What is LARP?

Have you ever seen a LARP hashtag under a photo and wondered what it meant? Someone close to you is a LARP enthusiast, but despite these explanations, you don't really understand? Well, look no further than this article, which will help you learn all you need to know about LARP and finally understand what it's all about! 

What is LARP?


LARP stands for Live Action Role-Play. It's essentially a game similar to other role-playing games you may have heard of, such as Dungeons & Dragons or World of Warcraft, except that players dress up and play their characters in real time.

Some also describe LARP as a cross between theater and improvisation; players wear a costume and have a fixed role, but every action and every line is improvised on the spot.

A growing hobby

The practice of LARP is growing all the time! The advent of medieval fantasy films such as Conan the Barbarian and The Lord of the Rings is a prime example!

What's more, access to equipment such as weapons and armour has become much more easier! In the early days of LARP, equipment was generally too expensive for the average player, which could give the game an "elitist" feel (which was absolutely not the intention).

 The same applies to event organization. With the internet and social networks, it's easy to keep up to date and find out when a LARP event is taking place near you!

What are the advantages of LARP?

LARP is an excellent source of physical and mental exercise. The imagination is constantly called upon to visualize game elements that don't really exist, such as magical spells, or to see beyond artificial props like latex masks.

Running from camp to camp trying to set up or unravel plots is an exercise in itself, and fighting with foam weapons while wearing heavy armor is far more physical than you can imagine!

Another wonderful aspect of LARP is the incredible community it creates and the bonds it forges. Strong friendships that last for years develop at events, even between people who are enemies in the game! What's more, this community is incredibly supportive and helpful.

Whether it's fitting an extra person (and their gear) into an already full car so no one misses out, or lending and swapping costume pieces to help new players integrate more easily, priorities seem largely geared towards ensuring no one is left behind!

Last but not least, LARP is a super-inclusive environment: it's not uncommon to come across people 50 years apart, in wheelchairs, geeks and bureaucrats at the same event. Some use LARP to escape the real world, others to take part in a thrill-filled interactive experience.

Others go simply to relax, to be with friends or lovers and share tales of adventure. Some go to embody another race or gender, and others to play the role of a hideous beast bent on war and destruction. Whatever the case, all are welcome in the realm of LARP.

The difference between cosplay, historical reenactment and LARP

At first, you might think that LARP isn't all that different from cosplay or historical re-enactment. There are battles, participants wear disguises... so what's the difference?
To understand the difference, we first need to look at each definition:

  • Historical reenactment involves reproducing certain aspects of past events. It can deal with a particular event, a way of life or, more generally, a historical period. 
  • Historical reenactement of Waterloo Battle
    Two knight in metal armor fighting with a sword
    Historical reenactment of the Waterloo battle
  • Cosplay is to reproduce a character from the world of video games, manga, comic books, films or TV series. To achieve this, cosplayers use costumes, wigs, accessories and make-up to reproduce their chosen character as faithfully as possible.
  • A women wearing a cosplay of Wonder Woman
    A cosplay of Cloud from Final Fantasy VII
    A cosplay of Gandalf from Lord Of The Rings

And it's when you read these definitions that you realize that these three practices are very different from one another.

Historical reconstitution aims to represent past events based on facts and writings, to get as close as possible to reality. This means there's no freedom for character development (in terms of character or costume) or for combat, which must be as faithful as possible to what happened. So you'll never see any steampunk or horror re-enactments, as these are fictional elements with no historical basis.

If you'd like to find out more about the differences between historical re-enactment and LARP, we've written an article covering the subject, we say that we say nothing 🤐

LARP leaves plenty of room for creativity not only in character creation, but also in event themes, battles or exchanges between players. Be aware that in a LARP event, nothing is set in stone. Your character will evolve over the course of your games, you can die at any time, and each player is free to make whatever decisions they wish, as long as they respect the rules (more on this in a later section).

LARP and Cosplay share similarities in some respects, but are very different in others. The main difference lies in the fact that LARP participants evolve, grow and experience a theatrical and interactive side not found in Cosplay.

You can forget about character development, epic battles or solving quests, the objective of cosplay is purely visual. It's worth pointing out, however, that cosplay requires a huge investment to reproduce as faithfully as possible the costume of a character you admire! In all cases, the aim remains the same: to embody a fictional character 😉

A multitude of LARP for all tastes! 

What makes LARP even more accessible is the wide variety of events available.

From medieval fantasy to post-apocalyptic survival, steampunk to cyberpunk, there's something for everyone! Some events take place in the woods, others in buildings decorated according to the theme and, recently, even in online video chat applications with green screens. Ingenuity is widespread in this hobby, and even the global pandemic couldn't stop players donning costumes and playing together in the comfort of their own homes!

 In this section we're going to try and categorize the types of LARP and introduce you to the main genres that exist. Are you ready? Let's get started! 

The different types of LARP

A good place to start categorizing LARP is by looking at the following 3 categories: 

  • Resolution system - How will the players resolve the conflict(s) they face? 
  • Style - Is this a story-driven LARP? Involve you in epic battles?
  • Genre - Is it medieval fantasy, horror, post-apocalyptic? As we've already mentioned, there are many different types of LARP, which are themselves divided into sub-genres.

Resolution System

Two larpers fightig with daggers

PVP (Player vs Player)

As the name suggests, combat between players is allowed! PvP can be played as a team, or each player can fight for himself, depending on the rules of the LARP!

A larper holding long staff

Light PVP

Player-to-player combat is only possible if opponents agree to fight each other.
This resolution system may break the immersion, but it's a very good start to LARP PvP.

Some larpers resting in a camp

PvE (Player vs Environment)

PvP is set aside and players work together to solve the problems they face!

Types of LARP

Right, then! Now to the heart of the matter: LARP genres! Of course, we couldn't possibly create a complete and detailed list of all existing LARP genres (there are far too many), but here's a relatively comprehensive list of the most popular types of LARP you're likely to encounter!

Theatrical LARP is mainly based on board games. It's more akin to Dungeons & Dragons-style board games! The game is led by a storyteller whose role is to tell the story and present the situations the players will face. At the start of the game, information is given about the characters, and it's up to the players to decide what they want to achieve.

During the various events that unfold over the course of the game, the players will have to make decisions based on the information they have acquired from the storyteller.

The outcome will be determined by a throw of the dice, a scissor-leaf stone or by drawing cards. This list is obviously not exhaustive, and you are free to add your own elements to resolve a situation.

Theatrical LARP

Theatrical LARP is mainly based on board games. It's more akin to Dungeons & Dragons-style board games!

The game is led by a storyteller whose role is to tell the story and present the situations the players will face. At the start of the game, information is given about the characters, and it's up to the players to decide what they want to achieve.

During the various events that unfold over the course of the game, the players will have to make decisions based on the information they have acquired from the storyteller.

The outcome will be determined by a throw of the dice, a scissor-leaf stone or by drawing cards. This list is obviously not exhaustive, and you are free to add your own elements to resolve a situation.  

Role Playing Game LARP

This type of LARP is all about the characters. Two situations are possible:

  • You create your own character, with his or her history, abilities and characteristics... 
  • You adopt the character given to you at the start of the game.

Each character has his or her own skills and abilities, and will need to help each other resolve the conflict presented to them at the start of the game.

When a quest is solved or an enemy (played by npgs) is killed, players are rewarded with treasure, money, items or weapons. They also receive experience points that enable them to acquire new abilities.

The game ends when the objective is reached.

What's really interesting about this kind of LARP is that you can develop your character from game to game. It's extremely gratifying to be able to get out of sometimes complicated situations, to make progress and thus be able to take on new challenges!


As the name suggests, this type of game is all about battles! It first appeared 40 years ago with the first and best-known LARP group: Dagorhir.

Battles are fought mainly with foam weapons or boffers. Battles take place outdoors, on play areas that stretch over several hectares. These events are very sporting, and usually last several days! Prepare your equipment accordingly!

Unlike other types of LARP, there's no magic involved in Battle Con, and many types of foam weapons are used, including swords, axes, spears, maces, bows...

Trust and honesty between players is paramount in this kind of event, as there is no "referee" to check when a player is hit/killed (at least not in large-scale battles). So everyone must play responsibly and not cheat.

There are a number of game modes that will considerably change the way the game is played: here are a few examples listed by MyLarpWorld

  • Kill Your Killer - If you are killed, all the players you have eliminated will reappear. Reappearances stop when only 4 players remain. The winner is the last player standing. Players stop reappearing once there are only 4 players left. 
  • Capture the flag - Each team's flag is kept in each base. The aim is to steal the opposing team's flag without having your own stolen. The team that manages to hold both flags wins the game. If a player is killed by an opponent, he must reappear in his base to return to the battlefield.
  • Death Match - To win the game, you must kill all members of the opposing team. 
  • Hunger Games - At the start of the game, all weapons are collected in the center of the battlefield. This gives the first players to collect weapons an advantage. The last player standing wins the game.
  • Kingslayer - At the start of the game, a king is crowned for each team. As soon as a team loses its king, the game is over.
Battle during a conquest in a larp event
Post-Apocalyptic LARP

The goal in post-apocalyptic LARP is survival.

Players often have to find resources and face a superior enemy in a devastated, abandoned urban or industrial environment.

We often associate post-apocalyptic LARP with the zombie apocalypse, because it lends itself perfectly to that, but other situations can also lend themselves to it, such as a world devastated after a nuclear war (like the Fallout game series), a natural disaster, monster attacks...

To defend themselves, players can rely on a wide range of weapons, including iron bars, guns and swords.

Player depicting a post-apocalyptic setting
Horror LARP

If you're a fan of thrills, chills and scares, horror LARP are for you!

Often forbidden to under-18s, the aim is to push your emotional and physical limits to the limit. Horror LARP can take many forms, from Murder House to monster fights.

However, immersive horror experiences such as Malefycia or Narcity should not be associated with horror LARP. Yes, the aim is to scare, but the means of doing so are diametrically opposed! In fact, the main way to create fear is through atmosphere!

Particular care will therefore be taken with sound, light, darkness, colors and monsters! Zombies, vampires and werewolves are the monsters of choice for this type of LARP.

Two witch during a Larp horror event
Science fiction LARP

As the name suggests, players take place in a futuristic universe! Space conquest, artificial intelligence and dystopias are all themes that can be addressed in science fiction LARP.

Interplanetary travel and interaction with extraterrestrial species are also possible.

Nordic LARP

Nordic LARP is a rather special form of LARP. It's based on the Nordic universe and culture, and each player tries to fit his or her role as closely as possible.

There are very few NPCs or monsters to enhance immersion. There are Nordic LARPs with more modern themes, such as hostage-taking, or more fanciful ones, such as a crossing to England with Dracula on board.

A Viking Sitting on a Branch
Tavern, Saloon or Theater LARP

Very different from the LARPs presented above, this type of  LARP generally lasts just one evening.

It usually takes place in a pub, where people talk to each other, come up with plans and party together!

How a LARP event works

For a LARP event to run smoothly, it requires meticulous organization and impeccable logistics. A LARP event can be seen as a large-scale play, where immersion is the key word.

The game master are the guarantors of all this organization. They determine the venue, the rules and the framework of the event. Their objective is to maintain the fictional environment in which the players evolve, so as not to break the immersion. They also act as referees to ensure that the event runs smoothly.

They are accompanied by NPCs (non-playable characters) who are part of the event but do not play. They are essential, however, as they help to bring life and substance to the world in which the players evolve. Without them, there would be no imaginary world to conquer. As a general rule, NPCs take on the role of monsters, townsfolk, guides or just about anything else that reinforces the environment's setting.

To sum up, there are three main roles:  

  • (GM) Game Masters: They plan, structure and drive the game forward. 
  • (PC) Playable Characters: They experience the world in which they evolve. They can play their own character or a character assiLARPed to them at the start of the game. Over the course of the adventure, players will unlock new skills in order to progress and reach their final goal. They are the opposite of NPCs, who are part of the environment and the story, but do not play. 
  • (NPC) Non-Playable Characters: They remain the same from the beginning to the end of the event. They acquire no skills and have no personal development (history, motivation, beliefs...). These are characters who are part of the plot and can help the playable characters with advice, such as "I've heard that a wanted thief has taken refuge in the tavern, you should check it out".

LARP Rules

LARP rules are not universal; on the contrary, they can vary greatly depending on the type of event.

The Game Master is responsible for creating the rules that will govern the game: these mainly concern the characters and how their abilities will interact with the other players, as well as the environment. The rules will also tell players what they're allowed to do between LARP games.

Here are a few examples of rules that can be communicated to you by the game master at the start of the game:

Depending on the person's class (elves, orcs, halfelins, humans, undead, etc.) and background, life points are awarded.

If the hit point gauge drops to zero, your character is either knocked out or dead.

But the rules don't just apply to characters, they also apply to weapons. In some LARP games, the use of weapons is allowed. Very often, these are made of foam, so as not to cause injury to another player during combat. However, foam weapons must meet several criteria before they can be used on the battlefield.

Your safety and that of other participants is paramount at a LARP event. Here are the points to remember about weapons:

  • You may not have access to certain types of weaponry, such as axes, swords, bows and the like. 
  • Weapons must pass an inspection to check that they comply with safety rules. Safety rules differ from LARP to LARP, but are generally based on the same model: Minimum weapon padding, Weapon handling Prohibition on touching sensitive areas, etc. 
  • "Friendly fire", what are the consequences if a player accidentally hits a teammate?

Finally, some LARP have no rules. Participants are encouraged to use their common sense to ensure that everything runs smoothly. However, there are some common-sense rules that apply to all LARP events. Think of them as commandments.

  • Stay in character - Unless it's an emergency or the players have agreed otherwise, under no circumstances should you step out of character. It breaks immersion and is the last thing you want in a LARP. 
  • Be respectful - As in everyday life, being a jerk is not allowed in LARP. By this we mean that no one is allowed to harass, insult, cheat or hit harder than they should in a fight. If you recoLARPize (I'm really proud of it I 😎) yourself in this description, then stay at home. The community clearly doesn't need a toxic person like you. 
  • Avoid physical contact - Everyone is different, and it's clear that not everyone likes to be touched, so each participant should avoid physical contact as much as possible when it's not necessary.

How a LARP game unfolds

Each game will unfold differently, but as a general rule, the sequence is as follows:

Preparation (character, gear, background, equipment)

Time to play a game

The game can last several hours or days!

First of all, the game master welcomes the participants and introduces them to the world, the stakes, the characters, their abilities and any other information they may need to face the journey that awaits them! It's also during the welcome that weapon checks can be carried out: if a weapon doesn't meet the requirements of the association organizing the event, it will probably be banned.

During the game, many different situations will arise. The most common examples are battles, investigations, puzzle-solving... LARP events are not short on situations.

As mentioned above, remember that no player will step out of his or her role unless it's an emergency or has been agreed. Technological objects such as cell phones, tablets and smartwatches are also forbidden, always with a view to maintaining immersion.

The master of the game will be a true conductor, responsible for moving the story forward. Unlike theater, nothing is written down, and many events are improvised as they unfold. Depending on the choices and decisions made by the characters, the plot will not progress in the same way, and this is what makes LARP so unique, as everything can be turned upside down by a simple decision!

Larpers holding metal armor and different weapons

The end of the game

There are two possible ways to finish a game:

Death: as in a video game, if your life gauge drops to 0, it's game over (depending on the rules). Just bear in mind that provoking a troll into a duel is not always the best strategy.
The objective is reached: participants have reached the objective presented to them on arrival.

Rest, sharing experience, etc.

After all that hard work, it's time to relax! There's nothing more pleasant than gathering around a meal or a drink to exchange and share your feelings about the event that has just passed.

It's an opportunity to get to know the people with whom you've just completed the campaiLARP, express what you liked or disliked about it, and get feedback from other players to help you better prepare for your next LARP.

This is also when it's easiest to forge links and make future LARP buddies. You're out of your roles, the adrenalin's gone and everyone's relaxed. Making a circle of friends is really important, because believe me, you'll be more than happy to catch up with them at your next game, or even go on the road with them!

How to start LARP?

If you've reached the end of this article, congratulations! You already know a lot more about LARP and why more and more people are trying it out.

If you're really interested in getting started in LARP, we invite you to read our article The Ultimate Guide To Start LARP in 2023, which will give you all the essential information you need to get off to a flying start with this (hopefully) future passion!