Basic Training: Take a Picture

Here is a simple idea to help any DM who wants to add a more enticing description of the scenery in his/her game. Many DMs use what is called “box text” to describe a scene. Box text is a quick description of a room or scene written before a session or published in an adventure. Box text usually contains important information about a scene with a bit of extra description for flavor. Many people skip or alter box text because they feel it is dry and some what bland. It can be very hard to read other people’s words and not sound like a bad high school speech. So for those looking for a different way to deal with box text .

Instead of writing up large amounts of boxed text for room or encounter area descriptions a DM/GM should try finding an image of what he/she is trying to describe. A DM/GM should keep all of the images he/she has found behind the DMs screen or saved in an easy to access place on his/her computer. When the players enter that area the DM/GM shouldn’t show them the image he/she has chosen to use as inspiration; instead the DM should look at the picture and begin describing what he/she sees.

The basic principal behind this idea is sold; boxed text can sound dry but descriptions of pictures and vivid memories are often full of colorful descriptors and detail. Having the image as a “cheat sheet” will help the DM to describe a room or scene in a way that it might feel more alive to the players. This method might not work for everyone but for those who are looking for a good alternative to the joy of dry reading box text a quick Google image search could prove a huge asset to his/her game.
I personally have begun to take pictures while I am out hiking. Many of the forest location that I have been traveling to would make awesome spots for encounters or role play events. As I am about to begin a new Dresden Files campaign I plan on taking a stroll around the city to take some pictures of areas I think might have some significance.
Keep in mind that not every room or scene will have a corresponding image. The internet is an amazing place but it can’t always keep up with a DM/GM’s imagination. It’s also true that not everyone will benefit from this method, for some a picture offers the same amount of help as pre-written box text. Every DM/GM should try to find a method that works best for him/her.

Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.

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About Thadeousc

Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.
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2 Responses

  1. Agreed, there is a lot of evocative artwork out there, and it’s a resource we should use as GMs to help describe scenes.

    Not everyone is a natural verbal storyteller, and not every group has great listeners, either, so like a lot of things, it’s good to gauge the type of players and GM you are, and adjust how you present information for maximum absorption and impact.

  2. That’s an awesome idea. I’ve used the technique before of showing pictures, but it’s always suffered when it wasn’t quite right. Using the picture as a memory aid could be awesome. Especially because you can annotate it, cross out bits that don’t belong, and add quick icons to show bits that are in the scene but not in the drawing. The players don’t want to see those notes, but this way, they don’t have to.

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