Friday, August 7, 2015

(More) Why You Should Be Using Powerpoints and Pictures in Your Games...

Want to run a game of immortal intrigue, with a large cast of scheming NPCs?
 

A "cast of characters" map - with memorable pictures - really helps.  This is from the "St. Louis by Night" Vampire (V20) game I'm currently running. 

Sure, you can (and should) describe the creepy, yet somehow honorable, Eastern European Gangrel Wolfgang Von Rorza.  But if you throw up a slide showing this...



...something magical happens.  I just look at that picture, and instantly know how I want to role play him.  I know how he talks.  I know how he looks at you.  And, most importantly, its memorable. 

The players - who have been deluged with literally hundreds of different NPCs over the campaign - know exactly who Wolfgang is.  We, as human beings, are hard-wired to remember faces.  Because they matter.  Why not take advantage of that?

Another crazy Malkavian?  Easy, here's Felix...



One more?  Sure, meet Bernice and (in the game at least) her incredibly life-like doll...



I can (and should) describe how the nighttime road in 1929 St. Louis looks to my players.  But throwing up a picture from that time really sets the mood in an almost indescribable way.



Google image search is an incredibly powerful tool for GMs.  And with just an old laptop and a spare computer monitor (relatively cheap these days), adding visuals to your game, and displaying them to your players, is super easy.

There are also some other incredible tools available, the kind of stuff I could only dream about when I was back in college, making handouts by drawing pictures and soaking them in tea to give them that "antique" look. 

My current favorite is a nifty set of PDFs called Mutable Deceptions, Volume I:  Jazz Age Newspapers, from Cthulhu Reborn (cthulhureborn.wordpress.com).   Go buy this right now.  Basically, an easy-to-use set of PDFs that allow you to create newspaper handouts in just minutes.  Here's one I put together for my V20 game, that took all of 5 minutes, including the time it took to find a picture of an old building burning down.



Visuals are also great for "court" or "meetings," where a lot of different NPCs are present.  Rather than force the players to keep asking "who is here?" over and over, you can just throw together a quick slide that conveys all that information at a glance.  Going to a meeting of the vampire primogen?  Who is there to talk to?  Easy, just look at the screen...



I also love visuals for the "gross out" effect.  Especially in a horror game.  My players recently began negotiating with a very sketchy Tzimisce "fleshcrafter."  And, as luck would have it, they decided to visit his house.  Well, if you've played the old Vampire: Bloodlines videogame, you know that has to lead to awfulness.  But the reaction to this was priceless...



Bonus points if you recognize the movie this is from.  In my powerpoint, it is actually an animated gif where the people writhe in unspeakable agony.  But, hey, I'm not very tech-savvy.