It was October of 2009, nine and a half years ago, when I built my first LARP character.
I’d never really done any role-playing before. A friend suggested I try it out, and it seemed to have elements of some things I was already interested in: I got to dress up, and go camping. The character I had been planning to fashion for myself was a meek dryad healer—able to help, but mostly ready to stay out of the way and observe the goings-on.
Then I went to my first fight practice. It was essentially an orientation day for new players. I got to try out a couple different kinds of weapons, and learned the basic rules of magic and combat. I got to meet a few other players, and learn a bit about their characters.
When I walked away from that fight practice, the kind of character I wanted to play had completely changed. Talitha Vashti was born.
My concept of Talitha wasn’t much more than a costume, to begin with. I had the stash of earthy-colored fabric intended for a more plant-based character, and a pattern my mom once used for a gypsy/fortune teller Halloween costume (now out of print, but still one of my favorites). I threw them together, and gave this new image a name and some basic categorical markers.
Talitha was a Gypsy, a playable character “race” which has since been replaced by something aesthetically similar, but (we hope) ethically less offensive. At the time, the defining traits of this type of character were their vibrant clothes and distinguishing speech patterns. That’s where the style and stripes came into Talitha’s attire, and how she acquired what was probably a poorly-executed “Eastern European” accent.
Talitha also quickly acquired a row of tiny brass coins along the edge of her skirt. Spaced close enough together to jingle when she walked, but far enough apart to do so quietly. She was a rogue, after all. The ability to move through an environment undetected was incredibly valuable. Eventually, she became known as the “Jingly Death”—named for the white noise of those coins, chiming right on the edge of comprehension, just before you ended up with a sword in your kidneys.
There’s a lot to say about Talitha, and a lot to know. A lot to unpack. I’m not going to be able to do it all at once. But the more I imagined her, as a character, the more like her I wanted to be in real life.
Talitha was important. Powerful. She was known for her daring and expertise on the field of battle, and defined by her loyalty to those she loved. She belonged to a small, close-knit community of people who tried and succeeded in saving the world on multiple occasions. Together, they stopped a terrible plague, brought the forces of nature back into balance, and prevented extraplanar threats from ripping their world apart. The adventurers, and Talitha with them, made a difference.
If only I could do the same.