As a fantasy author, you know that every element in your book should reflect the world you’ve created. That’s why fantasy props are great for indie fantasy authors. Fantasy props can enhance the imagination, as well as your creativity and bring details to the setting, add realism, create memorable visuals, allowing you to better describe and show the reader how items are used in that world. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about fantasy props and the popular ones you should try/buy to take your writing to the next level.
What Are Fantasy Props and Why Are They Important?
Defining Fantasy Props
Fantasy props are any objects that your characters use or come across in your fantasy world. These can be anything from bows, swords, daggers and axes to magical wands, talismans, costumes, masks, jewellery, tankards, books and anything else central to your world.
Importance of Fantasy Props
Fantasy props have multiple functions for an author writing a book. They can help you define a character, symbolise themes, provide a sense of realism to your descriptions, and enhance your world’s details and therefore enhance your reader’s immersion. These props help authors understand the cultures and norms of the fantasy world they are creating, how the characters use objects, and add depth to the story. Ideally, these props you interact with should go beyond just magical items and weapons; get to know everyday items, familiarising yourself with props of every kind will help you show their purpose and their value, context, and history within the fantasy world you have created. And great weapons etc inspired by your intricate relationship with physical props written into your books may become classic collector’s items in years to come.
Popular Fantasy Props
Some of the most popular fantasy props include swords, shields, and bows for fantasy weapons. Think of Excalibur, The kurgans sword from highlander, The Sword of omens from thunder cats etc. Handling any sword, feeling the weight, swinging it, thrusting it, moving with it etc will give you ideas, will give you insight into how to write about it, acquire any sword or join a local club. Your fight scenes will thank you for it. However, props are more than weapons, they are and can be the complete costume. Wither you opt to create your own DIY costumes or buy them, the classic props here are realistic armour, gauntlets, helmets, jewellery, dresses, masks and more. As for science-fiction and fantasy, magical wands, glowing orbs, and lightsabers are among the most popular prop choices.
If your main character welds an axe, wears a cape, a crown on his head and walks with high healed boots. Buy them, experiment with them, see how they feel and change the movements, feel etc and incorporate this new information into your writing.
How to Choose the Right Fantasy Prop for Your Story?
Consider Your Fantasy World
When choosing a fantasy prop to inspire your writing, make sure it fits the setting and theme that you want to write about. Consider the culture and beliefs in the world you have created, as well as the characters’ needs and goals. This way, you can pick props that make sense. This will allow you to enhance the reader’s understanding of the fantasy world you created.
Align with Your Characters
The props you select should also align with your characters in terms of personality, skills, and goals. For example, a wizard may need a wand or a spellbook to perform magic (but what does it feel like to turn the pages into an old battered grimoire?). Meanwhile, a coming-of-age hero might only require a small weapon rather than a mighty sword, as they may not be strong enough to carry a mighty sword? Buying a mighty sword and carrying it around may give you a new perspective on the impracticality of a mighty sword. That makes us as author make adjustments, like the strength of the character, or the agility etc.
Think about Your Plot
Your fantasy prop should also complement the plot of your story. If you are writing an epic battle scene that takes place in ancient times, then a medieval sword could be a sensible choice. Similarly, if your story involves a fantasy world where the characters transform into animals, then animal masks, animal furs, visiting a farm etc could be a perfect choice to help you enter that head space.
Top Fantasy Props Every Fantasy Author Should Have
Medieval Swords and Axes
Medieval swords and axes have always been popular fantasy weapons. Swords can come in different shapes and sizes and can represent different meanings. For instance, a katana can signify samurai culture, whereas a broadsword can symbolize a knight in armor. Axes, meanwhile, are commonly used by dwarves in fantasy settings.
Sword details to customise. While the design and names of these components may vary across different fictional works, here are some common components and their general uses/importance:
Blade: The blade is the primary cutting edge of the sword. It is usually made of metal and is responsible for delivering the main strikes and cuts in combat. The shape, length, and material of the blade can vary, influencing factors like balance, weight, and cutting ability.
Hilt/Guard: The hilt, also known as the guard or crossguard, is a protective structure located between the blade and the handle. It serves to protect the wielder’s hand from sliding onto the blade during combat, preventing injury. The hilt can take various shapes and designs, often reflecting the style and culture of the sword’s origin.
Handle/Grip: The handle, also called the grip, is the part of the sword that the wielder holds onto. It provides a comfortable and secure grip, allowing for control and maneuverability during combat. The handle may be wrapped in leather, wood, or other materials to enhance grip and comfort.
Pommel: The pommel is a weighty component located at the end of the handle. It helps to balance the sword and provides counterweight to the blade. The pommel can also serve as a striking or blunt force weapon in certain combat situations.
Fuller/Blood Groove: A fuller, sometimes called a blood groove, is a groove or indentation that runs along the length of the blade. While its appearance may vary, the fuller helps to reduce the weight of the sword without compromising its structural integrity. It also aids in distributing the force of impact along the blade, making it more resilient.
Scabbard/Sheath: The scabbard or sheath is a protective covering for the sword when it is not in use. It is usually made of wood, leather, or metal and helps prevent damage to the blade and keep it secure. The design and materials of the scabbard can be influenced by the sword’s culture or the personal style of the wielder.
Engravings/Decorations: Many fantasy swords feature intricate engravings, decorative elements, or symbols etched onto the blade, hilt, or other components. These embellishments can enhance the aesthetic appeal of the sword, represent the wielder’s identity or allegiance, or hold symbolic meaning within the fictional world.
Magic Gems/Stones: In some fantasy settings, swords may incorporate magic gems or stones embedded within their design. These mystical elements can provide various enchantments or powers, such as enhancing the blade’s sharpness, granting elemental abilities, or offering protection to the wielder.
It’s important to note that the design and functionality of fantasy swords can greatly differ depending on the imagination of the creator or the specific lore of the fictional world. The components listed above are general features commonly associated with fantasy swords but may not encompass all possible variations.
If you’re writing about magic, then wands are essential. Wands have been a staple in fantasy stories, from the Harry Potter series to Lord of the Rings. Design your wand with a specific pattern or style, carve magical symbols, integrate special stones or crystals, and choose the correct wood.
Bows and Arrows
Bows and arrows are among the most accessible fantasy weapons for your characters to use. They are used by characters such as archers or elves, and they can come in a variety of shapes and forms, including compound bows or recurve bows. This weapon is ideal for characters who are experts in long-range combat.
While the specific design and names of these components can vary in different fictional works, here are some common components of a fantasy bow and their general uses/importance:
Riser: The riser, also known as the handle or grip, is the central part of the bow where the archer holds and controls the bow. It is typically made of a sturdy material like wood, metal, or composite materials. The riser provides stability and balance to the bow and houses various attachments such as the arrow rest, sight, and stabilizers.
Limbs: The limbs are the flexible and curved sections of the bow that extend on either side of the riser. They store and release the energy generated when the bowstring is drawn back. The limbs are usually made of materials like fiberglass, carbon fiber, or wood composite, providing strength, flexibility, and power to the bow.
Bowstring: The bowstring is a critical component of the bow, as it is what the archer pulls back to launch the arrow. It is typically made of strong, high-tensile materials like Dacron, Kevlar, or synthetic fibers. The bowstring attaches to notches or string loops at the ends of the bow’s limbs and transfers the energy stored in the limbs to propel the arrow forward.
Nock: The nock is a small groove or attachment point located at the end of each limb. It serves to hold the bowstring securely in place and allows for consistent arrow positioning and release. The nock can be made of various materials, such as plastic, horn, or metal.
Arrow Rest: The arrow rest is an attachment on the riser of the bow that provides a place for the arrow to rest before it is shot. It helps stabilize the arrow and ensures consistent arrow alignment for accurate shooting. Arrow rests can come in various forms, including simple shelves, magnetic rests, or drop-away rests.
Sight: A sight is an optional component that can be attached to the riser of the bow. It assists the archer in aiming by providing a visual reference point or reticle for aligning the bow with the target. Sights can have different configurations, including fixed pins, adjustable pins, or optical sights.
Stabilizers: Stabilizers are additional attachments that can be added to the bow to reduce vibrations and improve balance during the shot. They can consist of weights, dampeners, or extended rods that help the archer maintain stability and accuracy.
Quiver: The quiver is a container or holder for arrows, allowing the archer to carry and access their arrows conveniently. Quivers can be attached to the bow, worn on the archer’s body, or placed on the ground. They can be made of various materials like leather, fabric, or metal.
It’s important to note that the design and features of fantasy bows can vary greatly depending on the fictional setting, culture, or magical elements involved. The components listed above represent common features found in many fantasy bows, but specific details may differ based on the creative imagination of the author or worldbuilder.
Costumes and Accessories
DIY costumes are made using materials such as foam, paper-mache, or fabric to create a specific look or design for your character. Making your costume can be a fun and creative way to represent your character in real life. It’s a great way to showcase your creativity and cosplay skills.
Realistic Armor and Shields
Realistic armor and shields can enhance your writing and your readers immersion into your fantasy world. Make it appear authentic by adding intricate details that set it apart from the generic armor. Metal armor, for instance, would have visible indentations, scratches, and dents, making it look more worn and authentic to the setting.
Fantasy armor and shields typically consist of various components that provide protection to the wearer in combat. While the specific design and terminology may vary across different fictional works, here are some common components of fantasy armor and shields and their general uses/importance:
Helmet: The helmet protects the head of the wearer from direct blows, impacts, and projectiles. It typically covers the top, sides, and back of the head, often featuring a visor or faceguard for additional protection. The helmet is crucial for safeguarding the wearer’s most vulnerable area.
Breastplate/Cuirass: The breastplate, also known as the cuirass, is a protective plate or armor piece that covers the front of the torso. It provides defense against strikes, cuts, and projectiles aimed at the chest and abdomen. The breastplate can be made of metal, leather, or other sturdy materials.
Pauldrons: Pauldrons are armored shoulder pieces that shield the upper arms and shoulders. They protect these areas from glancing blows, slashes, and thrusts. Pauldrons allow for flexibility and freedom of movement while safeguarding the vital joints.
Gauntlets: Gauntlets are armored gloves that protect the hands and wrists. They provide defense against strikes and can enhance gripping and weapon control. Gauntlets often consist of articulated plates or chainmail to allow for dexterity and flexibility.
Greaves: Greaves are leg armor pieces that protect the shins and lower legs. They guard against strikes, impacts, and slashes targeted at the lower extremities. Greaves can be designed as solid plates or articulated segments to allow for movement.
Cuisse and Poleyn: The cuisse and poleyn are components that protect the thighs and knees, respectively. The cuisse covers the upper leg, while the poleyn guards the front of the knee joint. These components provide crucial defense for the legs and joints while allowing for mobility.
Sabatons: Sabatons are armored footwear that protects the feet. They can cover the entire foot or only the toes and provide defense against strikes, crushing, or piercing attacks to the feet. Sabatons are typically made of metal or reinforced leather.
Shield Boss: The shield boss is a central, often rounded, metal component affixed to the front of a shield. It reinforces the structure and provides a sturdy grip for the shield bearer. The shield boss helps absorb and distribute the impact of incoming attacks.
Shield Body: The shield body is the main surface of the shield, typically made of wood, metal, or composite materials. It provides a barrier against melee and ranged attacks, absorbing and deflecting strikes. The shape, size, and material of the shield body can vary based on the intended use and cultural design.
Arm Strap and Handle: Shields have an arm strap and handle on the backside, allowing the wielder to hold and stabilize the shield securely. The arm strap goes around the forearm, while the handle is gripped by the hand. These components ensure control, maneuverability, and protection for the wielder.
Shield Rim/Edging: The shield rim or edging is a reinforced border around the outer edge of the shield body. It provides additional structural support and protection against strikes aimed at the rim. The rim may be made of metal, thick leather, or other durable materials.
It’s important to note that fantasy armor and shields can greatly vary in design and characteristics depending on the fictional world, culture, or magical elements involved. The components listed above represent common features found in many fantasy works, but specific details and terminology may differ based on the author’s creative interpretation.
Masks and Makeup
Masks and makeup are perfect if you’re trying to create a specific look for your character. Masks and makeup can represent the character from a certain faction or culture, overpowering forces such as a giant or monster, or even to hide their identity.
How to Create Your Own Fantasy Props?
DIY techniques for Fantasy Props
Creating props is an art and allows for creative expression, just like writing. You can make props using different materials, such as foam, paper-mache, or 3d printing. To create intricate details, you can use Pepakura software to assemble your 3D models into paper crafts. CNC fabrication is also a convenient way to create realistic and repeatable props with an accessible and effective solution.
Rating Your Fantasy Props
Once you have created your props, it’s important to review and rate them to ensure they suit your characters and fantasy world. The rating indicates how successful a prop is in achieving its intended use, aesthetic value, and suitability for the scene.
Using Imagination and Science-Fiction Concepts
The best part of fantasy books is that anything is possible. So let your imagination run wild! Encourage yourself to think of new and innovative ways to create props that have never been seen before in fantasy. Incorporating science-fiction concepts such as space travel, AI, and weather technology is also an excellent way to create props with science fiction and fantasy elements.
Ultimately, fantasy props can add a sense of realism to your book and can make your stories more detailed and authentic. Remember that props should not be a mere description or explanation; they should be used to create a world for the readers that they can immerse themselves in. Writing a good book is all about world-building, characters, and story (oh and a good fantasy map). When you conceive of an idea for your props, try to think of a way to create it, just keep in mind that anything you write about using the props you created should be well written, adhere to the plot, and serve a purpose in your book.
Q: What are some of the essential fantasy props?
A: Essential fantasy props include swords, wands, potions, maps, and magical creatures.
Q: Is there a rating system for fantasy props?
A: Yes, there is a rating system for fantasy props as outlined in many DIY tutorials and books on prop making.
Q: What does DIY mean?
A: DIY stands for “Do It Yourself.”
Q: Can I make my own fantasy props?
A: Yes, anyone can make their own fantasy props using basic materials and tutorials found online or in books.
Q: What is molding and casting?
A: Molding and casting is a technique used to create duplicates of a prop by making a mold of the original and then casting it in a different material.
Q: I’m a bit intimidated by prop making. Do I need to be an expert to create my own fantasy props?
A: No, you don’t need to be an expert to create your own fantasy props. Many tutorials available offer step-by-step instructions and tips for beginners.
Q: What are hero’s props?
A: Hero’s props are the main props used by the hero or protagonist in a story. They are often significant to the plot and character development.
Q: Do I need all of these props for my fantasy novel?
A: No, you don’t need all of these props for your fantasy novel. Use only those that fit well with your story and add to the overall atmosphere of the world you are creating.
Q: What is a coming-of-age story?
A: A coming-of-age story is a genre of literature that focuses on the protagonist’s growth and development from childhood to adulthood.
Q: What age group is a book written for if it is described as “young adult”?
A: Young adult books are written for readers between the ages of 12 and 18, although many adults enjoy them as well.