Live Action Role Playing – a close cousin to tabletop roleplaying games and sword collecting alike. While tabletop gamers and sword collectors tend to enjoy their hobby in the privacy of their own homes, LARPers are different – stepping out into the world boldly, acting out grand adventures, and in general having tons of fun. What’s not to love?
In our recent interview with Patrick Penning, the owner of LARP supplier Epic Armoury, we learned about the LARP industry, LARP equipment, and the worldwide LARP community. In our review of some LARP gear produced by Epic Armoury, we saw what some of the accoutrements of the LARPing scene were – costumes, armour, and leather products. But let’s be real – what everyone reading this article really wants to learn about are the weapons.
LARPing weapons are, typically, all “cut from the same cloth.”
There’s an endless, endless variety of styles and designs – and unlike real weapons, they are not constrained by the limits of steel – but construction is relatively similar across the board. A stiff rod of carbon or some other material is coated in foam latex in any shape imaginable – swords, axes, warhammers, spears – the possibilities are endless. For the purpose of this review we at
Sword Buyers Guide got our hands on a few swords from Palnatoke, one of the largest LARP weapon producers on the market and distributed by CAS Iberia. We also have something… a little different to review, from the good staff at Epic Armoury.
Let’s get started.
Palnatoke has been in the LARP business for a long time – from the description on CAS Iberia’s website:
“Palnatoke has been producing movie and stage props in Denmark for over 25 years. Since 2000 they have been specializing in creating the best foam swords for LARP available anywhere. All of their swords are produced in-house and materials sourced from around Europe. In addition they have a full line of high quality leather goods (scabbards, mounts, baldrics, bracers, greaves, etc.) made to perfectly match their swords.”
Palnatoke’s construction is standard in the industry. The reinforced foam latex, rubber coating, and faux leather wrapped handles are very similar to what you could find at many other producers. And their proven history in the LARPing community speaks for itself – they are quite well respected.
So looking at their swords will be a good way to get a cross-section of what is available for LARPers around the world. Since the construction of these swords are so similar, the reviews will focus mainly on the fit and finish of each sword – as well as how it functions in its purpose as a LARP weapon.
The first LARP sword we looked at was the “Elven Saber Green Longsword,” which for space we’ll be calling the “Elven Saber.” The Elven Saber is a single-edged sword coloured a dark silver with green accents and a brown faux leather handle.
The Elven Saber is actually quite attractive – the green and light brown go well together, and definitely add a “wood elven” flair to the weapon.
The blade is long and slightly curved, tapered to indicate a single cutting edge. Overall length is 104cm. When you try and bend the blade you can feel the rode inside – but on impact, the foam absorbs most of the hit and the harder rod inside never touches the target. So a hit with this weapon is not painful at all.
The handle is comfortable to hold, and (for me at least) possible to be used both single or two-handedly. As you can probably imagine the sword is quite light and no trouble at all to swing comfortably for ages. However, the balance feels “off” - if you are expecting it to handle like a real sword, it won’t. Which might throw you for a time, before you adjust.
The handle is wrapped in fake leather, with a small smear of glue at one end. If you don’t look too closely it isn’t an issue, but it does give off a bit of a “tennis racket” vibe. Admittedly, you are going to be using this while running around a park or community center fighting pretend orcs, so you aren’t expecting perfection – but the handle is probably the least impressive part of the sword.
Another close up of the green decorated hilt. Compared to the picture on the website, the green is a bit more flat and a bit less detailed than originally shown – but doesn’t look bad.
So that’s the first Palnatoke sword – let’s move onto the next one…
The second sword is the Brass Footman Longsword, a classic single handed arming sword design. From brave knights to skulking bandits and everything in between, a plain arming sword is going to be suitable for a wide variety of characters. I’d venture a guess that this is a more popular design just for that fact – its very archetypal.
The design is simple – a straight, double edged blade, brass colours guard and pommel, and black wrapped fake leather handle for a total length of 98cm. The blade has a fuller, and by pressing on the fuller you can clearly feel the rod within.
The brass effect on the guard and pommel actually looks quite nice – it has a lot of detail, and looks aged. The guard does not appear to have a rod inside and bends quite easily – so I’ve been being very careful, as I expect it’s possible to just rip half the guard off if you aren’t careful – though not through regular LARP use, I’m sure. In any case, from a distance the sword looks quite real – which is the idea, right?
The brushed steel paint job on the blade is even and coats the foam nicely – and didn’t rub off with repeated use over the weeks from when the sword was acquired to when this review was written, so whatever coating they are using to seal these is clearly working.
Overall I was pleased with the experience offered by the Footman’s sword, and thought that for the price it was worth it as an entry level step into the world of LARPing swords.
Moving beyond the entry level, we get into Palnatoke’s more expensive LARPing options…
Priced at double the previous swords, the Paladin Two-Handed Greatsword is the largest and most impressive sword we managed to find by LARP weapon maker Palnatoke. Over 125cm in length, this massive greatsword looked – with its thick blade and wide guard – like it ought to weigh a ton. And the first time you pick it up you feel like bracing yourself… only to be surprised once again. Whoops! It’s foam!
The design is the same as the previous two – foam latex over a fiberglass core. What is different with this sword is the scale – it’s much larger than the previous two, which is undoubtedly more complicated to produce.
It also had some disfigurations in the construction, fit and finish issues that were apparent even at the first glance – as you can see in the puckered tip in the above photo. But the overall appearance of the weapon was sound, and very similar to the others. It is the Footman sword writ large, and probably geared towards larger LARPers as well.
The Paladin Greatsword is based more on the two-handed swords of fantasy rather than history – the long, thick quillions of the guard don’t resemble most longsword or two-handed swords used in Europe’s many wars. But it would look right at home in the hands of a role-playing Paladin, or great knight, or even a Barbarian warlord with some cosmetic alterations.
The handle of the Paladin Greatsword has a nice, dark brown faux leather wrap. It is comfortable to hold, although there is a bit more “give” to the handle when you squeeze it – a disconcerting feeling when you are used to the hardwood and leather handles of a real sword. Though the handle is a bit larger around it is not difficult to keep a-hold of when you swing like a real sword of similar size would be.
The handle wrap is a leather-like strip, possible tape – again with the tennis racket or hockey stick feel. Not a major detractor, but something to note.
I couldn’t get it to show up on camera, but there were impact marks visible in the areas where the sword had been hit a lot. While the foam is resilient, it does appear that repeated use can cause longer lasting effects.
Overall I was fairly pleased with the fit, finish, and handling of the LARP swords so far – though I had to admit, they still felt a great deal like toys to me. I didn’t know if I would be able to really get into the experience of doing a LARP with them – maybe it was because I was sued to the “real thing,” but I still felt like something was lacking… which is why I am very glad that this was not the only company we are reviewing LARP swords from!
In doing our LARP sword reviews, the previous swords were all very similar – foam swords, hard core, and fake leather taped handles. And there’s nothing wrong with that – they are standard in the LARP industry. But for the LARP weapon provided by Epic Armoury, they sent something… a little different.
Called a “Hybrid” LARP sword, this Epic Armoury Dai Katana is a massive leap forward in what is available for Live Action Role Players. From their website – “The Hybrid series of latex weapons is part of the next generation of hyper realistic Larp weapons to be developed by Epic Armoury. By combining a super durable hard polyurethane foam handle with a latex blade we have created a Larp weapon that feels great in your hands but has the safety and flex of a traditional latex weapon.” And compared to traditional LARPing weapons, it is light years ahead.
The blade of the Dai Katana is latex, just like the other swords. The shape of the blade is slightly curved, and when held it balances different than a real sword (obviously) – but not unpleasantly so. The balance on the Epic Armoury sword is notably better than the other LARP swords we reviewed.
The blade even has a kissaki – nice attention to detail! It was definitely larger than a real katana blae in terms of thickness, but that is to be expected.
However, where the Hybrid sword truly shines is in the unique handle construction. Take a look at these close up shots:
As you can see, the handle has significantly more detail than the other swords we reviewed. But it’s not just detail – the handle itself is much more solid and compact than the standard LARP design. The polyurethane is a big step up from previous methods of construction. When holding the Dai Katana in your hand you feel like you’re holding a real sword, and more than once I felt surprised to see the foam blade attached to the handle…
The Dai Katana is not the only Hybrid sword either. Epic Armoury has Roman, Asian, and European designs as well as elven and dwarven themed swords. If this is a new direction for LARP swords, then based on our limited experience so far – it’s a good direction.
Check out that detail – like ancient, cracked iron and brass!
If I had my doubts about LARP swords before, they have been well and truly dispelled. Coming in at roughly half the price of the most expensive Palnatoke sword we reviewed, the Epic Armoury Hybrid LARP swords are a significant improvement over the competition, and definitely nothing to look down on by “real” sword collectors.
I don’t know if I will start LARPing – there aren’t many folks around here who do it, for one thing; for another – I would want to devote enough time to it to make it worthwhile, and as a parent of young children I don’t know if I could do that. But I definitely have a newfound respect for LARPers and the LARPing industry in general.