Approximately 400 LARPers gathered in Westborough, MA over the past weekend for Intercon, the annual all-LARPing convention. I was more involved in the running of Intercon this past year than I have been in any previous year, so now in addition to the post-Intercon blues (as well as some post-boffer soreness), I’m also feeling a mixture of relief and pride.
We were at a new hotel this year, and we’ve been working hard all year to make sure the new space would work out. I’m glad to say despite concerns over things like the number of rooms and lack of obvious space for a con suite and construction that wasn’t finished in time for the con, it worked out quite well. (And if you attended Intercon P, we definitely want feedback on how the hotel space worked out, so keep an eye out for the post-con survey!)
Intercon opens with an event we call PreCon, which runs from Thursday night to Friday afternoon, and acts as a small conference, with panels, discussions, and workshops all related to LARP. My first event of PreCon was the Costuming Tricks for Lazy People workshop. It was mostly a panel in which two other costumers with a lot of experience in cobbling cool costuming together out of thrift store finds and very basic materials like cardboard and duct tape and I talked about our favorite last minute, cheap techniques. Some of the audience shared a few costume challenges they received over the years, and we all brainstormed ideas for the easiest, fastest, and cheapest ways to do it.
We talked about focusing on the upper body and head (hats speak louder than shoes) and how hairdos can carry a costume a long way, especially with regards to levels of formality. We talked about altering thrift store finds, especially things like tablecloths, curtains, and sheets. One panelist talked about finding a velvet curtain in a thrift store, threading a rope through the slot meant for the curtain, and using it as a luxurious cloak. We also discussed using hot glue and alternatives for sticking fabrics together. (I personally like to use iron-on adhesive a lot.) I couldn’t resist mentioning one of my favorite websites, thistothat.com, which tells you what adhesives to use for different materials. One of the panelists brought in a piece of costuming he made to play Buzz Lightyear — it was armor made of duct tape and cardboard. (I wish I had gotten a picture!)
I also, of course, mentioned my favorite technique of last minute, easy costuming — the chiton (and slight variations thereof). Some basic instructions can be found here. I’ve used it for a variety of settings and genres. Not just Greco-Roman stuff, but in fantasy LARPs, as an angel, an ancient Egyptian, and a bunch of different sci-fi LARPs, especially when they involve the Crystal Spires and Togas trope. (Most recently as Ohica in a Dr. Who LARP.)
I tried to do a basic demonstration, but discovered the scraps of fabric I’d grabbed were not perfect rectangles, and we didn’t have safety pins. (The strips of duct tape didn’t really substitute as pins well.) So I’m not sure the concept came across. But I did share some images of chiton costumes online. I put together a pinterest board of costume pictures and tutorials for chitons and other similar, simple, no-sew options. (One pin just happened to be from Intercon a few years back.)
This one is one of my favorite examples– a sheer chiton over a modern gown in a contrast color, which can disguise the modern elements while looking very elegant. The red-black combination makes it look like something a Targaryen queen might wear in Game of Thrones.
After that, I ran a presentation/discussion on LARP in the Media. Originally, there were supposed to be three of us running it, but one fellow panelist had not yet arrived (probably due to the MBTA’s significant delays) and another bowed out. I opened with the factoid that LARP had recently been mentioned on Jeopardy. Then I talked a bit about the various categories into which I mentally divide pieces of media on LARP (depending on whether it’s made by LARPers or non-LARPers, for LARPers or non-LARPers, and whether it’s fiction or non-fiction) and the various trends and tropes that pop up in each. We watched a variety of clips online, including a 7-11 commercial, a news story on the role of LARP in psychological healing, and one other news story on Darkon, then discussed the messages and level of understanding the various pieces displayed on their subject.
We talked about various fictional pieces that have referenced LARP, including two episodes of Supernatural, an episode of Good Luck, Charlie, and movies like Knights of Badassdom and Role Models, (I personally thought the latter was a better portrayal) and what stereotypes and messages they contain about LARPing. (Ever notice they often contain players who take the game too far? Or are often displaying LARPs of extremely high or low production values, but very rarely anything in between? Which pieces make LARP appear slick or awkward, and how do they do it?) We also talked about what factors might have lead to a better news piece or documentary, such as the reporters or film makers taking part in a LARP, as in Wreckreation Nation and Treasure Trapped. As the hour drew to a close, we also discussed news stories not specifically about LARP but have brought LARP into the public eye, including the revelation that Jake Rush, a policitian in Florida, used to LARP, and how LARP was twisted to suit the political agendas of the articles, and the recent lawsuit involving LARP arrows brought by Archery Tag.
As this is getting a bit longer than I originally intended, I’ll leave off here and talk about my second two events of PreCon, a panel on Cultural Appropriation, and an Accelerant Workshop, in my next post.