LARP Information

  About LARPs  

What Is A LARP?
LARP Combat
Gaming Systems
Sample Rules
Now What?

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 system.

LARP Combat
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:
  1. 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....
  2. 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....
  3. 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".
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
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 required.

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.

Gaming Systems
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!

Sample Rules
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:
  1. Go to the IFGS website
  2. Click on "Committees"
  3. Click on "Fantasy Rules"
  4. Scroll to the bottom and click on "v7.0 Quickstart Rules"
  5. Here's where to find the full set of IFGS Rules.
And in case you were wondering: yes, the "IFGS" is based on the "Dreampark" novels by Larry Niven and Stephen Barnes. They even got permission to use the name! Way cool.

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!

Now What?
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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