#RPGaDay2021 – Day 3 – Image

Today is Tuesday, August 3rd and this is the third day of the thirty-one days of #RPGaDay2021. Our prompt choices today offer Tactic as the prime choice, and Risk, Support, and Image as thematic alternates. As you can see from the title (which totally spoils the unnecessary video below) the random route we took today delivered the prompt: Image.

Day 3

LISTEN to the Casting Shadows Podcast instead.

Random Determination: d8

These sadly take too long to record and upload so this is the last of these videos. Please enjoy it~

A large part of the enjoyment of RPGs for me comes from the experience of imagination – especially when that experience seems strongly visual in nature rather than conjectural or conceptual. The main route to such imaginings lie in navigating and integrating the descriptions and reactions of my fellow players. When travel along this path is smooth and the players can interact with each other in similar or complimentary modes, the images produced in the mind’s eye can be powerful. Often in the styles of play I tend toward these images will differ in substance from player to player though they will remain linked in the specific details which gives that substance form. That said, good description and harmony among the players about the setting and its imagery, may very well produce very similar imaginings spontaneously and independently.

Description does not need to be highly detailed nor does it need to be poetic in order to facilitate mental imagery. What the mind’s eye summons up in response to all that the ear hears can seemingly arise phoenix-like from remarkably little ash of a very common variety. The connection between players and to the subject and setting of play matters more, it seems to me, than to the number or character of the words chosen.

Description does not need to be of a particular length, be that long or short, in order to facilitate imagination. It benefits from a tempo to match the needs of play, and it benefits from being of a tone to match the context of play. It helps if the vocabulary employed is in sync with the subject matter and genre of play, but too much – as with so many things – can spoil the effect and take us in the opposite direction.

Descriptive ability for an RPG is a skill we hone over time, and one we must recalibrate for different games we try and different groups that we join. As it is not only a part of how we speak to each other in play, but a significant part of what we say to each other in play, it is a defining characteristic of how well we will appreciate the play of others and be appreciated in return.

I do not tend to use photographs or illustrations in play. I do not have the talent to draw or in other ways bring out what my imagination paints in response to things in any other way than words. I do not tend to use miniatures or public maps in play. This again puts emphasis on speaking and listening as the principle part of play. This has meant that over the decades I have really come to appreciate how my fellow players communicate their ideas verbally.

It makes magic seem real, despite the ephemeral and illusionary nature of the flickering of an image in the hidden eyes of the mind.

In our Play

Our Saturday group recently embarked on some play in a very low fantasy setting with a scenario simply based on vengeance. The entry points to play for the players were their simple character sheets, my spoken setting pitch, and the descriptions that led to and followed from the events of play. Watch if you will how even in what strikes some as a heavy system, a strong response in the imagination can take root as the experience of the players~

2 Responses to “#RPGaDay2021 – Day 3 – Image”
  1. I do draw (not extremely skilled or anything), and do like to use imagery to help, as I always say, “populate the minds of the players” but images can be very limited. Descriptive words, on the other hand, can be quick and dynamic. You can conjure one—or a few—and make an action scene that more exciting. Or to give that NPC a characteristic that the players will undoubtedly remember.
    Words can betray you, though. As players can be very suspicious of that very pale and young-looking NPC, that other one with the bushy eyebrows or pointy goatee… But as game masters and storytellers, I think we can even take advantage on that, reshaping the story around those characters. Again, words being way more dynamic than printed images.

    • Oops, forgot to say and I wish I could edit my previous post, but book or magazine illustrations, in covers, on the inside, and even those found in catalogs have helped me a lot in coming up with ideas for adventures, and for specific scenes in my games, so… Yeah, both have their place.

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