Get us in your inbox

  1. A group of people in costume holding swords shout at the camera
    Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan
  2. A person in medieval costume raises two daggers in pretend stabbing of another person with red horns
    Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan
  3. A girl  and boy with horns hold swords and grin at camera
    Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan
  4. Three people holding weapons in fancy medieval dress action pose against a stormy sky
    Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan

Bust out your best battlecry: an inside look at Sydney's secret world of Live Action Role Play

We explored Sydney's underground LARP scene, where hobgoblins and orcs battle it out every week on a footy field in a magical quest for self acceptance

Maya Skidmore
Edited by
Maya Skidmore
Written by
Janina Waldmann

Every Friday night, under the cover of dusk, two enemies with a long-standing rivalry meet on a football field in Western Sydney to fight it out on the gleaming astroturf. Humans, goblins, elves, dwarves, orcs, gnomes, and hobgoblins – armed to the teeth with an array of latex covered fibreglass weaponry – all converge into a cataclysm of clashing swords and battlecries. 

This is Live Action Role Play (LARP), and it happens every week in Sydney’s Rooty Hill.

People in Mediaeval fantasy costumes with swordsPhotograph: Cassandra Hannagan

Sydney is the permanent home of two regular LARP events. Battlecry: Age of Markoth takes place every Friday night. Battlecry players get together to act out fantasy conflicts based on the storyline developed by their administrator and club president, Tadd Lyons. Tadd has written a decade’s worth of lore for the world in which Battlecry takes place. His story revolves around two super-factions, the royalist alliance and the empire, and follows their generations-long battle for dominance, with the story having since developed to include an assassinated emperor, a missing heir, and all manner of battleground shenanigans.

So, what happens when new players want to join the Battlecry world?

"You turn up," Tadd explains. "You don't need anything to get started… you get given a basic costume and a weapon and we teach you how to swing the sword."

There's no obligation to create a character when you first join Battlecry. As Tadd puts it, it's an opt-in process. It's also less male-dominated than one might initially suspect. Tadd says the player ratio is about 40:60, and they're a welcoming and inclusive space for people of all gender identities. 

People in Mediaeval fantasy costumesPhotograph: Cassandra Hannagan 

Not all (fake) blood and gore

Less battle-heavy and more diplomatic is Scy'kadia, which takes place every second Saturday and attracts anywhere from 80 to 120 players per event. Their online community is even bigger, with 1,800 members. There's a Discord channel, online events, trivia and a semi-regular get-together where players meet out of character, often to hash out any lingering resentments from within the game.

As Scy’kadia administrator Chris Price explains: “If you don’t talk to people as real humans outside of their character, you often begin to associate any negative behaviours with the person.” 

People in Mediaeval fantasy costumes fight with swordsPhotograph: Cassandra Hannagan

Scy'kadia's game structure is based on five camps, each allocated to a member of the administration team. At the start of each game, the admin team will tell the five camps their objective for the game. 

Chris explains: “It might be something as simple as a whole bunch of supplies have gone missing… or it might be something like there is a giant coming over the hill any day.” 

People in Mediaeval fantasy costumes fight with swordsPhotograph: Cassandra Hannagan

To develop continuity in the game, the administrators weave outcomes from the previous game into the next, with the result being an epic and all encompassing adventure. Chris talks about the time that the camp failed to adequately prepare for a giant invasion. 

We randomly selected a group of characters that had been caught in its rampage. And so they started the next game with various things like an arm in a sling… just silly little things.” 

While giant rampages may deviate pretty far from reality, the LARPers we spoke to were keen to explain the very real effect LARP has had on their lives.  

People in Mediaeval fantasy costumes fight with swordsPhotograph: Cassandra Hannagan

A journey of self-discovery 

Natasha Wenman has been an active LARP player with Scy'kadia in Rooty Hill for six years. Her journey into the world of LARPing began at a time when her mental health was suffering. 

"It allowed me the ability to 'write my own story' when I didn't like the one that real life was writing for me," she explains. For Natasha, the appeal lies in creating an alter-ego who can say and do the things Natasha would normally shy away from in her out-of-character life. Slipping into her character's skin allows her to step outside her comfort zone. "It's almost like those Choose Your Own Adventure stories," Natasha says.

"What I love the most is being able to immerse myself in being someone else. To have a different set of strengths, beliefs and flaws."  

A woman with blue face paint in Mediaeval armour stares into the distancePhotograph: Matt Hudson

The character Natasha adopts on the field is a Norse-inspired warrior named Kara Sverresen. Natasha modelled her after the kind of woman she personally looks up to. While she and Natasha share core values like loyalty, Kara Sverresen is dominant and strong, traits Natasha doesn’t always feel like she herself possesses.

Natasha explains, "All in all, it's a great way to escape the real world for a while, be someone different." 

Natasha is not alone in using LARP to work through difficulties in her personal life. Christopher Sadler's character, Bjorn, has been through the wringer – he started as a human warrior before being turned into a vampire against his will. Christopher explains that Bjorn’s journey mirrors his own (though with less blood-sucking). Christopher is neuroatypical and has anxiety, which he hasn't always found easy to accept about himself. 

A man dressed as vampire sits on a low mossy wallPhotograph: Matt Hudson

Christopher explains that inhabiting his character has given him the freedom to ask himself: “What else am I capable of?” The confidence he’s found in playing Bjorn has carried over into other parts of his life. He now regularly goes to the gym to build up his battleground stamina, uses weights to strengthen his sword wrist, and has found a creative outlet in developing his character’s story. 

“LARPing doesn’t force me to be better," he says. “It gives me the opportunity to be.” 

At the end of the day, it's the human connections behind the costumes that make LARP such an incredible experience. In a world far removed from the everyday mundane, players are given the chance to come together, form life-long friendships and embrace the wild magic of their true selves – all while getting to swing around a really big sword. What’s better than that? 

If you are interested in becoming a LARPer yourself, we recommend checking out Battle Cry and Scy'kadia websites for all the information you need, while you can also get yourself on board with all the most up-to-date information on the Scy'kadia and Battle Cry Facebook pages.  

Sydney has many interesting subcultures, like the rising underground pro-wrestling scene.

    You may also like
    You may also like