A quintessential battlefield weapon and essentially a sharpened stick, the spear is a simple, elegant and effective solution to facing a larger, stronger opponent. These are the very problems that led to the development of weapons in the first place, and because they offer a solution that’s cheap to manufacture, spears have been part of human hunting and warfare for tens of thousands of years.    “To hit and not get hit” is the core philosophy when dealing with most combat scenarios. And while the consequences in LARP aren’t as lethal as real, historical combat, having a range advantage can help neutralize size, speed and athleticism advantages in your opponent. Spears work particularly well when used by a skilled, coordinated group with shields in their off hands.    Many real spears were only effective as thrusting and throwing weapons. This meant they could only threaten a small target area, unlike longer slashing weapons. Some LARP spears (and several historical ones) work around this by having a longer blade capable of slashing damage, but different organisations have different rules concerning thrusting and slashing attacks with spears.  And a spear's primary function generally remains thrusting.    Throwing spears were deadly weapons in hunting and on the battlefield, but true, dedicated throwing spears are made differently to thrust oriented spears. The short Roman pilum was such a weapon, designed only for throwing then replaced (sometimes) when your quiver was exhausted by the gladius shortsword worn at the legionnaire’s side.   

LARP Spears - Not Getting The Point

In some ways, LARP weapons are designed with the exact opposite intentions as real ones. A true weapon looks to multiply force by concentrating it into a small area via a point, edge, spike, or ball. LARP weapons do the exact opposite. By using lightweight, non-splintering fibreglass cores and high-quality, non-shredding EVA foam and/or latex, LARP spears minimize impact, reduce force and make it nearly impossible to seriously hurt your opponents.   The materials used to make LARP spears mean that their point will flex at the slightest impact, making it very difficult to harm a person or damage an object with the tip of these spears. The fibreglass core usually ends several inches before the weapon’s tip and is reinforced and held in place by braided materials like kevlar and poly fibre, ensuring it can’t poke through. The bottom of the haft and its entire length should be similarly protected to ensure safety. Some LARP spears come in two pieces, threading together in the middle and opening up the possibility to attach multiple polearm attachments (as well as making storage and transport easier).   Though they look deadly, every effort has been made to ensure LARP spears are stab safe and can be used without endangering you, your comrades or your opponents.   

Is It Secret - Is It A Stab-Safe LARP Spear?

Rules and regulations vary from organisation to organisation. In some cases, the safety features built into commercially available LARP spears are enough to make deem them stab-safe. Other rulesets will require a stopper or bung placed over the end of any weapon used for stabbing or thrusting. Others again may ban thrusting attacks altogether.   There is a range of LARP spears for sale that are deemed stab safe by many organisations. To achieve this they use an ultra-spongey, closed-cell EVA foam that compresses and bends on impact and secures their fibreglass core in place, ensuring hits from the tip are painless to opponents. Vendors may list a product as stab-safe in good faith, but you still may need to check with your organisation.   

Why Spears? (And Why A LARP Spear?)

Spears are extraordinarily effective weapons. At its most basic a spear is just a sharpened stick - hardened in fire. But their range and capacity against cavalry meant the spear had a valuable place on the battlefield for thousands of years. Spears could also be produced cheaply, needing, at most, iron and steel for the tip only. In a pinch, certain trees could be felled, sharpened, hardened in fire and turn into makeshift, anti-cavalry spears quickly.    But these aren’t the only reasons for the proliferation of the spear throughout history, fantasy and gaming. Spears were excellent hunting weapons, both for thrusting and throwing, and people would have become proficient in using them in day-to-day life that wasn’t possible with a sword for most people. If you spent a lifetime learning to thrust and throw spears to catch game, why switch over to an unfamiliar weapon for battle?   That said, as much as the spear was an excellent hunting and war weapon, it wasn’t a convenient choice for self-defence. If you were travelling, adventuring or escorting a caravan, a sword might make more sense. It can be worn at your hip and is relatively lightweight. Carrying a spear all the time on the very remote chance of encountering trouble wouldn’t make a great deal of sense for most people. This is probably why the sword has become more synonymous with adventuring and heroes.   

Hunting Spear Or Fighting Spear

Hunting spears of the Medieval Period and before were designed to kill or mortally wound large, often hostile wild animals. Boar, for example, have a reputation for not going down easy and if one charges you at full speed, even if you deliver a killing thrust, it could carry on up the shaft - snapping and writhing.    The wings we see on spear points likely first developed as a solution to these kinds of problems faced in hunting but were also efficient in combat. These wings, or horizontal cruciform bars (similar to a sword’s crossguard), on many war spears prevented the spear from thrusting all the way through an opponent’s body and being wrested from the wielder’s control.    Spears with barbs like fish hooks and harpoons were usually for throwing - either at enemies or hunted animals. The barbs would help the spear stick. Whether into flesh, armour, or shield didn’t matter. The enemy or prey would be slowed and/or easier to kill.    Other polearms more specifically designed to fight against human opponents were developed but were always more costly, time-consuming, and couldn’t be put to use outside of war.   

LARP Spears - Poking Fun At Reality?

LARP is a unique blend of sport, game, theatre and lifestyle. It’s cool to know the historical and practical realities of our weapons but we don’t need to let them dictate our in-game choices. This is fantasy - immersion, imagination, and fun rule. It’s a game, right?   Well, spear technique actually transfers over pretty well to LARP combat (if thrusting is allowed). It tends not to get as critical, or taken as seriously as HEMA, but LARP rewards skilled fighting and spears perform just as well in these simulated war conditions as they do in the real thing.   A spear makes an excellent weapon for any character based on roleplaying reasons alone. Most trained warriors would at least be familiar with spears and carry one into a pitched battle to use, throw and maybe later discard. They’re such an excellent way to deal damage and not get hit, that even if it’s not going to be your primary weapon, it might still be worth investing some time and thought into the humble, but classic spear.