“machine-gunning” in boffer-LARP

There’s a lot of ideas out there over the years on how to deal with “people hitting too quickly” in boffer LARP.  This is called machine-gunning, drum-rolling, etc.

“90 degree rule”

IFGS had the “90 degrees” rule to deal with the issue.  The weapon had to retract to at least a 90 degree angle for a swing to count.  It is fairly simple, and it’s pretty easy to know when somebody is not complying.  However, you could not determine if it was fair if you were being struck from behind.

afaik, the 90 degree rule is locally used by RR and Wyrd to this day.

There’s two cons to this system.

Con #1:  The 90 degree rule promotes the “newb rush” from florentine.

The newb rush works as follows:

  • Body rush your target, taking 0-1 hits on the way in
  • Hammer your opponent because you have superior arm position or shorter weapons.
  • Profit

Con #2:  The 90 degree rule favors weapon skill.

If you are skilled with the 90-degree rule, it doesn’t slow you down in the slightest.  You learn to work with it.

Lots of folks would say “wouldn’t this be a pro for you Scott, since you are a stick jock?”.  I say it is not.  There are too many barriers for people deciding to get into foam murder, and a system that favors the veteran fighter is a Bad Thing™.  It’s not a huge thing, but it’s a con.

“1 second rule”

Different variants of this rule exist, but they mostly boil down to “You can attack only once per second”.

There are often exceptions for florentine.  There are often not exceptions for feints, or clarifications for blocked blows.

Locally, this is used by DK & ET.

This is a pretty good system.  The “one second rule” could use clarifications for feints/blocked attacks (i.e. feints don’t count against the timer, blocked blows do).  Because of the lack of clarifications on blocked blows, you are highly motivated to do the “bounce and tap” technique.  This is performed by striking the weapon/shield, and then striking the body clean with a short retraction.  Most folks will take that hit, since it felt “clean”.

Unfortunately, both DK & ET are not combat heavy games, and they are very heavy with no-hit binaries.  In way the pendulum is swung too far in these games to allow everybody to participate in melee at the expense of combat length/robustness.   That is clearly a Good Thing™ for them, as their player bases are crazy enthusiastic.

“3 swing rule”

This rule states you can take 3 swings and then must disengage.

This system is used by TM and DR locally.

I am a huge advocate for this system, as it finds a great middle ground for allowing all levels of fighters to participate.

The only draw back is that the newb-rush is alive and well.  Both games have many “flo-bros” using short weapons, and body rushing to get their hits in.  The disengage requirements are rarely enforced in the heat of battle.

<theory>Why these all might be failing</theory>

I think these all are making the incorrect initial approach.

Why are these rules in place?  In the order of importance from least to most, here’s my take.

  1. Safety
  2. Realism
  3. Enjoyment

Safety  — This is a concern, but a minor one.  Striking somebody very rapidly isn’t a direct safety concern.  It’s the fact that no limitations to strike speed promotes unsafe fighting behavior (charging/hugging/other douchery)

Realism —  This is usually the reason stated when people talk about machine-gunning rules.  “You cannot swing a real sword that fast and still do damage”.  That’s true.  However, nobody wants realism.  They want verisimilitude.   They want it to feel real.

Enjoyment — This is the reason NEVER stated, but it is the most important.  I’m crazy good with combat numbers and doing math in my head (10+ years of IFGS with armor subtractions will do that).  I did more combat NPCing than anybody I know.  Here’s the truth – I rarely had the numbers right.  It wasn’t possible with all the crap hitting me.  I did the best I could, and felt horrible when I screwed up.

Also, almost all adjudication of machine-gunning rules falls on the defender.  The defender is forced to call “you are hitting too fast”, or “you aren’t disengaging”.  This is really unfun to be forced to either do this adjudication, or get killed.

That’s why I’m thinking the paradigm might be better if the “one second rule” was applied not the attacker, but to the defender.

My thought is that as a defender, I am expected to take only one attack per second, regardless of how many attackers I have.   I can choose to take more if I can process it, but I’m not required to do so.

This takes the onus off of the defender for adjudication.

I think this would greatly increase the “drama” of a big bad NPC fight.  All the PCs would still wolf-pack him, but they would know that if they all started to hit him that a lot of their hits wouldn’t count.

I also think this would greatly favor the non-veteran.  Don’t get me wrong, the non-vet is still going to die to the stick-jock.  However, the non-vet will get more screen time, as it will take the stick-jock MUCH longer to kill them.




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One thought on ““machine-gunning” in boffer-LARP

  1. I’ve thought a lot about this subject as well. At the moment, I lean toward a combination of the three-hit rule and the 90 degree rule.

    This doesn’t address the “flo-bro” problem; I tend to tackle that on a level of the system, by giving different (physically represented) combat styles advantages and disadvantages. (Example: A burst damage style counters the florentine style, which counters the defensive style, which counters the burst damage style. Each requires a visually distinct stance.)

    I’ve seen this work well in the cases where people actually learn the visuals for the combat styles and swap, but unfortunately the combat styles have been too hard to purchase in Shades and Rendalir, which has decreased their impact on overall combat flow. I think making the styles easier to obtain would help with this considerably.


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