What props and special effects do you use while running games?

I have used a VTT, most recently Roll20, for 12+ years, so the entire combat encounter is sort of a prop. I used top-down pogs for NPCs, and I \make sure that the pog is armed with what the NPC is using.

Beyond that, written materials and images of buildings posted to a specific handout channel on Discord.

I have never used music/background sounds, as I don't like anything that interferes with communication. I have played a very brief noise (ringtones are good) for Eavesdrop checks on certain monsters, but while the players liked it, I found it to be too much of a hassle to make it a regular thing.
 

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Richards

Legend
I play selected episodes of "Music from the Hearts of Space" in the background during our gaming sessions, usually choosing music appropriate to the adventure at hand. As for handouts, usually nothing more than the occasional map or written note, but every once in a while it makes sense for me to craft up a prop. Once I drew silhouettes of animals on cardboard octagons that were each pierced by a chopstick to craft "telepresence control rods" that allowed a PC to inhabit a small statue of that animal hidden in a archmage's mansion (it was a rescue mission to save the archmage, but there was a protective field up around his mansion preventing anyone from entering). Another time I made a key with "combination dials" containing letters that had to be aligned to form the command word to teleport into a given dungeon. Another adventure had rotating walls in a circular chamber that was better visualized with a standup prop, given there were seven doors and rings of rotating letters around them that needed to be aligned just right to tell you which door was the safe one to enter. And I've made scale "miniatures" for the overly-large creatures I'd otherwise be unable to find an existing miniature for, like a wood colossus and stone colossus (buildings that take humanoid form), a walking giant brain on tentacles, and the like. I also built a cardboard keep with a reconfigurable interior that has served as several different buildings in our multiple campaigns over the years.

Johnathan
 


Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I was at my best as a GM when I ran a superheroic game in the Space:1889 setting using HERO 4th back in the 1990s. A good part of that was due to a prop I used.

The characters were all members of a law enforcement agency with global AND interplanetary jurisdiction. The prop in question was an organizational “newsletter” that:

1) told news of the campaign setting (plot seeds)

2) recounted news of the agents (including the party), and some of the resultant aftermaths.

I’d compose it, print it, then post it on the cork board our host had in the gaming room. The players got the thrill of seeing their sessions recounted by a “journalist”, and got a picture of the broader world.

Sometimes, they’d even choose the next adventure based on things they read in the newsletter.

What they didn’t fully realize was that I based some of the news blurbs on their table talk and character backgrounds. As such, that small time investment on my part resulted in continuous player buy-in. The campaign almost ran itself.
 

Smackpixi

Adventurer
I use the tabletop audio site mentioned earlier. Plus Cantrip Candles for some smells, and monster pictures inserted into the front of my DM screen which I don’t actually sit behind.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
My wife hand draws maps from adventures on grid paper, in frankly gorgeous detail, makes handout props (like the deed and letter from Death House), stuff like that.

I am bad at making time to do the needed prep, but I do want to set up the new game room to have different ambiance depending on what we are doing, like swapping out curtains and wall hangings, maybe even what if our collections of various stuffs are on the shelves, etc, and I do want to get some D&D candles.

I doubt I’ll ever be the guy who builds setpieces with mini terrain, sadly. Maybe the wotc vtt with be surprisingly easy to use lol that would be wild!
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
My wife hand draws maps from adventures on grid paper, in frankly gorgeous detail, makes handout props (like the deed and letter from Death House), stuff like that.

I am bad at making time to do the needed prep, but I do want to set up the new game room to have different ambiance depending on what we are doing, like swapping out curtains and wall hangings, maybe even what if our collections of various stuffs are on the shelves, etc, and I do want to get some D&D candles.

I doubt I’ll ever be the guy who builds setpieces with mini terrain, sadly. Maybe the wotc vtt with be surprisingly easy to use lol that would be wild!
I used to do campaign setting maps on grid paper with colored pencil.*. Nothing spectacular, but useful.

However, one of the last ones I did, I made into a “globe” by drawing the map on a folded paper D20 template.







* I also made an alternative RISK board the same way.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I used to do campaign setting maps on grid paper with colored pencil.*. Nothing spectacular, but useful.

However, one of the last ones I did, I made into a “globe” by drawing the map on a folded paper D20 template.







* I also made an alternative RISK board the same way.
Extremely rad.
 

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