What is Live Roleplaying?
Basically, it's "Let's Pretend" for grownups. As in any roleplaying game, each player takes on the role of a fictional character. You play your character much as you would in an improvisational theatre setting, with a strong knowledge of who you are and what you want out of life, but with no script. Together, you and a group of other players create an imaginary world and a multitude of stories. These not games of "killer" or "assassin" (well, not always): the emphasis is often on dramatic roleplaying and interaction between players. Most live games involve a large number of players (twenty to thirty people are the norm for Guild games) who walk around and talk with each other, acting out as much of their characters' actions as are safe. Unlike many tabletop roleplaying games (D&D and other games of its ilk), most live roleplaying games have a strong emphasis on player-player interaction rather than on interaction between the players and the world which is controlled by the Gamemasters (GMs), making the games very social events as well as intellectual and creative challenges. Why do it? Because it's lots of fun to be someone else for a few hours or a few days at a time, and to do it with other people.
It's not dangerous, is it?
No. There are a variety of different systems used, but all groups who run any kind of live games consider safety very important. There is no running around in sewers, no swinging sharp steel, and no real demon-summoning. Any actions that would be dangerous, illegal, or impossible in real life (theiving, combat or spellcasting, for example) is represented by a 'mechanic', like dart guns, a game of jenga, or doing a little dance and chant and then throwing a bean bag at someone. Gamemasters and players alike stress that these are games, not substitute realities. There may be the odd bruise or ankle-twist (almost always self-inflicted from getting excited and running around) but nothing more than you might expect on a vigorous hike or game of touch football.
Everyone who has fun. Yes, sometimes you'll come away from an game having accomplished your goals, sometimes you won't. Most games are set up so that it isn't possible for everyone to "win" all the time -- if there's no chance of failure, success doesn't have much sweetness. But "winning" isn't the point of live roleplaying games - or, at least, it's not the whole point. Dramatic roleplaying and creative interaction are what's really important, and what's really fun. Some of the most legendary scenes happen when people are "losing." More so than in any other form of gaming, how you play your character and how much fun you have are far more important than who does better or worse than you.
Do I need experience? What if I don't know anyone there? What if I'm shy? Who are these people, anyway?
The Assassins' Guild is always looking for new players, so don't worry, you'll be welcomed. And don't be afraid if you don't have any roleplaying experience, either. Many people who play these games have played tabletop roleplaying games, but many others have not. Lots of other real-life activities are excellent preparation for live roleplaying. If you've ever daydreamed about being someone else, or about being in a different world, you've got what you need. Besides, most game designers set things up to give experienced players incentive to help new players along. You'll probably have knowledge or abilities that other people need. Other people will help you out, not just because they're nice, but because they need your help. And they are nice, too. These aren't wild-eyed lunatics or immature geeks -- they're ordinary people from all walks of life, who happen to like using their imaginations and sharing the experience with other people. All live roleplaying games are very social -- it's a great way to meet new friends.
So how do they work? Who runs them? How do I get involved?
The Assassin's Guild runs several games every semester. Each game is run by a different GM team, who are all Guild members or alums. Sometimes people run prewritten games, but usually GM teams will write their own game. Consequently, the genres range from spy thrillers to military science fiction to high fantasy, and games last anywhere from several hours to ten days (you don't have to be in game all ten days, of course!) A call for players is sent out to the Assassins' Guild mailing list a week or so before the date that the game will happen, with a casting questionaire or "app" which will help the GMs cast you in a role that you'll enjoy. If you want to team up with your friends, just note that in your app. Really big teams often get broken up into smaller ones, just to keep things balanced, but you'll practically always get to stay with at least a few of your friends.
Do I have to costume? What about props?
You are never required to costume, although it's always cheerfully encouraged. Your character is usually identified with a name badge. Props which are part of your costume are just part of your costume -- all items which could affect the game are created by the GMs, and are always clearly marked as game items. Most props are index cards with descriptions of the items, although very important items might get a more realistic prop.
I'd really like to run one of these! How do I get started? Is there a publicly-available ruleset I can use?
Your best bet is to play in a game or three first. There's only so much that can be learned from reading someone else's set of rules (although that does help). It takes experience to learn what sort of plots work and how to weave things together to make things fun for your players.Once you've done that, grab a friend or two and come up with a concept for your game. Start small - a one-night is best for your first game. Having an experienced GM to provide suggestions and help is always a good idea too.
This document is heavily based off of the Live Roleplaying FAQ by Aimee Yermish