Winter Larping, some suggestions.

We have an adventure day coming up soon.


There hasn’t been a ton of winter Larping lately, and after our first adventure day in January it occurred to me not everyone has experience. So here we are. I’ve created a few points to follow to help you get through your first event.

  • Keep Dry. Good boots and a change of socks are a must. If you’re in an area with snow (such as Michigan). You might even consider a few more pairs of pants than normal. Once that water gets into your costume it’s going to continue to ensure you have a bad time.
  • Layers. The best part about Larp costumes is they generally look better with layers. If you don’t have a lot of Larp costuming, then layer regular clothes under your costume. I find a pair of pajama pants under my normal pants goes a long way. I always wear underarmor and at least one more long sleeve shirt. This is also a good time to pull out cloaks to keep your body warm. Also, while not really in period most people won’t notice strechy gloves on you. Get a pair and keep your hands warm. In the Alliance style of fighting, they’re already going to get hit some, the cold will only make them feel more raw.
  • Find a hat. Not everyone likes to wear head gear. I know I don’t when it’s warmer. But, your ears get cold fast. So any way to cover them up will go a long way.
  • Know your body. If you’re outside fighting a lot you might not feel cold. But, make sure you know where there’s a place to go to warm up. This is often a tavern. If you’ve spent some time outside playing the game, make sure to spend sometime inside. Enjoy a hot beverage. This is a good chance to get into some roleplaying anyways.
  • Running through snow is exhausting. If you play a game with physical combat, that means you’re going to be moving around through snow. On top of it being cold, it’s more work to move. Keep that in mind as between the cold and the exertion you’re going to get tired a lot faster.
  • Keep moving! Exerting yourself will keep you warmer.
  • Remember Larping is about enjoying yourself. If the winter is making Larping particularly unfun, don’t forget that you don’t need to be there. Winter is a good time to stay in. Being out in the elements isn’t for everyone and that’s ok.
  • Freezing temperatures affects your props. Latex weapons lose a lot of their give. Foam weapons can get wet and freeze if you aren’t careful. Keep this in mind when you’re swinging them around. Makeup can be harder to apply and/or ruined in freezing temperatures. Freezing will ruin liquid latex, so try to keep that in a warm place.
  • Be more careful about your footing. If you’re fighting on ice and snow can be super slippery. It’s not worth winning a fight if you hurt yourself. LARP boots often don’t have great grips. So try to be aware of what you’re standing on so you don’t end up slipping in combat.
  • read more

    How to Beholder

    Behold! Gerald!

    Concept art for the classic monster of fantasy myth.

    Recently I helped to construct a beholder for Alliance South Michigan. The goal was to get the flying eyeball up in the air to a certain degree. More than that as this was our second “backpack puppet” monster I wanted to focus on making the monster modular for easy access and reusing constructed works for more projects going forward.

    First we got a design document going of what we were looking to try and do.

    The idea was a pilot in all black straps into a column also in all black to have an illuminated beholder appear to “fly” over the heads of the players.  Originally the height would have checked in at over 12ft in the air. After motion testing the weight of the skeleton the frame was reinforced and dropped by about 2+ ft getting it to roughly 10ft high. This kept it in range of melee weapons… but really difficult to engage. Only the beholder itself was a viable target. The column and pilot could not be attacked. Even then an in-game effect punished melee strikes. Thus melee fighters were regulated to striking out only with their very best skills and/or protecting the ranged attacks coming from the rest of the players from the beholder foot soldiers.

    This was testing motion (yes I know its dark but I work at night in my spare time) with a very basic rig at 12 ft. Even with the counterweight we added it was not viable at this height to fly and still move quickly at all. Not without significant risk at snapping the frame. Stronger materials could be swapped out but the weight of them would likely cause the same issue of barely being able to move let alone puppet the monster around.

    A skeleton was rigged of Schedule PVC and PEX piping. The backpack, the column, and the beholder body were all seperate modular parts to the whole. read more

    PC Nobles and Plot

    Note, do not actually light your LARP arrows on fire.

    First off, let’s establish that by agreeing to be a PC noble you’re creating a contract with the Plot team. You have a responsibility to play your Character in a manner that doesn’t drive people away from the game. This doesn’t mean your Character needs to be loved and adored by your fellow Players, but since you have the potential to have an outsized impact on the game you have a responsibility to your organization to be a good Player and a good representative for the game. Conveniently, there are a few things that your Plot/GM team can do to help you be a good representative.

    In many cases, Plot will be looking to the PC noble to resolve smaller disputes between the Players so that Plot can focus on larger issues. It’s important in this circumstance that you know the laws of the setting, including know what laws it is your Character’s job to enforce and what you should be passing up to your liege.  Plot can effect with this situation by setting out laying out clear laws with defined consequences or can leave things more loosely defined. In either case, it is best to understand what Plot expects of your Character before a problem arises. Once you have that expectation, it will help you define the actions your Character takes and does not take. It also allows you to create a harmonious relationship with other Players. If someone is worried that the local PC Knight can execute their Character at any time without reason or consequence it is much harder to build a good relationship with others. If Plot knows that your Character is corrupt and susceptible to bribes, they can be prepared for the uprising that the Players may plan against your rule.

    PC nobles can also help Plot when it comes to keeping an event moving smoothly. On the Plot side, the PC noble can be, for lack of a better term, Quest Hub for the Players. The best uses of this technique come when the distribution of work comes as a natural part of the PC noble’s interaction with their own liege. Creating a situation where the PC noble is challenged to find enough solutions to the land’s problems or decide which problem need the most attention makes the PC noble more than just a walking list of quests. On the PC noble’s side, as your fellow Players begin to organize their goals for the event you can serve as an early warning system for Plot so they can better prepare for what you and your fellow Players want to accomplish.  read more

    How To Hook Horror

    To get started here was the concept art found online (not sure who the artist was but the image linked back to this forum), and the final results and a 30 second video demonstration of:

    The Hook Horror

    (who I nick named: “Janet”)

     

    Image result for mardi gras puppetThe inspiration and design came from Chad, one of our heads of plot when he saw these Mardi Gras puppets. The idea was that previous prop monsters were often using what we call “Bucket Shoes” stilts. This is where we take snow board bindings and bolt them to thick 3 gallon buckets and use them like huge shoes. This made the prop monster more combat effective but not so much that it couldn’t be handled easily enough due to how slow it was. So the monster’s card/stats had to become stupidly huge thus it was certain death to make even one mistake around their slow truging selves. Compensating with stats to make them boss-monster challenging wasn’t anywhere near as much fun as a spectacle like this should be. By example for here is a past bucket shoes monster Thomm the Troll turned ally of the town.

    Thanks to padding and buckets for feet Thomm took a 5’10” 200lbs player to 7’9″ and the appearance of a metric ton. Trouble is that his top speed is “quick lumber” so he compensates by having a two handed weapon in each hand for reach and hits like a rocket propelled freight train on fire, even through weapons. During his fight the real/true threat was all his minions that were being largely ignored as everyone looked at this giant brown troll discoball of death.

    So the goal with the Hook Horror became to put the NPC’s feet on the ground, balance the weight, and make it able to run, dodge, and block. In addition we wanted some really alien movement to it. We wanted the Underdark monster to be as scary as possible.

    For maximum rigging we purchased a base aluminum hiking backpack frame. This was ideal for several reasons. Without all the extra bags the frame was inexpensive. The aluminum pipes fit a 3/4″ pvp socket. The straps were very secure and very padded for high speed combat, and it had great back support for carrying the load. From here we built a base skeleton from PVC and PEX piping.

    The skeleton needed the rigid PVC, but the limbs needed to be thin and flexible so PEX was used as it is stiff but bendable to what shapes you need. To make the joints seem real and function somewhat like a real joint they were constructed sort of like one. Zip ties through drilled holes for tendons, a fat piece of opencell foam for bouncing cartilage, and a drilled tennis ball for a ball joint.

    For the shoulders and the hips we created a “muscle socket”. Using the same ball joint connection a bunch of foam would create a pocket for the ball to be in. That way when the joint moved it would deform the padding around it giving an illusion of muscle. In this case instead of the pipe being attached right to the ball it is pushed up inside it. That way if the puppeteer shrugs or raises their arms the whole shoulder of the beast as well as anything else attached goes with it.

    After that came the weapon claws, and the claws that would be the feet of the Hook Horror. Long weapons needed to be used for reach. Padding and paint added for aesthetics (and in game story/mechanic reasons). Then wide velcro straps were added to the back end just before the monster’s “wrist” so the NPC can strap it to their forearm. With and added 90 degree angle handle, into something like a really long nightstick, the NPC has complete control to swing and block with the long weapon using only one arm. The claws core was made from 3/4″ CPVC to ease up the weight a bit. The feet are just very small versions of this strapped to the NPCs boot to run down the side of it and operate the legs.

    From here we suspended the rig and started attaching the legs and testing the joints. Once they were in place PEX was bent and lashed to the frame start making ribs (note: there were more ribs used than shown in the pictures here)

     

     

    By this point my pup Sadie is not impressed, but she enjoys the mess I am making.

     

    After this muslin was wrapped around the skeleton and sealed to it with spray adhesive. Lots of spray adhesive.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Now it was time to make the head. This part was relatively old fashioned. Standard open cell foam. Using a Sharpie I drew out a shape I wanted. With a razor I cut the general shape I wanted and then used thick shop shears to start snipping at the details in an effort to sculpt it the way I wanted. I often pinch and rip out foam for fine details. read more

    Simple Lock boxes on the cheap

    Having a cool treasure box for your character, or for players to find really helps step up your game immersion. But, sometimes these boxes cost a ton of money for just a simple box.

    Using my internet sloth skills I was able to build one of these for just under 10 dollars.

    What you’ll need is a simple wooden box. Amazon has super cheap ones.

    Most boxes don’t have the right kind of clasp to lock with. So you’ll need to buy a new one.

    These look nice and are cheap.

    You’ll nee some wood stain.  I used this stuff but, it’s a bit pricier.

    You’ll need a piece of sand paper, a brush, and a small phillips screw driver. Like the kind use use for computers.

    Unscrew the clasp that comes with the box.

     

    Sand all the sides of the box. This is just a good idea to help the stain stick.

    Use the brush to brush the stain in. You’ll want to do this in a well ventilated area, or outside.

    Depending on your box, you might be able to get away with one coating.  Let it dry, over night.

    Use the small screw driver to attach the clasp. The wood is soft enough that you can just push the screw in.

    Once your box is dry and the clasp attached you can fit most small locks into it. These look nice (but are easy to pick).

     

    Now you’ve got a great looking box ready to store treasure in!

    The Basics of PC Nobles

    Most LARPs reach a point where one or more of the PCs, either by luck, purposeful effort, or being in the wrong place at the right time, becomes a leader in the In Game (IG) community. Eventually Plot may want to solidify that position and reward a Player with position in the setting’s nobility. This is a great opportunity for unique role-play and the possible source of substantial conflict. With proper Plot effort, PC nobles can be a huge resource but there is also the potential for that Player to abuse their position within the game. This blog however isn’t about Plot and the PC noble, instead it’s about my experiences playing a PC noble and my suggestions to others in similar positions.

    As a noble your Character becomes a face for the town, a beacon for those in need, and a potential guide to those around them. All of this is handy when you want to create a good experience for other Players and it is important to recognize that helping other Players have a good time is part of your responsibility as a PC Noble. Even if your Character is a corrupt despot attempting to gain power by oppressing the people and murdering their way to the throne, you have a responsibility to your fellow Players to help them enjoy their game.

    While you should be a good representative for the game, not everything about playing a PC Noble needs to be about helping others or even being a “Good Guy.” It is possible to use your position to shape the story significantly, subtly (or not subtly) leading the other Players in a direction that might not otherwise choose on their own. But remember, other people come to have their own experience, so be careful not to abuse your OOG authority. In order for your Character to be in a position to do any of these things, good or bad, it helps to do a few things on a regular basis. read more

    Mistakes I Made Making My First Character

    Everyone, meet Jynx.

    Jynx was the very first PC I ever made for Alliance.
    The problems with Jynx are common problems that aren’t really talked about much when new players come into game.
    Let’s go through these problems together and how, in retrospect, I would have changed her so that I wouldn’t have ended up retiring her early in my LARP career.

    Mistake Number One In Creating Jynx

    I didn’t.

    When NPCing you need to be versatile

    Yup, I didn’t create Jynx.
    You see, I had been LARPing as an NPC at my old home chapter [Traverse City] for a year or so before choosing to travel to South Michigan for the first time.

    The Non Player Characters I was playing up north were mostly made for me by someone else, and I just went along with what I was given. That’s not a bad thing. I wasn’t on the plot committee, I wasn’t writing the plot for the game, I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and I was happy doing it! I mean, look at that handsome man up above! Later I would write some of my own NPC’s, but even then they didn’t have to have the immense characterization a PC does. 

    Jynx was my first Player Character. I was paying to play this PC and I was gaining experience each event to level her up. Your first PC is a very exciting thing! Many people who aren’t familiar with LARP don’t realize when they let someone else make their first character for them, that they are commiting themselves to a character that they might not be capable of playing. 

    Jynx was definitely someone I was not capable of playing. I didn’t feel connected to her enough and eventually that is what lead to her early retirement.

     

    What I should have done:

    Deep thoughts

    I should have sat down and thought about who I truly wanted to be. Don’t get me wrong, my best friend made my character for me and he knows me pretty darn well. But it’s hard to make someone else a character. I should have taken a part of me that I wanted to base my character off of and amplified it. After that, I should have built my character concept around that certain characteristic. Only when the concept was done should I have begun picking her class and skills. Jynx was built from the class that was chosen for me and given a personality later. Which leads to the next mistake.

    Mistake Number Two:

    Jynx was made into a rogue.

    Playing a rogue can be fun when you are someone who genuinely wants to play one. Yet, for some reason it seems to me that when a lot of guys make a character for a girl, they either make her a rogue or a healer.


    This happens often when a boyfriend makes a character for his girlfriend. I’m not going to get into the discussion of sexism or anything on that note because I don’t think that’s the issue. I think that a boyfriend thinks about their character first, and builds a character for their girlfriend that compliments their own. 
    (A girlfriend could also do this to a boyfriend. I speak only from what I’ve seen).

    Unfortunately that leads to a lot of the same feelings I felt about Jynx, and no one deserves that. What’s worse about this particular situation than the one I faced, is that not only is your significant other forced to play a class they might not want to, they now have to completely cater their event to making yours better. 

    I must make a note on the point of making your significant other a healer character. Let me try to tread lightly as I explain. Pushing your significant other to be a healer can be selfish and can hold them back from their full potential. Is choosing to be a healer in our game stopping you from playing just as well as anyone else? Of Course not! In Fact, my current character, Collette, is a healer. She’s a damn good one who even serves as a damn good back pack sometimes for my significant other. But the thing is, I completely chose to do that. It can be exhausting constantly playing your game on the battlefield catered to someone else. I do it when I choose to. But when you let your significant other, or anyone for that matter, push you into that position and into that obligation you are ruining the game for yourself.

    Both of these points are heavily based on the idea of pigeonholing yourself, or letting yourself be pigeonheld into a position you don’t want to be in.

    Back to Jynx.

    A rogue compliments a lot of guilds, especially when that rogue is small and fast. Now there’s a lot to be said about some bad ass rogues who absolutely do not fit that description that I’ve seen, but I’m talking generalities here. The issue with playing a rogue when you did not choose to is it is much different than choosing a rogue in a tabletop game. The skills have to translate physically.

    A rogue in LARP needs to often act independently on the battlefield. Instead of fighting from behind her team, or in a line with them, often times the rogue is looking for every opportunity to get behind their enemy. That can be a really difficult play style for new players and it should be understood before committing to that character that your damage is dealt effectively in that matter. I was a terrible rogue because I always wanted to fight from the front. A really skilled rogue in our guild did her best to teach me and I just let her down constantly I’m sure.

    What I should have done:

    Jynx should have been a fighter. I fought with two weapons and I have the had the habit of facing monsters head on as fast and aggressively as I could. I didn’t ever sneak around or look for openings. I was excited and I acted impulsively and fearlessly by attacking immediately from the front. 

    Characters take time to gain experience and level up, don’t waste time not being who you want to be. The whole idea of LARP is to be everything you want to be, and who you can’t be in real life. Don’t play who everyone else thinks you should. Make your own decisions.

    Mistake Number Three

    Jynx came into game already part of a guild.

    I know a lot of new players will read this and think, “Why would you not if you could? Start off the game with friends and people to protect you” Let me be really clear when I say that I truly believe this was the worst mistake of them all.

     

    My guild was great, every single player who remains in it is a fantastic character. A lot of them are really great friends of mine.They were always nice and welcoming. I started in this guild because my best friend knew I struggle with social anxiety. He thought it was perfect to just have me come in as part of his guild and honestly I wasn’t brave enough to come in any other way.

    What I didn’t realize is how badly it completely stunted my growth as a LARPer on an out of game level. Here’s why:

  • I had to pretend I already knew the characters in my guild. I cannot believe I let myself skip the part of entering into a town for the first time not knowing anyone. Sure it can be scary, but by not doing so my relationships with these characters felt cheapened and almost fake at times. Because, well, they were fake. Jynx didn’t naturally meet them and become friends or allies.
  • I never took the time to meet any other adventurers . I simply went along with what my friends were doing. I’m not saying it’s bad to be a follower, some people are comfortable with that. However, I never made any decisions for myself because I simply didn’t spend time figuring out anything about our world.
  • I never took time to think about who Jynx truly was and what she wanted out of life. We were already so involved with the Guild’s goals. The guild would ask me what I want to do, but because of not letting myself have experiences as a young adventurer I really didn’t know what Jynx wanted. She never had to make any decisions for herself.
  • The guild I entered was one that had been established since Alliance was. Actually they may have been even before that at another LARP. Needless to say all of my companions were not level one, and their character sheets were nowhere near “15 build.” Here’s the thing about higher level characters, they often have accumulated magic items that they don’t use. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and it wasn’t wrong for them to think to give those items to their lower level companion. 
  • I’m just so mad I used them constantly. I never learned how to level up and build a character. I never got to feel scared fighting Kobalds. I never had to fight without armor where one hit would surely kill me. I missed the part of adventuring where new adventurers learned how to adventure. This isn’t because my guild WANTED to hold me back, in fact they really thought they were helping push me forward and not leave me behind. It really happens out of kindness. But everyone deserves their first LARP experience. Don’t hold your friends back from that. Don’t hold yourself back from that.
  • read more

    My Alignment Playlist

    When I’m making a character, even if its just an NPC, I tend to seek out songs to inspire the process. There are a bunch of different ways to go about character development, and I tend to differ in where I start, but sometimes I start with a D&D based Alignment.

    When I do this is great to get into the right mood with some music, here are some of the best songs to do just that.

    Lawful Good

    Delerium – Silence

    The stereotype about Lawful Good is that its a boring alignment to play. I feel that this is failure of imagination. People build Lawful Good characters lacking any kind of moral conundrum, they always know the answer and it’s always the least fun choice; I propose another path, namely conflict.

    Create a character who believes hard, but recognizes the struggle. One who doesn’t look down their nose at those who can’t or won’t aspire to their moral heights. One who sees the burden they bear, but endure.

    This song captures that, plus its got some divine overtones that make it the perfect fit.

    Lawful Neutral

    Metallica – And Justice for All

    This is the obvious pick for those who value order above all else. Let the epic guitar wash over you as you imagine all the ass you are going to kick to thwart the evils of chaos and bring the true light of justice to the world, by any means necessary.

    Neutral Good

    Heilung – Krigsgaldr

    This one is a bit harder to get a feel for. The bridge is the thing.

    Chaotic Good

    Muse – Uprising

    A song about overthrowing a corrupt government?

    Check.

    True Neutral

    Lord Huron – The Yawning Grave

    True Neutral is one of the most difficult alignments to play.

    I’ve had some luck with a character philosophically dedicated to balance, the other option seems to be a Nature based character, which I’ve never tried to play.

    This song is perfect for a Nature Mage or Elven Wardancer with a vendetta.

    Chaotic Neutral

    Louis XVI – Louis Reprise

    This is the most perfect song for a Chaotic Neutral character that could ever be. That being said, I can’t find it on YouTube. Louis XVI is a great band for Chaotic Neutral music and I highly recommend them.

    This being somewhat cold comfort for a playlist, I submit a runner up:

    Electric Six – Improper Dancing

    This might not be the best song directly, but the feeling is there, Electric Six is an often overlooked band and I feel like posting this one instead of doing the work to find another one…

    (I am so meta)

     

    Lawful Evil

    Clutch – The Profits of Doom

    Clutch is another great band for LARP soundtracks, only instead of being Chaotic Neutral they tend toward Lawful Evil.

    I’m pretty sure most of their songs are meant to be satire, but embrace the other side; let the greed flow through you:

    Neutral Evil

    The Black Angels – Evil Things

    Dispassionate, gritty, evil:

    Chaotic Evil

    Tool – Pushit

    Just like Lawful Good, Chaotic Evil has a reputation of being pretty boring to play. It’s played badly by being evil for evil’s sake, which starts to come off as petty pretty quickly.

    The cure for being painted into this corner is a touch of madness.

    It starts out slow, a knowledge of the precipice that one walks, and the abyss on the far side of it. Fatigued by the balancing act, the reasoned mind begins to bend and make reasons to step over, asks to be unbalanced…begs for it:

     

    What’s your favorite Alignment to play?

    What song gets you into the right mindset to play it?

    Weapon Building

    Building the Larp Boffer
    -or-
    How to complicate the simple effectively.

    This article will just be a handful of tips and tricks to building your standard round-closed-cell-foam-and-duct-tape weapons. There are a number of advantages to these classic weapons over the newer latex weapons.

    Just to name a few advantages:

    1. More aerodynamic
    2. Cheaper and easier to repair
    3. Resilient to weather, abuse, and terrible packing and storage jobs by monster camp.
    4. Cheaper and easier to repair

    On point #3 we are going to focus on construction rather than cosmetics. So I am going to quickly whip together 10 basic and ugly claw reps for our monster camp.

    BASIC CONSTRUCTION

    • Standard materials used here:
      • 1/2″ cpvc pipe
      • _______ Brand Pipe insulation (most others are too thin and break down fast)
      • Duct Tape
      • Your personal choice of grip tape (I prefer hockey tape and electrical for my rough and tumble weapons)

      Tape: I’ve never become loyal to a certain brand of Duct tape that makes me happy over all. 3M comes cheaper in big roles and often works well enough. Duck brand seems to have more bonding/sticking issues than others… I could go on and on. Today I’m using the more plastic 3M because it typically works fine and I need a bunch for 10 claws.

      Tape you don’t need: in LARP Duct Tape is always in high demand. It’s important that you use the crap tape you make use of the least or care the least about for core construction and weight balancing. Today my sacrificial tape will be the Frozen themed Duct tape I used to make my niece a boffer she could get excited about.

      It was a very good Christmas

      The Puck – Chop off a bit more than you think you need to cap the end of the pipe. The thrusting tip is made of foam and without a puck the pipe is a blunt stabbing instrument. Jam the over-fat piece on the end and spiral wrap the puck into a compressed position on top. Do this for both ends.
                                 

      You’ll notice I am ripping the tape down the middle to use thinner pieces. Besides being less wasteful this is also weight mitigation. Tape = Weight, far more weight than most would imagine and it stacks up quick.

      You’ll never see the light of day again Elsa

      Often there is space in between the pipe and the padding which can cause the padding to “rattle” around it. This is bad. It breaks down the padding faster and can even generate more impact when striking someone. To say nothing of causing even more vibrations when blocking. Take your half strips again and wrap about 4 inches beneath the end of the pipe. You want about a 1/4 of an inch thick. you want another wrap about 4 inches from the bottom of the padding where the hilt would start.

      There is nothing fancy about claws. They just need to be red, reliable, and not hurt people. I still like to taper down the “hilt” area to the grip. You can use a knife but small sharp scissors work really well.

       

       

      THE POMMEL

      For weapons the pommel is important. For claws the pommel might be the most important part of the weapon. There are basically three types to use: the standard square or triangular, the ball, and the full grip. For this demonstration, and for ease of use for my NPCs, I’m making every shape I can think of.

       

      The standard square or triangular pommel  is for the typical hold-the-claw-at-the-end with the pommel keeping it firmly in place. The ball is for the NPCs that like to stick the pommel right in the center of their hand and swing with the very end of the claw. The grip is the middle ground where a fat pommel is cut in a loose attempt to fit the shape of the hand. It really all boils down to preference.I’ve used my scissors again to chop up some thrusting tips. I keep a chunk of pipe on hand to measure and trim them into shape.
      read more

    Back In My Day We Used PEE-VEE-CEE

    LARP has grown and changed a lot in the last two decades; it’s been great to watch.

    A lot of these changes have focused on the sophistication of the setting. With specialty shops, like Dark Knight Armory, setting up online instead of just in the back alleys of Renaissance Fairs and the rise of Etsy, intricate costumes have become available to everyone with a dream and a few bucks to spend. I’ve watched plot teams venture into theatrical lighting effects and cosplayers teach us all how to do exquisite makeup on YouTube.

    All these things add to the game in remarkable ways, allowing players to “suspend the disbelief” with increasing ease and making for awesome games.

    I love new technology in the LARP-verse, with one exception, Latex Weapons.

    To be clear: What I am saying is that old school “round foam” weapons, made from plumbing supplies and duct tape like these:

    Made this one myself

    are superior to sculpted marvels of modern LARP excellence, like these:

    I assure you, it’s foam

    I know, I know, I’m obviously just an old man who doesn’t like new things, but hear me out:

    #1 Cost

    It seems odd to promote a Latex Weapon Maker in this blog, but I’m doing it: Forged Foam makes great stuff.

    One of their beautifully made LARP safe long swords (36″ – 48″) will cost you $80.00.

    Conversely:

    1/2″ PVC: $3.90
    5/8 Thickness Pipe Insulation (for padding): $14.78
    Duct tape: $4.97
    Open cell foam (thrusting tips): Free (scavenged couches)
    Sport tape (Handle grip): $2.52

    To be clear, the prices above are not for making a single sword, but just for buying the stuff in the smallest quantity available. With all that stuff you could make three long swords and that’s only because you ran out of PVC; what I’m saying here is you can make FIVE SWORDS FOR THIRTY BUCKS.

    That’s not all, not only do Latex Weapons cost more, but you need to maintain them regularly or they dry out and fall apart:

    This is not a magical process that keeps these weapons pristine forever, this is a treadmill of maintenance you need to preform to give these weapons a few years of life. They will still eventually break down and become unsafe.

    Don’t get me wrong, round foam weapons break down too, but I want to point out that YOU INTEND TO HIT THINGS WITH THIS OBJECT; it’s going to break down and need to be replaced, cheaper is better.

    Another issue of cost affects the game on a larger level: barriers to entry. LARP is intimidating to begin, with many first time players coming to the game in their late teens or early twenties. As the game moves more and more to Latex Weapons, aspiring LARPers may put off playing due to lack of “proper” weapons and, being young, fail to have the financial wherewithal to  get a hold of them. Keep in mind, this is a statistical issue; even if its just fifty bucks on an individual level, increasing barriers to entry at all will have a large adverse effect on recruitment nationally.

    lower recruitment = fewer LARPers = less fun for everyone.   

    #2 Safety

    LARP fighting, at least in New England Boffer Style LARPS, is a game of tag. That being said I have literally had my hand broken, twice. While a light tap is all that is needed to count the hit, when people get going, hits get faster and less controlled; this is a fact. People can talk all they want about “one second combat” and other systems designed to slow things down and keep fighting more controlled and, pushing up their glasses, point out that “technically people should never be out of control of their weapon”, in my experience that is not realistic.

    Latex weapons are denser then round foam weapons and are sculpted in ways to be “sharper” than round foam ever could. The latex coating has less give than duct tape, and a lot I’ve held are heavier than round foam weapons, and weighted badly (which we’ll get into in a minute). All these things contribute to the possibility of injury every time the weapon is swung. We swing these things a lot, thousands of times an event; the odds stack up.

    You’ll put your eye out.

    We fight with padded weapons because we don’t want to hurt each other. Latex Weapons are being brought in because they look better, not because they are safer.

    If we are prioritizing look over safety, I have a couple real swords that would be great for a truly “immersive experience”.

    #3 Balance

    This one is hard to get into, I’m just going to come out and say it: Latex Weapons are generally not optimally balanced for boffer combat.

    This may be considered a good thing by some; I’ve heard people sell Latex Weapons with the tag line “it’s weighted more like a real sword, so more authentic”, this jives nicely with the look of these weapons adding to the overall authenticity of the game, and thus breeds greater immersion, or so goes the thought.

    I fully disagree with this concept in its entirety, for one simple reason, authenticity and immersion have no direct correlation. This seemingly counter-intuitive notion is worth a whole other essay, and I’m not going to tackle it in its entirety here , but I want to develop one example before moving on: Haunted Houses.

    There is nothing “authentic” about a Haunted House, they do not harken back to another time when the world was fraught with undead horrors and wandering spirits; still people most certainly become immersed in the experience, which can be verified by all the screaming and panic in a situation that is obviously not dangerous in any way. Again, another essay at another time, but take this as some amount of proof that I am not completely talking out of my ass armed only with an opinion.

    Perfectly authentic.

    Back to balance: Round foam weapons are easy to customize.

    Generally the rules of any game have weapon construction guidelines and/or rules to operate within. The NERO Rulebook allows a long sword to be 46″ in length with a 14″ handle, if you build that with a kites bar core and kite tape you have a maximized speed stick no Latex Weapon can match. Conversely, spears can be 58″ inches long with a 1 inch MINIMUM handle, which is great if you are looking to spear dance with a blocking weapon that is harder to power through. Can you find Latex Weapons that meet these weight optimized specs, probably not, and if you could they often have a bunch of extra embellishment on them that will throw off the feel.

    Customized weapons make for a more intense combat experience, which adds to the game. I know its all the rage these days to move away from the “stick-jockey” mindset, and I agree with that; LARP should not be only about combat, but combat is a part of the game. When all parts of the game are as intense as possible, then players of all styles are as engaged as possible, and that leads to immersion.

    #4 Community

    Crafting round foam weapons used to be a skill passed down from veteran LARPers to newbies with each new generation. It was a reason to reach out and get involved, to take someone under a wing, to throw a party.

    New players would show up with weapons padded in fiberglass house insulation, or with two-handers made with a pipe too small (creating a floppy polearm that could hit people around corners was one of my early mistakes) and someone would have to tell them that the weapon was illegal and then SHOW THEM HOW TO MAKE A GOOD ONE; while this pragmatic knowledge was being passed, a bunch of culture and values got transferred too. There is something special about this kind of community building, you see it in old world apprenticeship programs; the passing of tangible knowledge is a powerful thing.

    Now newbies show up with replica “Lucile” Bats or Lightsabers, and they’re safe, so its less a big deal that they are prohibited from using them. This kind of mistake is like wearing jeans to an event, distasteful, but not enough to raise alarms and force interaction; it winds up having the opposite effect, experienced players just ignore the Canadian Knight with the Lightsaber, losing the chance to pass on culture and forward the community, in fact breaking it apart instead.

    “We’re here to fight the DAG-ron.”

    Weapon making parties were another staple of LARP community that is starting to dwindle because of new Latex Weapon technology. These used to happen at least once a year at nearly every LARP in which I have ever participated. These are open invitation gatherings to make weapons for monster camp en masse, players would of course make some for themselves as well. These gatherings were perfect for getting the community to talk to one another, out of game, about all sorts of things, and work toward a common goal. Alas, now when the plot team asks for weapon donations, people just buy a few Latex Weapons, or get into the complicated and private process of creating their own flat foam latex weapons. Monster Camp gets fewer swords that have to be maintained regularly, are hard to fight with and tend to hurt people; and the community loses another opportunity for interaction.

    Note:  Alliance SoMI’s Monster Camp has a lot of wonderful Latex Weapons donated by fantastic players who care a lot about the game. We use these weapons to great effect on a very regular basis and I love all the players who have donated these wonderful weapons to us.

    #5 I’m an old man who doesn’t like new things

    I am. it’s true.