Live-action role-playing, or LARPing, was once the internet’s punching bag for “cringeworthy” examples of people in the early 2000s immersing in geek culture. Thanks to the franchises of The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Harry Potter, knights, spells, and space settings were common elements of LARP games.
More and more people see LARPing as a mainstream activity with the popularity of various shows and films in the genre, such as Game of Thrones and the newly released The Witcher series. LARPing goes beyond playing dress-up and involves different interpersonal skills that are useful not just in the fantasy setting but also in real life.
Unlike in the early ’90s, finding LARP games is now accessible by going through subreddits and dedicated social media groups online. With the rise and development of different genres from the classics of Tolkien to George Lucas’s Star Wars, there’s a LARP genre for everyone.
From a space western to the renaissance period, LARPing has an excellent variety for just about any and every type of world. Though there are different types of LARP games, one can always learn a tip or two after participating in one. Here are a few lessons that one can take from attending a LARP game.
1. Remember the Rules
As with any group activity, LARPing also has strict rules, depending on the game. Depending on the world one’s in, there may be restrictions on what one can say or do. It can be as simple as not using a phone in the Wild West or as complicated as speaking in a fandom language consistently throughout.
Participants can usually be playable characters (PCs) or nonplayable characters (NPCs). NPCs are in a fixed role, maybe a merchant, a guide, or even the local barkeep. NPCs function as storytelling guides to the PCs, who have more freedom in moving the story along.
A LARP session can last from an hour to over a whole weekend, with sessions having multiple breaks in between for people to break character. Though rules aren’t always too strict, what’s important is that the participants respect one another’s experience while enjoying the immersion of the world.
2. Invest in the Right Gear
LARPing is a mix of different event genres, from participant acting to a costume party, to a problem-solving game, and even to a battle royale. Finding the right gear is essential to fit in a specific LARP game. Whether one decides to be a PC or an NPC, the right equipment will often reflect one’s role in the game.
Durability is essential for those looking to fight in the arena, while attention to detail is also vital to both PCs and NPCs. Buying well-detailed medieval clothes, for example, is a lot simpler than what one may think. Though the early beginnings of LARPing were using handmade garbs, the popularity of the event gave rise to companies catering to specific types of costumes.
Purchasing the right gear for the LARP game one wants to participate in is crucial to embodying the experience of immersing in a new world.
3. Immerse in the World
LARP games usually have veterans and newcomers alike. The setting of a LARP game is similar to being invited to someone else’s party. One of the easiest ways to immerse yourself in the world of the game is by asking a friend to go along. It can be challenging to embody a role alone, but having someone to enjoy the experience with is an excellent way to fit in.
LARPing and Beyond
Though most people try LARP games for fun, their storytelling and performative structure are proving to be a viable form of teaching. Schools in Denmark and Scandinavia are using LARPing as a method to teach valuable lessons throughout history and even the foreseeable future.
What LARPing has that other teaching methods lack is that it puts the participants in roles that will impact the narrative in a performative setting. Putting players in a role allows them to empathize with the character, whether they be adventurers, refugees, or lawmakers.
Associate professor of education Andreas Lieberoth at Aarhus University believes in the potential of LARPing as a teaching tool. Beyond having fun and dressing up as a knight or a wizard, LARPing is a group activity that teaches valuable things through an immersive experience.