By Lindsay Starr Platt, Correspondent
For over five years Dystopia Rising: Texas a group dedicated to Live-Action Role-Playing, also known as LARP, has been hosting events at Camp Kachina in Belton. The events are a full-weekend long Friday through Sunday and are held several times a year with hundreds of participants from near and far.
“Dystopia Rising is a networked game series. We host a fully immersive role-playing game in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested setting. From Friday to Sunday participants live as a survivor… eating, sleeping, and (mock) fighting in character. We’re also a community of friends and family,” said Ryan Coogan, Dystopia Rising:Texas organizer. “Dystopia Rising is a game that has brought a lot of people together, but even after the event has ended we still see each other at restaurants, bowling, playing video games, on river floats, you name it. Countless friendships have sprouted because of DR and even a few marriages.”
Dystopia Rising: Texas is part of a national network, Dystopia Rising. Players in Texas can travel to sister chapters in Oklahoma, Florida, and California. New Jersey hosts the mother chapter which has been operating since 2009.
“LARP is a form of experiential entertainment, where participants are a part of the story and the action. There are different kinds of LARP. I would best describe what we do as experiencing your favorite television series or video game. The stories are episodic, with each event having its own storyline and plot, but each episode builds on the past to create a much larger story,” said Coogan.
“Our genre is post-apocalyptic horror. The focus of our story is survival. How to cope in a world where monsters are real. How to build a society where bullets are valued more than education, where corruption is a valued tradition, where addiction is both prevalent and ignored.”
Dystopia Rising Texas averages between 250 and 350 players per event.
The event is part of a network and often has participants from as far as Washington and New Jersey.
“We have local players come from all over Texas and a few who come out from as far as Louisiana and even a handful who drive out from New Mexico every month. I suppose “local” is pretty relative in those terms,” said Coogan. “We’ve been in Belton for five years since we started Dystopia Rising: Texas. In a lot of ways, Belton was the perfect home for us. It is central enough that we see players come out from Austin, Dallas, and Houston. The camp is private so we’re not a burden on the neighbors. We got to partner with a great organization, the Girl Scouts of Central Texas, who do great work. And if I’m being really honest, we could afford it.”
One of the aspects of LARP is the elaborate costuming that is involved for a person to role play in a live action event. Many costumes include weapons and must be checked-in before playing.
“The genre is post-apocalyptic so players have assembled costumes from all manner of things. For some, it is as simple as stained and tattered clothing. Others have built armor out of football pads and car parts. The costuming is similar to cosplay but there’s a bit of a crowbar separation between the two. Cosplay is reproducing someone else’s character and this is creating one of your own,” said Coogan. “Our costuming also has to last because people are running for their fictional lives in them. We use prop weapons. Some are professionally manufactured and others are built at home, but we handle and tag each of them to make sure they are safe.”
LARP is both scripted and improv to include storylines and schedule encounters for the whole weekend.
“We don’t really know how those things will resolve. It’s a lot like reality television actually, where we know what characters will fight over, but not how it resolves or what they’re going to say,” said Coogan.
When Coogan was asked how to explain Dystopia Rising to someone not familiar with LARP, he replied, “I say that it is a lot like living inside your favorite television series or video game. Instead of passively watching a character on screen, you can actually portray one, and you can interact with others doing the same to create a series.”
Players have to be at least sixteen years old with their parent’s permission to participate in a Dystopia Rising: Texas event. Meals are not included, so players do need to provide their own food.
Coogan said, “There are, however, a few players who will put together a meal plan for friends and strangers alike.”
The next Dystopia Rising: Texas event will be the weekend of March 10. More information can be found at the website: www.dystopiarisingtx.com.
“Dystopia Rising is a lot like a second family to a lot of us. Which makes Camp Kachina and Belton our second home. We’ve been eating at Backyard BBQ since the dining hall was plastic chairs and we filled it to capacity until we couldn’t fit anymore. The people there were angels for dealing with us. Between us and our player base, I think we have a dozen lockers at Amy’s Attic. Some of us sneak off to MeeMee’s for Saturday lunch or China Dynasty on Sundays for lunch. The local Dollar General has saved me more times than I count on last minute must-haves that I’ve forgotten at home,” said Coogan.