LARP or Live Action Role Play is latest form of gaming to capture the UKs imagination. Using improv, costumes and outdoor settings, it is literally a breath of fresh air.
“It’s similar to games like Dungeons and Dragons, but instead of sitting around the table rolling dice you put on costumes and become the characters,” LARP veteran Claire Main said.
Main works as Glasgow Branch Liaison Officer to LARP group Fools and Heroes, in which she has gamed for four years.
She said: “LARPing has been around for quite a long time; in the eighties we spotted the first groups in the UK. In the nineties the Cuckoos Nest was set up as part of Glasgow University LARP society, but it has now become its own separate entity. Lots of LARP groups have now sprung up in Glasgow.”
Although one of many, Main explained that the Fools and Heroes group works as part of a wider network.
She said: “The society, as a whole, works by allowing members of one local branch to play in the games of others throughout the country. So you can play as your character and travel as them throughout the UK.”
Main recalled: “I had a phone call this week from a couple in the Plymouth branch of Fools and Heroes, wanting to match our LARP session dates with those of their holiday, so that they could join the game while on their break.”
She added: “I have friends all over the UK now that I wouldn’t have met otherwise; it is a wonderful social network!”
Although part of a national scene, Fools and Heroes Glasgow branch practices most in Mugdock Country Park.
Main set the scene: “The park has a lot of terrain to play with. It has an old World War II bunker that can be adapted to be a trap in the game; it also has open fields and marsh that can be farmland, battlefields or graveyards. Nature can set a wonderful backdrop to get your mind going. Some of the best games that I have had have been when the mist has come rolling in or there has been snow on the ground.”
She added: “Nature is however, only a starting point. Its up to the player to get immersed into the character and for the referees to set each situation up well, so that the game feels authentic.”
This authentic vibe is created by splitting the game and group in half; the first half sees one lot of fools and heroes assume characters on a noble quest, while the second lot will play the villains and damsels in distress. Then after lunch participants swap around, so that everyone gets a chance to play both signature and supporting characters.
Signature characters have become synonymous with LARPing, as many players use the medium to become their idols. However, Main explained that is not quite how it works in the world of Fools and Heroes.
She said: “All LARP groups are different, but Fools and Heroes sees you play one main character of your own design. You will start of as a primary character, such as a squire, then as your character grows in experience and wealth they can progress. For instance, after a while your character can join a guild, join a church, learn magic and develop into an epic hero.
“This development allows you to learn as the same time as your character, for instance the first time your character encounters a troll they won’t know what to do, so a more experienced character will need to step in and show you. Then as you learn and progress you will help those less experienced.”
This learning also expands players’ life skills.
Main explained: “It gets you exercising and encourages you to develop other skills on the side. I have learned to sew, knit, crochet all through LARPing.”
While the game is progressive, it is high contact, so not suitable for everyone.
Main cautioned: “Fools and Heroes LARP is a physical game, it involves running and combat so it would be more challenging for people with mobility restrictions, however there are all kinds of LARPing out there, so it is up to the player to find one that suits them.”
Likewise Fools and Heroes only allows full membership at the age of eighteen, due to its adult content, but Main explains that there are other groups out there that will cater to younger players.
She concluded: “It is hard to describe what LARPing is, so I would say to anyone that is curious about it to just come along and give it a go. It would lend itself well to team building and an alternative day out.”