So no shit there I was, standing at the front line, shield in one hand and the Chimeronian Northern Light blade in the other. The Bois of Bedlam were coming towards us but we kept our position knowing that we couldn’t retreat and let them at our healer. They pressed the attack and we managed to hold them off. One of my comrades had fallen, but a healer came running forward to take him off to restore him to life. I heard my name then and turned to see her tossing me her sword. I dropped my shield and caught it. It only took a moment to realize what I held now. It was Her Grace, the Duchess Ophelia, now a sword that could destroy these creatures with a touch. I switched it into my main hand and grinned recklessly at the on-coming wave of darkness. I shouted “Go!” and our line burst forward bringing the fight to them instead of waiting.
That episode was from my own experience as a fae elven fighter in a New England based LARP known as the Realms. It sounds an awful lot like the kind of story you would get in a tabletop roleplaying game. And really, that’s because on the whole they are a very similar sort of story. Like any RPG, LARP, which stands for Live Action Role Play, is very much based on the character and on people getting to be the hero, or the villain if they so choose.
LARP comes in a lot of different flavors. There are two major categories though. These are known as boffer and theatre. Boffer LARP is like in the picture above. We have swords of some material, usually foam, and take part in live action combat. Theatre LARP, pictured below, is a different beast entirely. There is no actual combat in theatre style LARP but instead characters resolve conflicts using skills and some mechanic like dice or rock-paper-scissors. These games tend to be much more heavily focused on character interactions and intrigue than on conflict of physical nature.
So, the next major thing that separates different kinds of LARPs is how long a story runs for. Most theatre LARPs are a few hours or a day long, some might last a weekend and a very few might last longer. Boffer LARPs, on the whole, last for much longer but can some times be a weekend affair or less. Theatre LARPs tend to also involve characters that are assigned, whereas boffer LARPs tend to allow the player to write their own character. When I say that the story could last months or more, here is a good example. The Realms, the LARP I was talking about earlier, has been going for over 20 years. Another boffer game called NERO International has been running since 1986. There are also Theatre LARPs such as Mind’s Eye Theatre that have been around for decades.
Alright, so you picked out what kind of LARP you’d rather play. Regardless of what variety you intend to play, the next question is how much you can put aside your own personality and pick up that of your character. A really great way to practice that is with improv games. These sorts of games can also help a person who is really shy or uncomfortable dealing with other people while ad libbing conversations. One game I particularly like involves one person running a “party” and the other people each assuming a strange character to make the party host guess while go through a party scene. Another way for beginners to get into LARPing is a really neat little game called How to Host a Murder. The basic concept of this games is that you host a dinner party and all the guests have roles they are playing involving a murder mystery and all the necessary evidence and menus and everything are in the box for the game. The only thing the players need to do is cook the food, get costumes and play through the story.
One of the very very important things to remember about LARP is that if you’re playing in a persistant game, you should take the time to make sure you get to know the other players out of game as well. Some people enjoy playing jerks, you might enjoy playing a jerk, but the player may not necessarily be a jerk in real life. Sometimes the biggest In-Game asshole is actually a really nice guy. Another piece of advise is that no matter how much you like to play a bad guy, don’t make that the only type of character you play. At least not until people get used to the fact that you aren’t an ass in real life.
LARPing is an extremely large subject, and something that I really enjoy talking about, so expect to see more little things talking about playing and running various types of LARP. While I largely play boffer LARP, I do periodically play in theatre LARPs.