Big Props vs. Little Props and the distributed prop team

Okay so I’ve been meaning to write more useful stuff here, so here’s a brief discussion of the propping for Hill 936.

Firstly I found it interesting as there was plenty of discussion that we didn’t have a big prop, and that people were kind of expecting something hideous lurking in the jungle or somewhere similar.

And yeah, I kind of thought that way at first, I was pondering how building a big giant monster suit could be cool, how we could have had something horrible summoned by Our Brothers (the Tcho-Tcho) but this didn’t happen.

In many ways the propping was constrained by what resources we had, we had a lot of volunteers who had a bit of time each to contribute props, so a model developed of giving a rough brief to people with few meetings and mails to try and coordinate it. However I think what we really had were two really big props that were sort of strung out over a long geographic distance. The first was the trail itself, and the second was the temple.

The temple was principally made by about half a dozen people I think, there was a document that included all the dimensions of the building, a guide to the altars that were set up and then people just sort of volunteered for giving love to certain shrines and making certain things. As the prop monkey closest to the refs for getting direction I’d run stuff by them and we built up the idea of blocking off the sides with the camo-tarp and the sheets to block the stairs, this constrained the Tcho-Tcho advances to just one specific entrance but gave plenty of space for the Refs and Timmy (the temple guardian) to come and go. We were aiming for something that was heavily influenced by Buddhist temples and structure, but also included enough really odd and broken bits to wig the players and make it obviously “wrong” (such as the awesome mythos prayer flags, and all the parts of your comrades equipment bloody and hanging from the ceiling), also I watched (some film whose name escapes me) and initially the plan was to coat the damn place in skulls, but we just couldn’t get that many skull props together on budget.

Initially I wanted the entrance to the temple to be more of a cool set piece, my initial ideas involved hanging Mike upside down from one of the beams with a load of “entrails” hanging out from his uniform and when the players arrived I was going to have him in the process of being lowered down after being bled out, and the body taken away (with the nommy Bak Bon Dzhow showing up later), however as cool as this could be I couldn’t think of a way of staging it that didn’t involve the players shooting the Tcho-Tcho in the middle of the lowering process and wanting the body back, the H&S implications of this scene were sadly overwhelming :(

Anyway, how it all eventually came together was pretty damn awesome, creating a very other space for people to roleplay in, not quite perfect, as has been pointed out having blankets and other stuff in there from the get-go would have been better, but lessons learnt.

The second big prop (which actually showed up first, but this is how my brain is/was organising things) was the trail itself. This featured a whole range of smaller props, each quite good fun, but on their own not much, but rolled together the hope was to keep enough reminders around to keep people thinking “jungle trail” and not “fucking hilly scout camp” — although to be fair the tree cover, bushes and the roaring river really helped.

The big parts of this prop were the tunnel (which I didn’t really like how it came out, it was originally going to get placed further back, by one of the steeper cliffs to make a longer crawl space but yeah, it worked out in the end I hear? I didn’t get to see it in use, we just wanted something that would require someone to shimmy inside it and ferret about), the traps (the minefield and trip mines were supposed to be flour launching but actually that got mired in “everything I ordered was off spec” fuckups and never happened although Richard had a few but I’m not sure they had a chance to get deployed, so the purely sound based versions were used) and the MILLION HANGING FETISHES, which were cool, basically everyone making props for the event made a few and rolled together the hope was that they gave the trail a kind of lived in feel that made it feel like spooky Mythos territory.

So yeah, based on the resources we had (lots of awesome people with a little time each) and the goal, to make the whole place immersive in the same kind of way a country house feels like a good place for Mythos horror (because its already a country house you know) to have enough props and bits that there would be a reminder always within view, something to help anchor people into the space, so always a fetish, or a trip line, or an altar covered in burning incense, or a weird chalk doodle.

As a final shout out thank you to the emergency tunnel building team (who made the Chaugnar Faugn tunnel) as they were given some bamboo and doweling sticks, a big roll of bin bags, string, gaffer and a staple gun and told “Make a tunnel that goes from here to here — you’ve got about two hours, chop chop” and lo and behold they made a tunnel that was pretty damn awesome :)

So yeah, two big props I think (or maybe it can be divided down further), that were just spread out over a long distance of constant exposure.

6 thoughts on “Big Props vs. Little Props and the distributed prop team

  1. archangelonline

    Damn. You could have borrowed my skulls. I have three of them – two very nifty polystyrene ones and one plastic one with a functional jaw.

    And a real one, but I’m using that at the moment.

      1. archangelonline

        Ooh, that’d be nice, and definitely a piece of imagery to look at for future events.

        It would theoretically be possible to make a mould of some of the skulls the Lancaster Horror Refs do have access to and making plaster replicas.

        1. mostlyfoo

          We thought about plaster moulds, really expensive I think was the conclusion. We also pondered painted boards to stack at the back of the temple as they’d be a certain distence from the approaching player party and hence create the visual and wedge it in their brains before they got close.

          1. archangelonline

            Now that could have worked nicely.

            In fact, theatre-style flats would potentially be very useful in general for extending the shape of some sets in LARPs, even if those bits aren’t really accessible to players.

          2. mostlyfoo

            Yup, one thing I did like about our re-shaping the space we had was the tarp (which is now available for loan to other horror groups I suspect) as we could use it to create wide blocked spaces with minimal effort.

            But yeah, big flats in an inaccessible location could really add some depth and hide the real thing behind them (scout huts for example) for cheap, I myself am a fail-painter but I’m betting theres enough people in the area who could make it work

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