Good morning Patrons of the Underground,

As Grand Masquerade approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about the last time it was held in New Orleans. It was September of 2011, I was a storyteller for a game in The Garou Nation organization as well as on their board, and after the long drive from Chattanooga to the French Quarter, things went terribly wrong.

I had spent nearly the entire time in New Orleans in the hospital emergency room and in the hotel room terribly ill. Following the event, I spent several weeks home from work recovering. It was a horrible time, and in the end I was diagnosed with panic disorder and my doctors said that I had no choice but to cut everything stressful from my life.

The obvious decision to be made was that I needed to step down from my positions in the national organization. While I knew stepping away was what was best for me, I didn’t want my game to leave the organization because it had benefits for my players and their characters. To my surprise, when learning of my situation, the players in my game actually initiated a vote and voted unanimously that they wanted our game to leave the organization and just be a single independent game.

Amazingly, they wanted me to do what was best for my health. They didn’t care how it affected the game because they new, ultimately, it was just a game.

My storytelling staff had truly developed a gaming community, and this community cared about my health and me. I was incredibly blessed to have helped to create a gaming community of friends who cared more about me as a person than as a storyteller.

In April of that same year, the neighborhood that I lived in was struck by an F4 tornado. From my front and back porches, I looked at empty spaces where houses once stood. I won’t get into too many details here, but I do not exaggerate when I say that we lived in the center of a Federal disaster area.

Personally, my family was very lucky. Our roof was destroyed, the cars were damaged, a lot of exterior elements of my home were wrecked – but for the most part, my house made it through okay.

Wreckage from all of the destruction filled our yard, and there were four or five giant trees in our yard that were now toppled onto the driveway, the street and the grass. Though my house survived, there was going to be weeks of cleanup, both at my house and in our surrounding neighborhoods. We would be without electricity for almost two full weeks.

Something else happened, though. The president of the national org our game was in learned that a local charity was raising money for tornado relief through the sale of advertising logo space on T-shirts, and then selling the T-shirts. The money raised was going directly to people in my community who were in desperate need.

224631_1828556405755_456199_nThey raised over $100 and purchased a space on the T-shirt to put that LARP organization’s logo on the shirt and said that they hoped it would help my community rebuild.

The players in our game were valued as people and the organization wanted to help us as people in need.

In the days that followed, as my neighborhood cleaned up, my yard was filled with many of my best friends helping. But the players in my game were there, too.

The tornadoes happened on Thursday, and I remember Saturday morning being in my yard gathering pieces of roofing and lumber that had been part of some of the destroyed houses around us, and noticing that every person in my yard was a player in my game. They had given up their weekend to help my wife and I try to find our house.

We were so lucky to have a group of gamers who were willing to do hard manual labor on their weekend to help during a crisis. Our gaming community had come together to look out for us in our real life circumstances.

A few years ago, two different members of Underground Theater in different parts of the country committed suicide. Both suicides were unrelated to game, but our organization was still impacted by the loss. We have hundreds of players, but two different games had been hit by the loss of a friend.

UT held a fundraiser and raised several hundred dollars in honor of those two gamers and donated the money to a national suicide prevention organization in their names.

A player in Underground Theater went missing for a week last year. The information was shared by our members across our org and then they shared it to other orgs, reaching over 5,000 people.

There are players in my game who see other players unable to pay their $5 and just reach into their wallet and cover the fee for them without a second thought. There are people in my local game without cars, and they always have rides from other players to get groceries. There are people in my game dealing with difficult real-life issues and they always have shoulders to cry on, sometimes even right before or after game. There are people in my game who struggle with chronic illness and no one even bats an eye to step out of character to care for them or make sure they are okay when things get rough.

We aren’t LARPers. We’re friends.

My game is a place where I hang out with my friends. It’s even the place I met my wife.

That’s what LARP is to me.

What is it to you?

~Ryan Faricelli
Director of Communications

[Portions of this article are reprinted from my book, On A Roll: Level Up Your RPG.]