LARP Hobby Craft: Portable Standalone Structures

One of the greatest things in modern larping is the profileration of the free-standing structure for the purpose of adventures or set dressing. In our local community, we call it the Tarp Cube. The Tarp Cube comes in two main types, the ten foot cube, or the seven foot pillar. Now, we at Dust to Dust did not invent the Tarp Cube, the first implementation we saw would fall to our sister game, Eclipse. However, we have slightly different constraints than Eclipse and that has caused us to reconsider how we Build and transport a Tarp Cube. We travel roughly 400 miles to put on our game in most cases and we have to be space and weight conscious in all of our endeavors. None of us have a truck, and renting a uhaul each weekend is not something we want to do. With that in mind, carrying around ten foot lengths of uncut pipes just wasn’t something we could feasibly do. We did want the cubes, however, and we didn’t want to rely on the Eclipse crew to help us with this, because we wanted them to be able to experience the game fresh and have a chance to relax. The result of this is the modular Tarp Cube.

Everything in the design is a three foot and four inch segment. This allows us to bundle and pack the pipes without taking up too much room. The other innovation is that everything just screws together. It is exceptionally easy to put the structures up or take them down. Since people might find it interesting, I have documented the process of building one of the pillars. To make a cube requires we simply add a T intersection and another vertical bar for stability. Easy enough.

3 10′ 1/2″ PVC pipe lengths
2 10′ 3/4″ PVC pipe lengths
4 1/2″ female connectors (threaded)
4 90 degree 3/4″ to 1/2″ female elbows (threaded on half inch side)
4 3/4″ to 3/4″ to 1/2″ female 90 degree Y connectors (threaded on half inch side)
12 1/2″ male connectors (threaded)
PVC Primer
PVC Cement

I have the PVC lined up here. The first thing I did was measure each piece to get the exact length and make them exactly ten feet. A length is almost never exactly ten feet, so it’s important to get it even to start. After that, I marked out my 3’4″ segments and cut them all. Once cut, I cleaned each piece to make sure all of the PVC dust was gone and to get it ready to prime. Here are the primer and cement I used for all of this.

Once primed you want to then add the cement and begin cementing your connectors into place. I recommend building as you go so you don’t make any mistakes. The 1/2″ pieces will break down into the following numbers:
4 lengths with a male connector on each end
4 lengths with a male connector on one end and a female connector on the other end

These are safe to glue and relatively impossible to mess up. The only places you can mess up are the Y connectors. This is why you need to build as you go.

As you can see here, I am building as I am going. The important thing is the orientation of the Y connectors and the elbows. You will want to make sure that you are cementing your connectors in such a way as you can easily screw everything in. In other words, only one cemented pipe segment per connector. Easy enough, right? Now, the other tricky part is figuring out how to first screw everything in. The secret to this is to not screw the long 1/2″ segments in until the very last part that side, otherwise you end up with frustration. First time set up usually runs 10 minutes, and second time usually runs 5 minutes, just to give you an idea of how quickly these things can get built. Once built, the pillar looks like this.

As you can see, it stands up quite nicely. It’s hard to knock over, despite the fact we have an open face. The open face is there because it saves us a little room without impacting stability or usability. With clamps and tape you still can cover all of the sides easily. With an open face, you can easily toss these guys face down and stack a few end to end to make tunnels, or a few in a roww to make walls or use them as free standing cages or doorways. These things are modular and fantastic.

The total creation time on this Tarp Pillar was 45 minutes. To add the extra lengths to make a cube, you just need the following materials:

2 additional 10′ lengths of 1/2″ PVC
2 additional 10′ lengths of 3/4″ PVC
4 3/4″ to 3/4″ to 1/2″ T connectors (threaded on half inch side)
2 1/2″ female connectors (threaded)
6 1/2″ male connectors (threaded)

This is an incredibly simple project, and once you start using these guys, you will love them.


  1. They used this to GREAT effect last game using clear tarp to create the effect of people bound in magical cubes of ice, or light, I was never clear on which it was, but it was VERY creepy. Seeing my friend’s “dad” push his hands against the barrier added an incredible sense of urgency to finding a way to “release” them.

  2. Excellent idea, and hoping we get to see more of such things in the future. 🙂 I know that transport makes such things difficult, so I really like what you’ve done here.

    1. Thanks, all of our major props are designed this way. It’s just too much of a pain in the ass for us otherwise. The walls were the one exception and those actually fit in my car. I just didn’t want to drive that weekend.

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