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Live-action roleplaying games

Live-action roleplaying (LRP and LARP in the UK; LARP in the USA; lajv, levande rollspel in Sweden; live, liverollespil, laiv, levende rollespil in Denmark, LARP, larppi, live-(rooli)peli, näytelmä(rooli)peli, elo(rooli)peli in Finland) involves assuming roles, as in usual role-playing games (RPGs), and then physically playing out what the characters do. Usually this is done in private, but some LARPs have taken place in public places. As many different LARP systems have been developed as RPGs; the forms and rules change dramatically over time and place, as do the genres played.

Table of contents
1 Forms of LARPs
2 History
3 Knutpunkt
4 External links
5 Notable infractions in LARPs

Forms of LARPs

There is a very large number of different styles of LRP/LARP, but they can be divided into two general styles depending on the techniques used to resolve combat/conflict.

Live combat

In America live combat, also known as Boffer Style and LC, is the first major category of LARP games. The name probably comes from the sound that latex-swords make when they are used to fence with. Live combat games use specially-made safe swords, laser guns and sensors, or some similar system to represent combat. They usually have a simplified "hits" system where blows do certain amounts of damage. This can be resolved by trust (i.e. the player keeps track of his damage) or by having a regular "battleboard" where a refereree marks down the damage on a character sheet that keeps track of damage. Games are generally held on private sites (scout sites are popular in the UK). It could be of intrest that Boffer often is used as a swear word by swedish live-players, meaning that the offending person just thinks about the numbers associated with the character but not the actual personality.

Live Combat games are generally based around a free-running plot which develops over time, where the players play their characters over several "adventures" and/or events, and develop their characters as they improve.

In the United Kingdom the specially-made safe swords and other assorted weapons made from gaffer tape, foam and plastic, have been replaced by latex weapons made primarly from latex and fibre-glass rods (latex weapons). They are used in combat based LARPs both at mass events and at episodic adventure based LARPs.

Interactive literature or freeforms

aka "card waving"

This category covers games where combat (when it occurs) is resolved by some non-physical means. Examples of combat resolution include simplified dice systems, action cards, or paper-scissors-stones.

Interactive literature games are typically one-shot games. They are quite popular at conventions. Usually, they involve a group of people getting individual folders with background on their characters, and cards explaining their abilities and possessions. Players then play that character in the situation set out for them by the gamemaster(s), who introduces new situations and determines results as necessary.

Murder Mystery parties could be argued to be a form of "Interactive Literature".

The games published by White Wolf under the brand name Minds Eye Theater has been influential on the LARP-hobby in the last five years or so. These games make use of many props, such as character forms and cards representing the supernaturual powers of the creatures most participants play. Although there is a strict non-physical contact rule, "Vampire" games are usually plot-based, and evolve campaigns over several events with long-running characters.

The form practised in Sweden is usually without a gamemaster, and based on an honor system when it comes to rules. Dice are never used, and settings tend to be immersive, with as few anachronisms and out of play elements (off-elements) as possible. The setting and roles are given to the participants by the organizers (often after a dialogue with the player). When the game starts it lives its own life, wholly directed by the players (some predetermined events are often scheduled). A typical game lasts three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) and has an average of about 200 participants. Rules are designed for combat injury simulation and normally emphasize roleplaying of damage rather than abstract hitpoints (though this was not always so), featuring either padded weapons or live steel. Each gaming organization uses custom rules, but similarities make this less cumbersome than it would at first seem.


The history of LARPs has not been the subject of historical analysis.

It seems likely, however, that the first LARP was played out in conjunction with the first published RPG (Dungeons & Dragons) in the 1970s, although some extreme free form theatre groups may have preceded that. One of the earliest UK clubs was Treasure Trap formed in 1982.

The history of live-action roleplaying in the US can be mostly traced to New England. Around the Boston area in the early 1980s, a group called NERO - the New England Role-playing Organization - was founded. Using a very complex rules system mostly based on the Dungeons and Dragons worlds, NERO now has chapters all over the country.

Other LARPs have since emerged, most notably those in Massachusetts using a new system called nTeraction, which has simplified the rules significantly. Some of these LARPs are: Madrigal, Atlas II, Aralis, Hexe, Valiant and Hope's Crossing.

At the same time Swedish LARP-group Gyllen Hjorten started their campaign that is still going strong.

The largest Swedish LARP to this day is "Drakens Tänder och Tårar" (Dragons teeth and tears) 2003 with 1134 players. Among the notable Swedish LAPRs are Trenne Byar (1994), Nyteg (1997), Högting(1998), Caroulus Rex (1999), Hamlet, Hamlet - Directors cut (2002), Futuredrome(2002).

Notable Norwegian LARPs are Europe (2001)...

Notable Finnish LARPs are the Nordarak saga (1989 - 1996), Vanerikreivitär (1997), .laitos (1997), Wanderer I-III (1997 - 1998)...

Notable Danish LARPs are ...

The German LARP history is most easily found, by going to the German Larp calendar at Larp Kalender

The First LARP that has been cataloged is: Samhain's Quest II on April, 14th of 1995


Knutepunkt was organised in Oslo, Norway in 1997. It was the first series of annual LARP congresses taking place in the Scandivian countries.

External links

Notable infractions in LARPs

"Wheezing of Action" - One player intruding upon the successful actions of another in an attempt to snatch their glory. Sadly, it is all too common.