Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Discussion: What, if any, visual aides do you use?

I was speaking to a guy at work and it turns out that we both had some hobbies in common. The big one was RPGs. However, while my group sticks to table top pen and paper fantasy and sci-fi games, his group seems to prefer more table top miniatures war gaming with some RP mixed in. It was an interesting conversation and it got me thinking about just how vast and wide this hobby is. Then I thought about it a bit smaller scale. Even in "normal" (I use the word very loosely) rpgs there are games that use grids, maps, and miniatures to represent things.

Outside of those games, sometimes people use maps and miniatures anyhow just to make sense of combat at times. Others use computer projections and art. Some draw crude maps and rely on verbal descriptions.

My question for you today is what do you use for visual aides, if any, when running your games? Personally I keep my games primarily in my players' heads as much as possible but I have been known - especially for the Shadowrun game where it matters - to draw a map of a building or two to see what is going on with something or for them to plan their attack.

How about you? What does your group use? Does it work? Have you tried anything different? Sound off in the comments and let us know.


  1. Maps are always useful, especially when you have a combat situation with a lot of PCs/NPCs.
    I've found that photos for NPCs are a great way of giving them character immediately. If you use photos of actors, you have to be careful not to send the wrong message. Giving a good guy the face of Charles Dance/Tywin Lannister might not be such a smart move.

    I don't use that in the game, but if I prepare a location, I search for similar real-life locations. It gets my imagination running and helps me smooth out any logistical problems I might have.

  2. My group tends to like using battlemats & miniatures for combats, unless perhaps it's going to be particularly quick & dirty or the situation is difficult to recreate on a mat.

    I would love to have better visuals. My miniatures decently represent what the PCs & their adversaries would generally look like, but they're not painted and there's not nearly enough variety in them. If anyone knows of any very reasonably priced painted science-fiction miniatures - drop me a line :-). (Yes, I know I could paint mine - the time factor is the obstacle, especially since I'm not particularly artistic.)

    As long as we're just spitballing here, miniature "accessories" could add a lot too, I think. So if a character is wounded/bloodied you could have something small & red to put on/drape onto the miniature to represent that. I saw something like that at a Con recently to represent was pretty cool and added a lot visually. It was its own miniature with its own platform that had a cone of flames and a 25mm miniature fit perfectly standing in the cone. There's all sorts of possibilities for that - pools of blood, dropped weapons, walls of flame, maybe even a 25mm door to represent a key door they're trying to get open & are pinned against.

    I've toyed with the idea of having a computer monitor set-up during the session to be able to show pictures of things: NPCs, cities, ships, items, etc. I've also considered using a portable computer projector to put those images on an available wall.

    Audio props is another good topic...for another post.