Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Making Inexpensive Costumes

As some people have seen on the National NERO forums, Tim has been utilizing some nice costumes at the last few events he's been running. This is an example of a golem costume.

We have learned a little bit about building these costumes, as we're on the second version of a golem costume (this time a stone golem), and hopefully we'll get some pictures.

1. Open Cell Foam Is Your Friend
It's easy to mold, it's easy to cut, and it's easy to paint. It's also safe in combat if players run into you or if you fall on someone. And, in a pinch, you can compress it a fair bit for transportation.

The downsides are that it's somewhat expensive (unless you find couches being thrown out) and it's fairly hot to wear. All things considered, it ends up being a pretty decent tool for costuming.

2. Dremel Action
A Dremel is an excellent tool for shaping open cell foam. If you want to make nice clean cuts and sharp edges, you'll be hard pressed to find a better tool.

3. Keep the Arms Free
Even though you're playing a golem who normally doesn't care about weapon strikes, the arms kept getting chopped to the point of annoyance. I would suggest building up the legs and torso, but leave the arms free to swing.

The chest is the easiest place to add costume. The legs are fair game as well, as long as you can move as fast as NPC should. With the golems, we could build up the legs because they can't run.

4. If Movement is Limited, Adjust Stats
This is one of those difficult efforts in scaling. If your costume limits your ability to fight, adjustment the card accordingly.

Without giving too much away, we added body to counter the limitations of the suit. What we didn't give to the golem was a ridiculous amount of defenses, so there are ways to work through it. Let's face it. A monster taking your spells with more body is more fun than one with less body that returns everything.

That's the basics on how we got the costume started. I would suggest anyone interested in building a costume like this start out by scouting out some couch foam, and then just go to town on it.

A shout out goes to Dave, Beth, and Josh for making this costume.


  1. Is the golem just painted open cell foam or is there fabric covering the pieces?

    Love the costume. I've just started to get into costuming and hope to make some good costumes. The only one I've had time to make so far is a treant - a mask with a movable jaw and a headpiece made of fake leaves and jute twine (just like a ghillie suit). Fortunately I just used it for a roleplaying part; I need to make some adjustments before I use it in combat. I could write up a description if you guys wanted me to and you could post it here.

    What I am planning now is a suit of bone armor (looks like a rib cage and spine) and an umber hulk. I saw the umber hulk that North Coast Nero did last year and I want to make a slightly smaller version - more of an oversized helment instead of their "large creature" backpack.

    The area I live in does a Mayors Clean Up week twice a year where you can throw extra stuff away for free. A lot of couches get tossed that week and I think I'm going to have to go hunting for couches and strip out their foam.

  2. The foam is painted. I will try and find out if they used a specific paint.

    Those costumes sound great! I'd be happy to post the description if you sent it to me at

  3. Always test the paint on a small piece of foam, I have spend a lot of time carving foam only to watch it disappear from the paint eating it!

    All you guys and your costumes, I am going to have to step up my game. Couple of hints I have learned:
    Use the illusion. Standing on stilts of any kind is dangerous n combat, I recommend against it. Instead find ways to give the impression of height. Covering the legs is a great way to do this.

    Pick your moment. I try to pick the best time of day or night to unveil my creations. Night covers up a lot of flaws, but also hides a lot of detail. So depending on what I make I try to pick the best time to reveal it. Is it highly detailed? Then I do a dusk or even midday appearance, is it a bit lacking in detail but is impressive in size? The do a night time appearance.

    SURPRISE! Costumes are better when they are not seen prior to entering the game. I try to keep players away from them until they enter the game, even calling holds at times to get them into the midst of the players.