Live action role-playing, or LARPing, was the subject of another great panel during Salt Lake Comic Con FanX. Seven panelists from the Utah LARPing community spoke to us in full character garb about the basic ideas of the game, the different styles of LARPing, how to get started with a character, and some of the perceptions that are out there about role-playing.
In Utah, most large communities have LARPing groups that meet on a regular basis. There are four major games that are being played throughout the state and they range from pure combat with no real attention paid to character or story to games that involve no combat and are more about politics, intrigue, and the purest forms of role-playing. Most of the LARPing community, these panelists included, play games that fall somewhere between those two extremes- games that involve both combat and commitment to a character.
Joining up with a LARPing group in your area is easy and newcomers are welcome. The people that run the games will help you create a character and teach you the basic rules of the game. It can feel overwhelming at first, particularly in a combat scenario, because you will be trying to remember everything you just learned and keeping track of your health stats (basic math) while being pelted and whacked with foam swords, padded arrows, and magic spells in the form of thrown balls. But the more experienced players tend to be understanding and will help you mid-game to learn and have fun.
Combat can be fast and fierce, but is generally safe and relatively painless. There are bumps and bruises here and there, but nothing that should cause real injury. Weapon rules are laid out to make sure that fighting is safe and fun, but also at a level where you still don’t want to get hit. Imagine being hit by a Nerf football. That’s about how getting hit by a padded arrow would feel. Depending on the game you are playing, strikes may mean different things. In one game, a hit to the arm may be blocked by armor until the armor’s strength is gone. Hits may reduce your total health (or hit points) or a successful strike may nullify use of that particular limb. See below for a brief demonstration of combat between two swordsmen.
In designing a character and what you’re going to wear, attention must be paid to protection, flexibility, movability, convenience, and, of course, how awesome you look. True medieval garb was actually quite drab and boring, so many players will borrow elements from the Renaissance period to add complexity and color to their ensemble. Having a full set of heavy armor may look cool, but when it comes time to escape, will you be able to?
I asked the panelists for their opinion of recent documentaries like Darkon and Monster Camp. All were basically in agreement that the films don’t do a good job of representing the culture of LARPing. Much like reality TV, the filmmakers focused on clichés that would sell tickets and be the most entertaining rather than show the experience that most LARPers are familiar with. The panelists were all normal, everyday people with full-time jobs or full-time students with homes and families of their own. In real life and with years of experience LARPing, they haven’t run into the types of “characters” seen in those documentaries- socially inept or awkward men and women who only come out of their parents’ basements to role-play. In fact, the panelists felt that LARPing brings out the opposite effect; it puts people together in large groups in a very social situation.
The most important part of LARPing is to have fun and create stories. Some of the best game makers will have a perfectly designed story only to have it hijacked by the players when they take it in another direction. But that’s the fun of the game.
I hope that there are more LARPing panels at the next Salt Lake Comic Con. The panelists were well-informed, entertaining, and clearly passionate about their hobby. The video above doesn’t illustrate how crowded the room was because the first couple of rows needed to be clear for safety during the combat demonstration, but there were a lot of people in the room. So there’s clearly interest. I would like to see at least a couple of different panels, maybe with some focusing on the pure combat side and other panels that talked about the character and story aspects of LARPing.