LARP: Live Action Role Playing | Sunday Observer

LARP: Live Action Role Playing

2 May, 2021

Not too long ago, the terms Nerd and Geek held heavily negative connotations that damned any niche interests and those who liked them, to ridicule. Though most of nerd and geek culture has been largely accepted by the mainstream now, some subcultures exist that are relatively obscure but are still mocked online and IRL (In Real Life). One of the oldest of these nerd or geek subcultures is LARPing or Live Action Role Playing. To describe LARP, it’s like Dungeons and Dragons but instead of role playing at a table with pen and paper, LARPers act out their roles instead.

LARPers have entire communities of players dedicated to crafting entire scenarios, oftentimes decked out in appropriate props and costumes. Games can range from small private gatherings or large scale social events that last for days at a time.

Settings for LARP stories can be literally anything. But the most well-known settings are usually standard fantasy or sci-fi, maybe even directly lifted off of popular media, usually Lord of the Rings. And much like D&D, these scenarios are constructed by game masters. However, while the concepts are pretty universal, the attitude towards LARPing differs from community to community.


The US draws a clear line between LARP games that are meant for play fighting, known as Boffer and games where the main idea is play acting stories. Both types of LARP can have aspects of the other but the primary focus is clear. Boffer games offer scenarios where players use foam padded approximations of real weapons in order to fight each other.

They simulate real combat scenarios without any of the danger and have a fun physical aspect to it that theatre does not. Theatre focuses on the improvisational interactions between characters written up by game masters. Theatre games are much shorter than Boffer games and can be held in smaller spaces with relatively minimal preparation.


LARP in Europe is more serious, and draws no clear distinction between Boffer and Theater but still shows a clear preference for real combat. Weapons in Europe LARP games are often more realistic than American ones, with less padding and more detail. While this gives European LARP games more immersion, it also increases the danger of LARP combat, requiring players to actively hold back to not hurt each other.

LARPing in Europe is looked at more favourably than in America, with it becoming more and more mainstream with time especially in the Nordic countries. In Denmark, children participate more in LARPs than in football clubs. With higher population densities and more mainstream appeal than America, European LARP events consistently draw in hundreds of players for large scale scenarios.


Russia has some of the largest and most hardcore LARP communities in the world and is appropriately, takes it very seriously. Medieval fantasy is easily the most popular genre, accounting for about 50% of LARP events. The average Russian LARP event draws in several hundred participants consistently and reaches well over 3,000 during the largest gatherings.

Weapons are usually made of hard plastic or real metal such as aluminium or titanium but players do not hold back during games at all. Instead, protection is dependent on armour, the more realistic, the better protection. It is not uncommon for fights to result in real injury.

Ultimately, LARPing is a well loved hobby for thousands across the globe. They are more than silly games. They allow for close social interactions, physical activity and creative expression for many. LARPing creates safe spaces for some to build confidence in a welcoming environment that they enjoy.

But despite this, LARPing is still very much an easy target for mockery, not only from outside the usual geek and nerd communities, but from the inside as well. LARPers are stereotyped as too nerdy even for nerds. And while LARPing is quite inherently silly, the ridicule it gets is worse than arguably worse subcultures.