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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

LTAW #4: Tabard Part 1 (Simple Tabard)

This is part 1 of LTAW's tabard making 2-part special. For part 2, go to

For this week's LARP Thing A Week, I made a simple tabard. A tabard is a great and super easy way to dress up a medieval fantasy LARP costume.

Here are some brave knights wearing tabards:

And of course, we've all seen the musketeers' tabards:

Wikipedia says:

In the late Middle Ages tabards, now open at the sides and so usually belted, were worn by knights over their armour, and usually emblazoned with their arms (though sometimes worn plain).

Tabards are easier to make than other garments, can reflect personal creativity, and can also show unity in a group (because the group can create their own costumes, but where the same tabards, and have instant identification). For those reasons, you'll see many LARPers sporting this piece of costuming. You'll also see NPCs sporting very simple tabards like the one I'm making here to represent creature skin colors and the like (I don't know which chapter I stole this image from; if you know, leave a comment):

So, on to making a tabard.

I bought this lovely red for my tabard. I'm going to add some extra decoration with gold later on. I don't recommend that anyone stick to one solid color, because you might be confused with a monster (especially if you pick the wrong color). But, I'll cover adding decorations and other features in Part 2.

A word about fabric selection: choose something thicker for your tabard. Thin stuff is great for spell packets. And stretchy stuff is supremely difficult to work with (and will pull in on itself on a tabard and look goofy). Muslin, canvas, upholstery fabric, and other thick fabrics work well for tabards. Thinner cotton blends will work, but you may find you need to sew two layers together if you use it (which makes for a reversible tabard; getting you more gobbies if you're donating it!)

I'd recommend that you buy 2 yards of whatever fabric you like. Generally, that's enough to make 2 tabards, but it'll save you some sewing even if you're only making 1. My fabric was 48 inches wide, which is pretty typical, but fabric comes folded in half before it's rolled onto the cardboard. So, it only looked to be 24 inches wide. Well, we'll make use of this fold. I cut it along this fold so I was left with two pieces 2 yards by 24 inches. Here's my cat inspecting my work:

Now, I put aside one of those pieces (to make another tabard or whatever), and folded my piece in half, right about where the cat was standing. Then, I folded it in half again the other way. Here, in the corner where all your folds meet, you cut a head hole. Don't make it very big; you can always enlarge it later, and it's really much bigger than it appears.

Here's what it looks like when I unfold the fabric:

Most fabrics have a tendency to fray:

The edges of some synthetics can be (carefully) melted to prevent fraying. But the easiest way to prevent fraying on any fabric is with a hem. The simplest hem is to fold the edge over, then fold it over again and sew it into place. Here's a hem on my fabric:

Now, I won't actually be hemming this now, because I'm going to do something neat with the edges in part 2.

Put the tabard on and mark the length you want. I like mine to go about mid thigh and be a bit longer in the back.

Tie a belt or sash around your waist, et voila, a simple tabard. (This one is a bit short... good thing I have another piece!)

Join me in Part 2 when I add some features to dress up my tabard.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm sure you've noticed by now that there's no MLC this week. That's because we've taken time off to spend with our families, and you should too, right after the Great Turkey War.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Except you Canadians... you've already gotten your holiday ;)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

LTAW #3: Dungeon Crawl

This week, I had a little extra time before the NERO Elkins Tavern Night, so, with some help from Amanda (who really helped create most of the puzzles), Sam (whom I kept in the dark), and Zach, I assembled a dungeon crawl, this week's LARP Thing a Week.

I didn't have any monsters, though they could easily be added in, so the environment had to provide the sense of danger. Traps also could have been added, but no traditional traps were used in this dungeon crawl.

We meet for Tavern Night in the theatre where I work, so we had a great space to set this up. I used different colors of spike tape to represent different barriers: green and grey repped walls, blue and purple repped ledges or drop-offs, and orange was also a ledge or drop-off but the ledge was glowing in-game.

I'll take you on a walk-through.

Your adventure begins in the Gryphon Guard Tavern. You hang out with other adventurers, swap stories, drink a few. One of the Winter clan, a hunter of undead creatures, comes in, seeking to hire some adventurers to retrieve some gems which will be used to craft an item to help him in the hunt.

If you choose to accompany him, he will lead you to a "cave" (really out the door and into another door). There, you see a ledge dropping into water below. You'll surely get hurt if you fall in, plus you'll be soaked! A couple pillars form islands in the water, but it will be a difficult jump for some in your party.

Then you remember something. There were some boards left over from the rebuilding of the tavern ((this worked for us because the tavern was "damaged" last year and needed repairs)). Where did those barbarians take them?

So, laying the boards across the pillars, you've formed a nifty bridge. Pretty simple.

It's just a quick walk across.

Now, you have to crawl to get through. ((Making low-hanging areas is essential to creating a LARP dungeon crawl. It is called a "crawl" after all. This sort of physicality is just what LARP is about. Just be aware that some player may have difficulty. Try to find ways to include them.))

After crawling through, you come to your next challenge. It looks just like the previous one, but this one is longer. It also features strange "glowing" pillars ((marked by orange tape)).

But, you forgot to bring the boards with you from the previous challenge, so you have to squeeze back through and get them.

After getting them, you start across. You have three long boards, and there are only four large gaps, so this shouldn't be too much of a trouble. Get your people out on pillars and boards, then send the first board up to bridge the final gap. But, of course, there's a twist ((there always is)). One of your companions stands on a glowing pillar. When you hand a board to him so he can place it, it sends magic up through his body to disintegrate the board (("Arcane Destroy Board")). Oops, now you only have two long boards and you have to get across without allowing any of the boards to touch the orange pillars or to touch a person who is on an orange pillar. ((Amanda and I designed this passage so that it was quite possible to do so with just two boards, because we knew at least one would get destroyed. We also included a number of smaller boards into the mix. They were essentially useless, but the adventurers brought them anyway, so they were good fodder for the destroy spells as well. We also had a back up plan. We would hide a board and the NPC she was playing would "see it" if we needed an extra. It was a challenge with the two boards. It was next to impossible with just one.))((Btw, players falling in at this stage would take 20 damage and be swept back to the first challenge. Items dropped would be lost.))

This challenge took some time, but now you make our way through passages to come across another gap to traverse. This one has pillars which are much more plentiful and can be used as stepping stones. But they're all different colors. Do they have effects associated with them?

((This is a challenge I've seen time and time again, and I use it often in dungeon environments. The paper on the floor represents pillars that can be used for safe passage, but the colors have meaning. In this case, the only color that meant anything was pink, which would drop an individual right into the water below -- take 20 damage, be swept back a goodly ways. I sometimes use the colors to help or harm by making each one a different spell. I also have used numbers. One time, I used playing cards on the pillars, each of which had an associated effect, which would change whenever someone stepped on the pillar. I thought about color blindness when I made this challenge, and lo and behold, one of the players was color blind. However, the others marked the correct path with spell packets, and he only fell in once. :) The only thing I would change is to secure the paper a bit better. I only used two small pieces of duct tape to hold each one down, and they slipped somewhat.))

Next, you come upon a web with a great big spider. The spider isn't making any threatening movements, but blocks your way around the web. Touching the web hurts you, so you're going to have to try to get your group across without touching it.

You send one person through the big hole in the bottom. He gets through, but a wall of force forms in the gap where he was. You send another through and try to put your hand in to prevent it from closing, but the magic forces your hand out. So, you're figuring out the rules now: one person can go through each hole before it closes, you'll get hurt if you touch the web, and you can see your goal tantalizingly on the other side. ((In the future, I'd allow multiple people to use each hole or have a couple people there just to keep things safe. The players felt rushed at one point and made some unsafe decisions that could have resulted in injury.))

One player on the other side investigates the table with the gong. He leans over to get a better look, unconsciously putting his hand down on the carpet that the table sits on. He's hurt ((10 elemental chaos)) and draws back his hand. Even though your party is not yet through the web, his curiosity gets the better of him and he rings the gong. You feel the earth tremble and stones start to fall from the ceiling. ((NPCs randomly threw packets into the air "5 normal" escalating to 40 by the end of the adventure. Here's where the players started to feel rushed.))

A closer inspection reveals a hidden prize. A treasure box is concealed beneath the table cloth in a compartment under the table. Removing the box dispels the Walls of Force that formed in the web, allowing your team to escape. Running back along the path, you must traverse the gauntlet while avoiding the falling rubble and maintaining your hold on the prize.
((Feel free to use any of these ideas in your own dungeon crawls, and let us know how they go. In addition, let us know your ideas or things you've seen used.))

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mid-Level Crisis Podcast #28

Episode 28 - "I Command You to Watch the Trailer" - Recorded 11/16/2010 - Runtime 43m20s

MP3 Podcast Version

In this episode, Eric & Matt, joined by special guest Kris, continue the discussion about religion in LARP by reading an email from George, ask for your thoughts about Unicorn City ( ), and shamelessly promote Matt's book ( ), LARP Thing A Week ( ), Movember ( ), and the upcoming NERO Elkins events ( )

Call the LARP line! (304) 986-LARP [5277] (Country code 1)

Monday, November 15, 2010

LTAW #2: NPC Database (Part 1)

For week 2 of LARP Thing A Week, I've started a NPC spreadsheet on Google Docs. This spreadsheet is part of what will become a NPC database which will allow plot team members to find details about the NPCs they need and compare data. The example below has only a few NPCs and the juicy bits are intentionally left out, but it gives an idea of the structure I'm aiming for.

I've created 15 columns: Name, Who plays the NPC, A few notes on the character's role, race, Costume Notes, Body Points (Hit Points for those that don't play NERO), Weapons used, Standard Abilities (abilities which would be available to PCs), Formal Magic Effects, Immunities, What types of things heal them, what can harm them, Special Abilities (not usually available to PCs), Deaths & related info (How many deaths for their final death count, and info about what happens when they die or how they need to be killed), and Plot Notes.

A pretty extensive list, but I have a sneaking suspicion I'm missing something, so if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

There are better options for creating a database than using Google Docs, but GD has something very important to me: the ability to selectively share and collaborate on documents. I can give my plot team access to the document (and even just to parts of the document), while keeping my players in the dark.

We will return to the idea of an NPC database, in an effort to create something wonderful, but this is the first, crude step.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

No Mid-Level Crisis this week

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to let you all know that Eric and I won't be recording MLC today. We'll see you next week.


LTAW #1: Character Family Tree

For my first LARP Thing A Week, I've created a family tree for one of my NERO characters, Cameron MacDomnaill. I had some of it in my head already, but it was neat to take it out of my head and put it onto paper and into a computer.

This was actually a pretty useful character exercise, because it helped me create not only who his family members were (which is important to know) but also interesting things like how long his family usually lives (not too long, which probably defines them as adventurers).

In addition, it also helped me define something about the culture in which he lives. His connection with the clan cheiftains was going to be the typical patriarchal connection (his grandfather's brother was a chieftain), but I chose to make something new. The Adler chieftain is now chosen by his marriage to the female line AnAdler, a title which flows from mother to daughter. But the chieftain is still a man. This creates a new dynamic in the Adler tribe, as the AnAdler must necessarily wield some power and respect, but the chieftain is the consort of the woman holding that title.

Anyway, I encourage you to create a tree for your own characters. For some inspiration, I've included two pics, the ancestral line of Cam (my character) and the ancestral line of Riona AnAdler (the youngest AnAdler, who the next chief will marry), as well as a link to a web version of the tree I created on Mac Family Tree, a tool I'm already using for real-world genealogy.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

SSP: Movember Madness

In 2010 tragically more than 32,000 men will die as a direct result of prostate cancer.

I mentioned on the last podcast that I would be joining the Movember fight against cancer. I've joined my friend Vinnie of Blueberry Arts on his Movember team. Here is what Vinnie has to say:

Cancer is not a pleasant thing, I have known several people, men women and children, most family that have fought this. Some have won, others have not. Lets try to keep more people winning than loosing. Who knows maybe cancer will one day be defeated permanently. That’s why I shaved my face this month and am now three days into growing a mustache. I want to do my part. So here is what I ask, you can either join the Blueberry Arts Team and raise money on your own and sport a rocking stache or donate to either me or my team. If you want to help, but don’t want to donate or grow a stache, you can buy anything from my shop or from my eBay auctions up until November 29th. I will then donate 10% of all my sales to my Movember team.

Will you help?

Some of you know that my own dad died of heart complications and breast cancer. So, in his memory, and the memory of his grand moustachio, I will also join Vinnie in donating 10% of this month's sales from the LARPs 'R' Us store and from Memoirs of the Crimson Dwarf. Buy anything by November 29 and know that 10% of the purchase price will go to the research and awareness about cancer in men.

Here’s the links to help:

DONATE on my MoSpace

JOIN the Cause

BUY - The Blueberry Arts Store - LARPs 'R' Us - Memoirs of the Crimson Dwarf - Blueberry Arts eBAY

Thank you!

I will post weekly updates here, but visit my MoSpace for more regular updates.

Here are some pics of me before shaving and after. Hopefully I'll have a mustache next pic.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mid-Level Crisis Podcast #27

Episode 27 - "With Mystic Force I Build a Controversy" - Recorded 11/2/2010 - Runtime 59m41s

MP3 Podcast Version

In this episode, Eric & Matt, joined by special guest Heathyr, talk about recent and upcoming events in the neighborhood, religion in LARP, particularly the proscription against religion in NERO, and, of course, shamelessly promote stuff.

Call the LARP line! (304) 986-LARP [5277] (Country code 1)