Religion in LARP

Religion is a common theme in LARP. Many questionnaires I fill out ask me how I feel about playing a religious character. I’ve come to interpret those questions in two ways. If there’s one religious themed character, they’re probably an evil zealot. If there are two, one is the evil zealot, the other the kindly old man.

And if the LARP takes place in the real world, the Big Bad Organization is often the Catholic Church. In a non-real setting, if religion is evil, if often resembles Catholicism, at least superficially in terms of its hierarchical structure, the clergy, and occasionally, the rituals.

I try to chalk it up to the fact that Christianity is just the most common and visible form of religion in our culture… But there seems to be kind of an anti-religious streak in the LARPing community, which makes it harder for me to simply write off this sort of thing as innocent short-cuts in writing, whether it’s writing new cultures or coming up with easy villains in period LARPs.

It’s kind of why I shy away from religious characters and plots in LARPs. I kind of assume there’s a high risk of potentially offensive stereotyping, and I’m just not interested in playing it. But maybe I’m missing out on some fun plots by avoiding them altogether.

And I’m not entirely sure what the alternative is. Nothing but the latter type of religious characters? (I.e. the kindly old men)?


About Fair Escape

I've been LARPing for years in all different styles, including both boffer and theater. I love classic LARP but I'm always happy to try something new. I have a sort of "gotta catch 'em all" attitude towards experiencing LARPs. I'm currently serve as a board member of NEIL, a member of proposal com for Intercon, the largest all LARP convention in the US, and as en editor for Game Wrap, a publication about the art and craft of LARP. I was also con chair of Festival of the LARPs 2017, and I'm on staff for NELCO, the first all LARP conference in the US. I'm
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2 Responses to Religion in LARP

  1. Lily says:

    (Just found this blog, hence late comment)

    I noticed this trend, too. Which is why the latest Paranoid and Crotchety game, Folding the River, contains several religious characters, all of whom I consider to be sympathetic. One’s a liberal Sufi Muslim. One’s a devout Christian from a branch which has a fair bit of Catholicism in it. Two are Russian Orthodox, to one extent or another (the prevalent religion due to the setting.) Various others mention religion as a part of their family background, even if they’re not religious themselves. I think taking religion out of character portrayal removes a major source of characterization and depth, and making the religious characters automatically evil is, well, offensive on both the personal and the ‘good writing’ levels.

    I, myself, happen to be thoroughly agnostic, but if I only wrote characters who are like myself, that would be boring.

    Which is a long, rambly way of saying, if you ever play in River, don’t be afraid to check the ‘religious’ box, if you’re in the mood for playing someone religious. (And there’s also plenty of options if you’re in no such mood.)

    • Fair Escape says:

      That’s good to know, since I’m really looking forward to playing in Paranoid and Crotchety LARPs.

      I’ve been thinking more about this subject, and it occurs to me that I was mostly thinking about theater style and only one boffer. Most boffers, especially fantasy, have a very different way of looking at religion (ie the pantheons of various alignments, with proof they exist) and people who play cleric types have a very different way of looking at religious characters. It’s probably a topic worth revisiting.

      Thank you so much for the comment! I keep meaning to announce this blog’s existence, and have yet to get around to it.

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