How the Light Gets In

Light in the night (Castelldefels)

Light in the night (Castelldefels) (Photo credit: jcarlosn)

In the past I’ve been light source deficient.
There was a frame of time that personal lighting and I were two ships passing in the night.
I don’t mean a couple of times, I mean five years running. The same overnight larp, every year, without fail. It would always be the one thing I forgot and would only recall once I was already wandering about in the dark through a variety of unfamiliar tents (and their sometimes overenthusiastic tie-downs) looking for a quite spot to piss. In this situation particularly, a light source IS your best friend… well, aside from a handful of soft leaves or paper…

Granted, if the larp you’ve joined has specific common areas or if there actually is a ‘bathroom’, these designated spaces tend to have some minimal lighting ‘burning’ throughout the night, and you and your night vision can get you to that spot of ‘glowing embers’, no problem… The way back however, often becomes a maze to your now ruined night-eyes.

So as I was saying, personal lighting.
Grand thing to have.

Course you could try to make up for forgetting for so long, by now overcompensating on lighting. Like I did… Luckily, what that means for anyone reading this, is that I can now divulge some pros and cons to the variety of lighting sources I’ve used or discarded.

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Portable Flame: Any free-standing, oil-burning, fire-based lighting.
PROS:
Aesthetics: Nothing looks better the flame based lighting, there’s simply no substitute for it, replacement ‘flicking’ LEDs can’t even hold a candle, visually speaking.
Warmth: Lighting and heat source in one. Can drive the cold from weapon-stiffened fingers.

CONS:
Monitoring: It can’t be unattended. Someone always has to have a hold of it or be nearby in case the oil runs out, or the flame barring items gets knocked over/ broken etc.
Safety: Relates to monitoring, as any kind of flame (open or not) runs the risk of being knocked into and setting something else on fire. Or in the case on lamps, being smashed scattering glass, oil and quickly licking flame over everything it touches.

JUDGEMENT: Best used as bonfires or in populated areas tabletop/wall sconce lighting.

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Bulbs/LEDs: Anything that runs on batteries or electricity.
PROS:
Variety: They come in all shapes, sizes, colors and forms from quickly concealable lighting to full room ambiance. Even available in candle or tiny ‘berries’ shapes
Economic: Their life span is generally head and shoulders above the rest.

CONS:
Strength: Due to their versatile variety, it’s sometimes hard to gauge how bright they’re going to be, until you’re already thrown into the pitch and can’t see or start blinding people with it.  (I’ve actually tried the latter as a tactic against people in night fights… So maybe for some, this doesn’t fall under ‘con’.)
Modern: If you’re involved in a ‘historic’ or ‘medieval’ larp system some additional effort is often needed to disguise your light as something more archaic or magical (system permitting).

JUDGEMENT: Unless disguised, best used in modern, horror, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, military or when the game has been called and everyone’s already gone out of character.

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Glowers: Glow sticks, sand, paints etc.
PROS:
Disposable: You’re never gonna break the bank with these, nor will you bemoan the loss.
Versatility: Handy little thing these glowers. If you’re running night games, glow sticks can be used as over head marker for the dead or out of game players. Colors can designate effects or be used to tag and find thrown or missile weapons. Paints or sand can mark dangerous or warded areas…  The options and uses for such things are pretty much endless.

CONS:
Charge: Not so much for glow sticks, but often the others need a timed exposure to a light source or even an all day charge to project any semblance of radiance and well, all of them stop working or taking a full charge after awhile.
Single use: Also known as too much work for lack of staying power… Say you spend all day crafting a ward around your tent with sand and started early enough to do a solid job and still leave it plenty of time to charge in the sun… but what happens next event?  You have to craft it all over again… and that can get irritating real quick if your game is event heavy.

JUDGEMENT: Best used as flavor or clarifying markers for tents, areas and accents for magical or fanciful elements.

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Solar: Fixed formed lanterns/lights that harness the power of the sun.
PROS:
Aesthetics: Many of these already try to hid their modern ‘tech’ since they’re often used to accent  landscaping and tend to blend in easily with most games, no matter what your chosen time period.
Cost: You can generally find a six pack or something quick for about $5-12.

CONS:
Charge: Again with the charge… If you forget to leave them out to get the full sun charge they need, short of borrowing someone else flashlight to try and quick charge leaves you pretty much up shit creek.
Douse: Since they’re light sensitive aka “OFF when there’s light, ON when there’s not”… It can be troubling to learn suddenly that there’s no off-switch.  Especially if you’re trying to hide or sneak up on someone and have no emergency bushel basket to conceal it under.

JUDGEMENT: Best used where it’s left out at all times for trail staging or for an entry ‘porch’ light type areas.

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Well, I think that’s it. Hope this list helps and happy lighting.
For those curious… my favorite multipurpose personal light source is one of these babies.

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