Thanks to games like Vampire, Werewolf, and Changling, there was a point in which parlour LARPing was likely more highly attended than boffer games. There's a lower barrier of entry, it's a little less scary (no one is hitting you with things!), and for someone who started with a tabletop game like D&D, the transition feels a little more natural. But now as we see a younger generation of LARPers, they're starting in the opposite direction. You're seeing more young highschool and college teams hearing about that cool thing where they can be a hero for a weekend and run around with your friends. Every month I run a boffer LARP, I see a whole new cadre of faces who have never roleplayed or LARPed before, and boffer LARPs are their first foray.
Boffer LARPs tend to be high structure and high mechanic. It can feel like a video game -- you can plan your character out, his stats, his gear, his weapons down to a T. There are rulebooks that are hundreds of pages just to prepare you to play for a boffer LARP. For this new generation of LARPer, it can make the world of parlour LARPing seem very foreign in comparison. But as we begin to see a resurgence of popularity in parlour LARPs and new styles of non-boffer LARPs beginning to develop, we wanted to provide a brief primary on what to expect for your first parlour LARP. Keep in mind that these are all generalities, and each game that you play will be different at the GM's discretion, but this should help set up a baseline of differences between the two.
Boffer LARPs vs Parlour LARPs
- Boffer LARPs are often highly structured, mechanic-driven events. Parlour LARPs are roleplay-focused and mechanic light. For those that want the experience of immersing and existing as a character without having to fret over rules, Parlour LARPing is ideal.
- Traditional Boffer LARPs are weekend long events. Parlour LARPs are often only for a single evening. If you have a hard time negotiating your schedule, a Parlour LARP is easier to fit in.
- Boffer LARPs use weapons, armor, and equipment to engage in conflict resolution. Parlour LARPs use non-physical mechanics, such as cards with character skills listed, a character sheet, or GM discretion.
- Both Boffer LARPs and Parlour LARPs can be 'campaign' settings, but Parlour LARPs often have one-shot events.
- A majority of Parlour LARPs are modern games, making them a low barrier of entry for costuming. Many Boffer LARPs require a deeper investment of time and money into costuming and equipment. This makes Parlour LARPs a great option for those just sticking their feet into the world of LARP.
- Because of the nature of the game, Boffer LARPs often take place on camping sites or similar facilities. Parlour LARPs happen everywhere -- from museums to city streets and bars. And because there are no weapons to worry about, drinking is often allowed (yay!).
What to Expect Your First Parlour LARP
Expect to deep-dive into the world and life of your chosen character. It isn't about mechanics, rules, or skills. It's just about the experience of that character, in that moment, along woth the rest of the characters you are playing with as well.
Expect it to be mechanics light, often played loosely at the discretion of your GM. This is more about community storytelling then it is about winning. There might not be a win or lose scenario; it's like you're creating a novel together and your characters are guiding each chapter.
Expect to have fun. If you like storytelling and world-building, Parlour LARPs can be a really satisfying way of drawing your creativity out. Sinking into the life and times of your character can be a very satisfying experience, and it often creates some of the best roleplay experiences you'll ever have.