Guest Author - Jay Shaffstall
LARP stands for live action role playing.
You may have heard the term mentioned before, or maybe not. It took me going to a major gaming convention before I heard about LARP. At that time, the term brought up images of people dressed up as vampires, because that was, then, the most popular LARP at conventions.
At its most basic, a LARP is a role playing game. But instead of sitting around a table using your imagination to picture the movements of your characters, you actually move around as your characters are moving.
Want your character to open a door and walk into a room? You open the door and walk into the room.
Some LARPs carry this to extremes, requiring that you must be able to do whatever your character can do. If your character is an expert swordsman, you must be an expert swordsman. Want to run a thief? Better be able to pick pockets.
Most LARPs don't carry things quite that far. There's usually a resolution system in place for skills, so you'll have a way to know if you hit someone with a sword, or talked them into revealing their computer password, or picked their pocket.
Some LARPs focus on the interaction between players, with very little of the game being spent on any GM-led plot. These are called "theater style" games in the United States, or "freeforms" in the United Kingdom. Other LARPs focus on a group of characters who cooperate to go through a GM-led plotline. These are typically called "adventure style" games, and are more of a straight translation of a table top adventure to live action role playing.
Boffer style LARPs use actual weapons, typically made of soft foam, that you swing to try and hit something. I've played in a Wild West LARP that used rubber band guns to represent pistols, and that was a blast! Other LARPs use pellet guns for pistols.
Theater style LARPs typically use simulated combat, where you'll use the game's resolution system to figure out if you hit someone.
At a gaming convention that runs LARPs, you'll typically play one in an hour. These will usually be theater style games, where your character is provided with goals to accomplish. The main requirement of a theater style LARP is usually to be able to socialize in a party setting while pretending to be someone else.
I've heard live action role playing games compared to improvisational acting, and there's some truth in that. But the term "acting" brings up all sorts of triggers for most people, and LARPing just isn't that frightening. You aren't up on a stage in front of other people, you're at a party socializing.
Which isn't nearly as hard as it might sound!
So if you're going to a gaming convention and see a theater style LARP on the schedule, go ahead and sign up for it. You never know, you might find a new dimension to your favorite hobby.