This came to be on a larp thread in /tg/.
I am merely saving it on a better platform.
Heh. Last thread went on account of it's participants going to sleep- I was out around 1AM EST US time.
Visuals. Why do they matter when we can just imagine the guy in a
tabard and facepaint as an orc? Heck, where does that point of view come
I've found that where it comes from is, quite simply
people who've never experienced it. When you're used to riding horses at
a full gallop, it's a rush- but when you get on a motorcycle the first
time and start going a mile-a-minute, it's a unique experience. Both are
a speed rush, but the second one just gives you that "goin' fast"
feeling at a level the horse can't.
Most US LARPers are used to the horse. It's all they have to ride, it
can get you there, and it's fun when you kick it into gear. You've got
your boffers, you've got your basic costuming, and that's how they ride.
comaprison, the "internal combustion" age of LARPing started in England
in the late 80's, spread rapidly out from there, and ended up a
standard passed from one group to another that now extends from there to
the outer edges of what used to be the Warsaw Pact. Along with it came
never really having the foam-fighting lot that shit all over the idea of
actually dressing up for hitting each other with plumbing supplies. And
instead of D&D, the big gaming influences were...Warhammer.
seen pictures of late-80's/early 90's LARPers from both sides of the
pond. They look almost identical. But the later influences rapidly
change that. Pic related, this kinda thing is our "common ancestor"
LARP-wise, before environmental issues changed- and wouldn't look out of
place in some countries today where LARPing is just getting started.
US LARPers had their influences come from what was around them-
foam-fighting groups and the SCA, plus the ubiquitous Renaissance Fairs
that are pretty much a USA thing. Foam-fighters insured that the boffer
would remain the dominant LARP weapon pretty much forever, and refine
that into the kitespar-feather-club ultralights to boot. SCAdians helped
make sure that armor would be functional before looking good. D&D
meant that a high-magic system was the big draw, that a guy in a robe
was dangerous on account of being a walking rocket launcher with beanbag
missiles-o-doom (at least until he was out of spells, then he was a
useless piece of meat). Cheap and thrifty and doing as little as
possible was considered a virtue- and even the combat systems often
evolved along those lines, rendering armor that took time, effort and/or
money relatively useless vs. magic- a lot like D&D fighters vs.
D&D mages, when you think about it. What good costuming did come
along was from people who crossed their LARP with their Renfair/SCA garb
whoring/con costuming -but since those people were used to social
situations where the guy in fugly combat armor was having dinner next to
the lady in fancy dress, it carried over to LARPing. In the US, you can
still see it to this day- women tend to have a higher visual standard
by far than the guys do...unless the lady in question is dressing up the
Meanwhile, overseas you're getting completely different influences. A
combination of medieval era re-enactors (the equivalent US ones are busy
playing 1700-1800's era wargames and barely make a blip on the LARP
scene) and FX-minded folks (the UK's ranks for "holy shit, that's an
awesome monster" gear include notable FX guys who did BBC work from the
80's onwards) drive a demand to get rid of the boffer weapon. They come
up with the first latex weapons and suddenly, you have multiple crafters
trying to outdo each other in making awesome-looking latex weapons.
Costuming already has the support of said re-enactment types, and the
stronger FX-maker influence also means you see much more of what the US
would call "cosplay" getting into the mix- not only do you see more
realistic armor getting into LARP, but you also see "wonderflex" and
other theater-style prop armor bits and accessories going in alongside
the latex weaponry they're busy hitting each other with in the woods and
caves (and occasional old castles).
In addition, the fantasy gaming system in Europe that's big isn't
D&D. It's Warhammer, with it's strong visuals and a much more "melee
matters and does the hard work, magic is for special stuff" view of
things. The "lightning bolt" as US LARPers know it never takes off, with
more point-and-shoot and considerably less of it being hurled around.
And standards being much higher, the visuals...well, they end up being
up there as well.
US LARP ends up following along it's ancestor's lines- small "chapters"
and groups all over the place that rarely get together. EU LARP tends
more along the lines of re-enactor groups, happily forming the first
"festival" LARPs- games easily approaching 1000 people, then later
nearing 10,000 with the international fests like Drachenfest. The
closest US equivalent are the SCA (Pennsic being most notable and of
similar size, with smaller multi-thousand-population "wars" scattered
around the US along with similar slightly smaller efforts from
Amtgard/Dagorhir), but LARP size in the US generally stabilizes at the
"small group" level, falling from a maximum of 300 or so in the early
90's to a mass scattering of 150 or less in the modern day. Indoor
(convention/Mind's Eye Theatre-aka-vampire-LARP) games sit at much the
same levels, only without any real continuity most of them simply come
and go and make no long-term impact- but are actually more common than
the outdoor LARPs for a fair bit of time thanks to the ease of venue and
relative informality of play. To whit, you can find a vampire LARP in
pretty much easy driving distance over much of the US. (Good luck with
Meanwhile, as the European LARP scene is developing, the US one pretty
much falls into a near-stasis for over a decade. PVC boffers are still
common, but the more competitive begin to experiment with kitespar and
other similar supplies to create something that hits faster and safe by
US standards. The UL weapon begins to show up in significant numbers,
but to this day this pic wouldn't be out of place at your average US
It's worth noting that it's not ALL totally frozen in place in the US.
The first cracks in the ice actually date back to 2000 or so, when you
started seeing a very few latex weapons imported over, along with the
occasional group of folks that had started with European LARPing and
brought that mindset over to the US. In addition, a certain amount of
backlash develops over the years, dribbling out new, small games on a
regular basis. Most of these end up being near-clones of the old 1990's
style games, but the occasional group innovates or forms more
rules-light systems. Accelerant is the most widely used
second-generation rules system, but individual examples exist up and
down the East Coast in respectable numbers. While relatively unpopular,
there's even attempts at science-fictionish or post-apoc games: in the
US, an early example is the Future Imperfect events run by Mythical
Journeys, one of the more creative offshoots of the 1990's LARP fantasy
generation that's still active to this day. Games like Freefall or
Dystopia Rising are more recent additions to the list, along with
attempts to build Fallout in LARP format. (and it's notable that such
efforts are oft mirrored overseas, up to and including a long-going 40K
LARP in the UK, or at least one truly badass Fallout LARP in Russia.)
While it's notable that the oldest LARP orgs in the US are AWARE of what
it's like elsewhere, it's not something that gets brought up much until
very recently. A good chunk of NERO's bigwigs ended up at Mythodea back
in 2005 (and proceeded to botch horribly a copycat event in the US
shortly afterwards, utterly souring Mythodea's staff towards reaching
overseas), and the occasional US LARPer makes the trip over to the
UK/Germany (military types, commonly) and gets a taste of how they do it
on the other side of the Atlantic.
There are no serious
producers of latex gear in the US. Zero. Calmacil is Canadian (and go
figure, you have Biccoline and such there, along with stuff that'd
easily resemble US games as they've always been), and 99.9999% of LARP
gear in the US is repurposed in some fashion- from Ren Faire costumers
and pouches and such through imported LARP-safe weaponry from the EU or
Canada, and since imports are oft marked up + the US penchant for
"thrifty" (read: cheap as possible) gear...the well-equipped LARPer is a
rare bird outside of long-established games, and even then the
competitive bent of many of them encourages and allows for people to put
the good-looking sword down, grab a UL club-sword and feel socially
better about it cause they chose effectiveness over actually wielding or
wearing something that looked neat- because performance still rules in
most parts of the US over anything else. (Except cost- it'll either be
cheap, or it'll be effective, but rarely does the idea of "gee, I'm
wearing pickle barrel armor and swinging a kitespar dicksword" trouble
the US gamer.)
The smaller group sizes and standards also means
that just -getting- a business with a viable market is difficult at
best- meaning the hordes of small business types that pop up in the UK
or Germany along with the bigger ones (like Mytholon or Atlier) simply
never find ground to take root and get started. Their equivalents in the
US resell EU gear.
By comparison, you'll see plenty of SCA merchants and armorers-
which means it's actually far easier to find functional 14-16ga metal
armor sold than 18-20ga LARP-style armor- and likewise, even leather (or
plastic!) After all, they're more established and have been needed
(since minimum standards for SCA require it) for decades longer, and
even then are so in demand that most have weeks or months worth of
waiting list. Likewise, you can even find boffer-makers out there that
sell a steady stream of their product- but because latex is in much
lower demand, you don't see it being made domestically in the USA.
What would bring US visual standards up higher?
that's not just "Oh, we can sell stuff we got overseas.". Personally, I
think it won't happen until someone in the highest-density LARP
population (that is, New England->PA) actually starts the equivalent
of a Skian Mohr, Having a LARP, or similar one-tent-vendor style
actually learns how to make proper production of latex weapons that are
soft enough to regularly pass US (who tend to be more sensitive towards
harder weapons) game standards- and starts going around selling
working-man's weaponry to the populace.
Because frankly, there's
good odds nowadays that you could end up ordering a weapon from
overseas, bringing it to an event and having it fail. Grats, you're out
$100- oh, and heck, you never even got a chance to hold the thing or
test swing it a few times to see if you liked it. Hope it looks good on
Likewise less expensive LARP-grade armor. Most people
into armoring are immediately snagged by the SCA, where they're able to
sit there banging out SCA-grade armor with a guaranteed demand....much
less the machined, basically "munition-grade" armor you can find stacked
by the dozens at a German LARP vendor!