A group of fantasy enthusiasts are gearing up for their largest event of the year with plenty of time for newcomers to join in and get acclimated.
The Park Hills Live-Action Roleplayers (PHLARP) have been around for several years, at one time holding events in Columbia Park before moving to private property outside of Leadwood.
“It’s a swordfighting/roleplay group,” explained Brandon Frazer. “There’s different themed ones, of course. Ours is a fantasy style game, which includes elves and dwarves and stuff like that.”
The roleplayers use foam-coated “weapons” in combat for safety, but there’s much more to it than hand-to-hand combat.
“It’s almost like a live video game,” said Jolene Parish. “There’s a class system, there’s a skill system — anything that you would have in a standard video game. But you’re actually out there playing your character.”
The group meets every Saturday for regular roleplay sessions, with larger weekend-long events once a month. This weekend will be one of the group’s monthly “3-Day War Weekends,” while next month the annual “Battle for the Crown” will be held.
Frazer said the annual event has brought as many as 70 roleplayers out, with an average of roughly 50. The weekly events bring together around 30 players.
“Most are locals, but we have people that come up from Dexter, Missouri and a few that come from Scott Air Force Base,” Frazer said. “So we have people that travel for our specific events.”
Frazer said anyone who’s interested in live-action roleplaying (LARPing) is welcome to get involved with the group for this weekend’s event.
“We welcome everybody,” he said. “Anyone 13 and older we let participate in combat, but anyone younger than that, we’ll typically let them be messengers or something like that. We’ll find a way to include them in the game but we keep them out of the combat.”
Parish said the older players tend to take the younger ones under their wing, making sure that all feel welcome and have a role to play.
The event will last the entire weekend, with a variety of smaller events and activities taking place.
“It starts this Friday at 3 p.m. and it’s an overnight event,” Frazer said. “It won’t actually end until Sunday morning at about 10 a.m. It’ll mostly be people scattered around doing different things — they’ll call an event once every few hours, but other than that it’s just people going around doing campaigns, roleplaying, fighting or whatever.”
Even those who have no experience with LARPing are encouraged to come out and give it a shot, with no materials needing to be brought.
“It’s really easy for new people,” Frazer said. “We have a lot of extra weapons there, so when someone wants to come they just have to show up. We’ll have them sign a waiver then we’ll basically introduce them through a very unique initiation system that we have, which kind of gets them involved in roleplay and combat. It teaches them the basics of what to do, then we just kind of throw them into the fire from there. And more often than not, that works out pretty well.”
More than just a hobby or a place to hang out, Frazer said PHLARP provides a much-needed community to a group in the area who aren’t interested in some of the other group activities.
“PHLARP, in general, I think is just really awesome because it reaches a group that are normally reclusive and keep to themselves,” he said. “It brings them together in a way that I don’t think any other event really can.”
Visit PHLARP’s Facebook page for more information about the group, its activities and upcoming events.