We accept compromise. Most events will struggle to have perfect kit for all their monster roles. Empire does this a lot better than most and they don’t have perfect kit. They just try to have the best kit they can have. They aspire to having perfect kit.
When we run events we try and provide the best kit we can for our monsters, but given we’ve taken £80 per person and paid £20 of that straight for accommodation and £15 for food, then more to van hire, insurance and all the other little costs that come with running an event and that you don’t expect to eat up your remaining budget. We clearly can’t be spending too much on our NPC clothing. We will spend a fortune on some of our NPCs and because of who we are and where our interests lie that will probably be our monsters. We at Mandala Studios build good monsters.
A lot of our costume for Dark Hearts has ended up in the Profound Decisions kit store. We made robes for the town guard out of 50p a metre plastic upholstery fabric in grey or orange/red, and added fake fur trim. They’re remarkably warm, and probably coated in fire retardant. They won’t rot between events. They’re not good costume, but have proved to be adequate to provide a coherent look for a group of NPCs – which is half the battle. Visually they looked right even if you did get the odd static shock from them.
Tunics come in a wide variety of shapes that give a wide variety of looks that are often key to getting the right atmosphere for an event. We wanted a dark fairy tale eastern European style with Dark Hearts so went for tunics that flared from the shoulders with no waist. that came to between mid thigh and the knee. They have a lot of fabric below the waist which hangs nicely and gives the right visual effect.Plain white cotton is cheap and they were really easy to make. We added bands of bright red fabric and embroidery which meant they had a fairly unique look that suggested the correct styles. We made about 8 for about £20 and 3-4 hours.
Did anyone notice? I really don’t know. I suspect they didn’t ever actually think “The style of the tunics the NPCs are wearing gives the event the right feel”. If it’s done right then it should be an entirely subconscious thing. I may also have damaged the effect as I managed to get stuck at the opposite end of site to the monster kit and hence was wearing a different tunic when time in happened (I fixed that by the next morning).
We’ve been known to draw embroidery on with a sharpie if no one is going to get a close look at it. This works in a similar way to our ‘background aliens’. We have some Alien costumes that are latex panels on a lycra bodysuit and cost over £90 in materials each to produce. We only have 12 of these. Background Aliens use a coke bottle for the head and are often dressed in bin bags. They’re remarkably effective if the players don’t get closer than about 30ft, and it’s dark. They’re instructed to stay in the tree line. They add atmosphere, but they are characters that need to be played by someone you trust.
I can start with a plan to make kit that fits perfectly with a brief and then end up with something wildly different. Everyone interprets briefs differently, and they focus on the bits that interest them. Even when you’re using images it’s rare to get perfect images, and you might post something thinking “everything’s perfect except the colour” and other people won’t read your carefully scripted text and will focus on that colour.
A good example here is Empires Orcs. The brief was fairly specific about which types of orcs were appropriate. If you look at Empire orcs the variety, even within that brief, is huge. The different looks and styles that are out there that all work with a pretty restrictive brief for something that’s been done a hundred times before have both created an Orc that is typical for Empire and created variety in the Orcs at Empire. In this case it’s really helped.
I hate wearing new costume. I hate the first moments I get to wear what I’m wearing and compare it to what – in my head – I should be wearing. No one else cares as much as me, but I can’t get it right. It doesn’t help that I currently don’t feel part of any system as a player (with the exception of Slenderlarp where I wear modern clothing) and hence am not embedded in the IC culture of anything I am playing. I used to change and then hide in my tent for a bit because I wasn’t happy. I’ve kicked that habit but still hate the feeling of clothes that don’t yet feel normal and stuff that isn’t what I normally wear. I also post photos online beforehand so it’s not entirely new to me, and also so that if it really is wrong I’m likely to figure that out before I’m in a field.
But Monster kit is a lot easier than that. It is correct by definition of it being in bulk. You can make people look right just because they’re all wearing matching hoods or matching tunics. You tie them together as a village and even if it’s not quite the nation brief it’s right for that particular village within the nation. The look of a group of people with strong common themes is awesome. Even if you have your stereotypical mage, healer, rogue, paladin etc. you can make them a group by wearing badges and colours and everyone will know where they belong. They have their own distinct kit and then they have their allegiance worn clearly on their chest.