What is LARP?

what is larp

Whether you have heard this term or not, it is likely that you’ll be soon. Over the last decade, LARP has taken the imaginative world and fantasy sphere by storm. Due to its amazingly creative capabilities, this type of game will allow players to immerse themselves into a completely new world with unlimited characters, situations, legendary, and settings. From a medieval soldier or witch to a dragon, you can choose to become anything you want and enjoy.

In this guide, we’ll show you some basic facts and bout LARP and its essential components.

What is LARP?

LARP stands for live action role-playing, a form of interactive games in which players will act out some imaginative characters in a fictional setting to achieve some specific goals. A typical game is often involved with assigning characters, creating a background, making props and costumes, then acting the story. In other words, it is a combination of role-playing games, cosplay, pervasive gaming, and improvisational acting.

Unlike other electronic games, LARP usually brings more social interactions and physical exercises. The focus of this form is conflict and resolution. Some common themes include medieval fantasy, post-apocalyptic, western, and sci-fi. Styles can greatly vary, depending on the region, genre, and preferences of the participant.

History of LARP

LARP can be traced back several decades ago when independent groups in Australia, Europe, and North America invented this form of role-playing game independently. In America, modern role-playing games started in the 70s primarily by adults and teenagers, which resulted in organised, recognisable LARP’s.

By the 80s, LARP had become a popular activity in many organisations and countries with the development of a variety of styles and titles. In addition to simple genres or reenactments, creators during this period first coined the idea of “total immersion,” which involved specific scenarios and detailed backstories to make the game more interesting for players. This means participants could play in their selected characters for an extended period and go back and forth between the fictional worlds and reality.

Over the next decades, a variety of games was created in many countries such as Treasure Trap, Dagorhir, or Mind’s Eye Theatre. Most of these gained widespread popularity thanks to the combination of many imaginative, fictional, futuristic, fantasy, supernatural, horror, and historical features. Today, games are often run by some for-profit firms, and a small market even exists to distribute foam weapons, armour, and costumes.

Different types of LARP

Based on the differences in the backstories and details of the fictional setting, there are three main types of LARP:

1. The battle game

This form typically includes 2 groups of opponents which face each other on a battlefield. They will dressed in costumes of a specific period and armed with various kinds of foam weapons. After the signal, all combatants fight with each other until there is a winner.

2. The theatrical game

The LARP theatrical game starts with a group gathered around a storyteller who will start the game. When the scene is depicted, players need to use the info provided to decide their responses. To determine the outcomes, they might roll the dice, pull cards, or play rock-paper-scissors. During the story, a player might create any kind of game to resolve the conflicts.

3. The role-playing game

The role-playing game starts when players arrive at a campground to stay during the weekend. These people can choose to have their own characters or receive optional ones. After that, they will receive a situation with detailed information, then act the storyline. Depending on their abilities and skills, the participants will decide how to complete the missions.

The purpose of LARP

 Just like any other games or activities, the primary purpose of LARPs is for entertaining. The experience of escaping the current reality to enter a completely new world full of surprises can be the best thing about this form. You can get into your favourite character, enjoy wearing elaborate props and costumes, or perform some engaging combats with other people.

Some LARPs focus on artistic considerations like challenging subject matters or dramatic interactions. Also, politics and education also use this form to achieve some purposes. For instance, some language classes can organise role-playing scenes to immerse and encourage students to improvise write or speech in the learning language. Lastly, LARPs can also be used in research to test some theories in law or economics because they typically involve a controlled artificial setting within which many people interact with each other.

When do LAPRs happen?

LARPs are typically a one-shot event, where the whole story of the game will take place just in a single session. Most of these games are organised at regular intervals and have a continuing story between different sessions. Since the form is mainly played by teenagers and adults, people often meet at the weekend.

Some LARPs can also last a few days or the entire week. In these events, you will act out the character even overnight. Lastly, there are some games which are considered ongoing or perpetual. This means participants would be expected to become a fictional character at any time he or she wants. Obviously, there are specific rules to keep school or work from being disrupted.

Where can people organise LARPs?

There is no specific space for organising a LARP because this will totally depend on the type and genre of the game. In general, all you need is an open space for people to move around with ease. For example, a LARP with live combats require lots of space to organise, so these events tend to occur in the outside. Significant LARPs can even rent out a large castle or campground for their sessions, while smaller ones might stick to a park, public area, or inside a house. A large area covered by grasses might be the most ideal since there will be plenty of running and walking involved.

The rules

It is essential to know that there are no general rules for every LARP. Instead, each game will have its own guidelines which determine the role of each character as well as other factors to make sure the event happens safely and properly.

For popular LARPs, the rules might be defined thoroughly in a publication. During the session, there will be no referees available to supervise all the actions of the characters. Thus, it is totally up to the honesty of the participants to ensure the success of a LARP. Of course, there are some LARPs which don’t have any rules. Instead, participants will use the feel for appropriateness or common sense to play and determine the outcome of each action.

The differences between reality and fiction

During a game, the actions of a player in the real world will represent the actions of the imaginary character in a fictional setting. Theatrical improvisation, physical symbols, and game rules are often created to bridge the gaps between the setting and the real world. For instance, the organiser might depict an imaginary wall using a rope.

There is also a difference between when participants are active in character and when they are out of the character or being themselves. A few LARPs often require their players to remain consistently in characters except for emergent cases, while others allow gamers to be out-of-character frequently.

LARP genres

While most LARPs use settings and themes from fictional work, there is a variety of genres available. Fantasy is the most popular one in most countries which is often used in many large events. This genre is typically set in the pseudo-historical world inspired by role-playing games and fantasy literature. The main features include limited technology, magic, fictional races, and adventures.

Similarly, horror LARPs are originated from horror fiction. Thus, these often include zombies, apocalypse, vampires, werewolves, and other elements. For modern games, they often explore daily concerns or special affairs such as military activity or espionage. LARPs could also be set in semi-historical or historical eras with fantastical or mythological incorporated.

Cultural significance

In general, LARP isn’t a popular activity in most countries. Sometimes, many people might confuse it with other dramatic, costuming, reenactment or role-playing events. Though gamer and fan culture has quickly become mainstream in many developed countries, LARPs haven’t yet to achieve the same level of cultural acceptability. This might be mainly because of the lack of mass marketing and intolerance of its main features such as over-identification or pretending. Also, most government bodies haven’t still recognised LAPRs as a cultural activity. Compared to the video-game industry, LARP is typically less commoditised and has a larger number of women participants.

However, there is still a variety of communities which are formed around the discussion, play, and creation of LARP all over the world. These groups have created a subculture which crosses over with reenactment, fan, and role-playing subcultures. And just like any other, LARP communities usually share the same context of clothing, humour, language, experience which could be considered by many people as a lifestyle.