Saturday, 20 October 2012

Interlude 2 - The cake

Oh I will probably burn in a suitably comfy hell for this...eventually. So, our clan leader has birthday today and as a loyal minion I decided to make him the most awesome larp cake ever made(tm). After many days and nights spent in my secret moonbase workshop I finally finished my project.

BUDGET: 300 gazilion mexican pesos, equal to over 9000 bulgarian leva or about 15 bucks for the cake, chocolate sweets and oreos.

MATERIALS: Cake, Oreos, chocolate sweets, toothpicks.

TOOLS: At least one working hand with a thumb and one more finger(rest are optional).

Clearly this dramatic cake diorama is unworthy of our glorious leader but I hope that he will find it his heart to accept the gesture, especially since there are Oreos in there. Seriously - Oreos!

So that no one mistakes it for something done in 10 minutes with stuff I bought from the supermarket, instead of secret cooking techniques passed on in my family for generations, I even included a label clearly saying
Larp Cake "EPIC" 9002 levs.

Still, maybe I should wear a helmet tonight, just in case Varg tries to kill me with a spoon. 

Oh yeah, there is a moral to the story too - never taking larping so seriously that you can't make or take a joke about it. 

Friday, 19 October 2012

How to make a basic larp boffer spear

Spears, halberds, poleaxes, and so on, are a bit more specific to make than one handed weapons obviously. Main issue is getting a good core for the job. When talking spears there are several types and sizes, that have different approach for them.

 First are short one handed spears.

A short spear would not be much different from the javelins - in fact if you only follow the same guide but make it a bit bigger (f25 core and say 1.2-3sm size) and you will get a nice dual purpose weapon - stabbing spear that you can also throw when needed.

Next are full sized fighting spears - you can use those with either 1 hand or 2 hands but they are usually not suitable for throwing. This guide is about them.

Finally you got pikes - 3 meters+. Pikes are a dedicated formation weapon, making them would be a problematic, let alone finding enough people for a pikemen square. Never encountered it so I got nothing to say about pikes.

So how would you got about making your basic simple spear? First of all materials needed.

BUDGET: around 20$ - the large pipe is a bit expensive.


Core is an F32 polypropilene pipe, a piece of foam, tapes and some wood textured wall paper to decorate the spear shaft.

Note. The problem with polypropilene for long weapons, is that the longer the core, the more wobbly it becomes, effectively giving the so called spaghetti spear effect. The simplest way to counter that is to use a thicker pipe for a longer weapon and it works to a point. For weapons up to 1 meter something - f20 and f25 pipes are ok, for up to 1.5 meters f 32 is ok, but for bigger, its not enough and the f40 diameter pipe is I'd say a bit too big. The wobbling in spears and polearms can be solved by inserting something else inside the core - basically that's why I postponed making the spear guide, I was looking for something suitable. Alas I found nothing so far so i'll show it in the polearm guides later on.

Tools are the usual for every larp weapon.

A spear is actually remarkably easy to make, finding a suitable core is harder.

First thing to do would be to prepare the spear shaft. The core is 2 meters long and a suitable piece of wallpaper is cut for it.

And then wrapped around....After all it should look like a spear right?

 Here's the shaft in full size. Can't take photos of it elsewhere - its too long.
 The rear end I covered in tape. Some folks might turn it into a spike and thus make both ends of the spear useable, I'll pass on that for now.

Next thing to do is the spear head. NOTE  This is a SPEAR - not a polearm, not a naginata - a SPEAR. Its meant for stabbing only, not cutting and slashing, so don't try to wallop the other guy over the head ok? 

Now that we got that bit out of the way, back to the spearhead. Obviously, since you will be stabbing all the time, not occasionally as with swords, the head needs to be reinforced. You can't get away with something the size and thickness of a sword blade&tip.

 Thus the spearhead will be thicker and with a fortified tip - I got 3 layers of foam on it, and then the final one giving it the pointed shape.
 After the foam layers are placed on, the final two pieces are cut to give it a pointed edge. Not too much since constant use will flatten it anyway, just enough to make it look decent.
 With the spearhead finished you only need to cover it in tape and its done.
There is you basic spear in full size.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Basic larp costume - the benefit of trift stores and flea markets

After the doctor diagnosed me with periathritis of the shoulder yesterday, I did the only logical thing a larper can do in the circumstances. I went shopping. Unfortunately shopping for me doesn't mean going to the mall  squeaking and buying $100 t-shirts. First I went to a local hunting shop and bought myself a $200 hungarian recurve bow just to show my periathritis I mean business. The bow is by the way Awesome with a well deserved capital letter and you will likely see additional blog posts on archery tips, a review as well as a quiver guide in the mostly foreseeable future, depending on how fast my shoulder heals. 

Anyway after that well deserved treat I went to the flea market. Did I ever mention flea markets are a gold mine? No? OK let me say so now, flea markets, trift stores, second hand shops are all gold mines. Old leather jackets are the cheapest source of real leather you will find but they are only the tip of the iceberg.
The next very useful thing you can find cheap is tough leather belts. And god is my witness you will need belts all the time.
Well maybe not THAT many belts, but for example - I have four - one for my hauberk, one for my coat of plates, one weapons belt and another for the waterskin and purse. Can't cut that number any lower, so I was naturally happy to get a pair of real leather heavy duty belts. You know there is strong, then there is Army strong and then there is Soviet army will work all day every day just add bullets strong. That was ten bucks well spent, the big one can probably support my full weight.

But the real gem and I should really have bought the two of them not just one, is an old rifleman's ammunition pouch for bolt-action rifle clips.  To put it simple - best 5 bucks I've spent in a while. They are for the lack of a better word - perfect for the task. Tough as a pair of old boots(and made from the same material), easy to hang from your belt and great addition to any character. The bonus point(questionable some might find it a minus) is that its old and well worn, it lacks the fake plastic look that comes with most items in online stores.


As for the possible uses, well there are two(3 really if you decided to do both)

One is to use it for purely RP safekeeping - trinkets, valuables, your coin, a potion or two(and yes I made another potion from a mini bottle) can be kept fairly safely inside and will certainly be less intriguing to some people than a jiggling coin purse on your waist. 

 Another possibility is to use it for keeping off game items - in my case keys, some aspirine, perhaps a couple of bandaids and a swiss army knife. Alas my magical talking stone (i.e. the phone) is just a bit too big to fit in. Perhaps if I oil the leather to soften it a bit, it will work. Normally people should not carry their phones as well - there is nothing more irritating that a call coming in the middle of a fight. Still having one or two around for emergencies is a wise idea and the tough leather pouch can keep it safe during the game.
Of course you can always do both and keep ingame items in one and offgame items in the other pouch.
Once I get another some free time I'll go search for new finds.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

On Roleplay - the basics of making a character

Prepare for a wall of text folks...

Yeah...finally we get to that magic "R" word. A lot of people outright ignore it. For many others it means a little posing and speaking in the Olde Ways until we start beating each other. Its all well and good but let's be reasonable here - good roleplay can make or break a LARP game. We'll beat each other up 2,3,4 times and then sit around in the bushes panting and asking ourselves, what next? Game immersion is broken and the fun level drops below 0. Yes, most people start larping because they want to hit others with swords, but that's only the visible cherry on the top. The whole cake lies beneath it and I can write a doctorate about it. Unfortunately I don't have the time for it so let's keep it somewhat shorter shall we?

Larp games are divided on many categories, and one of them is single events/events in a persistent world. Although its done for both, it is in the second type, that people have the reason and motivation to create a more complex character - after all they'd have to play that person for a while, not just for one Saturday.

I'll try to give  a number of basics on making such a character that hopefully will help you out with making your own.

Point 1.

Picking the race for your new self should be the starting point. For a beginner - best to pick human. Why? Well, simple my friends, its easy to play something that is well known to you. You can't do it wrong with human even if you wanted to, after all you ARE only human ;). Yes its cool to play something awesome, but only if done right and that requires experience and time which since we are talking about beginners we shall assume you don't have. If done wrong it looks absurd and pathetic which we shall also assume that you don't want to be. Besides we can't all be Drow outcasts right?

Point 2.

Keep it short and easy to remember. Otherwise you'd be known as "You there whatever yer name was." It doesn't have to be too original. Drazzt'il Rushna'Yohoregath will NEVER see himself in a song or a poem. If you really want to have a long full name(noble house and all) fine, but you better think of a short nickname yourself. Otherwise same as poor Drazzt'il the Drow, you will be forever remembered as "You there whatever yer name was."

Point 3.

Yeah...that one is simple and often simply forgotten. Make it easy on yourself and play someone close to your own age. It looks odd to be an old and wise wizard when the signs of puberty are still on your face. Yes, I know it closes a lot of options, but you still keep the ones that you can do with reasonable success.

Point 4.
Contrary to popular belief, its easier to say that you were a farmer/blacksmith/shepherd than a warrior/noble/mercenary. After all you are a simple farmer...just like your father before you and his father before him and so on and so forth. Furthest you went from your home village is 3 miles, and your current dreams all involve the red-headed big breasted baker's daughter. Professional soldiers, nobles and such on the road that were not already under contract with a mercenary company or a merchant are rare. You'll have to explain all that when and how did you learn to be a warrior, why did you do so, and why are you on the road. For nobles it gets even muckier.

For the girls...its even harder. Most fantasy worlds are feudal in nature and thus patriarchal - there is no war of the sexes, women stay at home, cook, watch the kids and do the farmwork. Men go out to kill each other. A woman warrior is very rare and making a decent backstory is half of the job - there has to be a special reason for her to be marching WITH the army and not behind it in the supply train. Unless of course, she is...there were plenty of girls in army supply trains, engaged in all sort of things... Anyway to put it simple - an "adventuress" is not something very often seen, and so take your time with the background. Like for example - who'd train a girl to fight and why?

Point 5.
Anyone in his thirties should consider including a bit of this in his character story. Is he a widower, or celibate? Or his wife and the kids are waiting for him back home? If you are actually playing together with your significant other, do consider adding this bit. It will certainly help, besides seriously - families must exist you know, people have to procreate somehow and be good at it, especially considering the casualty ratio in some LARP games...

Point 6.
Family(again) and social status

Yes I'm mentioning family again, but this time in the context of what would that mean for your character. If say you are a barbarian who was born and raised by wolves, that suggest no manners and complete lack of any social skills.  It really doesn't matter just make sure it suits you. If you are are thinner than a pencil, pretending to be the above mentioned barbarian and wearing only a loincloth brings us to the part of Point 1. that said "looks absurd and pathetic". Yes larping IS a game of make-believe, so help everyone and stay
believable. You could be a prince that is now a simple blacksmith, or a blacksmith that has become prince, regardless of that  your original status will always show and don't think its not important! The prince turned blacksmith would still have received substantial education. Yes its safe to assume that all of us are well educated but our characters can't all be like that. Very few could do more than read and write(sometimes barely even that) and especially no wolf-raised barbarians who's dialogue options span from "Me Krom, me strong." and "Krom Smash!" Keep in mind, knowledge does not have to be written! That's what sagas and poems were for. Of course if you are a century old elf you CAN be both a warrior and well educated, but you will have to do an even bigger backstory to explain and prove all of this.

Point 7.
Family relations
3rd time's the charm. Now I'm going to mention inter-family relations. If you are playing with people who are supposed to be your wife/kid/brother/father/sister/uncle and so on - congratulations, you will always have something to do regardless of how the game is going. You can have a row with your wife about your constant drinking, or plan a robbery with your brother or go aggravate said drinking problem with your uncle or go defend your kleptomaniac sister in court(or spring her out of jail, whatever you like). Going to the brothel while married always means hiding too, unless you want your wife to break your head for breaking her heart. Actually just go watch a few family soap operas and such and you will have plenty of material to keep both yourself and everyone else entertained when there is nothing else to do.

Point 8.
Relations with others 
They should really depend on the background, heritage and education parts you selected but that does not mean you can't improvise as well. Still if you want to be a nobleman, consider to what extend do you plan to behave in a noble manner. Believe me that involves a lot more than you think, you will have to behave with dignity, respect, and always remember your status - you were raised a noble - above the crowd. How you take it from there is your choice. A simpler man would be, well simpler to play too. You don't expect much from a servant girl or a town guard right  if you try to discuss politics and higher elemental magic with them do you?

Regardless here are the basic uh...classes of people you should consider your relations with.
- Kings, rulers, nobles etc. Either respect them or don't but keep in mind the risks involved. (Off with his head!)
- Priests, wizards, prophets and oracles. Actually these two should likely be separated - since religion and magic don't often mix on friendly terms. Same as above - keep in mind the risks of leering at them. (Turned me into a newt! I got better though!) You can always be suspicious of either type.

- Guards, men at arms, mercenaries. They shouldn't expect much, so treat them decently and no more. If less...keep in mind that they are well armed too.
- Peasants, farmers, vagrants, beggars. - Its up to you how you treat them. If you are a holier that thou type - treat them well, if you are not treat them to your boot soles.
- Burghers, artisans, merchants, inn keepers. The generic rule is that nobody shoots the bartender right? Well its up to you - keep in mind that these are useful people to have around, but also richer than peasants while not noticeably harder to relieve from their riches.
- Women.
Yes, women. Obviously this part is for male players only. Consider how you will treat the ladies. For example king Loius XIV always stood up when the servant girl entered to clean his office. Its how he was taught, regardless of being granted divine kingship. You could be leering, you could be shy, you could always say "Momma taught me never to hit girls. Hitting girls is bad!" Choice is yours, but keep it in mind!

Point 9.
The consistent character

This one has more to do with keeping true to what you are playing at all times. Consider the virtues you want your characters to have(Courage, Mercy, Charity etc.) as well as the vices(Greed, Lust, Wrath etc.) and play by them. Oh and do consider and include vices too - the Mary Sue section is two blogs from here in
Let's give an example now - Your hero is met by a young girl in the forest asking for help. If you are a good guy you will help. If the girl is good looking and you are lusty you will do it too, same if there is a reward and you are greedy. Mixing them up is no problem. You CAN be a just, greedy thief. Yes you want more money, but your morals won't let you stab an innocent man in the back and rob him...So your stab a criminal in the back and rob him instead.
Now let's give examples of the opposite - say if you army of galant, valiant knights meets a small battered force that tries to negotiate safe passage. Instead of mercifully letting them be you slaughter them with contempt. Well what does that make of you oh paladins?
Or say a greedy backstabber who suddenly becomes honest and proper because taking a huge bribe to reveal some information would case his team to lose the game. The last one is meta-gaming really, but the example still stands true. It matters not whether you want to be good or bad, but whatever you choose, stick with it!

Well that's it. Hope it was useful for you folks.

On armour - advanced chainmail tools.

In the previous post about chainmaille tools, I mentioned only hand tools that you can use everywhere at any time. Even if its in the middle of the nigh, nobody will know or care since you make no noise. However that good may be though - making everything by hand is time consuming and takes a lot of effort, not to mention blisters.

Unfortunately the 99% of us will never be the Ringlord, with his custom built and unique machinery that takes uncoiled wire from one end and produced finished butted or welded chainmail from the other.

Still, that does not mean we can't save ourselves some time right?

There are 3 processes of production in chainmaille.

1 - winding coils

2 - cutting the coils into rings

3- weaving the rings.

For your average hauberk, winding the coils will take you 1 day, cutting them into rings 2-3 days and weaving at at least 1000 rings per day would end you with roughly 2 weeks of production time. Obviously it will be nice to shorten that. The easiest to do is to start power winding the coils.

You will only need a drill with a variable speed option.(The ones that power up the harder you press the button)

There are a number of various designs for coil winding sets involving a drill. You can find them on the net or improvise yourself. I myself use a piece of pipe (same I use for weapon cores actually) held in a vice. I'll show some of these later on. The result though is roughly 10 times faster winding. Basically for 1-2 hours you will wind the coils for a chainmaille hauberk or shirt which is quite the improvement from 1-2 days. As with all electric tools though, you should be careful and wear gloves and perhaps glasses, just in case.

That eliminates process 1.

Next one is cutting. the rings. Here the water gets murkier unfortunately. A number of possibilities exist.

The store bought option is the so called Ringnator its a ring cutting machine, that can work with various metal types though its best for soft stuff - aluminium, copper and so on.

It has variations that require an outside motor - a drill in this case or ones that come with their own. I know it looks like it was made in someone's garage and that's because it is, however those things apparently work and people use them. The problem at hand is the price. The Ringinator costs about 500$ and when you add shipping, it will cost you the same as buying 2-3 finished hauberks online.

To put it otherwise its a fairly major investment and that makes it unsuitable for small scale work. However if you say, are getting one for common use by your entire larp group things start to look different, assuming your group is 40-50 people, everyone donating 10 bucks for the common good doesn't sound so bad now is it? I honestly don't know whats the situation with the extra blades for this thing and how easily they wear out.  There are also homemade rigs, that employ similar process of work. I'm not that much of a handyman, though if you believe you have the technical skills and know-how feel free to make one yourself.

Such rigs can also be made with a jigsaw. I've seen it work and I know it can be done but there are low points too. Jigsaws are noisy and make a lot of sparks, which means that you need a special environment to use them, you can't just set it in your bedroom, and using gloves and protective glasses is absolutely necessary. Also the discs will wear out - roughly 1 for every 4-5-6-kg of rings depending on the ring size etc. That adds extra production cost which makes jigsaw cutting less appealing.

Anyway, that's the two options I know of speeding up process number 2 - cutting the rings.

Finally we come to the last one - weaving the rings. Alas, only the Ringlord has the means to speed that one up as you can see on the video above. Only way I know of making chainmaille faster is by involving more pairs of hands in making it. If several people get on with it and separate the labour you can do quite a lot in a very short time.