Over the years I’ve played LARPs one common issue continues to dog Plot teams: how to quickly and effectively allow NPCs to switch between different roles while still providing Players with a clear sense of what monsters they face?
We’d all love to be able to do intricate makeup on each NPC but, while that’s fantastic for immersion in the game, it slows down everything if you need to constantly be breaking for makeup changes. It also isn’t an option when your LARP runs events in areas without a good source of light, mirrors, and running water. After going through a number of prototypes I finally found a solution that is both cost effective, easy to produce, and durable enough to last more than one fight. Today I’m going to walk you though creating NPC Monster Masks for a variety of generic monsters.
First off, these masks work great for your generic monster races, elementals, and other NPCs who don’t need to be readily identifiable later in your game. They allow your NPCs (or PCs lending a hand in monster camp switch quickly between roles). They make PC identification of the monster type quick and reliable. What they aren’t, (at least not in my hands) is high art. You have been warned.
To start, you need a base for your mask. Personally I like to use a cheap plastic “hockey” mask. Amazon carries a lot of different ones, this is the one I’m using for this demonstration.
In general, they’re about $8.50 but you can usually find them cheaper. Don’t worry if you get ones that glow in the dark, it won’t impact your later results.
Since you want Players to be able to understand whatever the NPCs say and you don’t want NPC breath stinking up the inside of their mask, the first thing you’ll do after getting you mask is make some adjustments.
I used a dremmel tool with a cutting attachment, like this one, to cut away the area near the mouth. You can make these adjustments with almost any cutting tool (just be careful) but the dremmel allowed me to modify a dozen masks in under a half-hour.
From there a few minutes of sanding around the cut with 220 grit sand paper should smooth things down enough so no one is in danger of cutting themselves when wearing the mask.
Next, we want to make sure that mask is going to stay on the NPC. One downside of using a less expensive base is the quality of the elastic. On my base masks the elastic was attached to itself with glue giving a less than durable hold. This is easily remedied with quick modifications.
I use a leather punch, like this to quickly make holes in the elastic at the connections to the mask and where the two pieces of elastic come together at the back of the head. Then I reinforce those connections with a small rivet. You can get these in kits with everything you need in one package, like this.
Now you have a sturdy mask that doesn’t get in the way of your NPC playing the game. It’s time to turn that creepy hockey mask into a monster.
I recommend staring off with a base layer of spray paint, ideally a primer and paint in one mix. Again, you can use lesser quality tools but paint is one area where you really get what you pay for, so it makes sense to use the better stuff. (Safety warning: always make sure to follow the directions on your paint. Don’t hurt yourself making anything we’re showing you here).
Once your base layer dries go back and spot check to make sure you’ve covered the mask completely, once that checks out you can add any details you want. Today I’m making a simple Ogre mask, so I’ve added some tusks and war paint.
I use Sharpie brand because I’ve gotten good results from them in the past, but you can use whatever you have laying around or is readily available to you. Don’t worry to much about your designs, if you finish and don’t love your results, a second chance is only a can of spray paint away. With a little practice you’ll be able to create masks that easily represent your generic monsters clearly.
Once your detail paint dries I recommend adding a layer of sealant to protect the mask and give it added durability. There’s lots of options out there, but I find Mod Podge does a good job.
Now you’ve got a simple durable mask that allows for easy reliable identification of monsters in your game. Here are a few examples we use in Alliance South Michigan. If you take time to use this technique, please feel free to come back and show off your work.
I’ve shared some links to Amazon for the products I’ve used in making these masks. These are products I like because they get the job done well. While Alliance South Michigan may receive a referral fee from Amazon if you purchase items that you find via our blog, we have not been paid by any of the companies who make these products to promote them on our site.