There are plenty of people out there who have heard about larp, but have no idea where to start. They have some gear, they have a few friends, and they want to try it out. Or maybe, like this redditor you have an idea for an event. But you don’t have a game system to set that event in. There are tons of people out there just getting into larp who are trying to build something but don’t know where to start. They have no foundation or experience in writing game rules. Fortunately Hit Location combat larp has been around for a while and there are plenty of examples of systems and games to choose from. But maybe you want to build something yourself and just need a place to start. Here is an index of critical posts about the rules needed to build that core. Keep in mind this is not a finished document with all the rules, but rather a place to start.
The basis of Hit Location Larp is that all weapons deal one point of damage. No matter how experienced or how strong a players persona is, they still only deal one point of damage. What about portraying a character with “The Strength of 10 men“, or a monstrous troll that attacks not with clubs but with whole trees? Siege damage represents massive damage beyond what mortals are capable of. The addition of Siege damage to a larp can shake up a stale combat system. Also it’s immensely fun! Let’s take a look.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
At practice last week I was asked about the rules that we follow for weapons. Players wanted to know what the lengths are and the impact of those lengths on the rules. Fortunately the rules are fairly standard and should give the general audience an idea of what weapons are usually like. However, if you are not a member of my practice do check with your game system, as some systems can vary quite a bit.
As a new player it’s fairly easy to spot that most Boffer and Latex weapons conform to certain lengths. These standards exist as game mechanics for game play balance not historic accuracy. They have been handed down from one game system to the next for quite some time and as far as I know have origins in the SCA. Most, but not all, larps use similar weapon lengths and skills. Here the 5 common larp weapons.
Dagger – any weapon longer than 12 inches but shorter than 18 inches. The weapon is used in one hand, and does not require the other hand to be free to use.
One handed – any weapon longer than 18 inches, but shorter than 36 inches. The weapon is used in one hand, and does not require the other hand to be free to use. Shields count as one handed regardless of size.
Hand and a half – any weapon longer than 36 inches, but shorter than 48 inches. The weapon can be used one handed or two handed, but the player may not have anything else in their other hand. Sometimes called a ‘bastard sword’.
Two handed – any weapon longer than 48 inches, but shorter than 96 inches. To use two handed weapons the player must have both hands. Other weapons cannot be held in either hand. Attacks must start with both hands on the weapon, but the player does not have to keep both hands on the weapon during the attack. If both hands are holding the weapon, both hands gain ‘Hand on weapon’.
Ranged weapons – generally there are no length restrictions associated with ranged weapons. Bows should be under 30 lb pull. Do not aim at the head with any type of Ranged weapon. For most boffer arrows you can make due with a 10 lb pull fiberglass bow, so 20lbs or 30lbs are a bit overkill. If you’re using a 30 lb pull bow make sure you do not pull the string all the way back. This can be accomplished by constructing arrows which are shorter than a full draw.
Throwing weapons – Any one handed weapon specifically constructed to be thrown safely can be used as a throwing weapon (more about this in weapon construction rules). Do not aim at the head with any type of thrown weapon. Generally they should be 18 inches or less, but that’s more for practicality than functionality. While it’s possible to build a two handed throwing spear safety, it would be pretty useless on the battle field. Some latex throwing weapons are longer than 18 inches, which is fine, as those types of weapons have no exposed pipe.
Two weapon fighting – Daggers and one handed weapons can be used ‘Two Weapon’ style. This means that a player can hold one in each hand. This could be dagger/one handed, or two one handed weapons. Playing with a weapon in each hand is extremely difficult and takes a while to learn. Some people have a taste for it, most don’t.
You could consider ‘Sword and Board’ as the same classification as Two Weapon. Shields count as a one handed weapon regardless of being a target buckler (12 inch diameter) or a kite shield. Some shields may be constructed with striking surfaces, if so check with a Marshall to make sure it is safe before fielding the shield/weapon.
Generally being shown how to build boffer weapons is much more informative than attempting to learn the rules and steps alone. Fortunately there are plenty of guides and videos online about how to construct safe boffer weapons. If it’s safe for another game systems it will probably be fine for our practice.
If you have any specific weapon questions, or if I have forgotten some specific weapon rule, you can tweet me directly @jspringfied211. You can comment, ask questions, and provide suggestions for this post on my Google Plus feed (it attracts less spam than my website). There is a FB group for the practice.