What is LARP?
LARP stands for Live Action Role Playing. That's what most LARPers will agree on. It is interactive improvisation, between people who are each playing a persona. After that, ask ten different LARPers what they think LARP is, and you may get twelve or thirteen different answers!
That's because there are all sorts of games and players. LARP is not solely medieval fantasy games, or dark games filled with vampires, or mysteries where everyone tries to find out who did it, or games where people wear armor and beat on each other with padded weapons, or...
LARP is all of these, and more.
There are some things in common amongst all of these games. Everyone at the game comes in character. You play a role, like the Russian ambassador to Germany, the drummer from the band Toxic Waste, or the doctor on board a luxury starliner. (The image on the right is from a game called Interrogation. I'm the one in orange, being questioned, by two players who are lawyers in real life, no less. Talk about pressure!) For the duration of the game, you dress, speak, act and live the part. You've got an agenda for the game - a list of things that you must accomplish. Some tasks are easy, some things are hard. Some players may be working towards the same goals as you, while others may be working against you.
There's no script. You improvise all your lines. You don't operate in a vacuum, because you have a character description, a background history of who you're trying to be. (In this case, I was Colonel Baden-Powell, who would go on to found the Boy Scouts, in a game called R.M.S. Empress of Syrtis) In this LARP, I was a passenger aboard an ether-traversing spaceship flying to Mars during Victorian times.
You're also not alone. Games can be small, with only a few characters, or they can be large, with upwards of sixty or seventy players. There are even larger events out there; I've taught Alchemy at New World Magischola and College of Wizardry at Czocha Castle in Poland. My games range from five players to forty.
I've played in games that lasted just a few minutes, games that ran four, six, or eight hours, and games that last an entire weekend. I've also played in chronicle games, where the games may have several sessions over a three to eight month span. There are other chronicle games that continue without a planned end.
While it sounds complicated, there are games out there that are short, simple and easy for beginners to learn.
Most importantly, a good LARP can be an amazing experience, incredibly fun to play.
What kind of games do you write?
I started out writing murder mystery games. However, as I've played more games, I've tried my hand at writing games of different styles. All of these games are listed on the Written page. It's grown into quite the eclectic mix of genres and styles.
This, for example, is from Dustpan: the LARP. It's about all of those things you might find under your couch. There's the Lego™ piece, one of the Dust Bunnies, a kernel of rice, and many, many more odd characters.
I urge you to poke at the sites for the LARPs I've written, so that you can see the madness that often consumes my brain. It's fun writing really interesting and different characters. It's even more fun to get your friends to costume for those strange characters and then play them in front of you. It's amazing how some of these figments of my imagination are turned into reality as I get to watch.
What kind of games do you play?
All kinds. You name it, I've tried it. There isn't a game I haven't learned something from. Corner me some time and I'll talk your ear off about some of the amazing experiences I've had. Tell me about your game. If I can find a way to work it into my schedule, I may just play.
Where do you play these games?
Wherever I can. People run games in private homes, in hotel function spaces, and in campgrounds. The best place to find out about games is probably at Intercon. That's where you can find a lot of great people who are willing to tell and show you all about LARP.
Why do you play these games?
That would take hours to explain. I have had some stunning experiences in character with some phenomenal role-players. I've met a lot of wonderful people. Mostly, I do this because I have a great deal of fun.
Can I play in one of your games?
Of course! My games are always open to new players, beginner or experienced. I usually run them at conventions, like Intercon, the Brandeis Festival of LARPs, SLAW, or even Consequences in the UK. I do occasionally run my games outside of conventions, when there's a demand. A lot of people know me and the quality of the games I run, so there's usually a long list of people who want to play in them.
Can I buy one of your games?
In the past, when LARPs were much rarer, I sold some of my games, notably Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll and The Treaty of Berlin. I have not done so for some time, mostly because it's gotten much easier to find one of my LARPs at a convention. I have been known to let others run games I've been involved in writing. You can always ask.
New England Interactive Literature (NEIL) has a LARP Library where you can download interesting and tested LARPs to run for your friends.
Can you write me a game for a birthday, anniversary, party, or company function?
Sorry, but no.
Writing one of these games is a major effort. I produce one or two of these a year in my best times. It takes inspiration and a lot of perspiration. The Idol Hands of Death is more than 400 pages of materials - and that's small compared to Across the Sea of Stars! While some of my games are significantly smaller, they all take a lot of effort to create.
Can I help write one of your games?
Yes. There are three possibilities:
My primary efforts have been as part of TNT Productions. We meet on a regular basis, on Tuesday nights, in Chelmsford, to plot and plan. We're a stable group but might consider taking on someone new.
In the last few years, I've been running an annual "Build Your Own Game" Workshop during the summer at NELCO. These workshops are weekend-long efforts that write a LARP from scratch. This is the easiest way to learn about LARP writing and to write with me. I encourage new writers to join the effort - we've written several interesting games in workshops past.
I would consider running a one-time weekend-long "Build Your Own Game" Workshop for an interested group of new writers.
All this means is that you'd best ask.
Will you help write one of my games?
See the previous answer. I'm pretty booked already.
Are there other LARP sites of interest?
Quite a few, now. If you type "LARP" into Google, you'll get almost two million hits. The problem is that the majority of these sites talk mostly about medieval fantasy live-combat based "boffer" LARPs. Those can be fun; I've enjoyed a few - but I'm an easily-injured, older klutz with no desire to accidentally hurt someone else (or me). Thus, I greatly prefer "theater-style" LARPs. These are the kinds of LARPs I write. My suggestion - start with Intercon and go from there.
How did you get started in this?
There are many guilty parties involved in my LARP career.