Ask any long time RPG fan what they’d want most if given the power, and a majority of them will ask for the chance to live within a world they’ve only explored digitally. It’s easy to become lost in both a world and a character when playing an RPG; after all, that’s the point of them. However, not many will take this dream far enough to make it a reality, or at the very least as close to reality as one can get without practicing magic and performing surgery to make themselves look like elves. I speak of course of the noble hobby of live action role play (LARP). For little under a year I spent my Sunday afternoons LARPing with a small group in St. Anne’s Park in Dublin and today, I’ll be telling you my real thoughts on the hobby. Perhaps it will inspire some of you to pick up a foam sword and rush into battle for yourselves.
First off, I must clarify something lest my LARPing peers hold me accountable. There have been a couple of mentions of LARP in film and TV that are pretty much grossly inaccurate. The worst offender was Role Models, and if I had a euro for the amount of times that filmed was mentioned as everyone rolled their eyes I wouldn’t be worrying so much about my student debt. There are a number of different systems in the world with their own different rules and regulations, but I can assure you that pretty much none of them will allow you to dress up your dog as a dragon and bring him into battle.
One of the big rules in the system I used was not to stab anyone. We used foam weapons, ones which could look realistic but couldn’t actually kill anyone… unless you stabbed with them. The weapons were built on a fibre glass core, and if you stabbed anyone with enough force you could very well thrust the core through the foam and embed it in someones stomach. Instead, you had to work on slashes, but pull your hits because despite the fact these weapons are foam, they still hit pretty hard, especially in cold weather. For a gentle, delicate nerd such as myself I routinely went home with bruises all over my body each weekend. They were the wounds of battle, and didn’t bother me too much, but they certainly bothered my mother when she noticed my knuckles had swollen to the size of a potato from being rapped one too many times on my sword hand.
As for magic use and story telling, it was mostly a work of your imagination. You had a spell sheet of things you could shout out to cast and whoever heard you was expected to take note and act out the effects, but you were never expected to become the worlds finest actor and put on the most convincing display of being struck with fear ever seen. You could turn around and walk away for a few seconds and then get back to business without anyone raising an eyebrow at you for the most part. The true appeal was in the story telling. Every week, someone would come up with an epic adventure to go on that required your party to venture through the forest (read as, walk through this clearing a couple times until GM says stop) and beat deadly foes. Sometimes your character would die, this was unavoidable, and the players who I knew whose characters died mourned their loss before starting a new one, and it made the idea that there were no resets a driving force on you to improve your real life skills.
It was fun, and for anyone who plays tabletop RPG’s I would certainly recommend giving LARPing a go. Do a quick google search to find out if there’s an active LARP group in your area, because even if you only try it once and decide never to try it again, at least you can cross it off your list. If by some chance you find you love it and keep it up, you’ll find it can be a really fun work out. Just remember to take it easy so you don’t wind up with potato hands every single week.