Leaving Mundania

Leaving Mundania tells the story of adults who put on costumes, develop personas, and interact with other characters over the course of hours or days as part of a larp, or live action roleplaying game. A larp is a hybrid of games like Dungeons & Dragons, historical reenactment, fandom, and good old fashioned pretend; it’s well-organized make believe for grownups.This diverse subculture is just beginning to enter the mainstream imagination in America.

In the book, I examine the hobby from a variety of angles, from its history in the pageantry of Tudor England to its present as a training tool for the US military. I profile a diverse range of larpers, from a dad who ran his kids through nightly D & D mods with morals instead of reading them bedtime stories, to a police detective terrified his office will discover his hobby. Along the way, I duel foes with foam-padded weapons, let the demon Cthulhu destroy my parents’ beach house, and survive an existential awakening brought on by Scandinavia’s avant-garde larp scene.

Advance praise for Leaving Mundania:

“Lizzie Stark takes us down the rabbit hole and into the curiouser and curiouser world of LARP and shows us a place where imagination lives and breathes. We’ve wondered what happened behind those convention doors of that ‘other game.’ Leaving Mundania shines a light on Live Action Role Playing entertainment and the imaginative people who live there. Enter if you dare … and enjoy the ride! It’s an enlightening and wondrous journey.” —Tracy Hickman, New York Times bestselling author and game designer

“Rarely does a book so deftly crack open the everyday world to reveal the riot of imagination within. With humor, intelligence, and more than a little bravery, Lizzie Stark guides us into the vast subculture of larping, where lawyers become vampire hunters and systems analysts turn into knights. Hilarious, honest, and enlightening, Leaving Mundania reminds us how thin the boundaries are between the roles we play and the selves we believe ourselves to be.” —Stacey Richter, Pushcart Prize-winning author of My Date with Satan, and Twin Study: Stories

Leaving Mundania is a thrilling read. Stark presents a deep and true picture of one of the most compelling communities in contemporary leisure: the world of larp (live action role-playing).” —Gary Alan Fine, author of Shared Fantasy: Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds and Professor of Sociology, Northwestern University

“No reader could ask for better company than Lizzie Stark for a fascinating trip through the looking glass and into the subculture of larp. Stark gives us both the magic and the humanity of live-action make-believe. And as a social historian, she incisively points to a pop-culture trend on its way from the fringe toward the mainstream.” —Samuel Freedman, author of The Inheritance and Letters to a Young Journalist

“[Stark] shows us what larp is, from the inside — playing long-term boffer larps, staging her own theatrical larp, and journeying to the Nordic countries– to show us the compelling theater/game hybrids that the intellectual and even scholarly communities have created. Her purpose, at which she succeeds, is to convince us that far from being the preserve of the socially crippled, larping is the hobby of kings — and, in careful hands, a strangely powerful new art form all its own. ” —Greg Costikyan, game designer and science fiction author

Leaving Mundania is a knockout book. Like a trip down the rabbit hole, Lizzie Stark shows us a wonderland filled with imagination, adventure, and more than a little bravery. With sentences that cut to the bone, Stark guides us on a voyage into a world beyond our own walls, a world where author and reader are both ultimately changed. Leaving Mundania is a beautiful accomplishment.” —Urban Waite, author of The Terror of Living

“Lizzie Stark isn’t afraid to walk the goblin walk, talk the in-character talk, wear the make-up, and wield the boffer sword. Stark is no judging outsider, but a generous observer and curious participant who immerses herself in this fascinating subculture and demystifies larp for the rest of us. With verve, wit and candor, Leaving Mundania provides an important contribution to the history of role-playing and gaming, and proves the cultural significance of this flourishing game/performance/medium.” —Ethan Gilsdorf, author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms

What the larpers are saying:

“[Leaving Mundania] takes a close and thoughtful look at larp and larp communities. For me as a Nordic larper and part of the growing “Nordic Larp” movement, Starks’ book was a wonderful read.” – Claus Raasted, Playground Magazine

Leaving Mundania deals with issues far more complex than they initially seem. It records the silly along with the very serious, and discusses the differences between the two with a clever tone. It is the most descriptive, all-encompassing book about larp and larpers on the market, and highly recommendable to anyone interested in the subject.” - J. Tuomas Harviainen

“Rather than making loads of assumptions about role-playing as a hobby, she instead intensively researched and interviewed various larp groups around the United States and (later) in Europe to create a complex portrait of the individuals involved.” – Evan Torner

“Deep, descriptive, analytic, emphatic, and interesting at the same time.” – Ivan Zalac

“[Stark] writes vividly about her larp experiences, both good and bad, and this makes it easy to understand why people play these kinds of games.” -Juhana Pettersson

“It was thrilling to read an excited outsider’s perspectives on the whole scene and the games we play and the the people we know.” -Mike Pohjola

“Lizzie Stark blew my mind.” – Thomas B.

Leaving Mundania is an exceptional book.” – Rob McDiarmid, Examiner.com

Critical praise for Leaving Mundania:

“Rich, unexpected and compelling. . . . Stark’s keen observational skills and crisp writing style successfully cut through those hackneyed stereotypes to reveal the very real people who are drawn to deeply imaginary worlds.” -Kirkus Reviews

“Lizzie Stark valiantly throws herself into the sword-swinging world of live-action role-playing games in Leaving Mundania.” – Vanity Fair

“Whether you thoroughly appreciate the work of Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon (LARP’s newly appointed overlord) or just have a mild interest in geek culture, Stark makes this world of pretend a little more real.”
-BUST Magazine

“Stark not only did her homework, she got an A+…The book is full of insightful and expertly written commentary by someone who knows of which she speaks.” – Wired.com

“The freshness of Stark’s look at a much-maligned pastime makes it more difficult to dismiss.” – The Washington Post

“That Leaving Mundania is both well-written and well-researched is no question. The book is gaming scholarship at its best and most accessible, easy to read and heart-felt.” – Tor.com

“Funny, insightful and well-written.” – Chicago Center for Literature and Photography

Leaving Mundania, takes a close and thoughtful look at larp and larp communities…Stark’s book was a wonderful read….[She] is brilliant at getting under the skin of the larpers she interviews, and the tales they tell are heart-warming, interesting… and frustrating.”
Playground Magazine

“A fascinating look at the world of live-action role playing-with a book jacket that slays me.”
-SchoolLibraryJournal.com

“Stark presents the LARP world with a careful, measured hand, varied in its scope from self-conscious silliness to serious art, and all the while maintaining the consciousness that LARPers are real people with genuine human complications.” - Nerdbrarian

“Anyone with an interest in gaming, pop-culture or even sociology will be fascinated by Leaving Mundania.”
-Geekadelphia