History of Live Action Role-playing Games - American History

American History

American LARPs have no single point of origin, although many of the groups still in operation can claim a lengthy history.

Among the live-combat groups, Dagorhir Outdoor Improvisational Battle Games (Dagorhir) was founded by Bryan Weise in the Washington, D.C. area in 1977. The International Fantasy Gaming Society (IFGS), also live-combat but with a complex rules system more clearly influenced by Dungeons and Dragons, was started in 1981 in Boulder, Colorado. (IFGS took its name from a fictional group in the novel Dream Park by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes, which described highly realistic, futuristic LARPs.) At about the same time (but before 1981), the Assassins' Guild was created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to pursue "killer" or "assassin"-style live-combat games with toy guns, but also to encourage creative design in LARPs. Assassination style LARPs spread to many other college campuses, even spawned two movies TAG: The Assassination Game in 1982, and Gotcha in 1985. Amtgard (a spin off of Dagorhir) was founded in 1983 in El Paso, Texas and has hundreds of active groups in the US and Canada. While NERO International has over 50 chapters in the US and Canada, it was founded only in 1988.

Theatre Style LARP began in America at around the same time. In 1981, the Society for Interactive Literature (SIL) was founded by Walter Freitag, Mike Massamilla and Rick Dutton at Harvard University. The club's first public event was in February 1983, at the Boskone science fiction convention. A substantial part of the SIL membership broke off from that organization in 1991 and formed the Interactive Literature Foundation (ILF), which in 2000 changed its name to the Live Action Role-Players Association LARPA. The mid-Atlantic and northeastern US has been a center for Theatre Style events, especially the Intercon LARP conventions.

The northeastern LARP scene, founding place of SIL, NERO, and the MIT Assassin's Guild, continues to have an active LARP scene, due to the large number of college campuses present. Other universities along the East Coast have been strong "incubation" sites for northeastern LARPs. Early (pre-internet) campus-based LARPs formed in isolation, developing their own style of games with little crossover with other styles or regions. The existence of larger regional organizations, of published LARPs, and of the internet has helped to create a field of "LARP theory" and deliberate experimentation with LARP forms.

The region also plays host to many, smaller, fantasy-based LARPs, such as Lione Rampant, Quest Interactive Productions, Legends Roleplaying, Mythical Journeys and Chimera Entertainment's nTeraction (now Accelerant), all formed in the 1980s and 1990s by fantasy enthusiasts with a love for character roleplay and adventure, but without large player bases or complex rule systems. Quest is the oldest of these groups, dating back to 1986. Some of the other LARPs were formed as splinter groups of larger, more franchised LARPs, such as NERO. Such LARP groups tend to run in the spring and autumn, utilizing summer camp facilities (such as 4H and group campgrounds) in their off-seasons.

The Southeast is also home to a very large LARP community. The various Fantasy-based games are also splinters off NERO as well as one another, forming a relatively extensive list: SOLAR (the Southern Organization for Live Action Reenactments), Red Button Productions, and the experimental fantasy LARP Forest of Doors, among others. Many of these LARPs are run out of State Parks like in other areas, most often Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge, Georgia, A.H. Stephens State Park, or Indian Springs State Park. Several World of Darkness-based games are also run out of Atlanta, as well as a Science Fiction Stargate-genre LARP, Stargate Atlanta FTX, and a Victorian Steampunk & Gaslamp fantasy LARP, Xadune. The Neighboring state of Tennessee has chapters of Heroic Interactive Theatre, including a Steampunk game, World of Hashonen. Amtgard and NERO also run games in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee.

Since 1999, the mid-Atlantic US has been a center for a number of crossover Theatre Style/Adventure Style events or "campaigns," which fall outside the medieval fantasy genre which tends to characterize a majority of Live Combat LARPs. An initial impetus for this was the attempt of various fantasy groups to adapt the Call of Cthulhu as a LARP genre, however the genre has expanded to substantially wider horizons. The progenitor LARP in this genre was Mike Young's Dark Summonings Campaign, followed by transitional LARPs including the Mersienne Medieval Fantasy Campaign (medieval fantasy), Outpost Chi (science fiction), 1948: Signals, 1936: Horror, as well as the heavily Call of Cthulhu based Altered Realities Campaign and the Victorian "steampunk" Brassy's Men Campaign. Together this network of current and previous events make up a substantial and innovative body of work which characterizes a vibrant mid-Atlantic US LARP Community. The rise of many campaigns all drawing from the same community has tended to preempt growth of non-campaign games, though, and to some degree push out the 'less dedicated' gamers due to the higher commitment needed.

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