Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The Crossways, Swarthmore’s third annual Swarthmore live action role play (LARP) will take place on campus on Saturday, April 4. Written by Josh Ginzberg ’15, Jacob Collard ‘15, Jeffrey Moore ‘15, Leonie Cohen ’16, and Z.L. Zhou ‘16, the game is currently in development, with character surveys being released later this month.
The now-annual LARP was first developed by Ben “Books” Schwartz ’13, who has been playing and developing games at The Wayfinder Experience summer camp since they were 14. “I wrote The Secret Major […] because I wanted to share my favorite form of stories with my friends,” said Schwartz.
Set at the fictional Mulligan College, Major revolved around warring factions of students and supernatural creatures. 2014’s game, Book and Key, was a sequel to Major. Key was set at Swarthmore College and revolved around a mysterious society of the same name. Each year’s game has been entirely student written, with roughly 90 students and community members participating each year. Ginzberg expects a similar number to register this year.
While Crossways will have a new setting, the general structure of the days’ events will be similar to that of previous years, said Ginzberg. On Saturday afternoon, students will lead improv and fighting workshops and take a short dinner break before the game begins. This year, however, organizers will attempt to “give people more opportunity to meet their character connections […] in their faction, so that they have an opportunity to flesh out those backstories.”
This added emphasis on character development means the organizers of the game needed to start writing earlier than usual. This year, the team began developing the story over winter break. “We wanted to do [a conflict] a little different than ‘The school is under attack!’ because, as fun as that’s been, it gets old the third year in a row,” said Ginzberg. Crossways is set in a research facility inside a pocket universe “that just happens to be the same size and shape as Swarthmore College,” said Ginzberg.
Swatties may be familiar with LARPing through experience with the annual Pterodactyl Hunt. While roles in the Hunt are very simple—most students play heroes in white trash bags, while others play villains in black—this game allows students to develop a deeper character. This process begins with a survey: students answer questions about what kind of character they would like to play based on their interests and past experiences.
Writing characters will come after the broad plot and setting for the game, said Ginzberg, and characters “are the lifeblood of the game. It’s what keeps people coming back.” While in past years, writers would not begin to write character bios until every player had turned in a character survey, Ginzberg said, “That’s hard […] if you want to give each one the love and attention it deserves. But at the same time, you don’t just want to write a character and fill in the blanks.”
Interested students can register for this year’s LARP here.