I’m going to piss some people off and give the answer to the question “Is Amtgard Live Action Role Playing?” at the start of the article. That answer is yes. By a literal interpretation of LARP, it is a LARP. When you step out onto that field you are playing a live action game where you have abilities based on a class or a role. If you take the wizard class, you are playing a wizard. You are playing a live action role. Now it’s not exactly fair to just end the conversation right there. Even that definition has its detractors. It just doesn’t meet their expectations, but that’s the key isn’t it? Their expectations. The question “Is Amtgard a LARP?” has more to do with a person’s expectations than any kind of literal definition.
When it comes to what people expect out of a LARP it can vary wildly. For some people the chance to use abilities they don’t have in their own lives is enough to make them feel like they are playing in a LARP. On the other end of the spectrum people need more engagement. They need character interactions beyond combat which they often expect to be combined with some sort of organized story.
Amtgard can have both lite RP elements and heavy RP elements. This can vary wildly from park to park and region to region. From my experience the most common chance to RP comes from playing class battle games as your character class. It’s a player vs player type game, more like League of Legends than Skyrim. That is the RP lite I am talking about, but then there is the other end of the spectrum too, quests.
When you play in a quest you have the chance to take on a deeper persona than just playing a class. You can more accurately role-play a character. A well written quest will have non-combat elements, either through problem solving or interacting with non-player characters. This will let players express themselves as the character they have created. In a quest there will also be combat elements and in some cases situations where you can role-play your way out of combat. I believe this is what many people expect when they think of LARP.
When it comes down to the question “Is Amtgard a LARP?” it comes down to what people put into the game. Inventive people will write up a persona and maybe imagine they are in some sort of world where everyone is immortal and fighting for the right to exist. They will take the little chances to role-play their character in a battle game, maybe by how they play their character, being aggressive or passive, honorable or dishonorable. Even in the lite RP games there is a chance to roleplay. It’s all in how you view it but for some people that won’t be enough.
Longer more engaging RP elements beyond the RP lite aspects can be harder to find. Unlike in LARPS such as Alliance and Dystopia Rising, Amtgard is a weekly game. Writing and running a full blown quest every week is a lot of work and just isn’t likely to happen. Amtgard is not built to be like other heavy RP LARPs. It’s a fine balance and as I mentioned it, can vary by region. Ideally there is some sort of balance. Take my local park for example.
We have something called Encounters which are ran about once a month, sometimes twice. They are mini-quests that often have connected stories. This gives people a chance for more obvious role-playing. We also have the occasional full blown quest but those are less frequent. Mostly it is battle games. For me this a reasonable balance for Amtgard. It gives people a RP outlet but also lets people just battle game.
Then there are camping events. Some events, such as Pacific War, there are usually just battle games, tournaments and ditching, which I understand doesn’t give much room for RP. Although, you can always role-play a character in the time between activities and into the night. When I was younger I sought out other interested people and we initiated our own RP. It was fun.
On the other end of the spectrum there is the event I run Shattered Kingdoms, which is a Thursday to Sunday story driven event. The event is situated in its own RP world with its own lore. There is an overarching story for 4 years. Each year in those 4 years feeds into the overall narrative. The actual event format is a themed battle, which leads into a quest, that leads into a themed battle game that leads into more questing. Throughout the whole event you only have one life, to come back to life you have to be resurrected. It’s a role-play heavy event.
In the end, the answer to “Is Amtgard a LARP?” has more to do with how people want to play the game. It can certainly be a LARP. The rules are there for everyone to use them how they want. It can be as basic as a non-class battle game such as ditching or as complicated as a multi-day RP event. Amtgard has something for just about everyone. The rules are there, it’s up to you to use them.