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The Use Of Props


Dr.Bedlam
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Inspired by a Facebook post: do any of you use physical props in your RPGs?

1. I often used actual weirdly-made ornamental perfume bottles to represent potions. On one occasion, I implied heavily that drinking this one potion would cause a one point increase in a random stat... but the PLAYER had to actually drink the contents of the bottle!

The players looked in the bottle. They smelled it. One of them wanted to do the "dip the finger and taste" test, but I ruled that doing this would invalidate the potion. It had to be CHUGGED.

Turned out that the main ingredients were coffee and lemon juice...

2. A friendly troll once served the party a pie. When the party agreed to sample the pie, I stood up, opened the stove, and took out an actual pie I had made before the game. It was still warm. And it was green. And had warts. (I'd used green food coloring in the crust and pie itself). 

The players... stared at it. One of them asked for a knife. I gave them one. He cut the pie open. Inside was thick, runny green stuff, green chunks, and unidentifiable colored bits.

The party stared. I said, "The troll is looking at you expectantly. Do any of you try his pie?"

It was actually a homemade chicken pot pie with dyed vegetables and cream gravy filling (albeit the color of broccoli). But it took them a while to figure this out. And one guy nearly heaved, despite knowing what was in the pie...

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Love the potion and the pie props. The props I have used in game myself are letters with a wax seal, bounty posters, and some maps. I was thinking of using a wand to represent a magical item, but then I would have to do this for every weapon they found and/or armor. 

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I've used a handwritten note that was (strategically) torn in half to imply a very different message than the notional writer intended. I've used a bag of 1000 quarters to test players ability to estimate (the estimates generally ran about 70% under the actual count) and to demonstrate that 1000 coins is a load.

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The best one I ever did also involved food.

I was running the Rise of the Runelords AP (1st chapter), and the PCs visited the Rusty Dragon to sample the food as part of the Swallowtail Festival.  Instead of the Asian-inspired menu the module described, I decided fish tacos were to be made.

 

I had brought over peach-avocado salsa, and some spicy sour cream.  Cooked the mahi mahi up in the players kitchen, and served.

 

The players had an instant attraction to the tavern and its owner. 

 

And I got to eat fish tacos.  Great times all around.

 

I am totally gonna try your potion idea, though.  That's a particular brand of cruel . . . .

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That seems more like trolling the players rather than specifically about props which I approve of.

 

 

Well actually the pie bit is about props, now that I think about it. Most players would have just said, yeah I eat the pie. the prop really made them think about it. I like that. I may try that. I don't use props normally other than the standard minis and occasionally terrain, but it is an intersting idea.

 

The closest I've come to this kind of thing is using a mini not to represent a monster per say, but using it and it's proximity to the table, to represent a vague timer of how long the party had before it showed up and killed everybody (I believe I've mentioned this story before)

 

 

The best one I ever did also involved food.

I was running the Rise of the Runelords AP (1st chapter), and the PCs visited the Rusty Dragon to sample the food as part of the Swallowtail Festival. Instead of the Asian-inspired menu the module described, I decided fish tacos were to be made.

 

I had brought over peach-avocado salsa, and some spicy sour cream. Cooked the mahi mahi up in the players kitchen, and served.

 

The players had an instant attraction to the tavern and its owner.

 

And I got to eat fish tacos. Great times all around.

 

I am totally gonna try your potion idea, though. That's a particular brand of cruel . . . .

You should have had something for when they went to the Hagfish. :devil:

 

I've used notes and maps as handouts, but nothing more than that.

I've recently started using hand outs as well now that I think about it. Mostly becasue they worked so well in the Rise of the Runelords game I'm currently playing in (on chapter 3 right now)

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Notes, maps, handouts for the most part. 

 

I once mocked up 3 pieces of a broken brooch, using cardboard and tinfoil, that was a vital element of one game I ran. 

 

I once served asian food as part of our pre-game communal dinner before an episode where our PCs were in Japan. 

 

And I once planned a Call of Cthulhu game with cultists and a massive summoning ritual, on a the night of a lunar eclipse. 

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Back when i had more time I would make art and visuals for the games my husband and I ran.

 

Gor a while I was working on a modded National Geographic for a Call of Cthulhu game. I had a genuine 1926, I think it was, issue with some suggestively useful articles and advertisements (South sea life discoveries, odd butterflies, etc.). I had scanned its covers and some interior pages and was cleaning them up with a few modifications for the players to maybe catch.

 

Sadly the computer died mid-project and I didn't have the heart to start over.

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I've used notes and maps as handouts, but nothing more than that.

Ditto. Also the mysterious text in arcane runes (cryptogram) that needed deciphering. Character's intelligence/abilities had no effect on decryption—it was entirely up to the players.

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You should have had something for when they went to the Hagfish. :devil:

 

 

The best I could come up with was a youtube video showing the effect of hagfish slime.  "Now, who wants a mug?"

Although now that I've got a couple kids, I've discovered that one can make one's own "slime" with a 1:1 or 2:1 mixture of cornstarch and water. 

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I've done maps, letters, and the like.

 

Last year, I won the Christmas raffle at our FLGS, a 45" Flatscreen.  I put it on the wall in our dining room so the kids have a place to play Wii.  It also doubles as a PC monitor.  It also just happens to be behind and above me as I DM for our group.  Last time we played I searched the web and for pictures of scenery and such that exemplified what the PCs would be doing and where they were, put them into a PowerPoint, and then displayed them on the TV, flipping through them as the Action went forward.  My players LOVED it.  Now I'm, stuck prepping a PowerPoint every game.  :rolleyes:

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That seems more like trolling the players rather than specifically about props which I approve of.

 

Abusing people at one's dinner table is certainly not something of which I'd approve. On the other hand, characters will drink or eat ANY durn thing that will provide them an advantage, period, regardless of how weird or disgusting it may be. I figured I was justified in making it clear that there was perhaps an element of ick in what they were doing. ONCE. I certainly wouldn't do it every time they had to slam down a Potion of Healing. 

 

But sometimes a little versimilitude helps them keep things in perspective...

 

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My We Be Goblins 2 game at Rcon this year I made the goblin chieftain crown out of a Burger King kids crown & then used feathers & foam for the bird skull. Person that actually won the contest didn't want to wear it & anther player did thus he became chief!

 

I was worried it wouldn't make the trip down but a little beat up never hurt a goblin item!

 

Well be doing that again for next year as well!

 

Most of time my props are pics of various npcs & such.

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i use props basically in every game

 

The normal stuff, Map hand outs, notes, minis, fold out maps, pop up terrain (now! yuss).

 

I have a white board with the general layout of the area, various notes & initiative for the players sitting in sight behind me.

 

I also use my ipad. I pick a bunch of cool shots from the net like what they see eg entrance to the lair, what a npc or enemy looks like, landscapes and show when triggered. The other one I use on the ipad is youtube and search sound affects. The town they are in is about to be attacked.. so I have lined up a ringing bell, people screaming, a loud explosion noise and a dragon roar. I explain what they are hearing and why, it seems to really immerses the PCs. 

 

Right now I'm looking for "blood capsule"(since its Halloween). One of the PCs family is sadly going to die and I will slyly pop the blood capsule (with a few paper towels over my dm stuff) and give the final speech/convo with blood running down my face and really get into.

 

I also wear a dragon onsie...

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