National Larp Organizations Breakdown
Scattered across the United States, there are dozens of Larp and battle game groups. Some of these groups have members in the thousands, while others may only have a hundred players in total. It can be difficult to find these groups - particularly the smaller groups - and even more challenging to join. Below, I have written a short breakdown of many of the major national larp group in the U.S. (State Larping Organization List Coming Soon). In the hopes of bringing new players wanting to get started in the hobby, and larping veterans looking to branch out and cross-game. After the description, there is a link to that organization's website in an effort to guide you to a little more information about that organization and hopefully help you find a local group in your area. Much of the information in this article has been taken directly from the organization's site and rulebook, as well as information directly requested and given by staff and players. The rest is composed of my own personal experiences and opinions. Please take this information with a "grain of salt" and not the gospel. At FoamFighters.net it is not our intention to insult or belittle any organization, and we feel every group can be unique and valuable to players in it's own way.
Belegarth/Dagorhir: - Originally part of the same organization, these are two of the heavier combat-focused organizations in the foam fighting community. Treated mostly as a sport or martial art there is very little to no role-playing, the primary focus is on the battle aspect of larping. Heavier foam weapons are used and fighters generally execute
harder strikes. Most of the foam weapons are either hand-made or purchased by community vendors and the use of latex weapons is generally not allowed due to minimum weight restrictions. Both organizations use a similar, simplified ruleset, involving no hit points, and no abilities. Instead, foam combat revolves around a single “life” and multiple hit zones designating the type of damage taken. Example: If you are stabbed in the chest, you are considered dead. If you are slashed on the arm, you are still alive but you lose the use of that arm. If you lose two limbs (arms or legs) you're dead. Different foam weapon types are symbolized by different colors: “red”
for larger weapons, “yellow” for archery, etc. Armor (if built to realism and safety standards) is allowed and offers a small degree of protection to the players.
Amtgard: - A great middle-of-the-road organization, Amtgard has a strong balance of
combat and roleplay. Foam combat generally involves many of the same basic rules and concepts as other boffer organizations like Belegarth and Dagorhir, but include optional rules for classes, leveling, magic, and special abilities. With a heavier focus on storytelling, Amtgard encourages the use of player enacted monsters and NPCs with special powers and specific rules. Lighter weapon restrictions are enforced allowing for more unique weapons and builds. Amtgard also includes a robust armor system that allows a variety of different armor types and materials, each granting various levels of protection. The organization also uses in-game props like cloth, rope, and spell bags/balls to better visually represent the effects of certain spells and abilities.
Nero: - A very fantasy, roleplay heavy organization, but one that still includes live boffer combat. The game takes place in the medieval fantasy setting of Tyrra. On Tyrra, there are a variety of duchies and kingdoms, many of which are represented by a NERO Chapter. Character sheets (cards) and in-game items are used along with leveling and abilities. The use of LARP costumes and outfits is strongly enforced.
Combat is sometimes referred to as a “lightest touch” LARP. Where the solid contact on a strike is given more importance than the actual striking force behind it. Multiple hit points (HPs) determined by your class are used in lieu of just strike zones. Weapon restrictions are focused on safety and playability more than weight and realism. NPCs are regularly used by the “plot team” which runs the storyline events. Players are generally encouraged to stay roleplaying “in character” for the entire event outside of “out of character zones.”
SCA: - Technically a historical reenactment group, the Society for Creative Anachronism has an emphasis on the arts, crafts, and history of medieval Europe. Combat (which is optional) is conducted using fully functional armor and solid rattan
wooden weapons with little to no padding. This is by far the hardest-hitting battle game outside of actual live steel sword fighting, but combat is only one small aspect of this organization. Personas are generally used but there are few other elements of “Role-playing” in the traditional sense. Not unlike a renaissance fair. Larping costume or garb as a general rule is always required and members are even encouraged to take up authentically building, crafting, and even brewing their own items using the same methods as medieval Europe.
Mind’s Eye Theater: - Is a "World of Darkness" based, non-combative LARP known as theatrical LARP. No actual weapons ( padded or otherwise) are used and combat is
represented entirely by a series of character stats along with a random modifier, much like other tabletop roleplaying games Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder. Each player is given a character sheet. Players complete skill checks and engage in combat with a system of rock, paper, scissors, along with skills and ability modifiers which are selected at character creation. Storyline and role-playing are the sole focus, with “storytellers” or “game masters” describing the events or acting out the “scene” for the players.
Dystopia Rising: - Dystopia Rising is a post apocalyptic game that takes place
generations after the fall of humanity. It’s a world that focuses on the stories of rebuilding communities, the action and horror of surviving in a nightmarish wasteland, and the drama and passions of what it means to be alive. The game focuses on a number of darker/horror themes including but not limited to zombies, war, cults, etc. Characters are given a number of base stats (body, mind, and resolve) and abilities to
use during the event session. These can be upgraded later using the in-game experience points system.
Dystopia Rising utilizes “Lightest touch” boffer combat, dart gun foam projectiles, and thrown packets. Events can even feature 24-hour immersion and attacks at night and after-hour raids by antagonists. Crafting and economy are a large part of the game, with a variety of resources that can be gathered and turned into items and equipment using a blueprint and the appropriate skill. Finally, characters have Infection. Reach zero and your character returns one final time… as a zombie.
Alliance LARP: - Was originally formed in 1989, they changed their name from NERO Alliance to Alliance LARP in 2007. Events take place during modules. A “module” has a definite objective and entry point. You and a few of your friends will have several encounters along the way to your goal that will be necessary for you to complete in
order to achieve your quest. First and foremost this is a role-playing game. Although there are battles, they are not a war/battle game. Plots are intricate and logical. Combat is carried out using approved padded weapons, each type of weapon is assigned a number based on the amount of damage it does. Magical spells are represented with small beanbags or “packets” filled with birdseed used along with verbal spell components. You “buy” skills with Experience Points that you earn at events. These skills allow you to improve your character’s abilities and damage. Some of these skills, once purchased, are played out in real life. Traps and locks are normally physical (electronic) items that must be disarmed without being set off or unlocked with the use of lock pick tools purchased in-game.
Darkon: - Founded in 1985, Darkon Wargaming Club is an immersive medieval fantasy boffer larp that offers a mix of heavy boffer fighting and immersive role play with character customization. Country (Teams/Units) accomplishments are visually
represented on a medieval fantasy map, where the outcomes of such battle games can cause countries to either gain or lose territory. This added incentive opens up room for folks to do in-game politics, in-game currency, alliances, contracts, mercenary companies for hire... Darkon is a whole world unto itself with a culture and history over 30 years in the making. Different classes grant access to using different armor and weapon types, as well as special abilities. Darkon hit zones are very similar to games like Amtgard, Dagorhir, and Belegarth- and although there are some rule differences here and there- a person from another game could comfortably come out and adjust to playing as the fighter class (which is ideal for cross-gamers) right away.
Full Length Film: Here
LARP Adventures: - What LARP Adventures strives to do is take what is best about European LARP: the realistic and superbly crafted weapons, high level of costuming, roleplay, and story, and combine it with what is best about American LARP: the full contact competitive sport like fighting of Darkon, Dagorhir, Belegarth, and other high-speed US-based LARPS, with an eye towards the hardcore attention to detail of the SCA
and other historical groups. It's not just a brutal world of combat and never-ending battle (there will be plenty of that), but it is also a world of artists, craftsmen, a world of beauty, and music. There will be puzzles, and riddles to solve. Locks to pick, hearts to break, love and glory to win. Your actions will become tales for the bards to sing. Character are given the choice of a number of different classes or "paths" as they are called. These paths define what special skills each character can use along with which types of equipment they are offered. LARP Adventures Is based in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia areas.
And Everything in Between: - Variety is the spice of life, and there is no shortage of possibilities in the live-action role playing world. There is a LARP theme and combat level for just about anyone. Check out our event page to find local LARPing events near you. Many of these smaller groups function on a local or state level so a simple google search of “LARPs near me” or “LARPs in X” is a good place to start. Many have Facebook groups and other social media outlets to help communicate with their members.
If your looking for a little more information on LARPing check out the following books published on the subject.
The Arts of LARP - by David Simkins
The Modern Nerd's Guide to Larping - by Lizzie Stark
Leaving Mundania - by Mike Sciandra
P.S. For more general information about LARPing read our "What is Larp" article.