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I have seen this a lot in many videos/TV clips. People wearing mage robes or armour pieces when roleplaying. I have always thought it was an exaggeration and played for laughs. But I have seen so much lately that I couldn't help to ask. Also, I have read it today here and here.

So, the question is, when playing tabletop (as opposed to LARP), is it a common custom to wear fantasy (or any other kind) costumes? If so, is it a US custom, an Anglo-Saxon custom or an international custom?

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Though I voted to reopen this, if there are many more "me too" answers that just repeat what's been said, I will begin to regret it. –  SevenSidedDie May 3 '13 at 0:15
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6 Answers

up vote 40 down vote accepted

It's extremely rare, but some players, GMs, or entire groups enjoy it.

I've played D&D for almost fifteen years, and until my current group, we never used props or costumes. This is despite the fact that my groups over the years have been made up largely of theater students, Renaissance Festival participants, cosplayers, and other types who enjoy dressing up and have costumes that would be perfect for the game.

In my current group, however, one player enjoys dressing for the part, and has several costume pieces that he wears to get in character. His enthusiasm prompted a second player to start wearing a trinket representing her character, and as of now we have three people who use props or costumes to some degree. I've actually started to consider, as GM, bringing in or wearing certain costume pieces to represent when I'm playing different NPCs. (I haven't yet due to practical considerations, but it would be fun to do if I can overcome the logistical hurdles.)

In short, the use of costumes and props, while extremely rare, is entirely a personal preference. It depends on the group you're gaming with and what they find interesting, fun, or helpful for roleplaying.

The reason costumes are often used in movies and TV shows depicting roleplayers has to do with how visual media uses visual shorthand to get ideas across quickly to its viewers. Think how the stereotypical "nerd" is usually depicted as skinny, hunched, and wearing thick glasses; how the stereotypical "jock" is usually depicted wearing a sports jersey; how the mechanic usually wears overalls, has grease stains on their face/hands, and carries a wrench; how the magic user typically wears robes and carries a staff or wand. These are cultural stereotypes which directors and crew can tap into to quickly convey the essence of a character, without having to spend a great deal of time explaining to the audience that yes, in fact, the burly guy who drives a Jeep is actually a huge geek who can take apart a piece of hardware or software in five minutes flat.

Since the stereotypical public view of tabletop gamers is inextricably tied up with LARPers in non-gamers' minds, and since a typical tabletop gaming session isn't immediately visually different to layfolk than someone playing a board game or doing some other non-gaming activity, visual media uses cheap costume pieces to tell the audience that a character is One Of Those Role-Play Types.

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Some games lend themselves to it more than others. The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a prime example, but Sea Dracula, Monsterhearts are also candidates. It's a lot easier to sustain suspension of disbelief, and engage those imaginations when folks are in character. Pirate game? Make sure everyone has eye-patches or pirate hats. –  aslum May 3 '13 at 20:44
    
I choose this as the answer because your reasons of the tropes' origin are convincing. But all the other answers have given me the idea that this practice is actually uncommon. Thanks all. –  Flamma May 4 '13 at 0:16
    
I think there's another reason costumes are useful in a Televised game: Makes it easier to remember what role each character is playing. Also, without that, what you have is often 5 people sittin' round a table rolling polyhedrons. That seems more like something appropriate for radio. –  deworde May 5 '13 at 21:34
    
I have been roleplaying for around 20 years. In that time I've worn costume to a tabletop session once. This is pretty typical. However, here in New Zealand there is one group of people who are an exception - LARPers. It is reasonably common for LARPers to wear some of their LARP costume to tabletop gaming sessions, especially at gaming conventions. Most of the costumes are self-made so they take any chance to show off their sewing skills. –  Greenstone Walker May 6 '13 at 21:34
    
I agree that it's exceptionally rare (wondering if I should edit my answer to make that more clear); but I did want to point out that it does happen sometimes. –  thatgirldm May 7 '13 at 0:59
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No.

It's not very common at all. The reason you see it on television and in videos is because it's a distinctive way of showing an interest in "fantasy" and in depicting characters who are extreme in their love of games. Sometimes, you'll see a GM or other moderator wear a funny hat to indicate their position and to mock the serious tone of some fantasy works, but that's generally as a joke. (The "viking hat," for example, or the conical wizard cap.)

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Yeah, I've never been in a group that wore costumes while tabletop gaming, even those who also LARPed and had costumes. –  mxyzplk May 2 '13 at 17:42
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I've known such groups, though never been part of one. They're rare, but exist. –  SevenSidedDie May 2 '13 at 18:12
    
When my tabletop group plays outdoors, I need a hat for sun protection, so I wear the Tudor cap from my Ren Faire costume. –  Bradd Szonye May 7 '13 at 2:24
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It does happen at conventions, but that's largely because the attendees are already in-costume, and you are just as likely to encounter someone wearing a 'Solid Snake' outfit at a D&D table as you are someone wearing a Bard costume.

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Costumes no, props not really but more so.

I've never seen anyone in person wearing a costume while doing tabletop role-playing (of course, I have heard of people doing it, but mostly at cons or in front of an audience). It's just something that is a little above the normal investment required, and even though it's not necessarily harmful to the game few people find it to add very much either.

Props, on the other hand, are frequent enough. I often do these for online groups more than in-person groups, because having a physical prop can be difficult, but if I've got something appropriate lying around I'll bring it, but only as a GM presenting evidence-I don't bring a character's sword to the table to mark how he gestures, but I might bring a note written in-character by an NPC for the players to peruse, sometimes weathered to provide clues or background. For my online groups, I'll draw up the same, or even (though I haven't done this yet since I just acquired the skills to do so) whip up a 3d model for them to look at. For the most part, however, I do these rarely and only for important things (or red herrings), to make things more interesting, and they're not an average session's thing.

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No..., It's not common. However, it's fun to do if you can get away with not letting anyone outside the group see you. Simply because you'll get picked on...

I've personally never played with anyone who has dressed up. Although, when I was 16 I did wear a homemade cloak once while being the DM for D&D.

Wearing stuff can be fun, as long as it doesn't get outta hand. As pissed off as some of my player's would get, I didn't ever allow real weapons to be brought to the campaign. Just for safety's sake...

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Usually it doesn't happen but at times me and my friends can make the costume parties (we represent some of our characters) followed by a game itself. It's a lot of fun, but we don't do it often for obvious reasons :-)

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