Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you into larping

Usually I described myself as "an eclectic, eccentric syncretist, local cosplayer, and collector of useless information." I'm a 34-year-old single father with a daughter in kindergarten who shares my passions for music, nature, video games, cosplay and LARPing. My background is in music and education, but somehow I have a job as a programmer and receptionist at an electric, fibre, and natural gas utility in northeast Lower Michigan.

I'd toyed with the idea of trying out LARP for different reasons ever since 2009, but what made me finally take the plunge in 2017 was a recommendation to have a real, regularly scheduled getaway to reduce my stress from work. At that time I looked around for the closest chapter/organisation and found the Traverse City chapter. Several helpful people gave me great advice and pointed me to their players guide, which I devoured and which made me even more excited. I made my appearance in August 2017 as a dryad, which dovetailed nicely with a story the plot team was trying to resolve, and the rest was history - I'd found a place where I fit.

Learning quickly that Traverse City and South Michigan were tightly cooperative chapters, I made the decision over that winter to try and travel to SoMi as well but with a completely different character. At my very first event, I also had my very first character death, which I (bizarrely) thought was hilarious. My character's aftermath initiated personal relationships with several other characters and definitely cemented my involvement in this chapter as well.

What are your other interests?

Music is a huge part of my life [/cliche] and is honestly both the easiest way to express myself when words aren't sufficient, and one of my favourite ways to just unwind. I've been playing the piano for almost 30 years now, and singing for 25 - I've auditioned for The Voice twice, and I've also sung several times at Dragonfall. I'm also an inveterate writer in that I'm always starting to write stories, but I'm also easily distractible and several books are glaring at me waiting for me to finish them. Aside from this, I've recently gotten back into tabletop (D&D).

Tell us a bit about your character(s)!

To date I've only played two characters, though a third is nearing completion.

1) Grianadhmad, or "Grin" for short, was my first character and a dryad Earth scholar who I think has seen the most character growth while he was still a PC. He started out as a very shy, somewhat amnesiac, self-doubting healer, and became a very assertive activist and quester. He eventually left the adventuring community to take on an NPC leadership role, a combination of his story already leaning that way and me wanting to spend some extended time on the plot team.

I continue to "play" Grin a lot at home with my daughter because, due to unusual circumstances, she has a character in Traverse lore as well - Grin's daughter Halainndochas. The in-game sprouting of her character was the catalyst for a lot of the changes in Grin's personality and goals.

2) Ilarion Deorsa Ramiel Earthdream is a member of a nomadic clan who himself became a wanderer and lived with only wild animals for many years before returning to city life to adventure with his cousins. He doesn't really get societal rules, and had a tendency (somewhat toned down by now) to run recklessly into battle - heart's in the right place, brain's not working and coordination is iffy. On the other hand, he also started becoming more attuned to nature magic and learned how to cast in addition to wielding blades, and he takes his job as a guardian of the Healers Guild very seriously.

What is your favorite larping memory?

There's an awful lot of these but we'll go with the Trials of the First Forest, July of 2018.

By this point, Grin had let his adventurer friends and his patron all know that he has a daughter (a "sprigling"), and my goals were to clear the Dread Fae out of the grove where my daughter's mother's tribe of dryads used to live; in doing so, I had learned that he needed to grow a new Heart of the Forest, which required a Heartseed. Between games, the Great Ent had appeared to me and told me I had to build a totem to nature before the upcoming full moon was highest, and that I and the company I kept would be tested at the time.

The weekend event began and the whole town was needed to take care of a dragon soul issue first, so Grin assisted in his manner but he was definitely doing an ants-in-the-pants dance that made more than one person ask both in- and out-of-game if I had to go pee. Fortunately some of the "leaders" of the adventurers group also knew about Grin's time constraint, so when the soul situation was resolved, Gideon yelled for anyone that could help me to follow me into the woods. Six adventurers came with me, looking uncertain as I gathered up a large stretch of birch bark Aragon had given me the previous event, some ivy ropes, and a spindle palm branch from one of the groves where the dryad tribe was taking refuge.

I found the clearing where the test was going to occur, put my birch combat staff against an elm tree, wrapped it in the birch bark, tied it with the ivy, and stuck the palm branch on the top. Then we all stood back and stared at it for about five minutes. Eventually the full moon rose to a place where it shone through the canopy, at which point we began to be approached on all sides by wild animals - a bear, a moose, a dire possum, a fungus wolf. They seemed like they were just being threatening until my friends, wanting to protect me and the totem, attacked first, and then they began to fight back. They actually mostly left the totem alone other than the bear nearly knocking it apart because it was pawing at it like a cat, so Ahlana threw down a Circle of Power around her, me, and the totem. Then about thirty seconds later she had to deactivate it so I could get out and heal my friends that were dying.

While all of this was happening, glowing water was appearing in a divot in the ground (Tupperware bowl) in front of the totem, and I remembered the Great Ent told me to collect the moondew and drink of it to be taken to the First Forest. So I took a draw of it (seltzer water I think), passed it around to everyone while they're all still fighting, and eventually we were told we felt a tug on our spirits. I and three others accepted it and fell unconscious, the other three refused; the animals left, and these three carried our bodies back to "town."

Meanwhile, I, Saro, Nommeric, and Kai found our spirits in First Forest, except since they all struck an animal their spirits were red-clad, bloody, and twisted, while mine was blue-clad and clean. I was instructed to carry five fruits (foam balls) at my feet, one at a time at the end of a branch (pool noodle), down to the Great Ent at the end of the trail. The other three were instructed to try and impede my progress without physically harming me or grabbing myself or the branch.

We found out later that Plot had just meant "block his path, do distracting things, and maybe jump out in front of him a few times." But because of a miscommunication, it became psychological torture. Don't worry, it resolved (:D). "Sadistic Saro" went back and forth between trying to coerce me into abandoning the quest and taking an easier path to keep my daughter safe, and angrily bringing up my shortcomings and the likelihood of my failure as a father. "Primal Kai" kept trying to dance around me, direct me the wrong way, or beg me to stop being so serious and just have fun. "Barbaric Nommeric" kept suggesting that when I failed this quest, my sprigling might end up kindling or even worse the handle for an axe or some other metal weapon.

An already long story shortened, I did manage to complete the task only dropping the third ball once and the fifth ball twice, at which point the warped spirits vanished and the Great Ent gave me the Heartseed I had earned. Months later, with my daughter in attendance and out-of-game her mother watching with a white headband on, we were able to plant that Heartseed and begin the restoral of the forest.

This memory sticks out to me because of how immersed we all were and how much each one of us committed to the role, even when it became out of normal character personality. I understood it all as story-telling and I embraced it, and as I went on with the trial Grin just kept getting more and more determined *and* stubborn. As soon as the spirits vanished in-game, all three of those players immediately went out-of-game and gave me huge hugs and said something along the lines of, "I didn't mean a single word of what [my character] just said, you're a great dad, that was so hard, I'm so sorry!" even though I never once thought that they were saying this about the real, out-of-game me. Even one of the other plot members who had come up to watch felt the need to make sure I was mentally okay after that, which also goes to show what a caring community we are (beneath all the barbaric sword-swinging and murder-hoboing).

When someone meets you at larp, how can they best get to know you/engage with you?

Out-of-Character I've historically not been able to stay for the tail end of events because of my Sunday work, so it's easiest to catch me before the event starts, or else just hit me up on Discord or Facebook. While I may seem a little shy, once you say hello I'll be very friendly and welcoming and in all honesty within five minutes you'll be silently begging me to shut up :D

In-Character, Ilarion is a little standoffish because of all his years spent away from other people. He is slow to get used to people, but when he does it's in his nature to want to try and help any way he can, and when he makes a promise or a commitment he takes it very seriously. Simply being casual and friendly without being overbearing will open up a dialogue between you and him, and as he continues to live and fight side by side with you, he will trust you more and be more present when you need him.