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LARP: Live Action & Real Problems

Props, Costuming and Phys-Reps

by Jason Hosler
Mar 24,2005

 

LARP: Live Action & Real Problems

by Jason Hosler, Raging Gargoyle Games

Props, Costuming and Phys-Reps

Now that we've gone over setting up the groundwork for running a LARP, let's look at a few of the finer points about LARPing. The first thing I would like to go over is props, costuming, and phys-reps. From both the standpoints of playing a game and of selling a game to new players, the actual look of the game is vital. One of the major attractions of LARPing that you should be able to achieve a greater level of immersion in the character and the game world than you can achieve using just your imagination alone. Of course, until they perfect VR technology or functional Holodecks you're never going to be able to completely suspend your disbelief about a game, but the amount of time and care spent in making phys-reps and costumes can have a severe impact on how well the game aids in that suspension.

If you not interested in boffer LARPs go ahead and skip down a couple paragraphs to where I start talking about general costuming and such as this paragraph is dedicated to the subject of boffer weapons. There are three main construction methods for boffer weapons: Latex, Foampad, and Pipepad. Note that these are my terms for the methods and they may be called other things elsewere. Latex constructions involves coating your core (usually either graphite rod or narrow PVC) in a liquid or formed close-cell foam and then painting the weapon with liquid latex. The advantage to latex weapons is that they are typically lighter than either of the other two methods and weapons look much more realistic. The downside is that due to the ability to taper the blades out to a point, it is very easy to make the weapon outside of the safety specs for the game. Some latex weapons also breakdown quicker than their counterparts from other construction methods. This is the reason that my games elected not to use the fine latex weapons from Rampant Mouse. The points of the blades tapered to a point that we thought was unsafe for our game, mainly because we allow thrusting attacks. The swords that I got from Rampant Mouse were so light that they were nearly effortless to use.

Pipepad is the opposite of Latex, in that the weapons are very safe in any situation and sturdy under use, but they are heavy and not very realistic looking. Pipepad construction involves taking your core and wrapping it in solid close-cell foam (such as pipe insulation or funoodle foam) and then covering it with duct tape. The ends(blade and pommel) are padded to allow safe thrusting and to cover pipe edges. These weapons also have the advantage of price. It is possible to build a sword with this method for only $3! Most latex weapons will cost $10-20 in materials alone. Pipepad weapons are significantly heavier (usually) than a latex weapon. This makes them much more tiring to use.

Foampad occupies some middle ground between the two. Foampad weapons are made using a cut camping pad (like the rolled blue ones you see at WalMart) sealed around a pipe or graphite framework. These weapons can be cut fairly easily to look more realistic without being dangerously so. They are more expensive than Pipepad weapons but cheaper than latex. Most games will allow a well constructed Foampad, but with any of the construction methods you should verify the safety specs of your system before you start construction. Most games have at least one designated "Weaponsmith" that will show new players the proper way to build a weapon for the game.

Other types of phys-reps have to really be judges on a case-by-case basis. The atmosphere and setting of your game will be the major determining factor in what phys-reps are appropriate. Other than using common sense, my best advice regarding phys-reps is never turn down a free one. Unless the phys-rep is horribly, obviously anachronistic, take and keep it for when you come up with a plot that fits it. Some wonderful places to look for phys-reps are such various places as yard sales, art supply shops, and family storage units of your plot members. There are some rare cases where you know that you will have to contruct a phys-rep from scratch, of course, and you should always prepare for the eventuality that that situation will arise.

The costuming and wardrobe of your game is the overwhelming physical representation of the game world and thusly should be one of the most important things that you spend time on. Most games have a specified dress code of one form or another to encourage players to make costumes. Most of the games I've played in stipulated that such things as t-shirts with logos, jackets with logos or slogans, and blue jeans are forbidden from play and NPCs are strongly encouraged to wear only black. Unfortunately the downside of this policy is that, even when an NPC is in costume, it is easy for anyone to tell a PC from an NPC as the PCs will almost uniformly have better costumes since their's are reused by several dozen people over the course of an event.

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