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Why I Love LARP, Part 1: Just what on earth is a LARP?

Illustration for article titled Why I Love LARP, Part 1: Just what on earth is a LARP?

About a decade ago, I had very little knowledge about LARPs. I thought I knew what they were, the kind of people that went to them, and that I would have no interest in attending one. Thanks to some friends I have come to kick those notions out the window over the years. What follows are what I have learned about these games, and the experiences and friendships I’ve gained because of them.

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But, first things first. Just what is a LARP?

LARP stands for Live Action Role Playing game. At its core, it is an evolution of the standard tabletop roleplaying game (think games like Dungeons & Dragons) where multiple players act out the roles of various characters in a fictional setting. Unlike tabletop RPGs where a small group of players sit down and simply describe their character’s actions to each other, these games usually have larger groups of players physically act out the roles of their characters. Instead of a single Gamemaster regulating the events and world, LARPs usually require mutliple people to run them, since these games can have much larger numbers of players participating. Regardless of the game, players interact with each other in the guise of their chosen character.

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In my experience, I have come to discover 2 main varieties of LARP. The main difference between the two is determined by how the game chooses to resolve combat. The first is the one most people think of: the “full-contact” LARP. This type usually has a higher focus on combat. They use Replica/fake weapons that players wield to simulate combat, actually connecting with their weapons when attacking other players. In most cases these games use padded weapons and armor to prevent injury. They typically happen outdoors to allow room for players to swing/fire their weapons. I have very little experience with these, though what I have seen these can be a lot of fun.

The second type, and the one I am most familiar with, is the “Theatre” style of game. In these types, a stronger emphasis is placed on character interaction. These games normally occur indoors, with combat often handled in alternate ways, such as using dice, cards, or even playing Rock-Paper-Scissors.

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While most games fall in these 2 categories, they can be further subdivided based on genre, rule sets, time period, and more. I have seen games that vary from high fantasy, to modern horror, to futuristic sci-fi, to steampunk. There are even anime and superhero LARPs. I could probably spend a couple of hours listing the types there are out there, and I probably still wouldn’t be able to list them all. I honestly didn’t know how deep the rabbit hole went when I first discovered LARPs, and I’m sure I’m still missing some info here.

Next time, I’ll talk about how I was introduced to LARPing, and why the very first game I ever attended hooked me to live action games for years to come.

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This is the first in a small series of posts about my experience with LARPing: what I know them to be, and how I started getting involved with and enjoying them. If you have something to add, or see something I missed, feel free to comment below!

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