Brian Posehn
Kristin Callahan, Everett Collection

Brian Posehn loves heavy metal, which is why the American comic loves the soundtrack to his latest film Lloyd the Conqueror. The low budget, Alberta-shot LARPing comedy features an all-Canadian metal soundtrack, including bands like Bison B.C., Barn Burner, and Trigger Effect. But it is Three Inches of Blood’s cover of the early Rush song “Anthem” that really got Posehn’s nerd juices flowing when he first saw the finished product.

“I’m a metalhead, but Rush is my all-time favourite band,” Posehn says the afternoon of Lloyd’s recent showing at the Toronto After Dark film festival. “I love Iron Maiden, I love Metallica, but Rush is the band that I’ve been into the longest and the most passionately, for sure. And then to hear Three Inches of Blood doing “Anthem,” that was so awesome. And it made sense for this movie! Mike [Smith, Trailer Park Boys] driving up in a black van and cranking metal… ‘Here come the evil guys,’ you know? ‘Here come the bad guys.’”

Lloyd the Conqueror stars Evan Williams (Degrassi: The Next Generation) as Lloyd, a struggling student at South Calgary Community College whose only chance to pass his English lit course and thus retain his student aid is to make an “infernal accord” with his teacher Derek (Smith), or, as he is known in the world of live action role-playing (or LARPing), Derek the Unholy. Derek, an evil LARPer who stands undefeated in his league, makes a deal with Lloyd: join the upcoming Demons & Dwarves Ultimate Championship under the forces of light and he will pass Lloyd in his class.

Perhaps best known for his work on sitcoms like The Sarah Silverman Show and Just Shoot Me, Posehn, who also narrates the film, co-stars as Andy, a comic book store owner to whom Lloyd and his novice LARPer friends turn for advice. Andy is also a Level 80 Dungeons & Dwarves wizard who comes out of retirement to train Lloyd and his cronies.

Posehn was aware of LARPing, where participants dress in medieval costumes and use foam swords and homemade armour to enact fantasy games, but had never participated in it. As a lifelong Dungeons & Dragons player and comic book fan, though, he understood that world.

“It’s one step away from that, sitting in my room with my friends” playing D&D. “And every once in a while – I have this one friend who wears elf ears. But I’ve never donned a wizard robe and gone out in the forest, but I feel like I know those people. So when I read the script I was like ‘I’ve never done this, but [I’m] one step away from doing that.’”

Producer Brendan Hunter, who also co-stars as a LARPer named Klaus, says he and director Mike Petersen cast Posehn because he is “the embodiment of passionate nerd. We wanted someone that we respected, that was funny, that was going to encapsulate a character like the game store owner completely.”

As the petulant, power-hungry Derek “the Dark One,” Mike Smith comes off completely differently than he does in his iconic role as Bubbles, the kitten-loving loser he played over seven seasons of Trailer Park Boys. Smith, says Hunter, was eager to spread out artistically and sent in an audition tape to prove it. “He worked hard to show that ‘I’m an actor. I want to do other roles.’”

“It was really easy once I met him,” Posehn says of working with Smith. “He’s such a funny guy and such a nice guy. We bonded immediately. We were joking around probably within minutes. And then the first time we shot a scene together, it was in the script and in my head [that] he was this guy that maybe we were friends back in the day but now we have this long history where we haven’t been friends for a long time, and I blame him for what’s wrong with LARPing. And that was real easy to play off him because he’s such a dick in this role; he’s really unlikable. So that was real easy. He’s the perfect villain in this world.”

“This world” of LARPing had been portrayed in film before, most notably in the 2006 documentary Darkon and the 2008 Paul Rudd comedy Role Models, but Lloyd is arguably the most sympathetic portrayal yet of LARPers. As Posehn’s character Andy says, the sport allows him to “[cast] aside the shackles of the mundane.” It’s a sentiment with which Posehn empathizes.

“In Role Models, they’re kind of like, ‘Look at these clowns. Look what they’re into. Aren’t they silly?’ And we didn’t want to do that. And I especially didn’t want to do that with my guy – my guy, this is his life, and he stopped playing this game because it means so much to him.”

Indeed, says Hunter, director Peterson and his co-writer Andrew Herman were determined to “play” in the world of LARPers “respectfully, because it does lend itself to comedy very easily visually.”

To that end, Hunter says, the filmmakers were careful to evoke the LARPing world but not stick too closely to real-world rules.

“We have LARPers that come to every screening, and they always are just like, ‘It’s so fun! Your rules are wrong. I wish it was like that because I can’t really wail on my buddy the way I want to!’”

Lloyd the Conqueror is available on iTunes and VOD through Alliance. Expect a limited theatrical run in 2013.