Live Action Role-playing: Transcending the Magic Circle through Play in Dagorhir


  • Matthew M. LeClaire



Live action role-playing, larp, identity, boffer, combat, Dagorhir, social bonding, symbolic interactionalism


Individuals interact with one another and develop themselves in accordance with these interactions. One group within this complex system is live action role-players (larpers). Larps are a variant of play that combine the “role-playing” of games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, with the “live action” aspects of sports. Using symbolic interactionism as its paradigmatic orientation, this study examines how the magic circle is reinforced and challenged through the development of in-game characters and their effect on the out-of-game self. The respondents of this ethnography participate in a larp called Dagorhir (1977-), which puts an emphasis on live action combat rather than role-play. Participants are part of the Las Vegas realm of Dagorhir, Barad’Dun. Players view Dagorhir as a full contact sport mixed with martial arts; role-playing and character development is encouraged, but not necessary. I observed, interviewed, and participated with this group over the period of six months. Even in a combat-oriented larp like Dagorhir, players get to choose names, weapons, clothing, fighting techniques, and other ways to develop their in-game characters; this ability establishes a connection between leisure larps and edu-larps.
The themes that emerged from coding show different aspects of self and social interactions that are affected through in-game character development: Larp Segregation, Reflection of Self, Critique of Self, and Evolution of Self. Players develop terms to label each other and other larpers, as well as create different social networks to further bonding within play. Many of the players recognized how they developed their in-game characters, but some failed to see how their characters facilitated personal change outside of the larp. Though some participants choose characters that reinforce who they are out-of-game, others choose characters to emulate attributes they believe they lack out-of-game. While participants often perceived their in-game characters and their out-of-game self as separate entities, this study was able to observe ways in which they are connected.




How to Cite

LeClaire, M. M. (2020). Live Action Role-playing: Transcending the Magic Circle through Play in Dagorhir. International Journal of Role-Playing, (10), 56–69.