About LARPing, how it works, why it’s confusing and 20+ real LARPs to check out that make the LARPing meaning super clear
Live action. Role-playing. And 20+ real LARPing games you can check out right now. If you’re looking to understand the real meaning of LARPing or LARP, this is the right place because actual LARPing was created by sci-fi and fantasy fans, for the fans.
And to give you the LARPing meaning you’re looking for – and maybe get you to want to try it out right now – we’re breaking it down into 3 super easy steps:
- We give you the real definition and meaning of LARPing.
- Explain why it’s confusing – people are using the word LARPing a bit differently on social media, we show you why.
- And then we show you what a real-world LARP is like – 20+ actual LARP events you can check out right now…
WATCH: This is LARPing
1. LARPing meaning
LARPing is an acronym for Live-Action Role-Playing. Which is a live-action RPG (Role-Playing Game), meaning an RPG that you play in real life. No jokes. Instead of playing an RPG game on a console, PC or board game, you actually dress up like a hero, grab a LARP weapon (soft, spongy “boffer” weapons, so you don’t actually kill your friends) and live out your fantasies of conquering the universe.
But with specific rules.
You probably know what an RPG is – a Role Playing Game, like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, The Witcher, Fallout, Elder Scrolls (Skyrim), Diablo, Dark Souls, Borderlands etc. Now, when you’re playing those, the game engine runs the rules of the game – how much damage you deal, how likely it is that something procedural happens etc.
Well, the ideas behind all that actually come from long BEFORE video games. In the 70s, tabletop board games like Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) were the only way to Role-Play. They were the original RPGs, and there were no graphics, you had to play it all out in your imagination. You know, like they do in Stranger Things…
Watch: the D&D Scene from Stranger Things is a Board Game RPG
In board game RPGs, you have a rulebook and some dice that take over the role of the “game engine”. There are certain rules – what you can and can’t do, how powerful your character is etc. And you affect what happens in the game by making decisions and taking actions with your character. A dice roll then decides if your actions work or not.
Now, LARPing is the same, except you ARE the character. You dress up, grab your gear, level up, deal damage etc. All as if you ARE that character. You play them. Live. Hence: Live-Action Role Playing (LARPing) games.
The definition of LARPing
Oxford Dictionaries gives this LARPing meaning and definition: LARPing is “a type of game in which players pretend to be imaginary characters in a story, usually using special clothes and objects to make the story appear more real (the abbreviation for ‘live-action role-playing’)”.
But LARPing does have slightly different slang meanings, which makes it a little confusing. Let’s clarify those quickly…
2. What confuses people about LARPing’s meaning?
Nowadays, people have started using the words LARP and LARPing a little differently. In popular culture, and when they talk about LARPing on Twitter, Reddit and Discord, people might mean the new slang meaning of LARPing in crypto language – which is when someone’s faking/pretending to be someone/something.
That’s why people get confused about the LARPing meaning – which one do they mean: the game or are they saying I’m a fake?
What does LARPing mean in slang?
So, if you check out Urban Dictionary or Crypto Twitter, you’ll see the slang definition of LARPing as “faking or pretending”. This comes from the normal meaning of LARPing, to play-act a role, but is given a negative connotation – a person who fakes is a LARPer.
This is also reflected in pop culture, for example in Season 2 of HBO’s The White Lotus where newly rich lawyer Harper remarks to her husband Ethan that it feels like they are “LARPing as rich people”. In other words, they are dressing and play-acting as if they are rich.
What is LARPing’s meaning in the UK?
It’s the same in the UK as anywhere. LARPing in the UK is taking part in a Live-Action Role-Play game (a LARP or LARP event/game). However, the Brits kinda invented English so they know the rules best, and some might point out that, since the words Live and Action are hyphenated, together forming an adjective to the second part of the concept, the correct acronym is probably LRPing – you drop the A because it’s part of the L.
Maybe that’s why the biggest LARP in the UK is officially called “Empire LRP” – one of the coolest and most awesome LARPing experiences – check out its Winter Solstice event among our LARPs in April.
Watch: The UK’s Empire LARPing Experience
LARPing meaning in Crypto
In the world of blockchain and cryptocurrency, LARPing also means “to fake”, but a second meaning emerged at the 2018 Devcon Ethereum Developers Conference when prominent figures in crypto culture stated crypto communities are “LARPing” because they engage in things that seem a “fantasy” (supposedly have no value) but then use technology to add value to it – i.e. they bring it “into the real world”.
They are primarily talking about NFTs, where they can attach value to images, games and memes, which are actually traceable and valuable in real life. But also the fact that it’s the crypto community’s efforts and “shared belief” in the system that makes it possible – hence the analogy with LARPing.
OK, but enough of that, now let’s get back to the real stuff…
Watch: Check out These Amazingly Realistic Uruk-hai Costumes in Danish Lord of the Rings LARP, War in the North
3. The truth about LARPing: meaning Live-Action Role Playing
Is LARPing a real thing?
Oh my goodness, yes! There are LARPs happening basically every weekend in the US. LARP hot spots are Georgia, Tennessee, New Jersey, Washington, Wisconsin and Florida. There’s even a nationwide LARP movement called Alliance LARP that has chapters all over the country – even in Canada.
You can basically pick a LARP, connect with them and go LARPing this weekend. We keep lists of all the big LARPs happening every month – see all the LARPs in February, as well as the LARPs in March, LARPs in April and the big new LARPs in May, LARPs in June and awesome LARPs in September.
It’s the same in Europe – each country has multiple LARPs happening every week! In fact, the world’s biggest LARP in the world is Conquest of Mythodea in Germany, where there are usually around 10’000 LARPers gathered for one massive LARP once a year.
Watch: The World’s Biggest LARPing event, Conquest of Mythodea
Why do people LARP?
Everyone has their own reasons. But basically, camping out with your friends is a lot of fun, right? Now, if you’re a sci-fi and fantasy fan, it’s combining that geek love with the “camping with friends” part. You literally head out to a secluded, often wooded area with tens, sometimes hundreds of like-minded people and all play a game together for days on end.
You get to live out your dreams and fantasies – it’s amazing.
And, for some, it’s the escape and sense of purpose they need and crave that maybe the real world can’t always deliver. A couple of years ago, Vice did a very inspirational special on LARPer Jonathan Gallagher that makes a strong case for why some people LARP…
Watch: LARPing Saved My Life with Jonathan Gallagher
How does LARP work?
LARP games are a complex mix of story-telling, role-playing and community. The LARP organisers create a fictional world in which the story takes place, then introduce plots and elements to drive the story forward, but there are multiple potential outcomes. And the players decide the outcome through their characters’ choices and actions.
It’s a lot like D&D or an RPG video game, but instead of the game rules telling how much damage you deal or receive, or whether the action you attempted succeeds or fails, you have an actual rulebook and LARP employees (kinda like in-costume referees) who help players determine what happens next.
What are the different types of LARPing?
By far the most common types of LARPs are high fantasy and medieval fantasy LARPs – people just love classic Tolkien-style swords and sorcery, with elves and orcs thrown in.
But, you’ll be surprised how many different types of LARP there actually are:
- Low fantasy like LARPs based on The Witcher
- High fantasy (medieval) like Laire LARP, Legacies, Age of Essence and Lands of Exile.
- Sci-fi LARPs like the UK’s The Zone and ArkFall
- Post Apocalyptic LARPs
- Western LARPs like After the End LARP
- Steampunk LARPs like Aurum LARP.
- Gaslamp LARPs like Xadune
- Magic school LARPs like Albion School Of Sorcery
Watch: Awesome Witcher-Universe LARP in Spain
What is a LARP group called?
They’re often known as a LARP community, and often have Discords, wikis or forums where they chat, hang out and have guild meetings and such.
How long does LARPing last?
Most LARPs run for multiple days. The few one-day LARPs are usually more to get new players interested. So, if you’ve never played before, it’s a great idea to join a one-day workshop or even enrol as an NPC (non-player character) in a LARP, so you can get a feel for how a LARP works before you create your own character and join in.
How do I find LARPing games near me?
We feature the latest upcoming LARPs all the time, so you can just subscribe to scifixfantasy for the latest LARPing news. For now, check out the latest LARPs in May, LARPs in June and awesome LARPs in September.
Note: I try my best to get every bit of info I can, and will keep updating this page all the time. If you know of a book, author, show, channel or event that should be on this list, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll make it happen.
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