There is no small amount of confusion that exists when trying to classify The Society for Creative Anachronism. Is the SCA, or is it not, a LARP? There are both yes and no answers to the debate and question. To determine the proper answer it is necessary to take a deeper look into both.
LARP and the SCA
LARP, or Live Action Role Playing, encompasses many realms, characters, and games. When role playing in this sense a person could be an elf, a dwarf, a mermaid or any other fantastical creature that does not exist in reality. Costumes are magnificent, as are all accessories, and the person is playing a role. These are creatures found in many Renaissance Faires and Sci-Fi/Fantasy conventions, depending on the game being role played.
Players in the SCA are also assuming a role. A person in The Society for Creative Anachronism decides on a persona to play, creates garb, and delves into research regarding the role they will play. Members of this society are also found at Renaissance Faires.
So what are the Differences?
Time frame: The SCA has a set time frame that the persona of the members must fall into, and that is from 400-1600AD. LARPers can play from any time before Earth was created to centuries after it was destroyed as well as defined historical time periods.
Reality: Those who enjoy role playing games can immerse themselves in fact or fiction. They are well-able and equipped to battle any demons, sorcerers, Vikings, or Saxons who come their way, or die trying. The main difference between the two is that live action role playing games can include creatures, characters, and situations that stem from fantasy and science fiction. A persona in The Society, on the other hand, must be based upon a person who could have lived in the time from 400-1600 AD. These are characters who must have a certain degree of authenticity behind them, so no fantastical creations are found in these gatherings.
Clothing: Though there are exceptions (such as players that re-enact the Civil War etc...) LARP games can include dress that is not historically accurate and stems more from imagination. SCA garb has been thoroughly researched for accuracy before it is created.
Persona Goals: The members of The Society for Creative Anachronism determine the goals they would like to achieve personally. There is nothing set through the society itself demanding or suggesting what direction or achievement a player should aim toward. In the majority of LARP games, though, there is a goal each character should try to meet throughout the progression of the game.
These differences can either be large or minute depending on the specific LARP game under consideration - the above points do speak in generalities.
Regardless of the differences the SCA can be considered a LARP. They do play live, there most certainly is action, and they do role play. These are both ways of playing in a similar manner yet with vastly different parameters. It is similar to comparing a game of skill and strategy such as chess with a game that depends on a roll of the dice such as Trouble. Both are board games, but they are on opposite ends of the role playing spectrum.