Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fantasy Billboards in Game

In previous posts I mentioned using a billboard in my game. I did this to give the players a prop to interact with, to make it feel like the world was alive and moving. It provided places for possible adventure if the current story line hit a lull or if they wanted to do something different. I have downloaded samples of some of the billboard content. The content and fonts are very elaborate and very non-fantasy at times, but I wasn't going for realism just another splash of color for my world. I even created a 'journalistic' personality, Janon, who would report on whaatever event struck his fancy. The players enjoyed the updates and to see if they made the billboard news. It also had another effect, when the players trickled into the game they always went to the billboard to look for the new content. This got them into a game state of mind so there was not that long period of yapping about unrelated topics before hand. They got settled in quicker and I could start the game on time. Only two more miracles to go for my sainthood.

These are samples of personal ads. The players posted their own and were surprised by the response they got. It was a very effective method. The billboard always got a lot of traffic being in the middle of the market square.

This is one of Janon's reports. During one of the adventures they had an encounter in a tavern that Janon was in and the players were disappointed they did not get a chance to talk to him. He became an elusive celebrity in a way.

This final example is of a wanted list after a riot. While the players were going about their daily business they might see someone being shackled and dragged through the crowd. I always tried to have one of the posts on the billboard be apart of that session. It helped the players connect the news with the actually going ons.

If you have never used a billboard in your game give it a shot. It is time consuming, but you don't need to make an entirely new billboard each time. I added two or three new posts along with one of Janon's entries. And to keep the old posts interesting I sometimes had an old post that had been on the billboarrd for three or four sessions become relevant. One player would jerk his head up like a deer who just heard the crack of a twig and bolt for the billboard to find the connection.


  1. I like this idea.

    A friend of mine who is a follower of this blog turned me on to it.

    I (as most all DM's I suspect) have used billboards in the past but I assume only read to PC's what they had left on notes themselves for the purposes of introducing new adventures. This seems like a good way to do this and introduce some personality and intrigue outside of quest hunting.

    I'm going to start using this. Thanks for the idea.

  2. Great I am glad you found it useful. Players seem to respond well to it and as I said its a cool prop they can interact with week to week.

  3. Oh god. You could post business ads, things like tavern menus and pit fighting events and races. Festivals planned, carnivals coming to town, important feast days of various religions.

    Adventurers looking for an extra member. Or looking for hirelings. Hirelings who want to sign on, with various needs (have to be back by the leek harvest, need to stay out of town, cannot adventure with people who eat meat).

    A Magic-User with a spell or magic item for sale ("see my manservant at the Speckled Frog Inn" to prevent people from just jumping him and stealing it).

    Public notices of construction projects. Bounties. Conscription notices. Government proclaimations. Notices of legal claim to a dungeon or mine.

    Some dude selling untrained "war dogs". A shady guy selling overbranded horses and used armor. People letting out space for rent or seeking accomodations.

    A medieval Craigslist, really.

  4. Great idea, particularly if you are running a campaign set in one city or a county. In medieval England, before most of the people could read, this function was performed by the Town Crier. People would pay him to shout out adverts and other private announcements as well as public ones.

  5. Slates and wanted posters make for fun handouts, especially if your thief types enjoy making a rep.

    Town criers also announced executions in some communities, a serious job for those with a loud voice.