What is LARP?

Live Action Role Playing is the activity of going out to pretend to be someone or something else. It most often involves improvisational acting. The people who participate in it vary widely. As someone who has participated in that community I can personally confirm that the people who participate vary from those of military backgrounds, fast-food employees, teachers, and artists. They come from all walks of life and were inspired to do it for a variety of reasons.

One of the primary reasons people often speak of not wishing to participate in LARP is their concern that they lack acting experience or had never played Dungeons & Dragons. I have found that most people who have participated in LARP actually don’t have any past experiences of that kind. They more often have some interest in fantasy novels or physical activities which lends themselves well to the physical activity required by the hobby.

The kind of LARP I have known is a full weekend high combat event. High combat meaning it has a lot of running and swinging safe weapons at one another. What is swung is generally a latex boffer weapon which is made to be safe for light hits. There are safety measures involved to prevent undue injury, such as only being allowed to swing at a ninety-degree angle and having the weapons checked before game to ensure they are unlikely to cause actual injuries to people. The other form of weapon that can be constructed is foam. I will not go into the detail of its construction here but they are meant to be safe to hit anywhere but the head.

My friend’s boffer made to look like a frying pan.

My friend’s boffer made to look like a frying pan.

It is a very high intensity LARP as you can not leave character until the game is over, which is a full weekend camping excursion. This kind of LARP also has high roleplaying aspects as you are supposed to stay in character the entire time.

Not all LARPs are quite as intensive as that. There is another kind that involves purely combat oriented action. If anyone has ever participated in paintball it would be similar to a medieval style paintball game of taking people out and trying to survive and it can last only an afternoon if desired. This is high combat, low roleplaying. 

There are other kinds of LARP which have no combat at all and are purely roleplay. These are often called parlour LARPs. One of the most common would be Vampire the Masquerade. There are various other kinds and I myself have never done that one. Instead I’ve participated in some science fiction versions which are also done in an evening and often have a set goal to achieve. They are people driven and sometimes involve puzzles. The most important is interaction and acting as your character would.

There are even more kinds of LARP out there but these are some of the most common brief forms present in Canada. I would suggest trying it out to anyone. Remember: there’s no need to be intimidated by a new and odd hobby; it’s just a chance to do something different.

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Mark Drew

Mark Drew has been LARPing for three and a half years, at Ashendael Underworld, has been a Dungeon Master using edition 3.5, he is 25 years old and has worked in fast food, and manual labor. He’s been working on a novel for several years.