Vampires roam Gregory Hall

Rob Bryar of Chicago and Mike, who did not give his last name, play rock-paper-scissors to determine the outcome of their characters´ fight at the Elysium on the Prarie role-playing game at Gregory Hall on Friday night. Claire Napier

Rob Bryar of Chicago and Mike, who did not give his last name, play rock-paper-scissors to determine the outcome of their characters´ fight at the Elysium on the Prarie role-playing game at Gregory Hall on Friday night. Claire Napier

By Leah George-Baskin

By day, Gregory Hall is a place of academics and learning. Come nightfall, it’s a battleground of intrigue and vampires.

Elysium on the Prairie, a live-action role-playing game on campus, lets students create storylines as vampire characters while roaming the hallways of Gregory Hall on Friday nights.

The club has been on campus for seven years and is part of a national organization called One World by Night.

Mike Bohlmann, an academic professional at the University and administrative storyteller for the game, says, “it’s really just on-the-spot storytelling between people.”

Bohlmann said he started role-playing five years ago and had a character for three years before becoming a Story Teller.

The game is a creation of stories set in modern-day Champaign-Urbana. Each participant creates a vampire character within the role-playing game, many of which come equipped with special training or magical powers.

“It’s part of a worldwide organization of traveling characters,” Bohlmann said. “Characters can have different disciplines like emotion control, the ability to morph into animals or traditional vampire myth characteristics.”

They can also be in a clan, which highlights certain characteristics of the characters. Bohlmann said there are 13 different clans, each highlighting different abilities such as characters who are business-oriented or nature-like.

Bohlmann said the group’s name refers to the Roman mythology term for the place souls would go if they pleased the gods. In the role-playing game, he said “Elysium” is a safe place for the characters to go and meet others.

Champaign resident Scott Weber, another Story Teller for the club, said role-playing in the vampire genre is somewhat easier than others because it is set in the modern day and is not as physical.

“It’s much more improv acting,” Weber said. Weber said he has been role-playing for about ten years. “Initially I got started with (live-action role-playing) when I got involved with theater.”

Weber said he has been story telling off and on for five years and has been with Elysium on the Prairie for four months.

“It’s good, solid fun … different,” Weber said.

Members interact with each other, investigating different aspects of their character, as well as creating allies and enemies. Bohlmann said each character has their own goals and values.

Members can discuss their characters with Story Tellers, working out scenes and storylines. Story Tellers meet weekly to discuss plots and brainstorm about how to move them forward. Part of the Story Teller’s responsibility is to control non-player characters.

Bohlmann said there are usually 20 to 30 players during the summer and anywhere from 30 to 60 during the school year.

Elysium on the Prairie is part of a network of games, which also attracts players from out of town.

Jeff Hudson, a warehouse manager from Iowa City, Iowa, traveled to Champaign to take part in Friday night’s game.

“I’ve played a couple of different games in Iowa City,” Hudson said. “I decided to come to this away game.”

Hudson said he is involved in other live-action role-playing games, as a werewolf or a mage, a type of a magician-wizard.

Hudson has been role-playing for nearly 15 years and has always been interested in fantasy. He said he chooses characters that expose an aspect of his own personality.

“The game is always enthralling,” Hudson said. “An aspect of entertainment – to be something you’re not.”

Emily Johnson, a Champaign resident, has also been role-playing for 15 years. She started role-playing while at college in Wisconsin.

“I made a lot of friends that way and wanted to continue the hobby,” she said. “I loved Halloween when I was growing up, and was obsessed with ‘The Addams Family’ and anything spooky or creepy. This was a natural extension.”

Johnson said she usually stays with vampire characters because they make it easier to stick to the rules of the game.

Elysium on the Prairie maintains house rules for the game, such as no touching, no weapons, no drugs or alcohol and being mindful of others.

Conflicts between characters are all resolved with a simple game of rock-paper-scissors.

“The rules are to make sure everything is resolved peacefully,” Johnson said.

Johnson also said the game is similar to murder mystery plays.

“You are responsible for what your characters’ thoughts are, what they say, and the Story Tellers are like director/producers,” she said. “The goal is to create good stories.”

Jack Scheff, freshman in LAS, said he joined the club to meet new people and has been role-playing for about three years.

“A lot of my friends were into it in high school and said it was cool,” Scheff said. “I’m not that into it (anymore), I just wanted to meet people and hang out and have a good time – start a new thing.”

Anyone interested in joining Elysium on the Prairie can check out the group’s Web site, https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/ro/www/ElysiumonthePrairie.