Hardenstein 2014 LARP

The Differences in Roleplaying Between LARP and Tabletop

Many gamers start roleplaying games through tabletop systems like Dungeons and Dragons. Almost everyone has heard of Dungeons and Dragons, and they probably also have an idea that it involves dice and roleplaying. But, as many DnD players know, dressing up and staying in character the entire game is uncommon. Still, some gamers want this experience. For these players, there’s live action roleplaying, better known as LARP.

What Is LARP?

Fantasy Live Role Playing Characters, Hardenstein 2014
Fantasy Live Role Playing Characters, Hardenstein 2014 / Photo via Wikimedia

LARPing is an inherently different experience from tabletop games, though on the surface they seem similar. Both deal with roleplaying, though the players are expected to execute their actions in very different ways. In LARP, breaking character is a last resort while in tabletop, it’s often built into the system. Some tabletop games may have live action elements, but they are built around verbal storytelling rather than physical action.

In LARPs, players become their characters. They’re expected to dress like their character, talk like their character, and perform the actions their characters would perform. Obviously, there are some limitations to this, but the level of in-character engagement is designed to be higher than that of a tabletop game. Though some character stats and abilities may be outside of the player’s ability to actually perform (e.g. magic, bonuses to attacks, etc), the player otherwise stays in character for everything, sometimes even including tasks like eating and drinking.

Your Characters Actions


Because LARP is a very immersive and intense experience, it’s important to be very comfortable playing your character. While tabletop characters can often get away with burning a town to ash, LARP characters can get away with a lot less. A character who attempted such a thing would likely be immediately apprehended, while DnD characters often just sneak away. This is because the players are closer to the setting and the world is often more populated with player characters. It’s easier for a DnD party to go along with such a thing than it is to convince twenty or so other players that what you did was unworthy of swift punishment.

That being said, it doesn’t mean there aren’t whacky plans or disasters in LARP. It just means that the game, which usually lasts far longer than a session of DnD (days versus hours), is designed more around consequences. Every player knows that there are consequences in DnD. A game master will figure out how the world reacts to the group. The other players can also figure out how to react, but, in most circumstances, keeping the group together is everyone’s first priority. In LARP, however, the players have to deal with the reactions of all of the other player characters, who may not be as keen on staying as a group.

How Your Character Interacts With Other Characters


The biggest mistake roleplayers can make, especially in LARP, is creating a character with an expectation of a certain reaction from other characters. In both tabletop and LARP, characters might not always get the reaction they expect, even when they have high charisma scores. For LARP, this can be especially important when it comes to the other player characters. In tabletop games, because most of the world is played by the GM, the reactions to characters are more controlled and consistent.

This comes down to a matter of thinking about the player character. When designing a character, “everyone likes them” isn’t a character trait that can be controlled and may set up the player for disappointment. However, “they are friendly” is something that lands solely on the player. Keeping to this way of thinking allows the other characters to decide how they feel about the character. Is the friendliness refreshing in a cold, dark world or is it suspicious?

Moreover, players should be careful with how close they are getting to the character. Because the level of immersion is so high, the lines between player and character are easily blurred. Hostility towards a character or exclusion can be taken personally, so it’s best for players to take a step back if needed and for other players to check in that everyone is still having fun. To even better combat this, playing a character dissimilar from yourself will increase that separation between player and character.

How Your Character Interacts With The World


Like tabletop games, the possibilities in LARP are as endless as the players’ and game masters’ imagination. However, LARP generally has a more refined focus. Immersion is important, so dressing up the space and populating it with different tasks is the ideal scenario. Physical space is an important part of immersion, and because LARPs are often larger scale than tabletop games, characters can go in many different directions with the plot and story hooks.

In traditional tabletop games, the focus can often only be on one thing at a time. The combats are turn-based, and one character going off by themselves creates a situation where other players may be left doing nothing. However, in LARPs, the focus doesn’t have to stay on one particular person. However, the drawback to this is that it may end up that one person hoarding information may lead to very different experiences for other players. In tabletop, the players still get to see what’s going on and get the full story. However, in LARP, players can miss entire plots. Though players have more room to go off on their own, they still need to be conscious as a player of the experiences others are having.

Featured image credit: Wikimedia

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