“IT’S KIND OF LIKE PAINTBALL BUT WITH SWORDS.”
KELOWNA – A weary band of Kelowna locals are the only thing standing in the way of a bloodthirsty and dangerous new collective called The Legion who are trying to take over the entire Thompson-Okanagan.
The two groups met for the first time in Kelowna last weekend and things got violent almost immediately.
Adam Marton Beke, 21, is also known as A. Tamikazi. He is the battle commander for the Legion, one of the two factions of Kelowna’s first official LARP club. LARP, or live action role play, has been around for a while with countless online videos showing costumed warriors fighting with plastic swords and special effects.
It’s become synonymous with dorkdom, but Beke says that stereotype just doesn’t fit anymore.
“The biggest (misconception) is that it’s only done by nerds,” he says. “One of the girls that is on my team has a thousand followers on Facebook and pretty much the entire Okanagan Valley wants her. She has really high social status but she does the nerdiest things. When someone tries to say something (against LARP) it’s like, well, that girl that you like does this so…”
LARP has evolved considerably over the last few years. The costumes and character assumptions remain but there is a much greater emphasis on safety. Beke, who is originally from Hungary and has lived in Kelowna for six years, wears hockey equipment decorated in the style of Guild Wars 2. His metal shield is covered in fur and he wields a two handed sword with one hand.
“In the beginning we didn’t wear any protective equipment,” he says. “I used to get fractured fingers all the time but I decided after a couple times to use gloves. Now it doesn’t really hurt at all. It’s almost like paintball but with swords.”
Battles will be held in a different location each week and newcomers are welcome although they will have to arrange a meeting with the two faction commanders.
“I’ll put on my battle voice and say ‘come fight for the Legion’,” he says. “Make myself intimidating so they don’t want to fight against me.”
The Legion and the Assault Team are currently the only two factions in Kelowna. Each have around five members but are actively recruiting all the time.
“All the Legion wants to do is take over more kingdoms for power and resources so they can get rich and powerful,” he says. “The Assault team is trying to help the innocent people and prevent the Legion from harassing everyone. We like to think every time the Legion wins a game more innocent people will be killed and they’re growing in strength. Every time the Assault team wins a game the Legion’s morale decreases.”
“The Assault team wants to save people, the Legion is bloodthirsty. I’m the commander of the Legion.”
The rules of the game vary somewhat depending on which game the two legions decide on. Like most online multiplayer role playing games, there is death match, onslaught, domination and capture the flag. The rules are pretty much the same for each — once the game starts, players plan their strategy and deploy. They might set up an ambush or go for a full frontal assault. It’s when the two sides finally meet the real fun starts.
“It’s kind of like paintball but with swords,” he says. “If your arm gets hit you can’t use that arm. If your leg gets hit, you can’t use that leg. It takes two body shots to kill you or one head shot.”
In all games, except death match where it is essentially a free-for-all until one player is left, once you’re killed you go back to your spawn location and continue playing.
Beke says it’s like a videogame combined with a sport.
“I just really liked videogames and after a while I kind of got bored of them,” he says. “I thought what if I stopped being lazy and I went outside and fought with swords with my friends and got some exercise while doing it.”
He says like all sports, the best players are easy to recognize.
“They are the ones you see on the battlefield and say ‘oh (no), he’s coming toward me’.”
Beke has launched a website to try and recruit interested players in other communities. He hopes to have factions across the Thompson-Okanagan. The way he sees it, the only obstacle is the fear of being judged.
“I feel like everyone is too scared of what other people might think so everyone is just sitting around waiting for someone else to do it first,” he says. “I used to be afraid of what people thought until I got more confident with myself.”