How to Start LARPing: Live Action Role Play
by Mads Colvin
A few months ago I commanded an army of 350 people to victory. It was a really hot day and I was wearing full plate armor, and I remember the adrenaline rush when explaining and delegating the strategy to all of the different leaders under my command. I can still imagine that cool relief that swept over me when the battle turned, an hour and a half in - we broke their right flank and disabled their siege tank, and after that, they crumbled. I still feel the pride, giddy and bright inside of me when I kneeled to my Prince to inform him of our victory.
So, that’s my LARP life. My real life? Well, when compared to that, it’s pretty average. LARP has this amazing ability to take normal people and give them a space to experience adventures, feelings, and scenarios in a safe environment. There are so many things you can do that you would NEVER get to do in real life (unless, of course, you’ve fought a dragon in real life. In which case, that’s really neat and you have my utmost respect). Jokes aside, LARP is a VERY cool hobby that can be as serious or as fun as you want it to be.
Does this sound awesome, but you’re not sure where to start? Let’s talk about the basics so that you understand what the hobby is all about, and answer a few common questions that we see on a daily basis.
What is LARPing?
LARP stands for Live Action Role Play - so, playing the role of a character in a live setting. In most games, you physically act as a character to achieve goals and play through a fictional setting that has been created. If you’ve ever played Dungeons and Dragons or video games it is similar in concept to that, except in real life.
How do I find my local game?
There are a ton of different ways to track them down. Some locations are lucky enough to have multiple games, in which case you’re spoiled for choice. Here are the best ways to find your local game:
- Search on google for “LARP in (placename)”. If you can find the website of a local LARP, they will likely have events and dates listed. A lot of LARPs also have forums.
- Search on Facebook to see if you can find any local pages or groups about LARP. A ton of conversation ends up happening here, and there are lots of places to find information and ask questions.
- Check a list or database - Larping.org is a great resource the allows you to search by location and genre. https://larping.org/larps/
What are the rules of LARP?
Most LARPs have a unique set of rules created by the game designers of that particular game. Similar to how each video game has different controls, each LARP will have a different ruleset. The best way to find out the rules is to contact your local LARP or visit their website, as they are usually more than willing to share these rules with newcomers.
It’s important to note that there are MANY different types of rule sets - some games are big on magic, some have no magic at all, and some don’t even have combat. Some games have a set storyline for you to explore, whereas others are open-world “sandbox” style, meaning you have a world to explore and create your own story in as you see fit. I’d recommend playing as many different types of game as possible to figure out your favorite kind.
Is LARP always large-scale?
There isn’t a limit to how big or how small a LARP is. For some people, their local game is 2000 people! But for some people, it’s just 5 people who meet every few weeks as their characters. There’s no golden rule to say what is and what isn’t a LARP.
Is LARP always about Medieval fighting?
Just like film, there are a variety of different game styles and genres. Medieval LARP tends to be the most common type of game to portray in the media, but there are so many other genres out there! Some include science fiction, urban fantasy, vampire, cowboy, post-apocalyptic, horror… LARP is an incredibly versatile creative medium and can be applied to almost any situation! Some LARPs are only 3 hours long in total and are created to explore a certain concept (for example, you are all celebrities stuck in a sinking boat). It truly is a fantastic art form to explore and create with.
Do I have to make a character?
It depends on the LARP you are attending. Some games allow you complete freedom to create a character in their setting, and other games want you to submit your character for approval. There are also a lot of games where you will be cast as a character that has been crafted by the writers, which can also be a ton of fun. The best answer to this question will probably come from the organizers of your local LARP game.
What do I wear?
This again comes down to understanding the game that you are going to attend. Regardless, it is always best to start small, as you never know what kind of character you’re going to want to play. In my experience, once I actually start playing a game, the type of character that I want to play changes. So, when I’m going along to a new game, I will always start with a very basic, versatile costume (such as an under-tunic and basic pants), so that it is easy to build on later once I understand my character. I know it’s difficult to hear, but try not to purchase a weapon straight away, or you end up being a Viking who uses a fantasy elven sword… that is, of course, unless you want to be an Elf Viking, in which case, carry on.
What if I can’t find a local LARP?
If there isn’t anything in your area, we recommend reading about LARP as much a possible to understand rule sets and the genres you are interested in… and then get all of your friends together, and start your own!
Have you ever started your own LARP, or do you attend an event regularly? How did you find out about your local events? Let us know in the comments below!
Join us soon for our next introductory LARP article: 5 Things You MUST Bring to Your First LARP.