Every week the EFG staff will be defining a gaming term that is either confusing or ill-defined. Please leave a comment with any terms you find confusing and we will try to include them in future editions!
The gaming definition this week is a term that is applicable to many well-known games: LARP
LARP is an acronym for Live Action Role-Playing. It Incorporates physical action, improv, cosplay, and roleplay into a single event. Players inhabit a fantasy world at a set location in real-time and can be based in a wide variety of genres.
LARPing involves social interaction with players and NPCs (non-playing characters). LARP events will require specific costumes and props to further the set environment. More experienced players will likely be better outfitted for LARPing events having collected gear over a longer period of time. New players can purchase supplies at various stores and online sites. LARP organizations such as Alliance have forums to guide new players. Preparation: character creation, backstory, props, costuming, etc. assist players with fuller immersion into the event.
References can be similar to tabletop role-playing questions, general gameplay, character class and race choices. Parents may need to assist with forum surfing, costuming. As with sports or a new instrument, invest minimally at first to ensure your player’s interest warrants a larger financial investment.
What does LARP mean?
LARP is an acronym for Live Action Role Play. LARP is an immersive story experience where participants physically act out their character’s actions. Staff create a different world for players to plunge into with costuming, props, and scenography into an amazing experience. Most children have played make believe. We have all seen towel capes, construction paper crowns, and broom stick swords. LARP is the next evolution of that, which is why children easily lean towards LARP.
There are several genres of LARP, with 2 basic types. The first: Adventure, Demonstrative, or Boffer LARPs feature mock combat with foam weapons. These LARPs encourage the players to work as a group towards a common goal. Serving the greater good, protecting a community, exploring the unknown, finding a lost item or person, and so on. Another term for this group is combat LARP, and they have genre-specific weapons. The second: Interactive, Literature, Parlor, Salon, or Theater LARP features heavy role-play with emotional interaction more character-driven, often with no specific goal or task. Groups without combat are non-combat LARPs. Their conflicts resolve with cards, dice, or chance games (ie rock paper scissors).
Similar to most modern video games and tabletop role-playing, LARP is Player vs Environment (PVE) or Player vs Player (PVP). PVE the group is united as a whole against something threatening the land, the town, and so forth. Players can face monsters, puzzles, traps, and so forth. PVP plays the players against each other. Narrative or personal motivations can drive this game’s focus and player interaction. (We define PvE and PvP in the greater gaming context here.)
How to find a LARP?
Now is the time to find a new LARP group. Many groups were constrained by the pandemic and are restarting and rebuilding. There are several online resources, use your favorite search engine and search for LARP or LARP in your area. If you already know what genre you’re interested in, add that to your search as well, i.e. pirates, medieval, futuristic, and so on. Some specific sites include LARPfinder, meetup (for larger cities), reddit (r/LARP), Facebook, and many others.
Local gaming and tabletop stores often have LARP advertising and may have LARPers on staff. There are some summer camps with LARP themes and events as well. Conventions can also be a good resource for single-event LARPs, some may run over the course of the convention. You can typically reach out to the organizers and ask. There are LARPs across the globe with a wide variety of genres and sizes. You will find one that fits if you look for it!
Examples of different LARPs.
LARP genres can vary as widely as any interest base. These genres can include: aliens, cyberpunk, futuristic, fantasy, historical, horror, pirates, murder mysteries, superheroes, and whatever else imagination can create. Genre types will dictate costuming, weapons, character interactions, and window dressing for the environment. The setting will determine how your player reacts to what is around them. A pirate or cowboy won’t be as surprised by a train as an elf from a medieval setting might be.
Some LARP games and genres are geared towards adults only, most vampire LARP is adult only. Most LARPs have their age requirements posted on their homepages to make child-friendly LARP easier to find. (AllianceLARP New Hampshire, for example, allows players starting at 14 with a guardian.)
What are Boffer weapons?
Boffer weapons are traditionally part of American LARP. Boffer weapons are 3 layers: a rigid base, foam middle, and duct tape or nylon cover. The materials vary. Foamsmith (boffer weapon makers) skill sophistication can vary from pool noodles with handles to sleek light weapons resembling their real-world counterparts. Boffer weapons are built for safety and ease of play by a wider range of players. They are typically checked for safety before every event. Boffer weapons are easy to use by the average player. However, they are not always painless, especially in the heat of battle with adrenaline. It is not uncommon to get a bruise or two from combat regardless.
European LARPers tend to use latex rubber weapons which are heavier, and more realistic in appearance, but require more physicality to wield. In some cases more extreme LARPers use real weapons, this is rare and more likely in historical reenactments than play.
Is Cosplay the same thing as LARP?
No. Cosplay and LARP are not the same things. They are similar. Cosplay is when you dress up as a character from a movie, TV show, book, videogame, or your own creation. Most Cosplay is found at conventions or special events connected to the character. Stormtroopers, Wookies, and Jedi often appear when a new Star Wars movie comes out, that is Cosplay. Cosplay is more for appearances and getting into a character as an expression of enjoying a fandom. LARP costuming needs to be functional as well as genre appropriate to play a game.
Is LARP Similar to DnD?
Absolutely. LARP and Dungeons and Dragons have very similar origins and base rules. Noncombat LARP uses dice or card systems similar to D&D for combat resolution.
Both games require a bit of imagination to help build the setting and role-playing. Most LARPers play D&D or other similar role-playing games in the off-season, or started there and branched off into LARPing. If your child is nervous about LARP, tabletop role-playing games are a good place to learn which genres they’re interested in and a chance to practice their role-playing skills.
What does a new player need to know?
Learn the basics before you go. Most LARP groups have websites with the rules, they may have a rulebook, requirements, and so on. You should have read through those things at least once before you go to an event. Game restrictions and waivers should be known ahead of time not when you’re with your kiddo in full costume at the event. If you or your child need special accommodations, reach out to the game runners ahead of time (they typically have at least an email on their websites) or other players may be able to help or point you in the right direction. Review costume guidelines and requirements. Part of immersing yourself into a LARP world is the proper costuming.
What to Bring
If the venue is outside, bring sunscreen, bug spray, and water. Dress appropriately for the weather, extreme weather conditions can lead to certain costuming holds. It’s easy to add layers to a cloak and remove them on cold days. Ask ahead of time about food and drinks. Some offerings either in or out of game may be provided or you may have to pack lunch. Try to play along and bring in genre meals, a Lunchable can be repacked in reusable wax cloth instead of a plastic container. If the event is a one-off versus a multi-day event you may need to arrange sleeping accommodations as well. This may be camping or a local hotel.
Acclimating to Events
Remember it’s natural to be quieter when you’re new. Many LARPers have been playing for years and are very welcoming. Give it a few events before deciding it’s not for you. However, group dynamics aren’t always a fit, you can explore other games and other groups. LARP is an international game, there are places for everyone.
Most games start with a welcome speech or intro, this is your time for new players to ask their questions. Logistics or the pre-start time where your costuming and weapons are being checked for safety is also a time for questions. Most games have moderators or experienced players or staff on hand to answer questions as you go, identify them early, and ask. It doesn’t hurt to play into your character either and ask in game.
Places to buy LARP costuming and supplies
Finding the right costuming for your character can go a long way into finding role-playing and helping a new player step out of the real world and into the LARP world. LARPing can be an expensive hobby. There can be ways around that, especially for new players trying out LARP before committing. Look to your new LARP group for guidance: new player forums, game organizers, and veteran players can all help you with rules, requirements, and where they got their gear. New players might be able to borrow some pieces to help with the cost while they’re deciding if this is for them.
Depending on your LARP genre, there are several easily accessible websites to help build your character. First look at your LARP group website & forums, there will be suggestions related to the rules and needs specific to your game. Next a quick search for LARP costume, LARP gear, LARP armor, LARP weapons, etc will find you several sites. Costume stores/sites, Walmart, amazon, and other bigger markets. can get you something serviceable in a quick time. Once you’ve decided on LARP as your hobby and you’re looking to move from testing to definitely playing: Etsy, Epic Armory, B3, Holy Clothing, burgschneider.us and MANY others will have genre-specific weapons, armor, props and so on.
Don’t forget about crafting. If you or a friend can break out a sewing machine this can save you quite a bit. Also, thrifting has been a time-honored way to build up your costuming. Pinterest is full of LARP DIY to help with various levels of your skill and direction needed.
Where can I find LARP in the media?
There are a wide variety of LARP examples in movies and TV shows. Not all of these examples are family-friendly, often LARP is confused for tabletop role-playing by those who haven’t read this article yet. Often the examples produced depict LARPers as unsympathetic nerds with poor social skills. LARPing attracts all sorts of people, most of whom are welcoming and enjoy sharing their beloved hobby with others.
- Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe
- Monster Camp
- Supernatural: LARP and the Real Girl
- Role Models *not kid appropriate
In conclusion, LARP, or Live Action Role-Playing, is a form of immersive story experience where participants physically act out their character’s actions. It incorporates physical action, improv, cosplay, and roleplay into a single event and can be based in a wide variety of genres. There are two basic types of LARP, Adventure or Boffer LARPs which feature mock combat with foam weapons, and Interactive or Theater LARPs which feature heavy role-play with emotional interaction. LARP can be found through online resources, local gaming and tabletop stores, summer camps, and conventions. With a wide variety of genres and sizes, there is a LARP for everyone to enjoy.
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