Beast: What is LARP?

What is LARP? Can you learn anything from it? And why is it even interesting to play someone else?

There are many ways to learn about yourself. Meditation, journaling, unusual and reflected situations… The youth exchange BEAST (6-16 August 2023, Djurovo, Bulgaria) added one more to this series of possibilities – eduLARP.

LARP is an acronym for Live Action Role Playing, which means playing roles here and now. We can imagine it as an improvised theatre, in which each of the “actors” enters under a different name, with a fictional past, characteristics, and goals. Unlike traditional theatre, however, there are no spectators in LARP, as it is not about perfect character portrayal but about experiences and insights. It is precisely the safe environment and the mask of another character that allows you to learn about yourself through LARP. Therefore, edu(cational)LARP.

The story of this eduLARP began with the arrival at the location, a remote and undoubtedly interesting place due to its diversity of both the buildings and the surrounding terrain. Immediately after arrival, we split into tribes. These tribes did indeed exist in the past, but the entire story took place in a fictional world with fantasy elements. The following two to three days were spent in preparation. We got to know each other, learned to make and use soft weapons, decorated the camps of the individual tribes, and gradually tried out what it was like to play a role. In the end, each of us created their role for the upcoming three LARP games, and that reflected and actively utilised what we are good at, and supported us in something that is not so easy for our everyday self.

The middle part was the actual playing. Four hostile tribes, which had gathered on neutral territory, definitely had a lot to deal with among themselves. In addition, they also participated in challenges from the local queen, specifically in combat, dance, and poetry. The whole negotiation could have turned out differently if a certain tribe had not angered the queen with their poetry to the point that she expelled us all… The following battles claimed the lives of the kings and queens of all the tribes and even the dissolution of one of them, its members were divided among the remaining tribes. The country fell into chaos. Monsters appeared that had to be faced. And later, after we had taken a little break from playing, even worse things. The tribes fell apart, lost their weapons and finances, and found themselves under attack from various creatures from who knows where. Death herself appeared. We needed to earn money for food and weapons so that we could defend ourselves… We needed to find a way out of this world of chaos and destruction. And in the end, to elect a new king and, under his or her leadership, to put the country back in order.

The end of the event was already in a calm spirit of returning to reality and reflecting on what we could take away from this experience, whether it was knowledge or the techniques used.

For me, playing LARPs was not a novelty, I was more interested in the used form and the goals it pursued. The event brought me, in addition to insights about myself, an interesting insight into how other participants without previous experience react to role-playing and how this method can be combined with self-development techniques. In general, I would summarize my experience as very informative and developing, albeit in many ways not as I expected.

  • – Ivča