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LARPer
LARPer

A live action role-playing game (LARP) is a form of role-playing game where the participants physically act out their characters' actions.

The players pursue goals within a fictional
setting represented by the real world, while interacting with each other in character. The outcome of player actions may be mediated by game rules, or determined by consensus among players. Event arrangers called
gamemasters decide the setting and rules to be used and facilitate play.

The first LARPs were run in the late 1970s, inspired by tabletop role-playing games and genre fiction. The activity spread internationally during the 1980s, and has diversified into a wide variety of styles. Play may be very game-like, or may be more concerned with dramatic or artistic expression. Events can also be designed to achieve educational or political goals. The fictional genres used vary greatly, from realistic modern or historical settings to fantastic or futuristic eras. Production values are sometimes minimal, but can involve elaborate venues and costumes. LARPs range in size from small private events lasting a few hours to huge public events with thousands of players lasting for days.

LARP has also been referred to as live role-playing (LRP), interactive literature, and freeform role-playing. Some of these terms are still in common use, however LARP has become the most commonly accepted term. It is sometimes written in lowercase, as larp. The live action in LARP is analogous to the term live action used in film and video to differentiate works with human actors from animation. Playing a LARP is often called larping, and one who does it is a larper.

LARP does not have a single point of origin, but was invented independently by separate groups in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These groups shared an experience with genre fiction or tabletop role-playing games, and a desire to physically experience such settings. In addition to tabletop role-playing, LARP was preceded and possibly influenced by the Society for Creative Anachronism, childhood games of pretend, play fighting, costume parties, roleplay simulations, Commedia dell’arte, improvisational theatre, psychodrama, military simulations, and historical reenactment groups.

The earliest recorded LARP group is Dagorhir, which was founded in 1977 in Washington, DC, USA and focuses on fantasy battles. Soon after the release of the movie Logan's Run in 1976, rudimentary live role-playing games based on the movie were run at US science fiction conventions. In 1981 the International Fantasy Gaming Society (IFGS) started, with rules influenced by Dungeons & Dragons. IFGS was named after a fictional group in the 1981 novel Dream Park, which described futuristic LARPs. In 1982 the Society for Interactive Literature, a predecessor of LARPA, formed as the first recorded theatre-style LARP group in the US.

LARP quickly spread internationally following the growing popularity of role-playing games in the 1980s. Treasure Trap, formed in 1982 at Peckforton Castle, was the first recorded LARP game in the UK and influenced the fantasy LARPs that followed there. The first recorded LARP in Australia was run in 1983, using the science fiction Traveller setting. In 1993 White Wolf, Inc released Mind's Eye Theatre which is still played internationally and is probably the most commercially successful published LARP.

Today LARP is a popular activity in North America, Europe, Russia and Australasia. Large games with thousands of participants are run by for-profit companies, various LARP books are published and an increasingly professional industry sells costume, armour, and foam weapons intended primarily for LARP.

Players physically portray characters in a fictional setting, improvising their characters' speech and movements somewhat like actors in improvisational theatre. This is distinct from tabletop role-playing games, where character actions are described verbally. The setting, characters, and rules may be defined in a publication or created by the arrangers or players. LARPs may be played in a public or private area, and may last for hours or days. There is usually no audience, and bystanders are typically either ignored or treated as part of the fictional setting. Players may dress as their character and carry appropriate equipment, and the environment is sometimes decorated to resemble the setting. LARPs can be one-off events or a series of events in the same setting, and events can vary in size from a handful of players to several thousand.

Player actions in the real world represent character actions in an imaginary setting. Game rules, physical symbols and theatrical improvisation are used to bridge differences between the real world and the setting. For example, a rope could signify an imaginary wall. Realistic-looking weapon props and risky physical activity are sometimes discouraged or forbidden for safety reasons.

There is a distinction between when a player is in character, meaning they are actively representing their character, and when the player is out of character, meaning they are being themselves. Some LARPs encourage players to stay consistently in character except in emergencies, while others accept players being out of character at times. Character knowledge is usually considered to be separate from player knowledge, and acting upon information a character would not know may be viewed as cheating.

While most LARPs maintain a clear distinction between the real world and the fictional setting, pervasive LARPs mingle fiction with modern reality in a fashion similar to alternate reality games. Bystanders who are unaware that a game is taking place may be treated as part of the fictional setting, and in-character materials may be incorporated into the real world.

Participants can be involved in a LARP in a number of ways. Events are put on for the benefit of the players, who play characters within the setting. Arrangers called gamemasters (GMs) decide the rules of play and the details of the setting before an event takes place, and facilitate the LARP while it is being played. The GMs may also do the logistical work, or there may be other arrangers who handle details such as advertising the event, booking a venue, and financial management. Participants called the crew may assist the GMs during play.

The players take on roles called player characters (PCs), that they may create themselves or be given by the gamemasters. Players sometimes play the same character repeatedly at separate events, progressively developing the character and its relations with other characters and the setting.

The GMs determine the fictional framework of a LARP, and may also influence an event and act as referees while it is taking place. Unlike the GM in a tabletop role-playing game, a LARP GM seldom has an overview of everything that is happening during play because numerous players may be interacting in separate physical spaces, especially at larger LARP events. For this reason a LARP GM's role is often less concerned with tightly maintaining a narrative or directly entertaining the players, and more with arranging the structure of the LARP before play begins and facilitating the players and crew to maintain the fictional environment during play.

Crew members assist the gamemasters in setting up and maintaining the environment of the LARP during play, which sometimes involves playing non-player characters (NPCs). NPCs exist to make the LARP more satisfying for the players, and typically receive more direction from the GMs than PCs do. In a tabletop role-playing game a GM usually plays all the NPCs, whereas in a LARP each NPC is typically played by a separate crew member. Sometimes players are asked to play NPCs for periods of an event.

Much of play consists of interactions between characters. Some LARP scenarios primarily feature interaction between PCs, who may be written with connections that encourage interesting interactions. Other scenarios focus on interaction between PCs and aspects of the setting, including NPCs, that are under the direction of the GMs.

Many LARPs have game rules that determine how characters can affect each other and the setting. These rules may define characters' capabilities, what can be done with various items, and what characters can do during the downtime between LARP events. Because referees are often not available to mediate all character actions, players are relied upon to be honest in their application of the rules.

Some LARP rules call for the use of simulated weapons such as foam weapons or airsoft guns to determine whether characters succeed in hitting each another in combat situations. The alternative is to pause role-play and determine the outcome of an action symbolically, for example by rolling dice, playing rock-paper-scissors or comparing character attributes.

There are also LARPs that do without rules, instead relying on players to use their common sense or feel for dramatic appropriateness to cooperatively decide what the outcome of their actions will be.

LARP events have a wide variety of styles that often overlap. As described above, simple distinctions can be made regarding the genre used, the presence of simulated weapons or abstract rules, and whether players create their own characters or have them assigned by gamemasters. There is also a distinction between scenarios that are only run once, and those that are designed to be repeatable. A number of other common classifications follow.

LARPs may place a lesser or greater emphasis on artistic considerations such as creating a compelling narrative, encouraging dramatic interaction, or broaching challenging subject matter. Many events focus on more game-like considerations in which players attempt to achieve their characters' goals within a framework of game rules, and entertainment is considered more important than artistic merit. At the other end of the spectrum, some events are considered to be avant-garde or arthaus, these being eclectic events using experimental themes and techniques. Avant-garde LARPs have high culture aspirations, and are occasionally held in fine art contexts such as festivals, art museums or theatres. The themes of avant-garde events are usually relevant to real-world issues of politics, culture, religion, sexuality and the human condition. Such LARPs are common in the Nordic countries but also present elsewhere.

In addition to entertainment and artistic merit, LARP events may be designed for educational or political purposes. For example, the Danish secondary school Østerskov Efterskole uses LARP to teach most of its classes. A subject such as chemistry may be taught by framing it as the creation of potions within the Harry Potter setting. Language classes can also be taught by immersing students in a role-playing scenario in which they are forced to improvise speech or writing in the language they are learning. Politically-themed LARP events may attempt to awaken or shape political thinking within a culture. An example is a World War II-themed LARP event that was run in Belarus with the intention of providing Belarusian youth with new perspectives on the place of civic courage in their modern society.

Theatre-style or freeform LARP is characterised by a focus on interaction between characters that are written by the gamemasters, not using simulated weapons for combat, and an eclectic approach to genre and setting. Events in this style are sometimes played at gaming conventions, which they suit well as they typically only last a few hours and require relatively little preparation by players. Some murder mystery games where players are assigned characters and encouraged to roleplay freely also resemble theatre-style LARP.

Some very large events known as fests (short for festival) have hundreds or thousands of participants who are usually split into competing character factions camped separately around a large venue. There are relatively few fests in the world, all based in Europe and Canada, however their size means that they have a significant influence on local LARP culture and design. At the other end of the size scale, some small events known as linear or line-course LARPs feature a small group of PCs facing a series of challenges from NPCs, and are often more tightly planned and controlled by GMs than other styles of LARP.

While some LARPs are open to participants of all ages, others have a minimum age requirement. There are also youth LARPs, specifically intended for children and young people. Some are run through institutions such as schools, churches, or the Scouts. Denmark has an especially high number of youth LARPs.

Roleplaying may be seen as part of a movement in Western culture towards participatory arts, as opposed to traditional spectator arts. Participants in a LARP cast off the role of passive observer, and take on new roles that are often outside of their daily life and contrary to their culture. The arrangers of a LARP and the other participants act as co-creators of the game. In comparison to the mainstream video-game industry which is highly commercialized and chiefly marketed towards "hardcore gamers" with an adolescent male sensibility, LARP is less commoditized and women actively contribute as authors and participants.

LARP is not well known in most countries and is sometimes confused with other role-playing, reenactment, costuming, or dramatic activities. While fan and gamer culture in general has become increasingly mainstream in developed countries, LARP has often not achieved the same degree of cultural acceptability. This may be due to intolerance of the resemblance to childhood games of pretend, a perceived risk of over-identification with the characters, and the absence of mass marketing. In recent US films such as the 2006 documentary Darkon, the 2007 documentary Monster Camp, and the 2008 comedy Role Models, fantasy LARP is depicted as somewhat ridiculous and escapist, but also treated affectionately as a "constructive social outlet". In the Nordic countries, LARP has achieved a high level of public recognition and popularity. It is often shown in a positive light in mainstream media, with an emphasis on the dramatic and creative aspects. However, even in Norway where LARP has greater recognition than in most other countries, it has still not achieved full recognition as a cultural activity by government bodies.

Communities have formed around the creation, play and discussion of LARP. These communities have developed a subculture that crosses over with role-playing, fan, reenactment, and drama subcultures. Early LARP subculture focused on Tolkien-like fantasy, but it later broadened to include appreciation of other genres, especially the horror genre with the rapid uptake of the World of Darkness setting in the 1990s. Like many subcultures, LARP groups often have a common context of shared experience, language, humour, and clothing that can be regarded by some as a lifestyle.

LARP is increasingly the subject of academic research and theory. Much of this research originates from role-players, especially from the publications of the Nordic Knutepunkt role-playing conventions. The broader academic community has recently begun to study LARP as well, both to compare it to other media and other varieties of interactive gaming, and also to evaluate it in its own right. Because LARPs involve a controlled artificial environment within which people interact, they have sometimes been used as research tools to test theories in social fields such as economics or law. For example, LARP has been used to study the application of game theory to the development of criminal law.

LARPers wear costumes for LARPs, but other than that they may dress how they wish. They listen to fantasy/fiction inspired music, or whatever they like.

Info from wikipedia, last paragraph by me, image from some random website.


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