Getting In Character With Player Props  

Posted by Spenser Isdahl in

If you're like me, you probably think of game props as the province of the DM. I don't think I'm alone in thinking this way; all of the blog posts I can recall written on the topic of game props have discussed props from the perspective of the DM. There's good reason for this since, after all, the DM is probably the one who will most frequently make use of props, and for good reason. An aged, hand-written letter or a real ring can perfectly emphasize an important moment in an adventure.

Speaking with several DM friends of mine a while back, we mulled over a few ways to get our players into their characters. At the time, we had several newbies who tended to deliver their characters' dialogue third person ("My character says..."). Additionally, our more experienced players would often say something in-character, then decide that wasn't actually what they said, which, while acceptable occasionally, broke continuity somewhat. While I understand there are varying opinions on the matter, I prefer to have players speak in-character, and would rather not have my continuity interrupted.

The possible solution I came up with was to ask each player to bring in a prop representing some part of their character's clothing or carried items, such as a hat, eyepatch, wand, or dagger. Something that could be easily picked up/worn or removed as needed. The idea is that, when you want to definitively speak in-character, you pick up your prop and do so. Not only does this conclusively determine when your character is speaking, it allows you and your fellow players to see a part of your character and get an idea who he or she is.

Has anyone tried anything like this? Any funny props-related stories? Share in the comments.

This entry was posted on January 27, 2010 at Wednesday, January 27, 2010 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


In my girlfriend's campaign, my character is a fairly violent fey creature and Dan gave me a kukri to hold. I'm constantly drawing it and resheathing it as necessary :P

January 27, 2010 at 1:27 PM

Last time I played a Huckster (card slinging wizard) in Deadland, I was constantly shuffling and reshffling a deck of cards. And it was useful to have the cards to hand as they were needed when my character cast spells.

January 27, 2010 at 2:01 PM

That sounds great, but I would be worried about, with some players, a level of humiliation involved with such a thing.

@Michael: Your girlfriend runs games? Insert jealous rant here.

January 27, 2010 at 2:02 PM

@Deveyus: Yeah, I agree it's something you'd need to have the right group of people for it to work. Still, there are a lot of simple things you could do that don't seem all that humiliating, like holding a pocket watch or quill or something. Or was it more the whole 'talking in first-person' thing you were referring to?

@Michael: We should really do a post (or series) on getting girls to game. Seems like we've been pretty successful in that regard.

January 27, 2010 at 2:48 PM

My group has had some success with props. One guy used a hat to denote a character, when he put the hat on he would be speaking as that character. At the time he was playing two characters to the prop became a necessity.

Another girl in our group actually had a mock flint lock pistol that she would point at players and make gestures of annoyance.

I think the props helped quite a bit.

January 27, 2010 at 3:00 PM

I did something similar once where I was GMing this mobster who smoked cigars. For the cigars, I used pretzel rods. Worked beautifully until all the salt dessicated my mouth enough that I couldn't speak.

Have, at other times (as player or GM) used a silly wizard hat, played with knives, played with a gavel, and have even worn a Batman mask with a long, black beard.

January 27, 2010 at 3:40 PM
Philo Pharynx  

I have a couple games where people play two characters - this might be useful there. In fact one of the games is run by a woman who brought her husband into gaming. Sort of the opposite story to how many women were brought in by their boyfriends.

Of course this game has two young'uns around so we need to make sure the props are safe and no too attractive.

January 28, 2010 at 1:40 PM

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