TABLE OF CONTENTS
This book is designed to help people who are already involved in a
Live Action Role Playing group throw a feast. It is NOT a cookbook.
The specific rules of your LARP's game will dictate your ability to
design a plot for your event (assuming you want one), and it will also
dictate many of the choices you make when working out the details of
The beauty of a simple feast (that is, a feast thrown solely for the
purpose of feasting, rather than as an addendum to another event) is
its simplicity. A feast event, especially one thrown during the "off-season"
(i.e. winter months), is a perfect opportunity to get together with
all of your friends when regular eventing is stunted by piles of snow
or frigid weather. Feast events do not have to consist solely of feasting,
however; you can have a plot, tourneys, games, and awards. A feast event
is also the perfect place for bardics, holding court, and knightings.
This isn't to imply that the food isn't important - just the opposite.
You can have the greatest plot in the universe for your feast, but if
the food is terrible, people will only remember that they went hungry.
You want your feast to be remembered as a feast, not a fast!
I would like to thank my LARP community, the Realms, as a whole as
the inspiration for this book. Specifically, I would like to thank Andi
Dunphy, the indisputable Queen of feast-throwing, for all of her help
in teaching me how to throw a feast. I would also like to thank October
Project for "Falling Farther In," which was my sole listening
entertainment during the writing of this book. And of course, Steve
Johnson for pushing me into this - I may have needed the push but now
I'm falling farther in!
- Amy S. Johnson -
Deciding on a Plot
The first thing to do after deciding that you want to throw a feast
is decide why your character wants to throw the feast. If your only
reason is that you feel like throwing a feast, don't worry; in that
case, the reason your character wants to throw the feast can be as simple
as wanting to see his friends during the cold winter months. It can
also, of course, be more complicated. Your character might wish to announce
his betrothal, or celebrate the wedding of another character. You could
also have the event be a yearly gathering thrown by the in-character
group you belong to.
After you've determined the basic plot, you can decide what is going
to happen at your event. Will you have bardic competitions? Board games
such as chess? You can also hold competitions for writing poetry, writing
stories, drawing art, and anything else you can think up. The best bet
is to use tried-and-true activities typical of events in your LARP group,
along with some new activities that you have thought up. Consider having
regular fighting tourneys if your event hall is big enough and you can
get permission from the hall owners. If you have a personal reason or
an in-character reason for not liking padded weapons at feasts, this
would be the time to make your decision regarding allowing them.
The last step of this beginning process is thinking of a name for your
event. Your event can be named using a number of different methods.
If your event is being thrown in honor of a certain character, you can
name it after that character (i.e. "Lady Bedelia's Feast").
The event can also be named after your in-character group's name (i.e.
"The Feast of Scarlet Crest").
Finding a Site
The next step will be finding a site at which to hold your event. If
your LARP group has indoor sites that it typically uses, then you're
home free. Otherwise, you are going to have to do a bit of leg work.
Check your Yellow Pages under "Function Halls." Also, look
in the White Pages under specific town's names for VFW halls and the
like. Churches can also be wonderful sites, since they often have both
function halls and servicable kitchens. Call any organizations that
are close enough to you to be feasible to ask if they rent their hall
(some halls don't). If they do, ask who is in charge of organizing the
rentals. Usually this will be a specific person so that the hall can
avoid double-booking. Either talk to this person or write a letter to
You should definitely go down to the hall and look at it before you
get too immersed in this process. Some halls claim that they can seat
300, but upon closer inspection it will be clear to you that this would
be impossible. The hall may also be too big, or the wrong shape, or
the wrong style. You should still ask how many people the hall seats,
but use your own judgement as well as the word of the person who rents
The next question should be whether or not you are allowed to use the
kitchen. Some halls will not let you use their kitchen, being concerned
about liability. They may tell you that only licensed caterers can use
the kitchen, or that only their own staff can use the kitchen and that
you can hire their staff. If they will not let you use the kitchen,
this doesn't necessarily rule out the hall. If the hall is very close
to your house, you can do the cooking there and then transport the food
in a series of deliveries. However, this can be very difficult to organize.
If the hall will allow you to use the kitchen and the size of the kitchen
is adequate for your needs, you can move on to the next question.
What is the cost of rental? Some halls charge a flat fee for the whole
day, and are very lenient about letting you come in early to set up
and stay late to clean up. Other halls will only let you rent the hall
for a five or six hour period of time, with an extra charge per hour
after that. Some halls will charge you an extra fee for using the kitchen.
Many will charge you extra if they feel your clean-up job was insufficient
- if this is the case, be sure to do a good job! (You might also want
to ask what the extra charge is... if it is small, it might be worth
it to you to pay the hall to do the clean-up for you!) In any case,
ask for a list of all pertinent charges and fees, in writing if you
can get it.
Generally you will be allowed to come in early the day of your event
(or late the night before) to set up the tables. Some halls will even
set the tables up for you, but be sure to either give explicit written
directions of how you want them, or be prepared to move them around
again when you arrive at the hall. Some halls will also supply you with
white paper tablecloths free of charge if you ask. If not, buy them
yourself or do without them.
If there is a bar at the hall, decide whether you want it to be opened
or not. All bars at halls of this type will serve only legal adults
who have an ID with them, so you don't have to worry about your liability
in the case of minors drinking. But you do have to worry about the possibility
of people drinking too much and getting out of hand. It's rare, but
it can happen. Ask about the hall's bar policy. Some halls will charge
you $50 if you want to have the bar open, and others will charge you
extra if you want to have it closed!
If the hall is very large, you might want to ask about fighting tourneys
indoors. Be sure to explain the sport in detail and be ready to hear
a refusal, because in general halls don't want to take the legal risk
of someone being hurt on their property, or of something in the hall
being damaged. Keep a smile on your face and reassure the hall that
really, this event is just meant to be a gathering of friends who do
medieval recreation and anything they want is OK with you. You have
to remember that the public generally doesn't understand why people
LARP, and explaining why you love the sport or your community can sometimes
make a difference in getting a site or in what you'll be allowed to
do at that site. If your LARP group has a flyer describing the sport,
this would be a good use for one.
Assuming that the hall meets your needs, ask about available dates.
In the winter halls usually have a number of dates open, so it really
shouldn't be a problem. Saturdays are probably preferable but a Sunday
could work too depending on how far apart your group of LARP friends
lives. Some halls may want a deposit when you book your date. Most professionally-run
halls will provide you with a standard rental contract - make sure you
read it and understand what it says before signing it. If the hall doesn't
have a rental contract, write one up yourself; include date of rental,
charges and fees, and any other information. Then have a hall representative
sign it, and sign it yourself as well.
Once you've set a date, you're on your way!
Before you spread word about your event, you have to set a budget.
No one wants to lose money when they throw an event. Indeed, it is possible
to throw an event without losing money - you only have to be willing
to make some compromises in the way your event is run. You may, if you're
extremely lucky, even be able to come out ahead when your event is over.
You shouldn't plan on this happening, though - if you cut too many corners,
people will feel ripped off. You need to do a lot of careful planning
if you want to come out even.
How to Calculate Cost-Per-Person
The first thing to figure out is how much it will cost to throw your
event. (This is very difficult for a first-time eventholder. If you
have never thrown an event before, get some advice from experienced
feast-throwers in your LARP group as to how much things usually cost.)
Some costs are non-negotiable. An example of this would be your site
fee - probably a set fee of $85 - $225 per day. (It is not entirely
true to say that the site fee is non-negotiable; there are always exceptions.
A hall may be willing to lower their fee in exchange for manual labor,
including cleaning up after other people's parties. But in general,
the site fee is a set fee.) Estimate and add in the cost of props (if
you need them), food, prizes, and everything else you'll have to pay
for. Once you have added up all the costs, you can divide that amount
by the number of people you expect to attend, and that will be your
approximate cost-per-person. For example, if your site fee is $200,
your prizes cost $50, and the food will cost $750, then your total cost
is $1000. If you think that 100 people will attend your event, then
$1000 divided by 100 people equals $10 per person.
You can also estimate the cost of your event by how much money you
want to charge event-goers. If you want to charge, say, $8 per person
and you estimate that 100 people will attend, then that gives you a
budget of $800 to work with. Keep in mind that you may not get as many
people as you are hoping for. Also keep in mind that leaving a little
bit of money set aside is a good idea - there will always be last-minute
things that you'll have forgotten.
For some events, like one-day tourney events, getting people to pre-register
isn't that important. But for a feast event, it is absolutely vital
that people register in advance.
Because you need money if you're going to be able to buy the food,
you have to convince people to pre-register. There are a number of different
things that will help. The first is to choose a convenient date. If
half of the people in your LARP group live three hours away, then having
your event on a week night is not a good idea. The best day for a feast
event is Saturday, because many people have the day off and will also
have Sunday to recover from a long drive if they had to go to the next
state for your event. You also want to consider holidays - don't hold
your event on a holiday weekend, because most people have family obligations.
People need an incentive to pre-register early. If your cost-per-person
works out to, say, $13, then you can have an early pre-reg price that
ends a month before your event of $10, and then raise the cost to $15
thereafter. This will serve two purposes - it will help you get some
money in early, allowing you to buy non-perishable ingredients or ones
that you can freeze, and it will also allow you the potential of making
a little bit of money. Although some people will pre-reg by the early
date to save money, the majority of people will forget until the pre-reg
deadline and will end up paying the more expensive fee. For a feast,
you MUST have the pre-registration period end two weeks before the date
of the event. Otherwise, you won't have the money in time to buy the
food that you need to buy. (Also, some halls will want a final head-count
a week before the event.)
If the day before your pre-reg deadline comes and some of your friends
have still not pre-registered, give them a call and remind them. Tell
them that, if they put the check in the mail the next day, they can
still come to the event. You can get at least a 5% increase of attendees
Keep in mind that people will still forget to pre-reg. Hold firm and
not let people pre-reg late, but if you were planning for more people
than ended up pre-regging, you may want to let them sign up late. Count
on at least a few disorganized souls calling you up the night before
the event to ask if they can still come. Also, it's not a bad idea to
plan your final head-count to include 10 extra slots, in case people
show up at the door with no warning, because this will probably happen
too. If they have driven three hours to get to your event you will have
a hard time turning them away, and if you plan for those 10 extra slots
you won't have to worry about anyone going hungry.
The only pre-reg is a PAID pre-reg. Tell the late pre-regs that you'll
put them on an "approved" list, but that they won't be considered
pre-regged until you have their check or cash in your hand.
After you've made all of the planning decisions, get word of your event
out as soon as possible. Start advertising at least 2 1/2 months in
advance of your event date. The best method of advertising is to advertise
in your LARP group's newsletter. This way, the maximum number of people
will find out about your event, and you can make sure that they receive
all of the correct information. Check with your newsletter's publisher
about how to make a submission and in what format to send in your information.
Mention your event to all of your friends. Even those who aren't involved
in your LARP group might be interested in attending your event out of
curiosity. If you have friends who have expressed an interest in LARPing
in the past, this would be the perfect opportunity to introduce them
to the community. Ask if they would like to help with the event in some
way or offer to let them come for free if your budget allows it. If
they get hooked, they'll be glad to pay for your events in the future!
You can also make announcements at other events that you attend. Ask
the event holder if there is some time when making your announcement
wouldn't interrupt the activity, and speak up! Tell people that they
can pay the cheaper, early admission price... IF they pay you now. Give
details about the event and, if possible, bring out...
THE FLYERS. You can make these very cheaply by either hand-writing
them (if your hand-writing is legible), typing them out on a typewriter
or computer, or having a friend type them out on their computer for
you. Copy them at the local copy shop on the cheapest paper available,
and hand them out at events, mail them out to friends, etc. Be sure
to include all important information about your event: Name, Plot, Date,
Time, Place, Cost, how to contact you, and directions. Be sure to give
good directions! People will not remember your event fondly if they
spent the first two hours of it driving around lost. Complete directions
must include exit numbers and mileage.. when writing out the directions,
pretend that you've never been to the site before, and try driving there
according to your written directions to see if they are accurate.
Note if your site will serve alcohol (a "wet" site) or not
("dry.") If your event is "wet," remind people that
they won't be served alcohol without a valid ID. Mention that vegetarians
or other people with dietary restrictions should inform you of such
when they send in their pre-registration. Also, if you want to prohibit
people from bringing their padded weapons to your feast event (a phenomenon
that sometimes strikes our LARP group), make sure you let them know
in the flyer.
Planning the menu is one of the most enjoyable tasks in planning your
feast event. You can let your imagination run wild - BUT, you have to
keep practicality in mind as well.
Choosing the Courses
First, decide on how many courses you would like to serve. This decision
should be at least partially based on the amount of time your feast
is going to last. If your feast starts at 10 am and ends at 8 pm, you
have a ten-hour period of time in which to work. In ten hours, you could
easily serve 8 or 10 courses, depending on how much plot and how many
tourneys you want to have. A course will take about 10 - 15 minutes
to serve and 20 - 30 minutes to eat, so plan on each course taking approximately
45 minutes. You can decide to serve 8 courses, each divided by some
bardic entries or short plot activity. If you are having fighting tourneys,
you might want to serve 3 courses, then hold the tourneys, then serve
the rest of the courses (you don't want people fighting on extremely
full stomachs). You could serve 4 courses, have a break for playing
games and other non-combat tourneys, and then serve the remaining courses.
Breaking a number of courses up into sections like this is known as
a repast or "remove". You could have a repast of 3 courses
from one ethnic background, and then a repast of 3 more courses from
another background. Or, each repast could consist of one type of course
only: the first repast could be 3 appetizer courses, the second repast
could be three entree courses, and so on. Each repast could also consist
of an appetizer course (salad, soup, etc.), an entree course (poultry
or beef), and a dessert course. It's really up to you, so be creative!
Some of the traditional courses served in our LARP group have been
soups (including vegetarian, chicken, beef, lamb, and even chili!),
salads (vegetable, green, pasta), entrees such as chicken, turkey, and
beef, side dishes (potatoes, rice, noodles, pasta with cheese sauce),
hot breads stuffed with meats and cheeses, meat pies, fish, quiche,
a fruit and cheese course, and cheese and crackers. Bread is usually
on all tables at all times, along with butter or honey butter. Desserts
have included everything from baked fruit compotes to chocolate trifle
Depending on the size and complexity of the kitchen, you need to choose
courses that compliment each other by method of preparation. For example,
soup is a stove-top prepared course, so it should be served either right
before or right after a course that will need the use of the oven for
preparation. Unless you have a number of large ovens, it's better to
alternate oven-prepared courses with stove-top or cold courses. This
way, you won't have a great deal of time elapse between courses. Organize
everything so that it runs smoothly, and thankfully that generally corresponds
with the order of courses also being most aesthetically pleasant. It's
nicer to have a cold course in between two hot courses than to have
two hot courses followed by a cold course and then dessert. Similarly,
if you're serving both a hot pasta with cheese sauce dish and a potato
dish, it's better to put another course in between them than to serve
them both together.
Serving the Masses
There are several ways to get the food from the kitchen to the mouths
of your hungry event-goers. The method that you choose depends on the
resources available to you. If your LARP group has a servant's guild
like ours does, all you need to do is hire them. The master of this
guild will probably be able to make suggestions as to the best way to
serve certain dishes, and should be able to tell you how many servants
you will need based on the size of your event. Make sure that you contact
the guildmaster far in advance, so that he or she has time to organize
the guild's presence at your event. The guild will most likely require
compensation of some kind (in-character) in exchange for serving. Find
out what the fee is ahead of time and make sure that you are sufficiently
prepared to make recompense on the day of the event.
If you aren't lucky enough to have a servant's guild at your disposal,
your in-character group may be large enough to serve at the event. In
general, you probably need 3 or 4 people to be working in the kitchen
(for at least the first half of the event) and another 8 to serve. If
your event is small (less than 85 people), you could make do with a
few less, and you could eliminate half of the kitchen workers if you
do a lot of preparation ahead of time. When your in-character group
is serving at the event, go over the serving plan with them ahead of
time so they know what's expected of them. Also, don't complain about
free labor! If something goes wrong, keep a sense of humor.
The Society for Creative Anachronism has yet another suggested serving
plan - that each table of participants supplies one server. This plan
requires that you have an individual serving dish for each table for
each course, but you can wash and reuse the bowls between courses.
The above three plans (servant's guild, in-character group, and SCA
plan) assume that you want event-goers to sit at their tables and be
served there. There is a third plan that doesn't require nearly the
amount of help, but is more complicated to pull off. This is the buffet
option. There are pros and cons about using this option. The most important
pro is that it will allow you to pull off your event even if your in-character
group has only 6 members. The negative aspects are that you will need
a considerably larger amount of food if you have a buffet, because you
lose almost all control over portion size. This is the reason why professional
caterers often charge more for a buffet than they do for a sit-down
meal. The first 40 people go through the line, heaping their plates
(because everyone's eyes are bigger than their stomachs,) and the next
60 people are left to pick over 2 platters of potato casserole. No,
it's not really that bad, but it's frustrating to see some people end
up with slim pickings when the first 40 people throw away plates that
are three-quarters full.
The way to control this problem at the buffet table is to have servers
at the table. This way, you control portion size and you still only
need three people to do the serving. Instruct the servers to give small
portions of everything that the event-goers request. The biggest con
about any buffet method is that it is extremely slow. More than an hour
can pass before everyone gets through the line once, and this is very
boring and exasperating for the people at the end of the line. Obviously,
I advocate the table-serving method, but the buffet can be a viable
(if difficult) alternative for the event holder who has a small crew.
Once you've chosen the number of courses and the serving method, it's
time to choose the recipes you'd like to use. The sources for these
are endless. You can use cookbooks that you or your friends or family
own, cookbooks borrowed from the library, cooking videos borrowed from
the library, cooking shows taped off the TV, medieval source books,
recipes from friends who have thrown feasts before, and your own imagination.
Decide whether you would like to stick with primarily "period"
recipes, or modern recipes. Some people would prefer that every dish
at their event be strictly medieval, while others throw caution to the
wind and make pizza! Either way is fine, but keep in mind your own cooking
abilities and practice making a period dish before you set your heart
on having it at your feast. Some dishes that were common long ago (especially
venison and rabbit) are too expensive to feasibly make for your feast
event, unless you are a hunter or someone in your family is. Also keep
in mind the dishes that most tantalize your friends. If most of them
have never tried unusual dishes and aren't adventurous, you might want
to stay away from anything too exotic or strange-looking. Trust me,
you'll feel better seeing everyone eating and enjoying meatball grinders
than seeing them throwing away plates of the most period recipe, even
if you got incredible satisfaction out of preparing something "truly
medieval." If you're creative and take your time, you can find
recipes for dishes that closely resemble both period and modern recipes.
For example, calzones, a popular modern dish, closely resemble the meat
pies that were common fare in medieval times. A dish doesn't have to
be authentically medieval for people to think that it is!
The season is also something to consider. If your feast event is in
winter in New England, you will want to serve a number of hot dishes
to keep people warm. You wouldn't want to include fresh strawberries
in a dish, because they are not in season and would be incredibly expensive,
even if you could find a source for them. Similarly, if your feast event
is in the fall in New England, you might include apples or pumpkins
in a dish, because they are readily available and will be fresh and
inexpensive. If the feast that you are planning is in mid-summer and
you expect the heat to be a factor in people's appetites, serve several
cold dishes that aren't too heavy, such as a light pasta salad, a green
vegetable salad, and a fresh fruit and cheese course. If you have the
freezer space, this would also be a perfect time to serve an ice-cream
dish for dessert.
Consider which dishes will double, triple, or quadruple easily. Most
recipes work well in large portions - but do your calculations carefully!
If you are quadrupling a recipe for soup (or anything else), don't quadruple
the amount of spices automatically! Add double the normal amount of
spices until it's almost time for the dish to be served, and then taste
it and add more accordingly. This is especially true of salt. It is
also true of sugar. If the recipe is being doubled, add one and a half
times the amount of sugar; if the recipe is multiplied by 8, use 3 or
4 times the amount of sugar - and then TASTE it! Recipes that call for
cooked eggs, such as custards, don't multiply well. If you aren't sure
if the recipe will double or triple successfully, you can always make
the dish a number of times separately and freeze it until the event.
Or, if you're brave and don't mind eating repetitious dinners, triple
the recipe and make it for yourself, judging it for taste and consistency.
When you intend to make a dish ahead of time and freeze it, check a
small portion a few days after freezing to see if it reheats well. Many
things do, but some don't. Anything with a milk, sour cream, or yogurt
base probably won't reheat well. Most main dishes will reheat very well,
especially casserole- type dishes such as lasagne and meat pies. If
you aren't sure what the results will be, check ahead of time.
Don't forget to let your creative side out! You can adapt many recipes
to suit either your taste or your budget. Substitute an inexpensive
ingredient such as white mushrooms for expensive truffles, or a local
cheese for an imported one. If you hate celery, drop it from your soup
recipe and add extra carrots instead. Pasta can be combined with almost
any sauce you like. If your adaptation isn't a simple one, make the
recipe at home and test it out - maybe on your friends!
Also, keep in mind that there are people out there, especially vegetarians,
who can't eat certain foods for a variety of reasons. If you think that
it will be too complicated to make additional dishes to cater to people's
dietary restrictions, advertise your event as having a set menu. However,
as long as you let it be known that people must make you aware of their
dietary preferences in advance, (ideally when they pre-register), it
isn't hard to offer them an option that they can eat.
If there are only one or two vegetarians attending your feast, you
can make one main-dish casserole with vegetables instead of red meat
or chicken, heat up one can of broccoli soup that they can have instead
of your famous chili, and so on. If someone really wants to attend your
feast event but has so many dietary restrictions that they really won't
be able to eat anything, offer them an extremely reduced price in exchange
for them bringing their own bag lunch!
Especially when you are serving a large number of courses, people will
drink large amounts of liquids. The most popular beverage in our feast
crowd is kool-aid, largely because its affordability means that we can
serve more than enough to quench anyone's thirst. Milk often doesn't
go with a number of dishes, and it can be expensive and cause storage
problems unless you have lots of refrigerator space. Fruit juices can
be incredibly expensive, and also need refrigerator storage because
warm juice is worse than no juice at all. Frozen juice could be affordable
depending on where you live, but make sure you have enough freezer space
for it. Kool-aid type beverages, including lemonade and iced tea, can
be bought far in advance, are easy to mix up using cold water from the
tap, and aren't too expensive. Just be aware that if your feast is being
thrown in the hot and humid summer months, even sealed drink mixes can
"go bad" (get lumpy and sticky). You probably won't be able
to save the mix from one event to the next if it's summer time, so maybe
you'll want to pass it on the event holder who is throwing the event
directly after yours.
If you own some large electric coffee urns, use one for coffee and
one for hot water, and put them off on a little side table where they'll
be out of the way and where people can serve themselves. Coffee can
be bought in large quantities at your local wholesale supply warehouse
and made up in the first urn. Tea and cocoa can both be made using hot
water from the second urn. Encourage people to use their own feast gear,
but you can also supply cups and spoons. Don't forget the cream / milk
This can be the most difficult aspect of planning your feast. The question
of how much people eat cannot be answered simply; it depends on too
many varying factors. The weather, the popularity of a certain dish,
and the altering appetites of your event-goers all add up to create
a challenge for you - "How much do I make?" At this point,
I have not yet thrown a feast where we didn't have enough food - we
have always had far too much. Obviously, it is better to have too much
and have to deal with leftovers than it is to have people go hungry,
but ideally you want to come out with just the right amount.
Andi Dunphy once told me that the more people are at a feast, the less
they eat, and this seems to be true, though I have no idea why. Generally,
you will have more leftovers from the later courses than you will from
the earlier ones, because people gradually become more and more full
as the feast wears on. Since in LARP communities there are often more
men than women, it is important to keep in mind that the men will eat
more than the women. If your feast is Saturday night after a full day
of eventing in the woods or fields, people will eat more, unless the
weather is extremely hot. If you are having 10 courses, you can calculate
somewhat smaller servings than usual, but if you're having 6 you might
want to stick to the recommendations that follow.
Usually, our LARP group gets regular Italian bread or Vienna bread
from a bakery to serve on the tables. I generally calculate one loaf
of bread for every two people - on some occasions this has been right
on target, but on one there was a lot of bread left over. Since the
bread is on the tables when people arrive and are the hungriest, the
bread is usually one of the most-consumed items at the event. We make
honey butter with approximately one to one and a half cups of honey
blended into a pound of butter, and this amount will serve about 15
or 20 people.
A green salad made with iceberg lettuce and an assortment of other
toppings will serve approximately 10 people when made with one head
of lettuce. Dressing the salad just before serving is the easiest method,
and will require about 5 oz. of salad dressing. If you want to serve
dressing on the side at the tables, you'll need approximately 1 ounce
of dressing per person.
Soup is difficult to calculate. I never make soup from a book recipe
- we make it up as we go along. I took the pots that I was intending
to make soup in, and measured their capacity by adding water, one soup-bowlful
at a time, until the pot was mostly full. My pots held 50 soup-bowlfuls
comfortably, and it's quite safe to calculate one bowlful per person.
Everyone's feast-gear has a different-sized soup bowl anyway! To make
a 50-bowl pot of soup you would need 12 lbs. of boneless chicken breast
or an 8 lb. whole chicken, or approximately 12-15 lbs. of stew beef,
or 15 lbs. of ground beef (for chili).
The general rule for serving meat is approximately half a pound per
person. If you are having two meat courses, you can lessen this to a
third of a pound. Poultry is harder to calculate unless it is boneless,
but generally one 4 lb. chicken would serve about 6 people, or up to
10 if you are having another meat course. A typical meat pie (made with
about a 9-inch pie crust) will serve approximately 8. When you are serving
fish, it is most likely an additional entree, not the only entree, so
you might calculate a quarter of a pound per person.
Side dishes are one of the least-eaten dishes at feasts. I suspect
that this is because they generally follow soup and salad, and accompany
a more-attractive main dish. Pasta with any kind of sauce is generally
rather heavy, so a 1 lb. box of pasta will easily serve 10 or twelve
people. A potato casserole of any variety made from a 5 lb. bag of potatoes
will serve at least 12 people. Two cups of uncooked rice will serve
approximately 10 people. These estimations should give you the ammunition
you need to calculate other side dish quantities.
Vegetables are rather unpopular in our crowd, so we rarely see them
at feast events. If you wanted to serve cooked vegetables, one cup would
serve about 3 people. For corn on the cob, you would need 1 ear for
every person, because it is extremely popular.
Desserts are usually served at the end of a long day of feasting. A
full sheet cake bought at the bakery will usually serve about 75 people
- ask your baker and he'll tell you how many servings his cake yields.
A 9-inch fruit pie will serve approximately 10 people. A cream pie such
as chocolate or banana will serve about 8. An 9" by 13" pan
of fruit crisp or compote will serve about 15 people. A trifle in a
standard trifle bowl will serve about 15 as well. In general, if it's
chocolate, assume that people will eat larger portions.
Beverages are consumed at a much greater rate at feast events than
they would be at a normal party or meal. It is far better to buy too
much beverage mix and end up with leftovers than it is to buy too little
and end up running out, especially since you can never count on the
taste of plain tap water and since the sealed beverage mix will last
for some time, allowing you to pass it on to the next eventholder if
you have a lot left over. Each person will drink approximately 4 eight
ounce servings of liquid. Since a 2-qt. pitcher holds 8 cups, a 2-qt.
pitcher will serve 2 people. If you are expecting 100 people at your
feast event, you will need enough beverage mix to make 25 gallons, or
50 two-quart pitchers of liquid, or 100 quarts of liquid. If your feast
is being thrown in the summer or during warmer weather, get 50% extra
beverage mix because people will be drinking a lot. Read the beverage
mix container to see how many quarts it makes - it varies.
Your local library will generally have catering books that have good
advice about portion sizes and multiplying recipes. If you're worried
about your ability to calculate these things, check out a book or ask
a friend for some input.
Portions for Serving
If you use a buffet to serve your event-goers, then all you have to
worry about is your servers giving appropriately small portions. If
you are serving at the tables, however, you need to decide how to serve
each course in the most efficient and realistic manner. Because most
halls have rectangular- shaped tables that seat either 10 or 12 people,
the following figures are based on tables that seat those numbers of
Bread and honey butter can be put on the tables before the event begins.
If the tables seat either 10 or 12, figure on putting 2 loaves of bread
and two small dishes of honey butter on each table. Salad is most easily
served in one large bowl. If your tables seat 10 then a large bowl of
salad made from one head of iceberg lettuce will be sufficient. If your
tables seat 12, make each salad in the same large bowl, but with 1 1/3
heads of iceberg lettuce (or a comparable amount of other lettuce or
Soup is almost impossible to serve at tables. The best alternative
is to have a pair of servants walk around with each variety of soup
in its pot and serve people from one end of each table. Event-goers
who would like that variety of soup pass their bowls up the table. One
servant holds the pot with pot-holders and the other uses a ladle to
dish up the soup.
For all other dishes except dessert, the way you divide up the total
dish depends on the size of your tables. If your tables seat 10 people
and you have 10 tables, make 10 containers (or platters or whatever
is appropriate to the dish being served) and serve one to each table
- the event-goers pass the container around and serve each other. If
your tables seat 12 people and you have 8 tables, make 16 containers
and serve two to each table, one on each half of the table. The exception
to this rule would be a dish that was very large that could not be divided
- like a large turkey; in that case you would serve only one to each
table regardless of whether the tables sat 10 or 12.
If your dessert is something simple like pies or cookies, you can divide
them evenly among the number of tables you have. If your dessert is
more difficult to serve, like a large sheet cake, you can serve it from
an extra side table. Ask people who would like dessert to bring their
plates up, and have two servants cut and serve the cake from the table.
The best way to serve kool-aid (or other liquid) is to assign 2 or
3 servants the task of mixing the kool-aid in the kitchen and continually
walking around the hall with a pitcher (or two, if you have more than
one flavor of kool-aid), stopping at tables and asking if anyone would
like some kool-aid. (In our LARP group, kool-aid is generally referred
to by its corresponding color: i.e.. "Would anyone like a drink?
Red, or yellow?")
As long as someone in the kitchen knows the order in which the courses
are to be served, things should go smoothly. This knowledgeable person
can tell the servants when to serve each course. Unless you are attempting
to follow some pre-determined schedule of serving (which is almost impossible
to do successfully), the best time to serve the next course is when
people seem to be finished eating the previous course. The empty and
mostly-empty platters from the previous course should be removed to
the kitchen, and the next course brought out, at this time.
The most careful initial budget in the world won't do you any good
unless you know how, and where, to shop. If you have budgeted a certain
amount of money for the soup course and you find that the mushrooms
for the beef stew are way too expensive, then you need to either eliminate
the mushrooms from the recipe, or adjust the budget from one of the
other courses to compensate for the extra expense. Similarly, if you
budgeted $150 for dessert and find out that it will only cost $75, you
can either split up the $75 by adding it to other courses where it's
needed, or you can figure out a course that you can do for the $75.
Knowing the approximate cost of most items helps immensely in determining
your budget for each course, so if you aren't normally the food shopper
in your household, get ready for an educational experience.
Where to Shop
First, look at your menu and make a list of every amount of every ingredient
you need to buy for every course. (Obviously, if you need butter in
different amounts for six different courses, combine the amounts of
butter into one total.) Don't forget non-food items such as aluminum
foil, plastic wrap, zip-loc storage bags, paper towels, etc. Put this
list aside. Now, make another list of just the ingredients you need,
noting amounts only for things that come in different sizes (i.e.. if
you need exactly 32 oz. of vegetable oil, note that, but don't note
20 heads of lettuce, just put "lettuce.") Take this list to
your local stores that are noted for having low prices (don't go to
expensive convenience stores) and, for each item on your list, write
down the price of the item at that store. This way, you'll be able to
see that Price Cutter has the best prices on vegetable oil, but that
Stop and Bop has much cheaper produce. Save this list! It is your most
valuable tool. If you have identified the cheapest price in your area
for peanuts, you'll be able to tell if peanuts are actually cheaper
at the wholesale club, or if a "sale" on peanuts at another
store is really a sale. Be sure to note unit pricing; although a larger
package usually yields the least expensive price-per-ounce, there may
be a sale on a smaller sized package that will save you money. And now,
you can go back to the first list you made, and multiply the cheapest
price available for each item by the amount of that item that you need,
thus establishing your estimated cost for food and supplies. You will
be able to tell if you are way over your estimated budget and need to
make changes, if you're under your budget and can be a bit more extravagant,
or if you're right on the mark.
Your Local Grocery Store
Plan to buy the items that are the least expensive at Price Cutter
there, and the ones that are least expensive at Stop and Bop there.
Don't forget to look at store brands! They are usually your cheapest
alternative. Now that you have determined the cheapest price on each
item in your area, you can watch for the sale flyers that come in your
local paper. If you see something that you need is on sale, check with
your list to be sure it's really a good deal, and then, if it's a legitimate
sale, go ahead and buy! If nothing else, you can be confident that are
actually getting a bargain. This works best for non-perishables and
other supplies, obviously, though it can also work for things that freeze
well, assuming that you have the freezer space. Another hint: if you
need to buy a large amount of meat, ask at the meat counter if they'll
make up an "economy pack" for you. This is a large package
of meat, usually 5 lbs. or more, and usually a good bargain - you'll
not only end up with less packaging to cart home, but you may get a
lower price-per-pound because you're buying in quantity.
You or someone you know may be a member of a Wholesale Club such as
BJ's. These are huge warehouses where, for a yearly fee of about $25,
you can purchase bulk amounts of grocieries and many other items. These
stores can be your best bet for some items, but are not a good value
for others. Often things are a better deal at the wholesale club simply
because you buy them in larger quantities. If you have the resources,
wholesale clubs are usually great places to get aluminum foil and plastic
wrap, precisely because you buy them in huge amounts - they don't go
bad, and you can always save them for next year's feast. Wholesale clubs
can also provide good deals on large amounts of cheese, on canned vegetables,
and on enormous jars of spices (which do go bad eventually, so only
buy a large one if you need a large one). Some wholesale clubs carry
very large containers of beverage mix - this would be a purchase to
consider. You can often buy a large package of frozen, pre-made pie
crusts, which would be perfect if you are planning to make meat pies
or fruit pies. Sometimes, you can buy something already made at a wholesale
club for less money than it would cost to buy the ingredients and put
it together yourself. A good example of this is lasagne, which can be
expensive and time consuming to make and might cost less pre-made at
the wholesale club.
Bread is something you'll want to buy at the bakery, because it will
be fresher than at the grocery store, and possibly cheaper as well.
You may also want to purchase your dessert from the bakery. Check your
Yellow Pages for bakeries that are local to you. (If your event site
is more than 15 minutes from your house, check for bakeries that are
near your event site.) Note a few likely candidates and, when you have
some free time, take a drive over and check them out. If you like the
looks of them, and the bread looks good, buy a loaf and ask about volume
discounts. Many bakeries will take up to 25% off your total cost if
you buy more than a certain amount of loaves. Most will be thrilled
to take an order for 50 or more loaves! Be sure to find out how far
in advance you need to place the order; it may be a week or only a few
days. Usually the bakery won't expect payment until you come to pick
up the order. Be sure to check out their selection of desserts as well.
Be open-minded - if the eclairs look wonderful and the price is right,
they'd make a great dessert. Cakes are easy too, because a sheet cake
will feed a large number of people, or smaller individual cakes can
be served one-to-a-table. You can't really ask for a sample of a sheet
cake, but you can buy a smaller cake to sample at home before placing
an order. Some frosted cakes will need to be refrigerated if you want
them to look good at serving time, so keep that in mind.
Cost vs. Convenience
In some cases, you will need to make a decision about which is more
precious to you, saving money or saving time. If buying a lasagne at
the wholesale club costs a dollar more than the ingredients for making
a comparably-sized one yourself and it will take you an hour to make
the homemade one, is an hour of your time really only worth a dollar?
(Maybe you're homebound and bored and you want to make lasagne, in which
case, feel free.) But you do want to keep that in mind. This is also
the reason why no one in my LARP group bakes the Italian bread for events
- the cost would be about the same, and it would take forever to bake
that much bread! Another example is kool-aid. When I threw my first
feast event, pre-mixed, pre-sugared kool-aid was rather expensive, even
the store brand. However, the price of sugar was very low. I bought
unsugared kool-aid packets, sugar, and store-brand zip-loc sandwich
baggies. I then put one packet and one cup of sugar in each baggie (the
right amount to make one pitcher of kool-aid) and sealed them up. It
was a pain, but I saved the event $35 by doing it and it only took about
half an hour. Where else can you make $70 an hour? Looking back, I'd
do it again if the opportunity arose, but by the last feast event I
threw store-brand kool-aid was back to a low price. The best advice
would be, determine how much something is worth to you, and then only
do things that are worth it.
When to Buy, What to Buy
Buying some things far in advance of the event is good planning, and
makes good economic sense if you can get things on sale. If you feel
confident about the number of people you think will attend your feast
event, you can spend your own money if you see a good sale and then
reimburse yourself when more event funds come in.
The best things to buy in advance are non-perishable food items, supply
items, and foods that you will prepare in advance and then freeze. Kool-aid
mix, crackers, bread crumbs, spices, paper towels, canned fruits and
vegetables, oil, salad dressing, and sugar are all things that are good
to buy in advance. This will save you from having to buy them at the
last minute, when you will probably be stressed out and less likely
to make wise economic decisions.
Things that you shouldn't buy until the last minute (the night before
the event, or possibly the day before that if you have a very cold cellar
in which to store vegetables) include fresh fruits and veggies, meats
that you won't be freezing, sour cream, milk, cream, and eggs.
If you haven't done a lot of cooking, this would be the time to read
some cookbooks. It is very important to understand some basic tenets
of food and cooking safety before you begin to prepare food for a large
number of people.
The most important and basic rule of food safety is to wash your hands
well with soap and hot water before you begin cooking. At the grocery
store, do not purchase cans that are bulging or rusted, and if anything
has a suspicious odor or color when you get it home, return it to the
store promptly for a replacement. Dairy foods and meats should be refrigerated
as soon as you bring them home from the store, and you should carefully
wash all surfaces that come in contact with meat or meat juices. Cutting
boards and cutting areas should be cleaned with a hot water and bleach
solution after they have been in contact with the meat, and before you
cut anything else on them.
Knives should be kept very sharp so that they can do their job - if
you have to bear down hard to make a knife cut through something, the
knife is more likely to slip and end up cutting you. If you do cut yourself,
clean the cut well and apply proper first aid, including a band-aid.
And take your time! You may think that you are being more efficient
by cutting vegetables up quickly, but you won't end up getting done
any sooner if you cut yourself and have to spend 10 minutes getting
Make sure that everyone uses pot holders to take hot things out of
the oven or off of the stove. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby just in
case anything catches on fire, and be sure not to leave that first aid
kit at home.
There are quite a number of kitchen supplies that you'll need. Some
things you probably already have in your home, but others you will need
to either purchase, or borrow from someone else who throws feast events.
- Large pots (with lids are best, but you can make do without lids
- Baking pans (cheap aluminum are ok, but make sure you dry them after
washing or they'll rust! - at least 12)
- Pitchers (to mix and serve kool-aid in - about 10)
- Large bowls (to serve salad etc. in - about 20)
- Large platters (for serving - about 20)
- Cookie sheets (for baking and re-heating - about 6)
- Large spoons (for cooking - about 5)
- Large ladles (for serving - about 5)
- Asst. knives (for cooking - as many as you can find)
- Vegetable peelers (2)
- Wire whisk (only 1 - but it's indispensable)
- Can opener (manual is fine - your hall might not have one!)
- Turkey baster (for ease in removing liquid fat from pots)
With most of these supplies, the more you have the better off you'll
be, and the easier it will be to do all that cooking! The above numbers
are probably close to the minimum you should have access to - you can
most likely manage with this number, unless you're expecting 300 people
at your feast event! Don't feel like you have to rush out and buy everything,
either - borrow the stuff if you can. For my first event, I borrowed
supplies, and then I used the profits from the event to buy my own supplies.
There are, of course, nifty gadgets that you can buy to make your preparation
and cooking easier. None of them are essential, but they can certainly
- Expensive knives - these are usually much better than the normal
variety, and their edges last and last.
- Food Processor - makes chopping onions, carrots, and celery a breeze!
- Microwave - great for that last-minute defrosting job when you forgot
to take the boneless chicken out of the freezer!
Last but not least, keep in mind that you will want to have some feasting
supplies on hand. In our LARP group, everyone is exepcted to bring their
own feast gear (plate, bowl, flatware, etc.) to a feast that they attend,
but people don't always remember. It's a good idea to have some spare
(even disposable) cups, plates, and plastic utensils around for those
who forget and don't want to go hungry!
A freezer (and I mean a real freezer, not the little compartment above
your refrigerator) is one of the most valuable appliances you can own
if you throw feast events. A freezer makes it possible to buy almost
anything months before your event and have it be fresh and ready when
you want it. This way, you can take advantages of sales. Most items
and dishes can be successfully frozen for up to three months. Things
that freeze particularly well are meats, cheeses, butter, bread, and
casseroles such as lasagne and meat pies. Things that you want to avoid
freezing include whole milk, cream, sour cream, eggs, anything that
has mayonnaise as an ingredient, and smaller baked goods such as cookies
and brownies (because they get really dry during their stint in the
Whatever it is that you freeze, be sure that you wrap it properly before
freezing. Butter and cheese can go straight into the freezer from your
shopping bag. Baked goods fare best if wrapped in several layers of
plastic wrap and then placed in a freezer bag. Most books recommend
that you take meats out of their store wrapping and re-wrap them with
plastic wrap and freezer wrap. I've rarely bothered to do this and my
meats have never gotten freezer burn, but perhaps that's because they've
rarely been frozen for more than a few weeks. If the store wrapping
was torn in any way you'd want to re-wrap it, but then again, if the
store wrapping is torn you should return the meat to the store anyway.
One of my biggest pitfalls in feast throwing has been thawing. Most
Americans now have a (healthy) fear of meats and other foods spoiling
when not refrigerated. I am so careful that I only allow about a quarter
of the time for thawing that it actually takes, and end up desperately
trying to thaw foods in the oven or microwave. At my first feast event,
I estimated that it would take 3 hours for large pans of garlic mashed
potatoes to thaw, and took them out of the freezer 3 hours before they
were scheduled for reheating. They were still frozen solid when they
went into the oven, and after more than 2 hours of "reheating"
at 350 degrees, they were still frozen! We ended up not serving them,
and after the event was over I went home and threw them in the trash.
And we had spent almost 4 hours making them in the first place! Freezer
bags of boneless meat chunks similarly thawed for 15 hours and were
still icy in the middle. So, if you want something to be thawed in time
for cooking, make sure you allow plenty of time.
Anything that you can do prior to the event will save you time and
energy on the day of the event. If you choose to make homemade lasagne,
doing it three weeks ahead of time and then freezing it will be a real
time-saver the day of the event, and you'll have the peace of mind that
at least something is taken care of. The best choices for early preparation
are casserole-type dishes that include some kind of sauce, because the
sauce will keep the dish from drying out during reheating. Things that
work well include baked beans, meatballs in tomato sauce, potato with
cheese dishes, and meat pies.
Another thing that will save you a lot of time at the event is to pre-cut
meats before freezing them if you're going to want them in small pieces
anyway. An example of this is meat for soups or pies. You can buy the
meat weeks before the event, bring it home, cut it into small pieces,
and then put all of the pieces in a large freezer storage bag and freeze.
When the time comes to make soup, just dump the thawed pieces into the
soup pot and you're an hour ahead of the game!
Last But Not Least
Herbs and spices are vital to making many dishes come alive. Soup especially
wouldn't be the same with herbs. You should be sure to have:
- Salt and pepper
- Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (!)
- Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves
- Cumin, Curry powder
- And Garlic
Garlic is indispensable. Although fresh garlic is best for salad dressings,
it is difficult to work with - it is time consuming to peel and mince
and makes your hands smell awful! I highly recommend that you buy a
large jar of minced garlic in oil, usually available in the produce
section of your grocery store. A large jar (32 oz.) costs about $4,
and your crew will bless you for it! It lasts forever in the refrigerator,
too. For more generic spice combinations, such as "Italian Spices,"
you can buy a larger jar. It won't stay good forever but it can be used
for a variety of dishes. Those really tiny jars of spices are not economical
unless you really only need a few tablespoons and will never use the
Or, Dealing with Leftovers
Hopefully, luck was with you and your calculations about portions came
out pretty evenly, in which case you don't have much food to throw away.
No, really, I was just kidding, DON'T throw out any food.
Leftovers should be frozen or refrigerated as soon as possible to avoid
spoilage. Small amounts can be taken home by you - trust me, after throwing
your feast event you won't feel like cooking for several days, and even
event leftovers will look mighty appetizing. Large amounts of foods
can be put into the refrigerator or freezer right in their pans, if
you wrap them up carefully. (Don't refrigerate acidic sauces such as
tomato-based sauces in aluminum pans, because the acid reacts with the
aluminum and turns the pans an off color. Freezing them this way is
Assuming that you don't want to give leftovers out to people in your
own bowls and pans, it would be a good idea to have a supply of zip-loc
storage bags on hand. Portion leftovers out into bags in 2-3 serving
amounts, so that people can select a few different items - that way
no one gets stuck with all of the salad while someone else gets to take
The first people to offer leftovers to are, obviously, cooks and servants.
If there's still food left after they've gone through it, offer some
to NPCs. And if there's still some left after that, (hey, it wouldn't
be the first time) declare free rein to all event-goers. At the end
of our feasts, we've given away a huge array of items, including 15
lbs of chicken, heads of lettuce, and whole chocolate cakes!
Another potential outlet for leftovers is to donate them to a local
soup kitchen. If you're in an urban area, there should be a soup kitchen
nearby. Call a few weeks in advance to find out how to donate your leftovers;
and be sure to ask which leftovers the soup kitchen will accept and
which they won't. The soup kitchen will be grateful, and you'll feel
good that you were able to do something so helpful.
Or, "What Do You Mean, All We're Doing is Eating?"
This section is based on tournaments that do not include actual light
weapons combat, since all of the halls that I've used wouldn't allow
fighting anyway. There are a number of different non-combat tourneys
that people can compete in, and often it makes a feast event a little
bit more interesting to have some competition.
People can compete in standard board games such as chess, or you can
create board games of your own. Some British catalogs sell medieval-style
board games. You can also modify existing games into medieval forms.
For example, you could replace the standard tiles for Scrabble with
runic letters to create Runic Scrabble. Or you could modify the maps
for Risk (or Castle Risk) or Diplomacy to include the lands and kingdoms
that exist in your LARP group. Most games tourneys are a good choice
for feast events because the people playing them can continue to eat
during the competition, and therefore you won't have to schedule a blank
space of time in between the serving of courses.
Another popular competition at feast events is a Garb competition.
This can also be done easily as far as scheduling goes, because the
entrants can come up one at a time and display their garb without disturbing
the courses being served. In general, the way for a piece or outfit
of garb to qualify for entry is that your feast event is the first event
that it has been worn to, but this is not strictly necessary. You might
simply ask that garb that has won in another competition not be entered.
Make sure that you announce the garb competition in your flyers and
newsletter announcement, so that people know to bring their newest creation!
Poetry competitions can be fun too. You can hand out "official"
pieces of paper with your feast's name at the top, and ask entrants
to write their poem on the paper and hand it on by a certain time (probably
at least an hour before the end of the event). You can have specific
categories if you like (such as humorous poems, love sonnets, etc.),
or you can choose to be more general and accept anything. If you would
like people to be able to write their poem ahead of time, be sure to
announce the category in your flyer and announcements, but sometimes
it's more fun to surprise people and ask them to come up with a poem
in a short period of time. You can always require entrants to read their
poems aloud for the benefit of the whole hall!
Because the bardic category encompasses so many sub-categories, it
really deserves its own section. Bardic can include poetry, story-telling,
"tall tale" telling, and joke telling as well as singing.
Bardic competitions work extremely well at feasts because the entrants
get the full attention of the hall, since most event-goers are just
eating anyway. You can create a bardic schedule full of five-minute
"slots," and when the entrants sign up, fill the slots up
with their names. You can usually fit two or three slots into each course
- it's better to wait until the course has been served and then have
people perform one at a time. It would be a good idea to get a volunteer
to be in charge of keeping track of the entrants and announcing when
it is each entrant's turn to perform.
You have a lot of creativity open to you when setting up the bardic
competition. You can ask the people to sign up for certain categories
(Humorous songs, Love songs...) and then have all of the songs in each
category performed in a row. Or you can just have a general bardic and
make the judging decisions based on your own private categories. Or,
you could let each entrant perform as many songs/presentations as he
or she can, and then award the biggest prize to the person who made
the greatest number of presentations. (This can be very fun and exciting,
but can require a great deal of time if some of the entrants know many
songs and could perform for hours!)
Deciding on the winners of each competition can be simple in some categories,
and difficult in others. For example, the winner of a board game is
generally very clear to all participants. The winner of Funniest Song,
or Best Garb, on the other hand, is much more subjective. Everyone has
different ideas about what is funny, or what makes garb attractive.
A song may have been very funny but rather in poor taste, and therefore
the judge might vote against it even though it may have been the funniest
entry. It is very difficult for even the most honest judge to set aside
all personal feelings when judging a competition. In some cases, the
easiest way to avoid hurt feelings on the part of entrants might be
to keep the official judge a secret, but this is almost impossible to
pull off. When you are the event holder and know that you are going
to have a lot of other things on your mind as well as judging, it would
probably be simpler for you to ask someone else to judge the competitions
for you. You can ask more than one person if you like, creating a "panel"
of judges. Generally, it would be the best idea to choose judges who
have some years of experience in your LARP group, and ones who are knowledgeable
about the particular categories you are asking them to judge. Be honest
and warn your judges that it is possible that entrants who fail to win
may blame the judges.
You don't have to spend a fortune on prizes to have a great event or
show people a great time. In fact, prizes is one category where you
can really cut corners without making a big difference in the quality
of your event.
One way to accomplish this is to make some prizes yourself. This will
allow you to use a large portion of your feast event budget for other
things. If you are creative and even the slightest bit "crafty,"
you can make a number of quality prizes, including staves, rune sets,
garb, and jewelry.
Having some experience with woodworking can help make your wooden prizes
look professional, but even a novice can produce things of decent quality.
Staves are relatively simple to make. First, find a large (appropriately
sized) stick in the woods. Ideally, you want to find one that has been
lying around on the ground for a long time, so that it will be dry.
Do not cut down young saplings, no matter how attractive they may be
- this is rarely legal (the exception would be if the sapling were on
your own, privately owned land) and anyway, unless you are doing it
at least six months in advance, the wood will still be green when you
want to work with it. You can choose to remove the bark from the stick
(this is easy if the stick is very dry) or to leave it on, depending
on the look you are trying to cultivate. If you do choose to remove
the bark, you might want to sand the staff until it is nice and smooth.
You can wood-burn on the stick, including things like the name of your
feast event and the name of the category it is the prize for, such as
"Best Poetry." You can also paint these words on the stick.
You can attach a crystal to the top of the staff if you like, or rabbit
fur, or you can carve tiny holes in the staff and imbed small crystals
in the holes (use glue for this.) The final step is to put several coats
of polyurethane on the completed staff - this will allow it to be used
in the woods, even on the rainiest day. You can also make wooden rune
sets - cut cross-sections of a good-sized stick to make the disks, sand
them well, wood-burn or paint the symbols on them, and then polyurethane.
Presenting them in an attractive velvet or suede bag makes a nice prize.
Talented woodworkers could also make small wooden boxes as prizes.
Garb also works nicely as a prize. (You probably wouldn't want to use
it as a prize for the garb competition, though, because the winning
entrant will most likely have made something much more beautiful!) If
you know how to sew a basic tunic, you can purchase a few yards of nice
fabric on sale at your local fabric store and sew one up. This especially
looks good if you get some attractive trim and put it along the neck
and arm seams. As long as you don't use anything too gaudy, most people
would probably be happy to receive garb as a prize (almost everyone
can use another tunic!). A way to make this prize particularly useful
would be to make it of either extremely light or rather heavy fabric,
since most people's garb is medium-weight and either too warm for the
hot summer months or too cold for winter events. Wool blends and bubble-gauze
come to mind. If you can't afford fabric for a tunic, you can make hats
with a relatively small amount of fabric (check out the library for
a book with patterns,) or if you want to do something especially nice,
cloaks are very popular.
Many craft and fabric stores sell books on how to make jewelry from
an assortment of items, including beads, clay, and paper. If you feel
strongly about learning how to make jewelry, then view these books as
an investment - once you learn how to make the jewelry, you can make
jewelry as prizes for all of your events and maybe even for other event
Etched glassware looks very impressive and is relatively inexpensive
to produce. You can buy etchers from a variety of sources, and in a
variety of price ranges. If you aren't sure that you want to do etching,
go down to your local hardware store and ask for an etcher. The clerk
will point you toward a small electric tool that will claim it is designed
for etching glass and other materials. (This tool is meant as a way
to mark your personal property with a code number in case of theft.)
It should probably cost less than $15 - we got one on sale once for
$6.99. This tool will not last for a lifetime of event holding; it is
merely meant as a way for you to test out your etching abilities. If
you later decide to continue with etched glassware as prizes, you can
purchase a professional glass etcher from a glassware supply company
- this one will cost about $65, but will last longer. (You can also
buy etching kits that consist of stencils and a paste which "eats
away" the top layer of the glass - I don't have any experience
with these, but you could ask at the craft store. There are also hand
etchers that work by scraping gradually at the glass with a small, pen-like
tool. These are extremely time-consuming and probably not worth it.)
One warning with the electric etchers is that breathing glass dust can
be very hazardous to your health, so you'll want to get some disposable
face masks at the hardware store, too. Practice with the etchers on
one of your own glasses before moving on to prizeware. You can watch
for glassware sales at the local department stores (6 mugs for $9 or
$10 would be a pretty good deal) - or check out outlet stores, which
may sell mugs or goblets for $1 each. Sturdy wine glasses etched just
fine but I'd be careful with delicate ones - the etcher might break
them! You can also etch other things like vases or hurricane lamps -
use your imagination.
You could ask an especially talented padded-weapons-maker to make some
boff weapons as prizes, too. If he's your friend and willing to provide
labor for free, your only cost would be the materials. These weapons
can be marked with a paint pen with the name of your event. Again, almost
everyone can use a new weapon!
Knives are very popular as prizes with our crowd. You can get many
mail-order catalogs that sell knives at discounts, or order through
a local merchant. Make sure to place your order far ahead of time to
make sure you actually have some prizes to hand out at your event! (This
requires you to put down some of your own money if the merchant wants
a deposit.) You may be able to get a discount through the merchant if
your order is particularly large.
You can also shop for prizes at tag sales or flea markets. Just make
sure that you know the realistic retail value of items that you buy,
because it would be annoying to see a brand new glass mug for $2 when
you paid $2 for a used one at the flea market. Tag sales and yard sales
are usually better places to search for real bargains, because people
usually only have one sale per year and really want to get rid of their
stuff, whereas the merchants at the flea market will be there again
next week. If you see something that you like at the flea market but
it's priced too high, ask the merchant if he'll take less. Even if he
says "no," the item might still be there in two weeks and
he might be glad to say "yes" then. Try tag sales early in
the morning, when the most merchandise is available. If you go tag-saling
and to the flea market even once a month, there's a good chance that
you'll find something you want - from camping equipment to feast gear
Discount stores are worth a shot, too. Most areas nowadays have at
least one "dollar store," where everything in the store costs
a dollar. These are good places to look for glassware and also candles,
and you never know what else they might have. Remember, it's good to
have an idea of the normal retail value of items, or you might end up
paying $1 for something worth 30 cents.
The Feast As A Meal
After you've tried your hand at throwing a feast event, you might want
to try throwing a feast at a camping event, either your camping event
or someone else's. When you throw a camping event it is generally from
Friday or Saturday night through Sunday evening, so most event holders
choose to have the feast on Saturday evening. Even if you're having
a one-day event, you could throw a feast once the questing and tourneying
are over. The only real requirement here is that your event site have
a hall of some sort that will be used as the tavern, and that the hall
has a kitchen that the site will let you use.
You can either make a separate budget for the feast, or you can include
the feast budget in with the rest of the event's budget. Calculating
the budget can be done in the same manner either way, it's just that
there are a few more things to keep track of than if you were throwing
a feast only.
The most important thing to keep in mind when throwing a feast that
is attached to a camping event is the weather. If your event is during
the hottest month of the year, remember that when planning your menu,
and don't plan dozens of hot dishes and heavy recipes. Try to keep things
light and cool, and people will eat more and feel better.
If you are throwing a camping event with a feast on Saturday night,
you might also want to consider serving breakfast on Sunday morning.
This won't be as difficult as it sounds if you serve a "continental"
breakfast. This typically means that no hot dishes will be served, but
that a simple buffet of assorted items will be left out for people to
eat as they get up in the morning. If there is a long counter in your
tavern, that is the ideal place from which to serve your buffet.
Hot beverages are popular first thing in the morning. Set out your
coffee urns from your feast, again, one with hot water and one with
coffee. Put out tea bags, herbal tea bags, and hot cocoa mix, along
with honey, sugar and cream (or milk, or non-dairy creamer powder, depending
on your preference.) People will be too uncoordinated in the morning
to find their own mugs and spoons, so leave a supply of plastic spoons
and some disposable hot cups out.
If you have the financial resources, orange juice is nice in the morning.
You can mix it up from frozen concentrate in pitchers or large beverage
coolers, or whatever else is available. The frozen concentrate is both
the best economical choice and retains the most vitamins for the longest
period of time.
Now for the actual breakfast. If there's a place on the counter to
put a toaster or toaster oven and a handy outlet, people can toast their
own bread, cinnamon bread, english muffins, or bagels. Leave a bunch
of these out on the counter near the toaster along with napkins, paper
plates, knives, and butter. You can also supply whipped margarine, jelly,
cream cheese, or peanut butter.
Cold pastries are also popular - things with sugar in them get people's
blood flowing in the morning. You can make pastries yourself or purchase
them at a wholesale club, which usually have excellent bakery departments.
Consider muffins, mini-muffins, danish, fruit pies, and donuts. These
all store well and are easy to eat when you only have one hand free.
Fruit is also a good choice - it's nice to offer at least one healthy
alternative for those who prefer to eat well in the mornings. Bananas
and apples are the best options, because they taste good and are easy
to eat. Oranges are hit-or-miss; sometimes people eat all of them, and
sometimes no one eats them. They are hard to peel first thing in the
morning when you're not quite awake yet. Seedless grapes are good too,
and if there are leftovers you can leave them out in the tavern for
people to eat during the rest of the day.
Of course, if you wanted to get more elaborate you could consider cold
cereal with milk (assuming there is enough refrigerator space for the
milk), or you could make oatmeal, or if there is a large griddle you
could fry eggs, make pancakes and bacon and sausage and... well, you
get the picture.
At almost every event except a feast event, you will want to have a
tavern. Even if there isn't a hall at your event site to have your tavern
in, you can still supply drinks and light snacks to help keep people's
energy levels up. The only thing you'll definitely need if there isn't
a hall to use is some large beverage coolers. It is every event holder's
responsibility to supply players with an adequate amount of liquid,
even if that liquid is only water. If the weather is very hot or people
are doing a lot of running around, remind everyone that they should
keep drinking water if they want to avoid heat exhaustion or even heat
It's a good idea to provide something to drink other than water if
you can swing it financially, because of lack of access to cold beverages.
Even when you're very thirsty, drinking warm water seems very unattractive.
Alternately, warm kool-aid doesn't seem that bad. For most taverns,
pre-sweetened kool-aid in a can will be the easiest option because you
won't have access to measuring cups out in the woods. (But check beforehand
to see if you need a can opener to open the kool-aid!)
The snack foods that are available at your tavern can vary greatly.
Salty foods are good in hot weather because they encourage people to
drink more liquids. Pretzels are the best choice nutritionally, but
unfortunately people usually don't eat them unless there's nothing else
available. Popcorn usually isn't very popular either. Mixed nuts, while
rather expensive, do get eaten and are a good choice if you don't mind
that some people will pick through them to get all the cashews. Assorted
snack mixes like Chex mix go relatively quickly. Regular potato chips
seem to get eaten as well.
You can have anything else at your tavern that you like yourself or
that you know your friends like. Assorted pastries, cookies, bread with
honey butter, cheese, pepperoni, brownies, fruit, and M&Ms are all things
that I've seen at taverns.