"Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith: I love it when a plan comes together…"

- The A-Team -

LARP - Live Action Roleplay

LARPing has always been a big part of LOTNA, going to the annual Dropzone Events and playing themed games such as Goldrush (set in the Firefly universe). Kelly wrote this article for the first issue of our fanzine LOTNA'Verse

Now we organise our own games. Please visit the LOTNA LARP website for full details.


You're running through the woods, pulse pounding in your ears and the comforting weight of a P90 in your grip. Trees are your best friends as you dive for cover, shadows to either side the only indication that you're still with your team. There is no warning - a shot sounds ahead, a brief flare of scarlet and your sensor sings in response. Hit! But only wounded, no need to call for a medic as you return fire. Movement from another flank catches your eye and you turn to face the new threat. From behind the trees bursts a creature of nightmares - alien, monster, undead; it could be any or all of those things. Do you fight or flee? The choice is yours...

The above scenario could be any one of our regular tag games. Players don sensors and take up arms (a wide range of laser tagging guns and occasionally LARP weapons) to work as specific characters in a complex scenario. Game settings are limited only by our imaginations and the choices we make in-game constantly affect the outcome, just as they would in real life. Scenarios are often set in well known universes, popular examples being Doctor Who, Aliens, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate, the list goes on… And likewise, you will find yourself confronting enemies from all those realities and more.

Interested? New players are encouraged to come and give it a go, you won't be disappointed. There's always spare kit to share and room in a team destined for daring adventures - or a horrible demise. Games are held most often down at Portsmouth (nearest train station is Botley, where pick ups and drop offs can be arranged), although we make use of a number of locations all around England and car pools are regularly organised.

So if you like the sound of saving the world, fending off inhuman foes, and generally getting into the spirit of full-action live role playing, let us know! Come along to a LOTNA pub meet and chat to the larpers who regularly save the world.

What is Larping, and how is it different from everything else out there?

Laser tagging, air soft, paintball - with all the different hobbies out there it's confusing to know where Larping fits in.

Have you ever been to one of the above and been left slightly disappointed by the end of the game? My experience has been that the extent of scenario motivation with those games is usually no more complex than "Capture the flag" or "Hold the fort". A focus on fireplay is all well and good, and if it's entertaining enough for you then that's great, but many of us are looking for something more from our hobbies. I've found that Larping fills that gap. Have you ever held off a wave of attacking aliens with limited ammo, a poorly defensible position, and teammates falling on either side? Do you think you could do it?

Live action role playing is exactly as it sounds - intensely active character-based gameplay. We work with laser tagging tools to simulate combative situations, which adds an element of realism that supports the scenario being played out.

The scenarios themselves are the backbone of a LARP game. They are worked on for weeks, months, and sometimes years by dedicated players who bravely try their hand at game running. The situations are limitless but our interests lean towards sci-fi, with many games being set in the Doctor Who, Stargate, Battlestar, Hellboy etc. universes. Sometimes players won't even know what framework they're playing inside until a Dalek rounds a corner or an Alien leaps from the shadows (also known as a "Brown pants moment").

Our motto is, "Don't watch it, live it!" and we live by this with every event, stepping into the shoes of our characters completely and doing things we might never dare normally. A group of non playing characters help keep games flowing and on track but at the end of the day the power to control your fate rests largely in your own hands - players have survived deadly situations (where game runners were hell-bent on bumping them off) purely through an imaginative escape plan.

If you are looking for a little action in your life and want to live your favourite fandoms instead of just watching them, Larping is probably for you. So come and join us as a U.N.I.T soldier, a viper pilot, or an interstellar explorer for a day. Games also run over full weekends, and if you think you had fun during the day just wait till you're chased through an unfamiliar forest in the middle of the night by marauding aliens.

Seriously, don't just sit back and watch it on TV, get out there and live it!

What to expect from your first LARP game:

Your first live action role play game can be a little daunting if you don't know what to expect. Some people may have reservations about travelling out into the countryside to shoot - and be shot at by - a bunch of strangers in camos all day.

Games run all over England and every attempt is made to ensure that public transport is convenient - there are always players who are happy to pick up and drop off people at the station. Alternately, there's usually a couple of carpools with a space or two available if you ask around (a contribution to petrol is a nice way to say thanks). First thing to do once you arrive is to get yourself sorted with kit, which is much easier if you've let the game-runners know beforehand that you'll be needing some. We have a number of spare kits specially for loaning to new players, but we do occasionally have a lot of new people show up so it's helpful to have an idea how many spares have to be sourced.

The day itself follows a fairly predictable format: generally 4ish hours from the beginning of the day till after lunch will be dedicated to a 'themed game' - that is, one which has an established scenario, characters, and storyline. There will always be some sort of briefing at the beginning of these and a division of groups - usually based on clothing colours: blacks and greens/camos. You may want to check beforehand what colour/team would be best for a new player. The briefing will by no means tell you everything (usually just enough to get you killed) so don't worry if your still feel a little lost as you head out into the woods or tunnels. Part of the fun of the game is working it out as you go along. After the themed game there will be a debrief that hopefully will answer any remaining questions, although occasionally games run over several months so some things will have to wait for next time. In the afternoon we often have a few smaller informal games. These have less structure and focus on characters and can be a good opportunity for a new player to get to know the site. When all's said and done - and we've all died several times over - most of us head down to the local pub for a drink or three and the chance to swap war stories from the day.

Things you need to know:

Kit - Depending on the player this can be a very large amount of equipment. However, for a new player it's usually just two items - a laser tag gun and a sensor. You'll be instructed on how to use both of these on the day as types can vary significantly. Other items commonly included in a kit are: Flak and/or tack vest, PMR radio, a torch (usually small enough to strap to the laser tag gun), a whistle for emergencies, LARP-safe close combat weapons (good for zombies and other monsters where a gun just doesn't cut it), helmet and various other articles of body armour, and a plethora of props that may come in useful over the course of a game, such as gas masks, lock picking equipment, etc.

Injuries - You will get shot, you will fall to the ground, and you will - if you are so inclined - give an impressive death cry. Don't worry though, it's not the end. We use a system based on Smarties (of all things) to represent medical relief. If your sensor flatlines you must fall to the ground without making any further contact with your teammates - for all intents and purposes your are unconscious - and wait for a medic to revive you. If you've stuck with your team and they see that you're down then it usually won't take long for a medic to be rushed to your side, however, if you've gone off on your own and no one knows where you are it might be a good time to take a nap. Moral of the story: don't run off without at least letting your teammates know where you're headed. Or better yet, don't run off on your own; this is a team sport after all. The medic will hand you two Smarties and then cross-reference the colours on a sheet of paper that will tell them what injury you have sustained. General rule of thumb is that nice colours like blue and pink are good, whereas scary colours like red and orange are bad. In the best case scenario the medic will tell you to stop faking and get back on your feet, whereas worst case may see you "dead-dead" (two red Smarties means in-game death, but a quick chat with a game runner will usually result in you being reinserted into the game as your identical cousin, or handed a mask, told you're now a monster, and let loose to attack your former team mates). Depending on the severity of the injury you'll be told that you're "down" for x-number of minutes (during which you will be unconscious and helpless), and then injured in a particular way for anywhere between a few minutes to the rest of the game. This can range from being winded for 5 minutes and unable to run, to blinded for 10 minutes and have to be led around by a teammate, to complete loss of an arm for the remainder of the game. A small consolation to having to carry an injury is that you get to eat the Smarties the medic treats you with.

Out of game - Occasionally NPCs (Non-Playing Characters) or game-runners will have to make their way from one position to another, cutting across where players may be defending. In this instance they are considered out of game and will usually either take off their sensors, raise their hands, or hold their tag guns above their heads to indicate that they're not in play. Best thing to do is just let them get on with their business and act as if they're not there. Very occasionally something in the player's field of vision will have to be changed or a surprise prop will have to be moved through where players could see it before they were supposed to. For these times a "time out" is called and players are expected to hold their positions, close their eyes and hum until the all clear is given. There's really no point in peeking as it just ruins the surprise for later on.

Bounce back/reflection - One of the challenging aspects of using laser tag equipment is that the laser beam has a tendency to reflect back off pale colours or shiny materials. Game-runners sometimes blatantly exploit this by sending metallic Terminators, Cybermen, or Daleks after players knowing full well that most of their shots will bounce straight back to them. It's part of the job requirement for a game-runner to be just a little bit evil… Tunnels are also a problem, especially if they're a pale stone like chalk. It's quite possible to be hit from around corners in those situations, which mimics the real life effect of ricochets. For underground or indoor games some players modify their laser tag guns to tighten the beam so there's less spread and chance of it bouncing where it shouldn't. It's not usually too much of a problem outdoors, with the main exception being holly bushes. Try not to shoot anywhere near one, those shiny leaves can be lethal.

Muzzle flare - Another quirk of the equipment is what's called 'muzzle flare', and can be just as dangerous as bounce back. The infrared light that comes from the gun with each shot doesn't leave the muzzle cleanly. The best way to describe it is to say it's like a horizontal candle flame. It flares in all directions directly after leaving the gun before focusing down to a precise "bullet" of attack. This means if you've got a teammate in front of you and you're trying to shoot over his shoulder, don't! You will kill him. A rule of thumb is that for every metre in front of a person you are, you should be one metre to the side - this puts you at a 45-degree angle from the firing gun. Never move in closer than this 45 degrees when someone is firing, and never fire if a team mate is within this danger zone.

Battery power - All the equipment (tag guns, sensors, PMR radios, etc…) run on batteries so it's best to conserve them as much as possible to ensure they don't run out halfway through a game. It's advised to turn them off over lunch and at the end of the day, but remember to turn them back on when you head out after the break or you could be in a tricky situation when the aliens start attacking and your gun doesn't work. And no one wants to be firing at someone seemingly unkillable, just to find that they've forgotten to turn their sensor back on.

Most importantly, have fun that's what it's all about.


Dropzone Goldrush Game Report of the Live Action Role Play Game set in the Firefly Universe by Kelly

Armageddon Sue's adventure at the all night lasertag game.

Dropzone 2014 Report of the annual Live Action Role Play Event by Russell


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