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Latex Weapons vs Boffer Weapons

RyanFisk

Retired User
I only have a general comment for the whole discussion:

I feel safe fighting with and against both boffers and latex weapons. My concerns are:

thorny brush piles in the dark :eek:
trees/small stumps
critical fumbles on MY real-life dodging skill check
and
getting stepped on after I am down. :mad:

-Ryan Fisk
 

Cain

New member
Banned
In that sense, yes, boffer weapons are more tolerant of the use of unsafe techniques than latex ones are. But the design philosophy behind latex weapons is partly that people who use unsafe techniques should be educated and trained not to use these techniques, not designed for. The result is a better looking game.
Again, remember the Seattle Knights? They're live-steel fighters, and haven't had a fatality or serious maiming in their entire history. (I don't know their injury history offhand.) They also maintain that live steel is perfectly safe so long as players are educated and trained properly. That doesn't make live steel safer than latex or boffers, however. And certainly live-steel fighting looks a heck of a lot more authentic than any foam-rubber weapon.

Once again, it's a spectrum of tradeoffs, of safety versus authenticity. My argument is that since boffers can be made to look very nice, and are clearly superior in safety, they should be a prime choice. Add in the cost factor, and I suddenly don't see the point of latex at all: it just becomes one more way for the rich players to rub it into the faces of the poorer ones.

Also, my experience with new players is that as many tend to be afraid of weapon swings and fail even to make contact with opponents, as get overexcited and strike too hard. Admittedly one must consider the latter rather than the former in weapon design, but not to the point of making weapons that look like boffers - it is very easy to train someone to be safe.
My experience is that every new player passes through a phase of swinging too hard; some might include a fail-to-connect stage as well, but usually they're after a dramatic clash of weapons. In other words, what you describe is true to an extent: all new players swing too hard, but some do both. As far as training people to be safe goes, that depends far more on the individual than on weapons. Some players will get it within an hour, some might never get it at all.

People keep saying 'featherlight' in context of boffer weapons. How much does a featherlight boffer weapon weigh, and where is the balance? I can't see a boffer weighing much less than a latex weapon and still being able to be swung.
There are several different varieties and methods. Without getting too technical, a featherweight weapon can weigh as little as a few ounces, maybe even 100 grams or less. Balance is a personal thing, but with that little weight, you can rely on the rebound to bring the weapon back in line very quickly, and you can simply muscle it back without effort. Since the weapons are so light, however, it takes very little to equalize the weight of both ends of the weapon, if that's your preferred balance point. The exact balance point has to be customized for each buyer, to properly match their preferences: some like it a tad tip-heavy, while others prefer an even balance. There's even "pommel fighters" who grip their weapons by the very base, and fight as if their wrists were the hinge on a flail. Basically, there's too many variables to sum up quickly.
 

Ryan Paddy

big picturist
Validated User
Once again, it's a spectrum of tradeoffs, of safety versus authenticity. My argument is that since boffers can be made to look very nice, and are clearly superior in safety, they should be a prime choice. Add in the cost factor, and I suddenly don't see the point of latex at all: it just becomes one more way for the rich players to rub it into the faces of the poorer ones.
If there is such a spectrum, you could perhaps measure it by hitting people with ever-harder strikes with all three weapon types: metal, boffer and latex.

On such a scale, metal weapons would become dangerous very quickly, with a relatively light use of force. Both latex and boffer weapons would become dangerous only much later, with really quite hard swings. Latex weapons may indeed become dangerous somewhat before boffer. But the amount of force that you'd have to exert before latex weapons became dangerous - actually dangerous, not just gee-that-hurt - far exceeds the force that even the most poorly trained fighter should be exerting.

Saying that latex is somewhere between boffer and steel in terms of how hard you can hit with it safely is a bit disingenious. It implies that latex might be in the middle somewhere, when it fact on such a scale latex and boffer would be right next to each other and metal would be over the horizon somewhere.

Which is not to say that metal weapon fighting is dangerous, only that the amount of force that you can hit someone with safely with a metal weapon (assuming they are not armoured, and your metal weapon is not a whip-thin fencing sword) bears no resemblence to the amount of force you can exert safely with a boffer or latex weapon.

In other words, to say that boffer is preferable to latex because it's safer is to ignore the fact that they are both safe enough. Safe enough that I've never seen a latex weapon injury, and practically never heard of one. I'm sure someone has a nasty story out there, but I'd be willing to put the European latex weapon injury statistics per capita up against the US boffer weapon injury statistics any day, if only such things could be come by.
 

US_LRPer

Professional Nerd and Geek
Validated User
I know a group, the Seattle Knights, who engage in live-steel fighting. They can claim, and reasonably demonstrate via their history, that live-steel fighting can be safe.
Eh.... have you seen the Seattle Knights "fight"? I've watched them on several occasions and what they do is stage combat (exaggerated moves with a very choreographed feel). If you want to see some live steel fighting that's not staged go watch a group of western martial artists practice (I know because I've been studying the German longsword).

Live steel fighting Seattle Knights style is rather safe because it's staged. Even though we're taught to pull our blows in western martial arts training I've still seen plenty of wounds, though none that were life threatening (primarily bruises with strains and sprains a close second). Despite that, any serious western martial artist knows that safety is a top concern and we pull blows and use safety equipment as needed to minimize injury risk.

As I've done both I've experienced more injuries doing live-combat LARP than the time I've spent doing western martial arts.

Sorry to de-rail this topic, I'll stop here. Back to the original topic:

As noted, latex is safer than live steel, and boffer might be safer than latex (depending on how each is made) if you prefer rougher, sport oriented combat. Going for more immersion based, latex would probably best suit you.

Bottom line, it's down to style of play and the safety requirements noted by the people running the game. Both have their merits and their flaws.

- Amber
 
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Cain

New member
Banned
"Safe enough" is an equally misleading term. Driving ten miles an hour over the speed limit might be "safe enough", but that doesn't mean there's still a significant drop in safety. And also, to say that latex is better for "immersive" roleplay and boffers are better for rough sports is not only misleading, but insulting. You can be an excellent roleplayer and not want your skin torn off, puncture wounds from people thrusting, and the like.

At any event, the argument is rather or not a major US LARP should adopt latex. Given the price factor, the safety factor, and the lawsuit-happy culture we have, the answer is an unequivocable no. You cannot thrust with a latex sword, which is a major safety concern right off the top. Do we really want to see a LARP go down to a lawsuit?
 

Ryan Paddy

big picturist
Validated User
"Safe enough" is an equally misleading term. Driving ten miles an hour over the speed limit might be "safe enough", but that doesn't mean there's still a significant drop in safety.
My point was that there isn't a significant drop in safety from boffer to latex. There's an insignificant drop.

And also, to say that latex is better for "immersive" roleplay and boffers are better for rough sports is not only misleading, but insulting. You can be an excellent roleplayer and not want your skin torn off, puncture wounds from people thrusting, and the like.
I think you're taking this the wrong way, probably a misunderstanding over terms. Some people use the term "immersive" to describe not just roleplay, but the environment in which it happens. People with this perspective might say that anything that makes the OOC environment more believable (more closely resembling the IC fiction) is more immersive. Many people believe that latex weapons more closely resemble metal weapons than boffers do. So it's not a comment on roleplay or how immersed players are in their characters, it's a comment on which type of weapon makes the environment more immersive.

The same people would say that a replica medieval building is more immersive than a scout camp. Would you get defensive about how you're still good roleplayers even though you use scout camps? That would be silly, because no-one is putting down the quality of the roleplay, just the appearance of the phys-reps.

As for skin tearing off and puncture wounds... they don't happen in European latex weapon use or here in NZ, that I've heard of. Clearly it's an issue with how people are using weapons in your parts, which means that your concerns over latex weapons are valid in your local area unless people change their fighting habits.

Not stabbing is not a safety issue, it's a fighting-style issue. It's quite difficult to accidently stab someone if you're not in the habit of stabbing. Therefore it's not dangerous to have weapons that are not intended for stabbing, unless you've got people around who compulsively stab. I agree it'd be better if all weapons were safe for stabbing, but it's not a safety issue as you claim it is. It's a style issue: better-looking or more-combat-options.

I bet you could concuss someone with both a latex weapon or a boffer weapon if you hit them hard enough in the head, even though some latex weapons and boffers are very light. Does that mean that we should all fight with pillows just in case someone gets hit hard in the head? Or should we just encourage a culture that avoids smacking people hard in the head?
 

Cain

New member
Banned
My point was that there isn't a significant drop in safety from boffer to latex. There's an insignificant drop.
Not in my experience. I've seen fewer latex weapons, and more injuries with those weapons. You state that you've seen very few injuries, period, so even without comparison data you're not contradicting my experiences.

As for skin tearing off and puncture wounds... they don't happen in European latex weapon use or here in NZ, that I've heard of. Clearly it's an issue with how people are using weapons in your parts, which means that your concerns over latex weapons are valid in your local area unless people change their fighting habits.

Not stabbing is not a safety issue, it's a fighting-style issue. It's quite difficult to accidently stab someone if you're not in the habit of stabbing. Therefore it's not dangerous to have weapons that are not intended for stabbing, unless you've got people around who compulsively stab. I agree it'd be better if all weapons were safe for stabbing, but it's not a safety issue as you claim it is.
Here's where I'm sensing a backhanded insult and unwarranted claim of fighting style superiority. Clearly, if your fighting style has to be stylized and heavily restricted, then you're trading off a realistic and immersive experience for a more realistic and immersive appearance. Personally, I think the quality of the experience matters far more than the look of the thing.

In reality, swords were used to stab. Losing that ability automatically means that your roleplay experience while fighting becomes less realistic. It's not a question of roleplay versus sport, it's a question of quality of experience versus quality of appearrance.
I bet you could concuss someone with both a latex weapon or a boffer weapon if you hit them hard enough in the head, even though some latex weapons and boffers are very light. Does that mean that we should all fight with pillows just in case someone gets hit hard in the head? Or should we just encourage a culture that avoids smacking people hard in the head?
The SCA is probably the most "realistic" and "immersive" of all the medieval fighting groups; oddly enough, they encourage striking to the head. Thanks to their "light" rule, they encourage smacking people in the head as hard as they can. The moral of this story is, don't presume to dictate to people what their culture should or shouldn't be. However, we can objectively show everyone what is safe and what is not.

(Side note: you can concuss someone with a pillow, if you hit them in the head hard enough. A well-made boffer is safer than a pillow. A well made latex weapon is safer than live steel. See the difference?)
 

Ryan Paddy

big picturist
Validated User
Not in my experience. I've seen fewer latex weapons, and more injuries with those weapons. You state that you've seen very few injuries, period, so even without comparison data you're not contradicting my experiences.
I think you've misread. I haven't seen few injuries, I've seen none. I've heard a few "ow, that hurt" comments, but never seen an injury or heard someone complain of one from latex. So our experience doesn't accord at all.

Here's where I'm sensing a backhanded insult and unwarranted claim of fighting style superiority. Clearly, if your fighting style has to be stylized and heavily restricted, then you're trading off a realistic and immersive experience for a more realistic and immersive appearance. Personally, I think the quality of the experience matters far more than the look of the thing.
Definitely not a backhanded insult. I totally respect that you want to be able to stab. In an ideal world, I'd prefer weapons I can stab with too. But for me the option of stabbing is secondary to having weapons that look believable.

Latex fighting generally isn't stylised, and the only restriction is not stabbing. In the UK they even allow head shots, so long as they're done carefully.

My point about fighting styles was that if you're seeing injuries with latex and I'm not, either the latex weapons are different or the fighting styles are. I suspect it's the fighting styles, in that people in your parts are probably hitting harder and stabbing. I thought the whole point was that you wanted to be able to hit harder and stab, so I can't see why you find that insulting, and it's not intended to be.

(Side note: you can concuss someone with a pillow, if you hit them in the head hard enough. A well-made boffer is safer than a pillow. A well made latex weapon is safer than live steel. See the difference?)
You can hit someone in the head with a boffer, pillow, or latex and it's unlikely that you'll get damage unless you're hitting way too hard.

If you hit someone in the head with steel, no matter how lightly you're hitting you could cause a scalp wound at the very least. Steel is rigid and unpadded, boffer and latex are both padded and compress under pressure.

In terms of safety requirements, latex and boffer are in the kitchen together chatting about the weather. Steel is out in the desert base-jumping. I've fought a lot with latex, and a bit with steel. There's no comparison, except in the sense of "hey these things are really totally different, aren't they?"
 

boccione2k

Retired User
I'm back from a two week full immersion in german Larp (Drachenfest and conquest of Mythodea), where the fight become very rough at times, like full strenght blows and such. Well, I've got a head on hit, full strenght, by a hulking two meter tall and broad orc (damn some german guys are REALLY big...:D), swinging a darn battle axe... result, a part from a "ouch" from my and a very felted apology by the orc player (who removed the fake teeth to be understood). Also years ago when we where playing with boffer weapons here in Italy (and some organizations still use boffers, we do for equipping npc and newly arrived players) I was hit by a two handed sword swinged full strenght on my head... well, I was out of fight because of a constant ringing on my hears (the same you suffer when training boxe and get a punch on the forehead); that weapon was really well made (I maded it, using blueprints from an american larp website). So I'm all to say that well made latex weapons are at least as safe as well made boffer weapons, and I've also built thrust safe latex weapons, it's only a matter of right sandwiching the materials on the tip of the sword, and of rounding it. Also friction burns with latex weapons are not an issues IF the sword maker use a protective (like isoflex, flexitane, vinyl varnish...) and the weapon is taken good care of (like applying silycone spray after each live). I've got friction cut by boffer weapons caused by damaged gaffa tape, as I've got nasty bruises by swings from too compressed latex weapons...
The real differences are:
Latex weapons can be much more realistic than boffer ones, boffer can be quite realistic, but the most realistic boffer ones does not come close to the most realistic latex ones.

Latex weapons are more difficult to build than the boffer ones, thus limiting, but not preventing, building by a newcomer; either way I will always extra-inspect home made weapons by a newcomer, no matter the weapon type.
Latex weapons are much more expensive to buy than boffer weapons, and this is a no brainer; the decorative steps of a latex weapons are more time consuming and require more skills from the maker; none the less, economic class latex are quite good looking, and can cost as few as 20 bucks, so there is leverage in prices.

Latex weapons cost more to build than boffer weapons, but not by a big margin, I can build a very good looking latex weapon for as few as 3 bucks, but only if I've bulk ordered the required material; buying just the necessary could increase the cost to 8 bucks (mainly the fiberglass core and the latex are upping the price, those materials are expensive if not acquired in bulk); this said, one could always share the expense with a few friends (as we do).

So latex weapons came out more costly and less user friendly than boffer weapons, latex can be in my experience be equal to boffers in term of safety IF builted by someone who know what he is doing, and latex ones can be much more realistic than boffer ones.

Here in my club we allow both boffer and latex weapons, we don't allow thrusting and head hits (even the best builted stab safe weapon could pop an ocular bulb if thrusted hard enough, we are not going to risk that).
Normally ours newbie go by boffer weapons first, but nearly everyone go to the latex ones sooner or later, because they look cooler. Even the poorest of our players have got a latex weapons (be it an used ones, a scratchbuilted ones, a cooperative builted ones from our weapon buildings seminars...) because they feel that the play came out more immersive for everyone.

At the end, play with whatever you feel most confortable, but don't make statement that something is better, latex and boffer could coexist whatever the requirements are, one just need a little experience to came out with ways to make the weapon work under the most strict weapon check rules.
 

Cain

New member
Banned
If you've been hurt by gaffer tape, then you haven't been hit with a properly made boffer. Most places I know of require cloth tape or cloth covers. Since professional latex manufacuters are unanimous in claiming that their weapons are not thrust-safe, I think we can dismiss the claim of thrust safe latex swords. Thrust safe boffers, however, are extremely common.

As far as cost goes, I seldom spend more than $3 on a boffer of any stripe, and that's assuming I buy everything retail. If I buy wholesale, I can drive my price down substantially. For the cheapest weapons, I can drive the price down to under a buck apiece, and I can crank it out in about ten minutes. So, parts costs are lower, labor time (and thus costs) are lower, and safety is higher.

And once again, we have the lawsuit issue, which no one has responded to yet. Given the noticeable safety differences, should a US larp chance a lawsuit because someone might thrust with a latex sword?
 
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