[This post is a companion to episode 113 of NPC Cast, titled “Edge of the Empire”]
In acting (particularly stage acting) there’s something called ‘business.’ Business is a little thing or action an actor has to fill space when they aren’t currently speaking or doing something. Rolling a half-dollar over their knuckles, smoking a cigarette or cleaning their glasses are great examples. I love having that in my games as well, giving the players something to interact with even when they aren’t currently rolling dice or interacting with an NPC. The easiest way to get that is props.
Very early on in my Edge of the Empire campaign I decided I wanted money to matter, down to about the 25 credit mark. But rather than have pencil erasers wear their way through the corner of a character sheet, I decided to do something a little different – actually make galactic credits! I started by photoshopping up the credit symbols, using the SF Distant Galaxys font. Then I reversed the image in GIMP and had it printed on plastic transparency sheets.
I then went to a craft store and got some spray glue and some reflective scrapbooking cardstock. A quick trip outside (safety first when dealing with aerosols, kids!) and glued the transparencies to the cardstock, with the glue and ink both on the “inside,” so the cover is clear. Scissors get everything sliced into tiny sticks and now when they dock, they actually have to hand over 50-100 credits (or use Negotiate to haggle that down to 25). Total cost to make these was about $8 (plus the cost of spray glue, but that stuff is useful so you should have it anyway)
I also used a similar process along with manipulating an image of a Star Wars datapad to create the infochant pipeline. Before each session, I can use a wet-erase marker to fill in juicy information (or worthless information) as a world-building exercise, and give them a heads-up on what’s happening in the Star Wars galaxy at large. If I want there to be a story or want to not immediately give up valuable info, I can attach a roll to getting it. These sorts of throwaway bits can go a long way to making players feel like they’re actually smugglers hustling to fill up their hold with supplies, and going to the location that they feel they have the best chance of unloading them at a profit.
Speaking of supplies, I grabbed a fillable-form PDF of a Ship sheet from the Fantasy Flight Games community and completed the parts that were unlikely to change, then had it laminated. The crew has their own wet-erase marker to track things like crits, damage, cargo and upgrades. For 60¢ I have something that will stand up to the abuse of the DM’s bag, and is easily findable in the pile of papers every DM has with them all the time to hand out to the players.
I hope these ideas will inspire you to create your own props to give your world just a little more verisimilitude, and to give your players a little more business to interact with at the table. Happy gaming!