking haze at the time, the participants had a great experience and a new tradition was born. A follow-up event, Maelstrom: the Waking Rifts 1, took place on 13 February 2016 and drew more attention from local gamers.
Maelstrom LARP, Part II
Sacha and the Maelstrom team intend to outdo themselves with the next chapter of Maelstrom at the end of this month. There will be an evolving plotline continuing the story of the factions that have arisen after a magical cataclysm. Sacha expects more than 20 participants this time, including players and non-player characters. And there will be new monsters with armour and deadly attacks, to keep players on their toes.
Despite all the complications, Sacha keeps three main rules in mind when running the event. The Rule of Safety is to make sure that participants are never put in harm’s way during mock combat. For example, hitting the head or groin is not permitted and is not considered a damaging hit in the game. The Rule of Fun is a guideline that emphasizes player fun – as long as it is not at the expense of other players. As with any well-run RPG, in-character conflict is fine, unless it escalates into real arguments or harassment between players. Finally, the Rule of Cool encourages players to support the imagination and creativity of other players. It’s cool to suspend disbelief and play along with the others’ fantasy creations, because the point is to make a magical world.
Look forward to more articles about Maelstrom LARP in the coming days!
Learn more about the local LARP community, and other LARP events such as the ones at KDU University College, at the MyLARP Facebook Group.
Learn more about Maelstrom LARP at the event page.