The acronym LARP stands for Live Action Role Play. A 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.

Play overviewEdit

Participants physically portray characters in a fictional setting, improvising their characters' speech and movements somewhat like actors in improvisational theatre.[1] This is distinct from tabletop role-playing games, where character actions are described verbally.[2] LARPs may be played in a public or private area, and may last for hours or days.[3][4] There is usually no audience.[5] Players may dress as their character and carry appropriate equipment, and the environment is sometimes decorated to resemble the setting.[6] 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.[7][8]

Events are put on for the benefit of the players, who take on roles called player characters (PCs) that the players 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.

Arrangers called gamemasters (GMs) determine the rules and setting of a LARP, and may also influence an event and act as referees while it is taking place.[9][10][11] 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. 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 participants may be interacting at once. 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.[12]

Participants sometimes known as the crew may help the GMs to set up and maintain the environment of the LARP during play, by acting as stagehands or playing non-player characters (NPCs) who fill out the setting.[13][14] Crew typically receive more information about the setting and more direction from the GMs than players 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.[15] 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. Other scenarios focus on interaction between PCs and aspects of the setting, including NPCs, that are under the direction of the GMs.[16][17]


Most LARPs are intended as games for entertainment. Enjoyable aspects can include the collaborative creation of a story, the attempt to overcome challenges in pursuit of a character's objectives, and a sense of immersion in a fictional setting.[18] LARPs may also include other game-like aspects such as intellectual puzzles, and sport-like aspects such as fighting with simulated weapons.

Some LARPs stress artistic considerations such as dramatic interaction or challenging subject matter. Avant-garde or arthaus events have especially experimental approaches and high culture aspirations, and are occasionally held in fine art contexts such as festivals or art museums. The themes of avant-garde events often include politics, culture, religion, sexuality and the human condition. Such LARPs are common in the Nordic countries but also present elsewhere.[19][20]

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.[21] Language classes can 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.[22] Politically themed LARP events may attempt to awaken or shape political thinking within a culture.[23][24]

Because LARP involves a controlled artificial environment within which people interact, it has sometimes been used as a research tool 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.[25]


File:Latex weapons.jpg

Many LARPs have game rules that determine how characters can affect each other and the setting.[26][27] The rules may be defined in a publication or created by the gamemasters.[28] These rules may define characters' capabilities, what can be done with various objects that exist in the setting, 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[29] to determine whether characters succeed in hitting one 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.[30]

In Western LARP gaming, "safe" weapons such as swords made of foam or airsoft guns are used. Some other traditions of live-action roleplaying, such as the Russian one, tend to use more realistic weapons such as swords made of hard plastics (composite epoxy material is the most common material for LARP swords in Russia) or 4.7mm BB guns. The Russian tradition, adhered to in many post-Soviet countries, has more focus on weapon realism issues such as weight and balance of swords, so CEM, a very hard, very resilient plastic close to metal in density was chosen. Other common materials include wood and duraluminium.

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.[31]


  1. (Kilgallon et al. 2001:1) "A live action roleplaying game is a cross between a traditional 'tabletop' roleplaying game and improvisational theatre."
  2. (Tychsen et al. 2006:255) "LARPs can be viewed as forming a distinct category of RPG because of two unique features: (a) The players physically embody their characters, and (b) the game takes place in a physical frame. Embodiment means that the physical actions of the player are regarded as those of the character. Whereas in a RPG played by a group sitting around a table, players describe the actions of their characters (e.g., "I run to stand beside my friend"); in an equivalent situation in a LARP, a player would physically run to the appropriate point within the game space."
  3. Salen, Katie; Zimmerman, Eric (2003). Link. The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-24045-9. "Live-Action Role-Playing Games can take place in indoor or outdoor settings, in private or public spaces." 
  4. Widing, Gabriel (2008). Link. in Markus Montola, Jaakko Stenros. Link. Ropecon ry. ISBN 978-952-92-3579-7. "...the participants sustain these temporary worlds for a few hours or several days" 
  5. (Falk & Davenport 2004:128) " role-playing games are devoid of the audience concept."
  6. (Falk & Davenport 2004:131) "The LRP player, like a stage actor, is a person who under-goes a transformation into a character. The character's costume and accessories, or kit, aids this transformation ... Physical structures may be used as game locations, and sometimes even purposely constructed to enhance the game world ... Players frequently use physical artifacts as props and tools in their role-play, primarily to back up their character roles."
  7. (Tychsen et al. 2006:259) "Most LARPs are either scenarios (or single-shots) or campaigns (also known as chronicles)"
  8. (Tychsen et al. 2006:258) "Games range in size from a handful to more than 4,000 players"
  9. (Tychsen et al. 2005:216) "In order to play, the players must have a fictional setting... In essence, the GM creates the magical circle around the game."
  10. (Montola, Stenros & Waern 2009) "Runtime game mastering is the process of influencing the flow of a game in real time."
  11. (Tychsen et al. 2005:218) "The GM may or may not be responsible for enforcing the rules between players... The GM can also be responsible of Template:Sic hunting down cheaters or other rule breakers."
  12. (Tychsen et al. 2005:218) "[The GM is] forced to let go of the game and let it take on a life of its own outside his or her control. While based on similar principles, the requirements [are] therefore very different in practice from GMs in PnP RPGs... The GM is generally, unless the LARP is small in terms of number of participants, not responsible for keeping the narrative flow. The GM can however oversee the progress of the game and help or influence where needed... Establishing a hierarchy of GMs and NPCs to monitor the game and ensure everyone is entertained and activated within the shared game space is a typical way of controlling large fantasy LARPS. This structure is usually established before the game commences."
  13. (Bestul 2006:26) "Finally, a person may also participate as a type of stagehand. Though not all games will require them, it is occasionally necessary to have a support staff to help coordinate events and NPCs as a stage manager or running crew might."
  14. (Tychsen et al. 2005:216) "The environment needs to be filled out with non-player controlled characters (NPCs)
  15. (Tresca 2010:188) "Where LARPs differ most from tabletop games is in the handling of non-player characters (NPCs). The physical performance necessary to pull off a performance in a LARP makes it impractical for a single person to handle many NPC roles. As a result, there is often a cast of characters who take on the roles of other NPCs. Unlike the players, the NPCs usually know the game's plot and have some idea of the narrative. NPCs, then, are a form of pseudo-player. They play the game, their characters have somewhat more limited goals, but they are ultimately constrained by the plot."
  16. (Young 2003:11) "The focus of interaction of larp... can be player to player or player to environment."
  17. (Tychsen et al. 2005:216) "LARP scenarios can likewise vary from detailed scripts of each participating character, to a loose association of GM-controlled NPCs in a fictional world setting."
  18. Bøckman, Petter (2003). "The Three Way Model" (PDF). As Larp Grows Up. Knudepunkt 2003. Retrieved on 2011-01-23.
  19. (Fatland 2005:5)
  20. Template:Cite news
  21. Hyltoft, Malik (2008). Link. in Markus Montola, Jaakko Stenros. Link. Ropecon ry. ISBN 978-952-92-3579-7. 
  22. "Template:Cite news
  23. (Montola, Stenros & Waern 2009) "Some pervasive larps seek to engage in active dialogue with their social environment. The purpose of such dialogue can be politically or artistically motivated. These games have a message that is aimed either at the players, at bystanders, or society as a whole."
  24. Andersen, Anita Myhre; Aarebrot, Erik (2009). Link (PDF). Link. Knutepunkt 2009. Retrieved on Template:Date. 
  25. Template:Cite news
  26. (Tychsen et al. 2005:216) "Rules in RPGs ... focus on 1) How the fictional world operates; 2) How the players interact with the fictional world and its inhabitants and; 3) How the players interact with each other and the GM."
  27. Template:Cite news
  28. (Tychsen et al. 2005:218) "In PnP RPGs and LARPs, the GMs can be responsible for creating the rules, if an existing RPG rules system is not used."
  29. Ed Grabianowski (June 27, 2008). "How To Become a Real Space Marine". io9/Gawker Media. Archived from the original on 2010-07-29. Retrieved on 29 July 2010.
  30. (Young 2003:7-8) "Live combat... requires the players' abilities to perform an action. You want to hit someone with a sword? You have to actually hit the player with a prop representing a sword, usually a padded weapon. ... Simulated combat is more abstract. It uses an external method that does not rely on player ability. For example, if you want to hit the other person with a sword, you may have to make a rock-paper-scissors challenge."
  31. (Tychsen et al. 2006:255) "...a LARP can be very similar to improvisational theater, with only a few guidelines for rules and a very low-powered GM."
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