View Full Version : DM Help Describe or show picture?

2014-11-09, 05:51 AM
Alright, so a DMs job can be very hard - you have to conjure a main questline, think about character quests and encounters tailored to their background, and study and write all those god damn statistics. For the most immersion, you also need to describe as much as possible the surroundings, the creatures and the NPCs.

Now, while I am somewhat articulate, it's hard to think about both the plot development, the creature statistics, the dialogues and how everything looks.

My question is: Should I use pictures whenever I can? From time to time I'll find a good picture using google that illustrates the forest the party is in well enough, or the waitress npc they'll be chatting with for most of the night, or a creature from the monster manual. I know that words can be a better source of immersion (since the party is picturing it in their mind instead of looking at it on the screen), but is it a lot worse to simply show them a picture via tablet?

2014-11-09, 08:51 AM
I have found that my players respond well to pictures when used in a restrained matter. Don't have a picture for everything, but if you are going to introduce 3-4 NPC's that are semi-important then have pictures for them. At the same time finding pictures for what you want to show can place an extra burden on you as the DM, so consider if you want to spend those extra hours finding images for the wizened elf or the polite barbarian that your players are going to meet.

Honest Tiefling
2014-11-09, 10:45 AM
I think this is a matter of taste, so you'll only know if you try. Some people will react well, others won't, so give it a whirl and get feedback from your group.

The only real problem I can foresee is that it would be hard to improvise. I suggest getting some portraits and pictures for generic areas for when the PCs inevitably do something unpredictable. They might for instance, decide to frame a random merchant, so you might want to flesh him out as opposed to just making it a few rolls.

2014-11-09, 12:33 PM
If i'm referring to a monster, there's a reasonable chance that I'll end up using a picture rather than a description, or a picture accompanying a description. I generally find it less easy to visualise monsters, particularly if they deviate from standard biped template much. Terrain and scenery however will always be described.

2014-11-10, 08:30 AM
I like to use some pictures, but mostly for things that are hard to describe, or for general things, but never for NPCs, and rarely for monsters.
Last I showed what the picture of a city, because the party get to the city with a view from upward, and it could be used for them to handle where were the positions of different points of interests.
So yeah, maps, weird creatures (kuo-toas), things like that.

2014-11-10, 08:53 AM
In the past I've done both, but only for monsters (and often I'll draw them myself, because I love drawing monsters).

But I also would usually avoid calling the monster by name too unless a PC could identify it, part of what I was doing was preventing a bit of metagaming from certain players.

Red Fel
2014-11-10, 10:17 AM
But I also would usually avoid calling the monster by name too unless a PC could identify it, part of what I was doing was preventing a bit of metagaming from certain players.

This is a big piece, for me. If your players have a tendency to metagame, showing a picture may well lead to arguments.

Player: What do you mean Turn Undead didn't work? That was clearly a picture of a Zombie!
DM: No, the monster wasn't Undead. In fact, it was a Human afflicted with a rather nasty plague.
Player: But the picture was of a Zombie! I should have been able to use Turn Undead! You're cheating!

I think pictures can be really nice, if you have the patience and talent to draw/find them, for major, climactic scenes, villains, or panoramic views. There are times that words fail. ("They should have sent a poet.")

But there are other times, like when running tense horror, when words are more valuable, because nothing you can draw or sketch or locate on the intarwebs can compare with the nightmares your players create in their heads. The right combination of adjectives can turn a common imp into a dire fiend from the deepest pits, an ordinary mechanical drone into something that would give a Terminator nightmares, an ordinary but rabid dog into a fearsome foaming wolf with a dread malice in its yellowed eyes. Showing a picture removes some of the mystery, "Oh, it's just that, okay. That's a relief."

I remember one poster on these forums (I cite to this one a lot, I really should find the link) who described the summoning ritual for an imp so graphically, in such gruesome detail, that the players were gripped with absolute terror any time the little bugger showed up. It was an imp, for crying out loud, one of the lowest forms of Evil Outsider, and the players were convinced it was the incarnation of all mortal evil. That DM couldn't have done it if he showed them a picture, because imps look kind of ridiculous (http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/MM35_gallery/MM35_PG51.jpg).

Behold the power of words, my friend.

2014-11-10, 10:37 AM
This is a big piece, for me. If your players have a tendency to metagame, showing a picture may well lead to arguments.

No actually pictures have never led to arguments for me, I don't DM anymore, but I doubt I'd play with someone who'd get quarrelsome over a picture/description.

2014-11-10, 10:37 AM
I like describing the picture, especially if it's something I've drawn. The reason for this is that one of my weaknesses as GM is that I have trouble coming up with enough description. I'm prone to telling the PCs they get attacked by a dude. If they're lucky they get a race, but there's no way I'm telling them weapons unless asked.

The way I've tricked myself to fix this is to draw what they'll see and not let myself show them. If I've gone to the trouble to draw detail, I want the players to appreciate the detail and end up verbalizing it. I know not everyone has this problem, but it definitely helps me.