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A live action role-playing game (LARP) is a form of role-playing game where the participants physically portray their characters. The players pursue goals within a fictional setting represented by the real world while interacting with each other in character. The outcome of player actions may be mediated by game rules or determined by consensus among players. Event arrangers called gamemaster decide the setting and rules to be used and facilitate play.
The first LARPs were run in the late 1970s, inspired by tabletop role-playing games and genre fiction. The activity spread internationally during the 1980s and has diversified into a wide variety of styles. Play may be very game-like or may be more concerned with dramatic or artistic expression. Events can also be designed to achieve educational or political goals. The fictional genres used vary greatly, from realistic modern or historical settings to fantastic or futuristic eras. Production values are sometimes minimal, but can involve elaborate venues and costumes. LARPs range in size from small private events lasting a few hours to large public events with thousands of players lasting for days.
LARP has also been referred to as live role-playing (LRP), interactive literature, and free form role-playing. Some of these terms are still in common use; however, LARP has become the most commonly accepted term. It is sometimes written in lowercase, as larp. The live action in LARP is analogous to the term live action used in film and video to differentiate works with human actors from animation. Playing a LARP is often called larping, and one who does it is a larper.
The participants in a LARP physically portray characters in a fictional setting, improvising their characters' speech and movements somewhat like actors in improvisational theatre. This is distinct from tabletop role-playing games, where character actions are described verbally. There is usually no audience. Players may dress as their character and carry appropriate equipment, and the environment is sometimes decorated to resemble the setting. LARPs can be one-off events or a series of events in the same setting, and events can vary in size from a handful of players to several thousand.
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