What is a LARP?
L.A.R.P., or “Live Action Role Play” has an obscure but fascinating history. Originating in the US in the late 70’s, what started as a heavily stigmatized offshoot of Dungeons & Dragons has transformed into an artistic medium unto itself. In this article, I will offer a quick rundown of what LARPing is, the different kinds that exist, and how your young adventurer can get involved!
To understand what a larp is, we must understand its predecessor, the Role Playing Game, or RPG. An RPG is a game where some or all of the players play-act as characters in a shared story world. Often, there is a player in charge of dictating the trajectory of the story, known as the Dungeon Master, or DM. a Live Action Role Playing game takes these elements and incorporates real world space, body language, and sometimes even combat!
Today, you can find many different LARPS across the Americas and Europe, all with their own style of play. Below are a few of the prominent types of LARP. They all have different goals and values, so one LARP may be all wrong for your sensibilities, while another might be a perfect fit!
The goal-History LARPS attempt to transport the players to a specific period in the history of our world. The most common examples are re-enactments of the Civil War.
The game- History LARPs feature few to no game mechanics, and strive for historical accuracy through immersion. Often, players will receive a write up of their character’s personal history, motivations, and more, to influence decisions they make over the course of the game.
Need to know-Being period accurate is extremely important in these communities. Costumes are a must; the fabric and techniques. Role play is definitely the preferred form of verbal interaction.
The goal– Combat LARPs combine the medieval sword-swinging aesthetic with the action of modern sports. Using dulled steel, wooden, or foam weapons, players recapture the excitement of medieval combat.
The game– Combat LARPs are all about just that, the combat! There are very few game mechanics outside of those that dictate winners and losers in battle. Game mechanics are often no more involved in these games than in any other sport.
Need to Know– These games can get quite rough. Not a good fit if physically frail! Costumes are often optional, with many players opting for Under Armor or even pajama pants(!) for freedom of movement. Conversely,more emphasis is placed on having your own combat gear. Verbal role play is nearly nonexistent.
The goal- Theater LARPs aim to immerse players in the mindset of their characters, utilizing logical and empathic problem solving, as well as a bit of chance, to win the day. Theater LARPs are often played indoors, or in a smaller space.
The game- Theater LARPs are played almost entirely verbally, almost like Dungeons & Dragons. Game pieces are kept to a minimum, such as a deck of cards or rock-paper-scissors. Theater larps use chance and game-based mechanics to determine victory or defeat for the players. Combat typically has no physical component, if there are rules for combat at all.
Need to know- Be prepared to put yourself out there! In a Theater Larp, you are expected to stay in character at all times, breaking character only when necessary. Action scenes and large developments often take place in the imagination, so a theater LARP may be slightly boring for the more hands-on player.
The goal- Game LARPs attempt to bring the magic of a video game to the real world! These games utilize role play, combat, and deep gameplay mechanics to create a world where people can live a second life w
The game- Game LARPs will often have deep rules for casting magic, as well as abilities and roles that dictate your character’s talents. Combat is often involved, but almost always with safe, foam swords.
Need to know- These LARPs tend to be the most laid back, often serving as a middle ground between the other varieties of LARP. Costumes are encouraged, but are not checked for quality or accuracy. Combat is relatively light. The emphasis on role playing is highly variable from game to game.