- Foam weapon
A foam weapon, (also known as a "boffer" or "latex weapon"), is a padded weapon used for simulated combat. Such weapons are typically used in
live action role-playing games.
United Statesthe term "boffer" is used for all foam weapons, and combat with foam weapons is usually referred to as "boffing".
Europeand the UK, the terms "latex weapon" and "LARP-safe weapon" are more common, and combat is usually referred to as "LARP combat".
The primary concern in designing a foam weapon is safety; a pulled blow with a foam weapon should not hurt the target, and in systems that allow it, even a full-strength blow should not cause injury. Combatants who consistently fail to pull their blows are liable to be ejected from an event, or at least pulled out of the fighting for safety reasons. The weapon should be durable, to withstand the stresses of combat.
A secondary issue is
aesthetics; often, a foam weapon is designed to look something like a real weapon such as a sword or an axe, sometimes with detailed adornment. The weighting and balance of a foam weapon can also affect how easy it is to use in combat.
Normally there are several main features of a foam weapon: A core, padding, thrusting tips, various forms of functional and artistic flourishes, and an outer coating or shell.
The most important piece of a foam weapon is its core, which acts as the shaft of the weapon and gives it its initial shape. Cores made out of PVC,
fiberglass, carbon fiber, bamboo, rattan, or woodare used, with standards varying between groups and countries. PVC tubes are presently the core most commonly used in the United States, whereas solid fiberglass or carbon fibre rods are the cores most commonly used in Europe.
Some core materials can be bent into a number of shapes to give variety and uniqueness to a weapon. A common way to bend a PVC core is with a blow torch or kitchen stove; however, heat guns or boiling water are preferred by some as a these methods deliver even heat, to prevent burning or weakening of the core. Rattan is generally soaked in water and then moulded to fit a shape.
Once a core is decided upon, a layer of foam padding is glued around it. The general convention of most modern groups is that there must be at least one layer of stiff closed-cell foam for safety reasons. Some groups differ on the thickness required (however, the going convention appears to be at least 5/8" on any "striking edge" of a weapon) and this mainly stems from issues of safety and control. European groups do not generally allow materials such as pipe insulation where in the United States such materials are standard. Some full-contact groups require rather more padding on striking surfaces (1 1/2" or more).
Some foam weapons also feature a tip made of open cell
foam, which is much softer and more compressible than the foam on the core. This allows for a wielder to execute a thrust on their opponent without fear of skewering them on the core or leaving bruises.
Most groups in Europe and the UK do not allow thrusting, even if the weapon has a thrusting tip due to concerns on the safety of such weapons; however, thrusting tips are much more popular in the United States where practitioners ensure that any weapons that risk the core piercing through the thrusting tip and into a combatant are failed in safety checks held before every game.
Depending on which set of rules are being used, the
pommelof the foam weapon may also have a thrusting tip for striking with the bottom of the weapon. Even without this tactic, having a padded pommel is a common safety precaution as it prevents hurting oneself with one's own weapon in the case of tripping and falling on it. This, and accidental injury in combat, like winding up for a swing and hitting someone behind you.
Once padding and thrusting tips are secured on the core, it is not unusual for the weapon to have added flourishes for aesthetic and practical purposes. If the foam weapon is to be an axe, a head carved out of open-cell foam may be affixed. Additional layers of closed-cell foam can be used to define a blade of a sword, the hilt of a dagger, or the soft foam "spikes" of a club. Foam weatherstripping is commonly used to better define a "cutting blade" as opposed to electrical tape. Flourishes are generally where the designer is creative, and allows for a great deal of artistic expression.
Coating or shell
The weapon is then covered with either tape (such as
duct tape, kite tape, gaffing tape, etc.), cloth or several layers of rubberised coating (such as latex) to protect the foam from abrasion and tearing.
The most popular method within United States conventions involves a simple coating of duct tape to hold the outer foam together. The tape, itself is used in many places to shape the foam and pull it into place, allowing for the artist to "carve" the weapon out as they work. Duct tape weapons also allow for easy repair of punctures by simply smoothing the shell out and applying a small patch of duct tape to the hole. Additionally, some United States groups use a cloth covering or "sock" instead of duct tape.
Within European conventions, latex or rubberized coatings are generally considered the standard. Latex coating allows for levels of detailing and artistry through such techniques as appliqué moulds, and
isoflexfinishes with detail airbrushing. Some specimens are so stunning that, at first glance, they are difficult to tell apart from actual metal weapons. Latex weapons, however, do require regular maintenance to keep the latex shell pliable and in good condition, are much more expensive (to both purchase and repair), and generally have a stiffer give on impact.
When solid coatings are applied over thrusting tips, many holes must be poked through them to allow the foam to deflate and re-inflate upon impact. This is generally not needed when coatings such as cloth are used, as air can pass freely through such media.
Rules for constructing foam weapons vary a great deal from group to group as foam weapon fighting groups are usually small and tend to operate independently of each other. Foam weapon fighting groups also differ on the allowed weight, size, flexibility, thickness of foam, length of thrusting tip, and type of materials that may be used as a core. As a result, those who are into the sport, whether as a form of freestyle martial arts or within the context of
LARPing, are generally encouraged to check with the rules of group that they plan to participate with, so not to bear the pain of disassembling and re-assembling a new weapon to make it in compliance with local standards.
Boffer weapons are commonly used as props in Live action role-playing games. While designed with safety in mind, these weapons tend to undergo more relaxed safety inspections as fights are mostly fought as duels and the fighters are expected to use force in moderation.
Foam weapons may also be used in fights more akin to
martial artstournaments, which resemble historical reenactmentcombat but require less protective gear. The scale of such tournaments may vary from individual duels to battles with hundreds of participants. Foam weapons are also used in some sport-like battle games such as Jugger.
Live action role-playing game
History of live action role-playing games
List of live action role-playing groups
* [http://www.thealmightyguru.com/Boffer/ Lukrain's Guide to Boffers]
* [http://www.larpfun.com/ Information about Boffers and LARPS]
* [http://home.clara.net/arianrhod/Aldebaran/DoItYourself/index.html The DIY Guide to LRP] - a do-it-yourself construction guide
* [http://groups.google.com/group/swordtag Swordtag: how to play and weapon construction]
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