Costuming: Rules and Community Standards


We received multiple complaints after the July event of people in tennis shoes, jeans, and other anachronistic clothing. I'd like to take this chance to remind everyone of the costuming rules and speak a little to community standards.

Hard Lines: The Rules

What the rules say on costuming is basically this:
  • You have to wear a costume, and it has to be medieval fantasy in genre (anything from 600 to 1600 A.D. is fair game, fantasy twists are completely encouraged).
  • Blue jeans and white tennis shoes are explicitly prohibited. Black jeans and black tennis shoes are discouraged.
  • Avoid displaying anachronistic devices like watches, fitness trackers, and cell phones (hide them inside your costume where people can't see them).
  • No religious iconography.
Citations below.

ARB p. 37 - Infractions: Role-playing Infractions
Role-playing Infractions are not as common as Combat Infractions, and only apply when there are blatant violations which harm the atmosphere of the game to such a degree that you are ruining the fun of other players.

Examples include:
  • Talking loudly about OOG things in an IG area
  • Smoking in a prohibited area
  • Not wearing the appropriate costume (for example, wearing jeans and tennis shoes)
  • Refusing to role-play effects upon you (for example, walking away yawning while under the effect of a Fear)
  • Role-playing your race incorrectly or not wearing the required racial makeup and/or costume
We’re not here to be your drama coaches and you will not be punished for “bad acting.” The purpose of this is to ensure that you show respect to your fellow players and not destroy their game enjoyment.

ARB p. 78 - Possessions: Costuming
Your costume need not be elaborate, but you must have one. Cutting a hole in a sheet and throwing it over your shoulders like a tabard is not sufficient and your lack of enthusiasm will certainly have an effect on how other players will treat you.

Blue jeans, t-shirts, and white tennis shoes are prohibited. Black jeans and black tennis shoes are accepted but discouraged.

...Please don’t wear your watches, cell phones, or other anachronistic devices. (You can sometimes hide a watch under an arm guard.)

ARB p. 34-35 - Code of Conduct: Regulated Behavior
Breaking Character. This includes PCs who don’t even make an attempt at a costume, continually talk out-of-game, walk through the game out-of-game and talk to other players who are in-game (even if they have a white head- band on), smoke in non-smoking areas, and otherwise show no respect for the PCs who are trying to stay in-game.

ARB p. 14
You can’t be an apprentice cleric to a long-forgotten god because there are no clerics or gods... The Alliance attempts to remain religion free as much as possible, and we do not wish to add elements that would offend anyone.

The Squishy Bits: Genre

The rules stated above are the minimum standards and hard requirements; failure to follow the above standards may result in a roleplay infraction and you will be asked to fix the issue. The rules stated above are what will be enforced by Alliance LARP Denver staff.

One of those rules is fairly squishy: "medieval fantasy costume" and avoiding "anachronisms". What does that look like?

Medieval fantasy means costuming inspiration from between the year 600 AD to to the year 1600 A.D. (ARB p.29). Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is a classic inspiration and is in fact the definitive inspiration for the genre. Much of D&D is also included in this, as our game has its roots in Dungeons and Dragons tabletop. Game of Thrones is another great example of appropriate costuming.

What is not included in the genre: Steampunk (goggles and gears are generally not appropriate, considered anachronistic, and are strongly discouraged), genres related to steampunk (biopunk, dieselpunk, and cyberpunk should go without saying), futuristic science fiction, anime (anime-heavy costuming styles are discouraged; this is not an anime-themed game), and contemporary (modern) or urban fantasy.

ARB p.29 - The Game World
Remember that we are creating a world here as we want it to be and not how it really was, so don’t be picky about historical inaccuracies. We have people wearing costumes that would have been worn from 600 to 1600; we have weapons that did not exist during certain periods; we have laws and systems of government that are modern in concept.
And that’s how we want it. Let’s face it, once you bring magic into it, you have already moved away from historical accuracy anyway. Always keep in mind that the Alliance LARP is not a re-creation game, but a fantasy game.

In other words, we're more interested in coolthentic than we are authentic. If it looks cool and "feels" in genre, adding to immersion and setting, it matters less that it's not completely historically accurate. However, if it looks cool but is genre-breaking or "feels" out-of-genre, that's not sufficient and detracts from the game.

What counts as "in genre" and "anachronistic" is subject to discussion, but Alliance Denver staff do ultimately have final say on whether your costuming is within the rules or not.

The Squishier Bits: Community Standards

The community of Alliance LARP Denver has some of the highest costuming standards in all of Alliance. Most of our players spend a lot of time, effort, and money investing in their "kit" (a Nordic LARP term for costuming, makeup, props, and camp setup). The community as a whole places a high value on immersion, which is the facilitation of a setting in which you can feel like you are really there in a scene, with minimal distractions from the "in another world" feeling. Staying in character, attention to detail with costuming, staying in-genre with costuming, decorating cabins, and using props all add to immersion.

This does not mean you should let the lack of a great costume stop you from PCing. It is a long tradition in the Alliance LARP world to start with the basics – a tunic or tabard, wrap pants, a belt, a pair of boots – and slowly add more and more complexity, updating your costume over the potentially very long life of your character. Page 78 of the Alliance Rule Book has some good tips for a basic costume, and our talented player base is always happy to help people work on their costuming at the Alliance Costume Workshop, with in-person workshops and everything!

This is also something built upon and enforced by the player community rather than by staff. The rules do not require that you contribute to immersion, but the rules do strongly encourage it, and Alliance Denver staff also strongly encourages it.

When designing a character, costume, or set, ask yourself: Does this contribute to immersion, or break immersion?

One way you can contribute to immersion, or at least avoid breaking it, is to stay in genre. The genre of Alliance LARP Denver is medieval-to-renaissance epic fantasy. Use colors and materials that look appropriate to the period – shiny synthetics can be distracting or grating, as can neon colors (which come across as either modern, futuristic, or anime rather than medieval). Strive for something that "feels" medieval high fantasy, with all the "coolthentic" flavor that is entailed therein.

If your costuming "feels" more steampunk than medieval fantasy, or more anime, or contemporary – you're going to stick out like a sore thumb, and players who value immersion are going to avoid you because your atmosphere-disrupting appearance is negatively impacting their enjoyment of the game.

Remember, the definition of roleplaying infraction is when you "harm the atmosphere of the game to such a degree that you are ruining the fun of other players". If staff receive a lot of complaints from many different players that your appearance is negatively impacting their enjoyment because it's genre-breaking or atmosphere-harming, we may consider this to be a roleplaying infraction.

But what about creativity? Individuality?

Certainly we value and encourage creativity and expression in Alliance LARP Denver. However, creativity also thrives under the pressure of constraints and limits.

It is not creative (nor within the rules) to dress as a futuristic robot out of something like Pacific Rim and come to a medieval fantasy LARP where such things don't exist, and expect to be allowed because it's an expression of your individuality and the motto is "be all you can't be". That's an extreme example, and there's a lot of gray area in-between, but a full-on gears-and-goggles steampunk character or a neon-green anime character is no less out-of-genre than an android or mecha.

It is far more impressive to be creative within the constraints of the genre and setting. There's a wealth of possibilities within the Alliance Denver setting, most of which are yet untapped. Read the players guide. Talk to other players. Get inspired, and build upon what exists in ways that enrich the world, setting, and experience for the entire community.

"Embracing the limitation can actually drive creativity … We need to first be limited in order to become limitless." -Phil Hansen

“If you treat the problems as possibilities, life will start to dance with you in the most amazing ways.” -Martin Villeneuve
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Additionally, a few players (namely B.) have put together and maintain a very useful general guide with lots of ideas and tutorial links to putting together and improving upon your kit. Check it out!


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And ALSO if you want to work on your costuming but lack a key skillset (sewing, leatherworking, chainmail, embroidery, wigmaking, etc), we've got a costume workshop group that meets once a week to work together. Help is available if you need it, but also companionship if you already know how to do what you're working on but wants to talk larp with some friends while you do it! Next meeting is next sunday!