How To Start a Larp - You need some Rules.

nordic larp
Photo courtesy of Alper on Flickr.

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Ivan over at and is a continuation on his thoughts on How To Start a Larp. Below you will find his Simple Rules System, but there are many other rules systems out there such as: Jeepen for a freeform, Nordic-larp play style, or you can do a simple google search that will yield many different rule sets. For the record, we don’t think any one system (or genre of larp) is superior to any others. Check out this post on larp rules for more of a philosophical approach to the rules.

How to Choose Rules

The most important thing you need to play is a ruleset… Or is it? Nordic larps seem to do fine without a written system of rules. But instead they depend on the social code of conduct and a set of techniques, which can take a while explaining or getting used to. So, you should have some rules.

There are many different rulesets out there, and most are quite long, elaborate and complex. I’ve seen people interested in LARP, but scared away by the size of the rule books. The goal here today is to get you started as simply as possible.

So, the question remains: What is the best way to introduce people to LARP? I decided to write a rule system using the following guidelines:

  • It has to be fantasy (which is the most popular sort of larp).
  • It has to be simple to learn quickly for a person who never larped.
  • It has to be flexible enough to offer interesting choices.
  • It has to have maximum one page of text (so it’s both simple to learn and economical to print and share).

And so, Simple LARP System was born. Available in English(below) and Croatian. It’s my gift to you, dear non-LARPers, to help you start a local LARP scene. Use it, modify it if you like, share it with your friends or publicly on the internet.

Combat system:
First hit gets you wounded. Second gets you unconscious and bleeding. Third gets you dead. Light armor (hardened leather, chain, scale etc) gives you 1 point of resistance, heavy armor (plate) 2 points. Entire body is 1 armor zone, so wherever you get hit your protection is weakened. You only get protection where you are covered by armor. 2-handed weapons and arrows will ignore light armor. Shields are unusable after 10 strikes by a 2-handed weapon. Don’t hit the head, neck or groin areas.

Character classes:
Lvl 1 – repair armor (10 min/hit), or shield (2 min/hit). You need proper tools to do so. Lvl 2 – armor worn gets another point of resistance. Lvl 3 – you are tougher, you get a hit point, and you can have 2 wounds and still be conscious.

Lvl 1 – Healing from unconscious to wounded or from wounded to healthy. Requires tools and roleplay, and takes 15 minutes. Lvl 2 – Healing takes 5 minutes. Lvl 3 – Healing takes a minute.

Lvl 1 – You can cast one spell each 15 minutes. Lvl 2 – 1 spell / 5 minutes. Lvl 3 – 1 spell / minute.

Lvl 1 – Can search dead or sleeping enemies for loot. Lvl 2 – Disarm traps or pick locks in 15 minutes. Lvl 3 – Disarm traps or pick locks in 1 minute.

Speak out loud the incantation (of your own choosing and design) lasting at least 5 seconds, wave your arms dramatically (or do some other performance) and then call out the name of the spell and your target. To cast a spell, you must wear no metal armor, hold no weapons in your hands, and must not be wounded.
Curse – target will take magical damage in 10 minutes unless dispelled.
Dispel – dispels a spell effect. You can dispel a Ward, but you fall asleep as per Sleep spell as a backlash (unless you’re protected by another Ward).
Sleep – target falls asleep and cannot wake up for 5 minutes.
Ward – keep chanting, while you do, you and everyone touching you are immune to other spell effects.
Wind – target backs up and falls down on the floor.

Wounds and death:
Getting hit, wounds and unconsciousness need to be roleplayed. When you’re reduced to unconscious, you bleed for 15 minutes – if no one starts healing you by then, your character dies and can no longer be played.

Write a character and his background, and determine his roleplay. You start as a level 1 of a chosen class, but you can roleplay other roles in society, e.g. druids while playing a mage class, etc. You get a level after you collect 10 days of experience playing your character. You can take a level in a class you have (specialize), or in another class (spread out your abilities). You can only gain two extra levels.

Other stuff:
You can roleplay other skills (if you can do them, you can do them), or even powerful magic rituals (at GM’s discretion – he will determine the effectiveness of it). Safety is the first rule – call a hold if there’s any danger. LARP is a physical activity and you play at your own risk and responsibility. Roleplay good, play nice and have fun.

Basic gear:
A simple and cheap boffer roundsword can be made from a core (fiberglass rod, golf club, bamboo, pvc etc) on which you put a foam padding (from camping mats, pool noodle, pipe insulation etc). I recommend at least 5 cm/2 inches if you’re fighting full contact, less if you’re pulling blows. A cover can be made of cloth, pantyhose, duct tape or latex. A cheap tabard can be made like a poncho – a rectangular piece of cloth with a hole for the head. If you don’t have any sewing skills, you can cut a fleece blanket as it doesn’t fray and you don’t need to hem it. Making or buying better gear is highly recommended.

There’s no more need to wait. Or to question yourself if you can do it. You can. Start a LARP.

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5 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Alkavira Daggermaw November 7, 2014 Subscriber

    I am the gm of a small local larp group and I prefer my rules simple like health is equal to level and all that any suggestions for a simple combat system

    • Person November 29, 2014 Subscriber

      Would you like to have classes in said system, and what is the theme of your larp?

  2. Katlynn McVey December 9, 2014 Subscriber

    Hello I am apart of a school association called First Lego League and we have to do a research project and the theme this year is world class and so we did a way to make learning the Order Of Operations in math more innovative and fun so we used LARPing to do this. We need to share our ideas with multiple people so I need some people to email me at so that I can get a record of this so I can use this during the project portion of our State competition. Thank You! John Deere Middle School Darthbotics! (John Deere Middle School in Moline Illinois!)

  3. Demi TheDWord Barone January 4, 2015 Subscriber

    Starting a LARP in my town, No idea where to start. I cant figure out how to go about character sheets. I assume that because LARPing is the same as a tabletop game that the character sheets would be different as well. Also I’ve never attended a LARP event before so I don’t know what would make some good basic rules. Anyone have an advice? I would appreciate any help I can get

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