Before I started writing this, I had no idea what LARPing (Live Action Role Play) entailed. Was it just a bunch of freaks and geeks playing together while getting rowdy with swords or some weird cult where only the gaming experts are allowed? At first, I turned to Youtube to try and shine some light on the unique hobby. The top video was this:
Yes, this may look (and sound) a little silly, but don’t judge before you understand the intricate world of LARPing. Once I realized my Youtube endeavors weren’t doing the hobby justice, I turned to LARPing groups around Boston.
My search eventually led me to Rick McCoy, one of the founders of the LARP Alliance, Inc. -- a non-profit organization in the US that was created to improve the communication, support, and education of LARPing to the public.
Of course, I needed to get in touch with a LARP veteran. So I found Rick, a certified LARPer since ’88.
I picked Rick’s brain and absorbed all I could about LARP for over an hour.
The result? I want to LARP… now.
So what exactly does LARPing entail? Well, it’s a game-type environment where you “create an interactive story” with people. This can include anything from literary works to Titanic to zombie apocalypses; it doesn’t really matter.
There are different roles to play in LARPing, as well as multiple sub-categories. In LARPing campaigns, there are non-player characters (NPC’s) who set the stage and are essentially extras like townsfolk. Then there are the more major characters such as Jack Sparrow who have a more prominent (though not more important) role than the NPC’s. Campaigns can last a long time -- the longest was 15 years -- and are like sitcoms with multiple episodes. The story can progress and evolve, and it is neither scripted nor impromptu. “There’s an art to it, you may have to tweak your role so you don’t ruin the fun for other players. People don’t play absolute for the most part, like the real world. You adjust the character to make the experience better overall.
LARP is more of an experience than a game. It has to be a game; there are players and rules, a defined line between real life and character.”
LARPing is a hobby that boasts 50-70,000 members in the US. Although numerically large, the US LARP groups don’t collaborate like they do in Europe; Americans fight and compete against one another. “We create a game and tell others theirs sucks and ours is better. We’re all one hobby, but we don’t get along. It’s the American competitive spirit. LARP Alliance tries to unite the hobby, but it’s a battle.”
Besides campaigns, there are day or weekend games that take place in parks or other locations, where you can become fully immersed in the story for up three days straight. Then there are battle games with live combat fighting; “you get in there and fight, get defeated and then get up and party. All they do is fight, fight, fight, and you’re not in character the whole time. The focus is on the fight, and sometimes there’s a quest.”
Lastly, there are theater style games which are single day events that can be very elaborate and held in fancy venues. A simple murder mystery would be an example; “everyone is a character with information and you try to talk it out and who did what as people start to die.” Our lovely city of Boston has a theater game group called NERO Boston, and Vampire LARPers are present on almost any college campus.
The oldest LARP-like scenario on record was in a 1941 article where a bunch of people in gowns re-enacted a ballroom experience, making it the predecessor to modern role playing games. Then came Dungeons and Dragons. Now, LARPing has evolved into what it is today: an awesome phenomenon where people can get let out their inner fantastical being and fake kill one another, go on quests, or anything else your LARPing heart may desire.
Want to be a medieval princess? A minotaur? Do it.
I would recommend sticking to bi-pedal humanoids though, because “how would you pull off being a monster from outer space and still be able to associate with others and move around easily?” LARPing may tap into the unreal scene, but you still need to adhere to real life logistics like movement.
Interested in joining the LARP community? Go for it! You too ladies; only about 30% of LARPers are female, so we’re in high demand. You can take your time and ease into the role playing if you want, but outsiders who don’t participate aren’t super popular amongst LARPers; “you create an environment where everybody is part of the game.” Everyone looks a little silly, but it’s fun, so you might as well join in on the amusement. Plus, it’s a good work-out, running around in the woods fighting off killer zombies!
I’ve got an appetite for the unique. Oh, Hobby Dearest is my quest to shine some light on the overlooked and abnormal hobbies that exist out there. Check out last weeks hobby, hula hooping, and stay tuned for more eccentric pastimes.