How to make 100 different NPC’s

Let’s say your larp consists of 20 players (on a good day). You have a budget of whatever you can scrape together. You have some basic skills, such as building weapons, simple sewing, basic construction… But with limited garb and resources how do you make varied NPC’s? How do show the players what monster they face with verisimilitude and without expensive garb? How do you make that disposable hoard come to life? Here is one simple thing you can do to make 100’s of NPC’s, with the basic skills you already have.

The simplest, the best, the most versatile thing you can do to better your larp… Make masks. Don’t try and make 100 masks all at once, make them 5 at a time. And what is the cheapest, most modular, most craftable, most creative way to make masks? Cloth Masks a few at a time.

1.) Make a template.

You’ll need some measurements, which means that a cloth tape measure will come in handy. If you have a metal tape measure that will work too. Unfortunately I did not make (and don’t have good pictures) of the original template. But the thumbnail should give you the idea of how to make your own.

2.) Make masks for NPC’s at your upcoming event.

Make 5 masks for your next event. Good first candidates are green masks for goblins. Undead masks come in handy as well, use pale colors for those. Don’t forget to make a few bigger than you, and a few smaller. You never know who’s head you’ll have to cover. Experienced (or amateur) sewers will tell you, sew the seems inside out.

3.) Make masks of a different color at your next event.

Produce 5 more masks. The color of the mask is meaningful. Green masks (regardless of shade or hue) are  goblins. Pale blue are Ghouls. White are always Skeletons. Players will come to associate certain colors with certain types of creatures. Spend some time considering the color pallet you want to use.

Pale Blue Mask, with black yarn hair and red mouth: A Ghoul.

4.) Add some details.

You may feel that using specific colors only for certain common enemy types is limiting. Once the players are used to the basic mask types you can start building a visual language of monsters by adding details. There are many details which could be added to convey meaning. Yarn hair of varying colors, craft foam eyebrows, craft foam tusks, different colored mesh for the eyes, etc.

Aqua Blue Mask, foam ridges, black yarn hair, big foam teeth: A Sea Troll

Make sure the details are big and obvious. And include garb as well. By the way, the guy who came up with this idea, and made every mask in all these pictures, is the guy facing the camera in the shot above. Handsome, ain’t he; decked out in his chicken bones and fishing nets. Come to think of it, he’s also the Ghoul in the snow. And here he is as Old Man Winter (the guy with horns on the left) in the picture below. He used these masks A LOT.

White Mask, White wig, open cell foam horns: Old Man Winter

Masks like these are very versatile, pretty cheap, and you can be endlessly creative with them. The real trick is not trying to make all of them at once. It’s too big a task. Make only the ones you need, when you need them. But keep expanding them over time. They pack down much smaller than latex masks, and cost much less. With some cloth, craft foam, yarn, practice and time you can make masks for any sized hoard.

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