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My main LARP character has a honking great 6'6" Dire Mace as his paladin weapon (Read; attuned to so cannot be replaced with a smaller weapon). Our LARPs are commonly in small forested areas making proper dramatic swings difficult. I've tried to accompany the large weapon with a smaller sword at my hip, but it was awkward to carry sheathed (it hung near parallel to the floor and caught on objects), and even more difficult to draw one-handed.

How do I safely and effectively wield a large weapon, especially in a small space (the Dwarf Conundrum) ?

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"Cause you can't swing a broadsword when you're in the forest; The Eastern fighters learned to their dismay; No, you can't swing a broadsword when you're in the forest; That extra steel keeps getting in the way." -- Pensic War IV, Michael Longcor –  Matthew Najmon Mar 11 at 21:54

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

For general "large weapon" tips, check out "Be Nasty with a Boffer Polearm". Though that article does not directly address how to fight in closed spaces, its general tips are still relevant in a crowded setting.

Choose your battles

There are likely some places in the forest where you have full use of your weapon. Make sure your teammates know where to stand so that you can properly swing your weapon, and try to move your fights toward those areas.

Take advantage of the shield wall

If you have to be in a crowd, stand behind the front line. "Snipe" at any open targets as they approach your front line. "Don’t focus too hard on the person you’re engaged with. You can make an attack of opportunity against anybody within your reach. Swing when they swing." (Nerology)

Defensive Stance

Scorpion stance

Scorpion stance makes blocking easy while at the same time granting a great number of openings on your opponents legs. These openings are easy to take advantage of.

"Scorpion stance is a defensive posture. It’s a good defense against somebody moving directly towards you. Turn your shoulder towards your opponent and make your body as narrow as possible. Hold the polearm blade down, keeping your body behind the pole. One hand should be high, by the butt end. The other should be about halfway down the grip. Keep your legs wide and your posture low. From this stance, it’s easy to block your entire body and thrust at your opponent’s feet. You don’t need too much motion to block, just lean away from the attack and your polearm will already be in the right spot." (Nerology)

Footwork

"The best defense is to not be there when they swing. Polearm is a very mobile style – if you’re getting hit, it’s probably because you’re standing still. Be a moving target." (Nerology) Keep your weight balanced between your feet so that you can easily step forward, backward, or to the side. If you're fighting a shield fighter, strafe around him towards his shield so that his reach will be decreased. Be aware of your surroundings, and move around to take advantage of the trees and other obstacles so that they don't impede your attacks.

Move your body

You have a lot of reach. That said, if you move your entire body as you move your weapon, it will seem like you have even more. Duck as you swing low, and you can add a foot to your swing. Jump back when you and your opponent swing at the same time - your swing will hit him, or at least his shield, but his will just hit air.

Attacking

"Polearm style relies on speed and precision. You should only be hitting with the top six inches of the weapon. This is a 'lightest touch' style – use your wrists and forearms, not your biceps." (Nerology) I disagree, to a certain extent - you should use your arms and entire body, but your wrists and forearms will be moving the fastest.

Choke up on your weapon if you must. This will allow you to make smaller radius swings.

You may want to thrust and then swing - this will allow you to get past obstacles and still hit your opponent.

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While in the LARP I play in nothing that large is a legal weapon (polearms tap out at 72"), there are a few different things I can think of that might help:

  • If your system/training allows for it, adapt your weapon so that it has a thrusting tip (morning stars–spiked maces–had spikes on them, this is simply simulating the effect). Thrusting weapons are incredibly effective in confined spaces, but no swinging weapon that large is really going to be as an offensive tool.
  • Focus on overhand swings (being careful to avoid the collar and the head, if your opponent isn't armored to handle it). Particularly hooking/reaching style motions that thrust out at about a 45º angle and then come down, for which arms are a great target. This works more effectively in boffer larp (which tend to be touch-based) and less so if you actually need significant force behind the swing. It won't work against a trained mercenary group with shields, but it might work against a bandit–especially if you are good at keeping distance.
  • Focus on defending with it, a weapon that large has to provide some pretty significant cover if you can get next to a tree.
  • Change how you carry a shorter weapon so that it can be easily drawn. There is no particular reason it needs to be parallel to the floor. A short sword or short spear can be easily fit onto your back.
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