Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dressing up the Gaming Table, Part 2

Have you given any thought to using maps, miniatures, music and props to enhance gaming sessions? Have you immediately dismissed those thoughts as too time consuming and expensive? In the is series of articles, I'll go over the benefits and pitfalls of introducing visual and mood-enhancing elements, and give you my take on what works and doesn't work for me.

This is the second in a series of articles addressing using game-aids, such as props, maps and miniatures.

 Part the Second: How and why I Dressed up the Table. How and why I didn't Dress up the Table.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dressing up the Gaming Table, Part 1

Have you given any thought to using maps, miniatures, music and props to enhance gaming sessions? Have you immediately dismissed those thoughts as too time consuming and expensive? In the is series of articles, I'll go over the benefits and pitfalls of introducing visual and mood-enhancing elements, and give you my take on what works and doesn't work for me.

This is the first in a series of articles addressing using game-aids, such as props, maps and miniatures.

First, let's talk about... me.

I'm a long-time gamer. I played my first D&D game in the summer of '78, at the tender age of 14. Before that time, I had played historical wargames with my friends, and D&D was a fantastical extension of that hobby. At the time, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings were all the rage, and we wanted to slug it out between the elves, dwarves, men and orcs. We were primed for something more than the Civil War, Western Front, or the Battle of the Bulge. In the Summer of '78 my main gaming buddy Mike took a trip to the beach, and came back with the news. He played of another sort of game that might compliment our need to kill orcs - and it was called Dungeons & Dragons. It came in a little white box, but there were beginner versions of the game. We invested in the basic D&D set, the one with the "blue book" and "wax" dice. I bought the one with the Dungeon Geomorphs, and Mike bought the one with "B1, In Search of the Unknown". From there it was a race to buy modules and miniatures and play, play, play. We wargamed from time to time, but D&D was the game in the spotlight.

Fast forward 33 years. My gaming career had dovetailed with a historical reenacting career. When I was playing one, I had sold everything from the other to finance it. Then finally my body told me one day "I'm through with reenacting". To the current time that I restarted roleplaying again, I had played mainly 1st and 2nd Edition D&D, was just starting into playing 3rd Edition, had played Top Secret, Call of Cthulhu, Traveller, and some Morrow Project. I dabbled in GURPS, and Gamma World/Metamorphosis Alpha. During that time, I seen what worked, and what didn't. I pondered why, and came up with a few answers. In playing Call of Cthulhu, I found I loved dark atmosphere. I also found I liked mood music and props in most of the few D&D and CoC games I got to play in. I liked to paint miniatures. The only thing was... that I never used  miniatures to any considerable amount. I had at one time, tons of unpainted minis like most gamers, but really lacked the time to paint them all.

So, late in my gaming career, I decided to wipe the slate clean and try again. I wanted to dress up my gaming table and do it right.

Bringing my experience to bear, as best I could, I devised a plan to start using minis, maps, music and props and anything else I could muster a mood. So this article is also a recounting of what I tried and what strategy I've devised to bring all the fun back to the table.


Part the One: Discovering I Have Limits when it comes to the Gaming Table