Choosing suitable writing equipment for your larp will depend entirely on the setting.
Is the story taking place in an historical time? Is it modern? Futuristic? Perhaps in a purely fictional world? Regardless, it is recommended that you consider what kind of aesthetics you are looking for. After all, if the entire larp is founded on letter communication the materias used play an even greater part in creating an atmosphere. For players with disabilities or other obstacles making it difficult for them to use regular hand writing there are of course ways around this. For example, a player could use a computer with type-writer fonts or find other ways of adhering to the aesthetic. Always contact your organiser if you face difficulties of any kind. Larping is, after all, meant to be fun for everyone involved.
The inspiration below is focused mainly on historical larps, since that is what we have so far done here in Sweden. However, if you have ideas or suggestions for equipment suitable for other settings please feel free to contact us.
Ink comes in many forms, from the kind you dip your pen in, to the kind you have inside the pen, to ink made for type writers or other machines. It can be found in most colours imaginable, and is both a blessing and a curse. There is something quite special about the feeling of dipping your pen into an ink bottle and seeing it flow down to form words. However, some caution is advised. At first it is easy to stain both your paper and fingers until you get the hang of how to use the ink properly, and we stress even more caution when there are kids and animals around.. So long as you’re careful though, the ink is purely wonderful.
Some advice when using dip pens and ink:
- Always clean your pen in water after you’ve stopped writing, lest the nib (the tip of the pen) gets clogged with dried ink. You can also keep a glass of water and a tissue next to you when you write. This way if you feel the pen start to clog you can simply clean it there. Different nibs will clog more or less easy. So long as you clean your pen after writing it will most likely last you many, many years.
- When you’ve dipped your pen give it a little shake inside the ink bottle to makes sure you don’t get too much ink, causing stains when you start writing. If you do get a blot of ink on your paper- dry it up immediately or chances are you will smudge it by accident.
- Be mindful how far you dip in relation to how far down you hold your fingers. If you’re not careful you’ll stain yourself. It goes away in a day, but is difficult to clean out right away so you’ll have to wear the stains for a few hours if you’re not careful.
- Ink takes a while to dry. If you’re writing on both sides of a paper you’ll either need a blotting paper to dry it up before turning the page over, or simple wait a little while. One solution is to write one side, put it aside and start preparing the envelope (addressing it and putting on stamps), then return to the paper and start with the second page. Unless you’ve managed to drip a whole drop of ink on your paper the text usually dries in the time it takes to prepare the envelope.
- It’s a good idea to use some kind of desk pad to protect the surface you’re writing on (unless it is one you do not mind accidentally staining), in case you drip ink or wax. A piece of cadboard or thick paper might do the trick.
- Beware the dangers of the unguarded ink bottle! Especially if you have cats or children. An unguarded open ink bottle is far too easy to accidentally knock over, as some of our previous players will attest.
Dip pens have been around in various forms for a really long time. They can be made out of different materials and have different designs on their nibs. Some of them have fixed nibs, and on some you can change the nib. Some have a handle made of metal, some of wood, others are made of glass. The basic function of them remains the same though: You dip them into your ink and write. Since there is no cartridge you will have to keep on dipping once in a while. Some nibs need to be dipped often, whereas some will allow you to write a longer segment of text before you have to redip them.
Quills are basically the same as dip pens, but of a very specific variety: pens made from feathers. So long as the feather has a sturdy enough base to hold, sharpen and write with it doesn’t matter what kind of bird it comes from. For example, The feather shown above is from a goose. Traditionally feathers were cut at the end to form a nib, but this requires both some practise, and some patience since you need to resharpen the nib every so often. A more convenient way to use a feather is to simply cut it open at the base and attach a metal nib to it.
Fountain pens are a later version of the dip pen, with the added function of a cartridge inside to keep your ink flowing without having to dip them all the time. There are single use cartridges, or special cartridges called converters which allows you to refill the cartridge yourself with ink from a bottle.
Typewriters are perhaps not quite as easy to come by, but definitely charming. They use built in ink cartridges to strike letters onto the paper. They take some getting used to, but are truly fascinating machines.