Is it Larp or LARP, and what does it stand for? LARP is an acronym for Live Action Role Playing. Although it had no official name until the 1970s, it has existed for thousands of years.
Occasionally, acronyms can be confusing to understand, especially to those unfamiliar with the language they originated from. But LARPing is popular worldwide, with clubs on all continents with tens of thousands of active players traveling to participate in the many events.
Let’s take a look at the history behind the word, what LARPing is, and the fascination in human history to take on role-playing as a popular pastime.
What Does LARP Mean?
A LARP is a live-action role-playing game in which participants physically interact with each other while taking on the roles of various characters, both real and imagined. In some scenarios, characters may be from a popular movie, novel series, or historical event. LARPers participate in the games for fun, acting practice, or to learn history in an amusing way.
LARP may be used as a noun or adjective.
- The LARP convention is being held on the second Saturday of March. (adjective)
- The students were looking for an advisor for the LARP club they wanted to start as an after-school event. (adjective)
LARPer is a noun used to describe one playing a LARP, and LARPing means the process of playing.
- I’m not sure he is available next weekend; he is a LARPer and travels a couple of times a month to various events.
- She wasn’t sure about the date he had planned for them, but by the end of the night, she discovered she really enjoyed LARPing.
LARP may be spelled lowercase as in larp, but in most cases, LARP is capitalized, with the derivatives spelled in uppercase and lowercase letters.
Origins of LARPING
The etymology of LARPing is truly difficult to narrow down since it began in several different places throughout America, Europe, and Australia in the late twentieth century. The earliest group most associated with modern LARPing clubs is the Society of Creative Anachronism, a living history group. They were founded in 1966 and are international in membership, focused on the re-enactment of the Medieval European periods before the 17th century.
The first recorded LARP group was founded in 1977 in the U.S.—its play focused on fantasy battles influenced by the popular Dungeons and Dragons game. Next, U.S. science fiction conventions ran role-playing games, and in 1982, the Society for Interactive Literature was founded. Also in 1982, the first British LARP game, “Treasure Trap,” was formed in the United Kingdom. The next year, LARPing made its way to Australia.
If we truly want to consider the origins of role-playing, we can trace it back through the entirety of human history. Most cultures have oral histories of their origins and traditions and have acted them out to keep the stories alive. The ancient Romans regularly staged great events and re-enacted battles from history (in fact, the Colosseum was used for this entertainment), and great playwrights reinvented stories and history on stage for others to watch.
After all, isn’t taking on a role as another person a form of LARPing? Even children play out their favorite characters in the backyard and recess plays as a form of LARPing.
LARP stands for Live Action Role Play. Although people throughout human history have been involved with it one way or another to pass on stories or simply have fun, the term itself wasn’t coined until the 1970s.
Today, there are LAPRing clubs throughout the entire world with tens of thousands of role-playing participants.