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Games with thousands of participants are run by for-profit companies, and a small industry exists to sell costume, armour and foam weapons intended primarily for LARP.Most LARPs are intended as games for entertainment.Production values are sometimes minimal, but can involve elaborate venues and costumes.LARPs range in size from small private events lasting a few hours to large public events with thousands of players lasting for days.The participants in a LARP physically portray characters in a fictional setting, improvising their characters' speech and movements somewhat like actors in improvisational theatre.Events are put on for the benefit of the players, who take on roles called player characters (PCs) that the players may create themselves or be given by the gamemasters.For this reason, a LARP GM's role is often less concerned with tightly maintaining a narrative or directly entertaining the players, and more with arranging the structure of the LARP before play begins and facilitating the players and crew to maintain the fictional environment during play.
LARPs may also include other game-like aspects such as intellectual puzzles, and sport-like aspects such as fighting with simulated weapons.
These groups shared an experience with genre fiction or tabletop role-playing games, and a desire to physically experience such settings.
In addition to tabletop role-playing, LARP is rooted in childhood games of make believe, play fighting, costume parties, roleplay simulations, Commedia dell'arte, improvisational theatre, psychodrama, military simulations, and historical reenactment groups such as the Society for Creative Anachronism.
LARP has also been referred to as live role-playing (LRP), interactive literature, and free form role-playing.
Some of these terms are still in common use; however, LARP has become the most commonly accepted term.