Role-Playing 103

So, slugging it out with dice just isn't fulfilling your role-playing needs. You need to get up, move around as your character, take on his or her mannerisms to fully explore the nuances of your persona. OK kids, stand up, stretch and dig out your cloak — time to LARP.  

Decision time - LARP players at DragonCon 2000 decide a game point by Rock/Paper/Scissors. (All photos by Jean Marie Ward.)

Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) means at long last you leave the table and actually play your character. As much improvisational theater as a game, LARP lacks dice, but you retain character sheets and statistics, which could be all the script you get for this game. Most LARPs also employ costumes and props (props with some caution -- most of the time cards are used for weapons) for effect.  

Doin’ the Time LARP - Crescent Blues correspondent Anne Valliant (in the green cloak) participates in a Roman-era White Wolf (r) vampire LARP at Dragoncon 2000, June 29 - July 2.  Valliant plays Ayella.  Her cohorts include an unnamed Assamite, Billy Smith as Ventrue and Ryan ??? as Dumzil (left to right, facing the camera)

Logistically more complicated, most live action games involve more players than tabletop games. Some live action games bring in hundreds of players from all over the world. Even local games will boast at least a dozen players (tabletop games usually top off at six). The numerous and scattered players require planning -- lots of planning. Most LARPs, especially those with large numbers of players, use several Storytellers, all of whom have to know what's going on in and out of game. The Storytellers move the storyline, moderate challenges and make sure that no one gets into trouble.

Live action games need to measure actions just like tabletop games. Tabletop games use dice, LARPs use various systems, depending on the game

White Wolf's Mind's Eye Theater (their live action line) uses Rock/Paper/Scissors to determine the outcome of a challenge. When one player challenges another over a mental, social or physical trait, Rock/Paper/Scissors decides the outcome.  


Cthulhu Live ® employs a much simpler system. The Storyteller assigns each action a certain minimum number of points needed to complete the action successfully. The Storyteller compares that number with the player's stats

Live action requires a player to get even more involved with their character. A player must believably play that character all night. This means affecting a character's mannerisms, accents and actions for an evening, not to mention packing much of your own personality away. I find that the tough part -- that and avoiding over-the-top dramatics (which is absolutely impossible when playing Vampire: the Masquerade ® -- the game oozes melodrama from its metaphoric pores). But I digress. Live action provides a whole new and more demanding level of role-playing and one well worth exploring. Just remember to stay within your comfort level and don't be afraid to explore some new facets of your character and yourself. 


Lying in wait - A game shill in turn-of-the-First-Millennium costume tries to convince folks riding the escalator to first meeting room level of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta to take a chance on a Biblical-era LARP happening in the Hanover Room behind him