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The Standard

The Standard
All Hearthlight participants shall sincerely attempt in their general appearance to meet the aesthetic of a pre-modern society where melee weapons were the primary weapon of the infantry.
This standard applies to all of a participant's appearance, including their clothing/garb, props, accessories, weapons, make-up, and prosthetics.
We welcome historical and fantasy personas from all over the globe that meet this standard, including those that evoke fantastic and mythological creatures.



Clothing intended to represent a specific culture. Garb is different than costume because garb is constructed with the intention of long-term, regular use in a variety of weather conditions.


A complete garb outfit, including visible accessories; the “look” of a character in Hearthlight.


An official meeting of a Hearthlight Chapter. This can include craft nights, practices, and social meet-ups, as well as multi-day campouts and other activities.

Purpose of the Standard and this Guide

Purpose of the Guide

Hearthlight garb should look like it belongs in a world where muscle-powered weapons, such as swords, bows, axes, spears, and clubs, are still the predominant method of warfare. Historically, this transition happened at different times throughout the world. For most of Europe and the Middle East, this was roughly 1600. For the Americas, Western Africa, the Horn of Africa, Arabian Peninsula, India, and East Asia, this was roughly the 1640s. For Japan and South Africa, this would be the 1860s. 

We understand that fantasy cultures will never have an exact correlation with historical cultures. These moments and locations should serve as a guide for the general level of technological development that meets our aesthetic standard.

Beatus of Liébana, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Li Hayata Hironao grappling with the monstruos nue, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

If you have never worn or made garb or costumes, looking at event pictures can be intimidating. The people who feature prominently tend to have elaborate clothing and armor that is the result of extensive investments of time and money. Many people feel like they’ll never be able to reach that level of appearance. Many people will have no idea how to start working towards a truly impressive kit. This document aims to help those people on that path. It will take the form of a series of guidelines to help you get started and develop a kit that you are comfortable in.



Guideline 1: When you are new, people want to help!

Your first event, even if it’s just a practice, can be intimidating. You are going to meet a bunch of people, doing things that might be unfamiliar to you, dressed in strange clothing. It’s a lot. Fitting in is something humans tend to value highly, and most people are invested in making a good first impression.

The first step is to reach out to your local group. Ask them what the expectation for garb is at the event. They will be happy to help guide you and most people are eager to give advice. Some chapters will run events where garb is optional for newer participants. If garb is not optional, a chapter should have some loaner garb available. Humans come in a variety of body shapes and everyone has different comfort levels, and if your chapter does not have loaner garb available that you are comfortable in, they should be willing to make reasonable exceptions for most local events. Larger events may be more strict in their requirements. 

If, for whatever reason, the event requires garb and there is no suitable loaner gear available, it’s pretty easy to make a kit that will get you through your first few events. We’ll start with some brown and black shoes. Low boots and sneakers without prominent logos are great for this and can serve you a long time. Next, we’ll add scrubs or sweat pants. Make sure these are a natural color and they don’t have elastics at the ankles or cargo pockets! The simpler, the better. Next, a natural colored, loose fitting shirt without logos, chest pockets, elastic, or zippers is your best bet here! Finally, you can top this off with a simple tabard. Just follow this pattern:

Belt the tabard (you can use a plain leather belt or a piece of natural fiber rope), and you’re ready for your first event! Is this a great look? Not really. But it’s good enough that you’ll blend in and you will have the chance to see if Hearthlight is for you!

Guideline 2: Garb is not a competition (unless you want it to be!)

As long as you are following our standard, you have an incredible amount of freedom to explore how you’d like to present yourself in Hearthlight. Garb should make you feel confident and happy with yourself. Ideally, getting dressed for an event should be something you look forward to and deeply enjoy.

No one can force you to dress as a certain character. Explore different looks, do your research, and find what interests you. If you are happy in a comfortable, nondescript kit that just kind of blends in, that’s great! Like everything else in Hearthlight, you are free to spend as much, or as little, time and energy as you want on garb, provided you meet our standard. Just because some people become deeply invested in their garb doesn’t mean you need to be!

Of course, if you want to do things like enter garb exhibitions and contests, you’re in good company! Hearthlight has a strong community of crafters and fashionistas who are always happy to welcome kindred spirits.

Guideline 3: Just because it’s nerdy doesn’t mean it’s garb.

Most of us have interests beyond medieval fantasy. Many of us have been to conventions and even renaissance faires where “time travelers” or “dimension hoppers” are welcome. A lot of us enjoy gothic fashion. This doesn’t mean that everything under the umbrella of geekdom or alt-culture is Hearthlight-passing garb.

Some of the games we enjoy, like World of Warcraft, mix elements that would absolutely fit into Hearthlight’s standard (Orcish Peons, Human Peasants, Elven Wizards) with elements that would not meet our standard (Goblin and Gnome Steampunk stuff, ‘Golden Age’ pirates). Just because a kit exists in a world that has medieval or fantasy elements to it doesn’t make it Hearthlight garb.

We are building a shared fantasy, and some things fit and others don’t. The way your character looks is part of that fantasy and by wearing garb that meets the spirit and the letter of our standard, you help build that fantasy. Steampunk and science fiction are a lot of fun, but they’re outside the scope of Hearthlight. Be respectful of the game and your fellow players.

Guideline 4: Be culturally sensitive.

Our game does not exist in a vacuum. Our players have to deal with real-world issues of marginalization and oppression. Keep that in mind when you are planning garb. If you are using face or body paint, it should be used to create a fantastic appearance, not one that is part of the range of human skin tones. Full-coverage, flat black, red, yellow, or brown face paint is almost certainly never going to be acceptable.

Realize that history is not detached from the present and that we are dealing with the echoes and ripples of historical oppression. Some cultures have very strong emotional connections to the clothing their ancestors wore and, often, were prevented from wearing. If you are planning garb that is associated or inspired by a culture you are not a part of, it is on you to approach that culture with respect and deference. For some cultures, the clothing of their ancestors is part of their living heritage, not something seen as historical.

Be ready to be told, and to accept, that people are not okay with someone who is not a member of their culture wearing that culture’s clothing for entertainment. Understand that two members of a culture might have different opinions on whether it is acceptable for someone who isn’t a member to wear their clothing. Know the social and cultural significance of the things you wish to incorporate to your look. 

Garb Gallery

Hearthlight personas cover many historical and fantasy cultures and personalities. Here's a few examples to help you get familiar with how the clothes make the orc...errr...person.

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