How do you get into LARPing?

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By: Ran Yaniv HartsteinCC BY 2.0
My partner and I are both sociable but shy types who have failed to get to know many people despite living in our town for a good few years. We’d like to get into doing some more social-type hobbies and one thing that really appeals to me is Live Action Role Playing — aka LARPing. I was one of those kids who loved playing make-believe games and dressing up, and was gutted when all my friends grew out of that. From what I’ve heard LARPing is basically for those people who didn’t grow out of it, so it sounds right up my street. Partner is not so sold but willing to experiment. But… it is scary! I know there are a couple of groups in our area, but what if I show up to a meeting and don’t know how to act and it’s all awkward and weird?

I know there are tons of LARPers out there. How do you find a good group? What should first-timers expect when they go along? Is it cool for us to turn up as a couple? What else should we know about testing the waters here?

Hey Zooey, I feel ya! LARPing looks awesome. I know a few people who partake of the LARP, and I asked them what they thought. Here’s their advice:

Look up the website for your local LARPing group of interest. Hopefully there will be a contact page. Hit ’em up and tell them you’re interested — even ask them some of the questions you have.

Or attend a battle and afterwards ask to talk to the “leader” about joining their ranks.

LARPing Homies, what is your advice to people who want to get in on the action?

Comments on How do you get into LARPing?

  1. I was a storyteller for a LARP for several years, and still have many friends who LARP actively – my then-boyfriend, now-husband dragged me into it kicking and screaming, but it was definitely fun for a few years. My recommendation for getting into LARPing from the outside is to go to a local gaming store. All of the LARPs near me are heavily represented by regulars at such establishments, and you can get a good sense of people you will be playing with if you go to hang out for a little while some weekend night. It’s definitely a social activity, so the people really matter! More recently, had I known exactly who I was committing to spending my free time with, I might have approached my local games differently. When I was in college, the people who played were much more like me, and it was a great fit overall. If it doesn’t seem like the LARPs in your area fit your interests, ask for recommendations! LARPers are gloriously well-connected and knowledgeable about other gaming opportunities in their areas and beyond, so surely something you’ll like is nearby.

      • i was curious about LARPing…i mean, i was a nerdy teenager, and Vampire and Werewolf were *really* popular at the time. i had no access to any games, though, so when i discovered the SCA a year ago, i jumped right in. my fiance’ even bought me a sewing machine so i could learn to make my own stuff. πŸ™‚ as it is right now, i’m still getting into local events, but for the past 2 years we’ve attended the big regional war. we’re both hooked. i have yet to meet such a welcoming community of people elsewhere.

  2. I was one of those old-school LARPers with the boxed games – particularly Vampire, The Masquerade. I would TOTALLY do it again, too, but my husband is all *nope nope nope*. I used to also dress in full costume for the RenFest, and would have LOVED to join SCA, but I also realized that I am just too busy to do any of this. Even Halloween costumes fall by the wayside these days.

      • There’s OWBN, there’s Camarilla, there’s Underground Theatre… not to mention all of the smaller-troupe games (I help staff a classic Changeling: the Dreaming LARP. πŸ™‚ )

        There’s the boffer LARPS, the historical LARPS… I know Dystopia Rising is *really* popular right now, I just can’t manage the time/travel commitment with the kids at home.

        If one group doesn’t seem like a fit, it’ll still probably have more information and contacts for other groups out there. Most LARPers I’ve known don’t stick to just one crew. πŸ˜€

  3. Do some research online & off – there are all kinds of LARPs with different themes & stories! From medieval with magic to vampires in urban dystopia to you name it, small groups, big groups, weekly regular games, weekend campout games, yada yada yada, depending on where you live you’ll find a variety of LARPs that may appeal to you. Look on the web & social media, at gaming stores, at indie bookstores, at scifi & anime conventions, & anywhere local geeky types hang out & post info — this will give you more of an idea what’s out there & what may fit best with your preferences.

    Ask if they have a non-game meeting time where you can meet the storyteller & find out about the themes & start building your character. You may have to set this up; some games only have game night/weekends, so you might meet folks in a cafe in advance, for example. This is cool tho, bec. you can ask all about the rules of play, backstory, how the action is handled, costumes & props (if used), etc.

    As for showing up as a couple, no prob! My husband & I used to game together, & we even ran a vampire LARP for a while. Sometimes we played as characters who were in a relationship, sometimes we didn’t, depending on our mood & how it fit in with the story. That’s pretty common — each couple figures out what works best.

    Hope you find a group you enjoy πŸ™‚

  4. I’ve never done any LARPing myself, but it might be useful to play some tabletop roleplaying games so you can get used to the mechanics. Plus, you can do that with just a few friends so it’s not quite the giant-ass leap into the unknown.

  5. So, I got into LARPing at uni, but since that fateful day I’ve played and run games across the UK, so this is pretty UK centric, but I hope it helps even if you’re across the pond.
    The internet is great! Most groups have a web presence of some form and the people running them love the hobby and are more than happy to witter on about it. They’ll have all sorts of info on the websites and Facebook groups as well. Beware Facebook a little though, LARPers are hugely enthusiastic and will bombard you with well meaning advice, which may get a little overwhelming.
    Once you’ve got some info, the best way to start is by “Monstering” an event. Monstering is the way events work, essentially, providing all the Non-Player Characters for the game. This includes antagonists for fighting, allies and everything else under the sun. It tends to be free, and you may get fed and watered. You’ll get to try most everything the game has in small bits, without the pressure playing sometimes has. People will be on hand to answer questions and you can easily time out if you are getting overwhelmed. After that the world is your mollusc of choice!

  6. So, as a former new member contact person in the SCA, I would usually tell people to just come out and show up – show up to a meeting that doesn’t require a costume if that feels easier for you, show up at an event in costume if you are eager to jump in, ‘show up’ on the local facebook group and introduce yourself virtually and get to know a few names and ask some questions if you feel more comfortable with digital communications.

    More often than not we’re just a myriad group who is always happy to see a new face, tell you our stories since you haven’t heard them yet, and get into some new projects with you. Check out the group’s websites and look for online groups/forums to see which one has a story line that catches your interest and if it doesn’t seem like a good fit, try another group. We’re all a little different in atmosphere and game play/story line so keep that in mind too. Good luck and have fun!

    • I will note that LARP (Live Action Role Playing) & SCA (the Society for Creative Anachronism) are very different things at heart, tho the attendees & interests can overlap greatly. I’ve done plenty of both & have no problem with that, but old-timers in each one may get testy about saying they’re the same or like each other, fair warning πŸ™‚

      And in some SCA circles (ehem, West Kingdom, where I live), you don’t act in-character at all. You may have a historical name, elaborate historical costume & gear, learn historical fighting or dance or cooking, but you don’t act or speak like a person would in that time period. This was kind of a shock to me, coming from the LARP & esp. renfaire world, full of “thee” & “thou.”

      • there are definitely groups that are particular about such things, though. i have in mind an infamous Duke from both the East and the Middle (you know, the one who declared war on himself…and lost?) who is particularly interested in recreating the experience as authentically as possible. in fact, his encampment at Pennsic has a rule that specifies *no* modern tech or clothing shall be visible outside one’s tent, and all conversation in camp must be held in persona.

        he’s a bit too far into the game for me, but there’s certainly groups that are interested in the full experience. πŸ™‚

  7. I had to Google what LARPing is, I think the “no acronym” Offbeat Family rule should apply in the other sites too, or at least an explanation the first time an acronym is mentioned in a post wpuld be really helpful for those of us curious enough.

  8. I’d also recommend Facebook and local games stores. Meetup can also be a good website to check to look for groups. My first time at LARP meetup was awkward, but what first meeting isn’t? Luckily groups are usually so excited to see new faces, and will answer all sorts of questions. Be brave! Jump in!

  9. If there is a gaming convention near you, you might also check it out for LARP events that say they don’t require previous experience with the system. The attendees will probably be from all over, but you can learn something about if you like it and the different games and then know what you’re looking for when you look for local groups.

  10. It seems like people have given a lot of great advice on how to get get into it – not much on what to expect, particularly for weekend long Larps:

    (1) You WILL feel WEIRD dressing in your costume the first time.
    Everyone does. It’s like that sense that you are too old to be doing this, playing dress up is stupid and you have that ‘I’m dressing in this weird costume to run around the woods and do what all weekend?’ It happens. Once you start interacting with others who keep “In Character,” you’ll feel better – just like at a Renfaire. The more people play it up, and if everyone is doing it, the shock value wears off.

    (2) Many people have described a sensation of “being in a foreign land” or “dropped into a book” where they don’ t know the context of what most people are talking about.
    Players with a lot experience will chat about events happening in a game, animatedly, often leaving you questoining “what’s a Dark One? Who is Lord X? What’s that thingamabob?” It’s natural, they’ve built up years of vocabulary. Look for a new player welcoming, or a friendly veteran player to explain it to you.

    (3) It’s Okay to forget mechanics.
    If you are playing a weekly, monthly or 1x a month event, you might find yourself lost in a sea of mechanics as different skills coming flying at you. Don’t stress. We’ve all been there. a lot of games have either “marshals” extra “GMs” floating around or a call “Clarify” (similar) that are designed to allow you to get an explanation of what that thing did/does/should have done. Do your best, we all make mistakes. If you make a good effort, most people will understand.

    (4) This is a Social Event.
    Many of us who Larp together make friends with one another, and you may feel either there’s “cliques” or “a huge family I’m not part of.” Be your friendly, social self and you’ll find Many (not all, but most) Larpers are pretty friendly to newcomers. Pick a group that you like the social dynamics of, unnecessary drama is a joy killer.

    • Lots of this is pretty true for our salon Vampire LARPs as well, except that jeans and a t-shirt can count as a “costume” for us since we are set in the modern nights. Just remember, no matter how cliquey and talk-over-your-head we may seem, we all REALLY really want new players and characters and really want you to have a good time and like us and come back again. Because life leads to attrition (jobs, kids, moving) and if we don’t get new players this things that we have spent years building and brought us all together will die. So if something wasn’t fun, or you feel like an outsider, or you’re lost and confused TELL US. Because we are way more desperate for your approval than you realize. By and large, we are only insufferable dicks In Character πŸ˜‰

  11. Check out your areas next geek themed convention, there is usually a meet up going on. Also check the local rec centers. LARP-ing often requires open areas to act things out, so fields and parks are good meet up places, you can ask staff or they may have a sheet posted. Also the Meet ups. website can let you find some not so common things going on in your area. I live in a REALLY small bible belt town and managed to find a group of Atheist/ Secular/ Humanist types that do regular meet ups. Also if you know anyone who does SCA you might want to check with them, while more strict and historically accurate many of them either have friends that LARP or know of what’s going on in the area. If there isn’t anything going on in your town consider starting one! Do some research online, post people wanted flyers at comic shops and other hangouts.

  12. okay, I know this is a stupid question, but Imma go ahead & ask anyway. Does LARPing have anything to do with sexual roleplay and/or swingers? I was under the impression that it did, though it doesn’t sound like that’s the case here. Is there a sub-culture of sexual LARPers? Just curious, especially the way the original question was posted & mentioning about “testing the waters” and showing up as a couple.

    • there *may* be overlap, and there may be games that focus on sex, but the default is usually absolutely no swinging/sexual roleplay. this is generally somewhat family-friendly gaming.

      (vagueness intentional, as i don’t know what games are out there nowadays.)

    • Heh, a goodly percentage of our LARPers are also kinksters but that is coincidence. The two hobbies have nothing to do with each other. In fact, our LARPs *technically* have a no physical touching rule (though it is frequently ignored by people who are good enough friends to know each others comfort zones).

  13. Oh! One more big thing (because my brain has been flashbacking to “stuff I wish someone had told me before I started LARPing) is that some games – and game communities – are really fixated on rules, whereas others are more absorbed in the storytelling process. My college game was all story, and it was basically an ongoing site-specific theater production with layers of personal intrigue and playful machinations that continued between games, online, during dinner, in the car, etc… It was a truly magical way to interact with friends close and new alike, and actually taught me quite a lot about myself. My post-college/”grown-up” life game was far more concerned with mechanics, to the point where epic, dramatic scenes of conflict, betrayal, revelation, etc… were boiled down to rocks, paper, scissors to see who threw the first punch. It was not a good fit for my personality AT ALL, seeing as I tend to get panickey around too many numbers, and oh…there were numbers. When you manage to find a game, it’s very worth asking about how the game runs: more roleplaying, or more number-crunching? No matter what the theme or genre, this has been the deciding factor of whether I enjoy a game or not.

  14. My first LARP event went like this: friend buys me a ticket and we arrive. No explanation, just clothes thrown at me. I hated it, complete culture shock.

    I recommend doing your research. And don’t add people on Facebook until you know how much advice they will give you.

    Hopefully you will enjoy it! I have no plans to go again…

  15. I have personally been LARPing for 14 years and absolutely LOVE it. My group is very much my second family. I was lucky enough to be told about them and then be dragged to my first game ever, where soon after I myself started taking people…..that being said a lot of LARPs are by word of mouth. However they can be found in a multitude of ways, there are now websites that you can search by state and city as well as comic book stores that advertise. Also a lot of groups like mine also rent tables at Cons, like comicon or dragoncon etc…. However don’t be surprised if some groups advertise as far as 2 to 3 states over. I haven’t ever run into a LARPer that isn’t dedicated to their group. The group I am a member of is based out of Pennsylvania, however we have players that come from Ohio, Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, New York and even on occasion when they can make it Indiana. One of the draws for me was the dedication to other players (the way we all worry about each other if someone doesn’t show up), the other was the stories and the way of game play. Some LARPs work on a point system, some are the honor system, some are a flag football style. Find what best fits what you are looking for and what theme you want, wether it be 1920’s HP Lovecraft, science fiction, steampunk, or like mine, high fantasy. Don’t be afraid to experiment….not sure? Try playing as a non player character…..a lot of LARPs have a offer of a discount or free game if you play on the creatures or GMs side for a weekend. I hope you find what you are looking for and get to enjoy a new fantastic and creative hobby… favorite explanation to “outsiders”?? “I go camping for a weekend where I beat things up with plumbing supplies” or “its paintball except with medieval weapons” they both seem to work quite well. Good Luck and LARP on!!!

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