LARP – Live Action Role Play. You may have heard of it, seen it in the media and may have expressed an interest in getting involved or learn more. But how do you even get started in such a broad and seemingly confusing hobby? Fear not, this guide will give you the answers you seek!

Contents:

  1. The Basics (This page!)
  2. Lingo of LARP 
  3. Which System is for Me?
  4. Character Creation – Concept
  5. Character Creation – Kit
  6. Camping 
  7. Monstering and Crewing
  8. Emotional Impact
  9. The Plot Stick
  10. Winter

This list may change/update as more information is considered as articles are written. 

To the uninitiated the first question is surely, ‘What is LARP?’

Picture a game of Dungeons and Dragons or your favorite RPG of choice. You assume the role of a character, who possesses many skills and abilities not possible in real life. You adventure, you fight, you cast spells and so much more. The difference with LARP? As the first two letters tell you, it’s live action. You aren’t a mini on the board, nor are you a character you spent hours creating in the character customization menu. You are your character.

Have you ever wondered what it might like to don armour and pick up a great sword and fight like you’ve seen it in Game of Thrones? How it feels to stand in a Viking shield wall, or hurl spells over the shoulders of your allies at your foes? LARP gives you those very chances. It’s not just swords and sorcery either, LARP has numerous settings, genres and systems – much like any board game or video game. If high fantasy isn’t your speed, you might prefer to traverse the galaxy in a sci-fi LARP, or survive in a dangerous post-apocalyptic landscape. You can find the group which suits you the best, and it’s easily one of the most welcoming communities I think I’ve ever encountered.

The Definitive Guide to LARP Part One: The Basics - n3rdabl3
Curious Pastimes, a fantasy LARP. Photo by Peter Scott.

Like I said earlier, you’ve possibly seen LARP before. On TV or in movies; the most famous example is easily the movie Role Models which shows off an American LARP system. I want to put it out there right now, it’s unlikely you’ll find a group quite like that in the UK, but it’s a fun introduction to the concept. A better example, if you’re up for some sweet standard definition YouTube, is comedian Dara O’Briain’s special Tough Gig. In this show, Dara goes to Skullduggery in Canterbury and has to deliver a tailored gig specifically to the LARPing crowd. It’s a good laugh!

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I wish I could get away with dressing up like a member of KISS in a medieval setting…

Now. I’m no LARP veteran, I put my hands up to that. I am, however, a role player and have been for many years. Be it through prose roleplaying with friends, playing D&D and similar games. In terms of LARP, I’ve been playing for a year and tried out three different systems, and one of the questions I get asked – especially still being fairly new to this, is ‘How do I get started?’

So this is my answer, a series of features that will cover different aspects of LARPing and how you can get involved. I’ll be drawing from my own experiences, and also calling on veteran players’ advice to bring to you in what will hopefully not be an incoherent, excitable mess – Why might I say that? Well, the first LARP term I’d like to teach you today folks is ‘froth‘. Froth is hype, and the hype when you get into LARP and find it’s a hobby you enjoy is insane. Imagine having that excitement for a music festival, only it’s a festival that goes on for several weekends throughout the year with a plot and so many bands and artists you can never hope to possibly go and see them all. LARP is a bit like that. It gets you all hyped up, or frothy, but it shows just how passionate people get over the hobby.

The Definitive Guide to LARP Part One: The Basics - n3rdabl3
Vault 57, a Fallout 4 LARP. Photo by Oliver Facey.

My experience is primarily with a large UK system called Curious Pastimes, and as such my advice will heavily center around this. I will, of course, draw on my experience from other systems, but CP is the one I know the best and will be using this particular system for what most of my anecdotes and advice will be built upon.

This first part will act as a contents page and will be updated as the next parts are released. This is also a good chance to ask your questions, some might be answered in later parts due to come out, but others might give me the chance to write on other aspects that I may not have necessarily considered.

The Definitive Guide to LARP Part One: The Basics - n3rdabl3
Exiled on the Shores of Carmoa. A pirate LARP. Photo by Beth Dooner.

Other things you can expect from this series are interviews with game teams, player testimonials, stories from referees and much more! I may not have all the answers, but you can bet that I know people who do.

At the time I’m writing this, I’ve just finished my second Renewal of Magic at Curious Pastimes and the first event of debuting system Exiled: On the Shores of Carmoa, meaning I am officially done and I’m in winter downtime/prep time. I appreciate that this might not mean a thing to you right now, but in plain terms, it means LARP season (for me) is over, but it’s still on the brain and questions should be shot this way!

Part Two is out and ready to read! Check it out here!

Cover photo by Oliver Facey

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