I have long been a gamer, and I remember in my younger days begging my mom to take me to the local gaming store so I could pick up (or at least at) the latest copy of Dragon Magazine, or it’s little sister Dungeon. While the articles were insightful and a good read, more often than not, I could not wait to see the art. The art used for the articles, the art used for ads, the cover, hell anywhere they put an image, I was looking.
Having recently rediscovered a love for gaming through MapTool and most recently the Swords and Wizardry:Whitebox rules, I began looking through the far too many role-playing PDF files I have here with me on my laptop. I was also afforded an opportunity to review a newer RPG magazine called Kobold Quarterly, you can read my review here. Having to read all the articles was something new for me, as in the past I typically scanned them all and read maybe two or three in the book. What I was after was the art!
I have to say, in the past TSR and then WotC really wowed me with their art. The stuff WotC were producing around the turn of the century really was amazing (yeah, it did get a little too fanboi at times, but it still was awesome to look at). Now it seems Paizo has taken up that charge, they certainly have some really great looking products.
The above image is from one of their products (I will admit here that I do not own this one) I just lovelooking at the artwork. Stunning, though I do wonder about the blue lady wearing flips flops….when were those invented? 😉 I can easily see this young lady showing up in a campaign I might run. Sure the players would enjoy meeting her.
As a GM, I am always looking and thinking about things around me that I can ‘steal’ for a game I might run. I seriously must have a mental problem because I make mental notes frequently about “Oh that would be cool” or “I have to make a NPC based off that jackass!” Works fairly well when you base the game world on the real world around you, certainly adds to the realism and I believe players can connect more readily with a game when it is grounded in reality and has artwork.
Artwork, you ask? Yes, I have always been a GM that throws in table props to add to the immersion players feel, to help make them connect with the world their players are living in. My Sylnae campaign I ran in the late 90s was a absolute joy to run and I used endless numbers of stolen artwork (I have skills in design, but in actual drawing….no so much) to help add to the players view of the world. When describing some major badass, the players rely solely upon the story-telling ability of the GM to affect their view of the world. Now, I guess I am a decent GM because people are always asking me to run a game, so I must be doing something correct, but as the saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I full agree.
For example, if GMing a game, I might attempt to describe the guy to the left:
“Suddenly a massive figure in red armor steps into view. Two pair of massive horns rise atop his angry head and his armor is adorned with magical swirls of the ancient Qe’lnik rune language. Before him rests a truly massive, red sword. It is nearly as tall as him, clearly weighs a ton, and has magical fire dancing across its surface. He grunts at you angrily and lifts the massive sword.”
OK, not to shabby on the fly, but if I merely say a fraction of the above, and then show the players that fraking image of him….done. They know he is a badass. They know how much of a badass. And they know the shit is about to hit the fan. If Vin Diesel was a angry red demon….yeah, its him.
In the later years of my GMing career I game solely online, mainly due to my career in the Army moving me about so much, finding a long running gaming group that shares your goals and ideas is difficult enough, try doing it when you are uprooted every three years and move across the country. MapTool has allowed me to reconnect with friends and form new friendships, some lasting five, or ever eight years now. (My wife would argue that they are not my friends, but I will leave that to another post.) SO with the added ability to drop one of these images right on the token I am using on the map in MapTool and have this image pop up when the players mouse over the token…well, the art ups the ante ten fold. Now they players know they are in trouble, and some are looking for that blank character sheet….just in case.
So to end this over long post, if you have never tried a few props in the form of a few pieces of art to show players during a game, you certainly should. Your game, and your players, will thank you for the much more rewarding and imagined world you make for them.
Links to some more of the awesome art coming from this excellent company: