LARP Weapons and You
As the world of Last Hope is a dangerous one, most players should expect to carry a weapon with them. While you are under no obligation to fight when you are at a game (and oftentimes, the best option is to simply flee from combat if you’re outmatched), it’s always helpful to have something to defend yourself with. There are a staggering number of weapons available, however, so the choices can sometimes be a bit staggering – there are a LOT of companies and styles out there. This is intended as a resource for players looking to purchase their first weapon or someone considering expanding their armoury.
Things to keep in mind
First off, remember that we are a low-fantasy game. This means that weapons are meant to be a little more utilitarian, and you should avoid weapons which are overly decorated or fantasy-oriented. Another thing that you should remember is that you should try to have a weapon that fits with your character – if a weapon seems rather incongruous or out-of-place in the hands of a character, you may be asked to explain where you got it – this allows for a bit of leeway in terms of gear, but prevents things like Ulven warriors carrying jewel-covered scimitars or Vandregonian nobility with stone clubs.
A few other points to keep in mind with your weapons:
- If a weapon requires Herald training or approval before use, you must have gone through the training in order to use it. Just because you have purchased a weapon does not mean that the staff is obligated to allow you to use it – there are specific safety concerns with some of these weapons, and failing to adhere to the safety guidelines or training will likely result in a Herald asking you to put the weapon away.
- Take the time to maintain your weapons! Don’t just leave them in your car – Calimacil weapons, while practically indestructible, tend to harden a bit if left in extreme temperatures, and latex degrades. After an event, wipe down your weapons, check them for defects, and (if they are made of latex) utilize silicon spray to maintain the latex.
- Expect to go through weapon checks at every event you attend. Just because a weapon has passed before doesn’t mean that it will always pass – entropy is the master of us all, including LARP weapons. There will be a clearly-marked area for weapon checks, and if a weapon fails, the Herald doing a weapon check will explain why. If you take the time to maintain your weapons, then it is much more likely that they will continue to pass in every game.
- Homemade weapons are generally inspected somewhat more stringently. We are working on guidelines for making your own weapons, but be aware that it takes quite a bit of time and effort to make a weapon that matches the quality (both in appearance and safety) of commercially-available weapons; this is not intended as a slight against anyone’s foamsmithing skills.
- If you have questions about the appropriateness of a weapon, talk with a Herald. We like seeing new equipment and ideas, and (if it’s needed) we can post a few examples of passing/failing weapons from the various manufacturers.
Choosing a weapon for your character
Think about what you can comfortably wield, how it fits in with your overall costume design, and what you’re willing to spend when looking at weapons. Rather than limiting each class to only using certain weapons, Last Hope tries to encourage players to wield what they think their character would use – while certain skills to utilize weapons (such as two-handed weapons, utilizing two weapons, or using bows) cost more experience for certain classes, it would make no sense to say that a mage can’t use a two-handed sword because “Mages don’t use them”. Instead, think about how your character got their training – are they self-taught? Did they study under a swordmaster? Did they learn in the military? Or did you pick it up in-character over the course of the game?
Here are some general suggestions for players – feel free to ask “why” we’ve made these recommendations in terms of the various races and weapons.
- The Ulven tend to use simpler weapons, and prefer axes, spears, and straight swords. If a weapon has adornment, it is not the focus of the weapon – the Ulven see their weapons as useful tools for survival, not objects to have art lavished on them. If a weapon has decoration on it, then it most likely has a story – take the time to think about it!
- Syndar tend towards staves, bows, and more ‘graceful’ weapons, such as curved swords. Decoration and embellishment is relatively common, although Feral Syndar tend to follow the Ulven pattern a little more closely. Expect a well-made weapon to have a long story, usually with connection to some named smith.
- Humans have the widest variety of weapons, ranging the gamut from utilitarian to nearly priceless blades covered in delicate filigree. Most of the kingdoms have their own guidelines, but with the prevalence of trade, you can expect to find quite a few interesting examples.
Companies and Manufacturers
There are a staggering array of companies. Here is some basic information for people looking to sort out the various brands.
A Canadian company, these weapons are fairly unique in that, rather than using latex-skinned foam, they use a proprietary foam mixture that has no latex in it. Quite a few players in Last Hope use these weapons – they are incredibly durable, made in a variety of styles, and tend to have a slightly more realistic weight than some of the other blades on the market.
Unfortunately, they are also quite expensive. Their basic swords tend to start at around 80$, and they can easily reach over 200$ in price for a single weapon. Additionally, they tend to have quite a bit more “bite” than other LARP weapons, especially their two-handed weapons and blunt weapons. Generally, you will need to be careful of control when using a Calimacil sword.
There are a few weapons with specific concerns or special rules.
- Currently, we are still reviewing the suitability of their line of stab-safe rapiers. The main concerns is the size of the tip – they are smaller than an eye socket, and so we are waiting to make the decision until we have thoroughly reviewed it and seen what training is required for safe thrusting. They are still legal weapons (although Asmoth is a little bit too high-fantasy: covering or painting may be required) if used for only cutting – if you are caught thrusting without Herald approval, you will not be allowed to use that weapon in the future.
- Their Martial Arts line utilizes much denser foam, and so are unsuitable.
- If you are planning on using any of their pole weapons (Telescoping Spear or Halberd), talk with a Herald.
A German manufacturer, these are rather high-quality latex weapons. Some of their line tends towards the fantastic – ask a Herald if you have any questions. We’ve had no problems with them thus far, although some of the axe heads tend to be a little bit stiff at first.
They also manufacture a wide variety of shields – as above, make sure that the design you’ve chosen fits in with your character concept and the low-fantasy feel of the world. In general, the Medieval and Mercenary collections are your best bet in terms of design, the Gaelic and Ancient collections are fairly acceptable (although their spears are not thrust-approved), and the Chaos and Elven collections tend to be somewhat variable – the Bone swords, for example, are not acceptable for player characters.
A Danish company, they produce two lines that are appropriate for Last Hope: Epic Armoury and Ready For Battle. Both of them are perfectly acceptable – there are a few weapons which are a little bit too high fantasy, but otherwise, they are excellent weapons. In general, most of the gear from their Dark Moon line is not appropriate, although there are some modern/sci-fi games in the area that they would be excellent for.
If you are looking to get started, the Ready for Battle line is a good starter weapon – they’re a little cheaper than other latex weapons, they work just fine, and there are a number of good designs available. Otherwise, they make a wide variety of good weapons – regular maintenance is recommended. At the moment, there’s an axe floating around that’s been used in semi-regular practice for two years that is just showing some minor signs of wear, so they’re quite durable.
An English company that does a mix of commercial designs and custom work, their gear ranges in the solid middle to high-end of latex weaponry. There are a few US distributors of their weapons, but their selection is somewhat limited.
If you’re not looking to get custom work done, then most of what they have available is simple straight swords. Most of their medieval/Renaissance-looking weapons are just fine. The latex seems to be a little bit harder than that of Iron Fortress or Forgotten Dreams, and their longer weapons have a little bit more whip than some people are used to, but they are also extremely well-balanced and make some gorgeous-looking swords. At the moment, no one in Last Hope has any experience with their custom work.
An excellent starter brand – while Eagle Flex is one of the cheapest “entry level” brands, they are also relatively good quality – their swords hold up well, handle decently, and come in a variety of styles. They make a few axes and daggers, as well as shields, all of which hold up rather well.
A Canadian company that specializes in high-end latex weaponry. While they maintain some stock, most of the appeal lays in the customization available on their weapons – when ordering, you can select from a good number of options to customize a pre-existing design. The detail and handling of these weapons is fantastic, although they are rather pricey for latex weapons, easily exceeding the price of most Calimacil gear for the larger weapons.
If you are ordering a custom weapon, expect a wait time of about a month for delivery. As another note, they do not offer many items over 44″ in length, most likely due to construction techniques, so don’t expect to find a cleaving sword from them. They have a few weapons which are a bit high-fantasy, but the overall line is fantastic.
Mostly a custom shop based in the UK, they do some fantastic-looking work. At the moment, they do not have an overly-large selection of pre-made weapons, and the shipping costs to the United States can be pricey, but their work is quite beautiful, and they show a willingness to make a wide variety of weapons (Check out the LARP-safe Ship’s Wheel!)
At the moment, no one in Last Hope has any experience with these weapons. It is likely that they will pass, as they are in use at Empire, but until someone buys one for us to check, we can’t really comment on that.
So how do I choose?
When looking at a LARP weapon, there are three things to consider:
- How much am I willing to spend?
- What is the overall look that I’m going for?
- How do I want the weapon to handle?
As a general rule, higher-quality/more elaborate weapons will cost more money – a dagger is less expensive than a polearm, unless you really manage to get some odd custom work done. Simple weapons are often best when you’re just starting out – a lot of people in Last Hope got their start with the basic Eagle Flex Norman Sword, and you still see quite a few of them.
The handling is a major area to consider, however – different brands handle differently. In general, latex is quite a bit lighter than Calimacil’s blend – the Calimacil blades handle a little bit more ‘realistically’, but they’re also slightly slower to respond than the latex weapons. This is a double-edged sword, as they are better for making stable parries, but move a little more slowly when you’re attacking.
So why can’t I just make my own weapon/use a boffer?
Theoretically? You can make your own weapons – they’re just much harder to pass, take a lot more time to get them looking good enough to pass the visual inspection, and it can end up being even more expensive than some of the custom companies if you’re not really sure what you’re doing at first. We’re beginning to experiment with the creation of some latex gear, but that is currently in its infancy.
As for the boffer question, it’s a matter of appearances. We’re looking to make a really immersive game for everyone involved, and the latex weapons just tend to look better. While it’s entirely possible to make boffers that pass the visual inspection (I would recommend looking up Wynar’s Fine Beating Implements for an example of that), it’s not very common, and we would like to avoid the immersion-breaks of the typical duct-tape boffer.
What about ranged weapons?
Arrows are something that go through a stringent safety check before use, so they’re a little more regulated. At the moment, there are three main companies that make LARP-safe arrows or arrowheads.
Live Action Products
A domestic retailer located in Sheboygan, WI, they make modular arrowheads in a variety of colours. The foam is waterproof enough that covers are not required, although they are recommended, because the foam on the arrowheads can get pretty badly chewed-up by foliage, protrusions, and other sharp things if you’re not careful.
As with all modular arrowheads, it is required that you either lock the head to the shaft using an adhesive or artificially reduce the width of the slot by using duct tape – this is to ensure that the head does not accidentally unscrew in flight.
A German company, they make two types of arrowheads – low-velocity open-cell arrows, and their standard, rounded head. At the moment, the low-velocity heads are the only ones approved for standard bows. The rounded heads are approved for use in IDV’s home-manufactured crossbows, all of which currently pass in Last Hope. Be warned, however – their crossbows tend to have some variability in performance, so you may need to check with a Herald before using one in a game.
Another German company that manufactures crossbows, arrowheads, and other archery equipment. We have no experience with their equipment, although we have heard complaints from some German LARPers that Hammerkunst foam is slightly more rigid than IDV’s. We have no basis to test this, but should anyone ever bring arrows manufactured by this company to an event, expect significant testing before approval.