What is LARP?
Live Action Roleplaying is commonly misunderstood—often, people are exposed to one kind of LARPing and draw their conclusions based on that. Heck, I still encounter people who, when LARPs comes up, ask, “That’s the thing where people yell ‘Lightning Bolt!’, right?”
So: let’s break it down.
Roleplaying is a little easier for people to understand: you pretend to be someone else (i.e. you assume a role, and play it). If you sit around a table with friends, rolling dice and describing your character’s actions, that’s tabletop roleplaying (or pen-and-paper roleplaying). If instead of everyone telling people what your characters is doing, you actually act out what’s happening, that’s live-action roleplaying—LARPing. That’s all there is to it. There isn’t one “correct” way of LARPing, either. There are thousands of ways to participate in live-action roleplaying.
One confusing thing to get out of the way: LARP is a noun (“I play in a great LARP”) and a verb (“I LARP every other Friday”).
Pretty much everyone has at one point in their lives. Children playing make-believe are LARPing, if you think about it. Adults tend to play in LARPs with defined rulesets and universes. There’s no real division by gender or race: it’s a pretty universal hobby.
Where do people LARP?
That depends on the kind of LARP. Generally, LARPs with live combat need a lot of space, so those tend to happen outside. Huge LARPs sometimes rent out castles for their game sessions, while small LARPs sometimes stick to a single apartment. I’ve played in LARPs that take place far from the public eye and ones that happen right in the middle of the real world. Some of the best times I’ve had LARPing have been in bars—imagine a game where a group of spies have to meet in public without attracting the attention of the people at the next table.
The biggest LARPs can have chapters all over the world, all sharing the same in-game universe. The actions taken by one character in Montreal can affect a game in Minsk!
When do people LARP?
LARPs can be one-shot affairs, where the game’s entire story takes place in one session (these are common at conventions). Many meet at regular intervals, with the story continuing from session to session. Most of the LARPs I’ve run met every other Friday, in the evening. If you’re looking for a hardcore experience, there are LARPs that last over several days: you’re considered “in game” even overnight. There are also LARPs that are considered perpetual or ongoing— players can be expected to drop into character at any time. (There are rules to prevent work or school from being disrupted, obviously.)
Just like there are thousands of different LARPs, there are thousands of different reasons to play. Some really get into playing their character, some enjoy working on elaborate costumes and props, and some love the exercise from the more combat-oriented LARPs out there. Above all, there’s something intensely satisfying about experiencing a story that you help to create.
See you out there.
Watch the premiere episode of LARPs: The Series here!