There was little actual combat at the Arcane events in comparison with a traditional LARP where I would expect to swing my sword over two hundred times across 3 days; at Arcane it was less than 20 swings total over the whole weekend (this was partially by design, as my character was far more interested in talking to perceived antagonists then fighting them). However, in observing several combats a few things came in to focus:
–Arcane made a seriously funny error in describing their play style as theatrical combat and then going on to note that it was NOT a lightest touch system. This resulted in people dialing their swings way the fuck up. Had it been a lightest touch system things might have worked out differently, but by Saturday night people were getting ROCKED on both sides by the two-handed weapons, especially the hell staffs (by which I mean weapons knocked out of hands, stinging hits, light bruises and ‘ow’ being said a lot – even if under the breath). Apropos of my last post, I won’t go and say it was unsafe or that anyone was injured, but I saw some things that would never be allowed at most other games, let alone championed. I’d give it a 50/50 split on the harder hitting latex weapons and the encouraged fighting style.
–If fighting with an ultra-light is akin to using a wand in Harry Potter (swish and flick!) then the latex weapons are a lot closer to “real” weapons, mainly because of the grip I noted earlier. However, the traditional feints still worked the same and the shield side of things was entirely unchanged. The lack of a blocking cross guard was prevalent even on the two handed swords, to make them look realistic they are unhelpfully thin. This made me more conscious of forearm attacks, both making and receiving.
–The one thing I didn’t think I’d miss until it was gone was thrusting. Thrust based attacks, while not being as effective as combos for sheer speed, are great to set up combos. They can also pick apart someone once you’ve discovered the holes in their defenses. Without them I found myself shy of a good lead-in move a number of times. I felt the two-handed fighters were also greatly hampered. Without a good thrust to slow up or hold back charging opponents it was far easier for them to close.
–Because of the lack of continuous combat I wasn’t really able to evaluate the durability of my sword. I think it suffered more wear and tear from smacking the ground when I sat down and being put back in belt frog when I got up. So far the tip is holding up and I haven’t lost the hilt, although it is starting so show significant wear. The mace…well, how can you damaged something like that?
–On the NPC side the one thing I was intrigued to see was how monster camps could effectively arm their monsters without access to cheap weapons and in what fashion things like claws or natural weapons would be represented.
-As near as I can tell most of the NPCs bought their own weapon(s). It appeared, for the most part, that everyone had one short weapon and a small shield. A few folks had THE sword and a few had an additional two handed weapon, usually a sword or a hell staff.
–Unless they traded weapons amongst each other the NPCs simply fought with the same weapon all weekend.
–There were no creatures wielding natural weaponry.
So here is where we begin to see the Latex Weapon Theory, which has held up remarkably well, start to come apart. If you think fighting the same NPC all weekend can get a little dull, imagine fighting the same NPC with the same weapon all weekend. Can this be solved? Absolutely. Will it cost a lot? Yes it will. Perhaps working out a deal with Monster Camp (Josh and Maurice’s company) is the most cost effective and safest (and here I swore I wouldn’t use that word) to start to roll more and varied latex weapons into games.
A Parting Headshot
People, have been sounding the Latex Weapon rallying cry for years now and the New England LARP community has generally be resistant to it, especially in the above noted NPC arena. When I went down to NERO’s National event this fall, guess what I found? A good 40% of the PCs had latex weapons. NERO isn’t exactly an early adopter of new ideas to LARP and they have the original, no flurry rule, lightest touch, fast as fast can be combat system. So when their participants are showing up with increasing numbers of latex weapons the change is definitely here. The only question left is how games will choose to respond. (XZ points out that she “doesn’t need a pretty football to play the game.” She also fights with the equivalent of a cinder block on the end of a piece of rebar so your mileage may vary).