The first appearance of explicitly symbolic objects in the archaeological record marks a fundamental stage in the emergence of modern social behavior in Homo. Ornaments such as shell beads represent some of the earliest objects of this kind. We report on examples of perforated Nassarius gibbosulus shell beads from Grotte des Pigeons (Taforalt, Morocco), North Africa. These marine shells come from archaeological levels dated by luminescence and uranium-series techniques to ≈82,000 years ago. (source)
Which means beads are older than glitter, so far as we know! I could probably write a lifetime of posts on the ways beads are incorporated into clothing over the parts of human history we know about, but if technological plausibility is all you care about, then here is what you need to make beads:
And voila: beads!
When I was a little girl, I adored apples. There were big blowsy red ones and little tart green ones and yellow-green ones that tasted funny and red-pink-gold ones that tasted like honey and sunshine.
All of them had that CRUNCH that made them so fun to eat- I could chomp away as loudly as I liked, except when I was missing baby teeth. That took some doing, but I managed to build a nibble strategy until my grown-up teeth came in. I abandoned it the minute my chompers were back.
I am not, it seems, the first person to be mildly obsessed with apples.
The apple tree as we know it originated near Turkey, and was spread outward from there largely by humans who found its fruits to be a) yummy and b) hardy. (Apples blossom rather late in the year, making them less prone to damage from spring frosts.)
There is some debate as to the earliest date of apple cultivation- after all, humans collect wild fruits as well as growing their own, and it is not easy to tell which is which in a prehistoric site. However, there are historical references to cultivating apples going back to 2000 BCE in Anatolia. The fruit is an old friend.
This long pedigree means that apples are more than just a food; they’ve acquired symbolic status in a great many cultures. And symbols show up in myths, and paintings, and literature, and always, always, in clothing.
My favorite apple story is The Judgement of Paris; and all of the strife falling from that one little fruit makes it a symbol I fundamentally associate with tricksters. It can also mean fertility, or joy and sweetness, making it a handy symbol to adopt for a larper with only so much money in their accessory budget.
Made to Order Paris’s Apple of Discord: For the Fairest by Octopus Stew. Polymer clay and paint. Ships worldwide. $20 USD
There’s a slight chill to the air, in many northern parts of the world; in the south, the first blush of summer is turning to true warmth. And in both places, you’ll find people using scarves to protect themselves from the elements.
Scarves are a funny thing. Loosely defined, they consist of any square, triangular or rectangular piece of fabric. Usually, they are not attached permanently to other types of clothing. In cold places, scarves of heavy material are used to keep warmth in, especially about the head and neck. In warm places, scarves of light material are used to keep the sun off, especially about the head and neck. And they date back to as far as 1350 BC, in Egypt, and even further up north.
All of which means it is plausible for any culture you dream up to have scarf-like accessories. It’s possible a future of controlled environments might render them obsolete, but considering how much the fashion world loves selling us bits of cheap-to-produce fabric, I doubt very much that obsolescence would push them out of style. (Besides which, hobby knitters will continue to learn on scarfs until the end of time. Or the end of the knitting.)
Considering all this, I’d strongly suggest using scarves as a method of showing group allegiance in games. Tabards are popular in medieval and high fantasy settings, but scarves have the advantage of being period and technologically appropriate in a much wider range of settings- meaning, when the game ends, you can use them again.
The true and faithful knights in her highness’s service can wear the silk (or rayon) mark of her favor. The roughnecks working the steam-ranch of that crazy old scientist can cover their mouths with the bandanas he issues, specially treated to keep them from inhaling certain… ah… local hazards. The highland clans can wrap themselves in the tartan patterns of their fathers. The settlers on the Sublight Colony Ship Drifter can show their political allegiance by the color of their synthetic neck-warmer-cum-airbag.
So, yeah. You can do damn near anything with them; if you’re looking for an accessory you can use again and again, try a scarf.
Shown Above: Paul Gustave Dore by Felix Nadar, via Wikimedia Commons. Photo is in the Public Domain.
Now that you’ve got all that cold, hard (or dry, grainy) cash, what are you keeping it in?
The storage of money on one’s person is as old as money itself. The small drawstring bags so common at Renaissance fairs and larps would have been known as wallets in English; it wasn’t until the mid 1800s that wallet started to take on its modern meaning (source). If you are concerned with mimicking a certain period or culture, focus on getting a wallet made from the appropriate materials: did they use leather or fabric? Did they have metalwork? Zippers?
And, as always, remember that sometimes there are things that didn’t exist in history but should have. If your game world allows you to experiment or be creative, for the love of Cthulu, do so!
Scalemail Dice Bag of Holding Knitted Dragonhide Pheonix, Extra Large from Crystal’s Idyll; metal and acrylic yarn; $39
Image by Dysmachus via Wikimedia Commons. Per the requirements, this post has a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.
Mortal Kombat taught me that folding fans can be a weapon; some judicious research confirmed the existence of both Japanese and Korean war fans. Even more tantalizingly, fans as an accessory have been in use in Asia since 2000 BCE; in the Mediterranean since at least 300 BCE; and in Europe since at least the 500s CE.
This little accessory seems perfect for classes that require touch-based attacks, especially if your game rules are designed to allow PCs to avoid being directly touched by other people’s hands. It might take a little bit of modification for combat, though, as most of the readily available fans are made from plastic or wood so splintering or overly painful blows might be an issue; depends on how your group plays.
The other perfect thing about this accessory is how diverse it is; the technology is so common and so old that any character might have it, or have come across it in their travels. And while not all fans in history were specifically for combat, it is easily converted by the creative weaponsmith using materials available in nearly any game setting.
Maybe your Ogre took that cherry blossom confection off a Samurai. What? It is red, like blood, and keeps Ogre cool in summer! Or perhaps your crafting character will start selling them in game during the warmer months, at a tidy profit, and poisoning their chief rival besides. Something this old and this common can be quite the roleplay tool.
Things that don’t need to be said: It’s okay to larp who you are- or who you want to pretend to be. As larpers, we get to remake the world they way we wish it was- so maybe that means a blanket declaration that any configuration of genders and gender attractions is always welcome everywhere in your fantasy universe.
Someone should do it. I’d want to live there.
But sometimes, I also want to use larp to explore conflict, and deal with things that are very real in a safe, pretend setting. So it’s worth thinking about the background of your character as it relates to their gender and/or sexuality, and their culture. What conflicts have come out these factors?
For example, homosexuality in Ancient Greece is said to have been a non-issue, as we understand it; for the most part, people did not declare themselves admirers of any particular gender. Instead, conflict and social concern came about depending on who was penetrating, and who was penetrated. (If you think this schema excludes women from playing the penetrator, turn around and let me show you my olisbos.) In any case, conflict came about when people did not reproduce their usual power relationships in their sex lives. Thus, one could exclusively prefer to date younger men, or as a young man, exclusively prefer older men, and no one would bat an eye. But reverse it, and conflict and stress arises- unfortunately, mostly for the pentratee.
There is much less direct evidence for their opinions of women who liked women; it may have followed the opinions about male sexuality, it might not. There’s no reason to recreate the past! Just use this information as a seed for your own fictional history.
Another layer of complexity can come from the names cultures use for certain acts. For example, I’ve struggled to find the etymology, but “Greek” is occasionally used in modern times as slang for anal sex. I’ve seen in books set in Victorian England, though again, I’m sure sure how accurate that is. In any case, if the Orc in your universe are fond of buggering people, it could very well be that doing things the Orcish way will become a euphemism in cultures that frequently deal with Orcs.
A fantastic resource for more information is the wikipedia article on LGBT themes in Myth. If you’re running a game, think about the lore of your world- does it make room for everyone, or is every deity cis-gendered, single-gendered, and heterosexual? How does that affect your player characters? Is it on purpose, or were you simply using what you thought of as the default? All of this will help you understand your universe better, and how it interacts with the people in it.