Sow’s Ear

Just a passing thought… I recall once looking through a set of photos of a weekend long LARP. It’s always fun to look back through photos, though I remember thinking that the ever present character packets were a visually distracting in what were otherwise really nice shots of some fantastic costuming and dramatic roleplay moments.

You know the ones, the bright yellow manilla envelopes, usually bearing a character name on the outside, and containing blue sheets and character histories (pulled out whenever someone needs to jog through their own memory) and probably a ton of index cards for abilities and prop-less items.

So one of my costuming goals now is to always include some kind of bag with any and all costumes. It’s easy in LARPs with modern settings- I just find a purse for ladies, a briefcase for male characters. I have a very simple black beaded purse I’ve used in several LARPs to carry lipstick and ability cards and a folded up character sheet. The trick is remembering to empty out the purse each time, otherwise I find cards for old characters mixed in with the new. (“Wait… since when does this pirate character have the ability to cut someone’s life thread with the Shears of Fate…?”)

On rare occasions, I pick up something new. When cast as a Chinese business woman from the 1920s, I went to China town, found a purse made of Chinese brocade for 3 dollars, and carried my cards around in that for 4 hours.

For non modern LARPs, I’ve taken to using the scraps from my costume to make bags. Usually, it’s a simple draw string bag out of the biggest scrap I have. Drawstring pouches are never really dramatically out of place in any setting, and when they match the fabric of one’s costume, they visually blend right in.

A few times, I’ve been caught costuming last minute and didn’t have access to a sewing machine. The bags that went with my Native American costume for a Western LARP and my harem girl costume for an Arabian Nights LARP were scraps of fabric and trim held together with hot glue. It wouldn’t last through the rigors of a weekend of boffing, but the glue held out for 4 hours of theater LARPing.

But I think there’s actually a very different school of thought on this issue that sees the manilla envelopes as preferable. I think for some LARPers, something that is obviously out-of-character, that exists solely for the players and not the characters, is easy to just ignore. The manilla envelopes are so commonly used to signal “these are character sheets, they don’t exist in-game” (even though they are sometimes used to carry item cards that do!) that players don’t think twice about them. An actual bag might look slightly awkward for some LARPs, or some individual characters (carrying around a bag as a cape-and-tights superhero might look a bit awkward, but might be necessary if your papers don’t fit in your utility belt.) But if it matches your costume, that’s deliberate, and is taken for something in-character.

But if you do like everything to visually blend with your costume…

Here’s a simple draw-string tutorial, easy for any beginner with a sewing machine.

And here’s a simple tutorial for those of us who don’t sew, and like to use various forms of glue in our costuming. It’s from Martha Stewart. (Trivia note- I played Martha Stewart in a LARP once. It’s a good thing!)

And lastly, one that only involves a large square of fabric and some clever knot tying.

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About Fair Escape

I've been LARPing for years in all different styles, including both boffer and theater. I love classic LARP but I'm always happy to try something new. I have a sort of "gotta catch 'em all" attitude towards experiencing LARPs. I'm currently serve as a board member of NEIL, a member of proposal com for Intercon, the largest all LARP convention in the US, and as en editor for Game Wrap, a publication about the art and craft of LARP. I was also con chair of Festival of the LARPs 2017, and I'm on staff for NELCO, the first all LARP conference in the US. I'm
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4 Responses to Sow’s Ear

  1. I tend to ditch the envelope. Then again, men’s costumes are more likely to have pockets that I can put item cards into, or folded up character sheets. I’ve even been known to use the backside of my con badge to hold some things. I don’t yet have a smartphone, but now with so many character sheets being emailed in advance, I can see putting the character sheet on my smartphone and doing away with the paper altogether.

    Not that pulling out the phone to read some information won’t be distracting, but no more so than looking at a printed page from a manila envelope. And at least I’ll only have that out for those times when I need to look something up, instead of carrying it in my hands or under my arm all game.

    • Fair Escape says:

      That’s a good idea (and in modern or sci-fi LARPs, a phone isn’t terribly distracting.) I bet with some phones, searching for a particular name or term is pretty quick. Maybe some kind of fake leather or fabric cover could be used to blend a phone better into other settings.

  2. Pingback: You Know You’re a LARPer When… « FairEscape

  3. Pingback: LARP Character Packets « FairEscape

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