Costuming and cosplay has always been a large part of many conventions. People put a lot time and effort into their costumes. They want to ensure that their cosplay meets their expectations. An intrinsic part of many costumes is their props. After all, would you recognize an Old Man Logan without his claws? The Doctor without his sonic screwdriver or a TARDIS? Doctor Octopus without his tentacles? Without those props, you don’t have context and they are just a person in a suit. For many, the props are simply an accessory to complete the look of their character; they may not be essential for the character’s identification, but they lend an air of authenticity to the character.
The problem is that many props are not appropriate, safe or legal for a gathering in a public location. Most conventions have their weapon and props policies clearly listed on their website and you should make yourself familiar with them before you go, or maybe even before you start construction of a special cosplay.
Please keep in mind that each convention has their own set of rules. What applies at one location may not apply at another.
The basics of most weapon and prop policies boil down to:
Don’t Be An Idiot
Live weapons of any sort should be left at home. Which means no swords, no guns, no ammunition, no knives, no bladed weapons of any sort whether it is a throwing star or a scythe. Many conventions frown on Airsoft weapons.
- If you have a prop gun, apply orange tape or paint to the tip.
- Disable all projectile weapons such as crossbows, bows, dart guns, water pistols, silly-string guns, and ping-pong pistols etc…
- No explosives, pyrotechnics, smoke or bubbles (though some cons will allow on a limited basis)
- If your prop or weapon is metal, then odds are pretty good that it won’t make it through the inspection of a major con, so you might want to reconsider what material you make it out of.
Just because your item has been to twenty other conventions without a problem, that doesn’t mean it is going to automatically get through the next one. Policies change, and that change is frequently because of something that happened at another convention or another pubic event.
Conventions Have a Right to Inspect Your Props
All conventions reserve the right to inspect your props and determine if they are allowable. If your prop passes inspection, it will frequently be tagged with a zip tie or wrap of some sort. These ties need to be visible and secure on the prop so I suggest that you possibly plan your prop with a specific area you would like that tag attached and politely ask the inspector if they can tag it there.
If you are patient, polite, and friendly when your prop is inspected, they are more likely to cooperate. Yes, you will on occasion encounter the tired, grumpy, or bad attitude inspector, but hassling them isn’t going to help your case. If you feel you or your prop have been mistreated, then ask for a supervisor and stand aside until the supervisor arrives. It may be a while as there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other props being inspected. The wait gives you time to frame your case so you can calmly and politely explain your problem.
For reference, here are the direct links to several conventions prop policies. Unfortunately, many of the sites have the policies tied in with their FAQ and you need to scroll down the page, but all of them have the same basic rules with some minor regional or insurance dictated variances.
And remember to use common sense. If you have any doubt whether your prop will be admitted, then it might be best to leave it behind, or at least be prepared to walk back to your car.