You may have heard of it, LARPing, maybe it’s just a buzz word you’ve heard from time to time or maybe it’s a major part of your social group and you feel you need to know more about it. Well look no further, this is where you can find all you need to know about LARPing in Australia.
What Is LARPing?
LARPing, or Live Action Role Playing, is essentially an evolution of the classic tabletop roleplaying game combined with many elements of improv theatre. Sometimes there are scripts, sometimes there aren’t. Sometimes there are grand plotlines and character driven stories, sometimes it’s just a great excuse to grab some foam weapons and whack at each other for a weekend. Heck for some of us (me) it’s a great excuse to just explore parts of history, myth and folklore and showcase it in a visual and interactive format. No matter what your source of joy is, chances are there is something somewhere in Live Action Role Play that works for you, but if you think that might be the case, then you need to know a bit about it.
What Types of LARP are there?
Oh boy, that is a question and a half. The short answer is that every single LARP is different and there are literally thousands of styles and rulesets out there. But there are a few categories that we can talk about here.
This is what a lot of people think about when they think of a LARP. If you’ve ever seen the movies Role Models or Knights of Badassdom, or maybe the Marvel Hawkeye Disney+ series, you’ve seen roughly what this looks like. A bunch of people putting on fanciful clothing, armour, and hitting each other with foam weapons with a little roleplay on the side. Now of course, a little roleplay can easily become a -lot- of roleplay, and some combat LARPs massively reward roleplay and inter-character interaction, but some are just grab weapons, check for safety, and have fun – and honestly if you’re new to LARPing this is probably the best and fastest way to get a taste of it and decide what elements you do or don’t like. We’ll be talking a lot more about Swordcraft later as it’s the dominant combat LARP in Victoria, and rather single handedly revived the LARP scene in Melbourne, but it’s very much just the cusp of a much deeper iceberg.
Script murder games or Dinner Party LARPs
This is a much more casual style of LARP and another great way to introduce yourself to LARPing. It’s usually quite laid back, casual, and nobody worries too much about how good your character is or how much you stay in character – so long as you remain in character for the important bits. You can literally buy this type of LARP off of a shelf and may have encountered it before as a murder mystery nights – it’s basically a more theatrical version of playing Cluedo. Everyone gets a character, everyone gets a small script and important pieces of information they need to share or try to keep secret, and – someone – in the room is the murderer, it’s the job of everyone else in the room to figure out who. If you’re a fan of murder mysteries – or just a fan of a nice dinner with friends – this is a great one to try out as a once off thing.
Ever been to an event that has a roleplay element with wandering characters you can talk to and interact with? Kinda like at a dinner theatre with performers taking on dedicated roles while the audience chooses to interact with them in character or just watch and enjoy as themselves. Well if you have, you’ve probably experienced a Theatre Style LARP. These are often very light on the roleplay in order to cater for people who are just there for a bit of fun and scenery, but it’s another popular way to get into LARPing and many large LARP events are structured with this in mind. If it kinda feels like dinner and a show, then it’s probably a Theatre LARP.
This is a type of LARP that is heavy on the roleplay, with players typically rarely breaking from character if at all, and the entire story being driven by the players. This is one of the hardest and most intense kinds of LARP there is, but also one of the most rewarding as every part of the game is born out of an interaction between players and other players – and also between players and NPCs. However when we say intense we do mean intense. People can and do get heavily invested in their characters and emotions can run high in the moment, but that’s also where the most fun is and a lot of long-term LARPs fall under this banner. So if that sounds like something you’d enjoy, give it a shot!
Where to Go to Find Your LARP?
So those are the four broad kinds of LARP that are out there, however there are several others. As we said earlier, we’re going to be talking a lot about Swordcraft in particular, but if you’re interested in any of these we strongly recommend taking a look at the Australian LARP Directory maintained by Of Science and Swords, however as we’re writing from Victoria we can give a little more insight into some of the other LARPs in the area of Melbourne.
Caligo Mundi: Caligo Mundi offers LARPs of varying genres; from Teen Superheroes (GenX) to Swashbuckling Pirates (7th Sea), Scheming undead of a dark Melbourne (Vampire) or intrepid explorers of an Alien planet (Colony: Antares). Their games are usually seasonal, running for around 12 months on a monthly basis, and the style is relatively roleplay light.
Chimera Productions: A more intense Nordic style LARP that operates once every 3 months. The storyline is ongoing over those months and years and a rich dedicated setting has been established with its own documentation and internal publications.
Exodus: A battle LARP using a ruleset different from Swordcraft. If you like Swordcraft and want to see what else is out there, give this a try.
Medusa: A Nordic LARP of intense focus. The current game is set in the criminal underworld of 1980s Los Angeles. Four crime syndicates vie for control of the city: Create an appropriate character for the setting, don your new persona and delve into the scene. Historical accuracy is not strictly mandated, but smartphones are discouraged.
There are of course plenty of other LARPs out there, even within Melbourne. Some of them are just small social groups, privately run like a standard tabletop RPG night, while others are large theatrical events that sell tickets online and repeat once a year every year. But the directory is the best place to go to get started so take a look on what’s on offer there and talk to the organisers or attendees about what it’s like – trust us, we LARPers love to talk about our passionate hobby.
The Role Of Swordcraft LARPing
So, let’s talk about Swordcraft. Many years ago, LARPing wasn’t really a thing anyone knew about. There were a handful of LARP’s out there via the Alchemist Society and the popular setting of Vampire the Masquerade, but for the most part the LARP scene was on a steady decline with no publicly accessible events advertised or readily available. Then came Swordcraft, a game where people grabbed foam weapons, grouped up in large numbers and had a big-old brawl in fancy armour and even fancier outfits.
Even though it had very little roleplay, this group re-ignited a passion in Melbourne and elsewhere around Australia for dressing up and having fun, and out of Swordcraft a large number of other LARPs emerged – in fact one could argue that every LARP in Victoria was born out of Swordcraft in one form or another. When people went to Swordcraft and realised they wanted more roleplay, groups and organisations formed in response. Independent LARP enthusiasts who before lacked an audience suddenly had one and an easy way to access them. Swordcraft itself quickly introduced the SwordQuest events, an occasional weekend-long camping trip where everyone spends the time either in or out of character roleplaying, trading, politicking, having fights and just generally enjoying themselves. It remains to this day the most popular LARP in Australia, and the easiest entry point into LARPing in general. One of the reasons it’s so easy? Because they supply newbie gear to anyone turning up so you can get involved and on the field right away with only a small cost for gear rental. Seriously if you’re looking for something to try out just once, see if it or something like it might be for you, this is the best one for easy, effortless entry.
If you want to learn more we recommend checking out the official website – especially for finding a location near you as there are no less than ten chapters across Australia. But there are a few useful things to know before you head on over to your first event.
Equipment and Costumes: Where To Buy LARP Weapons, LARP Armour and LARP Outfits In Australia
In short, the best place to get outfits for your LARP will differ based on the LARP in question. There’s no point in going to somewhere like Medieval Fight Club or The Medieval Shoppe if your LARP is set in 1980s Los Angeles. But there are a couple place to go that will largely suit everyone’s needs.
To start with, Of Science and Swords is a great place to go both for information about LARPs and for information about sellers – I can say from personal experience that if they don’t have something they will direct you to multiple options where you can.
Epic Armoury is a store that specialises in LARP friendly gear, clothing, accessories and even special effects, particularly for medieval and combat LARP settings. The owner, Avi, keeps a particular eye on what goes on in the LARP scene and is a great person to talk to about LARPs no matter where you are in Australia.
Finally Calimacil is probably the most popular brand for weapons and armour in Australia (I say possibly because the fight for that title between them and Epic Armoury is fierce). If you’re looking for a one stop shop for high quality and impressive looking geat, they’re a great place to go.
Of course, don’t just stop at the conventional stores. Cosplayers and convention are great places to go to get advice, ask questions and buy things, and sometimes you can even get specific items commissioned! And don’t forget the joy of making things yourself. There’s nothing that makes a character more personal than putting the entire outfit together yourself, and it’s a lot cheaper too.
Creating A LARP Character
Finally, we come to the most important bit. Creating your character. We’ve left this until last because, frankly, what it means to create a character could change significantly on which LARP you join. Some LARPs are very deep in their setting or have a very rich and very specific aesthetic. Others are much more free-form with your character plucked from whatever setting you want or relying on a handful of standard archetypes and then dropped into place. The main thing is to find out what rules and guidelines are particular for -your- LARP in particular, but there are a few things that can help you out regardless of what LARP you’re looking at joining.
Know Your Setting: You don’t have to know much, but at least knowing the parameters and reading or watching something in that genre will help you build your character and flesh them out.
Choose an Archetype: In theatre there are 16 character archetypes with a number of traits that define them. Some claim more, some claim less, but it’s essentially a set of popular tropes dating back to Shakespeare or earlier. Think of it like the Myers-Briggs test of the theatrical world, it’s not precise, and there’s a lot of variance, but it’s a good start.
A Signature Item or Piece of Clothing: As Shakespeare himself put it in the early 1600s, “the apparel oft proclaims the man”, or in regular terms, clothes make the man. In LARP the visual element is a major part of play and it’s often useful to pick some outfit or even small trinket that you feel embodies this character. This step is especially useful if you’re playing in multiple LARPs as associating a character with an item of clothing can be a great way to remind yourself of who you are and what your goals are in character.
Come up with a Reason for Being and a Story Hook: It may not matter much, but give your character a Reason For Being at whatever the LARP is and give them some hook that might make others want to know more about you. The hook could be purely visual, or perhaps you might construct an elaborate backstory where you’re looking for a long lost relative after a tremendous tragedy. Or maybe you just really need a beer. Whatever it is, it gives you a reason to move forwards or stay put, and a way for others to interact with you.
And that’s it, once you’ve got those four things covered you should be ready for creating a character in almost any LARP. But why wait? Give it a try! Make yourself a character right now for a setting of your favourite show with the archetypes we linked above and whatever is currently in your wardrobe and see what you come up with. It really is that easy and a great way to get your imagination working.