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The Wizard's Desk

The Wizard's desk is a blog space where our staff and creative leads offer their insight and experience on engaging with DrachenFest US! We're excited to share what we can, so pull up a seat!

Interview Series: Tobias Curry

Tobias Curry of Spring Heeled Studios started his work as part of the “Steampunk’d” TV show, and has worked commissions and influence in the LARP community ever since. He sat down with our Scribe to discuss the nature of his work, and the joys of crafting for LARP!

The Scribe: I didn't realize there was a “Steam Punk’d” TV show. That's awesome! 

Tobias Curry: <laugh>, yes. That did occur. It was, oh golly, it was nine years ago. I think we're gonna hit 10 soon. I believe it was 2015, if I remember right. I was able to use that TV show as a springboard for a lot of aspects of my career. I'm very much a jack of all trades. I grew up acting professionally, but also doing theater tech. When I was brought on the show, I started playing stuff for conventions, and then it became its own thing. I used that as a springboard to launch this really awesome career that I've had the opportunity to partake in where I get to be a freelance costumer and prop maker. I have chosen to specialize in LARP events and that has been a really awesome niche to get into. 

The Scribe: One of the reasons I was really excited for this interview was actually the fact that you make a latex boffer weaponry. Back in my day, (and I'm gonna get real crotchety for a moment.)

Tobias Curry: We had pool noodles and cloths and we liked it. 

The Scribe: We had plumbing supplies and duct tape! 

Tobias Curry: <laugh> Uh, so I don't specifically do latex. The reason being that I'm in Seattle and it's often very cold, and latex needs a very controlled environment to dry. So, many players use rubbers. So I'll use plastidip or I'll use like Rustoleum leak seal. It's a little bit different. The latex look is way more like people see it and they see professionalism because that's kind of the standard for things like Epic Armory and, and venues of that variety. Mine are very personalized. I take a lot of effort to make sure everything's unique in its own way. 

The Scribe: Legit! I didn't realize that you were working in a space that was a little different from the standard latex variety. 

Tobias Curry: Yeah. It's a little more accessible. I've worked with latex before, its just that the literal weather environment of Seattle is not super consistent. So it's very difficult to double down on being like, I'm just gonna do latex weapons because I don't have, uh, like a climate controlled shop. 

The Scribe: Believe me, I understand. My favorite was using a latex weapon in the winter near Philadelphia. And, oh boy, that classic moment where the organizer has to tell you, “so everybody, I need you to keep your latex close to your body, rub it before a fight.” You know, <laugh> gotta get it warm, it's gonna hurt. 

Tobias Curry: Give it a few very nice pets. <laugh> 

The Scribe: <laugh>. 

Tobias Curry: That's why I like working in the materials I do: it's a thin coat of rubber that keeps it sealed and consistently able to deal with wear and tear. However <laugh>, it's not as sturdy. 

The Scribe: Yeah. (Editor’s Note: at this point, the Scribe indicated a sad trombone noise, “womp womp”, which does not translate well in text) 

Tobias Curry: Yeah, exactly. I've been very happy having the opportunity to make my foam weapons for various LARPs around the country. I'm always busy. I really enjoy players who bring unique concepts to me. Sometimes it's straight up not doable, but sometimes I get to really throw down and make a unique piece. The most gratifying part of it is “this is for their story, this is for their character.” So being able to create something that they've envisioned in their head as this character's weapon, it becomes a core part of the character, and it does a lot of storytelling. Being able to bring that to them in a physical, tangible form is always an extremely fulfilling part of my trade. People have broken down in tears seeing a weapon I hand them, and there's nothing more fulfilling than that as an artist in general. So being able to have that opportunity to hand someone a sword and be like, “Hey, go beat the shit out of nerds with this thing.” And they're just stoked about it! 

The Scribe: So, after all these years, what's your favorite weapon you've created? 

Tobias Curry: That's hard to say. I have a few which I made into kind of a common pattern, which  Warhammer 40k inspired chainsword. I stared at a lot of screenshots of Dark Tide, and created a pattern to make the Mark 4 Cadia assault chain stored. And then I gave it my own riff. I really liked that build. But I think my favorite, unique, one of a kind weapon was the Faye Blade. We love Faye Blades in this house. It was a prop, it's built obviously for boffer, but for a bramble Fey. I took some of the patterns from SKS props, because he has like foam flowers, and I did an entire vine wood stretcher guard: you can't have iron or steel because it's a fairy weapon, so I had to make it all look like wood. So, I made this really cool looking wooden rapier. I was very proud of that. And that was one of those jobs where the person who commissioned it was just stoked. It wasn't meant for combat per se, it was actually kind of a memorial piece for the character because the character had like, permanently died. So this was just something like, as an acknowledgement of the sword they never got, but always wanted. It was an important piece to the player. It was something where they gave me a prompt. Sometimes when I get a prompt, I get to go ham on the build. It's when creativity strikes! It was a concept I really jived with and I just went all-out on it and was able to create something pretty cool. 

The Scribe: No, that sounds really cool. Well, that does lead me to the obvious question: we have players coming from all over and they want to have the finest weaponry. What would you recommend? What makes for a good weapon phys-rep? What tips would you have for people choosing from shops and makers, and figuring out how to build for their character? 

Tobias Curry: I think it's about what jives with you and your character. Like I said, the weapon is such a quintessential part of telling a character's story. Whenever you costume your character, and you really get into it and accessorize, and it should all tell some kind of story. Like the best, the best chat game accessories that you have on your costume are things gifted from other characters that tell the story of that relationship. I should be able to look at you and be able to archetype you. I should be able to see your sword and say, “he's a swashbuckler. He's a knave.” Or, “he's obviously a white knight shining armor.” It tells so much about the characters. So if you're looking for a physical representation for a weapon, I think the most important thing is whatever you think jives with your archetype. What do people see at a glance when they look at you for five seconds?

What vibe do they get? And it could be a false vibe. That could be by design. You could be like knight and shining armor coated, but be the worst lich necromancer in the world. It's about the initial vibe you want to give off, right? So like, as far as phys-reps go, that's why I like doing what I do is because instead of kind of having a catalog of default weapons to choose from, I get to like really dig in to what your character is, what your character does, and what would be the most pressing: are they like utilitarian? Are they trained to be social and fancy? That's the difference between a machete and a rapier here. It's all about giving that archetype vibe, giving that story showing whoever looks at you what you are at face value. 

The Scribe: So I was going to ask this earlier, but we had this really fun rousing discussion on weapons. I recall reading that you started with your family, they were making steampunk style jewelry. What did lead you to transitioning to boffers? 

Tobias Curry: my sister-in-Law at the time was doing like some steampunk jewelry and stuff, and they asked, “Hey, do you want to go to this Steampunk convention?” So I definitely got a strong start in Steampunk. I started attending Dystopia Rising Washington in 2011, 2012, something like that. It had just started. I fell in love with the genre and I like played a character that just used like a Nerf gun. And eventually it became very apparent that it's far more effective to have a sword 

The Scribe: <laugh> So- 

Tobias Curry: You know I had a LARP dad effectively take me under his wing. He let me borrow a sword for a little bit and then taught me in game how to use it, because you gotta learn the skill, you know? He let me borrow a sword for a bit, and then I was like, “cool, well, I am broke. I’m either in high school or just out of high school, maybe I should learn how to make my own.” So, our buddy had a garage where he had a shop space and we tried to figure out how to make boffer weapons. It worked out. I'm not gonna say it was good, but it went well enough. 

It was a usable prop that looked like the weapon I wanted, and I wanted a machete specifically. So now I've had four iterations of what I call the “Gachete.” Because I'm playing a character named Giah. Over the course of the years of me learning how to make boffers and like making it a marketable skill, I've updated the design to my liking. <Laugh> because I like weapons that are featherweight. My ultimate goal is to keep everything under six ounces. I think my machete is five point something. My cell phone is literally heavier than my sword. I just like being, especially in lightest touch combat rules, I like being able to whip that stuff around. But I wanted to be able to once more tell that story, show that this is a utilitarian person, they carry a tool that also happens to be a weapon. That was kind of like a weird transition into: “I guess I can do this now.” Because people started asking me “oh, can you make one for me?” And I was like, “sure.” And it spiraled from there over the past 10 years. 

The Scribe: I don't have anything nearly that cool. But to give you an idea, I know the Nerf blaster paradox. I ended up modding all kinds of blasters. 

Tobias Curry: Oh yeah. No. What's your, what's your favorite model? 

The Scribe: Okay, so you've probably heard these two before. One is, of course, the Stryfe,  which I've gutted out the internals of and gave it some Meishel motors and a pair of pretty standard Worker flywheels, you know? 

Tobias Curry: Yeah. Simple, 

The Scribe: easy, only like 42.5 millimeters of cage, So it'll hit 120 FPS and be pretty accurate, you know. 

Tobias Curry: 120 is the limit you want for games. 

The Scribe: Exactly. 

Tobias Curry: Yeah, a hundred percent. 

The Scribe: and the other is this blaster- 

Tobias Curry: Like some of the custom models are these days? Go ahead. 

The Scribe: No, no, no. But believe me, the 3D printing scene got wild very quickly. 

Tobias Curry: Oh yeah. It was crazy. 

The Scribe: So the other, of course, you might not have heard of because I love how you mentioned the non-Nerf customs, is a Jet Blasters CEDA that I rebuilt with a internal S kit, I think it was called. 

Tobias Curry: Oh, that's so cool. 

The Scribe: And I got one of the long springs, 9kg long springs. And I think it's actually little too powerful. I think it goes to 120 FPS. But I also have the 18 kilogram long spring with the metal internals. So if I ever wanted to go to a super stock game, I could. 

Tobias Curry: I love that so much for you. Not talking about the 3D printed ones, because like, I don't even know the name of them. I just know what I like. There are several models that are just phenomenal and God knows I do not know the name of them. My favorite stock Nerf model by far is when they did the zombie strike series and they gave us the Hammershot. 

The Scribe: Everybody loves the Hammer shot. 

Tobias Curry: That thing was my Go-to, I modded the shit out of it for, for 110, 115 fps. It just looks good. It performs well. You can cock it with one hand, like it's a statement piece. Right. You cock that hammer and everyone's like, oh shit, he's gonna shoot me 

The Scribe: <laugh> And he's got a sword in the other hand, 

Tobias Curry: Correct? Well, I mean, I would generally have a coffee in the other hand, but yeah. 

The Scribe: Fair, fair. At one point I was at a game where they called it bagel posting. They did a photo dump of all the times I was groggy eating a bagel with one hand and calling shots with a hammershot in the other. 

Tobias Curry: Yeah: they called it Red Flow because other people started adopting it. It's a weapon in one hand, coffee in the other.

The Scribe: <laugh> 

Tobias Curry: That represents- 

The Scribe: That's amazing. Now you see, I was that guy. I had two hammer shots and I put Orange Mod Works kits into both of those. 

Tobias Curry: Oh, yeah. Those kits were so good. 

The Scribe: Yeah. Oh, man. Well, now of course I have that Dart Zone Max Revolver, which has a hammershot-style metal hammer. It's six shots. It just feels like you're carrying around a hand cannon and it hits 120 FPS easy. 

Tobias Curry: It just feels good. Sometimes you just wanna pull out a Glock and kill a man. Like, I get it <laugh>. Like, that's one of the things that wakes me up in the morning, you know, like the idea that these beautiful pieces of art I make are gonna beat the crap out of other nerds. You know, 

The Scribe: I had to give up modding for a while there, not just because I didn't have a game to use these blasters at, but man, it takes me back. I always wanted to do a proper cosmetic mod, you know, fold new paint, job, the whole thing. But, uh, well, a lot of the- 

Tobias Curry: Look, the internal's the hardest part. 

The Scribe: Yeah, you say that. But I'm a terrible artist. I have never been successful at art projects. So the internals I'm great at, I've been terrified of cosmetics. 

Tobias Curry: Might I recommend, one of the ways I actually started figuring out how to paint, because I’m self-taught across the board, like I've done some apprenticeships, but if painting was very self-taught, I started learning from doing minis painting because the same concepts apply to larger props. 

The Scribe: Oh! 

Tobias Curry: Yeah. I don't think about it often. Like, it's not something I say often, but when I remember it, I'm like, “oh yeah that's how that kind of works.” I was talking with Stephen K. Smith with SKS props, and he is also very similar. He started out doing minis, and that kind of just gave him the foundation and framework. We're not so different, and that was a big contribution to how I understand painting things now. You can go on YouTube and watch people paint minis all day, or Twitch for that matter. Some of it's very difficult, but none of the base skills are super difficult. You just don't think about how to implement those skills. So once you see it executed, you can kind of be like, “oh, I kind of get that,” and then you can try it yourself and experiment. Then you learn a new skill. That's what it's all about! Innovating and learning new things especially for those of us who are slightly neuro spicy. 

The Scribe: Oh yeah. I have the neuro spicy. I get you. 

Tobias Curry: Mm-Hmm. I have all 80 high definitions. 

The Scribe: So I think this is a good question to end on. If someone wants to improve their crafting skill, uh, like you just brought up that great thing about minis, like what, what are other suggestions, uh, you'd make for up and coming builders? 

Tobias Curry: I'm gonna say the really generic thing first, which is don't be afraid to fail. I've thrown more projects in the trash <laugh> than is reasonable. You're gonna hit a wall and it's gonna suck, and you're not gonna be happy with the thing. And first off, you're never gonna be happy with the thing. I don't care how good you are as a crafter, you're always gonna see the flaw, but no one else will. That's such a huge point that people don't pay attention to. So yeah, don't be afraid to fail, because you're going to rock yourself. You're not going to do it right the first time. And that's not a bad thing. It is trial and error, and dear God, learn on foam because other things are more expensive. 

I've done a lot of leather work. Yeah, you screw up on leather and you're done.  Having an accessible material like foam that is not stupid expensive. Being able to experiment, try new things is huge. Don't be afraid to look up YouTube videos. I wish I provided them, but I don't have the patience to record that kind of content. SKS props is a great resource. Kamui cosplay, and all these phenomenal builders who have either teams or take the time themselves to record their processes and what they're doing, just go give it a watch. You're not copying anything. You're just learning. 

The Scribe: And we can conclude the interview there: as any crafter will tell you, you have to fail faster to get better!

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