Finding good prop books and decoration for an in character tent

Hi there! I’ve already posted on the Empire Facebook page about this, but I thought id ask somewhere else just in case. I’m looking for good prop books, ones that either looks old or are old, preferably occult or medical. I’m not a very good crafter, so I’m not sure if I’d be able to make any good looking books. Also, any tips for kitting out an in character tent to look Empire appropriate inside? like bedding, decor, etc.

Than you so much in advance!

Old books can be tricky, and they get heavy…

Props:
Old carpets on the floor, or simple throws. The same over boxes of things: That big plastic box you brought your kit to camp in, inverted and with a blanket over it, instant table or seat.

Sheepskin rug? Or similar looking, over your bed or similar?

You can get collapsible multi-part candle-holders, or ones that hang from hooks or tent-poles: might want to use LED fake candles in them though (also good).

Pennants, tapestries, paintings, trophies… weapons/armour racks (collapsible for transport and indeed authenticity).

Some IC eating/drinking materials? Tankards, goblets, wooden (or plain ceramic) plates? A bowl or two of IC nibbles (fruit, nuts, bread rolls?)

And if you can store the OOC stuff out of the way (under a table behind the throw, concealed in a large canvas sack) you’ll have less to break up the immersion.

Police your IC tent for beer cans, plastic packaging, and people character packs… I find they tend to accumulate in the IC areas…

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Books? Try charity shops (when they re-open) for ‘antiquarian’ books; you may even get historical medical books quite cheap. They are likely to be 19th-century or newer, but may have Latin/Greek-sounding titles. True book-shops will often only have true antiquarian books, but charity shops get donations, so many of the older books are just old rather than valuable.

Another option is a “book-safe”. it’s a box which looks like a book, which means that it is hollow and therefore lighter than a real book. I have seen them cheap in places like Homesense and The Works, made of cardboard and either unfinished or with fake medical / travel covers. As a bonus, you can store stuff in them like your herb cards or hip-flasks. For less functional books, you can buy fake books used for film and TV sets or photography shoots. Back in the 80s and 90s, every furniture shop seems to have them.

Making books is actually not that difficult - basic book binding can be done with stiff card, some sort of woven fabric, paper and ribbon, I’ve done it for A5 song books. Just need somewhere well ventilated as the best glue I found was the spray can stuff. Plenty of videos on You tube.

To be honest though, you’re coming for a 3 day summit in a field, you’re not likely to bring your ancient and valuable tomes. Most of the paper on field is in pamphlets, newsletters and song books, or personal journals.
The only big book I’ve seen is the book of the empire - which is a print version of the Wiki from a year or so back, but there are enough of those on the field you can usually borrow one to look in, or even nip to GOD and check the current wiki on a player PC.

If you wanted props to appear learned can I suggest scrolls instead? Relatively light to carry but you can make an impressive heap pretty quickly, fancy ribbon and a wax seal even better. A cheap wine bottle rack will work as an organiser, and you can buy collapsible ones of those. And if the Anvil weather machine makes it’s usual contribution to proceedings, you’ve only got to reprint half a dozen pages.

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As far as other set dressing, really your tent needs 2 things, somewhere to sit, and something to put things on. Hide your bed during the day, or convert it into seating.

Folding chairs and camping tables can easily be dressed up with a sheet on them, which also gives you loads of space under the table to dump OOC stuff like snack bags and water carriers.

A couple of candles in lanterns will light a tent well enough for a discussion, you may want some sort of brighter directable mage light if you plan to read and write after dark.

After that props will depend on your character build and nation. For Highguard I have bells, hand washing bowls, horse statues and as a healer and mage, medics kit and mana crystals. We also have mementos of lost group members and our banner. It looks good because all of it is in our group colours, and quite a lot has our group badge on it, but then Highguard likes uniform.

The League would be more ornate, Freeborn more fabric and colours, Dawnish seem to go for flowers and so on.

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There’s a collection of writings from The Imperial Seer you can download and print out

https://www.profounddecisions.co.uk/empire-wiki/Seer_of_the_Gateway

You can either print them as pamflets or there are print on demand places that can make a book for you, so you could compile them and get them printed in hardback.

One option would be to make your own…if it is just for the look of a pile of books, i.e. not to open. You can find cover artwork online print it off and paste to small empty cardboard boxes…looks right but much lighter

I’m planning to use these books as props during healing and maybe magic later down the line, so I need ones that look like old textbooks medical books or similar. Which may be hard, as old books will be hard to carry and will break easily.

For me, the key to set dressing a tent is to make sure it is still useable by the characters who inhabit it; we made some terrible errors at various events by having too much stuff, which rendered chunks of the tent unusable (our group uses a 16’ square tent, so comfortably contains all of us).

Where the group tent works much better for us is when we think about it as a lived-in space. So we have a table at the centre with snacks on plates (with storage under the table so we can get to the snack stockpile easily to replenish the table - if they aren’t convenient, it never happens). In one corner we have a drinks table, with a mix of cordials, wine and water, as well as cups (and sneaky washing facilities underneath). Then we arrange chairs and benches around the food, to give an easy environment for groups to chat.

Hanging from one wall will be a large map of the Empire, that looks lovely and constantly comes in helpful. One another wall will be our weapons - we have a cloth weapon rack with loops for swords and daggers. That keeps them safely off the floor to avoid damage and makes a feature of them rather than a cluttered mess. My armour sits on a stand in the corner, and other people’s armour will often be stacked beneath it. Again, the key effort here is to keep it all contained, as otherwise it rapidly sprawls and takes up room so the space doesn’t feel welcoming.

Various group members also bring IC storage boxes in which we can keep bits and pieces that want to be accessible on the field. Those tend to sit by the walls, behind the chairs.

Other little touches will vary by event, but we often have a group banner or two hammered into the ground either side of the door, some discrete lighting up the central tent pole, and notice boards hanging on the outside with public information and sometimes notes about where to find individual group members when people come looking.

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I’ve found that throws and blankets are a must. Pretty much all of our furniture in our group tent/tea house is cheap camping furniture that we’ve draped something over. A couple of our blankets are fake fur, which fits into the Hunter aesthetic of our house. I’ve got loads of fake flowers left over from my wedding last year (it was medieval themed) that we use to decorate the tent. For lighting we’ve got a bunch of lanterns, some that hold candles, some that electric fake candle ones. We’ve also got some small candle holders that we put some electric tea lights in to frame the entranceway to the tent. We have a couple of chests to put money and tea in. We also have a selection of goblets and wooden bowls kicking about for eating and drinking.

The wife and I also cover our bed in our sleeping tent with a big sherpa fleece blanket. It’s a dark blue and white ( house colours) and fits the Dawnish look quite well. Not that anyone but us goes in there mind you.

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Probably my favourite item of personal set dressing is my IC chest which serves the dual purposes of providing a place to sit on and keeping my armour and spare warm layers and snacks contained off the ground to avoid them getting damp. Away from events it stores my armour collection nicely. I got if for £15 at a charity shop which is one of those lucky purchases I can’t guarantee anyone else duplicating. Downsides are it’s a pain in the ass to transport and basically reduces me down to only being able to offer one other person a lift in my car. Also people keep leaving stuff on it which ends up on the floor when I need access into it.

Folding chairs are great for providing a place for weary people to sit, and by Sunday that’s probably everyone I got my wooden one for £11 from Argos. Again requires car to transport but at least it folds down nicely.

If your tent has vertical walls, wall hanging items are great for decoration, be they maps or banners and they pack down small at least. Medical diagram wall hangings would definitely be an interest piece.

I’ve made IC books by taking similar basic note book with clip in pages bought off ebay (http://tiny.cc/m9vupz) , removing the blank pages then constructing my own pages on a custom sized page layout in word, printing them four to a piece of A4, cutting them out, holing them and clipping them in. I made ritual guides at a page per ritual which was pretty hand because then when the rules changed I could just replace a page at a time rather than having to reprint the entire thing. Alas the warfare rules guide was harder to subdivide that way. Probably not the prettiest looking things but it work very well for rules reference functionality while looking IC.

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The Wiki says, “Printed books … are not common - they exist but they tend to be slim volumes rather than thick novels, and tend to have a limited print run.” https://www.profounddecisions.co.uk/empire-wiki/Technology#Printing_Press

For the most part, the ideal props (books or otherwise) are things that look newly-made but in an appropriately old style. In the game, most of our characters will prefer to have nice clean shiny new things, rather than old faded worn ones.

For lighting the tent, note the bit about lightstones (on the same Technology page as the section on books).
Other set-dressing for a tent depends hugely on your character’s nation and on how much stuff you can carry to the game.
You mentioned bedding though… depending on nation, perhaps a quilted bedcover?

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Im new to empire and larp. Love the lore so im thinking if making some IC textbooks/histiry books. I have done some cosplay before, so have an idea of materials im gonna use. Will let you know how it turns out

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