Art in Gaming

The world is a visual place, and the same is true of your campaign world. Speaking as a game designer, art is one of the most important aspects of a game. Don’t believe me? Crack open a Monty Cook game or your PHB: high-quality art is everywhere, and it brings up immediate responses from viewers. Set pieces like Horror on the Orient Express and most of the popular Pathfinder games also come to mind. At the campaign level, if you have access to good art you can convey a better story. I can't even think of a character that I haven’t tried to draw at the gaming table.

I could pull out a book on visual culture to bore you, but I think all humans realize that art conveys complex ideas quickly in ways that prose may not. In the gaming world, this helps create immersion and supports verisimilitude in the game world. In general, game art is used in three key ways: you have cartography (maps), encounter sketches, and character sketches.

The demand for maps is the demand to understand your character's place in the world, and should not be overlooked. Most maps start off in the GM’s hands, but by the end of an adventure they end up in the players' hands. The map allows us to root our characters in the world we're creating along with everyone else at the table.

Encounter sketches give us information of what has occurred, what is occurring and what may occur, in a particular location.

Character sketches (including NPC/Monster sketches) bring the world’s inhabitants to life, so we can better understand those we interact with. From love to horror, from power to beauty, from lost to found; art brings your world to life

Obtaining this art can be easy or as complex as you like. There are tons of art resources out there on the internet, and these can be shared online or at the table. As I said, I sketch things all the time, though I admit I am no artist and these sketches are mostly for my own use. You might find the artist in your group; many groups have an artist in residence. Some will be happy to work for free to make the game better, but it's never a bad idea to give your artist friends a little extra cash. Finally, you can hire an artist to do a sketch for you. This can be quite inexpensive if you're talking an occasional small piece. If you want the art to support your work, it only stands to reason that you should support the arts in return.

Art has been a big part of gaming ever since the beginning. Adding art that is new and unique to your setting will expand the way your table interacts with your campaign. If you want to contact an artist, let me know!

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