Experimental Weapons FAQ

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I saw this really cool weapon in Final Fantasy...

No, odds are it won’t work in Belegarth or in real life. This category most often includes really obnoxiously big swords. They aren’t illegal, exactly, but they don’t work too well.

Can I make throwing daggers/axes/shurikens?

As it stands now, in Belegarth the only allowable thrown weapons are javelins and rocks. Any of those items listed above would have to be built as a rock, sized like a rock, and would only kill to the head. Like a rock.

Why? Mostly, it’s because of playability. Weapons like this bring up a number of playability concerns.

  1. They’re disproportionately deadly. These weapons are real killers on the Belegarth battlefield, being easily concealable. As such, there’s no better surprise weapon out there. Even if they can’t penetrate armor, a warrior with a set of these behind his shield could own the battlefield. It makes battles goofy, just an endless stream of people chucking throwing daggers at one another.
  2. Game balance with rocks. If you can make a throwing dagger, rocks become useless. And without a significant construction difference, this problem won’t go away. (If you do add a construction difference, you get safety concerns.)
  3. The "which end hit?" problem. Did the throwing axe or dagger hit in such a way that it would have done more than smack with the haft? It's tough enough telling this with javelins already.
  4. Realism. Although throwing axes were very deadly, really the only way to kill someone with a throwing dagger or shuriken would be ... well, to the head, like with a rock. Overall, experience and playtesting have shown that these weapons aren’t worth the trouble they cause. Feel free to try them out at home, though.

Can I make a tonfa? Or a punch dagger? What about "claws"?

Tonfas and punch daggers are specifically forbidden in the national rules, so no. However, asking “why” is a fair question.

  1. With the way the arm moves, a punch can deliver a much firmer hit than a regular hand held weapon. Hits with punch daggers would just become nasty. Boxing gloves can deliver a really solid hit; adding more foam wouldn’t help all that much.
  2. As far as tonfas go, Belegarth forbids “anvilling” – the practice of laying a weapon directly against your body to block a blow. With the tonfa construction, there’s too much room for argument with blocked blows to the forearm.
  3. Most importantly, there’s a general feeling in Belegarth that we don’t want people out there punching each other. Put on a pair of punching daggers and all of a sudden you’re out there boxing, not participating in medieval reenactment. A lot of us (myself included) are uncomfortable with people punching us, little foam daggers on their knuckles or no.

As far as "claws" go, you firstly still have the punching dagger problem. Second, there's a huge safety concern to the wielder. Yes, seriously. Any weapon attached to a person's hand (including ones with built-in "gloves") is extremely difficult to drop. This matters when, for instance, a normal weapon would be flung out of your hand when parrying a massive weapon like a glaive.

Can I make nunchaku?

Nope. Specifically forbidden. You can make a flail, though.

We don’t want anything that acts like a flail to have a core in the part that hits you. In addition, we have pretty strict rules about grabbing the striking surface of weapons. Nunchaku violate all of these rules. Although they may have been a dangerous part of history, they are not viable weapons on a Belegarth field.

In case you were wondering, I have seen one member of my realm make a pair of foam nunchaku... They were basically 2 pieces of pipe insulation filled with rice for weight. They were silly, goofy weapons that couldn’t deliver any kind of significant hit. Never made it to the battlefield.

Why can’t I use lassos or mancatchers?

Again, this is on the forbidden weapons list. Basically, they’re too dangerous. A lasso can go around someone’s neck real easy, wrench limbs out of joint, etc. A mancatcher can also make limbs bend in uncomfortable ways.

Can I make a Trident?

Yes, but be careful. There aren’t too many tridents out there right now for a few good reasons. First, they’re devilishly difficult to construct. Any design for any weapon that includes pipe joints will quickly break down, and it’s tough to come up with a design that doesn’t have those.

Second, you need to make sure the tines of your trident can’t catch themselves around peoples’ legs or arms. It’s a pretty dangerous situation none of us want to get into with a lot of potential for broken bones.

I have a really cool idea for a weapon that everyone should want to use! It would rule the field! Can I make it?

Check with your own realm, but probably not. One example that’s been bandied around a few times is the mace with a flail head. This one fails because the weapon is a flail – not a mace – and therefore any padding of the haft is courtesy padding, not a striking surface.

A good general rule of thumb to ask yourself is, "Why would anybody have any weapon other than this?" If the answer is "They wouldn't!" you’ve probably made a failing weapon. Examples... Why would anyone make just a flail if they could make a flail-mace? From earlier, why would anyone make a rock if they could make a throwing dagger?

This is why a lot of veterans are very skeptical any time a new weapon idea comes along. Usually it's nothing more than an attempt to find a loophole in the rules to make a killer super-weapon. If that's what your weapon is, it'll probably fail.

Can I make madu or attach weapons to shields?

Nope. Any given item is either a weapon or a shield; it can’t be both. You can make weapons with fairly large handguards, but they won’t count as a shield. They won’t block arrows and they can’t be broken. Most realms will fail for playability any handguard that’s as large as a shield is – try to keep it under 12” diameter (the minimum size for a buckler).

Yes, this includes shield spikes. They’ll be interesting decoration, but that’s it. Oh, and a madu is an item popular in some other foam fighting groups. It’s basically a sword or a spear attached to a little shield, usually held upside-down.

Can I make a double-ended sword?

At the time of this writing, the only allowable double-ended weapons in Belegarth are quarterstaves. Each end must be at least 18" long, the striking surfaces must be cylindrical, they count as blue and never red, and both ends must pass weapons check for stabbing. So, you can’t make double-ended swords, double-ended axes, double-ended spears, or any combination of the above. While there are some safety reasons for this, it's mostly a realism concern. (Heck, even a quarterstaff is pretty much useless on a battlefield full of heavily armored foes. The SCA uses them and very few of them turn up dead.)

Can I make a double-headed flail?

Again, this is primarily an example of a weapon designed to cheese the rules. The War Council at Armageddon 1 voted unanimously to pass a national rule that each flail can have one and only one hinge. That means no double-headed flails in any way, shape or form.

Can I make a scythe?

This is a real favorite question for newer fighters. The honest answer is that there's nothing in the rules which prevents anyone from using a scythe. Lots of us would love to see one. However, in a practical sense, a scythe presents an absurd number of construction difficulties. I've made tons of weapons, but the thought of making one frightens me.

The basic problem is that the blade is perpendicular to the haft. Mounting it on there is not as easy as you might think. Whatever method is used, especially if it's one involving PVC joints, would snap very quickly. I don't see a weapon like this lasting for much beyond a battle or two. An alternative option for the core would be to use a hockey stick. The second construction problem involves making that point safe. The end of that scythe moves at a very good clip because of all the torque. Given that it's tough enough to make safe stabbing points for spears, making a safe scythe-end is really intimidating.

All I can say on this one is "trust me." Don't make a scythe one of your first projects. Work with weapons and figure things out for a while - say, a good year. If by that time you're not aghast at the prospect of making a foam scythe, by all means go ahead and make one. And be sure to tell me how you made it work.

Are there siege weapons in Belegarth?

In general, the answer is no. Belegarth is generally a sport of skirmish-sized battles, not sieges. There are no national rules for siege weapons and I don't expect there ever will be.

As a whole, siege weapons create safety hazards above and beyond normal weapons on the battlefield. They're usually made of wood and metal. They have a lot of pointy bits to scrape someone up. And they have a lot of moving parts where the unwary could catch weapons, fingers, or limbs.

With that said, siege weapons have been used on the national field in specific scenarios designed for them. I remember a trebuchet being used at Rag XV during a castle battle. Great lengths were taken to make sure nobody got hurt; if I remember correctly, anybody who stepped within 10' of the trebuchet (other than the 2 operators) was declared dead. I don't think it turned out very useful in the end - after all, it was just flinging easily-dodged foam rocks - and it created a lot of confusion over the safety boundaries.

What would the point on a scythe count as? Green or red?

Good question. Many of you are probably wondering why you even need to ask - it's a big sharp pointy thing, so obviously it's green, right?

Wrong. Although this topic has been occasionally debated, the majority of Belegarth veterans would tell you that the point of the weapon is red, assuming the weapon is over 4' long.

Belegarth weapons are not their real-life counterparts. They're foam. And the Belegarth rules are simplified so that the class of a weapon is mostly dependent upon the way in which it hits you. A swung weapon is either blue or red. A thrust weapon is green. A missile weapon with a 'point' on it is yellow. There's no such thing as a swung green any more than there is a thrust red. The same logic works for little "points" at the tail ends of hammers or axes.

Finally, the concept of a swung green just makes the rules confusing. On a long weapon like a scythe, it's a disadvantage to the wielder. (If swung one-handed, it would do nothing against armor. If swung two-handed, it wouldn't break shields.) On a short weapon, it's a way to cheese the rules and make a small armor-penetrating weapon. (Goes through armor with 2 hands, even though it does nothing with one hand.) With a system designed for quick combat, the confusion added with a swung green weapon just muddies the waters. Realism takes a back seat to playability.

If you're not convinced it's confusing, imagine a mace with four faces. The maker has determined that two of the sides are "spikes" and thus do green damage. The other two sides are blue just like a normal weapon. Do you really want to worry about which side hit you in the heat of battle?

Why aren’t there any crossbows?

You can make a crossbow, but they’re far more limited than regular bows. For one thing, they have a 15 lb. maximum draw. Bows need to be half-drawn at ranges closer than 15’, and you can’t half-draw a crossbow. Most people have just given up with the time and expense and decided to go with a regular bow.

However, if you can find or make a working crossbow with that low poundage, more power to you! We had one in Wolfpack for a while and it was a wonderful little one-shot surprise weapon. It only shot about 15’ in most cases and hardly killed anyone, but it was really fun. Also note that a crossbow itself could provide some nasty safety concerns. A marshal may fail it if he or she feels the crossbow itself is unsafe to have on the field.

Can I make a Kama or Chinese twin hook swords?

Depends on the severity of the curve. A Kama is basically a hand held scythe, so see above. A Chinese hook sword would probably not last very long, due to the severe bend in the pvc you would have to make. Fiberglass probably isn't an option for that. Like any other curved weapon, like a Scimitar or a Kopesh, depending on where the tip is pointed, you can run into the same difficulties of a scythe: swung stabbing is very hard to safely pad. Also, you don't want to have a curve narrow enough to catch a limb in.

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