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Term Name: Garb

Description: Time period appropriate clothing (both in terms of appearance and materials used) that players wear to look like a character

Rule Type: Basic Rules

In order to keep the game immersive there are some basic expectations for the garb that players wear.

What is Garb?

The clothing players wear is commonly referred to as garb. This is to distinguish it from theatre costuming where the only thing that matters is appearance. Garb differs from costuming because what materials it is made out of also matters. To maintain the highest levels of immersion and authenticity garb is expected to be made out of materials that were available before modern times.

Players are expected to wear appropriate garb at all times while game is taking place whether as a player character or as a non-player character.

Getting Started With Garb

The most basic set of garb a brand new player should bring to game is a tunic and black sweatpants or scrubs. This gives them something to wear under the provided non-player character garb that won't clash.

After about a year of coming to game, you should have your own NPC garb to work with (which can be used with the provided non-player character garb to create more variety).

Distinctive Characters

Players who are only playing non-player characters don't require more than one set of garb. It is important that a player character be easily distinguishable from a non-player character, for that reason key elements of a player character's garb should not be reused by non-player characters. This varies from person to person, but generally includes tunics, hats, and other elements that are very visible on the player character.

Garb Requirements

Few things can ruin the atmosphere of the game more than bad garb.

Sneakers, T-shirts, or jarringly modern clothes, such as camouflage fatigues, can completely destroy the suspension of disbelief the game tries to create.

Garb should NEVER contain:

  • Fluorescent or day-glow colors
  • Modern military clothing in cut or pattern
  • Camouflage patterns in any form
  • Printed bandannas
  • Sneakers in any form or color
  • Modern hats
  • Visible zippers (Zippers on the insides of boots are acceptable if not obvious)
  • Cargo pockets on pants
  • Visible white socks
  • Exposed modern webbing or straps
  • Clothing of obviously modern cut or materials
  • Nylon or zippered backpacks or satchels
  • Clearly mundane prints or logos

Setting Influences

KoN is a fantasy game, and not set in a specific historical period so the variety of acceptable garb is wide. Players portraying non-human characters are encouraged to flavor their garb with fantasy elements. The game takes place in the city of Maplewood in the Freelands. Characters don't have to wear garb based on where they are from, they could wear anything appropriate for any number of different reasons. These guidelines are so that if you want to represent being from a particular culture you know how to.

Garb guidelines:

  • The real world time period Novitas samples for historical garb ends roughly around 1500 AD.
  • Civen characters should draw influence from the Roman Empire between 27 BCE – 610 CE.
  • Vleanoan and Evenandran characters should draw influence from medieval western Europe between 1066 – 1500
  • Great Forest and Dellin Tribelands characters should draw influence from central and northern Europe between the prehistoric era – 106 CE
  • Freelands characters wear anything found in any other kingdom.
  • Gershan characters draw influence from China between 1500 BCE – 1644 CE or Japan between 250 BCE – 186 CE
  • Terran characters should draw influence between 610 CE – 1066 CE the "dark ages" of European history.
  • This guide covers the look for characters from Vargainen.

Prioritizing Your Collection

Okay, so you've come to game, you've tried the system, you've drunk the kool-aid, and you're hooked, but now you need garb and you're broke, so what do you wear?

Don't be put off by the people who bought zillion dollar Feb Feast belts, or ridiculously expensive suits of plate handmade by secret herds of genetically engineered elves. You do not need to spend a lot to look great.

Anything you wear comes from three things: skill, money, and time. Learn how to use more skill or more time and you can make excellent garb for cheap. As you experiment with taking most of the money out of the equation keep in mind four things.

  1. Don't buy what you don't need.
  2. Don't buy junk.
  3. Design is important.
  4. Invest in what matters.

The absolute minimum recommended for new players is: good boots, a tunic/top long enough to cover you to about mid-thigh, and some way to carry stuff (either a belt and pouch, or pockets in your pants). These things can get you by for a few games without pretty much anything else.

Pair these with a pair of nondescript pants, or a long skirt, and the tunic will cover the pockets and things at the top until you can make/buy a more period pair of pants or skirt. Then over time build up your kit by adding new items as you learn how to make them or become able to afford them. Even experienced players with years of practice can still take a year to finish a new character's garb. Be patient.

Buying shoddy, ill-fitting, anachronistic or uncomfortable garb wastes your money. You'll just have to buy the same thing again when it breaks/ makes you miserable/ you decide you don't want to look terrible. If you don't waste your money, even someone with very limited skills or money can get great stuff by buying one piece at a time. Better to borrow for a game or two, then buy something that will last, than to buy the cheapest thing that will look terrible until it falls apart.

First, plan your outfit with your budget in mind. If you can't sew, don't do leatherwork, and have no money, keep that in mind when you start your costume. A peasant, in a simple loose-fitting tunic and pants, might be a better choice than an Evanendran noble with ten embroidered under-layers and curve-hugging studded leather armor.

Second, if you want your not-quite-right garb to look better, always make sure the silhouette is the same as or similar to the intended period garment. Picking a color scheme and sticking with it for every item in the costume, will also help the imperfections in some items blend into the rest of the outfit. Not just neutrals though, because that won't look intentional enough as a color scheme.

Strive for accuracy in the garments themselves if you want to mix and match colors or cultures; it keeps the whole thing from looking accidentally anachronistic instead of period but mismatched. Fairly plain items in a color that matches the rest of your garb will likely be the least noticeable. Because this is a costume, if it isn't right it shouldn't be there. Keep anything modern very simple. You can sometimes get away with something generic in brown, black or a matching color. The item should be fairly simple and not too attention grabbing. Make sure all the modern bits are covered by parts of the rest of your costume.

Get good boots. They are the most important thing you can get. Good footwear keeps you happy and comfortable during all the moving and running LARP requires, and good-looking boots can help pull a mediocre or poor outfit together.

Tip for men: your women's shoe size is generally your shoe size plus about two. Consider looking for women's boots. You can actually find many modern women's boots that would pass for period (in this case, period means no zippers, no modern embellishments, appropriate cut and style, etc.), and since they are carried by regular shoe stores, you can actually try them on. If they look lousy or hurt your feet, you'll know before you buy them, not after.

After boots, your time and money should be budgeted in proportion to how noticeable things are. Your goal is to use color and detail to draw attention to the great parts of your costume, while the rest blends into the background.

So if you have a bright yellow patterned tunic and a belt of simple brown leather, the tunic will draw most of the attention. You should be spending most of your time and money on the tunic. On the other hand if you had a plain brown tunic, and a wide, flashy, bright yellow patterned belt, then you would expect much more attention to be on the belt than before. Most of your money and attention should be spent on the belt.

Size matters too; spend more of your resources on something that covers a lot of your body (and shows – hidden parts don't count for size here) than on pieces that only cover a small area.

Where to Find Garb

Here's how to find supplies, but remember, be flexible. If you go to a thrift store expecting to find what you need for 'a midnight blue robe, grey brocade pantaloons, and a red silk shirt', you are going to be very disappointed. On the other hand, if you go looking for 'fancy clothes and fabric for a high elf' you'll be much more likely to end up with what you need, even if you end up with say green and white garb, and a cloak instead of grey garb with a robe.

There are three basic ways to get supplies:

  1. From stuff you already own
  2. From places that sell used or discount goods
  3. From actual fabric and craft stores.

Stuff you already own:

  • Pros: Free!
  • Cons: Little selection, takes up storage space, takes time to get a good supply.

Many things people get rid of have useful parts you can save if you set aside a small space in your home. Later, when you make costumes, you don't need to spend your hard earned money on them.

Things to save:

  • Belt buckles. If your belt wears out consider saving the buckle for use on a new belt.
  • Drawstrings. These can save you a couple bucks when making drawstring skirts or pants but take up very little space, and depending on what they look like might also be appropriate for lacing garments that need it.
  • Buttons. Don't throw away any shirt (or other clothing) until after you've cut off the buttons. Even buttons that don't look period can be used as a base for constructed buttons.
  • Unmatched Hook-Back Earrings. If you bend the hook into a loop you can attach them to chains and other jewelry, or cut the hook off and you can use the loop that attached the earring to the hook to sew them onto finery as embellishment.
  • Rings and Hardware. Taken from worn purses, bags and backpacks, these can be used when attaching ties to cloaks or other gear.
  • Chains or Charms From Broken Jewelry. Use as cords, in the same manner as unmatched earrings, or pair them together to make new jewelry pieces.
  • If you have extra space you can also save garment leather from bags, clothes or furniture, and fabric from clothes, sheets or curtains that become stained in only one area, or tear from minor calamities instead of wear.

Places that sell used or discount goods:

  • Pros: Better selection, no storage.
  • Cons: Takes a while to find what you want, worse in winter

We're talking thrift stores, garage sales, rummage sales, and sometimes the internet. You can also get things from friends and relatives if you let them know you're in the market for leftover stuff from any projects they do. These are all great places to shop for materials as long as you are flexible and shop ahead of time. It may take a couple trips to find what you want.

If you have more than one thrift store in your area, go to the one with the least fashionable clothes. The more trendy their stuff is the more likely the colors you find, or the items they sell, will read as modern in your garb; no matter how careful you are about creating accurate garments from it.

These are places you can get fabric for just a few dollars by buying sheets, curtains, or tablecloths that are in good repair. If it looks okay, hold it up to the light and look for any unevenness or brighter spots. These are a sign of worn fabric. Don't buy anything that has them.

Only buy woven fabrics. Anything knit, and anything with stretch in it are to be avoided, they will be much harder to rework and will not look period even if you do.

Denim isn't period.

Crushed velvet is period but is best avoided all the same because of how frequently cheap versions of it are used in bad Renaissance Halloween costumes and such. This means almost anything you make from it, without really exceptional levels of skill, will look tacky and cheap, just by association.

If you're lucky you can also make some modern garments look period with a little work. Your basic plan is to take a premade item that fits you and change it until you get rid of all the anachronisms. Even if you don't have a lot of sewing skills, taking the time to get good with a seam ripper can be really helpful here. Start by finding something in the shape you are looking for in a period-appropriate fabric. For tunics this might mean a dress, instead of a shirt. If it looks okay and basically fits, then check out the trim, pockets, or anything else that needs to come off (or have something sewn over it). If it looks like it is sewn on top rather than being built into the seams, and if the fabric isn't darker under the edges of it, then you can probably remove it with a seam ripper at home and it could be worth buying. If not, then keep looking. You can also sometimes remove anachronistic trim if you shorten the sleeves or hemlines slightly. Pockets set invisibly in the seam can be sewn shut, but pockets elsewhere are usually too much of a pain to be fixable.

Aside from fabric and garments you can get great accessories. Check out the belts, hats, jewelry, and bags each time you go for other supplies. These are very hard to alter, and you may go many times before you find something usable, but if you keep looking you can sometimes find pieces that work for your garb.

Fabric and craft stores:

  • Pros: Great selection, really fast.
  • Cons: Most expensive.

These places can be a great last resort if you can't find what you need elsewhere, and often a small purchase here can be just what you need to finish off your outfit.

First, you're gonna need your basic fabric. This is where coupons are your friend. Sign up for whatever mailing list your local store has – they often send out coupons, which are well worth it when buying expensive fabrics like linen or wool (or brocade). Linen and wool are period, and great in poor weather, but expensive per yard. If you plan on using these fabrics, consider looking over the cheapest selection of wool or linen fabrics your store has before making a color choice. After all a green shirt might match your idea for a wood elf better than a brown one, but if the cheaper selection doesn't include a good green, that brown one can start to look mighty appealing.

Spend your money on what will draw attention. In solid colors you can get away with cheaper fabric, but for patterns (like anything embroidered, or brocade, or whatever) buy quality fabric. If you can't afford the good fabric, don't buy a pattern. Patterned fabrics also take more fabric to make the same garment, since you have to match the edges and make sure everything is right side up. For these reasons I advise against them when you're tight on money.

Some fabric is the same on both sides (mostly solid colors, in standard weaves), but many patterns have a cutting layout planned for fabrics that are not. If you buy fabric that is the same you can sometimes get away with using less by rearranging the pieces that have to be mirror images of each other. You can also consider going in with a friend to make two similar shirts together for less than the price of two individual shirts.

For example, let’s say Adam buys three yards of red fabric for a shirt, bias tape to trim his sleeves and edges, and white fabric for a Septon's star on the front. Then I buy three yards of white fabric, bias tape to trim my sleeves, and red fabric for a Septon's star. Instead we could each buy almost the same amount of fabric, then use the leftover pieces from each other’s fabric (all those weird narrow edge pieces and triangles and such) to trim our shirts. Or if we want exactly the same shirt, two people buying the same fabric as one cut make out way better on percentage coupons, since one can buy fabric at a discount then the other can buy trim at a discount making the most use of their two coupons.

Plan on investing in good trim. Since it isn't structurally necessary there's no reason to scrimp on it. Nice trim and quality fasteners can really make your garb stand out. While it's usually easier to add your trim at once when you're making your garb, if you can't afford it, you can always finish the item, then after a game or two with a plain tunic (or pants), buy and add your embellishments to them.

If you're willing to trade a lot of time for a little money, you can also consider braiding your own trim for use as embellishments or ties from narrow ribbon or smooth, non frizzy yarn. Do not ever try this with that artificial junk that preschoolers use for art. Doing a braid with more than three strands is the key to making it look professional.

Here's a good tutorial on how to start a braid with four strands and how to start a braid with five strands. The instructions for four work with all larger even amounts of string; the instructions for five work for all larger odd numbers. Finish your ends by beading or whipping (as well as a little judicious melting on synthetics) and your cording will look even more rich. Sew a plain or braided cord on in a fancy way and you can make even simple trim look ornate.

Other places to try include:

  • Hardware Stores
    • Material for props and accessories can sometimes be found here. Good for cheap chain, many sorts of repurpose-able metal things, and dowels for rods and wands.
  • Dollar Stores
    • The dollar store often has deals on leftover colors of ribbon (white, beige, grey, or electric green anyone?), those glass blobs and plastic gemstones, and oddly colored shoelaces you can use as drawstrings. Keep an eye on their holiday merchandise. A lot of hideous items have good parts you can break off and use for cheap.

Don't give up on your 'failures'. If your work isn't coming out how you want make something else. There may be a perfectly good cloak hiding in that ruined skirt, or robe in that ill-fitting tunic. If it's already unwearable and ruined, there's no reason not to try.


Reserved Colors

The colors blue and orange have special meaning in-game.

Blue is the color of magic. While not everything that is blue is magical, when possible things that are magical are blue or have blue accents. It is ok to use blue in garb or other props. Many spells are also represented by blue strips of cloth known as flags.

Bright neon orange is used to indicate something is out-of-game and on rare occasions to indicate something is invisible. This can be in the form of flags draped over containers that are out-of-game, orange cloaks on game masters who are present to witness a plot, or orange tape holding an extra key next to a lock so that if someone uses special abilities to unlock it they have a key to use. Because orange is used so broadly very bright orange colors should not be used for garb or anything that is not meant to be out-of-game.

Objects that are both blue AND orange are in-game, but not visible to player characters other than the item's owner. The orange is there to tell others not to interact with the item, while the blue is there to say that its ok if the owner is interacting with it while in-game.

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