As I’ve started to run more and more published settings and adventures, I find myself doing something new to my GMing style. I’ve been turning the adventure/setting/rule book to my players and just pointing to art that is built into the product.

Using pictures to backup description isn’t a new practice to me, but I usually try to first use a verbal description to hook the players into the story, and then back it up with a picture. I also tend to find my illustrations from web sources, like Flickr) and Deviantart), or by using the awesome Firefox tool Piclens. By doing this the pictures match what is in my head more closely.

This works for me because I’ve been running games in my own world setting and have had to build up the feel and mood of it in my player’s minds. Since I’ve been running in more published and established settings, I’m finding more official art to base my descriptions off of. The two effects of this, that I’ve seen, are:

1. My players have more familiarity with the world because they’ve read some of the same source material, thus they integrate their characters into the story a little easier.

2. My players do a bit of double take when I improvise or do something unexpected with an element of the setting.

I love the look on my player’s faces when they go “Wow, I get to fight one of those! This’ll be awesome!” I also like my GM’s prerogative to change the world setting as I see fit. With much of the “engage the players mind” work done by an incredibly illustrated and well thought out picture, my descriptions feel a little less important.

My solution, thus far, has been to use the picture as a base, then hone in on an element of the picture to really make it stick in the players’ minds with my description. I’m aiming for evocative as opposed to accurate. It has worked decently, but what about you? Do you rely on pictures or descriptions more? If you use illustrations, what fits your style? Do you use canonical setting pictures or find or draw your own?