Visuals at the Gaming Table

For those of you that GM games, do you find you players want or need to have visuals at the table? Some of players love them, but I go either way. I grew up in a time when we did not have them, but today there are so many resources out there. Players, what are your thoughts on visual elements during the games you play in? Here’s my thoughts on some of the options available out there.

Miniatures: Today, you can buy a wide variety of pre-painted miniatures to adorn your table with. While I have some and have used them in the past, I find that storage can be a problem for me. Hiding them at the table can be a bit of a challenge as well. Miniatures are still a player’s favorite because of the rich colors and 3D look helps with spacial relationships. As of late there has been a ressurgence of cardboard standups. Personally, I think these are a great alternative to miniatures. This is my latest preference.

3D Terrain: The market is dominated by two types of terrain for RPGs, resin cast dungeon or building terrain and card stock models. Both of these terrain options offer a wide variety of variability for the GM. It should be noted that they are not the only terrain options on the market. They are just the most common in fantasy and modern RPGs. All-in-all terrain is a great way to really make the game “pop” at the table. Storage is the predominate issue. I have a friend that has a 6′ bookshelf dedicated to nothing but Dwarven Forge terrain; definately a storage issue. Card stock terrain, from companies like World Works Games or a similar companies are very difficult to store. Many are not designed to fold flat and for those that are designed to fold flat, you will likely wear out the corners/folds much faster.

Computer Assisted: Several tech savvy GMs that I know have begun introducing computer generated maps that are projected onto the play area on which traditional miniatures are used. While this not an area I can feasibly move into, I do think the idea is great. At least you can cut back on the cost of buying gridded, full art, mats. The visual appeal here is pretty cool!

I have found over the past few months that I am moving away from using visuals at the table and opting for a more old school, mind’s eye, approach to my gaming sessions. What is your preference as a GM and as a player?



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