Signature Device

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
A stethoscope - the family doctor's Signature Device.

There's almost no such thing as a person having an occupation - be they mundane, fantastic, heroic, or villainous - without some form of recognizable implement that's important and often necessary for them to serve their role, and as such these items tend to be handy in readily identifying them. The Signature Device is a tool, weapon, or object that all members of a certain group (usually Differently Powered Individuals) possess. Sometimes it's a Transformation Trinket; sometimes it's an iconic tool of their profession.

Naturally, if an organization or faction uses these as means of identification, they tend to consider it a vendetta-worthy offense for an outsider to be seen with one. Even if it was not pried out of the cold dead fingers of a legitimate owner.

Iconic Item is a personal counterpart. Also compare with National Weapon.

Not to be confused with the Autopen, a device for signatures.

Sub-Tropes include:

Examples of Signature Device include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books


  • Star Wars: Lightsabers, for Jedi; Sith Lords use them too, usually with red blades.
  • By later James Bond films, the Walther PPK becomes one for Bond even in universe, as noted by GoldenEye. A large part of this is that it is over half a century out of date (Bond being the only reason it's produced anymore) and in a low power caliber that never took off outside of western Europe. It never reached this status in the original books since by Ian Fleming's death they were still floating around as untraceable surplus from World War II and easily obtained by any spy agency in the world.

Walther PPK, 7.65 millimetre. Only three men I know use such a gun... and I believe I've killed two of them.

  • The Neuralyzer, for the eponymous Men in Black from the MIB films.


  • The Three Musketeers all use rapiers. Not muskets, ironically. And in most adaptations, Nice Hats with plumes.
  • In the Dresden Files, the silver, anti-magic sword and unstainable grey cloak of the Wardens is this.
    • Played with - focii help focus a wizard's magic in large part because they believe it will. However, there are also items imbued with power. Harry's are the staff and wand and duster (and gun).
    • Wizards robes are both a symbol of office and needed because magic interferes with electronics, including heaters.
  • In the Sword of Truth books it's the ... Sword of Truth. For the Seeker of Truth.
    • At the palace of the prophets, the Rada'Han is this for wizards.
    • Confessors' dresses.
    • Higher-rank wizards wear simpler clothes.
    • Defenders of the Lord Rahl wear special weapons with his crest.
    • War Wizards' gear is this.
    • The rings in the lips of the female slaves of the Imperial Order.
    • Darken Rahl's curved knife.
    • The Mord-Sith Agiel. Various colors of leather outfits, too.

Live-Action TV

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons and Dragons settings often use such trinkets - some magical, some not.
    • Holy symbols. They almost never are exclusive for clergy - sometimes lay worshipers wear them as a sign of devotion - but practically anyone wearing what you recognize as a holy symbol of some deity almost certainly either is a priest thereof or at least belongs to the church hierarchy.
    • Drow nobles get House Insignia - an amulet with their heraldic device and some magical powers, mostly of utility sort. Typically they double as magical "keys" for most security magic on their estate(s), obedience enchantments on mounts, and so on - and are booby-trapped, so that an outsider who took one from the rightful owner's body faces a nasty curse rather than freebies.
    • Forgotten Realms has enchanted pins used by Harpers. Cormyr has common enchanted items for army (Purple Dragon's ring, Commander's ring) and War Wizards (War Wizard's cloak) that double as a "badge" of office and "pass card", in that they are compatible keys to certain generic wards (such as barracks and armories) enforcing different levels of security clearance. Witches of Rashemen have their enchanted masks - though there's a wide variety of those, they have a common recognizable look.
    • Al-Qadim got amulets of sorcerous societies. Again, those are both used as identification marks and have magic keyed on them, starting from the spell broadcasting a message (used mostly as a request for help) to all bearers of the amulet in range.
  • Deathwatch has items specific for a Chapter of Space Marines, including "Chapter Trappings" — mostly heraldry, mementos or miscellaneous gear granting minor bonuses (e.g. Raven Guard may carry Helmet Picter to review footage after the mission and possibly grant all participants extra XP), though also including ceremonial-yet-functional weapons, like Ceremonial Sword of the Dark Angels or Sacris Claymore of the Storm Wardens.


Video Games

Western Animation

  • The Guardians and their keytools in ReBoot
  • The communicators designed by Robin and Cyborg in Teen Titans, which actually serve as a plot point.
  • The Assault Weapon Systems in Centurions.

Real Life

  • Most stock costumes, which are themselves generally examples of Truth in Television. Particularly:
    • Scrubs, stethoscopes and clipboards for doctors
    • Guns and badges for police officers
    • Cellphones, PDAs or Bluetooth headsets for businessmen
  • The beak-like leather masks (filled with "protective" aromatic/medicinal herbs) worn by medieval doctors during periods of plague.
  • The "square and compass" symbol of the Freemasons is made up of two signature tools of stonemasons.
  • Daishō, matched pair of long and short blades (mostly katana plus wakizashi, but any sword plus tantō fits too) were signature weapons of the samurai. After "sword hunt" and for more than two centuries this was legally formalized and enforceable as both privilege and duty.