PS Considering how easy these are to make, it’s worth thinking about incorporating them into things like a magic or skill system.
In anthropology, a fetish is an object that is considered to have spiritual weight or power; for example, voodoo dolls or the holy host. I have heard (though I haven’t had it confirmed) that the term was developed by the Portuguese as a way of describing the religious practices they observed as they began aggressively exploring Africa.
Dolls are my favorite form of spiritual fetish. I’ve moved a lot in my life, and my baby doll is the only physical artifact that has been with me every single place I’ve lived. She’s old, and her hair is shabby, and her once-blinking eyes now stare, sightlessly, across my bed sheets. One of her arms lives in my steamer trunk, waiting for me to find someone who can sew it back on. If it weren’t for the fact she wears a pink floral jumper, she’d be the creepiest thing I own. And I love her.
So! If a little bit of creepy is your thing, or your game is looking for a way to physically represent defensive magic, consider fetishes! The quickest way to incorporate them would be, actually, spell packets. Most games use them as a stand-in for the kind of special effects you can’t really have in a larp, but consider the objects themselves: small cloth sachets full of something neutral like birdseed, that only become magical when imbued with power by a caster, and then lie, spent, on the ground. Well, until some enterprising mage comes and imbues them with power once more.
Or, of course, you could use things like Susie Survivor, above. At $10 a pop, I wouldn’t recommend throwing these dolls around- but they would make delightful phys reps of defensive magic. The company that makes them even has suggestions!
Some of my favorites:
Shown above: Susie Survivor gives you the strength and courage to fight like hell! By Kamibashi. Ships worldwide. Materials aren’t listed, but appear to be string and beads. $10 USD ($5 USD is donated to the Pretty in Pink Foundation, if you buy online during the month of October.)
Gunnar encourages you to fearlessly go where life may take you. By Kamibashi. Ships worldwide. Materials aren’t listed, but appear to be string and beads. $10 USD
Sir Realism (aka Dali) bends time and space to your will. By Kamibashi. Ships worldwide. Materials aren’t listed, but appear to be string and beads. $10 USD
String Blade gives you the power to jam past the pack. By Kamibashi. Ships worldwide. Materials aren’t listed, but appear to be string and beads. $10 USD
The Paleolithic Revolution is the period in human history when we stopped being humanlike people that occasionally used tools, and started, well:
And these are just the things we know directly from the archaeological record; it is possible that many other changes took place regarding things like family units, governance, language, and even, maybe, song. (see here and here for sources.) It was still before formal written language, so with the tools we have at the moment, we’re limited to speculation. Luckily, those of us in the game of making up imaginary places and times have no trouble speculating!
Which brings us to the image above, of the modern stone and flint tools by Ami Drach and Dov Ganchrow. These designers were participating in the 2012 Budapest Design Week, and their submission involved taking various stone projectile points, hand axes, and scrapers, and using a high-accuracy 3D printer to construct custom grips- fusing an ancient design with very modern technology.
Many larps use a material-based system to describe the relative power of weapons, steel being better than iron, for example, and I’ve often wondered when the games leave stone tools out of the equation. There are even stone swords in existence (though I can’t find a confirmation as to whether these were sculptural or weaponry). Given the pseudo or historically medieval settings common to larps, stone tools may simply be ignored as a lost technology.
Wait a minute.
An ancient technology, whose methods of construction are lost to the modern day, whose manufacturers are a mystery, but that can easily be adapted to modern use in a pinch…
Why yes, I am suggesting there is a lot of storytelling potential! Either as mcguffin-like pieces, or specifically as part of a system of magical artifacts. There is something powerful about holding a tool carefully crafted tens of thousands of years ago. There is something even more powerful about discovering that it’s still sharp. The proliferation of stone tools heralded the first time in history that humans began to truly master their environment, and that is magic indeed.
PS Have some tongue-in-cheek fiction set in the period!
Geist ~ Microadventuring ~ On Attempted Groping of Porn Stars And Other Normal Women ~ The Secret Conspiracy To Fun ~ GW2 -> IRL Chef Crafting Recipes ~ Teeny Tiny Adorable Animals ~ Character Concepts That Are Commonly Under-Researched, and How To Research Them ~ The Lady Larp Scene in the UK ~ Real Life Magic Tradition That Would Be So Easy To Implement in Larps
Recent discoveries have suggested that paleolithic humans used flickering firelight in caves and toys known as thaumatropes to create animation effects (source). This works because of the effect known as persistence of vision. As with all theories regarding things that old, interpreting what that meant or how paleolithic humans experienced it requires a lot of research; luckily for us, we mostly play in fictional worlds, and can content ourselves with being inspired.
We call the toys thaumatropes because that is what the Victorian Era re-inventors of these toys called them; in the Western world, that is the most recent leap in their popularity.
These two sets of facts suggest entirely different costuming ideas. The paleolithic animations suggest a prop that can be used to maintain, for example, area of effect spells centered on the caster. It would be a particularly fitting prop for illusion spells. On the other hand, the Victorian era popularity suggests an opportunity for increased whimsy- especially as jewelry thaumatropes are available.
Thaumatrope illusion NECKLACE - The Bird and the Cage via The Mymble’s Daughter. Clear plastic and plated silver. Ships worldwide. $34 USD
Image Credit: Lions painting, Chauvet Cave (museum replica) by HTO (Own work (own photo)) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Kombolói are Greek thing. Throughout most of Greece, you can hear them click-clacking softly in the background as people go about their life, soothing themselves. They come in amber and coral and seeds and shiny metals and cheap, heavy plastic, and true fans will argue which material makes the most pleasing noise, or feels the most pleasing in the hand. But they agree on one thing- these are not a religious item.
That is somewhat unique; if you’re Catholic, for example, you might have seen the image above as a rosary, or if Buddhist, as prayer beads. But this Greek pastime is it’s own thing, separate from whatever religious belief the individual might have- the way taking deep breaths to calm oneself isn’t (usually) a religious act.
If you are looking for more variation in the way you perform magic in your game, worry beads might be an interesting addition. They would make a great basic healing spell, for example- something like “First Aid”, that any class could use to self-heal a small amount of damage. As the quality, rarity, and expense of the beads increases, so too could the power of the healing- to the point where a downed character might be able to use the beads to rally back, once a day. Certain people believe the beads become attuned to the user, which suggests self-targeting spells and perhaps even items that cannot be transferred between players once used. (For the rest of that article, see here, here, and here.)
If you’d like a to see a grizzled old man slinging beads outside a café, click here.