Player Limitations and Accessibility in Larp

Player Limitations and Accessibility in Larp

If you are a larper with any kind of limitations that affect your ability to play, the first thing you may think of when you see a listing for a new larp is not whether it is exactly your kind of thing, but whether you would be able to participate in it at all. Not for reasons of schedule clashes, but because of these other limitations. 

Players with limitations, be these physical, mental, psychological, or something else entirely, will often feel like they are missing out on the full experience of the larp they are attending. Many larps – even larp as a hobby in general – are known to be physically, mentally, and psychologically demanding, and players need to know in advance if they will be able to engage with the larp to the same extent as everyone else, or to an extent that they are happy with. Transparency in larp design is what makes it possible for players to judge these things, which is why, for us, it is one of the most important tools for accessibility. 

Accessibility is about looking out for people. Players come to your larp because it looks interesting and they want to have a good time. Thinking about accessibility and disability from the very beginning of your larp design, as well as communicating it clearly from the beginning, signals to players that they are explicitly included and that the designer has put thought into the wide range of people who might want to play it. Accessibility is about showing responsibility for players and the player experience as much as you can and should as a designer. Of course, you can never be wholly responsible for everything that might happen within a game, but to paraphrase Maury Brown (2016), you have power over what your larp allows, prohibits, and encourages. You control what the larp expects from players and whether this is reasonable for everyone who might want to play.

Ideally, accessibility should be proactive, not reactive. Disabled players often have to do the work themselves to figure out whether a larp will be accessible to them, rather than being able to rely on clear accessibility information from the organisers. This can be very draining and can make disabled players feel discouraged from larping at all. When accessibility information is not included, disabled players can feel that they haven’t been considered and that their experience at the larp is bound to be lesser than their abled co-players. Implementing accessibility proactively into your larp means that you consider what is and is not absolutely essential to how your larp is run, and you consider what you need to implement to make sure people with varying levels of ability and different limitations can participate in the larp to the greatest extent that is possible. A side-effect of this, as an organiser, is that your vision for the larp becomes much clearer.

Accessibility in larp is (and isn’t!) many things, depending on what your larp is about. If your larp’s foundation is about players being in the dark and all unable to see, lack of light would not factor into your larp’s accessibility in the same way as it would if the larp was not based on physical darkness. However, if a fantasy larp is set in a fairy glade with dim lighting, and if this would pose a problem for larpers with reduced vision, the lighting could be increased since this is not essential for the larp’s vision.  

Various accessibility symbols on diamons shaped tiles

Photo by Cris Renma from Pixabay.

When you design a larp, it does not have to be accessible to absolutely everyone. For example, Legion (Czech Republic 2014), a Czech larp, takes place over a 25-kilometer hike over two winter days and, according to the larp’s website, hunger and tiredness are at times an “inevitable” part of the larp. This means that someone who uses a wheelchair, or someone with a chronic illness, would very much struggle with the essential parts of the larp and would not necessarily be able to participate. This does not make Legion a bad larp or brand it “inaccessible.” No larp can be accessible to absolutely everyone, whether that be due to themes of trauma, the amount of physical activity it requires, or something else. But designers should be intentional about their design. It is ok to exclude people if the heart and goal of the larp simply would not ever be able to accommodate people with certain limitations – such as someone with severe asthma trying to play Luminescence (Finland 2004), a larp in a room full of flour. But if designers are able to open up their larps to people without compromising what the larp is actually about, they should bake that accessibility into their design.

You should be able to explain the state of your larp’s accessibility to yourself – what is it about the heart and soul of your larp that means some people will not be able to play it? Ideally, the people that your larp excludes are the same people who would not want to participate in your larp anyway and would agree that the larp would always be inaccessible to them, such as how Legion necessarily requires walking 25 kilometers as an intrinsic part of its design. Accessibility in larp is not about making every larp accessible for every person, but making them as accessible as their designers’ intrinsic visions allow them to be.   

Of course, navigating player limitations takes different forms depending on the medium of the larp, whether it is played in person or online. Some people may experience severe concentration fatigue when larping over video chat, meaning that live-action online games are inaccessible to them due to the nature of the medium. Others have a much better experience larping online in the comfort of their own home, and find that they are less able to concentrate or larp “well” when attending an in person event. 

We would be remiss to not also explicitly acknowledge psychological safety in this article. Accessibility is also about what a player can expect to experience during a larp, which becomes difficult if the larp has hidden features. In our opinion, knowing a secret beforehand will not diminish the ingame experience of keeping it or having it exposed. At Høstspillet (Denmark 2023, Eng. The Autumn Game), every character’s background and all lore material was open to everyone – their secrets, traumas, deals, alliances, ambitions, relations and topics. During sign-up, people could tick off boxes with what topics they didn’t want to play on. At the briefing, the organisers emphasized that “a safe larper is a good larper.” We believe that by helping players manage their expectations and giving them the agency of playing within the framework but also around individual pitfalls, you create not only safer larps but better larpers too.

There are as many limitation combinations as there are larpers. Ultimately, the decision on whether the larp is not accessible for someone comes down to the individual larpers themselves. People love knowing exactly what level of control and agency they do and do not have, and transparency in design choices will help each larper decide if a larp is accessible to them. Accessibility is not binary, even for one person. People can have different limitations at different times, and they have to make the choice on whether they can or cannot participate in a larp for themselves. Players want to be able to get everything that they can out of the larp experience, and satisfying play is achieved by having the access and agency you need to get the play you want, within the constraints of a larp that could allow for that play. Disabilities complicate this, but if the organisers have given thought to accessibility and how to support players in different ways, it will be much easier for all players to participate in the larp to the extent they wish to.

As a larp designer, it is not your responsibility to make your larp accessible to absolutely everyone. But you should try to make it as accessible as its core vision allows it to be. If the larp excludes someone, it should be because the heart of the larp truly cannot be realised in a way that allows them to participate, not because their needs were not thought about at all in the design process. Hopefully, the future of larp is one where the only reason someone would forgo a larp is because they simply wouldn’t want to participate in it in the first place.  


Maury Brown and Benjamin A Morrow (2016): People-Centred Design. Living Games Conference 2016, Austin, Texas. 


Høstspillet (2023): Denmark. Mads Havshøj & Bjørn-Morten Gundersen.

Legion (2014): Czech Republic. Rolling o. s. et al.

Luminescence (2004): Finland. Juhana Pettersson, Mike Pohjola, & Mikko Pervilä.

This article has been reprinted with permission from the Solmukohta 2024 book. Please cite as:

Livesey-Stephens, Beatrix & Gundersen, Bjørn-Morten Vang. 2024. “Player Limitations and Accessibility in Larp.” In Liminal Encounters: Evolving Discourse in Nordic and Nordic Inspired Larp, edited by Kaisa Kangas, Jonne Arjoranta, and Ruska Kevätkoski. Helsinki, Finland: Ropecon ry.

Cover photo: Photo by Krustovin from Pixabay

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Beatrix (Bea) Livesey-Stephens is a researcher studying the perception and application of player calibration and consent in analog games, particularly those pertaining to romance and sexuality. Another of her main interests is the intersection of accessibility/disability and play. Bea is the recent recipient of the Optimist Award at the Canadian Game Studies Association Conference for her work on reimaginings of accessibility and calibration in play. She hopes to contribute further to understandings of player calibration, trust, and consent wherever she can.
Bjørn-Morten V. Gundersen (b. 1990),a graduated teacher (in 2016) and a larp-designer. An avid spokesperson of prioritizing to record the design document for your larp. It takes time, but it's definitely worth it. Most recently created and designed Høstspillet (2023) with Mads Havshøj (and the amazing helpers), and currently creating Sunkissed Affairs (2024).