What is Larp? | Stay in Character Ep. 1

For all of you who thought you knew what LARP was, Lady Malbone is here to set you straight. Learn what a LARP is and how you can find one that will meet your particular play-style.

Larping.org is proud to announce that we have partnered with Kristin Brumley to bring you this incredible monthly vlog titled “Stay in Character”! Earlier this summer we posted about Kristin’s bid to get a larp vlog on Geek & Sundry. While we were bummed that the vlog wasn’t going to get the wide exposure in Geekdom (that it clearly deserved) through Geek & Sundry, we just knew we had to see Kristin’s awesome work come to light!

We hope that the monthly videos will inform, entertain and that you will join in on the discussion in the comments here or on our Youtube channel!


What is LARP?


Welcome to “Stay In Character”.  A vlog about LARPing by LARP characters.

My name is Lady Malbone, and I will be hosting this vlog episode,

Along with Lita, Iris and Paradox.

We discuss today, what a LARP actually is,

and how you can go about finding one that is perfect for your play style.

First of all, what is a LARP?

LARP occurs when you physically act your your character’s actions.

Larp is varied.

Perhaps you saw the movie “Role Models”,

and now believe that you understand LARPing in its entirety.

Well, I’m happy ruin your ignorance, and inform you that just isn’t true.

I shall put it into a metaphor that perhaps you can understand.

LARPing is like…  card games.

All of the card games.

And within this genre of card games, there are many little card games.

And each of them are very different.

And like with card games, the players like to argue which game is better.

“I’m a Pokémon player.  I’ve caught all my favorite pokémon and they’re on shiny foil cards!”

“Oh yeah?  Well I play Yu-Gi-Oh, and this is a much better game than yours!”

“Oh yeah?  Well I wouldn’t waste my time on such trash!”

“Oh well?  Let’s get into a fight!”

Personally, I like Magic: The Gathering the most.

And all of you who have different opinions are wrong.

It’s not about whose card game is better than the others’.

Er, LARP game.  We’re talking about LARPs here.

It’s about which game you’re going to have the most fun playing.

And remember: you don’t have to only pick one!

You can like more than one LARP!

There are four things you should remember when trying to decide what LARP is best for you.

1. The genre.

2.  The immersion level.

3.  The game system.

And 4. wether or not it is a chapter or a stand-alone game.

Genre is self-explanatory.

Is the LARP fantasy, steampunk, vampire, apocalyptic, zombie?

it’s very likely that if there is something you’ve enjoyed, there’s a LARP out there for it.

There’s even a hillbilly LARP where some people in Europe pretend to be hillbillies in Georgia.

The immersion.

There is both high and low immersion in a LARP game.

A high immersion game, which is something I prefer and find far superior,

is where you’re trying to make a world that feels real.

That can be anything from the costume to the atmosphere.

The biggest thing to remember about high-immersion is that yes, it may have a higher cost,

it may require more energy and more of your time,

but it yields a far greater reward.

Why would you not want to go to a LARP where people are wearing actual armor?

And drinking from goblets!  Of in-character feast food!

If you like a challenge, high-immersion is for you.

Whoa whoa whoa.  Time out!

Have we forgotten?  LARPing is just a game!

It’s about having fun!  All right?

Not all of this crazy “everything has to be perfect” crap.

Low-immersion.  It can be really fun, too.

And sometimes it can be a mix.

It can be some high-immersion in costuming,

and maybe low-immersion in the game mechanics,

and in the magic, and in the setting itself.

Some games have been going on for a lot longer,

and so they’ve already got all these great costumes around.

There are some games that have access to really great camping areas that look in-period.

Whereas others, all they have is a gymnasium in which to play in.

Sometimes it just has to do with what is available and what you’ve got to work with.

Low-immersion games tend to cost a lot less.

Because you’re spending less on things like costumes and equipment.

All those things that take a lot of time, a lot of energy

in order to look perfect for a high-immersion game.

The other thing about low-immersion games?

They usually require a lot more imagination.

The game system usually allows you to play characters

that are completely different from who you are in real life.

If you’re not fast in real life,

in a high-immersion game you can’t play a character that dodges bullets.

In a low-immersion game,

it’s more likely that you have the chance to play something just completely out there.

Have you always wanted to play a halfling, but you’re not 3 feet tall?

In a low-immersion game, we let a lot of those things slide.

Different game systems can be a little more complex.

It involves actually reading the rulebook.

But some of the biggest differences have to do with whether the LARP is combat, or non-combat.

Combat LARPs are usually fought using boffer or latex weapons.

And there is some sort of system in place that allows you to hit each other for points,

much like you see in a video game.

Non-combat LARPs require a different sort of system

Because you’re not using actual fake weapons.

You’re using something like rock-paper-scissors or dice.

Did it do it right?

If you don’t like the idea of someone hitting you with plumbing supplies,

perhaps a non-combatative LARP is for you.

However if you love fight scenes,

Like from “Lord of the Rings”

then combatitive LARP is maybe more your style.

Finally, is it a chapter or is it a stand-alone LARP?

A stand-alone LARP means that there are no other LARPs like it.

Or at least not exactly like it.

You can expect that the plot is only going to continue at that one place,

that you can’t take your character from that place to another and still get experience.

There’s more of a chance that such things as rules and actual gaming systems

are a little more flexible, and can reflect the actual desires of the players.

LARPs that have chapters means that you can have a character

that you bring to multiple LARPs

to continue a giant plot line that will extend between all of them,

and that you gain experience no matter which one you go to.

It allows you to play the same character more,

and to “level them up,” essentially, much faster.

The game system will be consistent.

You only have to lean one set of rules,

and still get to experience many different games

by just going to different chapters in different places.

However, because all these chapters need to share the same rule set,

that does mean that they’re a lot less flexible.

Okay, so now that you’ve decide what kind of LARP you’d actually like to play,

of course, you’re thinking, “How do I actually find it?”

Me?  I found mine on accident.

I was just browsing through images on Google,

and I happened to come across something really cool.

But for you, maybe you’ll have to do a more detailed search.

Put in Google something like, “LARP, Star Wars, Wisconsin.”

Try it out.  Try different keywords.

You’re smart, educated, and digitally inclined people, you can figure it out!

There’s also some resources that are really useful,

such as LARP Haven, which is a Facebook that is just filled with LARPers

from all over the world who are very helpful.

And, of course, there’s LARPing.org.

We’ve been putting together a list of all the different LARPs

that are basically around the entire country.

Now it’s time for a few questions for you.

What do you like about YOUR LARP?

How did you find it?

Let us know.  Tell us your story.  Drop us a comment.

I would like to thank you on behalf of all of us,

for watching the very fist episode of Stay In Character on LARPing.org

Remember to subscribe,

and I will see you in the next episode where Lita will help you create your very own LARP character.

Hey, got any Pikachus?

Go fish?

Stay in Character is a vlog about LARPing and all its facets, hosted by the many characters of Kristin Brumley. Want more videos from Kristin? Check out her Youtube Channel.

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1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. Aaron Vanek November 14, 2013 Subscriber

    Very entertaining, but I think some of the terminology might confuse people.

    1. There can be plenty of combat in what Kristin calls a “non-combat” larp. I call the difference theater style or live combat style. In a theater larp, it is possible to have a lot of combat, but it’s represented by something else besides the actual weapon; i.e., boffer. Perhaps the theater larps I participate in have been exceptions to the rule, but I still think it’s a misnomer to say theater larps are non-combat. There can be tons of combat in them, you just aren’t getting hit by something.

    2. Stand alone vs. chapter. Although an interesting distinction, I thought, at first glance that the difference would be between one-shots vs campaigns. This was not discussed. Some larps are like movies: they happen once and are finished, say, in a night or a weekend. Other larps are continuing sagas, like a TV series, where a new “episode” is played each month (or every few months). Perhaps better terms would be “independent vs. chapter” since all chapters have to conform to a larger rule set, while indie larps can do what they want.

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