Elemental Fighting Style Approach for LARP

note:  This is in the context of light-contact LARPs (NERO-clones, Accelerant-mutants, IFGS, and the like), so it’s not as applicable to Amt/Bel/Dag.

There’s a handy way to describe combat mindsets for LARP combat, and it has a cool fantasy theme to it.  I use the four classic elements (Earth, Wind, Fire, Water) to quarter off techniques.  I’ll go over what those mean, and then how they combo into different advanced technique sets.

Offensive Mindsets (Fire and Water)

Your offensive Mindset is your plan for getting openings and scoring hits.


The Fire plan is to attack rapidly, with disregard for your own defenses.  Your plan is to overwhelm your opponent, often getting inside of their guard, and get openings and hits as a result.  The Fire plan usually involves getting hit once as a sacrifice as you move inside.

The Fire plan is the “noob rush” I’ve railed about in other articles.  However, it’s also required against spears and greatswords, since you simply must get inside that guard.

body movement:  directly forward

attack movement:  mostly lateral and from the outside attacks, but with high rapidity

classic weapon:  florentine


The Water plan is to get openings when your opponent attacks.  The purist water plan is to never attack at all, simply countering attacks as they come in.  A modified water plan is to perform baits and fakes to lure out attacks to score openings.

movement:  usually short backward slides

attack techniques:  circular attacks, crossing the center line, with the “high-C” or ciposte being the classic

classic weapon:  single sword

Defensive Mindsets (Earth and Wind)

Your defensive mindset is your plan for not getting hit.


The Earth plan to not get hit is to present a block from a shield or weapon to incoming attacks.  The ideal earth plan performs the minimal amount of motion with each block.  The blocks are hard stops, returning very little energy to the attacker to give them attack momentum.  The blocks come from and rapidly return to a guard that leaves little or no openings.  That guard has your points on the opponent to prevent them from approaching closer, either inside or outside of your guard.

body movement:  none

blocking movement:  small, powerful lateral movements

classic weapon:  sword and board


The Wind plan to not get hit is to not be there, defending primarily with body movement.  Wind steps away from attacks, often going up on the toes.  Attacks that miss have no rebound energy, and cannot follow up quickly.  You might even help that along, scooping the attack from behind, giving it more energy to flow away from you and slow further attacks.

body movement:  lateral shifts and short backward slides

blocking movement:  circular movements behind the weapon

classic weapon:  single sword


Water / Wind

This is the classic single sword dueling style for touch tourneys.  You defend largely with body movement, and then use the resultant body mechanic advantage to counter.

pro:  Probably the best defensive style for light-LARP.  It counters the Fire style newb-rush exceedingly well.  It’s also very basic, having only a few movements to master.

con:  You won’t kill anybody quickly with this style.

options:  This is a very good short staff style as well (5’ max).  You can often use a staff to perform cipostes, and then switch back to a “get the fuck off me” stance with the point of the staff on their chest.

Fire / Wind

This is the style that involves running circles around your opponents.  It uses the pop-over and the circle of death to defend, and rains blows on an enemy’s flank and back.

pro:  This is the best offensive technique for getting many hits in, and it’s also very good for penetrating enemy lines.

con:  There’s not much wrong with style, outside that it requires cardio.

options:  This style is best with florentine, but can be used with any weapon combo.  It can be brutal with a sniper weapon like a great sword.

Fire / Earth

This is the style that puts a shield in your face and rains blows from around the shield.  It uses the lollipop and the darkside techniques to hide attack angles.  It keeps the shield in between attack and defender, invalidating many attack with simple geometry.

pro:  Probably the best shield technique available.  I can be used in a “water” style mindset first (see below), waiting for an opening to move in and switch to Fire/Earth.

con:  Involves some degree of shield rushing, which is uncool.  Care must be maintain distance, or at least back out and re-engage after a few hits.

Water / Earth

This is usually purely defensive shield, often with the hedgehog/wedge guard.  It waits for an opening for a simple sniping jab, but otherwise just pivots the shield in response to most attacks.

pro:  A good starting point for newb fighters, if you can convince that them surviving is the first step at getting good.  They can then build into Fire / Earth.  It’s also the best technique for the “healer” type that you want to just survive, and isn’t going to hurt anybody mechanically anyway.

con:  This technique doesn’t kill quickly, and requires a very specific mindset.

options:  This can be done with florentine as well, with a wide, points-in guard.

Neat, but what is this good for?

This presents an easy to use way to build an individual “battle plan”.  You might have a plan based on your mechanical build as a character.  Your plan might be modified by how you want to play the character out of game.  The plan is then further modified by your character’s role-playing motivations, and the plan is just another way to express your character.

Addendum — Long Weapons 

I’m of the opinion that long weapons (over 5’ in length) should not be viewed as melee weapons from a stick-jock perspective.  Skill being equal, long weapons will usually lose to every other weapon combination.  A stick-jock should think of these weapons in the same vein as thrown weapons and spell-packets.  They are artillery to support a line.  You could make the argument that they are best artillery for a line, since they have unlimited ammunition, and have some semblance of viability outside of the line.


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