Saturday, November 16, 2013

Back Yard LARP

My son asked me awhile ago if we could run a LARP in our backyard for him and his friends. So, last Sunday that’s what we did. It was the first time I had ever run a LARP, so I ended up learning a few things.
First, for those of you for whom this is a new topic, LARP stands for “Live-Action Role Play.” It’s a hobby in which people take on characters and interact with other characters to solve puzzles and problems, fight enemies, and achieve a set goal. There is a plot for each event that is established by a plotmaster or staff ahead of time.

The plot for our event involved a group of young students forced to cross a war torn country to get to a portal that would take them to a palace and safety. Along the way they had to solve puzzles in order to collect pieces of the key to the portal.

Boffer weapon – a weapon consisting of foam-wrapped core
Mod – a scene or happening within a game, such as a battle or a feast
NPC – non-player character, the portray the characters the players encounter as they work through the plot.
PC – player character, someone who is playing the game

What worked:

The scene changes went well. They were prepped ahead and the NPCs readily pitched in to make them work. I tried to keep most things simple, but I wanted stuff to look good, too. I think the scenery was good. I got to use my giant chess board. I had a cave and a river and  a wizened tree.

Some thing that could be adjusted:

I think if I did this again I would arrange for a separate room upstairs for the NPCs to put their costumes and weapons. I wasn’t prepared for the sheer volume of stuff they brought. They used it to make the evening utterly fun for the boys and I am glad it was there but a better space for it might have been useful.

The kids’ evaluation:

The boys said that they wanted to do this again. One gave it a 9/10. Two boys said they would have liked a deeper plot. On the other hand there were a couple of them who seemed to not be worried about the plot at all. Deep plots are hard to manage for one-off events, especially those designed specifically for kids. However, if I do this again, I’ll go for something more layered.

What the NPCs had to say:

“You started and ended on time.” Apparently that is quite an achievement in the LARPing world.
“The next event is all combat training.” We started off with the boys at a “swordcraft school” and used that mod to teach them the basics of boffer fighting. Things like no head shots, how to count their hit points and what makes a legal hit. There really wasn’t  enough time for that and the boys needed frequent reminders to not hit too hard, to avoid the head and groin and not to keep hitting a monster that was down. So maybe we’ll do an event all for that – no plot, no characters, no costumes, just teaching.
“Just have a basic plot and then let things happen.” OK – I’ll try not to be quite so directive next time. I teach kids.
“Add spellcasters.” Next time. I wanted to keep things simple. Most of these kids have never LARPed before.

A couple of things I would have done differently:

I think I would have had the NPCs come a little earlier than the players. While two NPCs ran the first mod, I met with the others but then I never filled in those two. Everything did work out, but maybe a few minutes to get organized would have been better.

I would have delegated food preparation ahead of time. I had done most things ahead and the players brought potluck, but I had planned to do the final bits of cooking and heating up myself. That was not going to work, but fortunately when I asked for someone to “IRL make pasta” a friend stepped up and handled the kitchen. It went fine, but having handed it off ahead may have prevented a bit of stress.

One thing I was very glad for:

The NPCs. A friend of mine gathered an awesome team, combining some mutual friends of ours with some people from a game she plays in. The organizer of that game actually gave in game advantages to players who came to my house to bring LARPing to kids. I was very grateful to my friend for organizing these people and to each of them for turning up with their costumes, weapons, energy and teaching skills. (Oh, and there was this cute little skeleton NPC—so awesome!)

Some things never change:

LARPing has always attracted more men than women, although there are some ladies thoroughly dedicated to the hobby. Jordan and I invited plenty of both boys and girls to the party. On the day, we had 10 boys show up. Not one girl came. Amongst the NPCs/adults the men outnumbered the women 7-4 – and one of the women was a Mom who decided to hang around and watch her son. I have no idea what drives that gender gap but it seems to be real.

Basically, I think it was a fun day. I am hoping we can repeat it and make it even better.

LARPing is “just a game” but it is one that requires people to think, work out strategies and find solutions. At the same time, with boffer LARPS, you can get a pretty decent physical work out. I am glad my son enjoys this pastime and can share it with his friends. 

What are your hobbies? What benefits do you see in them?
Have you stretched yourself recently? What did you learn?


  1. Sounds like fun. A lot of work, but fun.

  2. This very interesting. I had not realized how much work was involved to put even a simple LARP together. I think it is wonderful that you put in the time to encourage your son's hobby!