It’s night, and you have been playing D&D for a few hours. Finally, you reach that door everyone has been dying to open, only that a chunky lock stands on your way. The DM looks at you and solemnly passes you a puzzle. A real, physical puzzle you need to solve to get through. If you thought RPG couldn’t get better, you were seemingly wrong. There are a lot of Dungeon Master Props you can use to enhance a game, these are some of our favorites.
Disentaglement puzzles are a great tabletop RPG puzzle idea. They can be used as props for situations where a person has to solve a problem using logic. It can be a lock or door mechanism, a closed box containing loot, or a challenge someone else poses to a player.
You can have a few puzzles with different difficulties, and use them depending on how high or low a roll is. Or you can throw one of these into a player’s hands, and tell him/her the puzzle has a spell and he/she can’t let go until it is solved.
Old Pub Games
We all know in every game there is at least one visit to a tavern. Whether your players are looking for something in particular or not, it’s a good chance to chance the modality of the game a little.
How about some old pub games or even a chess match? According to how good or bad a roll is, you can set up easy or complicated chess puzzles for a player to solve. Is that bard getting on your nerves? Make him play against a game of medieval 4 in a row with that big guy across the room. Additionally, you can use the games for bets or just as an entertainment while people wait for their turn.
You can use models of different elements that might appear in-game. For example, you can use a ship model to explain to the players how things are distributed while crossing that narrow sea or in company of pirates. You can also use models of weapons such as catapults to calculate trajectories and give an overall feeling of being there and understanding the physics of these elements.
Scrolls, Journals and Spell Books
I remember playing MERP and keeping a very detailed diary with illustrations and stories of what had happened in the previous adventure. Our GM liked it so much that happily gave xp points to those working on back stories and nice props such as this.
You can get parchment and scroll cases that look superbly realistic. They can be used to share announcements with the party, write letters or draw maps. Some parchment paper is so good that you can actually put it in your printer! There are also lots of beautiful leather (and leather looking!) journals you can get. Players can use them to keep diaries, as a campaign log, or even as a spell book.
Goblets and Candles
There are some beautiful goblets and mugs that work perfectly as props. You can fill them with real drinks, or you can use dry ice for a dramatic effect! Candles also make great RPG props, be it for mood lightning or to mark the time (some candles have durations written on them). Of course you don’t need any of this to have a great game, but I have played with dim lights and ambient music while drinking from one of these goblets, and I can assure it, the experience just gets better and better.
You can use fake weapons to keep players entertained, but the best use is to show particular attack moves, or crits. I would suggest NOT to use steel/metal weapons as they can be quite dangerous. There are specially made props that not only look cool (and more on the fantastic side of things) but they are also light weight and quite cheap to get. Check some of them out:
Hour Glass and Sand Glass
You can use hour glasses to mark time, and add a little pressure to the game. Combine an hour glass with a puzzle, and the experience will get pretty real! Alternatively, you can use them to keep track of the game and make sure you are moving on a steady pace. Here are some hour glass ideas:
A long and light scarf is the best prop you can have as a GM. You can use it as disguise when playing for example a bandit, or as a turban, or even as a shawl. Any plain scarf will do, but it’s better to go with a longer, lighter one. If you can’t find yours, here are some ideas: