Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How Important Are Player Visuals in the Game Sessions You Run?

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan

Tomb of Horrors

Many DCC adventure for 3.5

They include player visuals - snapshots of locations, walls, writings, rooms, monsters, etc - all used to bring the players' interactions more fully into the game session. Or at least, that is the theory.

Do you like these "visual handouts" or not? Why or why not?


  1. I usually like them. I don't think they do much to increase player buy in, but I do think it's nice to be able to hand the players something. Whenever I homebrew, I try to make an artifact to give to the players. I've made journals, missives, sketched villages, etc.

  2. I've always loved having visuals for the players. I keep a big box of cuttings from gaming mags and manuals (you can find tons of cheap ones without covers or in a collection in worn condition) and pick out ones that will go with the adventure I'm running.

  3. Much like the feelies of Infocoms past, hand-outs do tend to help accentuate a narrative, but sometimes they make it hard to wing descriptions when "That doesn't sound like what this looks like" crops up.

  4. I'm always a little conflicted with this--I love to pull out a great picture or something to give the flavor of a place, but one of the reasons I love tabletop games is that everyone can use their imagination to fill in the blanks.

    Sometimes a visual representation falls short, or it paradoxically makes what it represents *less real* because the player doesn't have to do the work of imagining it.

    I guess my answer is "sometimes". I guess I shoot for a suggestive image/prop, rather than a totally descriptive image (also, I never have time to do up really nice props).

  5. I love them though I agree that they generally have marginal utility. The exception, in my view, are handout maps/important diagrams etc.

    This is probably because I cannot draw well enough to compete at the Pre-K level in my local county fair.

  6. "User your imagination dammit. Don't be lazy. Damn kids in their wanting everything handed to them!"

    LOL I don't use much more then some mini's and a map for location.

  7. It's occasionally fun, but not something I find important. I feel the same about props, fun to pull out once in a while but not something I need very often.

  8. Actually drawing a treasure map or a document is fun and useful. Some scene handouts can be nice now and again but differences in style from one to another can be a bit jarring, imagination doesn't change as sharply as two artists styles can.
    Sometimes I'll whip up a quick crude sketch to reduce confusion.

  9. Sometimes a room or location picture is clearer than any prose. I would love to be prepared enough to have a room picture and room map for every room.

  10. I love 'em. I feel it helps a lot with immersion. It is easier to get into character if you can "see" what the character sees. If the characters get a treasure map IC and then you and them the treasure map, they now have used their sense of touch.
    Greater communication comes from engaging the various senses, not just sound (the DM describing the scene). Things become more "real" the more senses are used.

    Are they necessary? No, but I feel they make game play better for them.

  11. I agree with Callin. I love the immersion and it's just plain fun. I always like to handout notes, excerpts from books, and drawn maps, etc. that the PCs find in game. It really pays off later in the campaign when the players come across something familiar, and then the AHA! moment happens as one of them at the table whips out the handout, "Wait! This sounds like what the ole dead wizard wrote on this parchment we found!?" A for sure way for players to engage with a game.


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