I have a confession to make. I have neverattended a full weekend LARP event or a full LARP game. I understand the fascination withit, but I have not done so yet. Why am I writing this then? Because I believethat LARP is special. I used to make fun of it, but I’ve come to understand that it provides a unique outlet for the pressures ofday to day life. Also, I have seen it succeed.
So what is LARP? LARP stands for Live Action Role Playing. The players, like intabletop game, develop characters based off an established setting or system. It is a little more common for the setting to be “homebrewed”, meaning it wasdeveloped by one of the individuals involved. One individual or moreindividuals in a LARP act as GM’s. They control the overallstory line of the event, mediate arguments and organize LARP events.
Much of what goes into planning a LARP is similar to a tabletop game. The difference is that LARP eventsare physically acted out. Like one giant exercise in improvisational theater.
The LARP event
During a LARP event,some physical place is transformed into the setting. The players wear costumesand they try to stay in character as much as possible. These events can last anhour, a weekend or a week. Since the characters are physically acted out, thecombats are sometimes physically carried out using plastic/foam swords, arrowsand tennis balls (spells). Other more library friendly LARPS (especially those that involve“shooting”) use rock paper scissors to indicate success or failure.
So, for example, a LARP event centered on a library couldfeature two armies fighting over a wizard’s tower.
These LARP eventsexist around the world, and they are growing in popularity. You couldthink of them as independently organized, members only renfairs. In fact thefirst LARP games grew out of a marriage betweenorganizations like the Society for Creative Anachronism and D&D. MakingLARP quite literally the child of historical reenactment and tabletop roleplaying games.
In a later post, I will go into more detail about how to runa LARP event with examples from organizations that have done so in the past.
Why is it important?
LARP allows teens to more literally transform themselves intoanother being. Similar to tabletop it allows teens to don a vestige of awarrior or a wizard with a story of their own making. LARPS have been used tohelp teens with social issues, autism or other problems work through them in ahealthy way. LARP has been used to teach teens about history. It is not astretch to say mock trial clubs, Model UN clubs or other classroom roleplayingare informal LARP activities. The things taught in those activities can beincorporated into a fantasy, anime or scifi LARP to add educational value.
Will it be popular? Teens at Sachem Public Library have used our teen room for hours to plan aLARP. They have invested time in developing characters, a system, a story. Doyou know how much money it cost us? Nothing. Do You how much time we investedin it? About 15 minutes. Despite this, when the weather is good the kids go tothe field behind the elementary school and play. The story, world and thesystem is all their own. They created it all their own. Literally the onlything they ask of us is to listen when they want to tell us about it. These teens stumbled into it, and the libraryis still a huge part of it for them. They were able to plan it in a safe,emphatic place where no one would judge them for their “weird” hobby.
Now can you imagine what would happen at your library if you were the one to introduce the idea to them?
For more information about LARP. Check out this article on How stuff works
Its been a long time since my last post, but I have some good news for you. Paizo, the publisher of Pathfinder, is starting an initiative to actively expand their “pathfinder society” to libraries. This means they will be culivating volunteers to run games in libraries for free. You can find more information here. If you are from Long Island, you can also contact the Brian C, a local game orangizer. Volunteers should be vetted per your usual policy.