LARP Terminology

I use a lot of LARP terms in my posts that I realize may not all be universal, so here is a list of terms I commonly use for reference. I’ll keep updating this as more terms occur to me. Please note this list (mostly) reflects the terms as used by the local communities as I understand them; LARP terminology is far from universal, and lots of different communities use these terms to mean slightly (or very) different things.

Accelerant — a rule system for boffer LARPs created by Rob Ciccolini that uses calls and hit points. One version of the rules can be found here.

aGM — assistant game master. Someone helping a GM or GMs run a LARP. See GM.

Assassins’ Guild — a LARPing organization of MIT. Website here.

Bleed — the phenomenon of in-character feelings affecting  a player’s out-of-character feelings (bleed out) or vice versa (bleed in).

Blue Sheets — sheets containing information on a LARP’s setting or some part of its setting, of which duplicate copies are distributed to all players whose characters would be privy to the information. Often printed on blue paper to make them readily distinguishable from character sheets (which are unique to each individual character), but not all blue sheets need literally be blue.

Boffer — a type of LARP where combat is “live”, meaning players actually tap each other with padded weapons (and/or strike one another with projectiles.) Also a type of LARP weapon where the weapon is padded with foam. As in “I hit him with a boffer sword.” I sometimes use this interchangeably with “live action,” but for some people, this term excludes latex weapons.

Campaign — a LARP that runs over the course of multiple separate sessions, like episodes of a tv show.

Combat Bubble — See Time Bubble.

Consequences — a LARP convention that runs annually in November in the UK.

CP –– Character Points, like experience points in a tabletop RPG, are earned through attending events and doing various services to a LARP. CP is spent to buy new in-game abilities and raising the stats of a character. This term is used by Accelerant LARPs and some others.

Crosscast — to cast a female LARPer in the role of a male character in a LARP, or a male LARPer in the role of a female character. As in, “I was crosscast in that LARP” or “we can crosscast one of the girls as Mr. Smith.” (This term does not yet quite account for non-binary genders, but some people use it to mean being cast as any gender other than one’s own.)

Crunch –– to play a role, as an NPC, of a combatant for the PCs to fight, as part of a horde. Typically, crunching involves playing monsters who have minimal or no individuality. They often either do not speak to the PCs or have some sort of basic dialog to repeat, and they often re-spawn because the exact number is frequently insignificant. Most commonly used as a verb, as in “I crunched for half an hour” or “are you going to crunch with us?” with “crunchy” as the noun form, as in “I was playing a crunchy.” Alternatively, used as an adjective, as in, “I was playing crunchy skeletons summoned by a necromancer to attack the PCs.”

Dead Dog — a gathering for a meal at a restaurant following a LARP or a LARP convention, during which players and staff commonly discuss the event. It comes from the expression to be “dead dog tired”. This term is common in the New England theater community. (Also has been referred to as a “dinner mob“.)

Dice Bubble — a weekend of free theater LARPs run at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, usually run in February. See Time Bubble (convention).

Festival of the LARPs — a weekend of free theater LARPs run at Brandeis University, usually in April.

Field Pain — hordes of monsters, usually crunchies (see “crunch”) that randomly attack PCs when they aren’t specifically out on a module. A LARP variant on the “wandering monster” trope. Typically, when monsters wander by the tavern where the PCs spend down time and attack whomever happens to be outside, it is called “field pain”.

Floon — emotional excitement over a LARP. Also a verb, as in “to floon,” meaning to indulge in floon.

Game Wrap (activity) — a post-LARP activity, usually in the form of a GM-lead group discussion where players talk about what happened in the LARP that just ran.

Game Wrap (publication) — a publication about the art and craft of LARP. Website here.

GM –– game master. Someone running or helping run a LARP.

GM Space — a space set aside for GMs to operate when running a theater LARP, typically forbidden to players. See Monster Camp.

Hard Skill — a in-game character skill that relies on the players’ real skills to perform. For example, if picking a lock in-game requires a player to actually produce lock picks and pick a lock, then lock picking is a hard skill in that particular LARP. See Soft Skill.

Hook — an NPC whose job it is to deliver information to the PCs with the intent of them following up on the information by taking some form of action. As in, “we sent out a hook to inform the PCs of the bandits”. Alternatively a verb, as in, “we sent out an NPC as a villager to hook the PCs for the bandit module.” To “pre-hook” means to send out a hook to share information with the PCs that they are likely to act on after some delay. Pre-hooking can help PCs time prepare for a module and know to be ready at a specified later time.

HRSFA — Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association. An organization of Harvard University through which LARPs are organized and run. Website here.

Intercon –– the annual all LARPing convention, currently running in New England. Website here.

Litform — a style of LARP characterized by long form prewritten character sheets, and often other long form written materials, such as descriptions of various elements of the setting

Live Combat— a genre of LARP where combat actually involves LARPers tapping each other with fake weapons, typically either boffer or latex, or strike one another with projectiles, commonly spell packets or nerf weapons. See boffer and spell packet.

Module — a segment of a LARP, typically a boffer LARP, that can be identified as its own distinct adventure or challenge within the overall event. In New England Accelerant LARPs, it commonly involves an NPC hook coming to inform the PCs of some sort of challenge (common challenges include combat and puzzles) or means of gathering information through roleplay, then bringing them to the location where they attempt to overcome the challenge or engage in roleplay.

Monster Camp — the base from which a staff runs a boffer LARP, where modules are organized, and where NPCs get into costume, typically forbidden to players. See GM Space.

NPC — non-player character. A character under direct or indirect control of the staff, often a monster or someone used to relay information to the PCs. Occasionally used to refer to the person playing the character. Also a verb, as in “to NPC a LARP” or “I NPCed that LARP.”

One-shot — a LARP that runs as a single, standalone event.

Parlor – see theater.

PC — player character. Usually refers to the character a person is playing in a LARP, but is occasionally used interchangeably to refer to the person who is playing the character. Also a verb, as in “to PC a LARP” or “I PCed that LARP.”

PEL — post-event letter. A LARP staff asks its players to fill out PELs after events, for the purpose of keeping track of what happened during the event and feedback.

Perm — short for “permanent death”, perming refers to a character, usually in a campaign, dying with no chance of being resurrected. Used as a verb, as in “to perm a character” or “that character permed.”

Pre-hook — see Hook.

PvE — player vs. environment. A type of plot or conflict where the players oppose forces in the environment, such as traps, monsters, NPCs, magic curses, etc.

PvP — player vs. player. A type of plot or conflict where players oppose one another. Also sometimes called CvC (or character vs. character) because it is meant to describe in-game conflict, not out-of-game conflict.

RP — roleplay.

SLAW — the SFS Live Action Weekend. a weekend of free theater LARPs run at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Smogging — sharing LARP “war stories”

Soft Skill — an in-game character skill that is represented with abstract mechanics, and not tied directly to player skill in the relevant activity. For example, if I use rock, paper, scissor to determine the outcome of combat, combat is a soft skill in this particular LARP. See Hard Skill.

Spell Packet — aka a “spacket”. Small objects made of fabric, birdseed, and rubber bands, thrown during some boffer LARPs to represent ranged attacks, such as magical spells or arrows.

Theater — a style of LARPing without live action combat. Also sometimes called “parlor” or “freeform” LARPs in other communities.

Time Bubble (convention) — a weekend of free theater LARPs run at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, run in the fall. See Dice Bubble.

Time Bubble (phenomenon) — when mechanics cause in-game play to slow down such that the game is no longer happening in real time for involved players, those players are said to exist in a “time bubble” until the mechanics are resolved. Sometimes called a “combat bubble” when the mechanics are specifically ones that deal with combat.

15 Responses to LARP Terminology

  1. Sam says:

    Thank you so much for this list. I’m writing a story, and I want the details to seem genuine. This helps greatly. Thanks!

  2. Jack says:

    Is there a term for someone who is a new comer?

  3. jordan tame says:

    is there a term for if someone is thought to be cheating or miscounting hit points?

    • Fair Escape says:

      If they specifically do it against female opponents, I’ve heard people call it “girl armor,” as in, “he wears girl armor” but in general, I hear people say “that person doesn’t take hits.” I can’t think of any one slang word that covers it, although I wouldn’t be surprised if other communities have their own term for it.

    • There’s an old term: “rhino-hiding.”

  4. Keith says:

    Rhino-hiding was a term that came from the SCA (Society of Creative Anachronisms).

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  7. xavid says:

    Not to be picky, but I will say that “theater LARP” is commonly used for games without combat at all, and also Intercon has been in Rhode Island for a few years.

    Also, I’m curious whether people would consider a mechanic that’s entirely player-skill based, but one that’s a different skill than your character is using, a hard skill or a soft skill. (I.e., resolving swordfights with nerf combat, or picking locks by solving sudoku).

  8. Fair Escape says:

    Yeah, I wrote the Intercon thing a few years ago, I’ll update that.
    Also agree re: theater LARP — I’ve been defining it as “LARP without a hard skill combat” which can include soft skill combat or no combat. I should update that as well.

    I think a task that is dependent on a player skill that is unrelated to the skill the character is using (like Sudoku for lock picking) would be considered a soft skill. But it’s not a dichotomy, it’s more like a scale, with a lot of gray area in between soft and hard skills.

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  10. Sapphire Lavender Heart II Black Smith rank 3 says:

    Hello fellow larper here. i just wanted to say i love your larping terms. im new to the larping community i would love to learn more.
    -Sapphire Lavender Heart II

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