As there is no one official LARP rule book and each group practically makes up its own game mechanics, I’ve summarized some of the most common LARP combat rules.
I came across no contact LARP combat systems, in which combatants pause the game and solve combat with character stats comparison. That is not what this article is about. We will focus on full contact larp combat in which combatants physically hit each other with foam weapons.
Who is this article for People that want to know what kind of rules are there so they can easily choose and join larp groups. It will also be helpful to larp organizers who want to use this resource to help create their own rules.
So how does LARP combat work? Each combatant is assigned a hit point number and each hit received reduces those hit points. When reaching zero hit points the character dies. Shields completely block hits and armor may block hits or add hit points to the combatant.
Obviously, there is more to it. Read on to learn how to calculate hit points, what weapon and armor do and more.
Larp combat safety
Safety should take priority in any larp combat. Use the following as guidelines:
- Weapon regulation: Weapons must be soft and approved by larp organizers
- Restricted areas: Hits to the head and groin area do not count as hits for game purposes and should be avoided. In some groups, the same applies to the hands.
- Shields or any other prop should not be used as weapons
- Be aware of your surroundings and your actions. Make sure not to knock your adversary off balance or hit him too hard
- Be ready to stop the game and offer assistance if combat resulted in real injury
How many hit points does a LARP character have
There are several ways in which larp groups deside on character hit points:
Hit points variant one: By character
In this variant, character hit points are determined by class, level, and race. An example might be:
|Class||Initial hit points||Hit points gained per level|
Hit points variant two: By skills
In skill-based character creation methods, hit points can be gained by spending skill points on more hit points. Some other skills might have hit point benefits, such as military skills, which allows for use of large weapons, heavy armor and gain some hit points.
LARP hit points modifiers
At times character hit points can increase or decrease temporary by:
- Magic spells
- Special abilities
- Magic items
- Quest related events
How to use LARP weapon in combat
Since foam swords don’t weight as much as metal swords, it is almost as easy to wield a two-handed sword as it is a dagger. The weapon (sword vs axe for instance) is less important for game mechanics than the weapon’s length.
The longer the weapon – the longer the reach – the higher the chance of scoring a hit.
Most larping communities restrict the type and length of the weapon used with different game mechanics. Weapons are divided by length and type. then those groups are giving to characters as skills:
|Weapon type||Total length||Example|
|Short single handed||up to 90 cm (45.5″)||dagger, short sword, hand axe|
|Long single handed||up to 120 cm (47″)||long sword, broad sword|
|Two handed||up to 150 cm (59″)||Claymore, battle axe|
|Two handed pole||up to 200 cm (78.5″ )||spear, halberd, lance|
|Two weapons||up to 170 cm (67″)||combined length|
|Bow and arrow||No size limit|
|Other projectiles:||25-40 cm (10-15.5″)||throwing dagger, throwing axe|
|100-150 cm (39-59″)||javelin|
How to use a LARP shield in combat
Shields completely blocks direct hits with no damage to the shield or its holder. For safety reasons shields canto be used as a weapon.
Some larp game mechanics allow for a shield braking skill/spell. In this system, the hitter declares his intention of breaking the shield. If the shield was immediately hit it is considered broken and should be discarded.
How to use LARP armor in combat
With armor there are three ways larp clubs go about it:
Armor variant one: Complete block
In this variant armor completely block direct hits, just like shields.
Armor variant two: Increase character hit points
(Most common variant)
In this variant armor simply adds hit points to the wearer according to the following table:
|Armor||Material||Hit points added|
|Soft||Soft material covering abdomen||1|
|Soft full||Soft material covering abdomen, arms and thighs||2|
|Hard||Hard material covering abdomen||2|
|Hard full||Hard material covering abdomen, arms and thighs||3|
|Combinations||Combinations of soft and hard materials||1-3 |
|Small parts||Helmets, gauntlets, leg protectors, etc||1-2 (referee’s call)|
Armor variation three: Armor hit points
Some larp communities give each piece of armor a hit point number. Each hit on the armor is blocked and a hit point is reduced from the armor. Once the armor hit point reach zero the armor is considered useless and needs in-play fixing.
Although realistic, this variant can get confusing very fast as it would be hard to calculate all those different hit points during play. It might work better in larps where there are a lot of referees and the game is paused often, or that fights are allowed only in very controlled areas (such as an arena with a referee).
How to use LARP helmets
Since it is not allowed to hit other players on the head (and if you do by mistake it will not count), using helmets becomes redundant. So to encourage wearing helmets, some larp groups give extra benefits to the wearer such as:
- One or two more hit points
- When reaching zero hit points character does not die but can crawl for help. another hit in this state will kill the character.
How to fight in a LARP combat
Just like real face to face combat, each participant tries to hit his/her opponent, while avoiding being hit.
What happens when a LARP character is hit in combat
When a combatant is hit, he/she should reduce one point from his total hit points. The calculation should be made by the character hit and not the hitter.
Limb hit combat variation
In some larp rule hits to limbs (arm or legs) will reduce character hit points as normal and will also render that limb useless.
A player that was hit in his arm should drop whatever he/she is holding or move it to the other hand. if the player is hit on a leg he should stand on one leg or, at the very least, act out a serious limp.
How to heal LARP wounds
In most cases, hit point can be healed with healing spells, potions and healing skills.
How to keep track of hit points during combat
In large battles with many combatants and or when having a lot of hit points, calculating hits can get confusing. In situations like this I try to do the following:
Each combatant should keep track of his own hit points only and not preoccupy his mind with other people hit points.
- Before entering combat calculate current hit points, including any hit point giving skills, armor, spells and previous injuries.
- During combat repeat current hit points in my mind every few seconds (for me it can even become a mantra helping me concentrate on the fight).
- Every hit suffered subtract one from current hit points number
- Use fight intervals (in between series of blows) to focus on the blows you have received, double checking the hit point count.
What happens when a LARP character dies
When a character reaches zero hit points he/she is dead. The player should lay on the ground (or kneel if laying is impossible or unsafe) and play dead for a while.
All larps allow for some sort of resurrection mechanisms. The following are the most common ways larpers come back to life.
- Just wait a bit: Wait a few minutes or for combat to be over then poof – your back
- Healer: Wait for a healer to resurrect you
- Go to resurrection place: Mark yourself as dead and off play (usually with a flag) the go to a pre-designated place to be resurrected, for instance, your camp or a cemetery.
- Quest for the dead: Some larping groups have the death mechanics so developed, that dead character goes to a shrine where death (an NPC) gives them a spirit world quest, only then they can go back to life.
How to role-playing a larp fight
Larp is first and foremost a role-playing game. Players come to larp events expecting to immerse themselves in a fantasy world. What would sound better: the enemy you just hit says “I got hit. 2 hit points left”, or would you rather see him act out his injuries, limping and cursing, doing his part in creating an immersive experience for you?
Role-playing a larp fight is done by acting out and dramatizing combat actions and results. The following are general guidelines:
- Hit to legs: limp, walk slower
- Hit to arms: wait a few seconds before using it again
- Death: Fall (safely) to the ground and feign dead
- Use of words: taunt, express pain, rage, fear.
In short, use your imagination and sprinkle with drama.
Can I get hurt in a LARP fight
Although larp weapons are foam coated and efforts are being made to reduce fighting risks, accidents do happen. Apart from combat, there is also a lot of running, climbing and other potentially risky activities.
Although hitting the face and groin area are not allowed and have no effect on combat, unintentional hits to those areas are common. Protect your eyes if possible.
LARP is full contact sport and injuries can AND DO happen!
I myself was hit straight in the eye more than once. The most severe larp injury I’ve witnessed was a fall from a tower resulting in a sprained ankle.
So is larp combat dangerous? Somewhat. Expect blows from fighting, falling and collisions, resulting mostly in scratches. Serious injuries, such as sprains, broken bones, fainting and deep cuts are rare but do happen. I’ve heard of no larp fatalities.
When a minor injury occurs or is suspected, players should pause the game and make sure all is well. When a major injury occurs, players are expected to stop the game and offer assistance.
How is LARP combat different from real combat
- Armor weight: Larp armor is lighter than real one, giving player higher maneuverability. This is especially true for heavy armor (plate, chain…) as it doesn’t slow down the wielder as metal armor does.
- Large weapon advantage: Large Larp weapons (battle axe, two-handed sword…) are considerably lighter than metal ones, so they don’t slow down the wielder.
- Safety in mind: Larp combatants try (or should try) to avoid hurting or injuring a fellow larper. Certain moves are not allowed (like hits to the head). It’s also common for combat to pause in between blows for a few moments, just to make sure all is well and nobody got hurt.
Do people cheat in LARP fights
Larp is built on trust and cheating is rare. Some do or try to get away with cheating. Those are usually new players as most groups develop a sense of community and fellowship, which in turn reduces the incentive to cheat (as we are among friends).
Even more so, when there is an argument about was it a hit or not, the receiving end has the last word, as it is assumed he feels better a direct hit than his enemy did through a weapon.
If there you think you hit an opponent and he acts as if you didn’t, keep playing – Chances are he is right. He feels his body better than you, he might have a magic boost active that you don’t know of or that it is an innocent mistake. If you spot a trend, talk to him about it and involve a referee if needed.