AOKP: Bringing a world of fantasy to life

Sara Weir

HEAD COPY EDITOR

Sword fighting, dragon riding, and trips to the land of Fae: all in a day’s work for an AOKP member. 

AOKP, or the Artorian Order of the Knights of Pendragon, is Whittier College’s on-campus live-action role-playing (LARP) club. Founded in 1980, AOKP is one of Southern California’s longest-running LARP clubs. Members of the club create fantasy characters who live in the fictional kingdom of Warwick and go on adventures, meeting creatures such as dragons, fairies, trolls, pirates, and more. 

Members also learn combat skills, fighting with foam swords and other boffer weapons. The concept is similar to that of tabletop games such as Dungeons and Dragons, except that the storylines are acted out in person, rather than on a board. 

The setting of AOKP combines both history and fantasy. The historical time period in which the game takes place spans roughly from the Middle Ages to the Elizabethan era. This is reflected in the apparel, or “garb,” of the characters, which includes corsets, tunics, and capes. The club’s lore is based on the legend of King Arthur, leader of the Knights of the Round Table. Some of the achievements you can earn as your AOKP character are even named after the Knights of the Round Table. 

Rather than reenacting historical moments or the legend of King Arthur, however, the club members write their own storylines to act out together. All members are encouraged to write stories of any size, ranging from someone’s character’s backstory to plotlines that affect the fate of the entire kingdom. These larger stories are a collaborative effort and require the approval of club leaders before they can be roleplayed. 

“It can be difficult to coordinate stories, given their complexity and that we have 37 years of existing lore to consider, but the end result is always a lot of fun,” said third-year AOKP President Astra Yatroussis. As Club President and Queen of Warwick, Yatroussis both approves members’ stories and oversees their roleplay of stories in characters as the queen. Her character, Queen Alma Ame Almotil Ia Gondol, also runs AOKP’s weekly meetings, called “Court.” For her own stories, Yatroussis is inspired by the fantasy novels that she reads. “The main series I’ve drawn inspiration from is Robert Jackson Bennett’s Divine Cities trilogy,” she said. 

The teamwork and creativity involved in pulling off a story are just some of the skills that a person may develop in AOKP. The many different aspects of AOKP include creative writing, storytelling, acting, costume design, music, and visual art. “I joined the club because I was interested in the roleplaying aspect and also the fantasy aspect, and because I thought the people that I met were pretty cool,” said fourth-year Lindsey MacDonald. “My time in AOKP has provided me with opportunities to practice my leadership skills, become a better storyteller, and build meaningful friendships,” said Yatroussis.  

The skills that AOKP members develop are applicable to real-life professions. Some members have gone on to work in theater, entertainment, special effects, and publishing. Other members have become members of larger groups such as the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, a Renaissance-themed fair held every summer, and the Society for Creative Anachronism, which researches and recreates Middle Age and Renaissance arts and skills. 

The members of AOKP come from diverse backgrounds and levels of experience. While some members have participated in role-playing games before, many others enter the club with no previous role-playing experience.Yatroussis had been playing tabletop role-playing games for six years before joining AOKP. Other members, such as third-year Alice Bailey, entered the club with less experience. “I had a little bit of experience with D&D, but that was about it in terms of my roleplay experience,” said Bailey, who joined AOKP this Fall semester. 

First-year Austin Mann also joined AOKP this semester. “Joining was a really fun experience,” said Mann. “[AOKP] is a good way to relax and enjoy something different.” In addition to being a member of AOKP, Mann is also a goalie for Whittier College’s Men’s Lacrosse. Being involved in both AOKP and other activities can be time-consuming, but Mann makes it work. “It’s sometimes hard to make it to every [AOKP event],” said Mann, “but the people in the club definitely make it worth it … [they are] some of the best, most genuine people you can meet.”

The students and alumni who make up the AOKP community spend time together both in character and in real life. For many, AOKP is more than just a group of friends: it is family. “I think of a lot of my friends in AOKP as my extended family, and I know a lot of other people feel the same way,” said MacDonald. “We’re pretty close, and we get each other through the tough times.” 

AOKP welcomes new members to join the club at the beginning of both Fall and Spring semesters. Open house events are held at the beginning of each semester in order for students to get a chance to get to know the club members. Students who decide to join AOKP go through a period of training in which seasoned members teach them the rules of the game. New members learn everything from AOKP’s history and lore, to character building, to combat rules and strategies. 

Whether you are a seasoned roleplayer or a beginner, an accomplished writer or a student athlete looking for a creative outlet, AOKP has a spot for you! For those of you interested in joining the club in the Spring, stay tuned for AOKP events in the beginning of the semester and over Jan Term.