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Gaming Props

Sometimes, words aren't enough. Descriptions are missed or misunderstood, marching orders are forgotten, carried equipment forgotten, or a situation so complex or bizarre as to require a visual component in addition to the GM's verbal description. This topic has come up on the SW:RPG mailing list a couple of times and most of the ideas were so well-thought-out and creative that I wanted to share them here in a compiled format.

The question:

This got me wondering, what types of props do you listmembers commonly use?

The answers:

From: Patrick Rollens

I use pictures from SBs, but I also have fun with tourist guides...most of the time a "welcome droid" on some planet spits out a cheap hardcopy printout of the local attractions to the PCs before veering away to deal with a truckload of Rodian tourists....that way they have no time to ask questions and can only rely on the vague tourist guide!

Another useful thing is the Bureau of Ships and Services license thingy in the 2nd Ed. R&E GM Screen. That has proved useful in dealing with customs agents and such.... I've also made up my own version of an official Imperial ID, d.o.b., home world, description, etc, along with expiration dates and such.



Post-it notes go cheaper and faster than 3x5 but the idea is tried and true. The only problem being the ensuing flurry of suspicion that comes from "secret" notes and such. For truly sensitive information some slight of hand or sneaky shennannigans are required to help the other players with restricting their player knowledge survival instinct. For more innocent uses, like language, I played a wookie and spoke wookie the whole game. I wrote down whatever i really "said" and passed it to the designated "wookie companion" PC and it was up to him to interpret (or not) whatever I said. (kinda explains why Han sometimes got snappy)

Miniatures, models, toys, and all kinds of 3D "stuff" for locations and battles and such (old electronics packing styrofoam frames) are a must. (once we even used a fleet of paper airplanes on a pool table for a capital combat)

We also use BOSS registries, captain's licences, bounties, trac-sheets, bounty licences, datapads, and all variety of the many "permitted to photocopy" materials get supplemented with home grown customs sheets, transmission transcripts, and anything else you feel the need to spew out of the word processor.

Whenever I run a module I prepare by making as many hands-on props as I can. Like for the "Isis Coordinates", there are a couple of puzzles that are supposed to be chopped up and handled. For one, I copied the circuit cards onto a transparency, took a clear neon green clipboard and chopped it into squares, then used contact paper to put them together. Viola: a dozen "glowing" computer chips (actually they resemble Star Trek Isolinear chips).

Once you make copies, don't be afraid to whip out the scissors and razors to your hearts content. I mean, if a message is a one-liner, give 'em that one line. A ribbon of paper sticks in the mind more than a whole sheet, uniqueness lends importance. Also, don't be afraid to mangle and garble props and messages. If a transmission is broken, add "white noise" and garbldygook as filler between the legible elements.

"Heh, heh, heh. Lie like a rug, you do. When three futile weeks of cadences you have tried, sound wise like fortune cookie you will."

Johannes M. Bowers

From: Genesis Whitmore

Let's see...

I use minatures and set designs (scenery, buildings, techy bits, plants) in my campaigns first and foremost. In my opinion they really add to the setting by helping my players get a good idea of the layout of the area they're in and just helping the players "get into" the game more by seeing everything laid out in front of them. I owe this to my predecessor GM, who loooves minatures and got me hooked on them. I've used them so regularly that I can't imagine going without them.

For 'note passing' I'll sometimes make prewritten notes to handout before the game that I'll have typed up and printed out, but quite often I'll find myself ripping off pieces of notebook paper and scribbling little 'quickie' notes for PC's that can understand a language nobody else does, or notice something, or recognise someone, or whatever reason. Index cards might be a good idea as well, but my spendthrifty mind wonders "Why not just use notebook paper... 's cheaper.".

I also keep a diagram of sectors and planet locations handy, plot notes for myself, and I do most of my dirty work from behind my evil GM shield which has weapon stats, enemy stats, ship stats, and a few other useful little bits of info printed onto it. PLUS it has a picture of Boba Fett which is vurra cool. :) The nicest thing about the shield is that it hides my expressions, so when I'm grinning evilly because my players are about to do something really REALLY stupid they can't see me.

Then there's my pile of printouts which contain plot ideas, notes that my PCs have e-mailed me about their 'secret' backgrounds, a few character templates if I feel the time is right to throw someone in, copies of some house rules, and notes to myself about miscelanious things. It's a lot to keep track of... and I don't use half of it most of the time, but BOY is it good to have handy when suprises pop up.

Among other props, there's always the mood music (Which I've had to stop, unfortunately, as one of my players is hearing impared), micro machines to show the players what certain ships and vehicles look like, and on one ocassion my GM used gambling tokens to signify a certain level of power that a player had when they used a dark artifact (and weren't aware of it)... if the player wanted to use the power he turned in a certain number of tokens for it. We also used the tokens for a Sabaac game that my group played and the GM even managed to come up with a deck of Sabaac cards for it (From a Cloud City adventure book he bought I think).

I've been tempted to invest in a few novelty items like the stuff that lets you make smoke some out of your fingertips for when I'm going to NPC a twisted Jedi tempting a force sensitive to the dark side in a future campaign. Another one of my players wants to wear an eyepatch to the games because his character wears one. Pretty much my rule on props is that if it doesn't detract from the game, it's something fun to try.

-Genesis Whitmore
(first posting to the list... whoohoo!)

Somehow, I deleted Neils' email address as I was saving this next post.

> On anther topic, has anyone thought to make really annoying holovid tabloid
>repoters. You know the type, the trash TV talk show hosts. I may bring one
>into my Tapani Campaign as a different sort of antagonist. What do you all

In my campaign I hand out a newspaper, telling stories from the galaxy and advertizing all sorts of stuff. Some of the articles are dealing with topics of interest of the chars, and others are just there to give them a feel of a galaxy that is alive. One of the journalists has taken a very critical stance toward the party, and write long articles exposing them as menaces to society. First they just thought it was funny, but as the news has started to affect their lifes, they have grown to love/hate this journalist.

Now they e-mail me letters that their chars has written to the paper, and ask me to print it.

It has proven to be a great gimmick, though it's a bit time consuming (writing, layouting and designing add's).