1 Complex type of battle.

There are 7 staple types of battles in combat larp, but that’s not all. It just scratches the surface of possible types of conflict. While the previous post was about seven simple kinds of battles, this post is about one which requires a bit more gear. For certain themes of larp, this type of battle may be crucial. Careful though, if you want ‘simple’ or ‘low set up’, probably skip this one. But hey, larp is all about logistics, right!?

The Ocean Battle!

Like the Fort Battle and the Bridge battle this type of combat requires some setup. The battle is set on a large open field. A level field is best, but sloped works in a pinch. The event holder lays out a ‘sea scape’ using varying depths of water. These depths are marked using colored rope, surveyors tape, or other brightly colored and flexible material. Use tent pegs to secure them to the ground.

Mark an area as ‘Beach’. On the Beach players can move normally. Mark another area as ‘Shallows’. Any player in the shallows must get down on their knees while moving. Any player wearing metal armor (plate or chain) has a slow count to 10 before they drowned. Mark a third area as ‘Deeps’. Players many not move in the deeps at all. In fact any player in any armor is killed if they enter the deeps.

Players with spells or abilities that grant them Flight, may move as normal. Although for game play balance limit what flying players, with natural wings, can carry on them. No Plate mail flying warriors. Disc riders, flying by spell, and similar effects would probably be allowed more lee way. Players who can breath water, either naturally or by spell would have the greatest advantage at sea as they would not drowned. They do still have to move on their knees, however. Add a ‘Free Action’ movement spell, and then the player can move normally even in the deeps.

This dashing fellow (it’s me) was lost at sea once.

The ocean terrain is now a movement hindrance and a possibly lethal location (my persona know this from first hand experience). So how do normal players survive during an Ocean Battle? Just like in real life to participate in battles at sea, you should have a Ship! And what better way to make one for larp than with PVC? The ships pictured below represent small rowed galleys. The small ships require two crew to move, and can hold up to three armed players.

They key to good ship to ship combat is practicing how the ships move. A player for and a second player aft produce the movement for small ships, such as the ones in the example. Larger ships may require more players to provide the moment. They represent the crew. Killing those players prevents the ship from moving. All players engaging in ship to ship combat should practice a few times before going to conflict. Many players start out attempting to walk in straight lines. They might need a little training to move the ships in ways which mimic nautical motion.

One tactic, often used in real naval combat, is to carry ranged weapons. Stay just out of their range, while still firing on their crew. Unfortunately these players didn’t have much in the way of bows or ranged magic. So they fought by boarding party. Even if the battles break down into what basically amounts to line battles they can still be fun. The players always have to be concerned about the water around them.

When starting to undertake nautical adventures keep things simple. There are plenty of ways to keep Ocean Battles from getting dull. Add more difficult terrain. Increasingly powerful sea monsters. Encourage players to use larger and more sophisticated boat patterns. You can even layer the other types of battle on top of an ocean battle. But most fun of all is when a house gets together and decides they want to be Pirates! Enthusiastic players are the best.

If you incorporate Ocean Battles send over some pictures! As always you can tweet links to me. Leave me a message on Google Plus with detailed feedback. Feel free to write up a post event report and post it to /r/larp. I’ll probably find it there too!

Thoughts on Safety

We’ve already discussed the specifics of safety during interactions between two players, but what about at the event level? When running an event some additional safety concerns arise. An event holder needs to be prepared. At the moment I’m not actually ready to write rules of safe play for a 4x larp. But here’s what I think is important when writing considering writing safety rules.

Continue reading “Thoughts on Safety”

Rules of Combat

Usually these rules are easier to go over in person during practice. Learning how to execute the rules of combat effectively is exactly the reason why we practice. It takes time and experience to train yourself to know the rules and play them correctly. Here are the rules of combat that we’re using at practice and in the 4x larp.

Hit locations

The body is divided into six hit locations. Left and right legs, left and right arms, torso and head. There should be no strikes to the groin and the face. The area we consider the face for weapon strikes starts at the base of the throat above the collar bone, includes the trachea (but not the sides or back of the neck), the chin, ears, nose and eyes. Do not attempt to make attacks to sensory organs or breathing organs not protected by bone, these are off target areas. Any part of the head protected by bone, are on target areas. To discourage strikes to the face, they are not considered killing blows.

If you hit an opponent in the face, real damage may not be immediately apparent. Do not continue striking. You do not have to disengage, but allow a moment for the other player to assess damage. If they continue combat, you may continue. If you are hit in the face, and you can tell that you are really hurt call “Hold” to stop combat.

Hand on Weapon

Hands and fingers are off limits for striking. If your hand is on a weapon, and a strike lands above the wrist, do not take the hit. Call “hand on weapon” if there is any confusion. Wearing leather gloves is also a good idea to prevent injuries to the hands and fingers. Although rare sometimes your knuckles can make contact with a handle or pommel of an opponents weapon and it might sting. Of course any hand not holding a weapon is live and can be struck. Players may not grab opponents weapons. Don’t close your hand around any part of the opponents weapon.

Weapon damage

All weapon strikes do one point of damage, regardless of size or shape. Game mechanics can alter that damage, but during practice that will most likely not happen. Each point of armor prevents one point of damage. Each limb can take only one point of damage before being rendered useless. Weapons must be dropped, or switched to a different hand. Stop using legs which have been damaged. Players may drop to their knees, or role play the loss of a limb. Players should not use dead limbs as shields, a Strike to a missing limb carries through to the next location.

Weapon switches

If a limb is struck while holding a weapon, the player may move the weapon from one hand to another before losing the struck limb. This can include the removal of a shield, as long as combat does not stop to do so. Sword and board fighters should practice ditching their shield quickly and safety for their own benefit.

Late hits

Under normal circumstances there are no late hits. Take all hits you feel regardless of timing. This can lead to many simultaneous hits and kills. This is normal and expected. Particularly during large melee combats it’s very difficult to tell where hits are coming from so it’s best to simply take all weapon hits. Additionally there is no such thing as ‘friendly fire’. When in doubt take the hit. The social contract we’re creating is one of trust. Violating that trust is detrimental to you having a good time. Remember, it’s only fun if they come back next event. Maintaining an environment where other players want to come back is critical to the game and taking hits is a big part of building that environment of trust.

Blow Strength

We play by Solid Hit. Hits should be solid but not painful. There is no such thing as ‘lightest touch’.Take every hit that you feel. If you don’t feel a hit expect to be hit harder. Before a game, and particularly at practice, take some time to calibrate blow strength. Everyone has different thresholds for what they constitute as a solid hit, taking some time to warm up before play is the perfect time to mention if blows are a little too hard. During play is not the time to mention blow strength. If you feel someone is hitting you too hard, remove yourself from combat. If players are looking for a lightest tough game system, NERO, Realms of Wonder, etc will be happy to take you.

When attacking opponents you should use as little force as possible. Not for safety reasons, weapons built correctly will break before a human bone, rather for practicality reasons. The more forceful your swing, the more energy you waste. Feel free to swing as hard as you want at my shield, you’ll just get tired. Using minimal force helps you fight longer, and keeps people coming back next week.

But, but, but…

Doesn’t that hurt? Not really, and I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to pain. What if someone is hitting me too hard? Then you aren’t taking your hits. If you suspect that they are hitting you harder just to be a jerk, the marshals will remove the jerk. If they don’t notice bring it to a marshals attention. The marshals goal is to make sure that all players are behaving in a way that will encourage others to continue showing up. If a player is behaving in a way that upsets others they will be asked to leave. This is a marshals responsibility, not a players.

Blow strength issues have less to do with physicality then with respect between the two players. Complaints about being hit too hard or complaints about someone not taking their hits indicate there is a lack of respect between the two players. Marshals may pull both players and attempt to work out the trust issue to resolve complaints about blow strength. When it comes down to it, if two players trust each other blow strength is never an issue.

Doesn’t blow strength just go up? Yes. It does, particularly in the heat of battle. In 20 years practicing and playing larp I’ve seen no broken bones, from weapon strikes, only bruises. I’ve seen vastly more injuries from the terrain than from contact with weapons or shields. You shouldn’t fear blow strength, although it’s a natural instinct to be wary when someone is swinging anything at you. In my experience you should fear the terrain. It’s far more dangerous.

Rules of Safety

Strikes are to be Weapon to Weapon, Weapon to body, and Weapon to shield only. There is no body to body contact. Martial arts are not to be used during combat to disarm, strike, or move an opponent. Feel free to roll, tumble, dodge, swerve, etc using whatever personal skills you might have.


Shouting the word “Hold” is a special term which means someone is injured. It specifically means someone is injured. Do not call “hold” for anything other than real physical injury or an emergency situation (fire, flood, earthquake). When a “hold” is called all fighting stops. Any player who is not a designated first responder should not move. First responders will assess the injury, apply first aid, and contact authorities should they need to.

Physical Safety

There shall be no charging. You most certainly may advance quickly on an opponent. However body to body contact at a run is strictly forbidden. The safest way to advance on an opponent at a run is to pick a point 2 to 3 feet to their left or right, and run towards that point. This makes it clear that your body will not contact the opponents.

A better option is to advance without running. Most martial artists will agree that taking full steps during combat is bad for tactical reasons. Taking half steps leaves you less vulnerable to being caught mid stride by an opponent. In larp this also helps prevent situations where two players approach each other in an unsafe manner. In this case good tactics and safety go hand in hand.

Be aware of terrain. Most injuries in larp occur between a player and the terrain. If you are fighting on rough terrain take care to move carefully. Plan your attacks and defense to avoid fighting near cliffs, swift rivers, sharp tree limbs, swamps, bogs and other dangerous terrain. Rocks are particularly treacherous and by far cause the most injury. Avoid fighting on rocks at all times (this is not a rule, just good tactical advice).

Challenges to the rules based on hypothetical situations will be ignored then deleted. Questions or Clarifications? Tweet it to me. Suggestions or issue with the way we play can be posted to the Google Plus page for this post. If you live in the Boston, Ma area and want to join our practice, join our FB group to find out the schedule for practice. And finally you can find me on ello.co/larp.