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Live Blog Blood and Duct Tape: A Boffing Blog
Wryte2011-02-19 03:22:04

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What the Duct is Boffing?

Let's get this clarified right now: whatever "boffing" may be slang for in England, in the context of this blog it means "beating your friends senseless with foam-rubber swords." There are, of course, a few more nuances to the game than that, but this is the core of the sport.

If LARPing is the SCA's grandson, then boffing is LARPing's little brother who doesn't care about the roleplaying and just wants to hit people with padded sticks.

At its root, boffing consists of two players wielding boffers fighting one another. Additional players can turn the fight into a free-for-all, or be organized into teams in any manner. Army versus army, several squads in a melee, two-man team against every other two-man team, etc, but it hardly has to end there. I've recently been introduced to zombie boffing, in which only one team is armed, and the other team, consisting of "zombies," whittles away their numbers by tagging humans, which itself has several variations of game type.

But for the first entry, let's stick to the basics of a one-on-one duel.

What you'll need:

  • Two boffers.
  • An open space.
  • A friend who doesn't mind getting beaten with a PVC pipe in exchange for the chance to return the favor.

Hold up a minute, "boffers"? I've used that word a couple times now, but what the heck does it mean? Simply put, a boffer is any boffing weapon, with the most common variant being a sword. These weapons are the whole crux of the game, and the item you're least likely to have laying around the house. Fortunately, that's easily remedied.

To the Hardware Store!

We'll keep it simple for the first installment and make a pair of two-handed swords. To make our swords, we're going to need seven things:

  • 3/4" PVC pipe. This stuff is sold in ten-foot lengths, so one piece will suffice for both boffers.
  • 3/4" foam-rubber pipe insulation. You're going to want almost enough to cover the PVC pipe completely from one end to the other twice.
  • Duct tape. One roll will do.
  • A saw, if you don't already have one at home. If you don't, a simple hacksaw will work just fine. This is for cutting the PVC pipe.
  • A file, or sandpaper. This is for smoothing the ends of the pipe after cutting.
  • Scissors. You probably already have these at home. They're for the pipe insulation (If you can't tear the duct tape by hand, what business do you have trying this in the first place?).
  • A marker. I like Sharpies.

Cut the pipe in two equal halves and file the ends smooth, then cover them with a layer or two of duct tape. This is to ensure that the pipe won't wear through the insulation with use. Next, find a hand position that feels comfortable for holding the sword. With a five-foot sword, your hands will probably end up with between 6 and 10 inches between them, with one hand a few inches above one end of the pipe, like so:


Mark the outsides of your grip with the Sharpie, then slid a piece of insulation down the pipe from the far end until it reaches the mark for your top hand. Ideally, the insulation will extend about 3 inches past the end of the pipe. If it doesn't, add another piece of insulation, and in either case, cut the insulation back so that it extends about 3 inches past the end of the pipe. Tape the insulation down to the pipe at the lower end to hold it in place, then slip another piece of insulation over the other end of the pipe, matching it to your lower hand mark, and cut it off at least 1 1/2 inches from the end of the pipe and taping it in place where it meets your mark. Fill both ends with any scrap foam, but don't stuff them too full, then tape the ends shut. Try not to compress the foam when you do so, as this would make the sword hurt more when stabbing.

The longer piece of foam is now the blade of the sword, while the short end is the pommel. The uncovered pipe is your hilt.

You should have about half your insulation remaining. Measure the remaining insulation against you blade and cut it to the same length, then cut it in half length-wise. Place one half on either side of the blade and tape them in place. These double-layered sides are the striking surfaces for your boffer, the cutting edges of the sword - though some groups will let you get away with only one layer of foam on a striking surface, most require at least two, and three is even better. All that's left now is fine-tuning. Lift the sword and give it a few swings. If the blade end feels much heavier than the pommel end, add more foam to the pommel to balance out the weight distribution.

Now that you're equipped, here are your basic rules:

Safety (these rules are non-negotiable):

  • Pull your swings. Even covered in foam, you're still swinging a piece of pipe at your buddy, and it can hurt. Don't hit your friend any harder than you'd want to get hit, especially if you're using fewer layers of padding.
  • No head or groin attacks. Strikes to the head or groin don't count.
  • No throwing of weapons.

Gameplay (these rules are negotiable):

  • Glancing blows don't count.
  • Strikes on an arm or leg cut off that appendage. A player can remain standing and even walk, but cannot run if they lose a leg. Losing both legs reduces a player to sitting on their knees. Likewise, lost arms cannot hold weapons.
  • Strikes on the hips take out both legs at once.
  • Strikes on an arm that has already been lost carry through to the torso.
  • Strikes on the torso are deathblows (a common variant is to allow hit points for torso blows).

Now that you have the basics, go forth and slaughter!


Feb 19th 2011 at 3:04:46 PM
This seems kinda like backyard Dagorhir, especially with the rules.
Feb 20th 2011 at 1:28:39 PM
This used to be (And may still be, when summer comes around again) my gaming group's exercise program. Run around in the nearby park and beat each other with foam weapons.

My one friend always likes to dual-wield, while I prefer to two-hand it.

I've also seen axes and clubs made in similar styles. Many years ago, my friends tried other weird weapons, such as a flail (The rope was deemed too much of a risk) and arrows. As in, find a thin stick, whittle it down, (keep the end bluntish) and wrap a big wad of foam over the end... And then shoot it out of a bow. This probably wasn't very safe, really.

I've also LARPed a few times with spell packets and what-not. Still got some pictures of me in full getup floating around out there.
May 21st 2012 at 1:19:24 PM
I've been boffing for nearly six years now. Awesome fun. We have an yearly event of 500-600 fighters (pics: [1] can't find info on it in English, but if somebody is interested I can gife a more detailed explaination). I generally fight with a shield and sword combination.

As in, find a thin stick, whittle it down, (keep the end bluntish) and wrap a big wad of foam over the end... And then shoot it out of a bow. This probably wasn't very safe, really.

In larger events those likely wouldn't be allowed, but with a small group I guess injuries are less likely. Though you might like to look up the proper way to make boffer arrows online.