LARPing & The Ohtari

Welcome weary traveler! Come on in, the Adventurer’s Guild welcomes you! Take a seat and have a drink. I will be your guide on your journey into realms of mystery, melee and magic. There are nigh limitless opportunities for you to shed the mundanities of everyday life, even if for a little while, and it is my privilege to show you those paths.

Let me draw your gaze to the Ohtari, the LARPers of Kent State. LARP stands for Live Action Role Play, acting out actions in real time instead of rolling dice around a table.  Yes, these Larpers are the boisterous and gregarious fighters of the field. This is a proud tradition that stretches back nearly two decades.

The plaza echoes with the sounds of battle, the cries of the dying, the shouting of captains and the din of swords striking. Each Friday that the sun shines, the brave combatants train from the second bell up to the fifth or sixth. Long hours of practice hone the fighters into ever greater warriors under the tutelage of more experienced fighters, the eldest of which have participated in one fashion or another for 13 years

Upon approach, you will be warmly greeted by some of the fighters currently seeking reprieve from the battlefield, grabbing a drink or a breath of air. One of the veteran fighters will give you the basic instructions of combat and the rules of the field over the course of a minute or two. 

Then with your introduction complete, you will be granted the use of a communal weapon and can immediately jump into the fight. A variety of different battles await: free-for-all melees, team battles, and a variety of one-on-one fights. These battles are often run several times, giving participants chances to try different equipment or new tactics and learn from the mistakes they made previously.  

Don’t be discouraged if you lose your first match! Many of these fighters will have a significant advantage over you when you first start, but I’m certain you’ll pick it up quickly. Many of the fighters around you have only a year or so under their belt, so they know how it feels to be in your place.

While this group, the “Ohtari,” are new, they take up their place in a long line of previous organizations, including the “Nardu n’Azul,” the “Kent State University Foam Fighting Society,” “Koganusan” and, oldest of all, the “Kingdom of Rotharin.”

The current organization is not tied to a single specific sport, but instead seeks to prepare its students for a variety of different LARPs that have taken root across the continent, such as Amtgard, Hearthlight, Drachenfest or Belegarth, to name a few.

The Ohtari focus mainly on the martial values of LARPing: teamwork, fitness, camaraderie, and dexterity. In this it is similar to many martial arts or other combative sports. As winter approaches, there are plans to shift to the mental side of LARPs. Already classes are being prepared for learning crafts, Norse Runelore, Fantasy Linguistics and many more.

The Ohtari do not require any dues to join and are generally a friendly and welcoming group. What informal “advancement” comes more from friendliness and working well with the group as a whole, rather than from skill and athleticism. 

After some time, you’ll be encouraged to buy or build your own gear so that communal weapons can be used by newer fighters, but it really is a low cost of entry: making your own sword runs about $10 and an afternoon of crafting. 

Naturally, you can buy or make other things as well, fancy costuming (known as “garb”), shields, axes, spears, glaives, hammers and more! Swords and clubs are the most common pieces, but a variety of spears, shields and two-handed weapons are available for people to try out.

New fighters are encouraged to try different combinations and fighting styles, dual-wielding swords, sword and shield, spear, and two-handed weapons. The veterans are happy to show newer fighters their own preferred styles, passing along tricks they’ve learned during many hours in the arena.

So go say hi! Try it out and see if you like it. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure no one steals your seat. When you’re done, come on back and I’ll tell you all about the dungeon-delving adventurers you’ve probably heard so much about.