What is LARPing?


You may have heard the term LARPing floating around online or used by someone you know in real life and wondered what exactly the term means and where it came from. In this article, we provide an in-depth look into LARPing and all that it entails.

LARP definition and meaning

LARP is an acronym that stands for Live Action Role Playing, a type of real-life game which requires players to actively roleplay as characters in an imaginary universe. It incorporates aspects of improvisation, historical re-enactment, cosplay and RPG gaming into a singular experience.

LARPing usually involves more physical effort, social engagement and community participation than tabletop and electronic games. LARP groups will use specific environments, outfits (usually purchase from a LARP store) and props to fully immerse players (LARPers) in the fantasy realm defined by the Game Masters.

LARP events employ a variety of combat elements, some of which are close to those found in standard role-playing games. Some mechanics involve players using multi-sided dice to decide events by chance, appointing a Dungeon Master to construct the plot or having the community determine the outcome of individual player actions by consensus.

LARP history: where did LARPing originate?

While LARPing has no single agreed-upon point of origin, its roots can be traced back through history for millennia or even further, with childhood games dating back to pre-history technically being considered the first form of LARPing.

Author Lizzie Stark, in her book Leaving Mundania, explores the evolution of Live Action Role Playing from its beginnings in the elaborate historical pageants of the medieval aristocracy to the wargames used to train officers of the Enlightenment era to modern historical re-enactment groups like the Society for Historical Anachronism (SCA).

Other early versions of modern LARPing include everything from ancient Romans enacting scenes in the Colosseum to more modern murder mystery dinner parties and the advent of tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons in the 1970s.


LARP rules system

As with any other form of gaming, LARP has its own set of rules that players must follow to participate. While different LARP groups can have their own unique playbooks, LARP rules systems generally encourage a distinct character experience by limiting the class, combat skills, and/or supernatural powers or resistance of the LARP player.

As such, the first step to LARPing is creating a character from pre-defined classes like Viking, Assassin, Thief and Barbarian.

Basic LARP rules

As mentioned above, different LARP groups will have different playbooks and so there is no “one size fits all” rules system for LARPing. That said, most LARP groups will define their rulebook according to the follow points:

  • ➼   HP (Hit Points): Players are given hit points based on their character class and are granted modifiers based on their background (elven, orc, halfling, human, undead, etc.) When you are struck with LARP weapons or spells, you lose hit points until you have none left, at which point you are knocked out or deceased.

  • ➼   AP (Armor Points): LARP Armor is used to increase a player's hit points and enhance their resistance to attack damage during battle. Different armor materials (plate armor, chainmail, leather armor, etc.) will confer more or less AP based on their strength rating.

  • ➼   Magic and spellcasting: Magic and spells can be cast in a number of ways.  LARP rules often require players to use clear gestures, catchwords or objects like spellbooks when casting spells. The number of spells available is typically restricted.

  • ➼   Death: LARPing comes with the risk of death (not real death, of course). Death can be transient or permanent. Some LARPs limit the number of times a player can “die” until the character is completely dead, while others allow resurrection after a certain period of time or in designated respawn areas.

  • ➼   Healing: Another common gameplay mechanic in LARP is healing. Certain classes will be granted the power to heal other players on the battlefield. This usually involves a sand timer that dictates how long it takes to heal another character.

LARP weapon rules

In addition to the basic points covered above, LARP events will typically have rules governing weapons. As with the other rules, these will often vary between different LARP groups. However, you can typically expect some form of the following:

  • ➼ Rules that restrict weaponry to certain types like LARP swords, axes, bows, or others
  • ➼ General safety rules like minimum padding on weapons, rules for handling weapons, avoiding hitting sensitive areas, etc.
  • ➼ Rules for “friendly fire”, i.e., what happens when you accidently strike one of your teammates

LARP themes

There is an endless number of possibilities for LARP themes and groups are free to experiment as they please. However, many groups stick to well-known genres that are familiar to players across the board. Some of the most common themes include:

Medieval fantasy LARP

The most popular LARP theme by far, this genre is similar to the popular Game of Thrones series, combining aesthetics from the medieval period with fantastical and supernatural elements. Think the Renaissance meets J.R.R. Tolkien.

Science fiction LARP

Sci-fi role-playing events are usually set in a fictional future on another planet or in a distant galaxy. They are often inspired by Star Wars, Star Trek and other popular science fiction franchises.

Post-apocalyptic or dystopian LARP

Another popular LARP theme is the post-apocalyptic world or dystopian landscape. Common characters include humans who have survived disaster, zombies or mutants, and the events are typically held in an urban or industrial environment.

Horror LARP

Last but not least, horror LARPs are also very popular and can take many forms including murder mysteries or all-out monster battles. Players often choose classic horror characters such as vampires, witches or even werewolves.



Is LARPing a sport?

While it is tempting to classify LARPing as a sport, especially in its full-contact version, the improvisational and theatrical aspects place it in a league of its own. LARPing has as many similarities as it does differences with what most people consider traditional sports.

Some events focus on combat while others involve strictly non-contact role-playing. Some offer one-night, weekend, or week-long events that draw huge crowds. In this sense, LARPing has certainly become an industry, but it’s status as a sport is still up for debate.


Is LARPing safe?

LARPing is generally much safer than contact sports like football and hockey or activities like paintballing. While many LARPs involve some form of battle, the rules often strictly forbid aiming for the head or engaging in hand-to-hand contact altogether.

Moreover, LARPing is almost always done in a safe and controlled environment and weapons are purposefully made of materials that minimize harm to players. If you join a LARP group, always be sure to inquire about the safety measures the group has put in place to ensure that you are comfortable with them.


How to get started in LARPing

LARP communities and leagues tends to be very open, friendly and will gladly help you get acquainted with the process of joining them. But first you need to find them.

Here are some useful tips and resources to help you find a LARP near you:

Finding the perfect LARP can take some time and research, but you will no doubt find that most groups are ready to give you a warm welcome and help you find your way. Once you have found the LARP you want to join, you shouldn’t hesitate to immerse yourself in the world and learn everything you can about the theme, characters, rules and requirements.

Next, you will want to find the nearest place selling LARP clothing, costumes and outfits so you can get started on building the perfect character for your first event. Also be sure to attend any meetings your LARP group may hold on a regular basis. It’s a great way to get to know the more experienced players and make some new friends along the way!


LARPing in a nutshell

There you have it! That about sums up LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) in a nutshell. We hope this article was informative and helped you gain a basic understanding of LARP. It’s now up to you to start your journey into this wonderful and exciting world and find people in your area that share your newfound curiosity.

When it comes time to gear up for your first event, rest assured Les Artisans d'Azure has everything you need from custom creations to the world’s best LARP equipment from the biggest brands in the industry.

If you have any questions about our products or services, feel free to contact us by email or give us a call at 1-855-606-1468.

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