THE WORD LARP IS NOT DEROGATORY
Far too many people regard the word “LARP” as insulting. I don’t find it insulting at all. It is descriptive. It is not a pejorative, unless the person objecting to the term is representing himself and his society as something other than a LARP.
LARP is actually an acronym and not an independent word. It starts for “Live Action Role Playing,” and ” is a form of roleplaying where the participants physically act out their character’s actions.” There are a lot of variation in its description and definition, though these variations do not differ as substantially from Living History, and I don’t think that the term “character” is essential, although the term is very close to “persona” or “impression.” In some minds, if you have an alternative name, a backstory, a title and powers (that is, powers not attained from natural abilities but granted by the entity running the LARP), you have a character. I’m not certain, but that is a matter we can deal with in a later column!
The term actually is dependent on what participants want to do. On what they concentrate. Why they joined and participate in that society. It might be an obviously fantasy- and magic-based society—like Nero or Dagorhir or even Dungeons & Dragons—and even then there are some practitioners who get protective of their image and refuse the term. There are others which are more realistic—I have dealt before with the difference between high and low fantasy—but which still are driven by the definition as set forth above. Take away these components, and there is no reason to have that society!
The difference is not a set of rules; everything has a rule of some sort. The difference, I think, is whether it has a set of authenticity regs. The fact that a society has authenticity regs of some sort—something more specific than merely requiring an “attempt” (not even a reasonable or earnest attempt) at period costume—although these regs differ not only in interpretation but often in what is required. A generic reasonable attempt (as interpreted by whom? Obviously authenticity regs usually require AOs of some sort)? An ability to point to specific physical artifacts from the time? As I noted before, that is up to the society and its members. There is no need to be involved with a society when you do not agree with its regs. That is unfair to you…and to the society and to its other members!
However, it seems to me that the existence of authenticity regs can indicate that the society is not merely a LARP, but their existence does not determine the opposite. Is serious Viking Age—or any era—reenacting a LARP? It certainly could be, and I think it depends on what that society or those participants want it to be. If wanting to make things as accurate as possible according to the society’s authenticity regs is one things; and if there is LARPish factors—for example, a member who emulates a specific historical individual—contained within those requirements, then I would have no problem calling it a LARP.
And would not be consider that using such a term is a put down at all!