Live-action role-players at Drachenfest 2012. LARPing, as it is abbreviated, is also available to play in Georgia. Contributed photo by Irve, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Your guide to LARPing in Atlanta

LARPing: It's a silly-sounding acronym for live-action role-playing, a serious and popular hobby that you can play — or watch — in Atlanta and elsewhere in Georgia.

OK, so where are the LARPs? There are several! More than our research will probably have discovered. One note: LARPs spread far and wide, and though some LARPs hold events at Dragon Con downtown, others regularly meet across north Georgia and beyond.

Here's an assuredly incomplete list: 

A Vampire-based LARP; Dust to Dust, set in the Middle Ages; NERO Atlanta, another medieval LARP; SOLAR, a high-fantasy LARP;  Eclipse, a science-fiction LARP set on another planet; Dark Passages, mixing high-fantasy and steampunk; Forest of Doors, a LARP set on eight different worlds; Mind's Eye Society, which operates two games right now, Vampire: the Masquerade and Werewolf: the Apocalypse; and Xadune, a steampunk-themed LARP set on a "mysterious island city."

LARPCore also provides a roundup of options across Georgia, complete with a summary and their website info.

OK, so now I want to get involved. Great! Here's a guide.

What is "live-action role-playing"? A mix of both theater and gaming., LARPing is played just as the name describes: Instead of entering a fictional world using an Xbox or a board game, dice and playing cards, participants instead imagine they are in the world themselves.

They dress up as their characters (a wizard, a warrior, a vampire) and follow the rules of the game in real time. Yes, that means players will announce out loud, and go through the motions of, for example, "attacking" another player.

Are all LARPs the same? Not at all. (Are all board games the same?) There are role-playing games that imagine medieval magical kingdoms and games that imagine a steampunk nighttime vampire society and games that imagine everyone is, or owns, Pokemon.

Some LARPs, including in the above list, take place in outdoor spaces such as state parks, over several days.

The one thing all LARPs have in common is the definition in their name, that they are live and require you to be someone else.

So does playing cost money? It does, though the costs vary by game. For example the Vampire-based LARP run by the Atlanta Interactive Theatre is held in the Arts Exchange, which used to be Grant Park Elementary, and which charges a fee at each monthly meeting for rent. But longer games held in state parks charge more.

Do I need to bring anything to play? Definitely your imagination and a basic familiarity with the thing you are attempting to play. But by no means an expertise! Depending on the game, also bring costuming materials and other props; and if you're attending a multi-day game at a state park, you'll need additional supplies (and some planning).

Remember: Refer to the rules of the game you've chosen before attending, and reach out to the individual group if you have questions.

What's the point of playing? It's not so hard to understand: Like any role-playing game, or any game at all, LARPing allows players to work to achieve a goal within a series of rules, often while trying to beat other players. It's social, it's competitive and it can be richly narrative — a bonus for people who never want their weekly installments of "Game of Thrones," or their seven-volume "Harry Potter" series, to end.

So how does it work? Each LARP's rules vary, sometimes widely, and their rulebooks and other info are often available online (see above for some links). Here's a general breakdown:

Each playing session is overseen by one or more people, sometimes called the storyteller or gamemaster, who oversees and structures the story which guides play. The playing sessions have continuity, so that what players do in each one affects the larger "story," or goals of the game. ("You have to rescue a princess." Or: "You rescued the princess but now she's evil." Or: "You tried to cut off the evil princess' head but she cast a spell and now she's invicible.")

Some LARPs encourage elaborate costuming and some LARPs have mock combat involving, say, foam weapons; and some LARPs resolve combat with rock, paper, scissors, or some other form of non-engagement.

But each individual player can customize that experience. Some LARPs have intricate hierarchies, cliques and other internal logic that build on and direct player choices. The rule is to preserve, and go with, the flow of the story.

Step one: Pretend you are actually that fireball-wielding wizard. The rest gets easier.

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Did we forget yours? Email me at adam.carlson@ajc.com. This story has been updated for clarity.

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