Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Steampunk 101

I know that this is blog focused on LARP, but I have been digging into the maker culture recently, thanks to the heavy steampunk influence in Exiles. One of the tiered personas you can play is a Technologist, who, while weak, can craft amazing weapons and gadgets to give them (and the people around them) an edge.

It's pretty prop intense, so if I'm going to play one (eventually), I should probably dig into how to gear up steampunk style. The nice thing about steampunk is that, when done right, it can fit into any LARP, even fantasy LARPs. So here's a little primer on steampunk and how to make props for LARP.

Despite what Wikipedia tells you, the truth is that Steampunk was a break-off genre of cyberpunk. It's essentially a fantasy version of cyberpunk. The key themes of steampunk are innovation, individuality and frontier exploration.

Enough of the background, there are plenty of resources out there that can tell you about steampunk. What I want to tell you is how to get yourself some steampunk kit that works for LARP.

1. Brown is Your Friend
Generally speaking, if it's not metal, it's leather. For that reason, steampunk garb is normally filled with rich browns. If you're playing a nobleman, you can start using other rich colors, but I'm assuming that you're playing some sort of adventurer.

2. Get Some Gears
It can be a little tough to find large gears for costume, but you'd be amazed at how much you can add to a prop by adding some simple gears and springs to busy up a specific part of your item. You can often find gears that you can use in CD players, VCRs, and old electronics. A lot of the time they're plastic and white, but feel free to hit them with some brass/silver paint. Once you've got the gears, you can make a space, fill it with clear resin and set the gears how you want. Cheap, easy, and looks awesome.

3. Pocket Watches
While it might be hard to find these at flea markets or current stores, there's a whole slew of these coming out of china, which you can get off of eBay for about $5-$10. Granted, these aren't the best quality and you might want to upgrade if you plan on doing some steampunk cosplay, but for LARP it should get the job done (and you won't be heartbroken when you break your $100 pocket watch).

4. Paintball Masks
Now, you might be able to find these at garage sales or have these lying around, but paintball masks can be modded into some pretty sweet steampunk gas masks with a touch of paint and a little flair. This also gives you the ability to set yourself apart from all the goggle folk. Or even better, punch out the eye protection and wear the mask WITH goggles. The nice thing about paintball masks are that they're built to hold up under heavy physical activity. There's nothing worse than wearing a prop that significantly reduces your effectiveness.

So give it a shot and join the steampunk revolution. And if you do (or have in a past), send us some links/pics of your steampunk kit at!

PS - We're 9 posts away from 100 and you guys need to get about 500 more hits to make 4000, and I promise we'll have a contest if we make it. Now's the time to tell your friends!


  1. Brass candle sticks make awesome gun parts. Josh and I made some steampunk props for a con last year and we disassembled a lot of cheap brass candlesticks, sconces, event a brass towel rack to mount on wooden bases and make "guns." The finger loops make awesome trigger guards and often the actual holders can make great barrels.

  2. Copper wire is your friend! You can get spools of the stuff at home depot. Also copper tubing. Wrapping things with copper wire and putting a few copper tubes on stuff can make it look pretty awesome.

    I've found a lot of cool reps on Etsy just by searching for "steampunk." And of course, there are lots of good pictures out there (look for the steampunk ghostbusters!)