Part of the draw of tabletop RPGs is their physical nature; rolling dice, unfurling battlematts, and doodling on your character sheet are all a great part of the experience. But I’ve found that using one set of technology has made running games so much better, and it doesn’t get in the way of the physical game. It’s simple: use a TV Screen and Speakers to set the scene with art and music. Immersing your players in a fantastical world is one of the most important and challenging aspects of RPGs. Though it’s possible to set the scene using only your words, it puts a lot of work on players to picture an entire world in their head. People’s minds aren’t made to keep track of complex scenes: studies have consistently shown that short term memory can only keep track of four to seven items at once. Take some of the mental burden off your players by setting the scene with visual and audio aids; For every major scene you expect your players to encounter, find one piece of artwork that depicts the scene, and one music or sound effect loop that captures the mood you want. Put each piece of art on a slide of a powerpoint presentation, and have each soundtrack play while on that slide. During your adventure, bring up the slides, and switch to whichever one captures the current scene the best. With very little prep, you have a great tool for immersing your players in your world!

Ideally, you only need to prep three slides at most. If you expect to have more scenes, see if you can make slides that can be used across multiple scenes. If you want to do a bit more prep work after making your scene slides, find art for several important characters and objects, and drop them into your slides on top of your scene images. Having important characters and items up on the screen ensures your players won’t lose track of what’s important. Also, if you provide images of what NPCs look like, players can remember your characters much more easily. 

Although I’m generally against bringing tech to the tabletop, I’ve found that this one addition has added a lot of value to my games with only a small amount of prep required.

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2 Comments

  1. I like this idea. It sounds like you’re a bit “old school” when it comes to tabletop RP gaming. That’s a good thing. But yes, the ability to play a bit of music for mood and show pictures of people, places and monsters would really help with immersion.
    I know this because my current game is online using Fantasy Grounds. One of the best things I can do any given game night is provide some sort of visual aid for the players. It has been a great help for engagement. Great post and good advice.

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    1. Thanks! I was tempted to put a P.S. at the end of this saying “If youre playing online, no TV needed!”, sounds like you’re already doing that!
      I usually try to run in-person games when I can, but I think I would really enjoy online games If I put tools like Fantasy Grounds/Tabletop Simulator to good use.

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