I was definitely confused by this article at first, thinking it was some silly guide for law enforcement which can't tell the difference between criminals and LARPers...??

But no -- it's actually about terrorists and criminals trying to claim in court that their criminal planning wasn't that at all, but just LARPing:

> For example, after Kaleb Franks was arrested in October 2020 for plotting to abduct Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, he told the FBI he and his compatriots were only LARPing. Franks later pled guilty and testified that this was a lie.

So this document is for investigators to ensure they have a specific framework for being able to collect the appropriate evidence to use in court that prevents a defendent from using a LARPing defense.

Which actually makes a tremendous amount of sense. When armed militia members claim all of their organizing/preparation is just recreational, and totally unlinked to violence that members do eventually commit, it's important to have delineated standards to be able to refute that.

Most of us here probably think of LARPing as fantasy-genre LARPing, but I think this is more pointed toward Mil-Sim LARPing.

These are hardcore airsoft guys who go buy comms, night-vision, IR, with airsoft weapons that function like real weapons. There are multi-day events with NATO vs RUS forces. Look up "milsim west" on Youtube and you can get a sense of it.

There's a good amount of folks that just like to have fun, but there is a subset that use it as a type of militia-esque training.

"Role players will not discuss law enforcement concerns on social media or provide guidance to each other if confronted by an officer. Also, they will have no demonstrated interest in criminal cases involving claims of LARP."

Your resistance proves your guilt. Insisting on your fourth and fifth amendment rights? Noting other cases where innocent hobbyists were threatened and trying to avoid the same? Seems like violent extremism.

They used the term LARP a lot more literally than I expected.

  Although the history of LARP as a legal defense is narrow, the authors share the concern that it may soon become commonplace. Early attempts at such a strategy have been made by a defendant acting alone or in loose cooperation with members of a fantasy group who knew each other only in the virtual world, claiming “artistic expression” to excuse threatening language.

I can see this being a big problem with memes in the immediate future. Does the FBI have a page where they attempt to distinguish edgy memes from genuine calls to violence? This is a relatively benign example, but there are TikToks where users pretend to have fantasies about taking officer's service weapon. Sure they're all jokes, but modern internet humor is deeply ironic; I'd imagine there are plenty of genuinely violent people making seemingly ironic memes. I'd also imagine that there are nonviolent memers disseminating genuine violent ideas and vice versa.
Although the history of LARP as a legal defense is narrow, the authors share the concern that it may soon become commonplace.

This is a reasonable concern.

I will note anecdotally not all role players are playing with a full deck -- though I am more familiar with role playing gamers, not LARPers (granted: not entirely separate groups). Some are mildly cracked, sometimes harmlessly -- the guy who exclusively played female characters and might have identified as trans had he been born later -- and some not so harmlessly -- the gal who forged her own sword which she took with her everywhere, even the mall, by concealing it under a cape, and genuinely believed she was the last special warrior of some sort from a fictional series.* She believed she was female to signify she was the last.

So that may complicate sorting out who is just playing games from who is a genuine threat of planned violence.


Some key context, provided if you read the article, is that this exists to outline the difference between LARPing and Violent Extremism, especially as some violent extremists have claimed that their plans of violence were only "LARPing" and not bona-fide terrorism.

The exact differences they point out, such as "spectators being welcome" vs "secrecy is paramount" are clear, universal, well thought out, and interesting to read about and consider.

A ton of this rings true, but this does not:

> To prepare for a violent attack, terrorists possess and practice real weapons and live ammunition. LARPers would have no need for such destructive instruments when preparing for their event.

Nobody loves guns more than LARPers. I know more people into pyrotechnics that play wizards in larps than pretty much any other category of weirdo, and I know a lot of weirdos. It's a power fantasy, but it's one that they love to live out in a small way, and range-shooting is one of the most common expressions of it.

Honestly, based on my life experience, I disagree with quite some criteria that the FBI uses here to distinguish between LARP and Violent Extremism:

Audience: "Spectators accepted or desired" vs "Secrecy demanded"

Quite some LARP people who want to avoid spectators, since quite some conservative or religious people tend to associate some fantasy stuff to be "satanistic" or "sacrilegious". Thus, to avoid really annoying discussions, they prefer no spectators.

Components: "Features of organized gaming (e.g., rules, character sheets, scenario scripts, in- and out-of-character designations)" vs "Absence of documented rules, character sheets, scenario scripts, in- and out-of-character designations; all “characters” are frontline fighters or operational support personnel"

There exist LARP system where there exist many rules, but also those where such things are handled in a more "loose"/"spontanous"/"improvisatory" way.

Relationship with law enforcement: "No concern with law enforcement in out-of-character life" vs "Demonstrated concern with law enforcement and prosecutions of similar criminal behavior"

Of course, those who distrust the law enforcement (often for good reasons) are suspicious to be extremists - that is what the FBI claims ;-) . Seriously: there likely exist LARP players with about any possible stance concerning law enforcement.

Equipment: "realistic prop weapons often discouraged in the rules"

It depends on the LARP system whether these are discouraged or encouraged.

Personal grievance: "No personal grievance toward out-group(s) outside the voluntary, fantasy world" vs "Personal grievance toward out-group(s) believed to pose an imminent and existential threat, requiring violent action" and Mood: "Euthymic and joyful; anticipatory fantasy to enjoy the event" vs "Dysphoric and angry; anticipatory fantasy to harm or kill the target(s)"

This depends a lot on the setting of the LARP: of course some cyberpunk, horror or dark-fantasy themed LARP will be much more dark than, say, some high fantasy or utopic science-fiction setting.

The most common form of LARPing I can think of is Civil War reenactments in Virginia
I had to scratch my head for a moment to see if it was an April Fools' joke (it was posted 4 days later).

Regular police investigative techniques can disambiguate intent of (an) individual(s) by searching their items and questioning their plans. Someone LARPing isn't going to play act with live ordinance, contagious pathogens, or actual firearms. They may well carry swords, but then they'd also be wearing padded armor. I think it's up to a judge or jury to decide if the Free Staters of Terrorism were committing terrorism or not in highly-suspicious, ambiguous circumstances.

Leaping to the deep-end of paranoia about mostly innocent play would create a society with a corrosive, suspicious attitude.

Now an awful thought: Although it seems a weird and terrible idea, I could imagine a group of kids going somewhere hopefully unoccupied and unlikely to be patrolled by police LARPing as terrorists, school shooters, or any other taboo archetype.

For the record, a dying (and now late) friend of mine was once violently arrested in a parking lot for playing Ingress in Los Altos, CA.

It is very scary to read such an "opinion" pieces on domain. First, they make it possible to connect any organized activity to "violent extremism".

And then this:

> Meetings may entail impassioned rhetoric and rehearsal of tactical operations for the ultimate future apocalypse when citizens will overtake the government or institute their own community policing.

This quote is fucking insane, imo. "citizens will overtake the government" – aren't citizens already supposed to be in charge of the government? A very strange choice of words. What about all that "We the People" stuff. And second, "or institute their own community policing" - it is how the policing in the US works. Local police forces account for the majority of police force in the US according to National Sources of Law Enforcement Employment Data [1].


Also see: in Minecraft.
A lot of people here, and the original article, don't seem to realize what people that use "LARPing" mean when they say it. It's a disparaging term used to describe when somebody isn't going to actually pursue or follow through on something. Somebody with a bunch of tactical gear that's constantly running shooting drills and talking about joining a war in the Middle East or Eastern Europe, but never actually does, is "LARPing". Somebody that acts like they're getting lots of money and women when they're not, is "LARPing". There's no connection with actual LARPing other than it being the butt of the joke, and anybody saying it about themselves is basically just saying they're a bullshitter trying to pass themselves off as doing something or preparing to do something they never will, which isn't a criminal defense.
> Role players will not discuss law enforcement concerns on social media or provide guidance to each other if confronted by an officer. Also, they will have no demonstrated interest in criminal cases involving claims of LARP.

I disagree with this bit completely. As a practitioner of a weapons based martial art I had to be very familiar with the law to ensure that I didn’t break the law by accident. Ignorance of the law is not a defence.

I think what we most have to be concerned about is when FBI agents LARP as violent extremists in order to entrap some hapless boob so they can meet their terrorist arrest quotas.
> In the modern era, as extreme beliefs (e.g., anti-government or anti-law enforcement movements)

Fbi quietly putting psyops telling anti- government is extreme belief lmao.

It sounds like the beginning of a South Park episode.
“Live action role play is an old theatrical behavior and a new excuse. The concern that this label can be used as a defense for planning and preparing a targeted attack on a public official, democratic government, or anyone else is a real one.”

Boy is it. I’m gravely concerned the threat LARPing posed to our democratic government.

Thanks FBI i will now stop trying to get the world into an anarchy state
We were just larping in minecraft your honor. teehee.
Yes, the FBI is reading your shitposts
Cosplaytriots attempting to use LARPing as an excuse is reminiscent of:

> "Never believe that [they] are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. ... They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert." — JPS

> The foremost distinction between LARPers and violent extremists is that genuine role players will not care whether others are watching. They may even embrace third-party observation, such as nonplayer characters or a general audience. After all, LARP is a performance.

> Conversely, violent extremists or terrorists want secrecy. This desire may contribute to the sense of clandestine excitement that surrounds them and their preparation on a pathway to actual violence.9

What is this? Why is the FBI writing stuff like this and publishing it?

The, "its just a joke, bro" defence applied to an organized uprising.
Remember when DnD was the cover for a nation wide cult that murdered children by the dozen?

Congratulations you're as out of touch as our parents were.

>Individuals can engage in such activity informally or as part of an organized group. Presumably, the earliest formal LARP group was Dagorhir Battle Games, founded in the United States in 1977.

Now if only these experts could use google leaping for 30 seconds before writing an add for their consultancy services.

>Ms. Amman is a retired FBI supervisory special agent, certified threat manager, and private threat assessment management consultant in West Des Moines, Iowa. Dr. Phil Saragoza

>Dr. Saragoza is a forensic psychiatrist, adjunct clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan, and threat assessment consultant in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Excellent writeup, redcoats.

Did everyone forget that the US only exists because of treason and insurrection directly sparked from individuals refusing to allow someone else to determine whether they can arm themselves? Probably. Public school doesn't like to focus on the details anymore.

If Sam Adams existed today, he'd be on an FBI/ATF watchlist.

I get the appeal and why it's happening, but FFS, this is a huge threat to the United States (and other countries), and it seems to be growing day by day. It's easy to dismiss ("it's just LARPing with real guns, dude") but we need to address it head on.

Because this is deeply intertwined with "politics" it becomes radioactive to discuss in polite society (e.g., HN itself), but we'd be well served to find a way to have some dialog.