Sith and Jedi Battle on USF Campus

A Star Wars live action role play group recreates battles on campus, but also helps out in the community.


By Daylina Miller News Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 5, 2011) – Under the fluorescent lights of Student Health Services, an eclectic gathering of friends – from blue-jeaned students sporting Bulls t-shirts to others in cloaks, matrix-style trench coats and Nerf gun belts – prepare for battle.


It’s the Star Wars Live Action Role Play (LARP) group on campus, an unofficial student organization that meets weekly to participate in live battles and missions involving complex plots and characters created by the members and inspired by the Star Wars movies and comic book series.


USF graduate Dan Wolfe created the local game in March 2007 and for nearly four years, it has been a process of tweaking and redesigning the plot, characters and rules so that the game could “grow and adapt like people do,” Wolfe said.


It’s not just a gaggle of geeks aimlessly whacking each other with plastic light sabers. It’s a complex game, rife with riddles to solve, objectives to obtain and character statistics to keep track of.


Unlike more well-known games, like Dungeons & Dragons and World of Warcraft, most of the battles are fought away from the realms of cyberspace and dice-rolling.


The battles are live. The intensity is searing. Screams of “NEEEEEEEEEERD!” can be heard echoing down the mostly-empty outside corridors on campus. Cue evil cackles, maniacal laughter and the frenzied wielding of light sabers in circles above one’s head.


The group has an amicable relationship with the University Police, Wolfe said. They give them a heads up about their meetings and activities so that if a call comes in about people running aimlessly about the campus with light sabers, UP isn’t alarmed.


The group is not an official student organization because then it would leave out certain individuals who still want to participate, such as USF graduates, students at other schools and people in the community. Those members would lose out on the opportunity for leadership roles and the ability to vote on game-play and rule change.


Take Leslie Chin, for example. She is a student at the Art Institute of Tampa majoring in game design and involved with the Society of Creative Anachronism, an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. Chin says that the Star Wars LARP helps her practice her sword-fighting.


Her friend, Cindy Fachet, is a sophomore at USF but takes all of her classes online from her home in Orlando. She makes the weekly trek out to the Tampa campus to play her “wanderer” character and socialize with friends.


“It’s a really good escape if you’re having a really bad day,” Fachet said. “You get to fire up a blank page and be someone else for a couple hours.”


Molly Payne understands that need for escape and socialization. She is a USF student who not only LARPs but is working on a diversity project for her psychology program. Her paper discusses LARPing as a subculture that provides an escape from reality and a sense of community for members.


“You can come here and you get to play these really cool characters and see an immediate sense of accomplishment, unlike getting a degree which takes a few years,” Payne said. “Where some people would go watch a movie, I prefer to be playing make-believe.”


The group proves friendship, camaraderie and an outlet for huge Star Wars fans. But it’s not just about pretending, rough-housing and hanging out with friends. The group also does community service.


During their “Classy Trash” events, members of the Star Wars LARP group dress up in their dinner party finest to pick up trash alongside Fowler Avenue. Other members help out with the Special Olympics.


Wolfe is proud of how the group has developed. Friendships are cultivated during friendly duels and answering Star Wars questions taken from that version of Trivial Pursuit. Punching and shoving is not allowed and quick action is taken to expel members who don’t follow the rules.


“Thanks go to the gamers that have made this a reality,” Wolfe said. “Otherwise we’d just be two or three people running around in the dark hitting each other with sticks.”


Daylina Miller covers student activities and trends. She can be reached at 813-500-8754.