Note: I am not receiving any sort of compensation or consideration from anybody or any company as a result of this post. This is just me, as a LARPer, describing the gifts I find to be most appropriate. All recommendations are based solely on my own personal experience with the product or company.
Have all the Americans woken up from their Thanksgiving-induced food coma? Excellent! Now it's time to gear up for the yearly gift-giving season.
This blog post is not necessarily for LARPers, though LARPers should certainly feel free to share and distribute it. This post is for the non-LARPers who have a LARPer on their gift list this year. LARP is a unique hobby, and deciding on the best gift for someone who enjoys it can be difficult for those who don't understand Live Action Roleplay. So, here's a handy guide for you, the non-LARPer, on how to make your LARPing loved one squee with joy this holiday season.
Remember, when in doubt - ask! Most LARPers have a running list in their head of the prop or piece of equipment they want to buy next. In addition, many boffer LARPers enjoy pursuing a crafting hobby which ties into their gaming. The most common hobbies are: sewing, leatherworking, foamsmithing and chainmail. Find out which hobby your LARPer pursues, or is thinking of taking up.
Don't underestimate gift certificates. Some givers might consider them tacky or lazy, but most LARPers appreciate what a gift certificate represents - the chance to spend some time in their favorite store, picking the absolute best materials and tools for their hobby. The best places are home improvement stores (like Home Depot, Osh or Lowe's), sewing/craft stores (like Joann's or Michael's) or leatherworking stores (Tandy Leather being the most popular). Look into local craft stores as well - supporting small businesses is good karma!
If your LARPer camps, camping equipment is almost always welcome. Find out if there are any gaps in their camping gear. A few ideas: an LED headlamp, an easy-up or other pavilion, bamboo eating utensils, period style canteens and tankards or battery-operated lanterns.
Many LARPers make use of theatrical makeup. Giving an exact item to purchase is difficult - after all, an orc needs far different cosmetics than a bright elf. However, a Ben Nye or Cinema Secrets gift certificate will surely be appreciated. Last year, I gave one of my LARPing friends a sturdy black case for his theatrical cosmetics which went over fairly well (he brings it to every event, at least!)
Pre-made weapons, armor and costumes are a good idea for any LARPer, but make sure you find out what the recipient needs. Every LARP character is different, which means they all wear different styles, use different armor and wield different weapons. Check out the Good Sellers page for a list of reputable merchants.
If your LARPer is a:
* Sewist: Consider a dressform, sewing basket or a pair of high-grade stainless steel scissors. Look for vintage or period costume patterns. Another LARPing friends puts out a program called PatternFile for organizing sewing patterns, it's quite useful for those with extensive collections! If you have the extra money, a serger or industrial sewing machine will also be a delightful present.
* Leatherworker: Any leatherworker will welcome the gift of a whole hide to play with. A granite block used for hammering patterns into leather.
* Chainmail: Any chainsmith I know would be thrilled to receive a few thousand links to assemble. A variety of different-sized pliers and wire cutters will also find a good home with a chainsmith. Make sure to check and see what sort of metal your chainsmith prefers working with - though, when in doubt, stainless steel is usually the best choice. Look for creative or unique chainmail patterns, or a toolkit/tackle box to keep everything well-organized.
* Foamsmith: For a foamsmith, a gift certificate to a home improvement store, where your LARPer can pick out their own PVC pipe, foam insulation, paint, etc., is probably your best bet. If you are opposed to the idea of gift certificates, however, a container of Plasti-dip or latex paint will surely be gratefully received. Craft knives (such as an X-acto knife) and paintbrushes are also good gifts. Also, golf clubs - when the head is removed, the shaft makes an excellent core for ultralight weapons. The clubs don't even have to be new; thrift store clubs work just as well.
* World of Darkness LARPer: Does your LARPer eschew boffer games and stick solely to One World by Night or the Camarilla Fan Club? Most of the ideas here will be of little use to a gamer who plays White Wolf games exclusively. Theatrical cosmetics, especially prosthetic fangs or costume contact lenses, are still good ideas. Both One World by Night and Camarilla Fan Club host a variety of national and regional events throughout the year, so a gift of assistance with travel expenses would be quite welcome in this case. If you know your LARPer's favorite clan or in-game organization, try tracking down one of the vintage pins on Ebay.
* Non-LARP gifts: In general, most LARPers are also avid readers and gamers. Your LARPer no doubt has a wish list of books and games. Check out LARP in the Media on the How to LARP site. Board games like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne or Diplomacy will also go over quite well. I picked up a great little game from an independent game developer called Gnome Checkers at a convention last year, and it's gone over quite well!
If there are any other ideas or suggestions you have for good gifts to give a LARPer, please leave them in the comments!