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8cidx
03-06-2008, 09:57 AM
Props in Pen/Paper Gaming (http://8xid.blogspot.com/2008/01/props-in-penpaper-gaming.html)



Many people have asked me for little tips here and there on ways to make their pen/paper style RPG's more immersing. While my biggest advice is always going to be to use sensory words whenever possible to describe EVERYTHING; The room FEELS cramped, the tone of the room SOUNDS shallow giving you a sense of CLAUSTROPHOBIA. Pulls the player in allot more than “You have entered a 10x10 room and the lights are out. What now?”


Of course this is the most basic and important aspect of creating an immersing environment as a GM, and hopefully you are already doing this. That's why I want to talk about a trick you can use along with “good GM” skills... Props.


Generally when you think of props in Role-playing your mind goes into two very distinct locations; One would be the gutter, and the other LARPing (The live action version of whatever it is you are playing.) The idea is borrowed a bit from the latter, but not on such a large scale. Instead of fully acting out entire scenes or constructing elaborate sets, a GM may use a few key items to help draw in their players.


One example might be a letter from the prince. However, instead of scribbling a simple note, a GM might take the time to print it in a handwritten style font on a piece of parchment. Then, seal it in an envelope with a bit of red wax. Things like this can go a long way for giving your players a little taste of what their characters may actually “experience” helping to draw them into your world. Another good example of prop placement is the creation of character credentials. Give your players a drivers license sporting their characters portrait and information. Even better, give them an opportunity to use it or lose it in game.


While I am on the subject of props, there is something I should address... prop weapons. Of course the decision is entirely up to you and your group. But, as a personal choice I GREATLY urge groups never to allow any form of prop weapons. Some pen/paper groups and LARP groups use cardboard cutouts, Nerf, and air soft weapons. With the right level of maturity and a close group this could work. I have no doubt in my mind that my group could probably handle the same kind of responsibility. The effects of allowing such types of props into your games is far more hindering than immersing (in my opinion.) Now while you may think that I am an anti gun activist, or some extreme safety nut. That is not the case. I have a very large weapons collection as well as a large assortment of air soft assault weapons for back yard fun.


My main argument is of course safety. Beyond that there is more to the case. Weapons are a distractive prop. By giving your players weapons to brandish at the table, you have set a hack n' slash tone. You are telling your players that combat will always be the most viable option in your game (why else would you have armed them for combat, but not given them the spell book prop?) It sets an aggressive tone. Rather than actually negotiate a situation, you may find more standoffs at gun point than you normally would. Weapons have a tendency to replace role-playing, which is not the goal of props. There are many more reasons I am against weapons at the table, but I'm sure you can think of many more. Ultimately the choice is yours. But I urge safety. And Never, ever take your weapons out on the streets.

jade von delioch
03-06-2008, 10:20 AM
i use props when i can. i find that it adds new dimension to the game- makes the players eyes light up with prospect of being able to touch something thats part of the game world.

8cidx
03-06-2008, 11:10 AM
I love the look on my players faces when i give them something that brings them deeper into the game world. It's almost, like, for a minute i can see the character they are playing rather than my friend David sitting across from me. It's a very cool experience.

cplmac
03-06-2008, 03:13 PM
I try to use props to keep things interesting. If someone finds a scroll, I will hand that player a rolled up paper. I that player is actually able to use the scroll, like a magic user, I hand them one that is rolled up and has the spells listed on it. I have a little container with a cork in it that I hand out if a potion is found. Little things like that seem to make the players have a better gaming experience.

Freejack
03-06-2008, 06:10 PM
Props is a big thing for me. For the recent shadowrun games, I've provided feathers wrapped in leather, maps, newspaper articles, and large envelopes (sealed). Not only does it help with immersion, it also helps with "who's got the clue?" So when the Hacker gets captured, they know they lost the feather in leather clue :eek:

Back when I DM'd, I'd give my players gems and jewelry (sparklies from the cheap bin at the salvation army), gold (the gold rocks from the rock places), scrolls (I cut slots and had all the spells written on quarter-inch by 2 inch strips which could be put into each slot with some unintelligible spells for ones they can't read), tomes, and whatever else I could find to make the game more fun.

Carl

tesral
03-07-2008, 07:49 AM
I'm big on the paper props. I like doing up letters and such. Having a computer makes it easy.

boulet
03-07-2008, 07:58 AM
I'm a lazy son of a gun when it comes to props... I guess that's sth I could do and improve my GMing.

8cidx
03-07-2008, 11:55 AM
I actually do not use them as much as I should either. Meaning I tend only to use them for one shots. With my longer games I end up spending so much of my time writing plot and stuff like that I end up not making small props to go with the games. I do think that they are very useful when used correctly.

I really like the bottles idea. I have always thought about doing some stuff like that, but really hate spending needless money on stuff like that.

The latest thing that I have done as far as props in my gaming group: One of my players is a wizard who just found the spell book of a higher level caster. I typed up different wordings for the spell descriptions all the spells the wizard knew into a small spell book I made and changed the font to the "Atlantian" font from Disney's Atlantis. Looks cool -- Then in the inside cover is a partially translated (into common) spell.
Using context clues I have allowed him to translate pieces of the book. Since it would take up so much game time, he will call ahead of time to find out how much time his character can spend translating the book in game time for the day. Since he comes over early on game days to help me set up, he gets to spend that much time translating on his book before the game. That way when the appropriate downtime comes in the game, we don't have to stop and wait.

Of course I have the originall book (in standard font) so I can compare, but any mistakes he makes I don't tell him about. Since it doesn't match the text in the core book, he can't decode the font by cheating that way. Also I keep the prop with me so that he won't be tempted to spend extra time on it. So far it's been fun.

nijineko
03-09-2008, 01:06 AM
my props tend to be virtual in nature. i might print out the image i've made so that the player can have it. would be cheap if the cost of ink wasn't quite so high. ^^

tesral
03-10-2008, 09:44 AM
my props tend to be virtual in nature. i might print out the image i've made so that the player can have it. would be cheap if the cost of ink wasn't quite so high. ^^

Come to the toner side of the print!

Farcaster
03-10-2008, 11:55 AM
I couldn't agree more, Tesral. I purchased a Laser Printer about four years ago, and I couldn't be happier with it. I've already made up everything I spent on it in cartridge purchases.

tesral
03-10-2008, 04:51 PM
Do not underestimate the power of the toner side!!

cplmac
03-10-2008, 08:10 PM
I don't actually spend money on these props. This is actually packaging of items that were needed. Some are "gifts" that were given to me from people that wanted rid of the item from their house. OK, I guess I did spend a dollar at the dollar store for the note book to make the scrolls with.

Scribe of the Realm
03-11-2008, 09:04 PM
The liege/vassal relationship will be a prominant cultural feature in the next adventure I run. Props will make these relationships more tangible.

I will give each player an interesting die to represent fealty to a lord, guild membership, or public office. The player can display or hide a particular die as a way to represent how prominantly his or her character displays a particular allegance.

tesral
03-12-2008, 07:30 AM
I will give each player an interesting die to represent fealty to a lord, guild membership, or public office. The player can display or hide a particular die as a way to represent how prominantly his or her character displays a particular allegance.

I like that one. I don't think I would use dice persoanlly, too easily mixed up in the box, but that is me. Too many dice. ;)

cplmac
03-12-2008, 11:10 AM
The liege/vassal relationship will be a prominant cultural feature in the next adventure I run. Props will make these relationships more tangible.

I will give each player an interesting die to represent fealty to a lord, guild membership, or public office. The player can display or hide a particular die as a way to represent how prominantly his or her character displays a particular allegance.


I like that one. I don't think I would use dice persoanlly, too easily mixed up in the box, but that is me. Too many dice. ;)

Yes, sounds like an excellent idea, but I have to agree with tesral on the dice issue.

Nord_drache
03-25-2008, 10:16 PM
If you check out graphics programs and clip art you can find heraldic images and print them on a page and glue it to cardboard to form "chits" that can be used as you suggest.

Frobozz
03-26-2008, 12:17 AM
I'm a huge believer in using props in games. I've gone so far as to make mock-ups of items... an old keyboard, add in some spray paint superglue some junk onto it, add an old guitar strap... viola, instant Shadowrun Cyberdeck! I've got a ton of miniatures as well, though it was rare we used them in games. A white-board mounted on the wall got the point across often enough about complex scenarios.

I and several of my players are or were into martial arts as well; Kung Fu, Iaido, even western armored fighting, and many are also into firearms, so real weapons around the table tended to be commonplace if required for demonstration purposes; but were somewhat restricted to those of us that had training. Those without, we'd hand something like a bokken or shinai to if they wanted to demonstrate something.

The other props on the table were the "oddball toys". I don't know why, but these things just seemed to make games go smoother. We've had things like M.U.S.C.L.E. Men figures, Dinobots, Stuffed Bun-Bun from Sluggy Freelance, a Quarter-Through-The-Hoop type game that someone managed to swipe from a bar many moons ago (flip a quarter through the hoop earned you 10,000 XP, was only done once but money collected helped buy pizza :D ) a Mattel Football handheld, a Godzilla figure and various Hot Wheels.

Finally, nearby shelves not only hold a mecca of gaming books, but also books on every oddball topic you could think of; from police procedures to wooden sailing ship construction to chemistry.

Last but not least, a monster ash-tray from the 70's for the smokers.

The gaming environment is every bit as important as the game itself. ;)