Crafting the Essence of Death and Nature: Pieter’s LARP Druid Staff Project

Today, we embark on yet another exciting project journey from Pieter of Arcana that started with a familiar question: “Could you make something new for me?” And as always, the enthusiastic response was, “Sure, if you can describe what you would like, it will spark an idea.”

So here we are, with a raw sketch and a brief in hand, ready to jump into the creation of a unique LARP Druid Staff. The brainchild of the talented Pieter, this staff is envisioned to embody the essence of the All Father, encapsulating themes of death, decay, and autumn. Picture a dark, mysterious staff that, despite its ominous aura, maintains a distinctive connection to the natural world.

The foundation of this project lies in a sketch—a rough representation of the idea’s potential. Remember, in the world of creativity, it’s the idea that counts. Alongside the sketch, there’s a brief description guiding the design process.

The vision is clear from the sketch, a staff that is both dark and recognizably wooden. The challenge? To infuse the staff with the essence of the All Father, creating an object that breathes the very spirit of death and decay. Adding an element of the Were Bear introduces an intriguing twist. Claw marks adorn the sketch, leaving a mysterious tale in their wake.

The aim is to maintain a height of 180 cm for the staff, ensuring a commanding presence on the LARP battlefield. Imagine wielding this mystical creation, a tangible connection to the forces of nature and the mysteries of the All Father.

To enhance the mystique, Pieter envisions the staff featuring a recognizable sickle—a symbol of harvest, death, and the cyclical nature of life. To push the boundaries further, he contemplates the inclusion of subtle traces of blood, adding an element of grim reality to the fantastical design.

A tree. Boom.

“Boom” is “tree” in Dutch. It’s pronounced more like “Foam” though.

Because Pieter now larps in the nature group, he built a tree. 

The tree has two faces, one male, one female. And when two priests of nature push their religious symbol in the mouths, the tree opens up!

LARP Fish Weapon

My daughters are playing Genshin Impact and are all excited about the new fish weapon you can get there. This reminds them of the one their mother (me) once made. 
That drove me to gather a collage of pictures from the time I worked on it, and posted it online. That post lead to this article. 

A couple of years ago (before the pandemic took over the world), a friend of mine organized a small comical open-world LARP (that I couldn’t even attend myself). She complained to me about all the props she had to make within a week, including, well… a fish. It was a reference to the one Monty Python’s knights had, and THAT got my attention.
I asked a few questions, like “Are they going to hit each other with that fish?” and concluded “so IT IS a weapon.” 
Next thing she knew I sent her: “Challenge accepted.” 
She didn’t ask for my help and was really surprised. After a few quick guide-lines she vanished offline, before I could change my mind, and left me with what I just got myself into.

I started by googling and staring at Herring’s photos.
Next stage was to decide how big I wanted it to be and draw the outline on a cardboard, cut it and mark it on EVA foam Sheets.
The area next to the tails is slimmer than what it’s supposed to be, for comfortable grip.

The middle layer, the only one with fins and tail, was 0.8cm which was the fiberglass core rod diameter (0.314 inch) and a couple of 2cm (0.79 inch) layers to each side. Yeap, it’s thick.

Layers of EVA foam

I secured the rod ends with contact adhesive and jeans straps.

Glued the layers to each other and left it pressed overnight.
The waiting was the hardest part.

In press

Next step was to round it up, first a rough cut with a utility knife, and then with a dremel.
There was black powder everywhere (mask is a must).

Lots of dremeling

Finding photos of a fish from all angles (front, above, behind) was Challenging, I ended up buying an actual stinky fish for reference.
After dremeling and dremeling some more, I drew the scales with a marker and used a soldering pen to scorch it.

And could finally start to paint it. First few layers of black acrylic mixed with latex. 
For the  final layers I used a  metallic shimmering silver acrylic paint.
Note that the latex adds flexibility to the paint, but tends to yellow later, however for the fish it worked.

Shimmering Silver acrylic

I darkened the head and the “back”parts and highlighted other parts.
As a biology major (B.A.) it was important for me to nail the little details such as the fish cloaca and lateral line. I even went for that dead fish glaze.

Drying between the layers

When I was done painting I applied two layers of gloss yacht varnish. I usually use matt but I wanted the wet-look for this one.
It only seemed appropriate to be delivered to my friend’s LARP wrapped in newspaper (that’s Hebrew, I live in Israel).

Wrapped in newspaper

Later on I ended up using it as my character’s weapon, where she wasn’t allowed to carry an actual weapon in the city.
The puzzled look of the guy approving the weapon’s safety and marking them, was priceless, I assured him it should be viewed just as a club, with fins.

That’s me in a LARP holding the fish

Scroll of Promotion

This isn’t a weapons build, it’s for magic scrolls! As long as the pandemic is ebbing, it may be time to think about how your group presents itself to new people. I’ll talk about scrolls. They’re magic! For recruiting.

We didn’t have any photos of us yet, so we asked our artist friend to draw “cool nerds” for the flyer.

At Dargarth, we put up flyers all over the place before our first event in the city blocks of a few neighborhoods. This worked well, we wound up being contacted by the friendly people at CHS blog for an interview, which was a great signal boost. These big punctuated efforts were helpful, but not as important as the reliable club behavior that gets a group from five people to fifty:

Over the next few years, we’d haul out a bunch of loaner gear to our just-public-enough spot every other weekend, by 11am, with people present in costume having fun, sparring, eating, crafting, and talking. We’d have a sign if there was room in the dufflebags for it, and if we were really on our game, a basketful of flyers announcing our next couple of events.

I sorta love that the font on this one is really hard to read. I think that makes it better. I kinda wish it was harder to read.

The scroll is a great thing to bring to your group for the level of cost involved. It’s just the bare minimum you need for it to be anachronistic and prop-like, it’s hand-made (in photoshop/google docs/whatever) and obviously DIY and not corpo, and it’s personal. It’s better swag than a keychain, makes a great souvenir for members and visitors alike, and it’s got your website and some cool details on it that you can talk about more to anyone who comes over to pick up a scroll. (You put them out in front of the group in a basket so people know they could grab them, right?) You don’t even need fancy paper or string, and you can crank out a new one for each event, ask the Friendly Local Game Store if you can post some, leave some tucked into the D&D section at Barnes and Noble, whatever.

Pieter’s Bloody Knife

Pieter writes in again from across the pond (Arcana, in the Netherlands) with a new knife he made!

The knife was a request: ”Hi, I have done all kinds of tests in the past few weeks, because I think it would be nice if there was some blood at rituals and now I have had a good idea so that I can make a cut with blood at every ritual that I find necessary, but I miss some details on how I can do that. My basic idea is a hollow handle where I can connect a tube of fake blood too and that if I squeeze something in the handle, for example, some blood will run out of the tip of the knife. A tube runs through the blade. Something like that. Is such a thing possible?”

Some technical details: the knife is 40 cm long, about 15 inches. the handle unscrews and folds open so you can easily exchange the silicone flask. squeezing the flask forces the “blood” through the hollow core and out of some small channels drilled into core right through the foam.

Thank you Pieter!

Pieter’s Cactus Club

A player at Arcana asked Pieter if he could build something…

His character went though a desert, and he only survived with the aid of a cactus. He asked Pieter if a cactus weapon could be built, and mentioned, “Oh, it would be nice if it could light up.”

Here’s a spiny light up Cactus club!