For newer LARPers, whether it's your first time, or you've only been in the game a little while, it may not be as clear as it is to more experienced players, but LARP is not a cheap hobby.
A lot of people look at the event cost and minimum kit requirements and think to themselves: “Hey, for about $50 I can get started, then I'm just forking out $10-$20 weekly fees and I'm participating in a fun new hobby.” When weighed against other sporting type hobbies, such as Soccer, AFL, Hockey, etc. that can ask for upwards of $600 straight out of the gate to get involved, LARP can seem like the cheaper alternative. Sadly however, this is not always the case.
Weekly fees, event fees, insurance costs and equipment hire are a fair price to fork out for several hours of activity at whatever LARP you attend, but on top of that is your own personal equipment and this is where most people drastically underestimate just how much money they will be looking at spending.
LARP is a niche hobby. Sure, it may be worldwide, and in some countries have thousands of attendees at events, but here in Australia we are still somewhat new to the LARP scene. With only a few in each region and barely a dozen across our little island home, we are only really just beginning to become noticeable in the wider Australian consciousness. With events like Melbourne Swordcraft: Quest, and Western Australia’s: Shattered worlds, really doing their part to boost our hobby more and more into the lime light, we are making slow progress to becoming a staple of Australian culture, however there is still a long way to go.
Taking all this into account, it becomes more understandable why LARP gear isn't more readily available within our borders. We have few suppliers and even fewer manufacturers. This often will incur expensive shipping fees, or the awkward situation where upon ordering something online from an overseas supplier, it can arrive and be markedly different to what you thought you had ordered. Be it a discrepancy between sizing charts of other countries, or colour variances between advertised pictures and actual product, or even simply quality and durability of gear.
You see, while minimum kit standards are usually very affordable and easy to meet (depending which LARP’s you attend. Different games will hold to different standards) they are also considered a “starting kit”, something to wear while you try out the hobby and see if it is what you like. Once you have committed to the LARP of your choice, minimum kit simply becomes below average. A higher kit standard becomes apparent, and most LARP’s (especially those focused on combat) often come with a reward for armour and other additions to your kit. This is where thing become pricey.
Not only do these kits - which often have to come from specialty shops, overseas merchants or custom designers - often cost a pretty penny, but you are using these items to take part in what most of the time is a high energy combat sport (again, based on which LARP you frequent). The wear and tear on these items are often high to extreme and usually force the wearer to learn how to make their own repairs or replace worn and damaged kit and/or weapons. Given the nature of the game here at The Warsong: LARP Brisbane, if your armour isn’t quality, then you can expect to be replacing in within 12 months of heavy use.
This then becomes a question of quality over cost. Being the expensive hobby that it is, a lot of people are always scanning sites like Ebay and Wish, for those hidden treasures, or finding friends or crafters who claim to be able to recreate pieces featured in online pictures. While sometimes, that bargain can be found, or that friend will produce something perfect, it is more often than not the opposite. “You get what you pay for” is an unfortunate staple of most LARP gear. If you found something that is too good to be true price wise, more often than not, it won't be what you think it is. This can lead to a situation of “selling on” gear that doesn't fit, or isn't quite right, at an even more reduced price just to try and make some of your money back. This is something I think all of us can agree that we don't want, as not only does it bleed money, but it keeps a lot of substandard products circulating within our community.
“Well what choice do we have?” I hear you ask, and I'm sorry to say, but the answer is: “spend the money and buy quality.” LARP isn’t cheap. There are a number of quality crafters out there that stand by their work, a lot of them can be found in our “useful links” section of this very page. While their prices may seem high, you are guaranteed more often than not, to: a) get the quality you payed for, b) make sure it is in fact, what you originally wanted and c) quality crafters guarantee their work, and if it fails, will repair it. This will ensure the durability of your gear and will actually save you money in the long run by not having to replace broken or worn kit as often.
Saving up and spending the bigger dollars on that custom kit, or quality assured item is definitely the better option, but it all comes back to one simple fact, that I hope you now all understand just a little bit better: LARP is not cheap. This is a hobby that will cost you either money or time. There is almost a direct correlation between the two, everyone has heard the old adage: “Time is money.” And this can be seen to be true in a lot of LARP communities. Most LARP’ers that have one, don't have the other, and often at times a trade can be made, but I’ll leave that as the subject for another time, and for now stick with the money aspect. If you adjust your thinking from "I need cheap kit" to "I need quality kit", you'll have a much better time and in the long run spend less constantly replacing broken or worn gear.
Now I really hope this doesn’t seem like an insurmountable goal, in the fact that LARP isn’t cheap, doesn’t mean that you can’t participate. The trick to becoming a long term successful LARP’er and not someone living on the wrong side of the poverty line is: the community itself. It can be hard at first, especially if you are new or don’t know anyone at this particular LARP, but the best people around who can point you in the right direction on where to buy quality gear, are the people around you. They too have been through what you are going through, they too have bought less than stellar gear and regretted it. They will know through simple trial and error just what works and what doesn’t. These people have literally done the leg work before you and are a fountain of information if you ask the questions. All too often new players think they know something no one else has thought of and all too often end up making the exact mistakes as those that came before. Talking to, listening to and taking the advice of the community you wish to be apart of is always the best solution to your problems. Sure, you may not have your dream kit ready to go within the first six months of your LARPing career, but by taking your time, and spending your money on quality gear, will see you constantly growing kit that lasts, and working towards that eventual kit goal you have.
LARP isn’t cheap, that is very true, but it also isn’t a solitary hobby. The community you have chosen to be a part of have all been where you are now, and as long as you treat everyone with respect there will never be a time where you will be at a loss for advice. Couple that with investing in good quality gear from reliable sources, and you will find yourself on a long happy road to a successful LARPing career.