What is LARPing?

(from Aimee Yermish’s LARP FAQ)

What is this live-action stuff, anyway?

Fringer mutants have the best adventuresThe Live Action Roleplayers Association (LARPA, formerly ILF), in an attempt to bridge all the various forms of live roleplaying, uses the following definition: “Interactive Literature (IL) is any dynamic art in which multiple participants interact at the same time, to create a story.” The basic idea is somewhat like improvising a play with nothing but knowledge of the background and motivations of your character. Sometimes these will be decided by you, sometimes by others, depending on the style of game you play. Each of the other players will have a character he or she is playing, and the interaction of the characters creates a story. For some styles of LARPs, this is the entirety of the game. For others, there is an adventure gaming element, where your character might have some specific goals to achieve, either alone or with the help of others. This might range from “Rescue the kidnapped princess from the bandits” to “Prevent the rise of Hitler’s Nazis to power”, again depending on the style of game.

What types of LARPS are there?

There are two principal styles of live roleplaying. While the distinction is by no means cut-and-dried, most groups will be able to identify parts of their style with aspects of these two extremes. For want of any generally accepted terminology, these will be referred to as the “Theatre Style” (TS) (also known as Simulated Combat, Abstract Combat, Card Waving, Parlor LARPing, Interactive Literature {though LARPA considers all forms of live roleplaying to be IL}, et. al.) and “Live Combat” (LC) (also known as Simulated Combat {confusing but true}, boffer, rubber sword, etc.). The principal distinction is that in TS type games, combat is generally handled by abstract rules or does not take place at all. There is no physical combat in a real sense (though it is sometimes played out after the abstract method has determined the course of a fight). Conversely, in LC style games combat is handled by attempting to strike an opponent with a safe padded weapon; when you strike your opponents, there are rules or conventions which determine how badly wounded they are. It must be stressed that the terms “Live Combat” and “Theatre Style” are used only as labels for some very sweeping generalizations. Their use does NOT mean that combat is what these games are all about (it isn’t – they’re about roleplaying), nor does it mean that you need to be a trained actor (you don’t, the skills of being a good roleplayer are very different from those of being a good stage or screen actor). Certainly few of the Live Combat groups would call themselves by that label, and, although the label is sometimes self-applied, most “Theatre Style” groups would not want to be pigeonholed as such either.

Which type of LARP is Eclipse?

Eclipse primarily employs the Live Combat method in its products. This is no discredit to the Theatre Style system, but we feel that Live Combat helps to better emulate the sense of immersion, style and excitement we try to invoke in our creations. At some events, such as in demonstrations, conventions and special events where Live Combat is not practical we may choose to waive it in favor of a more Theatre Style system.

What LARPS are not…

Tech maskThese are not games of “killer” or “assassin”: the emphasis is on dramatic roleplaying and interaction between players. Most live games involve a large number of players (from thirty to several hundred at a time) who walk around and talk with each other, acting out as much of their characters’ actions as are allowed within the rules. Unlike many tabletop roleplaying games (D&D and other games of its ilk), most live roleplaying games have a strong emphasis on player-player interaction as well as interaction with the world which is controlled by the game administrators; in fact in some games, the administrators have no input into the events of the game beyond interpreting the rules after the game has started, making the games very social events as well as intellectual and creative challenges.

Why do we LARP?

Because it’s fun! People Live Roleplay for a whole number of reasons. Some for escapism because it’s lots of fun to be someone else for a few hours or a few days at a time, for the social aspects of the game and the opportunity to meet new people and for the pure exhilaration of letting your mind run wild in a world of complete fantasy. Some players of LC style games like the opportunity to get away from their desks and do something physical in the fresh air.

It’s not dangerous, is it?

No. There are a variety of different systems used, but all groups who run any kind of live games consider safety very important. There is no running around in sewers, no swinging sharp steel, and no real demon-summoning. LARP organizers and players alike stress that these are games, not substitute realities. Groups which use “live” mechanics have systems for handling combat, magic, and thieving which are designed to make sure no one gets hurt, and many of these groups also have medical insurance. There may be the odd bruise or ankle-twist, but nothing more than you might get walking through the woods or in a game of soccer or basketball, and it’s certainly safer than hockey, football or rugby. Groups which use “abstract” mechanics use systems based largely on index cards or some other simulation, rendering the whole event little more dangerous than a walk in the park. There is more description of these systems later in this document; rest assured that these are not dangerous or satanic games.

Who wins?

Everyone and no one. Everyone has fun. “Winning” isn’t the point of live roleplaying games; it’s the taking part that is the fun. (Yes, I know you can say that about any game but LRP games are probably one of the few where it is true.) Yes, sometimes you’ll come away from an adventure having accomplished your goals, sometimes you won’t. Most games are set up so that it isn’t possible for everyone to “win” all the time. If there’s no chance of failure, success doesn’t have much sweetness. Dramatic roleplaying and creative interaction are what’s really important, and what’s really fun. Some of the most legendary scenes happen when people are “losing.” More so than in any other form of gaming, how you play your character and how much fun you have are far more important than who does better or worse than you.

Do I need experience? What if I don’t know anyone there? What if I’m shy? Who are these people, anyway?

Don’t worry. Many people who play these games have played tabletop roleplaying games, but many others have not. Lots of other real-life activities are excellent preparation for live roleplaying. If you’ve ever daydreamed about being someone else, or about being in a different world, you’ve got what you need. Besides, most game designers set things up to give experienced players incentive to help new players along. You’ll probably have knowledge or abilities that other people need. Other people will help you out, not just because they’re nice, but because they need your help. And they are nice, too. These aren’t wild-eyed lunatics or immature geeks, they’re ordinary people from all walks of life, who happen to like using their imaginations and sharing the experience with other people. Rule of Three Productions boasts such every day people as doctors, lawyers, computer programmers, graphic artists, mothers, fathers, even grandparents! All live roleplaying games are very social it’s a great way to meet new friends.

Can I team up with my friends?

Of course! Just let the organizers know ahead of time. Really big teams often get broken up into smaller ones, just to keep things balanced, but you’ll practically always get to stay with at least a few of your friends. In some games, this will mean that you will be given characters who share goals and beliefs, and who would have reasons to work together. In others, notably LC fantasy style games, the whole ethos is on your character as part of a group of adventurers who rely upon each other to survive.

What do I do about costume and props?

Most systems require that you make at least a token effort at costuming, but don’t have the “costume police” associated with some re-enactment societies. Most groups leave costuming to your taste, but require certain makeup and prosthetics to be worn by those playing non-humans, for instance “all players playing dark elves must wear black face paint and pointed ears.” This allows others to identify your character’s race at a glance. Most groups have a strong emphasis on making everything in the game look and feel as real as possible, which allows a strong atmosphere to be created. In Eclipse, all races (except humans) have listed makeup requirements, and the culture pages give some impression as to what sort of look/feel that culture is going for.

How about weapons and armor?

In the US, padded PVC piping or kitespar surrounded with thicker padding and cloth tape are used. These weapons are sometimes termed “boffers.” Many things can be used for armor. The best solution is real armor, and, contrary to popular belief, some forms of real armor aren’t that expensive. Leathers can obviously be made and chainmail can also be made and it isn’t difficult (although it is very tedious and time consuming). Every game has its own requirements for weapon safety and values for armor; check the forums or inquire of the plot staff for details.

How does magic and the paranormal work?

Many systems, Eclipse included, use a “throw and shout” system. The caster throws a “packet” (a soft cloth satchet filled with birdseed) at the target of the spell and says the relevant spell vocals. The last line is usually shouted and is fairly self descriptive (By the powers bestowed within me I cause thee to Trip/Sleep/Die/etc.)

What kind of characters are there? How do I create one? How do I improve my skills?

Eclipse uses a “class-free skill-based system”. You are allowed to learn skills not normally associated with character’s race (Human, Tribe, etc), depending on the development of your character. Each race has particular strengths and weaknesses. In some groups, you write a background history for your character and state what starting items and skills you think you should have. You then talk with one of the referees who will make sure you’re being reasonable, and will attempt to work you into the ongoing plot of the world. In others, the background is done less formally, and you only need to choose the race, skills, or whatever that you think are appropriate – these being limited so all characters start with roughly equal power. The character’s abilities then develop with the character. Some systems use experience points. Some groups simply give you experience for surviving a certain number of hours, rather than rewarding you for specific actions. You work your way up over time. Some groups have very slow advancement, others tend to rush you up the first few events. In Eclipse, if you wish to have your character worked into the world from the beginning of their career, you can contact the plot staff to find events that your PC may have participated in.

Can I play a monster/bad guy?

Fighting shadesIn these games, monsters are all non-player characters (NPC’s) under the control of the game administrators. What you give up in autonomy, you get back in discounted or free admission. In most groups, people play monsters occasionally so that everyone else has someone to fight against. The term ‘monster’ is used rather generically, it includes thieves, mercenaries, and other normal enemies, as well as often being used as a shorthand for any character not belonging to a player, so the nice old man who heals the adventurers is also sometimes referred to as a “monster.” Monstering (LARP invented this new verb!) is a great way for less experienced players to learn the ropes of the system without risking the lives of their characters.

What happens if I get killed?

Some systems have provision for limited resurrections, others don’t. If not, you’ll probably have to make up a new character at the first opportunity and spend the meantime with the monster crew. Many LC systems allow you to have more than one character alive at a time, in fact it is common to have several. If, however, you die off an adventure during more freeform roleplaying in a tavern or town environment, you can pop back to your bunk and change costume to play a different character.

Where do you play?

Most groups play in wooded sites although a few have indoor sites. Some sites have cabins with beds, some require you to bring tents for weekend-long games. Many run events all year including weekend-long events once a month, but this depends on the area, group, and climate. US groups tend to take a winter or summer breaks (due to extreme weather). Some places only have a few events per year. Check the events page to see where the next event will be located, and to get an idea of our schedule.

Can children play? What about people with disabilities?

Children are allowed only in some venues; Eclipse and Rule of Three Productions have special policies in place for their protection. Eclipse is primarily an adult game. See our policies for details. People with disabilities are welcome although there are a few provisions that may have to be made for a safe, enjoyable experience. If you have any special requirements or needs, please speak to a staff member before a given event to be sure that these are met to your satisfaction.

What if I have other questions?

The staff of Eclipse is always eager to help out and provide information. Just drop us a line and ask us any questions you may have. We look forward to hearing from you.