Posted: October 29, 2012 at 5:15 pm

By Conor Griffith, Elizabeth Hurst, and James Yaria

On a colorful autumn Saturday, Chris Colland and Crystal Harper arrive at a small clearing along Fine Arts Drive, where they transform into Kael Ravenwind, the warrior, and Catriona Sorcha, the healer.

Although Colland, Harper, Ravenwind and Sorcha all hail from different lands, all of their stories are intertwined through the live action role play-LARP- community. This community has led to creativity, socialization and in Colland and Harper’s case, a colorful romance.

Both have LARPed for many years; Colland, a Morgantown native, has played for 10 years since he was in high school. Now 24 he continues to show off his creative side while enrolled at West Virginia University alongside his girlfriend of six years. Harper, originally from Hurricane W. Va., began LARPing when she was 16 shortly after being introduced to Dungeons & Dragons.

“I had an older brother that played and my parents saw it as a creative outlet for us,” Harper said. “After he left for the Navy I started playing with a group of people in high school.”

After 17 years of LARPing, Harper has since moved to Morgantown where she met Colland eight years ago while the two were taking part in a vampire LARP inside Woodburn Hall. Although they socialized through LARP, Colland and Harper’s relationship together did not begin until two years after they met because of the age difference.

“When I realized I liked him I kind of had a crisis since I was 9 years older than him, but the older you get the less it matters,” Harper said. “Basically my family said you gotta do what will make you happy.”

Crystal Harper and Chris Colland have been dating for almost seven years after first meeting during a LARP. They created characters whose stories intertwine in order to spend more time playing together during their weekend adventures.

Colland and Harper moved in together shortly after they began dating while remaining involved in the gaming community.

“After I graduated high school I kind of just did whatever and after we started dating we moved in together,” Colland said. “After four years of working I decided to go to college…”

“…And he drug me back to college with him,” Harper said.  “I did go to college but due to circumstances I had to drop out and was gone for like 10 years then he’s like ‘Hey I’m going back to school and you should come with me,’”

Both have been fulltime Mountaineers since January 2010 and their chosen majors have helped augment their LARPing experience.

Harper has used her English studies to draw upon fairytales and mythology for inspiration for creating characters in Avalon, the name given to the game world where she, Colland and their friends quest every second and fourth Saturday of the month. As a history major, Colland has channeled many of his passions into the armor and weapon designs. “I like the fight. I’m a guy and we like going out and hitting each other with weapons; it’s primal,” he said. “I’m into all kinds of military history so it’s a blast for me. Unlike video games, here I get to be both the character and the player.”

Part of the LARP experience is being able to express the creativity of one’s mind. Colland and Harper have capitalized on this to come up with unique and intertwined back stories for their characters. For the games Colland suits up as Ravenwind, the barbarian fighter with a kind heart but unstoppable fighting skills who rescues and partners up with Sorcha (Harper), the powerful spell caster with an indomitable sense of justice and hatred of necromancers.

For Ravenwind, being a hero and rescuing the damsel in distress just comes natural. After all that is how is parents met when his barbarian father saved his human mother from a castle. As a youth that was how he envisioned meeting his wife and sure enough that was the case when he was hired to rescue Sorcha from the clutches of a necromancer…only to later discover his client was actually a slaver who hired him to retrieve Sorcha after he had a bad deal with the necromancer. Upon learning the truth, Ravenwind again saved Sorcha and made short work of the slaver thus doing his father proud twice.

Sorcha suffers from amnesia and is unaware of her lineage as the daughter of a human prince and a light elemental. She developed her hatred of the undead and necromancers after being kidnapped and sold into slavery and forced to do his bidding for years until liberated by Ravenwind. To this day her usual meek and quiet persona can be replaced with screaming and rage when confronted by spell casters who pollute the sanctity of life by creating undead. During her travels with Ravenwind she had been abducted and rescued many times but states that she does not have a kidnapping syndrome.

Jared Jackson, an aerospace engineer major, has been live action role-playing in the Morgantown area for over six years, and is a member of multiple LARPs across the state of West Virginia. He uses a myriad of personalities amongst his many created characters, which he likes to act out with different voices.

In terms of values and personalities, Ravenwind and Sorcha are reflections of their creators. The LARPing community is not large and can often come as a surprise to those who do not know about it.

“If you go out and meet people at the games, they make a complete transformation,” Colland said. “Sometimes your classmates are totally shocked to see you outside in medieval garb and I’ll say, ‘Yeah I play that! Why not?’”

Before each game Colland and Harper go through their inventory to make sure they have all the weapons, spell books, and gold they will need for their adventure. After Colland’s armor is secured and Harper’s corset is tied, the two of them take one last pause to kiss before making the transformation into Kael Ravenwind and Catriona Sorcha and set off for the next quest.

Jessica Bland is the newest member of Morgantown’s NERO LARP group, and is playing as a wild elf. As a freshman, Bland has expressed great interest into her new hobby, and has been working on her costume constantly for weeks.