Larp and combat

In this topic I will be looking at combat, how to do it, it’s differences in larp and real life and the difference between single combat and the big battles. You may want to skip to certain parts. For this reason I have given each bit a title.

I am not a leading expert on combat, I am merely an observant person with some experience of combat. These are just my opinions.


Size and Weight
First I will look at real life combat vs larp combat. An interesting difference is that I don’t think your strength and weight matters in almost all cases in larp combat. In a real fight, the more strength or weight you have, the more power you can generate and the harder it is to knock you down. In larp combat every hit does the same amount of damage (unless using a call) and you can’t be knocked down (unless again you use a call). I think this means that a smaller person who most likely has a speed advantage, will do better in larp combat then real life combat. The advantage a larger person has is reach which is something that is also an advantage in actual fighting.

In a real fight there is always that fear of being hurt. In larp that fear is reduced a bit and so you may find people are a little bit more aggressive. You can use this to your advantage as it will make them slightly easier to attack as they are being less defensive. You have to be able to understand that fear you have of not wanting to be hit. If you let it control you then you will stay on the defensive and eventually be whittled down. If you ignore it you will over extend and be hit.

Remember that you can use this fear against your foe. War cries and charges can be particularly demoralising for an enemy. The more people you have participating in these acts, the stronger the effect.

You have to choose a fairly light bow if you wish to partake in archery in larp. This means the arrows fly slower than they may do in real life which makes dodging them a viable option. In some ways it is more like firing a musket. You have a high chance of missing and it would probably be best to do a volley. To make up for its difficulty and archer will have basically a one shot down on anyone not in heavy armour. I personally don’t know how this differs from reality. I would image that most bows in real life would be less powerful, especially in the hands of the majority of modern archers though maybe some of the old English archers with their long bows with extremely high draw weights may have a similar effect. (After thought: I have found out that I am wrong about some of my paragraph on archery, maybe even all of it. If you wish to find the corrections, please look below in the comments)

The rules and mechanics
The other thing with larp combat is that you are limited by certain rules. Armour works very differently in larp then it does in real life. In reality you would be an unstoppable killing machine if you wore armour. There was an arms race between weapons and armour with through out mankind’s history. Weapons like the sword were useless against most armour. You would require either a lot of pressure to piercer it or just a lot of blunt force trauma. This is sort of reflected with medium armour stopping cleave and heavy armour stopping impale and cleave but that is where the similarities end. Armour is still useful though not as useful. As it is quite heavy, being able to carry it around easily is the only time being stronger will be an advantage that I can think of.

You also can’t stab. This takes a large portion of your attacks out but it also means your opponent can’t do them so it balances that out. It makes it easier to defend as attacks will be slightly slower and there will be less variation.

Another thing is that you can’t grapple. You can’t grab your opponent or their weapon which means there is absolutely no way to fight someone while you are unarmed. You are also again limits your attacks but fortunately it does the same to your opponent.

The final difference that I can see is that there are certain places you can’t hit, in fact a lot of the places you can’t hit are places you would want to hit in real life combat, this is because you would do more damage to a person but as damage in larp is the same no matter where you hit (except with cleave and impale) this doesn’t matter as much. The only thing it does is reduce the options of where you can attack, making a defenders job easier.

In single combat as there is only one opponent, your full focus is on them. This means your skill is a lot more important. There will be sudden bouts of speed where an unskilled fighter will be absolutely decimated. There will be a lot more personal aggression especially in larp combat.

It is arguably more important to have good team skills than personal combat skills during a battle however you will need a good commander. A less skilled fighter can compensate by using their allies to help them. You will find that people are a little bit more defensive in large battle simply because both sides have a wall of shields and weaponry which are difficult to penetrate.

In the battles at empire, it is more about completing objectives then scoring kills. You have to remember not to try and play the hero if you truly want to succeed. We all want to be the main character but just running in and trying to take everyone down will result in you being slain. The only time you will have an opportunity to act like this is if you have been challenged to single combat or someone has accepted your challenge however he only people you can really do this with is the Jotun as the Grendel and Druj are not above cheating. If you really want to stand out then interact with both friend and foe. You should also be willing to help at all times. People will most likely remember you if you save their life.

When deciding to go into combat, you should consider what kind of fighting style fits you best. If you are shorter then you might want to go for faster combat. Alternatively you could use a shield because it can cover more of you.

If you are taller then having a pole arm will mean that few can challenge your reach. Of course having a naturally longer reach will mean you can go for shorter weaponry and maybe duel wield to try and keep up with the speed of someone shorter but then you will just have speed against reach in a more pure form and it will be down to skill rather than your advantaged.

If you are going for a lot of ducking and dodging then you need to remember a few things. When ducking, don’t bend at the waist, this will get your head closer to them and an accident will more likely to happen. It will also make it harder to see which will make it harder to defend. You can also use your hips to move your body to the side slightly as you duck. When dodging, remember to use your feet as well as your hips as it allows you to make bigger movements so you are more likely to get out of the way of a weapon.

When blocking, only block when it looks like the weapon will hit you. If you go for an attack that isn’t going to hit you then you may expose yourself to one that will. Remember to protect all of your body. Some people forget to protect their legs and more skilled fighters will take advantage of that. If you have a shield, remember you can also use your weapon as defence as well if you are being overwhelmed. It will be easier to defend your upper body and use your shield to defend the lower half if this is happening. If you are being overwhelmed you don’t want to stay in that combat for too long. Try and move into a more advantageous position or away from the fight completely.

When using a pole arm you want to use it to keep people at bay. You reach advantage becomes a disadvantage if your foe gets into close. If you have to, you can move your grip along the shaft (remember you have to keep an 18" distance between both hands) and thus have a better chance of defending close up however you need to remember that your body will block part of the shaft and you may hit something that is behind you so be careful. You can also change the position of the shaft so it goes across your body. This will allow you to block closer attacks more effectively.

Your foe will try and push you back. You do not want to be pushed back if you can help it. They might go for a particularly aggressive attack. Instead of going backwards, try and go sideways and then forwards so they have to move back. You don’t want to do this if it gets you into the range of someone else’s attacks however so this should only be used for one vs one or if you are at the edges of a line.

If you are an aspiring general then I recommend you look at historical battles, the success and failures of the past. I also think it would be a good idea to read the Art of War by Sun Tzu. Some of the advice is aimed more at campaigns and open warfare but there is still advice that would help in battle. One of these is about knowing both yourself and your enemy. In the larp battle this relates to knowing what kind of enemy you are fighting and so how they will attack you and it also means knowing the capabilities of your own forces so you know what you can do with them.

My final piece of advice is to simply to train. There is about half a year till the next event. In that time you can improve your fitness and your combat capabilities. If you know anyone who you fight with then see if you can meet up and work on fighting together.

It can be hard to train when you are on your own but you can get used to holding and moving your weapon as well as look at your foot work.

I hope you gained something from this topic. I know it was quite long but I thought it would be a good idea to cover as much as possible. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on what I have said and maybe some of your experiences of combat both in larp and in the real world. If there is anything wrong with what I have said, please, feel free to tell me and I will look into changing it. Thank you for your time. Also here are the rules for combat if anyone is unsure:


I was asked some time ago if there was a cheat code for the battles:

“Good cardio and half-a-dozen friends”

There’s a nice podcast I’ve been listening to where the speaker found himself unfit for LARP combat. Yoga and swimming, while good for flexibility and stamina, may not prepare you for the terrain or the combat. I’d reccomend cross-country running, myself. Chain mail optional :slight_smile:

Re: Armour… I’m not going to comment on the historical utility of armour… :stuck_out_tongue: However I’d like to underscore that in this system, the armour offers locational protection (each piece covering a location on your body), while enough of it grants you a global hit bonus (ie, more overall hits). This means that

  1. There’s a good reason to wear one or two bits or armour (shinguards, breastplate) to block strikes at that location.
  2. There’s a good target level of armour (torso + 1 location) to get your extra hits. Given the range of available materials (including aluminium chain and resin plate) it’s possibly to get quite a lot of apparent armour at low weight. Also, a good suit of armour should allow a lot of movement and be reasonably weight distributed.
  3. There’s also a reason to keep piling on armour in extra locations, beyond the “full suit” needed for the hit points. An arrow or blow that strikes at the weak point in your armour is realistic, challenging, and very annoying! I monstered in February (sanctioned event) and got a lovely CLEAVE off on the back of a knights leg… and hit more plate armour…

If you have the chance, try out a range of weapons, and try out fighting against a range thereof.

Watch out for the (few) spears specifically constructed to be stab-safe. After practising to block slashes and cuts, the thrusts can be a nasty surprise…

In Empire, there’s a little book that I mean to pick up: “A guide to Warfare by General Gabriel Barossa” It’s a series of articles on various battlefield and larp-combat things, written IC for Empire (by Tim Baker, a thoroughly good bloke and very sensible in this field), including such subjects as commanders, messengers, preparation, healing, morale, and formations.


While I am sure you mean well (and I have done the same in the past), this is one of those topics which has been done to death.

In the end, LARP is a simulationist approach designed to allow modern humans to fake medieval skills. We simply do not train with these sorts of weapons every week in expectation of some feudal lord conscripting us into an army.

You do raise some points about penetrating wounds (arrows and thrusting weapons) which are important to consider, but which actually miss the point; it takes very little pressure to stab a person compared to a slash, which is precisely why you are not allowed to do it except with very low draw-weight bows and specific polearms. We slash because it’s hard to hurt someone. On the other hand, a fibreglass rod or arrow-shaft can kill even with very little force unless you are in armour and/or behind a reinforced shield.


I did not know that this has been done already. I’m sorry, should I remove this post? Also I didn’t mention why you can’t stab because I believe that it wasn’t important, I simply pointed out what that meant for someone trying to fight the person.

With training, I think the main thing is really the exercise part. I think it would help people in their general but I didn’t want to go into detail as this was about combat. Some people also want to be good at combat and may look into taking up a martial art for a hobby.

Keep the post, more discussion is fine. And there’ll likely be new LARPers this winter checking the forums :slight_smile:


Okay thank you.

Would you agree that press ups are a good idea if you are planning to be part of a shield wall? Press ups are good for stamina when it comes to your arms. You might be able to lift a lot by doing weight training but you may not be able to lift something fairly heavy for a long time.

No, it’s a good post. I just wanted you to understand why the response might not have been quite what you expected.

I trained in combat, though admittedly as a fight director, so I once made one of these posts and the response could be summarised as “lol bro, you only just realised foam swords don’t work like metal swords?” followed by some of the most painful misconceptions about how heavy medieval arms and armour were.

I specialised in rapier (+ dagger / + cloak / Florentine) and so I had to explain pulling blows and performing thrusts out of range to actors.

Fun fact: Fighting 6" too far away from your opponent, mainly thrusting and aiming for swords more often than bodies really does not translate to LARP.


I wasn’t expecting much response, partly because of how much text there is, I was more interested in just speaking my mined (a very brass coast thing to do) and I just thought it might be nice for people to see that though they may be disadvantaged in real combat or single combat, they may have advantages in larp battles, unfortunately I sort of got carried away with myself because why make a summary when you can bore people to death with as many facts as you can think of.


Probably? Bear in mind that LARP shields rarely wiegh very much anyway, often between 0.5 to 5kg.

This is to compensate for us NOT being part of a military caste practicing with heavy weaponry on a regular basis :slight_smile:

Beyond a certain level, OOC strength and stamina are irrelevant, and if you are healthy to start with, it’s not that difficult to attain that level. As an example, I’d like to point to JR, a fellow LARPer. He does wieghtlifting competitively, and could probably carry a friend (in full iron chain maille) over his shoulder, to safety. But beyond this, there aren’t really too many applications for such strength on the field. He can’t crush an opponents shieldwall, slam through a guard, batter down an opponent with mighty blows, or grapple someone to the ground with one hand… (having fought against him, I am very glad of this).

I do a reasonably active job that has me doing a lot of walking, climbing stairs, and lifting stuff, and that seems to dome pretty well.

I suspect that your conduct at the event (drinking enough water and not too much alchohol, eating enough, sleeping enough, staying warm) will have a greater impact on your combat performance than your exercise regime. Although, admittedly, not by much :slight_smile:

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With qualifiers: I have fought fine in LARP for years, using little or no armour, but ten minutes in borrowed steel chain really challenged me.


I’m always surprised how close you actually have to be to do anything. I’ve often forgotten that though my slaps may have a range of about a meter, I can only do this once and then I have to half my attack range. Luckily in larp you can sort of just tap someone so being slightly out of range doesn’t effect your damage. I can see why your initial way of fighting may not have yielded the results you were after.

I’ve never held a larp shield before so I didn’t know. They are bulkier then the weapons and so I just sort of guessed their weight.
You have also now given me a mental image of an instructional video where someone is talking about combat and then points to a large man duel wielding people who are duel wielding swords as he runs head long into a wall of shields, knocking the camera over and causing carnage.

Go to the new player skirmish, it teaches most of the stuff you need to know, or come Dawn glory square there are always people practising.


Just to be clear, is that directed at me or just to people in general?

Anyone who wants to practise :slight_smile:

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You have to choose a fairly light bow if you wish to partake in archery in larp. This means the arrows fly slower than they may do in real life which makes dodging them a viable option. In some ways it is more like firing a musket. You have a high chance of missing and it would probably be best to do a volley. To make up for its difficulty and archer will have basically a one shot down on anyone not in heavy armour. I personally don’t know how this differs from reality. I would image that most bows in real life would be less powerful, especially in the hands of the majority of modern archers though maybe some of the old English archers with their long bows with extremely high draw weights may have a similar effect.

I disagree with the conclusions you draw here:

  1. A good archer is actually quite accurate, especially inside the most sensible 20m combat range.
  2. Volley shooting is not worth it. Inside 20m, you get better results by allowing the archers to pick and choose their targets. Outside 20m volleys are typically “shooting at a shield wall which has nothing better to do than block your arrows”, which is just a waste of time and effort.
  3. Even a 30lb ‘larp-safe’ bow is a deadly weapon oc. If it were loaded with a real arrow, it would cheerfully punch that arrow straight through an unarmoured person’s lungs at 50m. Most folks won’t keep fighting after that, and it would require swift medical attention or be fatal. A proper strength war-bow would punch a bodkin point through armour at that distance.

An archer within 20m behind a shield wall that is close up to it’s foe is dangerous beyond belief, the wintermarkers shield wall last event kept replacing heavy front liners with people who had no armour, a sword or axe that couldn’t hit anyone and a shield, so many dropped leaving gaps then healers got shot and it was such a mess, I don’t normally feel guilty while monstering but it was mass carnage and felt sorry for all the people who died simply by just being left behind in the “retreat”.


Okay thank you for clarifying.

Doesn’t even have to be a shield wall. Just literally anyone, even just a light skirmish screen, capable of providing cover from enemy archers and dissuading the enemy from charging me. Ideally also distracting the enemy so I can line up those tasty knee shots.

(My other favourite trick is the words “[Name], duck!”, then shooting through the new gap.)