The fusion of local heritage, national cultural interest and the effects of globalisation has led to the differentiation of a live action role playing tradition unique to each country.

Explaining Larp and effectively demonstrating its diversity is a daunting task. But, as the subject of my research is interested in a specific style of roleplaying I will do my best to situate it amongst the other styles, as I see it. Larps evolve over time and are as diverse as there are games and rules. All these styles are equally valid and their practice depends on personal taste only.

Finding a scale according to which I could classify these styles was a challenge. The Bartle taxonomy of player types (fig.1) involves categorizing games (video and board also) according to the four types of engagement it requires from its players : explorers, socializers, achievers and killers. This however, is difficult to apply to roleplay as a single character often combines multiple attitudes during a game.

What does vary ever so slightly from one style to the next is the use of gaming mechanics and simulation, and, whether the players are grouped against each other or are required to collaborate. ■

Mapping Larp 2

 

This diagram (fig.2) attempts to compare larp forms by mapping examples within each style according to player interactions and physical involvement.

Battle Game
This type of larp usually confronts a team of players to another or against NPCs. They involve weapons made from foam or latex, called boffer weapons, to simulate combat. Characters often have multiple lives in order for them to return and extend the timeframe of the game.

Linear
In linear larps, players go on a series of missions called modules provided by NPCs or informed by props. The game only finishes when they have completed the intended course from point A to point B, point B usually being a boss fight. Linear games generally have 8 to 13 modules that are either informational, combat or mystery.

Theatre Style or Freeform
Freeform larps focus on the narrative and dialogues between the characters. They generally feature little games mechanics and no NPCs though there are exceptions. The players are given a minimum of background story about their characters : narrative and motives, but need to improvise on the script. The outcome isn’t fixed but limited and the gamemaster rarely gets involved.

Jeepform
Jeepform is a subset of freeform. The difference lies in the fact that the story is predefined and the game is split into scenes and acts.

Blockbuster Larp
These larps are high-profile, highly mediated events. They are designed to attract attention and showcase larping to the international community. They explore established fictional worlds with a large following by building complex sets in breath-taking locations. Blockbusters are expensive but they also provide costumes and accommodation.

Tabletop
Tabletop relies on game mechanics like dice or cards to determine outcomes. Players describe rather than enact their actions.

 

 

More information on the Larps