So you’ve gotten into the LARP hobby. You might have been dragged along to a LARP event by a friend – or you might have found new friends by seeking out a nearby LARP. Or maybe you’re yet to go, and you want to make sure you’re well-equipped as you can be! Choosing your LARP kit is an extremely important part of the hobby: your choice of weaponry can be an integral part of your character, and their place within the LARP world you’ve chosen. This handy guide will help you navigate the vast array of LARP weaponry out there for sale so that you can select the best LARP weapons for you.
It’s important to realise that there’s no such thing as the objectively ‘best’ LARPing weapons – certain designs and styles will be appropriate for one LARPer that wouldn’t suit another at all. But LARP weaponry varies significantly in terms of its quality and materials; especially now that LARPing has become a global hobby, it’s worth doing your research and understanding your needs as a LARPer. We’ll look at the materials and design principles that make for the best LARP weapons, then we’ll suggest some in-character inspiration that you can use to inform your choice.
Materials and Design
Critical factors in choosing the best LARP weapons are the materials and design processes that have gone into making it. Here, we’ll point out some of the important features to look for in LARP weaponry that will make sure you can choose the best LARPing weapons. The basic design of most LARP weaponry is very simple: a core rod, made from either fiberglass or carbon fiber, surrounded by a foam encasement. This is the type of weaponry that can be used in contact combat, since it is resilient enough to withstand physical hits. However, some LARP and cosplay weapons are made exclusively from foam, without a core rod. These weapons will look fantastic, but they are unsuitable for contact use, since they’ll fold and break easily. Make sure you check the design specs of the LARP weapon you’re looking at – if they don’t list them, then steer clear!
The prime concern for LARP players on the field should be safety: using weaponry that is in good condition, that conforms with the safety requirements of your chosen game. Non-combat or abstract combat LARPs (ie those where combat is determined by statistics or taking turns) may well have less stringent safety requirements – whereas LARP games with active hit-based combat will necessarily require you to have much higher-safety equipment. Most of the latter systems will have weapons checkers, who will assess your weapon before combat and ensure that it is safe to use on other players (or, if it isn’t, they’ll remove that item from play). Make sure you choose the best LARP weapons that conform to the safety standards your game requires – if you’re not sure what they are, then check their website or drop them a line to ask!
Some important safety features include a safety-tipped core rod, so that if the foam shreds it will not expose a sharp point, and shred-resistant foam to maintain the integrity of the weapon. Most of our LARP weapons are sold with these features. Even if your game has no specific safety requirements, you should nevertheless still consider choosing the best LARP weapons with high-quality safety equipment!
The materials used in LARP weaponry vary significantly, and knowing their specific characteristics is important when choosing the best LARP weapons.
The foam padding around the weapon’s core rod determines the characteristic of your LARP weapon, and choosing the type that’s right for you is very important.
Ethylene-vinyl acetate is perhaps the most common type of foam used for LARP weaponry blades and weapons heads – for example, almost all of Epic Armoury’s weapons are EVA foam. It is a closed-cell foam, which means that it is waterproof and resilient, with anti-shred properties. High density EVA is cheap and easy to manufacture, and it’s also reasonably forgiving in physical combat – so your frenemies on the field will thank you! However, it is not the most durable material, and so it is usually recommend that you cover it with a layer of Latex (either supplied with the weapon or available separately) which can be regularly refreshed
Polyurethane foam is an increasingly common weapon material. Many hybrid-design weapons have an EVA foam blade, with a cast PU foam hilt – but some manufacturers such as Calimacil now made cast PU blades as well. PU foam is harder and more durable than EVA, and it doesn’t need a coat of Latex to protect it. However, due to this hardness it is less forgiving in combat, and paint can be scuffed off it more easily.
The core rod of the weapon is a good place to start. Most weaponry will have a 10mm-diameter rod, which is perfectly sufficient for most weapons, although extremely large weapons or polearms may well have a thicker rod to give extra sturdiness.
The most common type of core rod, fiberglass is, above all else, very cheap. It is reasonably flexible, so that it can absorb blows without breaking or damaging the foam padding. However, fiberglass cores are solid, resulting that they are heavier and means the weapon will handle more slowly in combat.
Carbon fiber is a lattice of threads made from carbon atoms, and it’s a very good choice for LARP weapon cores. It’s much lighter than fiberglass, and is also stronger. However, it is also more expensive, and it has the potential to shatter under very high stresses – so we highly recommend that you check your chosen weapon has a safety tip added to the carbon fiber core.
Also known as FWET (fiber wound epoxy tubing), Kitespar is literally the material they made kite frames out of. It’s very strong and extremely light, and so is the gold standard for the best LARP weapon construction. However, it is comparatively expensive, and relatively few common LARP weapon manufacturers use it.
Setting The Scene
Now that you understand the materials and design principles involved in making the best LARP weapons, we can start getting inspiration from the LARP game that you want to play. Perhaps the most important place to start with choosing the best LARP weapons is the setting of your chosen LARP system. The setting is the overarching theme or environment within which your LARP takes place. Some common themes for LARPs include: fantasy Medieval Europe (either high-magic with fantasy races and spellcasters, or low-magic with gritty realpolitik), 1920s Cthulu mythos (usually set in rainy fishing villages on the East Coast of the USA), Steampunk Victorian (complete with top-hats, flying goggles and more brasswork than you can polish in a month). Each of these settings has a very distinct look and feel – and the LARP organizers will generally expect you to make a decent attempt to follow the setting and lore with your outfit. For example, a spear or an Early Medieval-style LARP sword would be a perfect for a Viking-inspired LARP game – but they’d be incredibly out-of-place in a Weird West setting where everyone else is wielding six-shooters and shotguns.
So – since we’re experts in Medieval LARP weapons, we’ll presume that you’ve found yourself a LARP that’s roughly inspired by Medieval Europe. This obviously informs the kind of weapons you’ll have to choose from: space lasers and Ancient bronze swords are probably both out. As well, you should probably think about where and when in Medieval history your chosen setting takes inspiration from. Some LARP systems are very clearly historically inspired by a specific time period: for example, a LARP that encompasses the Wars of the Roses would have different weaponry than one set in Anglo-Saxon England. But many LARPs are much more relaxed, especially those which take a ‘historical-ish’ approach to inspiration – such as the Society for Creative Anachronism, whose LARPs incorporate a wide variety of Medieval historical inspirations in one setting.
By all means, you can outfit yourself before you’ve found a LARP game nearby (or that you’re willing to travel to) – but if you drop a chunk of change on a very specific look for a specific time period, that might well limit the kinds of LARPs that you can go to (as we talked about in our quick-start guide to LARPing).
The next thing that will inform how to choose the best LARP weapons is the kind of character you choose. There are a number of different approaches you can take for using your character to inform your LARP weapon choices.
A Matter of Class
For example, you might take a class-based approach to choosing your weaponry. Many tabletop roleplaying systems developed the idea of ‘classes’ – broad character archetypes that give an at-a-glance template for building a character. Classic RPG classes include a sword-and-shield wielding Warrior/Fighter, a two-handed axe-wielding Barbarian, or a staff-wielding Wizard. In your chosen LARP system, there might be direct restrictions on the type of weapon your archetype or class can use. Other systems might have softer limits: for example, in Empire, the LARP system that I play, certain weapon types are restricted to the wielder possessing certain skills, which players can unlock by investing XP into a skill tree. This means that playing a spellcaster with a two-handed sword is totally possible, encouraging a wide variety of builds and looks – but doing so requires a broader spread of XP investment and therefore less specialization. LARP systems are generally designed to facilitate as many styles of play as possible – but your character can never be good at everything. So when choosing the best LARP weapon to go with your class, bear these points in mind.
Heritage and Ancestry
Another way to choose the best LARP weapons is to start with your character’s ancestry or heritage (older systems use the term ‘race’, but the roleplaying community has moved away from this rigid and baggage-laden term). There is a huge range of ancestry-specific weaponry available for purchase – since in many LARP systems, the equipment of different cultures will have distinct craftsmanship and feels. For example, Elven weaponry tends to have flowing organic design, melding natural and metallic materials. Conversely Orc/Goblin manufacture tends to be much more angular and spiky, often with connotations of recycled materials. Bear these in mind when looking at LARP weaponry – but your LARP game might well be happy for you to write in-character justifications for types of weaponry outside of their given culture, eg. A Human swordsman who learned Elven swordsmanship and uses an Elfish blade.
So now you’re all ready and equipped with the information you need to make an informed choice about the best LARP weapons for you and your character. Remember to keep safety and design in mind, but make sure you choose something that fits your character. Have fun choosing!