Monday, April 2, 2018

Constructing a Visual Summary of a Hex-Crawl Region in 30 Images

In my time running games, one of the issues I've come across is communicating setting information to the players. For my settings I usually write up a Primer(Old Setting) of 4-5 pages which provides information to the characters about the setting. These provide information their characters would already know, and can answer the more common questions about the setting. While my Primer of Valiant and the Answers to 20 Questions give the players a sense of information about the world their characters inhabit there is still a disconnect in how I see and attempt to communicate Valiant and how they visualize it. Players are loath to read information provided by the referee about the world prior to starting and most information conveyed is described as a contrast to the norm. However, the norm is rarely presented. 

A week ago I asked the players of my in-person game how they visualized the setting and the answers I got back didn't match what I was trying to communicate. We were on the same page in terms of tone and themes but there was a big divergence in what each player visualized. One player imagined the setting as a "Generic Medieval European" setting, another imagined it as "Dark Gloomy Renaissance", while the last described it as "Viking Scandinavia + Backstabbing". This made me take time to consider how I was communicating things and I thought about just showing visual elements in order to show get on the same page visually. Below is a procedure to create a "visual summary" for your players to be on the same page as you.

Author's Note: Honestly, this is kinda irrelevant in the game as it probably won't change anything now, but going forward I can see saving me a great deal of energy. 

In my opinion, the following 30 images allow a referee to communicate the vast majority of a setting which is glossed over in primers. This visual summary would allow the players to draw inspiration for their visualizations of their game from how the referee envisions it, reducing the divergence of what the Referee describes and what the PC's see. Further some each of these images answers implicit questions about the setting. The Visual Summary of my setting is present below as well

Necessary Images in your Visual Summary

People: 3 Images

1. Man 
2. Woman 
3. Child

Society: 6 Images

4. Farmer
5. Warrior
6. Sage
7. Priest
8. Merchant
9. Noble

Places: 11 Images

10. Plains
11. Swamps
12. Hills
13. Mountains
14. Waters
15. Forest
16. Village
17. Town
18. City
19. Keep
20. Ruin

Cultural: 10 Images

21. Festival
22. Wedding
23. Funeral
24. Home
25. Ship
26. Clothes
27. Coin
28. Food
29. Jewelry
30. Art

Visual Summary of Valiant






  1. I like this idea a lot, but I'm curious how you go about finding images that match your vision; presumably a lot of trial and error, and refining of keywords related to real-life concepts (eg, "Eastern Orthodox priest")?

    Might also be worth throwing in a few more, like elf, dwarf, monster, dragon, if you have a vision for those consistent with the setting.

    1. It's a lot of compromising between ideals and what I find on google image search. (All those images were found in 3 hours of googling.) I try to think of media that had an aesthetic I could borrow and then search for that. The goal is to give players info so I try to find things that would be memorable or could be reinforced through multiple people. Like there are viking longships in multiple pictures which would reinforce the boat types in the game. The goal isn't fidelity to my vision but rather tools I can use to move the players towards it.

      My games are super Humanocentric (like players can only play as a dwarf or elf if they have one as a hireling/retainer and their character dies in a dungeon) and for monsters I try to keep them hidden until encountered and give good descriptions.

  2. This is an interesting post and has prompted me to reflect on my own worldbuilding. The use of images gives a feel to your world that descriptions may struggle to do. However the fact that images are generic Google sourced could weaken the uniqueness of your ideas.

  3. Wow, really inspiring, makes me want to blog again.

  4. Oooh, I'm gonna have to try this.

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