Riddles of Foam – Light LARP combat philosophical musings (part 2)

note:  This is in the context of light-contact LARPs (NERO-clones, Accelerant-mutants, IFGS, and the like).  It’s not applicable to medium-contact LARPs such as Amtgard/Belgarath/Dagorhir in a direct sense.

The Fourth Riddle of Foam

“What is better than the ultimate foam-warrior?”  “A mediocre foam-warrior that works with the team.”

This riddle is easier said than done.  There’s quite a bit of forethought that goes into this, and the first part is identifying your role.  Your role is going to be decided by the following:

  • Your damage output mechanically.
  • Your damage mitigation mechanically.
  • Your skill in defending yourself.
  • Your cardio capabilities.

There’s a lot of combinations there.  Too many to list here, so I’m going to list some common roles, and how to fill them.


This is the guy that toes the line, and keeps somebody else, either a polearmer, a caster or an archer safe.

This role is good for:  folks with low cardio, low to mediocre fighting skill, low mechanical damage output, high mechanical damage mitigation

pro-tip:  think of your body as the shield.  In light-larp, folks usually aren’t allowed to bowl you over or push through you.  They can suicide past your blows, however, to get at your charge.  Think first of positioning your body to block passage than anything else like blocking blows or striking back.


This is the gal that snipes with spells, arrows or a polearm.

This role is good for:  folks with low cardio, low fighting skill, high mechanical damage output, low mechanical damage mitigation, high tactical sense

pro-tip:  Don’t get tunnel vision and just snipe at the closest NPC.  Look for a problem, and fix it by killing that problem at range.


This is the stick-jock that either snipes with backstabs, or murder-rages through folks.

This role is good for:  high cardio, high fighting skill, high mechanical damage, low mitigation (but high is really nice).

This role tends to be a glory hound type of role, and not a team-player.  Skirmishers do help the team by killing things, but they doesn’t make somebody else more effective at their role.

pro-tip:  You kill by getting backs.  You get backs by moving around.  (see my NPC post about how to land backstabs).  It’s the movement that makes you immune to foam, and it’s the movement that makes you so effective offensively.

By getting backs, and then moving on, you might not be killing things outright, but rather softening them up for somebody else to finish.  This is the more effective use of your time and movement.  If you stop moving to finish a target off, you start getting hit, and you often can get locked down and not be able to finish the target fast.  If you tag a few times and move on to the next, you don’t get hit, and you are dishing out damage to another target much sooner.  Ergo, your “dps” is much much higher, which is your job.

pro-tip #2:  You can get killed from tunnel vision.  At the inception of a fight, you should start moving around to flank, but wait, and identify the “problem” on the battlefield.  That problem could be a single powerful BBG, or just a skilled stick-jock in a crunchy role.  Solve that problem, and then immediately reassess where you are.  Getting hungry for chain kills can get you killed.

The Fifth Riddle of Foam

“What’s the scariest thing a foam-warrior can face?”  “A fair fight”

LARP combats are, by design, unfair.  That unfairness goes on both sides.  The fairness to the NPCs are that they are commonly underpowered and outnumbered.  This unfairness makes sure that the PCs are victorious in the fight, and allows the designer to scale the fight with respawns safely.  It’s impossible to know how well the PCs will do in a fight, since you can’t really know who is going to show up, how well they are going to fight, and often don’t even know the power levels involved.  This unfairness is, in general, a good thing (I’ll rail against on the fly fight design later.)

The other unfairness, against PCs, is that NPCs are often given attacks and defenses that would never be given to PCs.  This is to present a reasonable challenge and a scare into the PCs.  This is often a good thing, and at the very least, it’s a necessary thing.  Having a BBG susceptible to CC effects (stuns, etc.) makes them a foam piñata.

The question here now is:  How do you capitalize on these unfairnesses?

More than anything, it’s keeping them in mind.  This is serious meta-gaming, so unlike the other notions I have presented, it might not fit your style of play and enjoyment.  It might bring me out of character, so I personally only crack these out in dire need (i.e. we’re getting our asses beat, it’s time to pull out all the stops).

Situation #1:  NPCs are outnumbered, but are respawning.

Camp the respawn, just like in a shooter.  Watch the respawn locations, and make sure nobody is breaking away.  A respawning NPC often has a great deal of movement and freedom, often having some kind of invisibility to the PCs until they re-engage.  Deny them that invisibility by paying attention to the respawns.  Deny the respawns the ability to flank your group.

Situation #2:   The BBG is cray-cray powerful 

Camp the BBG.  The BBG is just one gal.  No matter what her mechanics are, she still only has two arms.  Stay at the periphery of those arms, and snipe in hits.  Don’t waste CC or big attacks, since the BBG has counters, and will probably just cheat any counters she needs (this is a common directive from staff, BTW).  Kill her with simple hits, lots of them, from max range.


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