Friday, October 15, 2010

Bring On the Costumes

The guys over at the Mid Level Crisis Podcast had an interesting conversation regarding the problem with trying to improve new player costuming. Clearly, you want to give positive reinforcement for new costuming, but you don't want to be so blatant as saying "Hey new kid, you need to work on your costuming.

As many know, you get costume armor, but is that really enough? Especially when you compare it to the armor you get for wearing football pads (don't wear football pads).

So what are some ways to get better costuming?

1.) Experience Bonuses
Five points of armor might not mean a lot, but additional experience can usually drive players to extreme measures. Exiles uses this, where you get an additional learnin' (build point) every event for having no anachronistic elements in your costume. If you go so far as to add to the town atmosphere, you get even more.

The downside is that personalized experience might cause players to worry about favoritism, and in the case of larger games, adds an extra level of complexity on logistics that are often overworked as is.

2.) Use Chapter Resources
This is an idea that Tim and I had a while ago. When you have players NPC for you for so many events, you can provide some benefits like a decent double-sided tabard. Sure, these are intended for use while NPCing, but these can also give a basic level of costuming that would prevent new player costuming from detracting from the game.

Of course, the downside of this is that you need to either pay for costuming (very expensive) or have some dedicated crafters donating time to make the costuming.

3.) Mentoring
In my opinion, Mentoring is the best way to improve new player costuming. Telling a player that he needs to get better costuming could create some negative reactions. However, their reaction would be completely different if a player who took them onto their team said "We need to work on your costuming so people can tell that you're a part of the team. I'll help you with it." In that case, you not only get better costuming for the new player, but they actually start to feel like part of the group.

Promoting this maker culture has worked pretty well for games like Amtgard, Belegarth, and even the SCA. The downside of this is that it requires a significant level of involvement from veteran players and willingness to mentor those players.

Any of these three should be able to get the job done, but each of them has possible downsides associated with it. Got any suggestions for how to improve new player costuming?

PS: If you're interested in trying Exiles out and are free this weekend, come out to the game at Lewis Arboretum this weekend. It's going to be an excellent, season ending event with a spectacular plot team (not that I'm biased or anything). See you out there!


  1. Another option would be keeping a stash of costuming and reps to give to new people. It would mean hauling another tub of stuff, but you could have people donate old costume elements to the pot. The costuming then wouldn't be spectacular, but better than jeans and a Metallica t-shirt!

  2. I believe that was one of the ideas the MLC guys dropped in the podcast. The big downside to that is establishing a transition so that players are constantly mooching costume.

  3. But let me add that it is a valid idea and probably requires the least amount of time/money investment of any of the solutions I proposed.

  4. posting tutorials for simple basic costuming i think could be very helpful as well. Or taking someone with you when you scour the local goodwills and thrift stores. The cincy boards had some good tutorial on basic costuming, my favorite is one made from sweats. The thing is to stress how little money and time it takes to improve costuming, just need to point people to them without demeaning them. And if it's barbaric or orcish I can give you some help if anyone wants it.

  5. Costuming discussions are often a bit odd for me because of my experience playing in various Accelerant games. Dsicounting a couple of the costuming requirements in Madrigal, particularly the Highborn header which was only added about 3-4 years ago, many of these games give absolutely no bonuses for costuming. However, costuming in these games is generally exceptional.

    I think it's simply a question of setting expectations. If someone tried to wear blatant footbal pads at Madrigal, they'd be laughed off the field. Aralis? If "Guy in Jeans" showed up at Aralis he would seriously stick out. Now, a lot of the players there are very nice and may well try to help someone out, but the general point is that if you show up without good costuming in these games, you're failingat the get go.

    This holds true for even less well established games in the Accelerant family. I thinks omething about the immersion emphasis in Accelerant simply makes it unacceptable to have anachronistic costumes. Part of making a character in these games is getting the clothes together. It's not rewarded, it's the default, and if you're wearing a Metallica t-shirt you'd probably be asked to leave until you found something else to put on.

    I think part of the problem in a lot of NERO is that while we want games to strive for higher standards, all too often we are unwilling to actually *make* it a standard. We are unwilling to say, even as a culture, that certain costuming minimums are simply necessary to participate as part of the cost of playing.

  6. You make an excellent point, Mickey. If we've got an aversion to telling players "No" in person, then put it in the rulebook. Then it's not like you're singling them out, since everyone has to play by the same rules.

  7. I think setting a standard would be great. Though I know many of the owners don't want to turn people away, and for more then just seeming like a jerk but that entrance fee can go towards upgrading plots costuming, camp fees, ect. Thats why the question of how to raise costuming standards and making people care, since some have trouble coming up with the cost of the event itself without turning anyone away.

  8. The one thing that got me was always the claim that they can barely pay for the event. The average event to PC around here is $40-$50, and it's normally free to NPC. You can easily pay for a basic costume with the difference between PCing and NPCing. That's enough to get a pair of kung fu pants and a tabard. I think that more often than not, people use money as a scapegoat for laziness.

    And in the rare cases where money is actually an issue, I'm sure games will be willing to work with you to help get costuming on the cheap.

  9. See, my main cost is gas. I rarely npc also except at NERO Elkins. Your right also though that costuming isn't expensive you can buy a set a sewats for like 20-30 bucks, cut off the trim around the wrists, ankles and neck, make a V then tie the forearms and calves with leather lace or strips of cloth and bam, awesome cheap costume. Though also remember that alot of the ones that aren't hitting the standard are young, perhaps high school kids. I think it's not hard to raise costuming, it's mainly just educating how to do it on the cheap, and the mentoring by veterans would be an excellent course, perhaps the best I can think of.

  10. Mark Henry ~MariusOctober 15, 2010 at 4:39 PM

    I saw on the WAR site somewhere that a new player can borrow a costume from the NPC stuff. This is great, but I'm not sure how often people are directed to do that.

    In addition to that, a staff person should probably help dress them appropriately if they are borrowing items and also point them in the right direction to purchase similar items.