LRP is about pretending. We dress as people from another world and pretend to be things that don’t really exist. We attract people from a range of places. Some go direct to LRP (like myself) usually because they know other LRPers. Others start with tabletop role play, reenactment or cosplay and shift to LRPing from there.
Games are run with people from a variety of backgrounds with different resources and opinions. Even the people running those games are massively different in opinion about some of the most fundamental elements of their games. You will find people who have extensive costuming knowledge and experience, people who have a lot of money, some really skilled people, and people who have a lot of time and resources. You’ll also find people who have none of that and they often play together with all of the above and make as valid a contribution to the game.
For any game there should be a minimum requirement. For Profound Decision games their minimum kit standards are:
“Basic in-character costume that does not include trainers, jeans or t-shirts.”
It’s a really simple standard to meet, it tells people what they must do, and that anything that meets this is okay. It means that all of the groups of people mentioned above can achieve it and can play. They do encourage people to improve kit over time and have aspirational kit guidelines.
Curious Pastimes events tend to have high kit standards across the board. Their events are some of the most atmospheric I’ve played. Existing players take a lot of responsibility for keeping high, IC kit standards. The sense of identity of each faction is maintained, and support and advice for new players is provided by the command team and by other players. They develop people so that that those without the ability to put good kit together gain those skills. They also have amazingly atmospheric camp environments, which are also mostly put together and provided by their players.
There are probably events that have the same kit standards as reenactment events. I’m not aware of them and I don’t play them. For me, the proportion of red in the trim of the tunic I’m wearing is not something I want to be a factor in my LRP games. This is something I’ve been pulled up for at a reenactment event. I tend much more towards fantasy. I don’t mind things being gritty and realistic, but I do like playing with brightly coloured fabrics, over the top decoration and hand embroidery using shiny material and metallic thread.
With props there’s a tendency to hunt local charity shops for things that look vaguely like they might have been around in whatever era you’re trying to represent. These things are often both the best things we have available and the worst. They result in props being very similar and predictable and looking a bit charity shopish. I am a prop maker. We use laser cutters, foam and similar materials to make the props we’re after. We put a laser cut acrylic 3D puzzle into a game and I wasn’t sure we should, because it wasn’t an IC material. Yet in a game where the weapons are made of foam and we use latex masks for orcs and blankets to hide camping chairs surely fantasy allows us to expand the acceptable materials to include things like this.
I’d love to be able to provide all props custom made from wood, metal, etc. Getting exactly what we want that way is possible for two or three things for some events, but a nightmare for more if it’s fantasy event. If we can go more modern we can do more, but it changes the atmosphere and I’m never sure where the balance lies. With the differing people that play games something that’s entirely acceptable to me is much too far for other groups.
Different things resonate differently for different people. Mackintosh style images on a dress might be fine for one person but jarring for another. Same with Mackintosh style furniture. I’d love to do it. I’d be absolutely fine with it. It would expand horizons of the game from my perspective. To other people it may be as jarring as wearing a modern waterproof.
When people for LRP games are designing costume briefs, especially when the LRP is intended to attract large numbers of people, they will usually aim to find a balance for the costume levels such that the majority of people can achieve them, but that they don’t hurt the game. It’s a scale, and each game has its own place on that scale. I’ve seen games where the briefs were really particular. They provided patterns and fabrics and colours and told you exactly what you were after. I would quite like to run a t-shirt LRP where you have your character type printed on a t-shirt and that’s the only phys-rep required. They’re different places on the scale and I’m happy to play most of them.
The Fantasy to Reenactment scale is similar. Players learn what a game is trying to achieve through the material that is sent out by the organisers, and the images there drive what is allowed. My Mackintosh group wouldn’t work in a game that had sent out images of close to reenactment style kit, or even of a very particular style of fantasy. If they’ve aimed for something broader we’d feel quite welcome. Equally my lasercut acrylic prop works well at broad fantasy games that accept a range of looks not based on realism, and that encourage an expanding of boundaries of what’s acceptable. It would probably be rejected by our more historically accurate games.
You may have similar minimum kit standards to Empire LRP. It might be that most of your players are at that level and that works for you. If you have a vision as to the kit you want your players to be wearing then, like Empire LRP, you need to be publishing images and guides for aspirational kit. Players will strive to achieve a standard if that standard is made clear to them, and you’re less likely to have players who are at odds over what it is they’re trying to do.*
*This is a lie. Players will always argue over what kit standards ‘really’ are, and how X player is wearing a hat that is two years too late for Y players vision. If you ran stone age LRP someone would argue that rabbits didn’t live in Britain before the Romans brought them over so wearing rabbit fur as part of kit is wrong…