Firefight

Modern and science fiction LARP in the UK.

Laser-Tag Equipment

A person in camouflage with Laser-Tag Pulse Rifle and sensor
A USCM rifleman with Laser-Tag M41A Pulse Rifle, shotgun carried on the back and head worn sensor

UKLTA events use a variety of props, weapons and equipment, but the core pieces of technology we use are Laser-Tag sensors and weapons. They provide an effective, safe way to simulate ranged combat while allowing for special effects such as poison or regeneration in some situations. As few LARP systems in the UK use equipment like this it's worth devoting some time explaining how it works at UKLTA events.

Weapons can be anything from a tiny holdout pistol that fits in the palm of your hand to full size assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles and so on. Weapon range is not strictly tied to size, a pistol can have the same range as a rifle but it may not be as easy to aim. Generally bigger weapons do more damage.

As is common in LARP, people own their own Laser-Tag weapons much as they do any costume they wear but in our games this also applies to Laser-Tag sensors. If you are new to our games we have a number of loan sensors and weapons that you can make use of.

Sadly, there is no commercial Laser-Tag equipment still produced compatible with the UKLTA system but a number of people in the hobby either make equipment for sale or you can build it yourself with a little help.

Weapon Safety

There are no real lasers used in our equipment, in fact they're deliberately banned. All our equipment uses invisible infra-red light signals, similar to that used by television remote controls. The signals are much brighter, despite being invisible to human eyes, while still being safe and allowing them to be picked up tens or hundreds of metres away.

Where we use other weapons, such as LARP knives/clubs, they will be professionally made LARP-safe items but as they are only used infrequently and to touch rather than strike participants we do not do explicit weapon checks.

Loan equipment

We don't expect new attendees to own their own Laser-Tag sensors and weapons, loan equipment can be made available at any game. Contact us or the game organiser directly in advance to ensure that enough loan units are available on the day.

If you're new to our events somebody will show you how to use the equipment and give you an opportunity to practice with it, but it's worth a read through the sections below.

Sensors

Every player should wear one of our Laser-Tag sensors on their head any time play is in progress. If you are unable to wear a head mounted sensor due to sensory issues it is possible for one to be worn on the body. You should make sure your sensor is switched on in play and not obscured, please see our general rules.

Sensors only weigh 75g so are not generally tiring to wear but they are easily tangled in your hair so it is sometimes worth attaching them to a hat or helmet, making them easier to put on and take off.

In most games, a player will have 3-6 'hits' and every time you are hit you will hear a sound from your sensor to warn you. Once all your hits are used your character is 'down' but generally not 'dead'.

Some weapons do 'stun hits' and will take you down in much the same way as other weapons. However they do no lasting damage and you will recover without intervention. Have a listen to the sensor sounds so you can tell the difference. The more stun hits you've taken the longer recovery takes.

Basic Sensor Use

We've recorded a few of the common sounds you will hear from the sensor.

Here is the manual to the Spartan DesignWorks TinyTag Data Sensor is the standard Laser-Tag sensor used in most of our events.

PDFSpartan DesignWorks TinyTag Data Sensor Manual

Weapons

Most, but not all, players will carry a Laser-Tag weapon of some kind. These vary from tiny holdout pistols to assault rifles, sniper rifles and sometimes odd alien weaponry. We've even had a techno-wizard's staff made into a Laser-Tag weapon.

With our DOT system, different weapons can have different effects, not just restricted to how much damage something does. Well constructed Laser-Tag weapons can hit anything you see, with effective ranges in excess of 200m in daylight, making for playable tactical combat.

Typically weapons do more damage the bigger they are.

Sometimes Laser-Tag is used in our games to emulate environmental effects such as radiation or poison. If this is the case your game organiser should have informed you so you are looking out for it. This was used to good effect in one of our 'Fallout' games to model 'rad zones'.

In many games, we also use the same tech for in-game healing, with a gadget called a SIAB which determines the severity of injury and cooldown time before you can return to play.

Basic Weapon Use

Most Laser-Tag weapons will have three controls. An on/off switch, a trigger and a reload switch. If you are using a loan weapon, make sure you are shown how to use these.

Spartan DesignWorks Pistol

Here is the manual to the Spartan DesignWorks pistol is a very commonly used weapon at most of our events. If you are offered a loan weapon it is likely to be one of these.

PDFSpartan DesignWorks Pistol Manual

Healing, SAMS, SIABs and BDCs

If your character is taken 'down' during a firefight, you need to recover before you can be active again. Being down doesn't necessarily mean you're completely unconscious, please roleplay this appropriately depending on the situation. Most characters do not 'die' in-game unless it is clear the situation is suitably dangerous and no 'medic' is able to attend to your character in a reasonable time.

Some weapons do 'stun hits' and will take you down in much the same way as other weapons. However they do no lasting damage and you will recover without intervention. Have a listen to the sensor sounds so you can tell the difference. The more stun hits you've taken the longer recovery takes.

If you're not just stunned you will need a 'medic' character to tend to you before you can recover.

Normally a 'medic' will tell you how severe your injury is and how long it is before you can become active again. After this time, reset your sensor to starting 'hits' as explained above and re-join the action. If the 'medic' uses a SIAB, your sensor will automatically reset. Our medical system usually expects players to be able to take part in the next 'section' of a game rather than have them 'down' for a long period.

In some of our events with a stronger roleplaying focus your character may need more involved 'surgery' to be able to re-join the game. This is to offer roleplaying opportunities and build tension. Sometimes you will have a permanent injury to roleplay, but this will vary by game and setting.

If you are playing a 'medic' or 'surgeon' character, your game organiser will tell you what medical system is in use and will normally supply everything you need in game. That's no reason not to make sure you have some great medical props of your own though, bandages, fake blood and so on make for great fun and add to the game.

Typically UKLTA uses a system called SAMS, or an electronic implementation of it in a device called a SIAB.

In events where 'surgery' is part of the rules there may be skill test the 'surgeon' has to do, similar to the child's game 'Operation' where you need to fish a small object from an awkward space with tweezers. In line with other skill tests in our games this is designed to increase tension but not be a barrier to enjoyment. If you will struggle with this test, please contact us and let the game organiser know.

SAMS

To decide how badly injured a character is many UKLTA games use SAMS, which uses tubes of the popular sweet Smarties as both a randomiser and limited resource. You draw a number of Smarties and the colours determine the result based off a table. You then eat or discard the Smarties.

PDFSAMS 2011

SIABs

As well as weapons and sensors, we often use something called a SIAB (SAMS in a box) this helps the 'medic' player by avoiding fiddly lookups on a table. Which can be a pain in the dark and wet. They also have the advantage of making your sensor automatically reset to full hits after the appropriate time so you don't have to keep track and do it yourself. Pay attention to what the 'medic' character tells you.

If you're playing a 'medic' character, make sure you are shown how to use your SIAB. There are also instructions available here.

PDFThe August 2018 edition of the SIAB User Guide

BDCs

Sometimes, if you are playing a character with unusual abilities such as a Replicant, Synthetic or crewing our games as a 'monster' like a Xenomorph it may be exceptionally tough, regenerate or so on. To do this, a BDC device will be used to program special settings in your sensor. If this has been done, please do not reset your sensor as these will be lost.

DOT

A plot from a logic analyser
The old WoW tag signal

You may see the phrase 'DOT' mentioned on these pages and in our documents. The Laser-Tag system used by the UKLTA is a proprietary development of the original 'Worlds of Wonder' one that now supports 'data over tag' to allow for varying effects, hence 'DOT'.

This is a major improvement over the original system but remains backwards compatible with it. Any older weapons that are not using DOT will do a single 'hit' in use.