The Red Rocket. The Hound of Glory. The Dog Dick of Shame. The dreaded 24” short claw. Never, ever use these. I know, I know, these things wash up in Monster Camps and tend to stick there like the idea that tacos and beans will make a great Saturday meal; throw them away.

As near as I can figure, somewhere around 1997, some NPC Monster Camp Marshall, high on Jolt Cola and Viagra “did the math” that you could get 4 24” short claws out of 8 foot piece of PVC and made, like, 203 of these things. They then went around to the various games of the time like an overly erect Johnny Appleseed and left legions of these things scattered about and, my god, do these things last. Apparently 1997 was a GREAT year for red duct tape…these things have been run over by camp trucks, left in cars on 107 degree days, thrown in streams…and like the monster camp weapon bin venereal disease that they are, they keep coming back. Oh, the foam has long ago decayed on them – these could (and anecdotally have) been used in a Lawrence street fight – but still they remain. And because they are here, every game inevitably ends up sending out NPCs (or starting out clawed PCs) with a set of 24” short claws. Find your rulebook, get a big black magic marker, and cross that measurement right the frunk out.

Oh, sure, short weapons are great for your tavern cook who wants to menace someone with a boffer rolling pin or desperate survivor cop who wants to fight with a tonfa (hint: don’t do that either) but overall dual short weapons are not viable and generally a pain in the ass for the following reasons:

  1. Short weapons do not swing faster: I know, I am dating myself here, but anyone who lost their eyesight to the 1st and 2nd edition AD&D weapons tables know that dual daggers, or god forbid, cestus (ces…tii?), “swing faster.” When dealing with ultra-light weapons in a lightest touch game (obligatory “what this blog is about” warning), longer weapons swing just as fast and have the added benefit of, like, 2 feet of additional reach. Ok, this may technically be not true, but you have to be SO good and SO fast to tell a difference it is beyond the layman.
  2. You have to be SO good and SO fast: Dual short IS a viable fighting style if you practice it, a lot. Unfortunately, games tend to start out “savage” characters and new NPCs fighting freaking short claws – arguably one of THE hardest fighting styles to master. Unless your name is Angus and have taken the obligatory 902 headshots that come with mastering dual short (absolutely true, I hit him square in the face at the end of every flurry he hits me with…it’s…uncanny) you’re not going to pick it up over the course of one, or even 8, weekends. Dual short requires extreme footwork, stylistic, heavy blocks, and a close-in, aggressive style.
  3. That close-in aggressive style is a problem. Distance in LARP fighting encourages courtesy. Closing with someone requires control and an expectation of your opponent’s movements, especially closing quickly. This is why most games have “charging” rules (and those that don’t should) and flurry mechanics that often require resetting swing combinations and distance. When your only method of attack requires you to close quickly while attacking simultaneously it can become an issue.
  4. The issue with closing quickly and attacking simultaneously is that it has gotten a bad reputation (known as “claw hugging”) because it, again, is really very difficult to do and, with your concentration on total offensive movement, it becomes increasingly hard to count the number of times *you’ve* been hit on the way in (and out). Hint: a lot.
  5. (And finally) Getting hit on the way in and the way out is just a part of it – the other half is the inability to threaten the area in front of you with attacks. Short claw wielders stand there and just get pounded on by full-length sword fighters…let along people with staves or pole-arms! Damage winging in out of the confusion of melee, from all directions, almost forces short claw fighters to go ‘a chargin’ in.

The Amusing Exception

There are no exceptions to this one, folks. Not even for games that heavily feature zombies. Even zombies claw better at a distance.

The Standard

After disposing of all short claws in the fires of the Forge of Hephaestus:

–Begin all PCs with 2 medium (36”) claws or, better yet, 1 long (44”) and 1 medium. This makes them at least competitive. From there, allow an immediate skill purchase to two long claws. Remember to balance these buys against duelist types who often have to pay for a weapon + style.

–All claws in monster camp should be long claws. You might wish to retain a few medium length ones if you frequently scale NPC difficulty by fighting style.

The New Paradigm

People have been making these interesting looking “hand-claw” reps by simply taping 12” long foam spikes on to the fingers of work gloves. They look cool! They look cooler if you give them a similarly colored full length claw to actually swing at people instead of encouraging, you know, open hand claw slapping.