As many of you are aware I follow the awesomely fun Every Day Carry (EDC) blog, which gives me ideas for not sucking, and also shows me pretty toys (some pretty because they are function, some just pretty, and functional as a side effect), and as many of you can attest from seeing whats in my pockets or my big black bag of useful things I tend to carry at least a small supply of things to be handy in day to day situations.
However I was involved in helping run Aeon Horror’s excellent NFQ/Incident Number ### event this weekend, a game set at an Antarctic research/containment/quarantine facility for a mix of non-human entities and sort of magical physics defying objects – and that morning I threw a bunch of stuff into my bag, and then later a subset of that into my pockets and it got me thinking about what I normally carry into games when I’m crewing or reffing.
So this is a picture of the kinds of things I normally carry, technically this is a mix of the stuff I had most commonly for Hill 936 and the stuff I had for Incident Number ###
Okay so lets talk about the crap I have in this picture. Mostly the thing to take away from this is that this is all stuff that is of good enough quality to be reliable, but cheap enough that if it got destroyed on the event I wouldn’t be overly pissed off – these are I think some pretty important criteria :) I prefer things with pocket clips (especially knives) to keep them accessible and tend to wear solid combats to have enough pockets for all the things. Also things not in this picture but are usually on my person all the time: Radio (the most important object for a ref to carry), Bluetack, more bits of paper, more paracord, purple (OOC) paper/card, mobile phone, roll of electrical tape (its smaller than gaffer and comes off paint easier), couple of tissues, bottle of water.
So a spirally tour of the items going around from watch onwards as most easily recognised thing :)
Watch – Firstly I have a cheap but accurate watch, in this case its a Casio of some kind. The important considerations for me is that its analogue with a clear display and second hand for timing various events. It also includes the minimum amount of metal in contact with skin as I have sensitivity to something common and my wrist will get all itchy and blister if I’m not careful – so I tend to paint the backs of these things with clear nail polish to prevent that. It costs less than a tenner, if I have too I can lend it to another ref and estimate or use a mobile phone and if it gets lost I don’t care :)
Torch – Next up is a Mini Maglite, this takes 2AA batteries and thus basically never runs out. Personally its a bit big for most events and doesn’t have a pocket clip so its not ideal, but maglites are for me the cheapest torch I want to carry for an event, I’ve found cheaper LEDs tend to die at really unfortunate times. I am considering upgrading to something with a combination of better LED, AAA battery and pocket clip. At other events I’ve just thrown one of those little Photon LED keychain torches in my pocket. But basically having a light source is a handy thing, the amount of times you’ll want to peer under a bit of furniture, in a dark cupboard, under a bed, or light the way for a monster moving about in the dark are more than you’d think and I find mobile phone batteries get eaten if used for this kind of thing.
Carabiner – A small carabiner, handy for hanging things off (torches, multitools, keys, whatever), or clipping things together. This particular one is an Edelrid micro 0 accessory carabiner, its rated to about 200lbs or something silly, so while you couldn’t hang anything living off it I’d have no qualms using it for hanging or being a pulley system for basically any prop.
Paper – I generally don’t carry stapled pocket notepads of paper because I want to scrawl things and hand those to people, or I want to make signs to stick up to describe a situation. So I’ll usually carry a couple of bits of A4 lined paper and also a few sheets of thick purple paper, usually folded up into 8s and held shut with a blob of bluetack. This means I can physrep knives (roll a piece of paper, write knife down the side, bluetack/tape), I can put signs down for “Dead body here”, barricade, and lock notices on doors, signs on things saying “burnt”, “destroyed”, “broken” and other things – in the case of phones or other electronics “doesn’t work” or “power off”. It’s just a handy thing to have. And with bluetack or electrical tape I can stick things up in a non-destructive way to the environment.
Paracord – In this case admittedly its rainbow coloured, but thats because my normal stock of black/dark green had been used holding wings on The Stalker at NFQ. I am a fan as most people can tell you of having a few bits of Paracord in my pockets, in description its a thin (3-4mm) nylon cord. It’s cheap enough to be almost disposable (but you can wash grime and sweat off it with soap and water and reuse it), its nigh on indestructible, its available in many colours that fade into the background against props or monster costumes (or conversely that stand out and reflect torch lights/UV if you want to use that for either special effects or to indicate a safety barrier), and is synthetic so doesn’t tend to trip allergic reactions. The downsides: It holds knots okay, but its nylon so they can slip over time, or conversely it can get knots packed down hard so they’re harder to undo, its also thin so if you’re using it to hold monster costume to people you need to be sure its not cutting into them or pressing in and possibly restricting bloodflow or causing nerve damage, also its synthetic so if you yank it through a pulley system too fast it’ll heat up and possibly melt or fray.
I generally carry 2-3 lengths of 3-4m (with the ends melted shut and overhands in the end for stoppers) coiled in a figure eight style (you can use it however, but this is just how I learnt to do rope and knots) which means I can quickly unfurl it and slap things together. During events I’ve used it to hold costume together, strap objects to players, hold doors open, hold objects out of the way, strap objects together, rig “trip” lines, hold blinds and windows closed or open, hang things vertically downwards above peoples heads, etc.etc. While sometimes I prefer jute garden twine (it can look more fitting, its very disposable) I find paracord less of an arse to work with a lot of the time… its a right tool for the job thing, and if I’m carrying something in my pocket I’d rather it was this. People say “Ooh I don’t really know too many knots” well thats cool, practically speaking neither do I. My suggestion is if you’re tying solid non-people things together its not that tricky because you can’t squish them badly. To stop things moving: Reef/Square, and Half Hitch (basically wrap line around something, then just half hitch a bunch of times and it’ll probably hold, you can never go wrong with a bunch of half hitches). To join lines together to make them longer use a Fishermans knot (or a collapsed Reef/Square and accept this may fail under shock loads. For flat webbing use a Water knot with long tails). To hang something off another line or something then Larks-Head/Cow-Hitch or if you want to get fancy and put an attachment point on a pole or bannister (or another line) to hang a prop off it and be able to adjust it then try a Prusick. But realistically most bodge jobs when you’re not putting lines on people can be done with the first two and just blagged.
Pens – Generally I carry at least one regular pen (generally a gel pen or a biro for robustness) for scribbling notes, and also a plain black sharpie – these things are fantastic for writing signs clearly and can even scribble marks on skin much more reliably than anything else.
Knife – Pictured here is my favourite knife for carrying while reffing most indoor or low amounts of outdoor events, google says its a Kantas products Cute Survivor (#7285) (several people make similar knives, see also the CRKT – KISS and PECK which I think this is ripping off), I find it the almost perfect mix of small, cheap (I bought it from a travelling knife salesman for like a fiver, over a decade ago now and its still going), robust and pointy, openable with one hand (quite important), with a pocket clip – just look at this thing, its basically a folding razor blade, and a beautiful bit of utilitarian design:
To illustrate the qualities I like (its a personal taste thing) on the day for NFQ I actually had a Spyderco Meerkat in my pocket, which is okay, its got everything but the tip is hard to get a good point on – so this can make cutting through packed gaffer tape tricky (which is a common phenomena in event tear down). For propping almost anything will do, but you can’t go wrong with a Stanley Knife because you can use it until you kill the blade or blunt the crap out of it, then just put in a new one and carry on. I have pondered getting something like a Gerber EAB, which is basically a small folding stanley knife with a pocket clip.
Multitools – mostly the things I want from these are (a) Pliers, (b) Knives and (c) Chisels. What’s pictured is my old Leatherman Wave Original which I bought back when I was in my late teens at my first techie job, so its lasted quite a while and most of the tools on it are starting to get gently worn (I’ve pondered sending it in for leathermans guarantee, but they may replace it with a new wave and I worry I’d miss it and its quirky, charming batteredness). Anyway, pretty much any pocket tool with pliers will I find do the job, I just like the Wave because I already have it, I know its robust, its shiny so its visibly harder to lose it, and its got a fair mix of things on it. Downsides: It weighs quite a bit and doesn’t have a pocket clip so tends to eat a whole pocket to itself. I could possibly get around this with a belt sheath but I’m pondering moving to a smaller pliers based tool for day to day carrying, and also a small cheap pocket chisel for those times when I want to stick something in or prise something open and don’t fancy possibly breaking my knife.
So yeah – there you have it, still the most important things I think to have are probably a radio, sharpie, pocket knife, some tissues (I’m sniffly a lot of the time) and bottle of water (dehydration will fell your ref team pretty quick) – everything else is nice but you can usually run back to the ref bunker for things :)
What’s in your pockets during an event?