Roleplaying Imaginary Best Friends

Artwork copyright Catherine Beyer

I have an imaginary friend.

More precisely, my imaginary character has a friend, a very close friend, and that friendship has become the most complex relationship in my imaginary life.

Amari and Naran are characters in a Babylon 5 LARP I play once a month. Amari is a very capable but also very girly Centauri noble woman played by Sarah. My character, Naran, is is a Warrior-turned-Religious caste Minbari.

In between games, some of us hang out on Discord, where we do a lot of social interactions, as opposed to the actual LARP, which is much more plot-oriented. Like many friendships, I can’t say what specifically brought Amari and Naran together. They just clicked, as friends do, despite literally being from different worlds. Worlds which eventually go to war with each other.

Sarah as Amari, a Centauri noble
Sarah looking fabulous as Amari

The Centauri were the aggressors, led by an emperor with a brain parasite driving him to wreak chaos on the galaxy. A sneak attack destroyed much of the Minbari fleet and annihilated three colony worlds, which leads to the death of Naran’s daughter, Tala. Just previous, Amari’s family had escaped Centauri Prime and took shelter on Minbar, which was unfortunate because a nanoplague was dropped on the planet, forcing it to be quarantined.

And Amari and Naran endured.

Eventually, the Interstellar Alliance fought their way to Centauri Prime. The Minbari are infamous for not being forgiving: they have a long standing habit of committing genocide against races which attack them. But, as the members of the Alliance debated how to call for surrender, it was the Minbari, of all people, who did it on their own initiative at Naran’s urging.

Sure, the parasite in the Emperor’s brain counted as a mitigating circumstance, and alienating the Alliance with genocide would cause the weakened Minbari problems, but neither of those were automatic dealbreakers. Naran can’t say exactly what pushed her to call for surrender, but the dread of having to tell her best friend she had just annihilated her people can’t be discounted.

The roleplay has, at times, been so serious it’s brought me to tears. Naran, attempting to emotionally prepare Amari for the war’s end, was brutally honest about what her people might do to the Centauri.

They don’t get to dictate the terms of surrender. They get to be grateful for the opportunity to do so.


Meanwhile, Amari helped shoulder the pain of Tala’s death and suffered the guilt of a Centauri friend having provided their people with intel that led to the attack on Minbar.

Other times, it’s ridiculously silly. They giggle at odd human customs. “Humans are weird,” they say, despite the fact that their two cultures are just as alien to one another. They watch movies together. I suspect Amari has introduced Naran to the joy of mani-pedis.

In short, they’re gal-pals.

I don’t have gal-pals. Roleplaying is a male-dominated hobby, and most of my friends are guys. The few women I have in my life are also roleplayers, and we largely interact with each other the same way we interact with our male friends.

Amari and Naran’s friendship is as complex as any relationship I have in real life. It’s also a type of friendship that’s fairly alien to me, although it was nothing to do with the fact that the characters are, in fact, aliens.

We’re a long way from the days where roleplaying was just rolling dice and killing monsters. It’s story building and social development. I don’t make friends easily, in- or out-of-character. So the friends I do make, real and imaginary, are treasured. The friendship between Amari and Naran has fostered a friendship between Sarah and myself, because these characters are common points of interest. And with a hundred miles between the two of us, it’s far easier to connect as Amari and Naran, wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night.

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