We’re on day 4 of the Blogging for GMs project, with another post:

Jukka Koskelin wrote up a tip entitled Run with what you know.

Jukka learned about the project from Jonas (a TT regular), and his post discusses using places that you know well as setting material for modern RPGs. This is a great tip — thanks, Jukka!

Jukka’s tip reminds me of a technique that my friend Matt Simmons has employed in his games, and I’d like to get a bit of dicussion started on this topic: using digital photos for your game.

Matt did this with two of his games — a modern-day Mage chronicle, and a d20 Modern campaign. I was a player in the first one, and I heard a lot of the details about the second one, so I feel pretty comfortable talking about his technique.

Along the lines of Jukka’s post, Matt used real-world locations for both games — places around town that both he and the players were familiar with. This also gave him a stock of ready-to-use maps, which was a nice benefit — and he took things one step further by taking digital photos of some of the locations.

This made for a neat gaming experience on two levels. The first level was the one that Jukka wrote about: knowing exactly what a place looked like made the game very immersive, and everyone had the same image of what Matt was describing. The second level was my favorite part, though: seeing what had changed in the game world.

For instance, in our Mage game the Technocracy ran an underground facility for the containment of magical creatures, and the university’s steam vents — seen all over downtown — could be used as entry points. After exploring that facility in-game, I never looked at those steam vents in quite the same way again, back in the real world.

Photo-wise, the example that jumps out at me is a piece of grafitti art from an alley downtown, which featured a rather cryptic phrase. Matt turned this into a magical gateway of sorts in his d20 Modern game, and he showed his players the photo during the game. Although I wasn’t part of this one, I can imagine that the experience would have been similar to the one I had with the steam vents — it would have invested the real-world alley with a bit of extra significance for the players.

I think that’s pretty neat, and it’s another layer of “running with what you know” that can be added to Jukka’s tip.

If you were running or playing in a game set in the modern world, would these techniques appeal to you? Have you used them in your own game — and if so, how did things turn out? (Also, what do you think of this “hybrid” post, where I’ve combined a link to a Blogging for GMs post with a tip of my own?)