Boffer Creation Guidelines

Our main concern in weapon construction is always safety. The weapon construction guidelines are here to provide the safest possible weapons. However, no weapon is perfectly safe if used incorrectly. Safe weapon use is equally important to safe weapon construction.

The guidelines below should provide a safe weapon if followed correctly. However all weapons must be checked at every event, as use, time, and the elements can render any weapon unsafe, no matter how well it's constructed.

Weapon construction requires some practice, and it is likely that your first few attempts could be rejected by the Safety Marshal. Be sure to bring extra weapon building materials with you so that you can repair your weapon in order to get it passed.

Simple weapons are generally made with a PVC pipe core covered with pipe foam. Alternative cores made of fiberglass, graphite or carbon such as fishing poles or kitespar can also be used, at the discretion of the Safety Marshal, and light aluminum can be used for some two handed weapons. Aluminum is not flexible enough for shorter weapons, and has a tendency to bend in weapons with a large head. Experiment and use discretion when choosing alternative cores, as a weapon should flex slightly, but not whip, and not bend significantly with use.

Heavy aluminum pipe, steel, copper, any other metal, and wood can never be used as a core in weapon construction. This includes the use of a dowel inside thin PVC or CPVC.

All protruding ends must be rendered safe with open cell foam and be larger than an eye socket. This includes the front tip, the pommel, and any protrusion (such as axe or hammer heads and spikes). Even if the weapon is not meant to be thrust or swung butt end first, the padding is especially important should a weapon be accidentally knocked out of the wielder's hand.

Every other section (less an appropriate grip) must be covered with pipe foam insulation, usually at least 5/8” diameter, and either duct tape, kite tape, or fabric. Most people prefer duct tape (it's readily available, comes in a wide variety of colors, and easiest to work with). Kite tape is lighter, however it doesn't wear as well, and needs to be replaced more often. Fabric coverings require some knowledge of sewing, but with practice, can provide a durable and unique weapon. Note that even with kite tape or fabric, some duct tape must be used in holding the weapon together. Trouser socks or stockings pulled tightly over the weapon and taped into place also work well without any sewing.

A reasonable sized grip, usually a maximum of 2 hands' width, and no more than 1/3 of the weapon is the only part of the weapon that need not be padded with foam. However, an unpadded grip is not necessary.  In some cases (staffs, for example) a grip need not exist at all, and in others, a different type of tape (optionally compressing the foam, slightly) is sufficient. Some variety of grip is suggested with most one-handed weapons, but the type of grip is up the the player, provided the weapon cannot easily slip from the wielder's hand.

Constructing a Simple Weapon

When making your contact safe weapon, consider the following items:

  1. Safety: Safety is always first. You will usually be hit repeatedly, and quite possibly hard by accident, by any number of other combatants during a fight at Dystopia Rising.

  2. Durability: You want to build a weapon that will last. Crafting a durable weapon will ultimately save you time, money, and, most importantly, aggravation. Design your weapon so that it is safe and will not break during an event.

  3. Looks: Dystopia Rising is a game based on post apocalyptic survival. The majority of people do not carry around swords, but instead items like fire axes or baseball bats. Use colored tape and large amounts of open cell foam to ensure your weapon is not only unique to you, but also adds to the role play of others.

Materials you will need:

  • Duct tape

  • Open cell (soft) foam

  • 3/4" diameter PVC pipe

  • 5/8" wall thickness foam pipe insulation or pool noodle

  • Alternate tape for grip (optional)

Tools you will need:

  • Saw or pipe cutter (to cut PVC)

  • Small, sharp knife (e.g., X-acto knife, utility knife, or razor)

  • Electric carving knife (completely optional, but the best way to cut intricate shapes in open cell foam)


  1. Cut a length of PVC to about 3-4" shorter than the desired total length of the weapon (the foam tips at both ends will make the difference). File or sand the edges of the cut pipe until smooth.

  2. Mark on the PVC where the grip will be and cut a length of foam pipe insulation to cover the rest of the weapon. The insulation should be cut long enough to extend 1/2" beyond the end of the PVC. Wrap a loose spiraled band of tape (rolled on itself to be double-sided) around the PVC where the foam will cover it (this will prevent the foam from twisting or sliding up the core when swung).

  3. Open the pipe insulation, and secure over the PVC (leaving 1/2" extending beyond the end of the pipe). Make sure the inner diameter of your insulation is correct, or the foam with gap when closed around the pipe.

  4. Secure the bottom end of the foam with a piece of duct tape wrapped once around the bottom of the foam. Slitting the tape vertically with allow it the lay fat on the grip, or twisting it will work but look more rough-hewn.

  5. Stuff a compacted piece of foam or pipe insulation into the hole at the end of the pipe and cover it with a piece of duct tape that extends at least 2 inches down either side of the tip. This will help prevent the PVC from poking through the foam-thrusting tip.

  6. Cut a 2-3 inch cube of open-cell foam for the thrusting tip. These work perfectly well square, or can be trimmer slightly to provide a rounded point. Do not trim excessively, as safety is far more important than appearance at this point. A hole saw can also be used to cut more perfectly rounded thrusting tips.

  7. Tape this to the end of the weapon using as little tape as possible and compressing the cubes as little as possible. Generally one piece around where the pipe foam meets the tip one piece over the top. Exposed foam will be covered later, when the head or blade is affixed. The completed tip needs to be soft but not bend over. This is the most difficult part of making a weapon, and it is the most likely place for the weapon to become unsafe. All weapons must have this tip, even if the weapon is not designed to stab.

  8. If the weapon should have a cross-guard or hilt, you will affix it now. Sculpt either another piece of foam (with no PVC) or some open-cell foam as a cross piece. Slide it over the hilt end of the weapon and attach it with some duct tape to both the foam "blade" and the PVC.

  9. Sculpt any cutting edges, protrusions, or chopping sections out of open cell foam. These portions of the contact safe weapon may not contain any PVC. This is where the electric carving knife comes in handy. For this example, we'll make a sledgehammer:

    • Start with a 4” x 4” x 8” block of open cell foam.  Trim the 4 long corners, to create an octagonal cylinder.  Either cut a hole in the center of the long side, slightly smaller than the outer diameter of the pipe foam, or cut the block in half lengthwise, and create to hollows to lay along either side of the pipe foam.

    • Slide the head up from the bottom of the weapon (so as not to disturb your thrusting tip (or lay the 2 halves on either side of the weapon) and position so at least your 2” tip protrudes beyond the head, and rotated so they cover the strip of tape that holds on the tip.

    • Lay the weapon on it's side. With one long piece of tape, more than twice the length of your pipe foam section, lay the tape up one side of the whole weapon, over the tip, and down the other side.

    • Continue placing strips of tape, overlapping 1/8” to 1/4”, to cover the entire hammer head. Trim any folder tape corners.

    • Do not condense or squeeze the foam down into shape, as this reduces the safety of the item.

  10. Cover the edge of the weapon with long strips of duct tape, running from the hilt to the tip. Do NOT spiral the tape. If done correctly, most of the weapon will have only one layer of tape.

  11. Wrap one strip of tape around above and below the head.  This will help hold the head in place, and prevent it from sliding up or twisting.

  12. Cut another section of foam pipe insulation to fit below the grip, following all the same directions as above, including the 2” open cell foam tip.

  13. Spiral wrap (and this is the only time you ever spiral wrap anything) a tape of your choice around the exposed PVC on the grip.  This can be pretty much any tape of your choosing. Duct tape will work in a pinch (you already have it), but there are many better choices. Hockey tape provides an excellent grip, as does tennis racket tape. Some people like to wrap their grips with leather cord.  Your choices are nearly limitless, and based almost entirely on personal preference.

These same techniques, with minor adjustments, can be adapted to make just about any melee weapon, from hammers and axes, adzes, a baseball bat, or even a two-by-four with a nail in it (granted, no real nails should ever be used).

Be creative, follow these directions and our safety guidelines, and be as creative you you can.  But, be aware, the more complicated the item, the more things to go wrong, so bring a back-up like a simple hammer, in case your complicated chainsaw doesn't pass the first time.

Weapon Guidelines

  • 5/8” foam insulation is the minimum for any weapon.  If 5/8" foam is not available two layers of thinner foam may be used if the combined thickness is greater than 5/8”, and the seams meet when closed.

  • All weapons must be fairly rigid so as not to act as a whip when swung quickly. Because of this rule, ½ inch PVC tends to be unacceptable for weapons over 32 inches long, and all items over 18” must have some sort of core.

  • The foam should be taped lengthwise, using 2 inch wide duct tape and overlapping about ¼ inch. This will use the least amount of tape, keeping the weapon light and safe.

  • Vinyl electrical tape has less give than duct tape; however, it is acceptable for use in non-contact areas of the weapon as decoration or grips.

  • You may also choose to cover your weapon with cloth after it is completed (all foam still secured with duct tape. You should keep in mind that it is a weapon and not use paisley prints or other silly colors. The cloth should be sewn very tightly and not be a loose covering.

  • Under most circumstances, a weapon tip should not bend more than 6 inches from true when a moderate weight is applied to the tip and the grip is held level.

  • All weapons must also have some give when contact is made, and the pipe should flex somewhat. If the pipe does not flex, then you may be using a core that is too thick, too big, or is an unacceptable material.

  • Weapons may not have any cords, strings, or moving parts.  No part of a weapon can be designed to intentionally or unintentionally trap or hook another weapon. Bows and crossbows are not repped with a string.

  • Weapons with protrusions must ensure these protrusions are at least larger than an eye socket.

Reasons your Weapon may Fail

  • If the pipe insulation on the shaft is too compressed, or less than 5/8” thick, the weapon will hit harder than desired and will fail a weapons check.

  • One common mistake is to use foam of a smaller diameter than the pipe being used, forcing the foam over the pipe. This makes the weapon too hard.

  • Another common mistake is to wrap the duct tape around the foam too tightly, or even in a spiral pattern up the blade. This tends to make the insulation too stiff and gives unwanted weight. The insulation should slide easily over the pipe, but fit snugly so that the weapon will not rattle if the pipe is shaken.

  • If there is less than 2” of open cell tip at either end, or any protrusion that isn't made of open cell foam, or is the core can be felt at either end, the weapon will fail.

Contact Safe Shields

A shield should be safe - for the person using it, her opponent, and any other items involved in the melee.

Shields may be made of any material the builder desires, as long as the edges are protected and padded on all sides by 5/8" pipe foam (the same kind used in making your weapon) and have no sharp protrusions.

A shield should be under the control of its bearer at all times, and should not fly loose in combat. A garage door handle and a strap system on the back will do this nicely, allowing for fine control while allowing for ease of use.

Shields need to have no sharp protrusions or edges, and must never be used as an aggressive weapon.

Decoration of a shield is highly encouraged, for both RP and atmosphere purposes - your shield should be easily recognizable from across the battlefield.  If your shield is improvised in character, or made out of scrap, be sure to paint or decorate it in such a way that it looks recycled. Remember that this is not a high fantasy game, and does take place in a modernistic society. Painting shields to appear like different street signs is a nice touch.

Shields should not be more than 9 feet squared in total area. This can generally be considered by not being taller than your shoulders when placed on the ground in front of you and not to extend over a 2ft left and right across your body. The traditional tear drop shield appropriately sized for the used generally meets this maximum.

Contact Safe Clothes and Armor

Armor and shields must be designed to not only be safe to run in, but also designed so that if your armor or clothes is struck with a contact safe weapon it will not be damaged. Metal spikes, sharp corners, and pointed edges need to be avoided when making armor or costume to ensure your safety and the safety of others. Clothing and armor should not only be appropriate for the nationality and profession you are portraying, but also safe for you to wear for a camping weekend.

Armor must be created in game, and the number of armor points assigned to a piece of armor is determined when an item card is assigned. Be sure to be imaginative with your armor!

Making Packets

Packets are home made bean bags used to represent bullets, prayers, or psionic effects. They are designed to not only be safe to throw, but also safe for the environment.  Our packets use a six inch square of natural fabric filled with a spoonful of birdseed (parakeet seed works best, but other seeds are acceptable, as long as you pick out the large and pointy seeds).  The packet is then closed by tying twine or wrapping a thin rubber band around its midsection leaving the seed on one side of the knot and a plume of fabric on the other.

The finished packet should be about 1 1/2” around, and flexible.  Excessively large or small packets (packets that will fit in the eye socket), will be flagged by Safety Marshals, and should be disposed of, or refilled to a proper volume.

Packets are thrown safely, and should never be ‘wound up’ to throw.  Packet throws follow the same rule as our melee combat, and that is to never reach back beyond ninety degrees.

Different packets have different meaning, and you should make your packets accordingly.

  • Bright Red Packet - Bullets

  • Blue Packets - Arrowa

  • Natural White Packets - Psionics and Prayer Effects

  • Bright Green Packets - Poisons and Radiation

  • Black Packets - Silenced Attacks

Contact Safe Firearms and Shooters

Certain toy manufacturers produce foam projectile weaponry style toys that can be used in place of packets for firearms. These weaponry style toys offer a degree of style to game that does add to the overall feeling of the Dystopia Rising experience. There are certain things that need to be taken into account if choosing to use contact safe projectile weapons instead of packets.

  • Any contact safe firearm toys must fire completely soft projectiles.

  • All contact safe firearm toys must be single shot or revolver, but can not be battery powered. Shooters that are Master Crafted in-game may be considered for use with battery power.

  • All contact safe firearm toys must be safety checked at entrance.

  • All contact safe firearm toys must be able to fire different colored ammunition as per packet color code listings.

  • You must enter and leave the event with the same number of contact safe projectiles to ensure all non biodegradable shots are accounted for.

  • While any number of packets are allowed to be held by players only 20 non-biodegradable projectiles can be held at any time.

  • All projectiles, packets or foam darts, must have the membership number written on them.

  • Packets must be used in lieu firing foam darts within 10 ft of the target.

Weapon Types and Dimensions

  • Melee Weapon, Small: 12” to 21” overall, standard construction rules apply, although weapons under 14” can have no core, provided they do not bend or whip.

  • Melee Weapon, Standard:  18” to 39” overall, all standard construction rules apply.

  • Melee Weapon, Large:  36” to 53” overall, all standard construction rules apply.

  • Melee Weapon, Two Handed:  50” to 63” overall, all standard construction rules apply.

  • Thrown Weapon:  12” max overall, no core, primarily made of open cell foam.

  • Thrown Weapon, Javelin:  12” to 50" overall, no core, 2” thrusting tip at either end.

  • Bow:  50” max overall, built to standard construction rules, with a small central grip, core can be curved with heat, as long as it doesn't kink.

  • Firearm:  Contact Safe Firearm toy, or Small Weapon under 14”