What Is A LARP?
What Is A LARP?
"LARP" stands for Live Action Role Playing, but whan someone refers
to "a LARP", they are referring to an organized (well, usually) group
of people who engage in live action roleplaying activities under a
specific set of rules.
Live Action Role Playing (LARPing) is a lot of fun and is
very safe. There are role-playing-only LARPs,
combat-only LARPS, fantasy LARPs, science fiction LARPs, vampire
LARPs, Steampunk LARPS, zombie LARPS, and just about everything in between. For the non-initiated,
LARPers look weird and not just a little out of touch. For those
of us who ARE initiates, however, we know just how much fun LARPing can be!
The vast majority of LARPs are fantasy-based,
medieval style LARPs with a mixture of role-playing
and combat; most of them are some derivation of the
board game Dungeons & Dragons (tm). In fact, the description I use
to describe fantasy LARPing is "live action D&D".
Our home page lists some of the many LARPs that have approved the use of the
Knighthawk Armoury line of latex-foam weapons for use in their gaming
LARP combat is very safe, not only because it's FAR more fun when you
don't have to worry about losing an eye or breaking a bone, but for
legal reasons. No LARP will last very long if their participants are
getting damaged on a regular basis....
Here are some basic LARP Combat guidelines that I've seen used
in every LARP in the US:
There are groups like Amtgard and the SCA where
full-contact combat is allowed, but these groups are
in the minority and they have strict rules on the
types of weapons allowed and the types of armour
- Every LARP has a Safety Marshall/Officer/whatever. This person is
usually trained in first aid and CPR, and if they're not they
should be. The SM is responsible for checking all
weapons prior to their use to ensure that they are
still safe. The SM keeps an eye out on the participants to prevent
unruly behaviour, reduce the probability of accidents, and to
ensure that every is following the Combat Rules. Most of which
break down as follows....
- LARP weapons are not cricket or baseball bats, so do not treat
them like cricket or baseball bats. A touch on your opponent is
usually exactly the same thing as a full blown nuclear strike, Thus....
- Individual combat must be under control at all
times. No swinging like Conan The Barbarian. No head shots, no groin
shots, and only gentle thrusting at a 45 degree angle
when using latex weapons. Thrusing can be more energetic if the
weapon has a thrusting CAP or has a built-in "squishy tip".
- Now any time you have people swinging padded sticks at
each other, accidents will happen. Understand it and
accept it. I've had my glasses broken by accidental
head shots three times. So far. It happens. If you don't understand and
accept that this might happen, then don't get into combat.
That being said, there should NOT be any accidents,
and anyone who is prone to causing accidents should be
barred from LARP combat.
- MOST IMPORTANT: You are there to have FUN! Remember
that. Keep your temper under control. If you lose your
temper, you will (or should) be required to leave the combat zone.
For most people, I'd recommend that you stick with
the "standard" LARP combat rules where a touch is all
that is required to hit your opponent. However, if you want or need more
....enthusiatic....levels of combat, then by all means seek out one of the
LARPs that allow full-contact combat.
Most LARPs break down into two categories: CLASS
based systems and SKILLS based systems.
In a Class-based system, your character class
(Fighter, Knight, Cleric, Mage, etc.) determines your
abilities. As you play more, you gain experience and
you gain new abilities - but you gain only those skills, abilities, and
spells (if available) available for the Class of your character.
In a Skills-based system, there is a pool of
abilities that are available for a certain set of
classes, and as you play more and gain experience, you
can choose what skills, abilities, and spells (if available)
to establish and enhance from this pool.
The Class system is usually much easier to play.
Skills systems are usually more flexible but more
complex. Add Racial characteristics into the mix and
it can become QUITE interesting. Example: Sea Elves
can see underwater and breathe underwater, but lose
one life/hit point per hour in daylight. Dwarves can
see in the dark but sink like a stone in water. Orcs
have extra strength but lower intelligence.
See what I mean?     :)
There are a variety of combat rules available. Some
systems like the IFGS
have hit points for
the body and for the limbs. Each hit does a specific
amount of damage and the higher your level, the more
damage you do, AND the more damage you can take without collapsing.
Other systems use a hit system where one hit
on the arm renders it useless, two hits on the torso
and your character is dead. A whole variety of combat rules exist!
Most LARPs have a Rulebook that explains how to game within their system.
The only Skills-based LARP that I know of with
their rulebook online is NERO. The
full North-East Roleplaying Organization (NERO) rulebook can be downloaded for free from
The only Class-based LARP that I know of with their rules
on-line is the International Fantasy
Gaming Society (IFGS). To get to their rules:
And in case you were wondering: yes, the "IFGS" is based on the
novels by Larry Niven and Stephen Barnes. They even got permission to use
the name! Way cool.
- Go to the IFGS website
- Click on "Committees"
- Click on "Fantasy Rules"
- Scroll to the bottom and click on "v7.0 Quickstart Rules"
- Here's where to find the
full set of IFGS Rules.
There are a huge number of people who are engaged in activities and crafts that relate
directly to these LARPS: leather workers, belly dancers, those who make
real armour (leather, chain, and plate), those that provide the weapons
for LARPS - much like yours truly,
and many, MANY more! Just check out any Renaissance Faire....
FYI: the largest LARP in the world is the
Society For Creative Anachronism, with over 30,000 official members and
nearly 2.5 million actual participants worldwide.
Every country in the western world has one or more LARPs in it. This includes
England, Canada, Germany, Spain, Finland, Australia. And so on, and so on.
And of course the United States has it's share of LARPs. One interesting
resource is the
Wiki LARP List", which
lists hundreds of LARPS. Just as an example: Dallas, TX has over 30
active LARPs at this time. Google is your friend, as is Yahoo, and any other
online search engine you want to use!
LARPing is fun, active, healthy, exercises your imagination, usually gets
you outside at some point, and lets you meet new and interesting people.
LARPers come in all ages, sizes, and genders. Some are only interested
in the role-playing aspects of the game, some like the combat, some like
to write the events in which others participate, and some people simply
enjoy getting outside. Like the song says, "Something for everyone...".
I've seen kids as young as 5, and kids as old as 76,
LARPing and having a great time! And I practice what I preach: I've been
LARPing since 1986 and still enjoy it immensely!
LARPs are for just about everyone! Find out which groups exist in your
neighborhood, see if they have a system in which you'd like to play,
and give them a try!
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