A  LARP guide by Hawk Firestorm

Note: This previously published content is presented with permission of the author.

Are you ready for LARP combat?

Are you ready for LARP combat?

Greetings and salutations to you all, and welcome to the first installment of the Women of LARP!  First off, I would like to assure you all that yes, women *do* LARP, and we do it with style- and not just from the safety of camp or inn, but on the battlefield as well.

Woe to the man who enters the game thinking that simply carrying a sword or three is going to make the fair ones swoon: odds are, that mentality will get you gutted fairly quickly, as those of us who do fight tend to be rather aggressively competent. Indeed, that is one of the many reasons I have found LARPing to be a wonderfully engaging hobby!

Why LARP Combat?

As a rather small and slightly built woman, it would be unrealistic, if not impossible for me to engage in the kind of combat I crave in something like the SCA. You see, there is simply no way I would be able to wear full plate armor and move quickly. 

I might be able to wear some hardened leather, but my preferred fighting style is two handed with no armor, which would be not only disallowed in SCA, but downright dangerous. I carry a longsword in my dominant hand, and a bastard in my off: if you have ever hefted a metal bastard sword, you know that swinging one of those in tandem with a longsword would be difficult even for your typical burly linebacker-type.

Anyone under 130 lbs would have to give up that dream really fast using anything other than boffers or latex weapons. Don’t get me wrong, it took some time to build the wrist strength to use even the latex swords effectively at that length, and I am forever trying to increase my speed with them, but I feel that the additional reach more than makes up the difference.

Costuming and Armor

Another bonus to LARPing is that there is the opportunity to look amazing while kicking butt. Because you don’t need to be wearing functional armor, other articles of ‘clothing’ can make public appearances and with the correct item card, be counted as armor!

For example, I have always been a fan of corsets and bustiers, but there aren’t that many opportunities to wear such things in the ‘normal’ world. Enter the LARP! Where the only limit is what your character would wear, not what would be too scandalous for work or freinds. (Well, the rules of your particular LARP might be a factor, but you get the idea.)

With some careful modification, an inexpensive ‘fashion’ corset can become torso armor, and an interesting pair of bracelets are bracers. And if my torso armor happens to show a little more skin in summer than might be considered practical… well, never discount the advantage granted by that half-second’s distraction. Or the practicality of cooler clothing when you are sweating from the fight. (The heat of battle is no joke!)

Skirts are also a wonderful thing, not to be dismissed as too ‘girly’ for battle. While I do tend toward a ‘less is more’ approach to my upper body dress, I love the long skirts. Not only do they look elegant and give you room for expressing your character’s background or socio-political affiliations, but they hide your footwork! It’s just one more little thing that can give you an edge, and sometimes, that is all you need.

Just make sure that you won’t trip over your hem- that is embarrassing, and yes, I have done it. Luckily, it meant that the attack coming at me missed, going over my head.

Its a Workout!

I am female, and therefore there is a certain degree of wanting to keep in shape without having to work out, go to the gym, or other such inherently boring activities. LARP combat, at events and at practices in between, really is an amazing adjunct to whatever methodology you currently use.

They say the best workouts are the ones that keep your body guessing, with random sprints and an increased heart rate? Well there isn’t much less predictable than trying to block and strike at a near constantly moving target that is doing the same to you! The incentive is pretty good too, considering that even though they are made of foam, boffers and latex can leave some memorable bruises.

If you can avoid it, you really don’t want to get hit, so you will push yourself harder to move faster.  Since you need to pay attention to small details and adapt quickly, it is anything but mind-numbing.  There is also the matter of dodging thrown spells, or trying to, without putting yourself in the line of someone’s sword or axe.

At events, some battles go on for fairly long stretches of time, and the pace is set not by what you think you can handle, but by how fast things are moving around you, so you get your endurance work in too.

Battle Buddies

During a fight, you come to rely on a relatively small group of people whose style and methods of fighting complement your own. You watch each others’ back, and do a quick head count in the moments between skirmishes to make sure no one has gone missing or down.

These are the folks who notice when you could use some backup, and shout for a healer to get over to fix you while you’re busy bleeding out. They’re also the ones who count on you when they need bodies for a quiet task, or a trusted shoulder for a private grief.

Speaking as someone who tends to be less than outgoing, I have found this to be a wonderful starting point for some very rewarding real-world freindships with people I might not have otherwise gotten to know.

There are a host of other rewards to getting into the thick of battle, not so easily articulated, which can best be experienced rather than explained. So grab your sword(s) and some sturdy boots, and get out there!  Those demons/elementals/zombies/bagmen won’t kill themselves!

Editor’s note: Ready to try LARPing? Find one on LARPing.org.