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What Does it Mean to LARP?

by: Matt Conlon ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

What does the word LARP mean? It's not a musical instrument or a bodily function. It's a form of role-playing that doesn't involve dice, books, character sheets or screens.

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    What Comes to Mind When You Say "Role Playing Game?"

    Role playing games are games that are played by a group of people who control imaginary characters to perform feats and achieve epic goals. Typically when someone thinks of a role-playing game, something along the lines of Dungeons and Dragons comes to mind. A game that is played around a table with one player telling a story, and other players describing how their character reacts to the situation.

    The format of the story adheres (loosely, most of the time!) to a set of rules or guidelines set down in what's called a core rule book. Characters are suited for different roles, and their stats and abilities are recorded on character sheets. Most of there results of game play is determined by rolling dice.

    This type of role-playing game is called a table-top or pen-and-paper role-playing game.

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    Live Action

    Kuzzik Although this type of role-playing game is the most well-recognized, it is not by any stretch of the imagination the only kind out there. Perhaps the least well-known form of role-playing game does not require books filled with skills and feats or the rolling of dice.

    Live action role-playing (or LARPing) is a type of interactive gaming where players personally act out the roles of the characters. Players wear the garb of the era and speak in ancient dialects, living out the adventures that would have otherwise only existed in their imaginations.

    Live action role-playing has been done for many years, though not necessarily in a Dungeons and Dragons sort of style. Thinking back to your childhood, chances are you did some live action role-play yourself in the form of "Cops and Robbers", "Cowboys and Indians", or "House". Events like historical reenactments are probably the best well-known example of live action roleplaying.

    Although these are technically the same as LARPing in spirit, the word LARP really pertains specifically to activities based on medieval settings.

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    Where Can I See LARP?

    I have never participated in live action role play myself, so I cannot render a valid opinion. However, I can point you in the a couple of directions:

    For a history of live action roleplay, read this article at Wikipedia. This article contains information on the known Role Models poster origins from many different corners of the world.

    As with almost anything these days, YouTube has a vast amount of material. This video is one of the first examples of LARPing that I'd ever seen, and it's always remembered. Yell "Lightning bolt!" at any role player, live-action or otherwise, and they'll likely crack a smile.

    In 2008, the movie Role Models was about a group of LARPers called "LAIRE" with Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott. I can't personally swear to the authenticity of the LARPing portrayed in this film, but it's quite entertaining.

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    I am by no means an authority on LARP. I have never done it, nor have I ever seen it in person. I'm interested in hearing the point of view from someone who has done it, or plans to do it. Does the movie Role Models accurately portray a LARP event, or is it off base?

    I know there's more relevant information about it, and if you'd like to share, please post in the comments for anyone looking for authoritative information.