Riddles of Foam – Light LARP combat philosophical musings (part 3)

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.

Sixth Riddle of Foam

“What is better than max length Florentine swords?”  “Nothing, evar”

Yes, there’s corner cases, but in the aggregate, florentine max length swords is the best weapon combo.

  1. It’s the best offensively in all but very small corner cases where a sniper pole is better.
  2. It’s almost as good defensively as shield, and better than everything else.  In skilled hands, it is as good as shield.
  3. You don’t have to carry around a shield or a sniper pole, which is a great benefit in itself.

The opposite of this is the sniper pole.  I’ll make the argument that you shouldn’t consider long weapons as melee weapons philosophically, but think of them as throwing daggers that have unlimited ammo, and can be used to block with slightly better.

You should approach this realistically when you make weapon choices, either what your character is going to use, but also what you are going to master.  I’m a huge advocate of learning all weapons, since it gives you important insights.  When you want to pwn facez, go florentine.

Seventh Riddle of Foam

“What’s the best way to dominate in LARP combat?” “Never appear to dominate in LARP combat”

This topic involves serious meta-gaming.  However, it’s something that can so deeply impact your enjoyment of a game that I think that it should be indulged.  First, let me tell you a story.

Me and my two best friends trekked out to Oklahoma for an IFGS game sometime around 2002.  We’d been invited out to fill out a team for a high risk, high combat game.  It was exciting for us, since it would be the first opportunity for these specific characters to play together, and we were really looking forward to it.

Suffice it to say, we dominated the majority of the game.  Myself and the other two guys were probably the best fighters on course, and the game had a severe design flaw in that most of the combats were “one overpowered melee-bruiser against the team”.  Well, when that one guy simply can’t land foam on three of the fighters, well, it’s not going to present a challenge.

The game design team saw this.  They took their scripted last combat and turned the knob to 11.  Very quickly in the fight, I turned around and I was the only PC standing.  I did an “oh shit”, and used a power to feign death, in the hope that I’d have the opportunity to rescue some folks later, or at least recover some bodies to get rezzed.  The whole thing really pissed us off royally, especially when we found out later that the NPCs accused us of cheating.  Needless to say, it was not a positive larp experience.

This is an extreme example, but there are reams of other examples I can list off.

Your success in larp combat will NOT be rewarded by game staff.  It will only be punished with escalating difficulty.  This is especially true for world-course games, where the encounters are minimally scripted, if not at all.  The staff member in charge often will spawn NPCs until “it feels right”.  In their defense, world-course design pretty much has to run that way.

Your success in larp combat will NOT be rewarded with love from the NPCs.  They will be bitter about you stealing their screen time.  Even the best NPCs will have a vision of “getting their hits in, than dying”, and there’s plenty of NPCs on course that aren’t that magnanimous.

Trying to “rock out” at LARP combat is a losing battle, as a result.  The best you can hope for is to lie to staff, either overtly or indirectly.  Obviously, you can overtly lie and say to the staff “wow, that fight was really hard, thanks!”, when it really was pretty easy.  You can so the same thing indirectly by feigning being depleted of resources.

I’m of the opinion that this paradigm sucks.  If you rock out a combat, you should be allowed to enjoy the fruits of that victory.  Would this make LARP more of a sport environment than an experiential one?  Yes, but that’s where I’m leaning.  A “win” in a LARP isn’t victory in the combat, which is 99% of the time assured to be the PCs.  The “win” is doing it with minimal resources, i.e. getting that victory easily.


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