I was running a campaign of the Cubicle 7 Dr Who Adventures in Time and Space RPG when my group started to get a real habit of using props to represent their characters.
It started with a hammer, as we had one laying around and The Student (our Time Lord) had a cosmic hammer instead of a sonic screwdriver. Steve, the player of The Student, kept it around and was fidgeting with it a lot. Shaun, another member of the group, started out playing a pre-career David Bowie until he felt he needed to change it up. He took on the role of a gambler from the future who was on the run from debt collectors. To represent how different his character was from the last one, he reached around for something to use. We didn’t really use miniatures as I’ve been a big theatre of the mind person for years now. He grabbed some 3D cinema glasses as we had a small stack of them floating around, despite never remembering to take them the few times we watched a 3D movie. That became his character instantly. He wasn’t just a gambler, but he was a gambler with hi-tech sunglasses he never took off whether he was indoors or in the 16th century. People treated him a little oddly for it, but it was an affectation encouraged by the prop. We also had a time agent who’d had all memories of his successful missions wiped and his time traveller wrist thingie (I forget the name) broken so he could travel through space but not time. He kept looking at his watch as his equivalent to the shades. Finally we had Parker who didn’t have anything, but that suited his character. Parker was a big old scoop of vanilla ice cream with no real traits or desires other than to watch action movies and order take-out, making him the perfect straight man to the rest of the cast.
As a further note, I like the idea of some kind of representation of characters in games. I don’t really use miniatures on a grid or anything, but if folks want to bring them along to represent their characters then that’s cool. After a game of Monsterhearts at Dragonmeet by the fantastic Richard Williams, I copied his idea of putting a bunch of actors and models’ headshots onto index cards and using those as character pawns. Even better, rotating the same stacks meant a kind of meta-continuity between them where folks would begin to associate some characters with certain roles. I feel having a physical prop like a pair of sunglasses, gloves (I’ve had that happen before) and other items as some kind of reminder of the character to be an evocative tool. For Shaun, wearing the sunglasses meant we knew we were talking to his character.