If you don’t know, LARP stands for Live Action Role Play (the kind of thing you see at Renaissance fairs and in that movie Rolemodels). It’s based on the game Dungeons and Dragons, which I’ve never played. I really didn’t know anything about LARPing before I did it, so I bet a lot of people are similarly bereft of this important knowledge. But who knows if you’ll ever go to a LARP yourself, so here is your window into that world.

I went to a weekend-long LARP last month– the details are specific to the one I went to; I’ve never been to any others so I don’t know if other LARP organizers do it differently.

Prep time:

  • My Gentleman Caller and I met up with some friends who had convinced us to do this. They taught us the basic rules of the game, how to sign up and create a character, and some fighting techniques.
  • The LARP we joined already had a whole backstory. They meet up 4 times a year and the story is continuous– so people usually have the same characters each time and there are recurring clans, gods, spirits etc. They have a website with all their “lore” written out, which Gentleman Caller and I had to read through to understand what was going on.
  • We also had to create a brief backstory for our characters, and it had to fit in with the larger story. To join the event we had to email the organizers so they would know to expect and prepare for our characters.

The game:

  • The organizers are the ones who write the story and plan what is going to happen at each event. Volunteers and staff help the plot along by playing as “scripts”: leaders, bad guys, etc. The story has room to change based on what characters decide to do, but there are basic plot lines that are set up beforehand.
  • There are all these rules about how to play. Each character has different abilities, which you choose from a list that’s pre-set for your character type (you can be a magician, a healer, a hunter etc). You get cooler abilities to choose from the more events you go to.
  • You have to learn how to use your abilities– there are different rules and effects for each type of spell you cast so we had to study up on those and remember them. There’s a lot of fighting so you also have to learn other people’s spells so you know what to do when they hit you.
  • There’s all sorts of nerf weapons, like swords. There are also “spell packets” which you have to throw at people and hit them in order to cast a spell. When you hit someone with a sword or a spell packet, there’s a “call” you have to say, so they know what hit them and how much damage to take. Gentleman Caller and I were spell-casters, so we did less sword fighting and more packet throwing, which is much more fun. We made our own packets out of fabric and bird seed.
  • You’re supposed to stay in character the entire weekend, except in the cabins at night/morning and for emergencies. But that doesn’t really happen; there are sporadic breaks of character, like in between fights/adventures when everyone is just sitting around.
  • The best part of LARPing is most definitely KILLING THE BAD GUYS! I didn’t start having fun until I made my first kill a few hours in. Ohhhh it was exhilarating as he fell to the ground, dead! It takes skill to hit people with a spell packet when they’re running around, so it’s satisfying! It was also really fun to die when I got hit, with lots of drama, choking and yelling.
  • Everyone starts with 6 lives, and they’re pretty hard to lose because you can be healed easily if you get struck down. I only lost one life.

The conditions:

  • We stayed in cabins with like 10 beds each, and there were a few other buildings there. There was a tavern (although you can’t drink real alcohol– no alcohol or “illegal substances” allowed at the event!) and some shrines and temples,

    which is where you can chill in between fights.  But we spent most of our time outside. It was mostly good weather, and the grounds were gorgeous!
  • We did a lot of walking through the woods in pitch dark without flashlights. Luckily, there were very wide paths through the woods, so we didn’t trip and fall but it was eeeery.
  • We got to plan our own costumes, based on the color/style schemes of our characters’ “realm.” I didn’t have to buy anything new. I wore leggings, a cute knee-length dress, a long-sleeve shirt underneath, hiking boots and a jacket. I wore the same dress on the whole time but changed the rest of my clothes.
  • We paid 16 bucks for 2 hot meals that were made in the kitchen there and they were delicious. We also brought a lot of snacks, and water, and monster energy drinks.
  • There were like 2 showers, but I didn’t take one. Gentleman Caller took one the first day and he said he felt dirtier after he came out. There were good bathrooms though.
  • The LARP we went to usually costs $75 per event, but they had a promotion where since it was our first event we could come for free. We did have to pay $10 for a one-month membership to their website.
  • I thought it would be scary because I am a wimp, and I don’t like to be chased or hit (even with nerf weapons) but my fears were unfounded.

The participants:

  • There were about 50 players at the event; more if you count scripts.
  • Most people didn’t do the stupid fake British accent thing or speak in proper olde-English speak. I certainly didn’t. The few who did, well, I judged them!
  • A lot of the people were really nice and friendly and welcoming and fun to hang out with.
  • About 4 people smelled really horrible, and I tried to avoid them as much as possible.
  • Some people were n00bs! Not us, of course! We were new but we studied up and made sure we understood most of the rules before we got there. Some people just didn’t get it, some were like whiney or annoying. The rest of the players didn’t like them and gave them a fair amount of shit.

Final thoughts: It was fun! And I’d do it again!