RIP Hunter

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Caveat Emptor: a Larp product review

I have been doing a lot of looking at really great EU style LARPs and decided to do some internet research into getting my first Latex LARP weapon. I knew they were more expensive than the traditional boffers that I had been using since 1995 but as much as you suspend your disbelief, it is still a foam tube and not really sword-like in shape.

On Amazon, I only found one item billed as a "Full Contact Foam Sword," but it was at a great price compared to the other weapons I had sourced previously. I attempted to find some reviews of the item (labeled Exotath by Kit Rae, who had designed the "wall hanger" 440 steel version). Unfortunately, I was only able to find one Youtube review by a gentleman that was new to the sport of LARP combat. Eventually, I was able to determine that this was the first attempt of Kit Rae to make a foam version and as a result most of the retailers that had this item in stock had merely ordered the catalog of live steel blades as per normal and were not sure how to get rid of this foam thing. This was a good thing for me as I was able to order it at 1/2 the MSRP. I ordered it on Friday, it shipped on Monday and was here for Thursday. So far so good.

It appears that they molded this off the live steel version directly, and design-wise it is breathtaking. The detail is all well formed and distinct, and the coloring and shading are very effective at giving you the impression of metal. It handles very well, although the balance is a bit further forward than boffer weapons due to the large cross guard and foregrip. The seam is done well and only really noticeable on the handle, which is why I figure most companies wrap the handles in suede. The weapon is a bit heavier than a new style boffer but still very light compared to the weapons we used 15 years ago when I started. At 3' 8" this one handed sword is great for fast swings and blocks, the blade is excellent in composition, having the right amount of flex but not excessive whip. The main problem is that as the blade tapers down to the tip it follows the line of the live steel blade and gets very thin; this results in it being very dense and not having a lot of give. Basic physics tells us that if you apply force to a wedge the force at the point would be significantly more than if it was applied evenly, after all. It should be noted that the thrusting tip was very good and had a lot of flex, the core stopping about 2 inches before the blade point. Unfortunately, after taking it to a Realms practice and conferring with other players the consensus was that while it was a safe weapon it was not ideal for LARP combat and would result in more painful hits than necessary in a "lightest touch system". While I would have no problem using the sword safely, I would not relish fighting against it due to the extremely unpleasant sting and bruising that would result.

I guess you get what you pay for. To be fair I gambled on a good intentioned first attempt and with the 100% satisfaction guarantee from United Cutlery, all I should lose is a little time, and some very reasonable shipping costs.

In Summation;

Gorgeous piece, great for Feasts, Ren Faires or Conventions
Well designed in all areas except the striking surface
Seems extremely durable (obviously this is just an impression as I won't be putting it though significant paces)

Not listed on any known LARP Approved weapons list I could find
Not designed for lightest touch LARP combat

If you are buying for a good looking prop, at the $40 price range it is not likely to be beat. If you are buying for a good, safe workhorse of a LARP combat weapon this should be avoided like a Toys R Us Nerf sword.

I enjoyed my time with the Kit Rae Exotath but she is going back in the morning, and after the couple weeks it will take to get my money back I will be looking to order a different Latex LARP weapon, but I will need to do a bit more research to make sure I get a good product and not just a good price.