So, moving on from the Lorien Trust – I’ve been trying to work out why the look of things is so important to me. The LT were clearly running a game that was being enjoyed by a lot of people, it just took a while to get my head around an attitude to costume that was so different from my own.
I want to run a game where people pull a t-shirt out of a box and play what it says on the front. You can reduce everything to the minimum and can run an entire event with phys-reps made with a label maker.
I’ve spent this summer working with make-up for Curious Pastimes. I went last year and at one event they had three different types of monster phys repped with grey snaz. I firmly believe that you need to make the changes you wish to see and so when they asked me to run monster make-up for them this year of course I said yes. It’s been interesting – and I’m getting quite proud of my undead make-up. I come from a LRP background and while good makeup is nice, it’s often more important to get people out in large numbers looking like a reliable token of the thing they’re meant to be.
I annoyed a lot of player monsters by insisting on painting the back of their necks and around their eyes. Eyes are really important. There’s a tendency to leave a circle around the eyes. However, this is one of the first places people look and if it’s not covered then there’s often little point applying paint at all. But I’m awful at remembering to paint peoples hands. Skin coloured hands really jar when I look at photos of them. The back of people’s necks is also an important one. If you only make up the face then you can’t see that they’re oddly coloured from behind (unless they have painted hands). A lot of people have been really supportive in making sure proper make up jobs get done. Some have been wearing snoods, hoods and gloves to counter the need to paint necks, hands and ears. They’ve been really accepting of two-three colour paint jobs that look a lot better. These details add texture and depth to the game world.
In an ideal world we’d be using a lot more prosthetics. But they are expensive, time consuming to apply and tend to be harder to clean off than just face paint. They’re also not often designed to be used for event after event. We sell prosthetics and masks that people use for years. To accommodate LRPers we tend to make them thicker than they would be for films where they are more likely to use a new cast for each application.
I like modern horror games because the setting is right. We can use a scout campsite as a scout campsite. We’re there for a reason that exists IC as well as OOC. The person that serves you when you stop for lunch is an amazing NPC. They’re totally committed to her role, and they don’t require a whole lot of briefing. As we move away from that there become more and more things you need to ignore. Bad makeup is the first one. Bad footwear is another that’s normally allowed. The rule about not allowing players to let themselves have a bad time trumps requirements to make things look IC. It’s worth putting effort into making things tie together as this limits the number of things your players need to ignore and while they’ll have fun whatever they’ll have a better class of fun if they’re not trying to overlook everything.
This doesn’t mean you should always strive for historical accuracy. Few games have an accurate historic basis and if you’re playing one of those then this obviously doesn’t apply. Fantasy should be inspired by history, not constrained by it. Stick within the brief – they’re often trying to get a coherent look and that fails if everyone starts ignoring things that they don’t like. Usually if you’re trying to look like a rat then the important thing is that you look like a rat rather than that you follow the rat-person rules to the letter. Those rules are there to stop people painting on some whiskers and claiming that makes them all rodent.
Coherent looks are awesome when it comes to the visuals of a game. The groups that look awesome are always the ones you can pick out from a distance. Where you can meet someone you’ve never met and know instantly who they are. If you want to be special you’ll need to go the extra mile, but as a group you can achieve the same effect for several people for a lot less. This is both useful and a massive hindrance for people running events. You can make up a set of tabards for a group of monsters, but once that plots done you’re left with recognisable sets of heraldry that have a lot of meaning to the people playing characters and so you can’t use them for anything else. It’s a big investment in kit that you’re stuck with and that becomes worthless to you for several years.
There should be a way to share kit between systems, but it usually goes into storage between events and requires a degree of organisation that people who run games just don’t have. Perhaps we could, as a hobby, be better at this.