Category Archives: Do A Lot With A Little

Costuming Comfortably

I think one of the more important things people need to realize when they are putting together a costume is needing to be comfortable. Though a wise woman once told me, “Beauty is pain and pain is beauty,” this doesn’t always have to be your mantra when it comes to costuming. There are plenty of ways to go about looking good without constant chaffing or inability to breathe.

Bigger May Be Better:
When it comes to shirts and pants, you may want to take into account that you might be LARPing in colder climates, this means you’re going to want to put layers under your costumes (Unless of course you have a winter costume in mind for your character – furs and heavier cloths make great winter clothing). Bigger sizes allows a good number of layers to easily fit underneath. Now, I’m not saying that if you’re a size small, you should be running around in an extra large shirt, I’m saying that your costume should maybe be a medium, in this case, so that you can at least put thermals on under it.
On another note of bigger being better, we have to take into account that we change size naturally. What may have fit us last summer may have gotten a little tighter after stuffing our face during the winter holidays. If you’re going through puberty, those pants that were a tad baggy last year MAY be up at your shins and that shirt may not fit your chest! Unless you know of someone that can alter your clothes, you may want to look into bigger clothes if you plan on playing your character for long periods of time.

Sexy Clothes:
Ladies, I know you wanna look hot (You’re girls doing the whole LARP thing, trust me, that’s hot enough for most nerd guys) but sometimes it’s just not comfortable to subject yourselves to the cold or strains on your body just to wear a corset or bodice. Well, correctly made corsets constrict your breathing and your flexibility. In the words of Madam Everglot: “Get those corsets laced properly! I can hear you speak without gasping.” Combat characters are difficult to play when you are passed out in the middle of the field like something out of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. If you are going to play a barmaid, sure, wear all the corsets you want, but I suggest a waist cincher or a bodice if you are going to play a fighter.

Shoes:
BOOTS! And broken-in ones at that. ALWAYS break in your boots before LARPing in them. Loafers make great shoes as well.

Accoutrements: 
Metal studs and eyelets look great on a costume but the backs can cut you like a thug from Camden. Be careful when dealing with them. Try to put these fancier layers on the outside of a costume.

Jewelry:
Earrings and necklaces look great on people in general but unless you want to get yourself caught on a tree or your earring ripped out of your ear, you may want to hold back from wearing them. Rings are usually okay to wear.

Layers:
I talk a lot about being cold at a LARP because I AM ALWAYS COLD. Be sure that you have thermals or under armor without logos (see previous post). If you’re a girl wearing long skirts, wear pants underneath. If you’re a guy, put some thermals under your poet shirt. If it were real life, you’d be bundled up. It’s nooooo fun being cold and having to sit near the fire the entire event.

Layers, if you do it right, also look good. Good layering: Warm layer (thermals/under armor), costume shirt, vest/armor, furs, cloak. Fur wraps around your ankles look great, too (over pants of course)! For girls a good layering example could be: Under armor layer, costume shirt, cincher and/or vest, in-game looking coat/furs/cloak. Skirts can be layers upon layers, especially if they are different lengths and colors, and pants can be worn underneath.

Summer:
In contrast, have a summer outfit or at least a light layer that you don’t mind wearing in the summer. A nice flowing shirt and a skirt or loose pants. Tight clothes are the enemy in the summer as they prevent the breathing of your body.

Extra Clothes:
Sooner or later, you’re going to get wet at a LARP. Be it rain, snow, sweat, lake, swamp, kiddie pool, or slip-n-slide mod, you’re gonna find yourself uncomfortable for a good amount of time unless you bring extra skivvies. “Baylee, what the heck are skivvies?” Skivvies are your undergarments: panties/boxers, bras/camisoles/a-shirts, and socks. THESE AREAS CHAFE WHEN WET! ANNNNNND no one likes sitting in them wet for too long. It can even cause disease! Bring extras of these! Always!

Comfy Cloths:
I have to say one of the most comfortable and versatile cloths to LARP in is broadcloth. It is a cheap cotton cloth that comes in EVERY COLOR and makes for great breathable costumes in the summer and easy to layer in the winter, that is if you’re looking to make your own costume. Cotton shirts, if you’re looking to buy, are more easily bought than most other fabrics.
Fleece is a loooooovely fabric for lining the inside of your cloaks. I think EVERYONE should have a lined cloak, single layers are mostly pointless as they don’t hold as much heat… ’cause let’s face it, that’s really the only reason you should be wearing a cloak or cape… Otherwise, “NO CAPES!”
Wool is one of those fabrics that you either like or you don’t. I know of people that have allergies to it, so you have to keep that in mind, but wool costumes are great for winter and if you indeed like the feeling of wool, go for it.
If you’re looking to go fancy and not particularly combat heavy, satin or costume silk feels lovely, however it does not hold warmth.
There are a number of interesting cloths to work with that are, sadly, not very comfortable. Canvas and burlap are not comfy fabrics at all, thicker cotton sometimes chafes especially if you have nothing on under it. The back side of fake fur is VERY itchy, so I suggest lining it with something. Velvet and crushed velvet are very pretty, and everyone seems to make capes and cloaks out of it, but I suggest lining it if you are going to make something because it does not hold heat at all.
On an anecdotal note: I once played a character who was a stand in for the God of Death. Her costume consisted of a black corset, a knee length skirt, and 5 inch heels. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Baylee, you broke all of your rules.”  I know, shut up. She ever showed up thrice, so, it didn’t matter. Well, the one time, it snowed. Lemme tell you how miserable I was sitting in the snow in that get up. All the cloaks in the world would not warm me up. Moral of the story, don’t do what I did.
Now, I’m not suggesting to run around in sweats and slippers, but players need to keep in mind that temperatures, body types, and moods change. The last thing you want to be is awake and cranky at 4 in the morning with only a short skirt and tank top to wear in the snow. If you have one scene where you have to look good no matter what, that’s understandable, but an entire event of that is miserable. Don’t subject yourself to miserable.

LURVE!
Baylee

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Do It Yourself Campsite: A few simple prop ideas

Heylo, folks!  Let’s talk a little about the in-game look to your camp area.

Not everyone thinks to decorate their in-game area, and I fully believe that an in-game campsite adds BUCKETS to the feel of a game.  Sure, you don’t NEED to, and the people running the game will decorate certain buildings where you can hang out.  However, I feel that if everyone puts a little effort into their area, you can have an entire WORLD to play in, rather than go to bed in your out of game area after playing in the one decorated building.

Lighting

Lighting is a really simple way to make your site look in-game, especially at night.  A really few simple and cheap fixes include:

Replace the light bulbs in your cabin with red, blue, or green lights.  This immediately makes the building seem different, without having to hang things all over the walls.

Candles are super-useful, but always make sure that the game and the camp allows them.  Even if they do, make sure your candles are in safe glass/metal containers.  While tapers that are loose are neat looking, they are more likely to catch things on fire.  Try to be sure that all of your candles are safe.

Battery powered lamps can fix up things like tents, but make sure that they are covered with some sort of colored-clear tape.  This way it is not harsh white light, and it looks more like candle-light than anything.

Flags

A few well placed flags outside of your campsite make the place look more like a war camp than a girl-scout cabin.  These are easy to make and do worlds of good for a site.  Simply take a long cloth and fold it in half.  Cut a hole in the center of the fold so that a PVC pipe can fit through it.  Then get yourself some PVC and make a lowercase “t” shape, so that there is a tiny piece that sticks out the hole (this way the flag doesn’t fly off).

Decorate the flag with whatever you want (paint the PVC!) and stab it into the ground somewhere in the camp!

Wall Hangings

These can be as simple as a 5 dollar sheet from Wal-Mart, to as elaborate as a lovely wall hanging that you “borrowed” from grandma.  Tacking or stapling this up on the walls of your tent/cabin/pavilion will change the look of the place enough to help it feel in-game and period.

You can even paint something on your Wal-Mart sheet to make it more in game! Or leave it unpainted and sleep with it later!

Pens

I love my cheap feather pens, and I leave them EVERYWHERE.  They are really simple to make, and having them around a building adds just a little extra detail that will make people feel in-game in your camp, and think you are just super cool.

Simply take a regular, cheap pen and tape a feather to it.  Then take yarn and carefully tape or glue it to the pointy end of the pen (make sure you can still write).

I like to take the point and ink cartridge out of the pen, stick a small part of the yarn in the plastic tube, and then replace the point and cartridge, so that I don’t have to have tape.

Then simply wrap the yarn around the pen until you get to the top, where you tie it off around the feather.  If you want to reverse some tape on the tube of the pen so that the yarn is more stable, you can do that, too!

You can get detailed, like tying intricate knots all along the pen, but since I give these out like candy, I don’t have time.

Cups

If you don’t have your own cup for your camp, simply buy some clear plastic ones.  Make the effort to avoid Red Solo cups, because they just look red and out of game.  The little detail of a clear (and therefore glass-like) cup goes a LONG way towards making your camp not look trashy.

Plastic Water Coolers

Take one of those big orange water coolers and wrap it in fabric.  BAM!  Now you have a water cooler IN YOUR CAMP, and it doesn’t look trashy.  Thus: people want to hang at your cabin and drink water (yum) and it doesn’t look trashy.  Win-Win.

Bottles and Cans

Step 1: Don’t have them.

Step 2: If Step 1 fails, wrap them in duct-tape.  Then you have no red-bull cans sitting around, and it makes it a little more in-game.

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Believe it or not, it is the little details that can help put someone into the in-game mindset, and the little things that can jar them out.  (We had an article about immersion earlier, so I won’t harp.)  You don’t need large, expensive items to add to the in-game feel of the camp: the devil is in the details.

Hiding Logos on In-Game Gear

To continue the multi-article topic of immersion, today I would like to talk about brand names and sneakers, and the damage they do to your in-game image.

When you are an NPC, the occasional jeans or sneakers is quite all right.  Sometimes you just forget to pack black slacks and boots.  Everyone has done it, no harm-no foul.  We just kind of assume that NPCs are going to be in the less detailed costumes anyway, as they are probably working out of a bin, and someone already snagged all the good armor.

However, for players, the little things like seeing a brand name on your shoes can make someone forget that they are talking to an impressive mage.  Your image is everything, and you want people to know what you are.  If you have a football helmet on and have made no effort to make it look in-game, I am going to have a lot of trouble taking you seriously.  I just can’t bring myself to be afraid of someone called “Brigard the Barbarian” in Nike Hockey Gear.

Thus, today I have a few quick fixes for gear to make it look more in-game!  If you have any additional ideas, please add them in the comments section.  I love new things.

Armor

Sports padding, sneakers, jeans, and even gloves often look incredibly out of game, and there are really quick, simple fixes for all of them.

The answer, almost universally, is spray paint.  If you want it quick and dirty, hang your armor on a fence post two days before the game, and douse it with spray paint.

Ta-da!  No more Nike on your lacrosse pads (those are a thing, right?).

If you want to get a little more detailed, cut out a neat design from fabric, and glue it onto the armor.  If you do this with pleather, or perhaps even a shiny, metallic fabric, then your armor suddenly looks much less like padding and much more in-game.

Glue/sew some spikes on there.  Maybe cut and shape some cheap metal siding from Home Depot to fit over the bigger parts, so that the shoulders don’t look so rounded and foot-ball-y.  (Be careful with this.  Later I will have to post a tutorial on making safe metal additions to your armor.)

Shoes

As for shoes, try to get yourself some boots/sandals/moccasins that match your costume.  Most can be gotten cheaply at a local large-chain store.  If you can’t afford crappy 10 dollar shoes, or don’t want to WEAR crappy 10-dollar shoes, take a comfortable pair that you have, cut the sleeves off of a tee-shirt, and then tape the edges down to the sole of your shoe.  Wrap the top around your ankle, so that the sleeve covers the entire shoe, and tape it a little around your ankle, or tuck it into your sock.  There, you have hidden your sneaker, and at the low cost of a tee-shirt that probably has a stain on it anyway.

Jeans

There is no useful fix for jeans.  Try to remember your black pants.

Gloves

A lot of people like to wear sports gloves, because we are swinging pipes at each other in the dead of winter, and that hurts your hands sometimes.  Again, cover the logo!  If you can remove it without ruining the gloves, wonderful!  That takes a few minutes, and no money, and thus your outfit looks even better.  If you cannot safely remove it, slap some tape over it.  Sure, it is a quick, dirty, sort of ugly fix, but at least your gloves won’t have a football on them.

Slightly more detailed fixes include sewing patches on the gloves, painting over the logos, or adding pieces of metal.

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Your character stats can say that you are the Lord High Grand MurderFace of Death-ville…  Your outfit, however, says Adidas, Nike, and Hot Topic…  I have a few things to say about that…  First: brand-loyalty, dude!  Second: remember that other players don’t know what is on your sheet.  They can only see how scary you are by your appearance and your actions.  If you want to advertise that you are awesome, make sure that your costume reflects this.  There are very cheap ways of doing so, and you will be that much more badass.

Budget Treasure Chests

I love seeing treasure chests in game.  Whether they are hidden out in the camp, or just sitting around someone’s in-game area, I love to see them.

Sadly, getting pretty, finished treasure chests can be expensive.  So, I have a few suggestions for making some on a budget.

Pre-Made Boxes

You can get un-stained boxes from stores like AC Moore or Michaels.  I LOVE these, because they are durable, and look really pretty.  If you get one of these (5-10 dollars a piece) and stain them yourself, you can get a lovely effect without breaking the bank.

If you are a GM, and are going to hide these chests in game, remember to not only stain the outside, but to get the bottom of the box, and the entirety of the inside.  You may want to also put a water-proof lacquer finish, so that your chests will hold up to the elements.

Cardboard Boxes

If you don’t have the money to spend, or if you are a GM, and are concerned about weather destroying your props (or players not returning your props), then you can use shoe boxes.

Or, really, any boxes.  Cardboard boxes from clothes, electronics, or really anything that comes in a box can be incredibly useful as treasure chests.  Especially the shoe boxes with the hinged lids.

In this case, simply take the shoe-box and some textured spray paint from Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, or any craft store.  Coat the entire outside of the box, and then the inside, in a layer of appropriately colored spray-paint.  Then you can take silver or gold paint and daub on dots where rivets might be, or paint the corners of the box in a metallic shade to make it appear as though there are metal edges.

These will look in-game enough that they will add to your game world, and are cheap enough that a light rain will not set you back 50 bucks.

Cigar Boxes

I like cigar boxes, but I don’t smoke.  However, every now and again, players come to game with cigar boxes as treasure boxes, and they always look amazing.

With these, obviously you have logos to worry about.  Sometimes they are ornate enough that they can add to the game feel of the box.  If not, sand them off and re-stain the box.  You can also paint over them with acrylic paint, spray them down with textured spray paint, or, if you are really pressed for time, glue parchment paper or tin-foil over it.

If you want to get a few of these, check out your local cigar store, and see if they will let you take away some of their empty cigar boxes from their display cigars.  It never hurts to ask!

 

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There are plenty of ways to make little treasure boxes without having to spend a lot of money.  What other ways have you made treasure chests in your LARPing (or crafting) career?

Treasure Chests: God’s Gifts To Downtime

I have had to work with as few as 4 NPCs for an entire event before.  Because of this, I have had to adapt my events and behavior to be able to make those NPCs streach.  I want to write a series of articles about entertaining a LOT of PCs with VERY FEW NPCs.  So, without further ado, here is the first of my “Doing a lot with a little” articles.

Treasure Chests

I have to say, I LOVE putting treasure chests out for players to find in my game.  First thing on Saturday Morning, I send out the first NPC awake to set out treasure chests throughout the camp.

These are SO USEFUL to game-flow, and to breaking up the monotony of down-time.  If your players know that there are treasure chests out in the camp, they will be more likely to move away from your inn (tavern, main hang-out area, whatever) and adventure.  It also makes your players more able to entertain themselves, but still feel like they are interacting with the game world.

Get Them Out of Town

Often I hear complaints about PCs, and how they just congregate and don’t go out and look for adventure.  This shackles a GM, because you can’t really put out random encounter monsters, because there are no PCs to encounter!  If the PCs just hang out in town, you have two options for mod structure: attack town, or hook a mod.  You can’t just have players run into bandits, thieves, kidnappers or Jehovah’s Witnesses in the middle of the forest, because no one goes out to wander.

This is where treasure chests and randomly growing components come in handy.  If your players know that they will be rewarded when they leave town, then they are more likely to go wandering.

And because players are greedy, they will be more likely to go out in small groups, so that they don’t have to share treasure.  These groups are great to kidnap or just attack.

Make Them Entertain Themselves

You can get players out of town, and have them entertain themselves with this Easter Egg hunt.  It gives them something to do so that they are not bored!

You can also make the chests varying levels of difficulty.  Some can be trapped, some can be locked, and some can be enchanted.  You can make it so that it is a suspenseful crap-shoot when they open a chest!

Absolutely make use of the GM’s best friend in this case: Dominate.  Have one chest shoot out poison darts that drive the target mad with rage.  Now, now only are the players out in the woods on their own steam, but they are in the middle of a fight for their lives against one of their allies.

This keeps them entertained with ZERO NPC involvement.

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I have seen games with really intricate ceremony components, a large portion of which were tagged flowers.  They used fake flowers with tags attached, and would put the flowers all over the camp first thing in the morning.  This was amazing to interact with, because you could go for a walk and come back with a bouquet of flowers that gave you power and earned you gold.

If your game cannot afford the fake flowers, or your staff does not have the time to attach tags to all of them, treasure chests are your friend.  You just put your item tags (printed ones are common) into the chests and hide them about the game.

Remember: you don’t want to make them too difficult to find for two reasons:

1: It is disappointing for players if they can’t find them.

2: You have to go find them at the end of the event.

If you don’t have the money to buy wooden treasure chests, I have a few tips about how to make really budget treasure chests. Sometimes when you look at your budget, seeing your expensive treasure boxes get destroyed by rain is disheartening.  Thus: look into alternate ways to make them that cost little to no money.

Having budget treasure chests is good, because they can get destroyed by weather and not set you back too much money.

And, as my last suggestion: give your players a place where they can drop off your treasure chests.  Make it REALLY easy for them, or else you will never see your boxes again!

Let’s Talk About Gear!

bagI would like to take a minute to talk about your gear at an event!

Everyone has a set of in-game gear that they carry on them as they run around the woods, but what about the out of game gear!?

Well, what about it?

Let me tell you, my out of game gear has always come in handy.  I try to carry a number of things that would make (usually out of game issues) disappear.

Some of the more obvious ones include:

  • A Pen
  • A Lighter
  • A Knife
  • A Time Piece

These things are self explanatory.  But I will explain them anyway, just because.  You always need to write things in a LARP, and it is annoying to need a pen and no one has one.  Lighters are great for candles, cigarettes and fires, should you want to light a fire pit.  Knives are great for costume or prop malfunctions, or if you just need to cut paper or sticks.  And everyone always wants to know what time it is.  You will be the coolest kid in school if you know!

Some of the less obvious:

  • The most important thing on any list.
    The most important thing on any list.

    Needle and Thread

  • Small tube of Hand sanitizer
  • Some extra paper
  • Spool of strong string
  • Swath of scrap fabric in color with your costume
  • A pack of cigarettes (even if you don’t smoke)
  • Small flashlight
  • Roll of black Duct tape

Some of these seem kind of extraneous, and in the case of the duct tape, maybe a little bulky.  However, almost everyone I have seen in games carries a bag of some sort, and a half used roll should not be too heavy.

So, to explain:

Needle and Thread

Believe it or not, this has come up at least five times in my last two events!  Which is kind of crazy.  Wardrobe malfunctions can be a trouble, and being able to fix them immediately is nice.  I got to repair someone’s armor mid-battle (there was a small clarify, since someone lost their glasses).  If you keep the needle stored in the thread and keep the whole thing in a small pouch of your bag, it will be light and out of the way.

Small tube of Hand sanitizer

LARPing is so dirty.  How many times do you wash your hands?  Now, how many times do you put food in your mouth?  Think about that for a second.  Or if there is an injury and you get blood on you?  Usually, though, I use it for camps that don’t have running water near their out-houses, or in the winter when camps turn off their water.

Some extra paper

This can be in the form of a few folded sheets, or a little note-book/journal that your character keeps.  If you ever need to take notes, or write down a name or a clue, this is your man.

Spool of strong string

You want this to be thicker than thread.  Preferably something that you can use to tie things up in trees, or tie prisoners together, or tie extra gear to yourself (finding extra swords, or whatever) or setting in-game traps… Whatever.  A small spool of it should do!

Swath of scrap fabric in color with your costume

If you keep a swath of fabric on your person, you can use it for EVERYTHING.  I like to keep a black one with me.  It works for headbands, hand-cuffs, fake bandages, blindfolds, quick costume patches, actual slings (had someone wrench a shoulder once), wraps for sprains (I sprain my ankles every ten seconds), and even just a cloth to tie around a bunch of little gear that you need to carry.

A pack of cigarettes (even if you don’t smoke)

If you smoke, you probably already have this one.  I try to carry one with me because

A: all my friends smoke, and they get cranky when we have down-time and they want one

B: Some times, other people want a cigarette, and if you have them: TAA-DAA!  Now you have made a friend!  We LARP to make friends and have fun, so… That helps.

C: Maybe someone has something in-game that you want.  Maybe you can’t pay them with in-game coin.  And maybe they smoke… Just saying.

Small flashlight

People always lose their glasses at night.  Seriously: it is the ONLY time people lose their glasses.  However, that aside, while most people want to keep the game pure, and only use fire or special colored lights for the game-world, real-world emergencies need good light, and having it on you is always useful.

Roll of black Duct tape

This is great for fixing weapons, obviously, but also for injuries (splints, slings, sprain-support, even just big cuts, if you put some cloth under them.)  I go for black, because having a silver fix on a black weapon looks tacky, but a black fix on a silver weapon can be made to look pretty cool, pretty quickly.  Again, it is also pretty good for IMMEDIATE costume fixes.  (Ripped pants? Ducttape!)

All of these things can fit in a fairly small bag.  You can even work them into your costume.  My caster kept them all in a bag, but I have an engineer in a Steampunk game that wears them individually on a belt, cause it works for the character!

In case you forgot which was most important…

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Really, Duce tape can wipe out the need for needle and thread, and cloth.  But I like to have options!

And… I mean… If you really try, you can make it work a LOT of things.  We are LARPers after all:

Duct tape fixes everything.