Contact and Physicality in LARP: The UK LRP Digest

Contact and Physicality in LARP: The UK LRP Digest

We started by talking about direct physical action in larp. Such as restraining someone, or manhandling them. Looking at this idea evolved into an article that considered things to think about if this is to be included. You can read that article here. This spilled over into the LARPBook show.

However I was aware that this is a complex issue where the value is in more than one point of view. I was also aware of the valuable differences between different game cultures. Both in terms of genre and nationality.

In order to learn more I asked the Facebook communities UK LRP  and Larpers BFF, These were quite intentional selections. LARPBook is UK based so I wanted to solicit more information from the UK. However we’ve always been about learning from other nations. So that it why I also looked at Larpers BFF. Its a good source of international discussion.

The original plan was to put both digests in the same post. However it soon became apparent that this would not work. Simply put there was far too much comment. Using a single post would have created something that was long, unwieldy and ultimately hard to read. Therefore we are breaking things down by group. What follows is the UK LRP digest.



Ross Allan:
Much as I’m not adverse to a bit of grapplin’, it’s not something I think should occur in LARP.

Yes, we could wear some kind of signifier, perhaps a Body Dev like coloured ribbon, but the issue comes when people aren’t as skilled as they think.

I’m well versed in pratfalls. It’s a skill I’ve had ever since I was a nipper, and I’ve never broken a bone in my body (so far as I’m aware). So one could argue that I know how to land myself.

But I’m also 17 stone of muscle, bone, lard and stupid. If someone of a lighter build tries to grapple me and I end up landing on top of them, there’s only one outcome. That’s just not worth the risk.

So whilst ‘consenting adults’ might seem the rational answer, it’s not.

Example of it going wrong? I was helping to IC restrain someone according to the rules (three people needed), and wound up with my hand cheese grattered between two sets of chain mail.

Little lasting harm done, but not something to be repeated, even though it was all well within the established and accepted rules

Simon Brind:
I’m a massive fan of larps with proper violence. As long as there is a solid escalation and de-escalation mechanic in place.

EmmM Dewey:
As I had to explain to a couple of capable chaps who wanted to try some grappling at an event I was crewing. “The test is not, can you do it safely. The test is, can a brand new player see what you did, think it’s cool, and try it on a random bloke later that evening, after a beer or so. And say said random bloke has a bad back…” (I’ve had to first aid a bloke who grappled someone at a non-grappling event. His excuse that it wasn’t time in yet, and the target was a mate, didn’t stop the necessity of us calling an ambulance.

Gareth Farrant – Kit Goblins:
Honest answer bit of grappling if it makes sense is fine… but fake punches, or headbuts and expecting other player to fall unconscious is balls (especially if its some mage type swinging) and annoys me.

Reply: Gideon Lawrence Aww… I like fake punches… but I rarely expect anyone to fall unconscious I just like the rp aspect.

Reply: Gareth Farrant Yes, but you are normaly playing some fighter type npc when doing so.. its the wimpy, bookworm type plyers/npc who annoy me (who seem to think the world have glass jaws)

Benedict Walsh
Touch not, lest ye be touched harder.

Hemming Ross
Should not happen at all. It is injuries waiting to happen.

Jayce Antique – Manticore:
From a safety perspective it’s just down to the group your with.

If you know your crowd is skilled in handling themselves with the appropriate break fall techniques , happy to take a bit of bumping around and know when to use a safe signal (normally tapping yourself several times on the chest or arm is enough) and there are enough watchers to keep an eye. It should be encouraged.

But if the crew is learning and not had much form in breaking a fall or signals- just no.

Ideally no anyway because most LARP has such a diverse mix of skill level and where they are at… I wouldn’t

Reply: Jayce Antique Also probably take on board colour coding. Have been in games where there are people that have light blue or red ribbons to signal they are trained in some form of martial art so you’re ok to proceed in some fancy grappling or weapon work. But most of those guys already now it takes 2 hits to kill someone

Reply: Brian C – k It’s down to the organisers whether they except that on site or not, not the players regardless of what they agree among themselves. Mainly because the organisers are responsible for what happens at their event and insurance etc.

Reply: Jayce Antique That’s the be all and end all.

It’s all good to suggest it but the Insurance and safety procedures you need to have is nuts to setup but once your team knows how to handle it – it becomes normal

Morgan Wilkinson
I think the bar isn’t just consent, it’s knowing the other person well enough to be comfortable working with their limits as well as your own. So anything more than very minor physical contact either wants to be discussed beforehand or to be with someone you have enough of an OC rapport with to be more or less on the same page improvising, and know what they’re likely to be comfortable with and what’s likely to hurt them or freak them out.

That’s not something you can really legislate for, or control in anything beyond a very small system, because it relies on players trusting each other and being trustworthy, and that’s not something you can police easily.
Which is a shame, because a good bit of grappling among friends is generally awesome fun. But the fact that there are people I can trust to safely pick me up and throw me around, and people who can trust me to do the same to them, doesn’t mean I can or should do that with just anyone.
I think the bar isn’t just consent, it’s knowing the other person well enough to be comfortable working with their limits as well as your own. So anything more than very minor physical contact either wants to be discussed beforehand or to be with someone you have enough of an OC rapport with to be more or less on the same page improvising, and know what they’re likely to be comfortable with and what’s likely to hurt them or freak them out.

That’s not something you can really legislate for, or control in anything beyond a very small system, because it relies on players trusting each other and being trustworthy, and that’s not something you can police easily.
Which is a shame, because a good bit of grappling among friends is generally awesome fun. But the fact that there are people I can trust to safely pick me up and throw me around, and people who can trust me to do the same to them, doesn’t mean I can or should do that with just anyone.

Reply: Robert Davies I like the bar being I’m comfortable with this thats a good idea

Maximas Von Bracey
Please note, this is very common place at fest events in Germany, ergo Drachenfest.

Reply: Jayce Antique Let’s just face it- Germany is light years ahead in LARP than most countries are. Not to mention German mentality is so much different to that of the others. They have compliance and safety hard wired into them. Seldom do we hear a game with someone recklessly getting injured because of IC combat.
Reply: John Cattes Don’t you believe it. Drachenfest is a game of 5000 nerds with swords, drinking heavily. The injury rates are comparable to those at a UK fest event.
Drachenfest is also not really representative of German LARP. It’s very much it’s own thing tailored to be accessible to international players.

Paul O’ Neill To wade in with a slight variation on the theme of physical risk in LARP…
…what are community member’s feelings vis-a-vis an individual taking personal risks at an event? By this, I mean risks outside of combat – for example, someone climbing a tree to loose arrows at monsters …or, climbing up a building to get into a first floor window (etc.)… any thoughts from organisers perspective (e.g. insurance)?
Reply: Neil Gunfield If you do something outside of the bounds of the game and injure yourself, such as climbing a tree, I doubt you would be covered by the insurance. So, go for your life! lol
Reply: Paul O’ Neill 😀 awesome! You know I will ^_^

Neil Gunfield If both are willing then, in my opinion, go for it. BUT it’s always important to check first, rather than just randomly grabbing someone.

Reply: Paul O’ Neill …but if I were running a game, and several players started taking such risks, should I be worried and intervene? If so, what justification would I have? If they injure themselves (e.g. break a leg) and attempted to sue me/us/the game organisation… as adults in the eyes of the law, I can only assume that they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on – ha! (pls ignore the pun it is a serious question)

Neil Gunfield If it were my game, I would risk assess each circumstance as it occurred and react accordingly. If my mate, the rock climber, decides to scale a cliff I’d probably be fine with that. If my mate, the student with zero upper body strength or coordination…See more

John Cattes Depends on the game. At a big mechanically complex game like a fest I’d just say no and maybe have a game mechanic to simulate fistfights.
At a smaller game if might be possible build workshops and safety training into the pregame window so everyone can be safe. This is quite common in continental larps but very rare in the UK.

Contact and Physicality in LARP

Contact and Physicality in LARP

This is going to be about touching and physical contact in larp. It is not going to be portraying intimacy in any shape or form. Instead this is an examination of all things to do with manhandling of other players in character. It’s about carrying, lifting, restraining, blocking, roughhousing and generally all things to do with physically manipulating another player. Also don’t go looking for hand to hand combat rules – that’s also not part of this discussion.

What are the rules?

If I want to say pick up or physically restrain someone what are the rules? This is where we get into one of larps big problem areas. In one part of the culture there may be one set of does and don’ts. But as you travel around locations and larps these may vary. Some will say that under no circumstances will physical contact prevail. Others will thrive on it as a means to immersion and emotional reaction.

The question becomes how do we handle this disparity?

So lets break down manhandling into digestible topics and look at what we can learn.

No One Gets Hurt But…

I’m going to kick off with the idea that the only absolute we work with is that nobody gets hurt. We have a responsibility to make our larps safe. Being safe however does not have to mean wrapping the players in cotton wool. It does not mean we ban acts because there is a physicality to them. Take sports. Many sports can result in injury. These are not banned because the risks are understood. In larp we should be thinking about this lead. Work to be safe, but allow all players to understand the risks they are taking, the culture they will be playing in and they expectations that will be placed on them.

We can work towards safety but allow rough treatment if everyone understands how to behave and what is expected.

And Don’t Expect People to Read the Rules

Its an odd fact that intelligent, creative and problem solving people like larpers are also capable of making illogical assumptions. In other words – “my group has always done things one way. Therefore this is the only way. I don’t need to read your rules or policies”. That is an assumption. Due to this its also possible that rules or policies that you write down will be left unread. Why? Because people will assume how you play. Assumptions are dangerous. Especially if a game can get rough.

The answer – always find a way to brief or workshop with as many of the players as possible before play begins.

Also keep reminding them about the documentation. Especially if it is updated. Reminding people to read is never a bad thing.

Make Sure Someone Understands Safety

What you think safety is and what a health and safety consultant things safety is could well be two entirely different things.

Why? Well your assumption may be avoidance of the possibility of injury under any circumstance. The professional will be more interested in defining the circumstances. Don’t forget to a safety professional – 100% safety is impossible. Educating people, making provision for the unexpected, and following good practise’s is not. If your game says yes to a hard form of touching then getting the opinion of a friendly health and safety person is no bad thing.

Also remember health and safety legislation. It is different in different countries. Don’t expect advice from an expect of one nationality to match that of a colleague elsewhere. Always remember that local legislation always trumps what you believe if there is a difference.

Be Mindful and Respect Your Environment

If the rules say you can push someone up against a wall just remember that’s only ok if the environment your in is not inherently dangerous. Modify your behaviour according to geography or the lay of land. Should you really be shoving someone around on the edge of a cliff? Even if the policies say Yay. Mountain Rescue says Nay!

How about some training?

If you’re going to allow rough stuff in your game then it might be a good idea to teach crew of possibly willing players how to do this kind of stuff as safely as possible. If its practical consider running a workshop on manhandling. You should find that martial arts instructors are more than willing to help out.

Teach People to Trust

Ok so here’s the scenario. A bunch of crew are pulling a player somewhere. The player doesn’t like this idea and reacts with force. A tussle ensues and someone gets hurt. An act of force turning into something more competitive like this is essentially wrestling and that can get dangerous. How do you get around this. Well teach people when to yield. Give the crew something to say that will let the player know that representing a struggle is ok, but keep it calm -as you are being dragged away. In a small to medium a game a good rule is “trust the crew”. As in the NPC or Monster crew would not be trying to do something they cannot do – after all they have the information on what all the characters are capable of. So go with it.

Develop Meta Techniques

We are not our characters. It may be that you want a rough styled game but to be honest you cannot assume that any player is capable of doing this well. So if you want dragging off, picking up and pushing against walls then consider using a combination of words and actions. Let your action become not who has the strength – but who can role-play it.

Involve Plenty of People

One person physically dominating another on a one to one basis can be pretty terrifying. Always have someone else around – even if only monitoring, to stop things from going to far. If you’re going to push people around, again make sure there are several people around. The general rule here – always have someone who can call a halt or deal with unexpected outcomes.

So what’s been going on

The aim here has become to get you thinking about ways you can make things feel real by physically making games more challenging whilst always keeping a watch ful eye to player safety. You may find some contrary ideas. That doesn’t make one thing right or one wrong. It simply illustrates the complexity of the topic. I shied away from how to advice – as that it part of the social contract for each larp. You have to figure out what’s allowed and how to tell players what that is. I haven’t issued health and safety advice as LARPBook is international. Ok in one country may not be Ok in another. I haven’t mentioned how to manhandle someone as that is best instructed person to person.

What I hope I’ve is made you thing about how to go about this safely in the context of your own events. And also how to far to go or not go with it.

I’m going to open this question up to the larger larp community and hopefully publish some feedback. I’m hoping there will be points and ideas that we can all learn from.



I’d like to thank Luke Pitt from L&RP Safety for discussing this topic with me at greatly helping in its outcome

The Forest Argent Larp International Player Interview

The Forest Argent Larp International Player Interview

At the end of May we visited Forest Argent – Convergence. Whilst we were there we shot some video and this is the first piece to emerge. It is an interview with two larpers from the Netherlands – Yasmijn Kok and Rein De Vries. They were attending the game as part of a trip to the UK. We’re used now to international travel for large fest or blockbuster events but travel to a club game is still a little unusual. So we thought we would ask

We ended up learning a little about the differences between larp groups in the Netherlands and the UK. It was good to see the affirmation that people will travel a long way to larp to be with friends.

I won’t say anymore. The interview can speak for itself.


Our apologies for the quality of Stuarts sound during this interview.

We’d also like to thank our interviewees.

Impact Earth: A Tool for Defining The Apocalypse

Impact Earth: A Tool for Defining The Apocalypse

Post apocalyptic larp is becoming increasingly popular. That’s great. But what happens if you want to run a game where you can define, the start of apocalypse in detail?. For a zombie larp you could refer to many books, films and TV shows that exist for inspiration. If you want to talk about the end of world via war there is no end of real and imagined resources to draw on.

But lets say you want to impose the same end of the world that the dinosaurs faced on mankind; or perhaps a prelude to alien invasion.

Well fear not – there is a web page for this and you can find it at


Allow me to explain what this is.

It is a tool for looking at the results of impact by meteor, asteroid and comet on the Earth. You define the point of impact (its horribly good fun to pick a city and visit all kinds of impact on it). You can also define the size, speed and composition of the impacting body. Since we’re not all space scientists there are examples to help you to define all of these variables in a reasonable manner.

Once you’ve popped these in you’ll get a Bing Map and plotted onto it you can select effects like crater size, airblast diameter, size of the resulting fireball or area effected by seismic shock. This lets you easily figure out not just the scale of the disaster but also what you might have seen or felt at the time of impact, depending on where you were.

This all makes for good storytelling and character development.

Since its easy to use you can use it as a tool to help players develop their characters. They can answer questions about which relatives and friends would have been killed, and who may still be wandering a devastated earth.

In case you’re wondering how accurate it is I’ll just mention who’s behind Earth Impact. Its Imperial College London and Purdue University. I’ll take their data as being worth playing with.

So next time you feel the need to end the Earth, consider impacts. Be it one big asteroid squishing us or marauding aliens using space rubble as shotgun shells, you’ll at least be able to say what happened.



The image used for this post is BENNU’S JOURNEY – Early Earth  and its via the NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab Flickr Account. Click here to see the image and its licence.


LARP Images from Spring 2017

LARP Images from Spring 2017

We asked the LARPBook Community for photographs of events that occurred in the first part of 2017. They responded wonderfully – thank you – all of you. So here is a collection of galleries from the UK and USA that gives you a glimpse into what LARP looks like – the Spring collection

Gisido Larp from Ohio gave us free access to their pictures, They’re a very active group and although I’m not sure exactly which event these are from – I still think you’ll enjoy them.

Altered Reality LARP plays out of Oxfordshire in the UK. Their third event “Those Left Behind” was played in April. It’s a post-apoc game so a lot of these feature the survivors camp.

This collection comes from Susan Hathaway with images from the Fear of The Dark event – “Beltane”. The game was played out in scenic Mid Wales and set the thirteenth century.

If its cowboy action you want then Beth Dooner took these from the thirteenth “The Good, the Bad & the Dead” They are a UK group. Mostly playing out of Deadwood – in Sussex.


So that’s four different games over two different continents. I think we’ll keep doing this kind of gallery – and with luck get a glimpse of more games in more places in the future.

LARPBook Show Special – Women in LARP

LARPBook Show Special – Women in LARP

At a recent LARP (Fear of The DarkBeltane) a interesting question was asked by a very experienced larper. It was about the roles women play in larps.

That question  was – why do more women seem to play NPC roles in games as opposed to player roles?

It was a question based purely on personal experience but it raised an interesting point. Is there a difference in how women choose their roles in a larp as opposed to men?

So we decided the interview the originator of the question (Susan Hathaway), together with the writer and referee of Beltane (Emma-Leigh Knight).

It turned into an interesting conversation and of course we also wandered of topic a few times..

Belatane, A Fear of The Dark Larp

Belatane, A Fear of The Dark Larp

A few weekends ago I travelled northwards to the new Fear of The Dark site to play in their first event for a number of years. That event was Beltane and I’ll be talking about it here

First though it seems appropriate to confess an interest and perhaps tell a little bit of the Fear of The Dark (FoTD) back story. FoTD is a small Welsh larping group that have been around for about 25 years. I had my first larping experience with them. Since then I’ve been a player, crew, writer and referee with the group. In other words I’ve been pretty involved and that does leave me with a desire for Fear of The Dark to do more.

The Background

FoTD games all have a number of distinguishing features. They are very real world. If you can stabbed, shot, stapled, chopped, minced, munched or maimed in any kind of way then the repercussions on your character will be serious. No sudden magical healing. This also extends to the setting – modern day games are set in the here and now. These can riff off the news right up until the start of the event. Historical events take on aspects of actual history. Even explorations into Science Fiction and Fantasy are all designed to have that real cutting edge.

These are also freeform larps. In that there are no complex rule or character generation systems. You simply have to come up with a story for your character and play that character. The sense of the real will take over the rest.

In a sense these games have a Nordic feel as they are all about pushing the meta and rules to one side that the player can ride an emotional experience.

Beltane was the first game since 2012 and it was to be the start of a series of games of which 4 are planned. Note that when I say series I mean one after another. I do not mean that the stories are linked. Campaign style play is incredibly rare in Fear of The Dark. Most events are one off stories. If you are lucky the larp may get a rerun. In the main though these are all stand alone larps. It does mean that FoTD are back from their hiatus.


Avoiding spoilers here’s the backstory. Its the year 1268. Only 5 years before Edward 1st invades Wales and the construction of Caerphilly Castle by Gilbert de Clare has just started. It is a difficult time for Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. In mid Wales maybe a days travel from the English border a band of gypsies aim to host a Beltane festival. For various reasons people start to gather at a nearby inn. Events start to unfold. Now I cannot say which people arrive at the tavern as true to FoTD style those characters are created by the characters independently of each other. On this run it included nobles,spies, gypsies, spies and thieves. An odd mixing of medieval society.

So events unfolded. Slowly at first. Inexorably tensions and suspicions started to rise. In the early hours of the morning apparitions ‘convinced’ 3 of the inns guests to venture outside – ill equipped I should say as the players reacted fully in character and went out without shoes or boots. By the morning time everyone had their own ideas, but it was time for the start of the Beltane festival. A festival that did not go well for any of the players

At this point I have to stop as I am either going to give away spoilers or continue to sound like a B movie voice over.

Lets put it into context. There was a lot of trepidation in this event. Quite a bit of I am scared of that. A fair degree of I am fighting against that and more than enough creepiness. Beltane had two runs. I was on the second and there a couple of scenes that I will not forget for a while. Perhaps the most memorable being one in which trust between evil and church as being negotiated.

Was it Good?

For me this was a good event. The new site for FoTD games worked well. The game felt right and the handover to a second generation of writers and refs felt somewhat special. I can’t wait for my next outing with Fear of The Dark.

If you would like to learn more about Fear of The Dark here is their website:


Questions To Ask When Going To A Larp – Part 2

Questions To Ask When Going To A Larp – Part 2

We recently posted a list of questions and tips that focused on gathering useful practical information when going on a larp. The sort of things you may need to know if its your first time with a particular group / event or venue. It was also intended for people coming to the hobby for the first time.

We also put out the question to the Facebook groups UK LRP and Larpers BFF  – how would you extend or improve this list.?

We got back from wonderful answers (some tips and some questions to ask), which are quoted here. Before you read these I’d just like to say a big thank you to everyone who responded. Your questions and tips were all first rate. Where I know of a relevant website for the respondents I’ve added it to give you a little more context.

From  UK LRP

Gareth Farrant (Kit Goblins)

Weather… larping pluss rain can be horrid.. pack spare kit just in case you get wet and good boots. Sealskin socks are awesome, dry feet can make the difference between a good event and never wanting to return


Sarah Lascelles

You’ve mentioned water but it’s probably worth mentioning salt too. And sun cream.

Also worth adding washing facilities to the things to ask about

Also, have a look at this
There are some potentially useful items on there, including an article about foot care.


From Larpers BFF

Lizzie Stark (

-photo policies, including policies on how images will be disseminated via social media

-harassment and other safety policies, including who to go to in case something goes wrong, where the off game space is, and what behavior is explicitly not tolerated. Who are the safety contacts? When are they on duty? How can I reach an organizer in an emergency? Who should I contact if I think a known broken stair or even, (lord forbid) someone who has assaulted me or a friend is attending this event? What are your policies for booting people?

-First aid–where the kit is and whether you are responsible for bringing your own. Is this site free from medical care? If I have a life-threatening food or environmental allergy, who can I tell, just in case?

-accessibility. Is the site wheelchair accessible? If I have a disability and want to know whether I can be accommodated, who should I reach out to?

And re: sleeping space: how are spaces assigned? Can I select my roommates? Are there single-gender sleeping options available?


Matthew Web (Incognita Limited)

“Who’s In Charge” as well. Might make a point that just because a player likes to talk with authority doesn’t mean they have any. Not that that ever happens…


Pieter Siripik

On my personal list of practicalities is quite high the question of “how do I get there and where exactly should I report to whom” followed closely by “when do I need to be there, when it is good if I am there, when it is must I am there – and what is the course of events before game starts and how do I find out game started”
Easy but sometimes missing is “do I have a number on a contact person from the org team” and sometimes I ask “is there anything special I should know and/or bring that I might be missing?” (Aka the question on unknown unknowns)


Ilan Inglis

Something I find odd to come up as often as it does- transportation! where is the game? when was the last time you checked it wasn’t changed? how are you getting there? is there public transportation? at what time? how much gear are you taking with you? do you have a ride? did you make sure the ride is for both getting there and going back home? how are you getting all the stuff you brought with you off the site at the end of the game?

Also, I might be repeating Lizzie here, but medication. you have to have it on you at all times. we had diabetics with empty insulin syringes who didn’t know how to refill them, allergenic people without their medicine on their person. people with chronic pain who leave their medicine at the camp site and break down half a mile away, or forget it at home 50 miles away.
we usually have at least one trained medical doctor on call at all big games, but even then having them treat something that could be avoided is putting a lot of pressure on the organisers, and is literally life threatening.


I hope you find these useful.

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