Starting With Buying Something

6. Starting with buying something

I was recently at a flea market, where theaters were selling their used costumes. I was looking for some particular items, but I was also just looking for good deals in general. Theatre costumes are usually not that useful for me as a larp organiser (since they’re made for being seen at a distance and larps happen up close as well), but sometimes you stumble upon something that’s of higher quality than usual, and then it gets interesting.

This saturday, I found some nice-looking stuff from an opera featuring Chinese and Mongol costumes. There were some impressive-looking armours in fake leather that looked really good even at close range, and I naturally asked about the price. The woman in charge of the booth said “We actually have 25 of each of these at our warehouse”.

Needless to say, I bought them all, plus some other high-quality stuff she had. Of course I had some idea of what I could use them for, but I knew that even if I wasn’t able to use them for the project I had in mind, I would still buy them. It’s not that often that I stumble upon a deal that’s so good.

Purpose can come later if the deal is good enough

Now, I acknowledge the fact, that for most people, having 50 suits of Chinese and Mongolian armour isn’t that useful. It also helps to have the cash flow to be able to put the money down in the first place, even if I by no means have enough money to practice a buy-and-ignore tactic.

For me, things are a gateway to doing stuff and creating events. After all, now I have spent money on costumes for 50 people, I need to figure out how to make something to make that investment worthwhile. Luckily, with something as well-defined as costumes, ideas usually come flooding in. And the sudden purchase of a small Mongol/Chinese army was no exception.

They will be used for a historical larp aimed at Danish boarding schools, combining physical education and history lessons. They will become the armour of Orcs (the Mongols) and Elves (the Chinese) for a fantasy war larp. The robes that the Mongols carry underneath their armour is perfect for monsters at some of our smaller fantasy larps. The impressive-looking yellow/brown undergarments of the Chinese forces will find new life as the costumes of bandits. And some of the beautiful, embroidered robes we bought along with the armour have already been in the field as costumes for Elemental spirits.

But it doesn’t end there. Some of the assorted items that came along with the costumes will be great for our surreal larp about childhood called Deep Down in Goblin Town. There are unearthly blue/white dresses with long, flowing sleeves that would make any ghost proud.

I’ve also gotten an idea for a short battle event involving Mongols and Chinese soldiers and 1000 cardboard boxes as a destructible slice of the Chinese Wall. And when some of my employees saw the golden, Chinese armours with dragon symbols, they decided to gather a team to go to one of the German megalarps as golden army. So if you’re at Drachenfest, look for their regiment.

Buying something is an expense. Buying 100 is an investment

We all own stuff. I own both shoes, a couple of computers, an assortment of books and even a treadmill. These are items I (sometimes) use to improve my life in some way. Owning pots and pans allows me (or to be fair, my wife) to cook things. Owning shirts and pants allows me to cause less public disturbance when I leave the apartment.

But if you’re a creator of events and experiences, there’s a huge difference between owning something and owning a lot of somethings. Owning a Playstation lets me play video games, and if I invite some friends over it becomes an accessory to socialising. That’s great. But if I owned 100 Playstations, they wouldn’t improve my gaming nights with friends much. They would, however, make me able to stage huge Playstation tournaments with 400 players playing FIFA soccer.

It doesn’t really matter that much what it is. Having a lot of something creates a space of opportunity. That’s why I try to buy things when I have the chance. For our wedding, I convinced my wife that we shouldn’t rent plates, glasses and cutlery for our 220 guests, but that we should buy them (cheaply) instead. They’ve since been rented out, loaned out, used for our own events and sometimes even given away in smaller numbers.

It’s not exactly a universally applicable tip

This sort of thinking isn’t for everyone. I know that. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, and you’ve worked your ass off to be able to afford that Playstation for the household, then of course you’re not really looking to buy 100 Playstations. Of course not. I would think twice about purchasing that number of Playstations myself unless the price was extremely low, since I’d also need 100 screens to make them usable.

But IF you are in the business of staging memorable experiences; creating events that are out of the ordinary somehow, and IF you have the cash flow (if not the cash to spend, then at least the cash to risk), and IF you have the creative juices to convert things into events and events into experiences…

Then I suggest that you sometimes think backwards, and start with buying something. And that’s why I’m going costume shopping again today. Because you never know what you might find, and what path it may lead you down.

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