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.

Larp Viking Style Shield on a budget.

Taking an objective look at my armor, and thinking about where it can go, and what story it can tell, some viking additions seem in order. Although not watching Vikings on the History Channel, there may be some inspiration there. My current shield, although an awesome giant scarab beetle, really does not tell that story very well. Fortunately I found some inspiration for the new look.

Skallagrim posted a very nice tutorial on making a viking style shield. To build the larp version there are going to be some changes needed. But for the most part, we’re going to stick to his instructions. Take a moment and watch his tutorial on How to Make a Viking shield on a budget.

Here are the initial plans for the larp version. As you can see, I’m still prototyping with graph paper. Never go without it. Each square is 2 inches. The large rectangle is 48 by 96 inches. Which is roughly the size of one retail piece of plywood. With one plywood sheet you can make four 32 inch viking shields. You’ll notice that the diagram is actually off by two squares. Which is corrected in the next image.

So that means 4 shield boss are needed. As this is larp the Dark Victory Shield boss will do fine. It will be more than durable enough, and be less expensive than metal. As we’re going to have foam and duct tape on this thing the plastic look should not be too much of a problem. If your shields were being used in SCA combat, or actual combat, a metal boss would be worth the extra cost.

Although the picture is upside down, but these are the correct dimensions. You can see that one shield is actually cut in half. It will need to be glued together. The Dark Victory Boss comes with it’s own grip which probably should not be used on the half shield. The historically accurate grip might bet better for that shield in order to hold the two halfs together.  
To save some cost we’re going to use burlap to cover the shield with. To meet larp rules we’ll need to add plastic tubing around the edge which will replace the raw hide. At the moment, the idea is to use the burlap and glue to hold the plastic to the shield. On top of that we’ll need some pipe insulation. Blade foam is usually 3/4 inch thick, but we can most likely use the thinner insulation. The edge of the shield needs to not break weapons. These shields should never be used for striking. 
1 Sheet of 1/4 inch x 48 inch x 96 inch Sanded Pine Plywood. $20.00
4 Dark Victory Shield Boss $60.00
12 yards burlap $20 if purchased in person, $30 if bought online.
Giant bottle of Wood Glue $30
Bolts, Screws, Washers, Tubing, Pipe Insulation $30
4 Viking Style Shields approximately $170 total (plus or minus tax). Assuming a full sheet of plywood is used. $42.50 per shield. Not bad. It’s tough to find even a cheap shield online for that price.