What Is Live-Action Roleplay?
Live-Action role playing games, usually known as LARPs, are a form of role-playing game. In a traditional RPG, players sit around a table, and use a map and verbal descriptions to indicate what their in-game characters wish to do and say. In a LARP, the players find or build a suitable space, and act out the actions and conversations of their characters. LARPing, like regular roleplaying, uses rules to resolve conflicts between players.
In some games, opposed actions such as combat or pickpocketing are resolved by a form of rock-paper-scissors or other quick game of chance, because dice are awkward to roll when standing up, possibly outside. In these sorts of games, actual physical contact is usually disallowed, to avoid injuries caused by inadvertantly acting out a dangerous action too realistically. In this style of LARP, hand gestures are often used to represent appearances or actions that cannot be literally translated to the real world.
For example, a player may cross their arms to represent turning invisible, hold one hand on their head to represent speaking “out of character”, or lift their arms menacingly to represent transforming into a monster. In this style of LARP, it is important for the players to control the space they play in, because their conversations and actions be strange and disruptive to outsiders. The other major style of LARP has a different philosophy of conflict resolution. Rather than randomize combat, players rely on their own skill with padded weapons (sometimes called “boffo” swords).
These LARPS are almost exclusively held outdoors with medieval themes. Players track hits in a fashion similar to fencing to determine who wins a battle, and rely on the honor system. Some of this style of LARP, particularly those organized by the Society for Creative Anachronism, strive for a realistic portrayal of feudal life, others introduce fantasy elements, representing magic with thrown beanbags and other substitutes. Both of these styles use home-made or custom purchased armor and weapons, often carefully crafted.
LARPers of this style are exposed to some risk of injury, since they are actually fighting each other, and must take care to wear proper protection and not injure each other. Members of these two groups do not typically cross over; in fact, many participants in SCA events do not consider their activities LARPing at all, and consider the term to be an insult. Traditional LARPers sometimes consider the “real” violence in SCA events to be a dangerous blurring of the lines between reality and fantasy. Both groups, though, engage in an enjoyable hobby that offers rewarding friendships and fun.