Is LARPing the Same as Reenactment?


Historical reenactments may take place in many parts of the world, but there is always some confusion that surrounds them. They are an event that tends to pull in a very specific audience so some questions may come up from time to time.

One of the questions that may be asked is in regards to the type of reenactment that is being done. For example, you may have seen some LARPing (live action role-playing) videos online, or perhaps there may have even been an event in your local area.

LARP event example Coopers Lake
LARP event – The Pennsic War at Coopers Lake
Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania; source: www.atlasobscura.com

If you are asking if LARPing is the same as a reenactment, you might be surprised by the answer.

In some cases, LARPing has some differences when you compare it to more authentic historical reenactments. Typically, those who are involved in LARPing are not as accurate when it comes to the weapons associated with the historical portrayal. In addition, some larping events involve fantasy.

Although there are some differences between LARPing and more legitimate historical reenactments, it doesn’t mean that you should count out LARPing altogether. Why?

For one thing, the barrier of entry for LARPing is much lower than it may be with a historical reenactment. You might be interested in taking part in a Civil War reenactment, for example, but you don’t have access to the uniforms, weapons, or other items that would make the experience authentic.

difference between LARP and reenactment
Examples: top – LARP event “Clockbottom”, set during the Civil War, with steampunk elements (source: www.nordiclarp.org). Bottom – reenactment event at Willamette Mission State Park with more historical accuracy (source: www.statesmanjournal.com)

You might find that there are some historical reenactments that are done in a LARPing fashion that can give you a taste of the historical significance of the event. Of course, there are sometimes when LARPing is just a fun way to spend an afternoon.

What does LARP mean?

Since both larping and a historical reenactment are typically centered on a specific historical event, you might be wondering why LARPing is separated into its own style.

what does LARP mean pic

In part, it has to do with the meaning behind the word, ‘LARP’, which is what larping is centered on. LARP stands for “Live Action Role-Playing” but it is more than simply role-playing. As the name would suggest, it takes place in real-time and there certainly is a lot of action involved!

Perhaps the reason why LARPing and historical events are often separated from each other is that LARPing is not always specifically associated with this historical event. It certainly can be, and you may find people LARPing on battlefields around the world, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the same thing.

A historical reenactment often focuses on the accuracy of the event. This could include the uniforms that are being worn, as well as the firearms or other weaponry that is used during the reenactment.

In fact, there are many volunteers who take part in historical reenactments that spend a lot of time and effort preparing for them. A LARPing event may be different, as volunteers can simply show up and jump into the heat of battle.

LARP event for public in Poland
LARP event example open for public, with no historical accuracy. Source: www.mojchorzow.pl

Since LARP involves role-playing, it is not necessarily associated with the authenticity of the event it is portraying. In fact, there are many times when LARPing is nothing more than fantasy.

Of course, there may be those who take part in a LARPing event that are familiar with the history associated with that time period. They might even attempt to have weaponry that is somewhat authentic, but almost anything is typically invited onto the LARPing battlefield.

As an example, people taking part in a Civil War reenactment will spend a lot of time and effort putting together a uniform and getting a black powder rifle that is associated with the Civil War. If you were to ask them questions about what they were wearing, they may understand details about it that would educate the spectators.

On the other hand, somebody who is taking part in a LARPing Civil War reenactment could bring weapons onto the field that were fashioned out of cardboard tubes and Styrofoam. Some of them may not even be remotely associated with the weapons that were actually used during the Civil War event.

foam shooting musket for LARP
Example of wooden, foam launching musket used in LARP events. Source: www.kickstarter.com

As far as fantasy LARPing is concerned, these events sometimes are put together quickly and without any real thought going into what they are associated with. Generally speaking, fantasy LARPing is just a way for people to blow off some steam and have a little bit of fun.

What is the purpose of a reenactment?

Historical reenactments are often planned in detail months or perhaps even a year or more in advance. Some of them may continue to take place every year on the anniversary of the event.

The most common reason why a historical reenactment is done is to educate others about that moment in history. There may have been some information written in history books, but actually viewing it on the battlefield is a much more effective way to learn.

There are also those who are very interested in that part of history, particularly if it happens in their local area. Volunteers may travel for many miles in order to take part in the event. It’s good for the local economy, and it’s enjoyable for those who take part in it.

educational reenactment living history
Example of educational reenactment – Living History Days event at Shingle Creek, Pioneer Village. Source: www.orlandoattractions.com

When larping is done as a form of a general reenactment, it may offer some interest in what is taking place but at the same time, much of it is going to be lost in the details. Very few people who are larping are going to know why they are on the battlefield or what actually took place at that moment in history.

Both historical reenactments and LARPing offer benefits to those who take part in it. It can also be enjoyable to watch either of the events happening although the reason why they are enjoyable is somewhat different.

Why do people LARP?

Most people who get involved with LARPing do so because it is a way to have some fun. Many of the events are going to happen in an impromptu way, and it is very little in the way of rules associated with LARPing.

In some cases, this allows people to have some fun but in other cases, they may be interested in the act of LARPing and try to improve on it in some way or another. This can often be seen in the weaponry that is carried onto the battlefield.

One other reason why people may LARP is that they want to be part of something that is enjoyed by others. Some people will run onto the battlefield, grabbing anything they can to take part in the event. Other people, however, will stand on the sidelines and have a lot of fun watching it take place.

Witcher LARP event
People having fun at Witcher LARP Camp. Source: www.reddit.com/r/witcher/

Is LARP better than a historical reenactment?

It would be impossible to say that LARP or historical reenactments are better or worse than each other. After all, they are significantly different from each other so they both have their high points and their low points.

It really boils down to the reason why you are taking part in the event. As somebody involved in it, you can spend a lot of time preparing for a historical reenactment. You may want to know everything that there is to know about the person you are portraying.

On the other hand, LARPing is often done on the spur of the moment, without any real thought as to why you are doing it or what you are portraying. It’s just a way to have some fun, and that is a benefit all of its own.

ReenactmentGuide

Group of reenactment passionates, writing for people looking to start an adventure with historical reenactment and struggling to find valuable and actual information.

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