Immersion is a big part of the role-playing experience. Over the past year or so especially, I feel like people have been asking each other: “How do we achieve better immersion?” There are a lot of answers to that question, but I think one of the easiest ways is through garb - how we look is a major contributor to an engaging game environment.
The Realms already sees a wide variety of great garb at many events. The dresses, fancy hats, furs, bodices, jerkins, tunics and other fashions all help to contribute to an atmosphere that makes us feel as if we are "somewhere else." Good garb grabs one's attention and holds one's interest. The Order of the Peacock, by acknowledging people with good garb and promoting good garbing practices in general, has played a large role in this, as has the "No Jeans" initiative and other similar service-based programs. Everyone is doing a great job at feasts and other social-type events - I don’t think the garb has ever been better. But the way that our game is designed, and the way combat has evolved, can sometimes make it difficult to garb for tournament events.
North/South War is only a few days away, asking us to try and elevate our garb choices for the day, and throughout the summer season there are an array of other tournament events as well. With our community doing better than ever garbing up for fancy occasions, maybe this is a great year for us to focus on garbing up for competitive tournament situations as well.
Tournaments tend to see a lot of clothing options like gym or basketball shorts, athletic wear such as Under Armor, tank tops and T-shirts with mundane logos or other such pictures on them, and even some denim or cargo-type shorts from time to time. While these items are often chosen for several different reasons - convenience, breathability, freedom of movement, safety, etc - they can all have the unintended effect of sometimes reducing the immersion of the tournament. While the idea of obtaining good garb can sometimes feel insurmountable, especially for younger players, it doesn't have to be. If you don't want to spend a lot on tourney garb or don't want to wait until the next ren faire to buy clothing, here are a few simple suggestions that you might find helpful if you want to create an immersive look while you fight:
- Shirts: wear a breathable cotton tunic (T-tunic or other type of style) under your armor. These are sold by most of the vendors in the Realms so they are typically both accessible and affordable, and they are usually short-sleeved so you don't have to worry about extra bulk under your maille, or loose bits of clothing that might be a disadvantage in combat.. As a bonus, if a vendor does not currently have the color you want, you can usually commission him or her to make it for you. A cheap and quick garb option would be to cut up an old plain t-shirt so there are no sleeves and to cut off the neckline as well.
- Gloves: as a option other than sports gloves like football or rugby gloves or gloves with large logos on them, look for a pair of nice leather biker gloves with grip on the palms and/ or fingers, and a bit of a gauntlet that extends over the wrists. You can often find a very nice pair of these for around $20 to $30. These will adequately protect your fingers and knuckles, and can look really neat and in-character as well.
- Bottoms: The summer eventing season is hot, so I don’t think that gym or "basketball" shorts or athletic pants are totally off-limits. Sometimes they just make the most sense for comfort, and to reduce the chances of a fighter overheating. When in doubt, you can never go wrong with basic black, or another solid color. Just keep this basic rule in mind: does it have a large and/or recognizable logo or other easily identifiable type of marking or pattern? If so, keep looking. Generic brands of clothing sold at department stores often have no logo, or very small logos that you can cover up. Vendors may also have shorts or pants for sale as well, although these are less common, and many people use wrap pants as a good balance between breathability and style. Kilts are also becoming more and more popular, and there are places online to buy “combat” or “utility” kilts for as cheap as $30 or so. Women, you also can't go wrong with capri-style pants.
- Tabard and Belt: a large number of individuals in the Realms are in nations and therefore have some kind of tabard with their nation’s heraldry. Tabards are a very period piece of garb for fighting, since their main purpose was to identify allies in combat. If you aren’t in a nation yet you might not have a heraldic tabard, but you should consider making yourself one with your own personal heraldry or even in a solid color. Since tabards are generally worn over the armor, they add a very distinct look that is very in-character. If all you have for tournament garb is armor and a tabard, you’re off to a very good start!
- Hats: most of the time, you will not be able to wear any type of covering under your head armor save a bandana (which also look perfectly in-character) and that's ok; however, when you are not wearing your head armor and are looking for a little sun protection, please try to stay clear of baseball caps - even basic or solid-colored ones. Instead, try to look for a sunhat made of cotton or other breathable material in a solid or unobtrusive color. There are many styles of brimmed hats that look great, and are widely available online.
- Footwear and protective gear: I can’t stress this enough. Safety is the most important thing. Kneepads might not look in-character, but they are considered appropriate at all times. Please wear them. Some people have a nice sturdy pair of boots for fighting, such as combat boots or motorcycle boots, so look into those options if you are in the market for something new, but safe and reliable footwear like sneakers are an area where functionality is much more important than looks.
And there you have a few very simple suggestions on how to make combat or tournament garb more period and immersive as we head into the summer season. This is by no means an exhaustive or inclusive list, and there are many other players much more knowledgeable about garb that have made other great suggestions as well. Diana recently published a fantastic article on this topic (see it here) which gives some sage advice including the suggestion on T-shirts mentioned above, so be sure to read it one more time today. If others have suggestions or comments on how they have tried to make tournament garb more immersive, please let us know below - let’s work together to elevate this aspect of immersion in our community!
- Jennifer DeNardis-Rosa