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Today’s Spotlight: To Larp or not to Larp.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Welcome to the new edition of the OTC Blog.

Did you know that across the world, there are fantasy fans living double lives? By day they may be teachers, college students, stay-at-home moms, or retired businessmen. But on the weekends, they clad themselves in their finest Elf, Orc, or Wizard attire and gather for epic battles. They hunt for treasure, slay dragons, and save the virtues of the innocent. This may seem silly to many. But these great adventurers take LARPing very seriously.

What is this LARPing you ask?

It is a live-action role-playing game (LARP) where the participants physically portray their characters. The players pursue goals within a fictional setting represented by real-world environments while interacting with each other in character. The outcome of player actions may be mediated by game rules or determined by consensus among players. Event arrangers are called gamemasters to decide the setting and rules to be used and facilitate play.

The first LARPs were run in the late 1970s, inspired by tabletop role-playing games and genre fiction. The activity spread internationally during the 1980s and has diversified into a wide variety of styles. Play may be very game-like or may be more concerned with dramatic or artistic expression. Events can also be designed to achieve educational or political goals. The fictional genres used vary greatly, from realistic modern or historical settings to fantastic or futuristic eras. Production values are sometimes minimal but can involve elaborate venues and costumes. LARPs range in size from small private events lasting a few hours to large public events with thousands of players lasting for days.

The participants in a LARP physically portray characters in a fictional setting, improvising their characters' speech and movements somewhat like actors in improvisational theatre. This is distinct from tabletop role-playing games, where character actions are described verbally. LARPs may be played in a public or private area and may last for hours or days. There is usually no audience. Players may dress as their characters and carry appropriate equipment, and the environment is sometimes decorated to resemble the setting. LARPs can be one-off events or a series of events in the same setting, and events can vary in size from a handful of players to several thousand.

Events are put on for the benefit of the players, who take on roles called player characters (PCs) that the players may create themselves or be given by the gamemasters. Players sometimes play the same character repeatedly at separate events, progressively developing the character and its relations with other characters and the setting.

Arrangers called gamemasters (GMs) determine the rules and setting of a LARP, and may also influence an event and act as referees while it is taking place. The GMs may also do the logistical work, or there may be other arrangers who handle details such as advertising the event, booking a venue, and financial management. Unlike the GM in a tabletop role-playing game, a LARP GM seldom has an overview of everything that is happening during play because numerous participants may be interacting at once. For this reason, a LARP GM's role is often less concerned with tightly maintaining a narrative or directly entertaining the players, and more with arranging the structure of the LARP before play begins and facilitating the players and crew to maintain the fictional environment during play.

Participants are sometimes known as the crew may help the GMs to set up and maintain the environment of the LARP during play by acting as stagehands or playing non-player characters (NPCs) who fill out the setting. The crew typically receive more information about the setting and more direction from the GMs than players do. In a tabletop role-playing game, a GM usually plays all the NPCs, whereas in a LARP, each NPC is typically played by a separate crew member. Sometimes players are asked to play NPCs for periods of an event.

Much of play consists of interactions between characters. Some LARP scenarios primarily feature interaction between PCs. Other scenarios focus on the interaction between PCs and aspects of the setting, including NPCs, that are under the direction of the GMs.

Most LARPs are intended as games for entertainment. Enjoyable aspects can include the collaborative creation of a story, the attempt to overcome challenges in pursuit of a character's objectives, and a sense of immersion in a fictional setting. LARPs may also include other game-like aspects such as intellectual puzzles, and sport-like aspects such as fighting with simulated weapons.

Some LARPs stress artistic considerations such as dramatic interaction or challenging subject matter. Avant-garde or arthaus events have especially experimental approaches and high culture aspirations and are occasionally held in fine art contexts such as festivals or art museums. The themes of avant-garde events often include politics, culture, religion, sexuality and the human condition.

So what do you choose? Will you be the newest LARPer and save the kingdom? What character would you like to play? Personally, I would love to don elven gear and search for the missing black dragon egg in Euphrasia. Perhaps once day we will meet on the battlefield?

On behalf of Rachel and myself, we thank you for joining our adventure. Until next time, fare thee well, friends.

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