New LARPing group gives students chance to enter the battlefield

Bruce Walton

Duelers stand just a few feet from your opponent. With stances set, they both grip their weapons tight enough to control, but loose enough to shift and maneuver. They circle each other, looking for an opening, trying to predict their next move. At the golden moment, one of you catches any opportunity to strike and lunges at them, while the other must block and parry to gain advantage.

These are just some of the first few moments of sparring at the newly-established Kent State Foam Fighting Society. The club is an organization for Live-Action-Role-Play or LARP. The sport they usually play is called Dagorhir, a full-contact sport using weapons and fighting styles similar to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. 

How to play

The sport combines fast-paced, full-contact combat simulation with elements of live-action role playing. The weapons allowed resemble medieval swords, shields, spears, axes and other weapons made from soft foam layers bonded to a rigid core.

The combat involves contestants swinging their weapons at one another. To damage the opponent, the contestant must be able to hit their torso, legs and sometimes the feet, but never from the neck up. In addition to the weapons, “garb” is usually required, which are described by as “a tunic, shirt, dress, or vest of crotch length or longer.” 


Origins of the Foam Fighting Society

Freshman accounting major Todd Stipe said he’s been practicing this sport for about 18 years, and he at least likes to think he’s been doing well. The idea to start the organization came when he and a few others from the local LARP community decided to make a group on campus.

“The reason I came about doing this is to one, grow the sport and two, it helps teach people respect for other people no matter what gender they are, what color they are, what nationality,” Stipe said. “Because when you pick up a foam sword it doesn’t matter what the other person looks like, you’re both there to win.”

Stipe said he wants to make sure that the Foam Fighting Society preserves the notion of respect for who people are and that anyone can join and be involved.

Before this club, Stipe said a LARP organization on campus a few years ago called Rotharin, but the organization had a falling out due to fights within the group, and that’s something he doesn’t want to happen to the Foam Fighting Society. To make sure of this, Stipe has made sure that every member has a voice and respect in the group.

“I intend to have this as an open democracy, which may or may not work,” Stipe said. “But everything will be discussed within the group of people who choose to be a part of this. Everything will be planned out with them.”

With some exceptions of officer business meetings, almost every direction the group will be determined by every member. 


Role playing

Although LARPing has a lot of action, the other half of roleplaying is optional. As described, LARP society usually centers around J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy Middle Earth, and many in the community enjoy LARPing for living out their fantasies as another warrior.

Elizabeth Whetstone, a junior computer science major and historian for the Foam Fighting Society, has been practicing Dagorhir for a little more than a month. She joined after seeing people practicing on campus before and decided to help and said she loves roleplaying the most.

“I think it’s a great community, there’s a lot of people. It is a great workout, it’s a lot of fun to fight but I like the role-play aspect.”

Whetstone usually plays a character named Bahyak, a half-elf/half-dragon pirate where she said she has a lot of fun playing the part of a different character.

“You can do anything from just having a first name to having entire backstories. You can have places you’re from, places you’ve gone to,” Whetstone said. “I like the idea of getting to create a character and getting to drop into that persona and be a part of the idea of that world.”

She’s also seen other role-players through different community events of orcs, elves, dwarves, etc.

The structure of roleplaying in LARPing, she said, has a very loose idea for just acting on the spot as your own character. 



The Foam Fighting Society has been practicing on the student green around noon on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Nathaniel Hedington, junior anthropology major, first started demonstrating on the student green with Dagorhir to promote his own LARP group, Nardu N’Azul, which is translated in Elven to “Warriors of the East.”

Stipe said he had the idea to demonstrate since last year, and with both of their goals aligned, they formed the Foam Fight Society to demonstrate as a campus club. Stipe said it’s been bringing a lot of needed attention for new recruits. Stipe said members have been joining every week and he’s glad to have them.

Kent State Foam Fighting Society from on Vimeo.

Ian Hogan, a graduate pure mathematics major, said he was looking out his window last week and saw members sparring on the green. Hogan has been practicing Dagorhir since 2008.

“I had the armor in my office and saw them fighting and was on my way to the gym and said, ‘Oh, this will work out,’” Hogan said.

Hogan said he loves playing because of the physical benefit from Dagorhir and for the fun of it, but he soon knew what else he could achieve from the same kind of motivation.

“I started with Dagorhir and I mostly just got hit a lot,” Hogan said. “Eventually getting fit was motivation to getting hit less frequently because it’s more fun when you’re hitting the opponent. Eventually you start doing push-ups and running and stuff and then down the road, I was just doing fitness for fitness’ sake, but I started with Dagorhir so it’s a lot of fun, that’s all there is to it.”


Stipe said safety is something he makes sure is always in every aspect of the club, since there are so many ways members could get hurt. Every foam weapon used in their practice sessions are carefully inspected for every safety standard. All weapons must weigh 12 ounces and pass the hit-test.

The hit-test is a tradition where the tester swings at their leg as hard as they can. If their leg stings for more than seven seconds, it fails the test.

Any new members who want to practice must meet other requirements to even get on the field. All participants must sign a waiver, giving full responsibility of injury to themselves and not the organization, officials, or the school.

Any member is allowed to join, the only exception being they be 18 years or older.

“If some 17-year-old comes up and gets hurt, I am legally liable for what happened to that child and I can’t legally allow someone in that situation,” Stipe said. “They could be five year vets of martial arts or three different types but without the legal backing, I can’t let them pick up these weapons because, yes, we try to be safe as much as we can but accidents happen and I don’t want some kid hurt.”

Safety has always been a main concern, and although all students 18 or older are welcome, Stipe warns that anyone causing trouble or acting too violent won’t be there for long.

“In conflict with our general constitution, if we feel that you’re a danger to others, we will ask you to leave, period,” Stipe said. “And that will include a full refund in any dues you’ve paid or anything. Because we’re here to be safe, if we feel that you’re not safe, we don’t want you.”

The organization’s highest priority is safety, however, fun is a very close second. 


Goals and the future

Because of the democratic structure the Foam Fighting Society has, Stipe said he can’t really say what will come next for the organization, since it all depends on what most members want.

He does have ideas for the club to attend or host their own LARPing events, as well as get the name out for the club and find an indoor space to spar during bad weather. Stipe has already wanted to help members connect with other local LARP organizations like Nardu N’Azul, Amtgard and Nero.

“I have no expectations for (The Foam Fighting Society),” he said. “I just hope to enlighten people to its existence and give a way for people to have fun and relieve stress.”

Contact Bruce Walton at [email protected]