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Live combat is a mechanic used in some larps, in which the participants resolve combat by attacking one another with larpsafe weaponry, such as boffers, foam weapons, nerf guns or airsoft guns. It is typically contrasted with Simulated combat.

While live combat is often seen as defining a style of larp (usually the live-combat campaign game), it is simply a mechanic, and is used in some theatre-style games.


There are a wide variety of mechanical approaches used in live combat games. In the earliest live-combat larps (e.g. Treasure Trap), the mechanics were based heavily on tabletop roleplaying games, and required battleboarding after each combat to resolve damage.[1] While there has been a general tendency towards simplification since, there is still a wide variety of approaches. For example:

  • Damage may be location-based, or a global pool of hit points may be used;
  • The damage done by each strike may depend on the type of weapon and the user, or it may be simplified down to one or two points;
  • Armour may reduce damage from each hit, grant extra hit points, or prevent damage to armoured areas;
  • There may be no formal mechanics at all, with combat instead handled by a Du Kannst Was Du Darstellen Kannst ("do what you can portray") system.

While Treasure Trap coated its weapons with paint to mark hits,[1] modern games rely on the players to track their own status.


The earliest larp weapons were foam-covered sticks[2][1] These evolved into boffers, constructed of PVC pipe, foam, and duct-tape, and in turn into padded weapons using a fibreglass core and cloth cover. These are still in use in many US games. In Europe and New Zealand, latex weapons are preferred.

In some American games, archery is simulated by packet archery - throwing a spell packet while holding a prop bow. In Europe and New Zealand, low-poundage bows firing larpsafe arrows are used.

Contact and safety

To ensure participant safety and comfort, many games require participants to "pull" their blows to reduce their impact, counting any touch of a weapon as a hit. Others are full-contact, or require blows to strike with "sufficient force" to have inflicted injury. Some prohibit strikes to the head and groin or other dangerous or uncomfortable areas, while others permit them. Required safety equipment also varies.

Games allowing archery usually prohibit shooting at close range, and often require archers to pass a safety course. Weapons are usually checked before events to ensure that they are safe to use.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Nathan Hook, "The Children of Treasure Trap: History and Trends of British Live Action Role-Play". In Playground Worlds: Creating and Evaluating Experiences of Role-Playing Games, Solmukohta (2008), p 70.
  2. Dagorhir History. Retreived 13 January 2015.