LARP - A Tale of Two Realities

by Jeremiah

Having mostly kept my gaming habits to those that are confined to the table top—with the exception of the occasional video game and a very short stint as a force adept Trandoshan smuggler in the Star Wars Role Playing game—I'm writing about LARPers from a place of non-experience. However, because I have never taken part in this over the top form of gaming, it also doesn't mean I'm here to bash it. I personally find it fascinating.

What is a LARP? LARP is gamer speak for Live Action Role Playing; it is exactly what it sounds like. Players enter into gameplay and play the role of a character who has certain skills, abilities, allegiances, etc. etc.

Why do people LARP? That is a great question. The more I've peered into the world of LARPing the more I've found this question has no easy answer. There seem to be a few common threads that tie all LARPers together.

  • Acceptance—Folks who just haven't fit into most social circles in the "real" world can find friends and "family" within the context of LARP
  • Creative Outlet—For some it's painting, and others it's songwriting or sculpture. And for some it's the creation of a character or navigating through campaigns as a character in their LARP of choice.
  • Escape—For many it's a way to escape the daily grind of the rat race—a way to escape it all.

What do I think of LARP? The initial knee-jerk reaction, even around most hardcore gamers is, "Wow, those people are nerds!" I then have to remind folks that we're sitting at a table intently a) building fictitious empires, b) battling fictitious monsters, or c) competing for control of a fictitious land that's represented by a small piece of cardboard. Mr. Pot, it's time to put down the phone, Mr. Kettle knows full well what color he is. When I look at LARP as a whole, I think of it as a deeply intense Paintball battle scenario (something which is much more "socially acceptable" these days) or something akin to a civil war re-enactment without the tedious binds of historical accuracy, combined with improv theatre.

Would I ever participate in a LARP? My answer is a qualified: no. Every element of LARP I find extremely enjoyable: intense competition, immersive gaming scenarios, all things theatrical, and so on. There are two main factors as to why I will most likely never get involved with a LARP. Time and money. From everything I've seen, heard, and read about LARP it's pretty time consuming— taking up entire weekends at a time, and the cost of the gear can be a huge deterrent. Personally I have enough things in my life draining time and money from me, and my family and I simply cannot afford to entertain the thought of investing more into a gaming situation than I already do. Perhaps when my children are older, and my wife agrees to join in on a quest, the Isley family will take the LARP community by storm.  Until such time I say: LARP community, you have my support, but not my sword!

The Nerdist channel on YouTube has just wrapped up their first season of the new series called "Realm of LARP", a documentary, or as they call it a "Reality" series, that follows a group of 5 LARPers—one of whom is a Seventh Day Adventist—through a full campaign, giving a behind-the scenes glimpse along the way.

Also the independent film Darkon is an intriguing look at a LARP community in New England that battles for control of the "DARKON" realm...

So where do you land on LARP? Have you experienced it first hand? We'd love to hear your stories! Leave 'em in the comments! Thanks so much for reading!