I enjoy writing in-character letters and documents for the LARP system I’m involved in – from sending proper snail mail letters to prayer scrolls, teaching materials and physical copies of the Law to carry when in-character.
We’ve covered writing in-character letters before here on Wolfish Written, but given we’re heading into the longer winter evenings I thought it might be nice to shake up these previous posts for you. Hopefully these will give you interesting projects to fill your evenings and enhance your LARP keen over the ‘off’ season.
Writing in-character letters
When writing in-character letters I’ve used printer paper in the past, though I prefer using A4 sketchpad paper that can be used with ink and watercolours. I find this works well with the decorating style I’ve been working with on recent documents and has a nice finish to it.
I use dip ink pens for my ‘proper’ in-character letters, though have been known to use gel rollerball and biro pens for documents that might get exposed to the elements.
When working on in-character letters I often try to include nice details such as heraldic crests, doodles or pictures, which I sketch out in pencil first. I then use my watercolour pencils to lightly colour in the block colours before blending with water and leaving to dry. Anything that needs to be inked gets inked prior to writing because I have a habit of smearing damp ink regularly.
Sometimes letters are drafted in English before being copied up into the written language we use for our LARP system, but sometimes they are written off the top of my head straight into the in-character text. It depends on the letter and whether I want it to have an emotional response to it’s predecessor.
Making things pretty
Sometimes when I copy up documents for use in game I write them on brown parcel paper or wallpaper liner (depending what we have lying around on a big roll). I like to make these documents look ‘official’ or at least decorative – again, using pencil to draft a design, then filling it in with watercolour pencil or painting in ink or acrylic paint depending on the purpose of the finished piece.
When I made a rune dictionary for Newcastlefest this summer I got to do a bit of book binding as well. Purchasing a simple sketchpad from Hobbycraft I pulled out the staples and took the leaves apart. Using one as a rough work page and a second leaf as a template for the remaining pages, I worked out the letters for each page and drafted the contents separately. The dwarven runes themselves were inked with a bamboo dip ink pen (I thought the project needed a big fat nib for gravity) with the remaining content written in my usual dip ink nib in the game language. I am quite fond of the front page – “paper is weak – the stone remembers” – written in both Dwarvish and Rhonnish. I’m allowed to have small amusements when making props. The runes shown here are the letters D and E, but were also the short code for “door” and “mithril”, “crown”, “lord” or “lady”.
The cover was painted using acrylic paint, ink and sharpie after the design was sketched out in pencil, and the whole thing was then stitched back together using crochet wool.
Ian the Green has a range of resources on his website for starting out as a scribe. Some tutorials and articles I would encourage you to read are: a travelling scribe’s tools ~ cleaning your dip ink pen ~ tips on doing calligraphy ~ and his series on practising and improving your calligraphy.
The Pensive Pen also has a series of calligraphy lessons, as well as examples of the scribe’s scrolls (such as the one prepared for Ian the Green) or instructions on shaping letters such as the Dürer’s Gothic script (so pretty!).
Other tutorials for using dip ink pens for modern calligraphy can be found here with interesting calligraphy drills to improve your technique and create beautiful artistic projects.