Parks and college campuses have seen an increase in what appears to be medieval duels. In these duels, groups of people dressed as fictional characters gather in a central location. However, the meetings are much more complex than people running around fighting with foam swords; they are actually participating in live action role-play, commonly known as LARP. The fantasy world meets reality during LARP, a game in which participants select a fictional character to bring to life.
LARP began as tabletop role-play in the 1960s. In tabletop role-play, the players only describe their characters’ actions. This evolved into LARP in the late 1970s when players began to use actions to accompany their verbal cues.
The roles that the players take on are called player characters (PCs). PCs are either selected by the player or assigned by the gamemaster, whose role is explained later. During each game, PCs interact with each other and form relationships. Because of this, some players choose to keep the same PC across many different games to maintain their previously formed relationships.
Aside from the PCs, each LARP also has a gamemaster (GM). The GM is the coordinator of the event who deals with details such as finding a location for the game and seeking out players to participate. He or she also oversees the game while it is in play and enforces the rules.
Other people who sometimes appear during games are non-player characters (NPCs) who are assistants to the GM. NPCs typically help with the setup of the game, and sometimes they are placed into the game to act as a part of the setting with which PCs must interact.
By its very nature, the game is simple: PCs interact with each other and NPCs while the GM oversees the play. However, the immensity of the fantasy world that the players enter during the game opens doors for a multitude of possibilities, making each and every game distinct.
A game can very in length, contain a unique setting and has different rules. Some games last a few hours while others span multiple days. LARP has such a broad definition that includes many different genres, such as horror and fantasy, and styles such as theatre-style or freeform. The rules of each game are either decided by the GM or written in a central location. Some games occur with no rules at all, relying only on player discretion. The game has very few limits, leaving room for imagination and interpretation. LARPing allows participants to revisit their childhood when days were spent living in a world based on imagination.
Dylan Doss, junior recreation and sport and business major, began LARPing with his older brother at the age of 13.
“It was a chance to play out all the medieval games and movies I loved to play/watch as a kid,” said Doss.
Doss participates with a group named Dominion of the Unconquered Sun. The group meets at Grandview Community Center Sundays at 2 p.m. Dominion of the Unconquered Sun is mostly combat style LARP, but they occasionally adopt some aspects of fantasy, such as restoring a limb during battle.
“There are two teams, usually consisting of about 20 members each. Two captains pick their top five then the rest are numbered off. And you have five resurrections. Last team standing is the winner,” said Doss.
The Kansas City area offers other options for LARP, Endless Adventures and Tempest of Tridia to name a few. A year round game, Endless Adventures is a combat LARP in Shawnee Mission Park in which PCs battle day and night—campouts occur during the summer months—to claim their spot as champion in the biannual tournament. Tempest of Tridia, a fantasy LARP, takes place at Crows Creek Campground in Smithville, Missouri. PCs in this game attempt to restore peace among three kingdoms that reside close together.
For more information on LARP or to find a group near you, visit any of these links.