Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Finding Game Players and Games

This is the hardest thing to do, find players...

To me, this means compatible players willing to play outside their comfort zone or try something they may not be into...

I recently tried a Spelljammer game, one of the old TSR worlds. I never liked premade worlds because they usually had classes and rules specific to that would impact the gameplay

I did like Dragonlance to a point but you really had to play the pre made characters .

As a DM, I look for players that really fit my dynamic.

  • Bring something to the table other than rolling dice
  • Try something new
  • Have fun
  • Accept what I say as final
  • Do not argue rules, we can discuss them, but if you had 2 attacks and think you can attack a third time in a small room, it won't happen
  • Don't be an ass, you can have a big personality without being an ass     
  • Don't argue with players over little things
  • Founding members of a group (Meaning those with the group from the creation who are running games) have a say, but the final decision is on me 

Some of my favorite people and players took a few weeks to get used to

One was Linda,
who came into our group with a Chris, they already had a dynamic going and they brought their characters from another game where she was dominant over his, Chis was such a fun and easygoing guy. We did not know what to make of this and we were debating on if this was what we wanted, we decided that 2 more game sessions and that would be it... by the time that part of the adventure was completed, they were granted votes on new people in our group, I really enjoyed running game and playing in games with them... We all did things outside of the Game nights also

Then was Chris 2
Chris was loud, boisterous and confident.  He took some getting used to but he was a great guy and really loved playing

Then there are those who just click from the time they sit down at the table

Mark - He was an amazing DM and was willing to play anything. He could made the most mundane adventure into an epic. He definitely made the rest of us up our game. We did alot outside of the game when time permitted. Then, he got transferred back to Texas

Steve - One of the most creative and adaptable people I have ever known, he could run many systems and was not afraid to play a self centered Zulu Warrior... some of the greatest moments in games were Steve cracking everyone up. His command of Toon and many different genres was amazing

Scott - Forever changing and challenging us to learn new games brought a ton of different games and he always ran great games.  He ran a Toon game called the Dark Care-bear Adventure... wow, who knew he was secretly watching the Care-bears and writing this. I had so much fun playing in it.

Greg B2 - he was your typical Frat boy... impulsive and always interesting... He introduced us to Battletech and I roomed with him at more than one Con... I did trust him to a point... then he failed to return several AD&D books to me.

I have realistic expectations and sometimes, players who disrupt more than adding to the game or who get upset if one thing does not go their way, need to be removed from the group

I have sacrificed players who came with other players, Once had to let a husband and wife be removed from a group because while she was Great and we would have kept her, there was no way he could stay with the dynamics of the group.

What I have been doing Lately

I am on Several Meetup pages and RPG pages... I always carry my DM Cards

I also try to attend local gaming conventions and I go to gaming stores. I engage people in conversations and try to connect to as many as possible.

As a Player... 

I may push gently to see if I can get a few perks, such as second edition tweeks that do not upset the balance of the game but are completely reasonable

I always try to bring my A game and keep the game moving. I look at the situation and see what can be done to minimize any potential issues.

Even if I am not that fond of the game, I can bring an angle to play

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Let's talk about Fantasy / Science Fiction Movies

There are so many bad and decent  Fantasy / Sci Fi movies out I thought I would take this page to bring up a number of movies that influenced the way I Dungeon Master and play role playing games.

There are many influences taken from these movies even the worst movies give something of value to us creative types. 

I grew up just as Cable TV and Movie channels were starting up, also when the first VCR and Video stores were coming out. the early 80's  brought so much change to entertainment. 

The purpose here not to review to films, but to reintroduce people to movies I adore

The grand daddy of all movies when I was growing up was

The Sword and the Sorcerer

Everyone had a character named Talon and every one wanted swords like that. The crazy part is the sorcerer is Bull from Night Court and Lee Horsley was Talon... 

The movie is not horrible and it does play the genre well. 

Next is Excalibur, the notable is how  played Merlin, both scary and playful 

The soundtrack and story was top notch, You could not ask for more. Carmina Burana was the score for film

The Shiny Armour, the swords and the personal battle really were cool

Clash of the Titans, the Original, not the remake

Featuring the special effects of Ray Harryhausen and the guy from LA Law, this was exciting.. Basically any film with Burgess Meredith was pretty cool (he was great in Rocky also) 

This was a DM's dream movie

Beastmaster, Marc Singer and Tanya Roberts

Cheesy film with some interesting concepts and who can forget the first time you all saw Tanya Roberts emerging from the water.... 

Lord of the Rings 

This is the Movie that was amazing to watch, even with the liberties in the script.  Orc and Goblins, Orcs and Goblins...

The Hobbit

Ok, so Peter Jackson stretched out the book to 3 movies and added a lot of filler to the movie. Also the barrel scene was pretty laughable 

Still, it was a good film. I found it to be very entertaining

Star Wars

The Original trilogy in the Original Theatrical presentations....

Before the mucked over with CGI and Bullshit

This inspired so much and never has a middle film been so dark before the silliness of the Ewoks

The Last Star Fighter

I have loved this movie since I saw it, it was revolutionary as all the Star Fighter flight and Battle sequences were computer animations

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension

This is what every adventure is all about, an eclectic group of people striving to overcome odds and aliens... the movie captures the spirit of and role playing party

Treasure of the Four Crowns

We had a local theater the was withing walking distance and on Fridays my gang would go to the movies. The 3 D craze was full swing so we went to many of them at that place.

This is one of the adventure movies that is little known, cheezy and cool. This inspired many adventures and we were all charging gems when our Magic users were high enough level...  Check this out


I did a Poll and here are the top of the results, I will update this from time to time... but here are the main influences on Gamers. 

Answer Choices– Responses–

Excalibur 88.89%

Lord of the Rings trilogy 77.78%

Monty Python Holy Grail 77.78%

Clash of the titans 77.78%

beast master 77.78%

Conan the Barbarian (the original, not the remake) 77.78%

Princess Bride 66.67%

Dragonslayer 66.67%

Dark Crystal 66.67%

Conan the Destroyer 66.67%

hobbit 66.67%

Reign of Fire 55.56%

Hawk the Slayer 55.56%

Add additional Movie 55.56%

Pirates of the Caribbean movies 55.56%

1982 Conan the Barbarian 55.56%

Legend 55.56%

Robin Hood (pick any, from 1930's to present), 55.56%

Highlander 55.56%

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I am going to Gary Con ! ! !

It is official that I am going to Gary Con VIII in 2016, I am so excited.

This convention is one of the best as far as Old School gaming goes. It honors the Life of Gary Gygax, the creator of all modern Roleplaying

I have done many NJ/ PA cons and have been invited to run games for many people over the years in various places. I have never attended Gen-Con or other huge cons requiring lots of travel.

I made the decision to go after talking to Luke (He is a veteran of all the major cons) and we both bought Gold Tickets and booked a hotel.

What makes this special is it is a Convention dedicated to OLD School gamers, like myself.

This means that I should have plenty of Players... I got the badge I wanted because I want to be able to Sign up for a couple of games run by VIPs

Games I have Submitted to Run at Gary Con


8:00 AM - Noon

AD&D - Entrance to Classari

This is a showcase piece of my creativity, combining some of the best Rooms, traps Monsters I have created...
You are tasked with going into the lost Gnome kingdom of Classari and retrieving bloodausan uklayas
5th-8th level... bring your own or be issued a generic

6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Toon - Foo-Fuu Toon... Catch that Bird

Capture the exclusive bird to collect the key to the ACME superstore shopathon
Bring your own or use one provided
Levels Silly to utterly rediculous

No one under age 3 and a half permitted due to goofy content, ability to roll 2 6 sided dice and drool occasionally recommended... bring your best gookie!

8:00 PM - 12:00 AM

AD&D - So you think you have an Attitude!

Only Dwarves need apply... 13th-15th level... bring your own or be issued a generic.... The followers of the God of Attitude and Drink are sent on a quest for the Ultimate Ale.
Beginners welcome.
Age 13+ please.
Pregenerated characters provided.


8:00 AM - 12:00 PM

TOON - PizzaToon / A Toon Love Story

2 Shorts
Pizzatoon, deliver pizzas to ....
A Toon Love Story, where is the groom ?
Levels Mild Insanity to Outright bambooled

4:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Pregen Characters Provided... I promise a truly Epic adventure that will generate stories for you to tell in the tavern
This features some of the greatest concepts and Role Play that I have ever put together. The characters provided are all high level
and saying anything further goes would ruin the integrity of the game.
Age 15+ please.
ONLY Pregenerated characters will be used.

8:00 PM - 12:00 AM
AD&D - By The Light of the Slippery Moon

12th - 16th Level
Adventurers on a Merchant Ship bound for far off Ports....
ONLY Pregenerated characters will be used.

10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
TOON - Daytoona Beach Party Bingo Blast

Beach Olympics... 'Nuff said
Bring your own or use one provided
Levels 1-1220

No one under age 3 and a half permitted due to goofy content, ability to roll 2 6 sided dice and drool occasionally recommended... bring your best gookie!

4:00 PM - 8:00 PM
AD&D - The Quest for the Gate Between Worlds

Levels 6th -10th
Find the Gate to get back home, now if you can only get past the .....
ONLY Pregenerated characters will be used.


2:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Pregen Characters Provided... I promise a truly Epic adventure that will generate stories for you to tell in the tavern
This features some of the greatest concepts and Role Play that I have ever put together. The characters provided are all high level
and saying anything further goes would ruin the integrity of the game.
Age 15+ please.
ONLY Pregenerated characters will be used.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Art of Dungeon Mastering at Conventions

Running games at conventions is completely different then running your weekly game. Your weekly game will allow for players to go and do something not planned for, they have more options in the decisions

Here are the top item you need to consider when running a Convention game

  • Is your Adventure unique
  • Is it straight forward (A to B, B to C) or flexible
  • Is the goal obtainable in the time frame
  • Are the Characters Pre Generated ? 
  • Do you have prepared sheets in case the player does not bring one
Every game I have run has been unique from the Search for the ultimate ale, to the Assassins game. I have play tested the games before hand and have a good expectation of time. I have games with each character personality and interaction listed and some bring your own where you have no idea... 

Game descriptions 
  • Does it entice players to play
  • Does it convey what player can expect
  • Does it set the goal, setting, or both
  • Is it Adult material, PG or Everyone

Everyone struggles with this, I can be the best thing ever written and you have 4 people at the table. For example, I recently went to a con (it has been since 2004 that I attended a con) and ran a game that was highly popular at previous cons I attended. I used the same script I have used in the past 

AD&D- So you think you have an Attitude!
Only Dwarves need apply... 13th-15th level... bring your own or be issued a generic.... The followers of the God of Attitude and Drink are sent on a quest.
Beginners welcome.
Age 13+ please.
Pregenerated characters provided.

I actually have 7 people signed up but 4 of them bailed to play in other games.  This was one that was always talked about in previous conventions, People would come up to me by late Saturday night and ask me to run this for them. When i was doing conventions 2-3 times a year, I always filled my games in the first couple of days

Pregen Characters Provided... I promise a truly Epic adventure that will generate stories for you to tell in the tavern
This features some of the greatest concepts and Role Play that I have ever put together.  The characters provided are all high level
and saying anything further goes would ruin the integrity of the game.
Age 15+ please.

ONLY Pregenerated characters provided.

I consider this to be one of the best adventures ever written, but I wanted this to be mysterious... Everyone who has playing this has raved about it, it has never failed to be less than epic

Typical times for playing are: 
  • 2 Hours (Mini Slot)
  • 4 Hours (the typical amount of time)
  • 8 Hours (Double Slot)
I prefer 4 hour slots because I can run more games, typically, I do 2-4 games a day - 8 AM, 12 PM, 4 PM and 8 PM... sometimes a 12 AM.. .

Your Responsibilities as a DM / GM / Storyteller / Animator / Ombudsman
  • Be on time
  • Be organized
  • Bring Extra Pencils
  • Bring Extra Dice
  • Bring Additional Characters
  • Bring Character Sheets
  • Bring note pads
I try to plan as if someone is walking by and at the last moment decides to play. I do not lend dice easily but I keep 3 sets with me that are expendable and losing them is no issue (You will lose dice and gain dice at conventions if you run games, it just happens)

In Addition, I always try to do the following:
  • Have water and Ice Tea available at the table
  • Napkins, always needed
  • Gum or mints or packets of skittles
I find that if the players are on your side from the beginning, they will accept anything you throw at them or do to them. If I am running a Role Playing intense game, then I usually reserve killing for a bone headed move... 

I have no qualms about killing players, I prefer providing a tough challenge where they may be killed...

During the Game
  • Know the Material !!!
  • Be Organized
  • Be Energized
  • Dig deep, be unique
  • Don't be afraid to try it
  • Don't Dream It, BE IT !!!!!
The more you bring the game to life, the better your players will respond. I use lots of different vocals and hand gestures... many people can attest to my horrible Jamaican accent and my equally well done other accents... 

I have all my notes ready to go and it is a simple tear of a centimeter to hand it over...

Game flow is important, anything that stops the action or pauses for too long is not helping the players to enjoy the game

My goal has always been to have the most talked about game at the convention, if they are talking about it and people are standing around watching the show.. then I have done it.

If the players do something that truly amazes me, then i feel i have inspired them...

REMEMBER - It is all about the Players

Friday, July 24, 2015

Let's talk modules...

Let's Talk Modules

Running modules:

I am not big on going through modules or on running most modules, they have to be really cool in order to run them. I cannot improvise as much with a module and as a creative person, I always thinking that some portions are added simply as filler because the author did not know what to write or needed more pages.

Music that Inspired me

A recent post online asked what Pieces of music inspire you to break open the books and write so I thought I would revisit this and expand on it

There are several bands that inspire me, and a few pieces of music that really get the creative mood going.

First piece of music to really get my mind going was:

I discovered this at around age 10... one of the benefits of having older brothers

Queen - Queen II -

Black Side (Side Two)    
No.         Title                                                        Length 
1.            "Ogre Battle"                                             4:10
2.            "The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke"            2:40
3.            "Nevermore"                                              1:15
4.            "The March of the Black Queen"               6:33
5.            "Funny How Love Is"                                2:50

6.            "Seven Seas of Rhye"                                2:50

As a whole, this is pure imagery in such a fantasy and whimsical way

Now once upon a time - an old man told me a fable
When the piper is gone - and the soup is cold on your table
And if the black crow flies to find a new destination - that is the sign
Come tonight
Come to the ogre sight
Come to the ogre-battle-fight

The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke is describing this painting , again, the imagery 
Richard Dadd  "The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke" 
Other Queen Songs:
The Prophet Song
Death on Two Legs
Killer Queen
Keep Yourself Alive

Jethro Tull  - The Broadsword and the Beast

I see a dark sail on the horizon, set under a black cloud that hides the sun. Bring me my broadsword and clear understanding. Bring me my cross of gold as a talisman

From early days of infancy, through trembling years
of youth, long murky middle-age and final hours
long in the tooth, he is the hundred names of terror ---
creature you love the least. Picture his name before
you and exorcise the beast.

Other Jethro Tull Songs that have inspired me are numerous, I have listed a few 

The Minstrel in the Gallery
Skating Away (on the thin ice of the new day)
The Entire AQUALUNG album
Songs From the Wood

Other Music:

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Tarkus album and Pictures At An Exhibition

The Doors - Crystal Ship / Land Ho / Riders on the Storm

Clannad - I will Find you 

Classical Music
Also Sprach Zarathustra
Blue Danube
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Night On Bald Mountain
The Valkyrie: Ride of the Valkyries
Carmina Burana: O Fortuna  (Used in Excalibur) 

I love music that evokes images Such as Squeeze's Pulling Music from a shell

They do it down on Camber Sands
They do it at Waikiki
Lazing about the beach all day,
At night the crickets creepy

Squinting faces at the sky
A Harold Robbins paperback
Surfers drop their boards and dry

And everybody wants a hat

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Updates and thoughts

Some of my new purchases... 

I was searching for new dice and was asked to evaluate a set of gold dice, they were nice and he wanted to sell them, I consulted with one of my players (Luke) who owns metal dice that were similar... They seemed to be in the 30 dollar range but I needed to look further into it. They were 16mm as opposed to the standard 20mm.  I ended up not buying them 

I did find a brand new pair for a reasonable price, with no shipping charge

Absolutely stunning 

Gold Dice... 
Flip Battle Map and Plastic Travel Tube for protection

RPG, love this system

The Elves of Sannatogga

This is my current campaign that I am running. What happens when you take a group of elves and displace them where there are no Elves....

Started out on a ship as galley slaves, then the ship is under attack, taken over and the Elves are set free in another part of the world unknown to them.  with nothing but a few crappy swords and some gold from the slavers spoils 

First they encounter a race that has the ability to make people forget that they ever met them.. 

Then, they find that there are no Elves in this area of the world and they have not seen any other races

Then make their way to a Town and Small Kingdom and have to win over people and prove they are friendly, then they are asked to clear out a nearby cave system of the current foul creatures that have taken it over. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Philly GamersCon....

The pathfinder table

SO I went to the Philly Gamescon on April 17th and 18th. I had a pretty good good time all in all. 

Friday, I played in my first Pathfinder game. What I did not realize was that I signed up for a Pathfinder Society game and needed to register. So I was given a folder with the information for Pathfinder Society and how to register
So now, My Dwarven Cleric, Gundababba, is now registered

All in all , it was a good quick adventure for the 3 players and we all got a book for playing from the Pathfinder Society.

I have to say that on Friday it was mostly Greybeards like myself in attendance, That was kinda depressing because it would mean that when we go, RPG's will be gone...

Gregory the Grey Beard


Arrived at just a bit before I running my fisrt game only to find that someone took over my table... normally not a big deal but I was assigned the table next to the wall and did not want to be in the middle of the room... I am very animated sometimes when I run games and I like to walk to about...

Con Staff was very good about it, even if the card players did not like it (I was running 2 Games at the same table and both games were supposed to be filled.)

Game 1 - So You Think You Have an Attitude

My Drunken Dwarves game had only three players but they made the most of it. It is a fun game to run and always gets loud. 2 of the 3 were in my second game

Game 2  - AAHH

This is my masterpiece, this game was full. I handed out the Pre-generated Characters and set the game... Everything worked rather well... even if they did over pay the price to get to the town.

I was very happy to see a good balance of younger players and Greybeards at the con on Saturday. I do not take pictures of people so I have none of the game tables.  Next time I will ask permission and take some.

Kudos to the Staff, my experience was Great and I am very experienced with Cons, I felt taken care of.

The only slight complaint I had was the dealers room.. The guys in there did not have a great selection and I was going to buy on Saturday but when I got to try, it was closed. Next time can you announce in the Game room that the dealers room is closing so people have a chance to buy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

These are a few of my favorite Games....

Having been around Role Playing Games for most of my life, I have a few favorites that I would like to expand on:

First, Dungeons and Dragons, the grandfather of all modern role playing.

It was a game without a winner, where you tried to become someone else... and our gaming group was pretty tight through HS

The game is Trait based -  Strength, intelligence, wisdom constitution, dexterity and and charisma are the basics. Then there are charts for battles and armor class ratings... lots of percentiles to do accomplishments such as thieve's skills...

I mastered the game and then went on to have several gaming groups and did many conventions in NJ

Vampire, the Masquerade

I had several friends that played Vampire, I had resisted playing for a while because it really was not something I was into..... well, after the first few sessions, I was hooked..  The D10 system was straightforward, it was skill based and not based on traits,,,,

I found that I enjoyed it because it was (at least the games I was playing) set in the current modern era

Soon, I had a weekly group that played and I kept finding stranger and darker story lines for them.

Toon, The Role playing Game

Some of the best games I have run and played in were Toon games... it takes a lot to be in the right frame of mind for Toon. You have to be fully prepared and on your toes at all times.

You have to act before you think, this means keeping a few running gags in pocket at all times so you can do them at the most (in)appropriate times..

Dangerous Journeys

This is my favorite Role Playing System because it is completely built on Skills, making a character takes forever, but once completed, the game is so rich and diverse

This is a game for people interested in ROLE playing and being able to do things not normally found in games.


More of Strategy than Role Playing, I do enjoy a good game.

Dream Park

Built on the Cyberpunk 2. 0 system, this is fast flexible and fun... does a great job of combining many genres even it is does not do one batter than others... 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Becoming a Pathfinder Player / Path Master

Let me just say I am committed to the Original AD&D and D&D system as some of us "Old Timers" are. We dismiss anything after TSR as JUNK

About 2 weeks ago, I decided to pick up the beginner box for Pathfinder. This is my first exposure to the D20 system... I read all the material for D&D 3.0 and about the D20 system many years ago and it did not appeal to me. To me, changing the base system of AD&D make it a completely different game and not related to AD&D or to D&D.

SO I have heard several good things about Pathfinder (Open Game License) and since I despise Wizards of the Coast (Magic is gamer's crack and really has no place at conventions, nor does it lead to full blown Role playing) I made the choice to give it a shot

$30 Dollars later I get the Beginner box set...

Looking through the materials, I find it to be very well done.

This is a nice box set that allows you play almost immediately. I would have like to have different colored dice in the sets, it would have been a nice touch that anyone buying the set does not only get red dice (did I mention I have 2 of these sets)

The Cardboard heros and monsters are well done but I have figures so I will never punch them or open the bag of stands. Same with the dice, I have no need to open to the dice.


The classes are pretty much standard from the D&D basics... Fighter, Cleric, Mage and Rogue
I kinda despise the term Rogue, it it a left over of the 2nd edition softening up of the entire system.... A Thief is a thief

Races - Human, Elves and Dwarves - Standard races, nothing exciting or new here... Humans get a +2 bonus to any trait without having the penalty of -2 that Dwarves and Elves are stuck with....somehow, the Halfling is not in the set


So I read the Hero's Handbook first and then went though character creation step by step.. I decided to make a Dwarf Cleric. So I followed the 4D6, drop the lowest, arrange as needed method...

Pros of Character Creation

  •  Using the 4D6 attributes in D&D
  •  Seems fairly easy, I did get confused creating the character with all the page turning.

Cons of Creation

  •   You add a lot of plus to the modifiers between race and Class... I started out with a 19 in wisdom and a +5 ... meaning my failure rate on wisdom based stuff was going to be low rate right off the bat
  •  Feats and Skills... If you are doing a skill based system, then play a skill based system,  I am not fond of a half breed system (hence why I never liked the D20 system when I first read up on it)
  • I had to figure that Class Feats and Skills were not automatically given, even though it says to mark the class skills... not sure if this was merely my error or a book clarity issue

  • Did I mention that if all modifiers add up to less than +3, you can reroll all your rolls

I made my character, bought what they need and getting ready to learn the Combat... Every class starts with the same money in basic. My experience is somewhat in the middle, while being fairly easy, I think it is simplified by the system used... The over use of feats and Skills can lead to making powerful characters

So my Dwarf Cleric, Gundababba, has no scores under 13, the Armor Class is 18...

playing in a lot of different RPG's over the years, this 18 AC is really daunting... I assume that a Monster needs an 18 or higher to hit him (with any bonuses) and he is not wearing a heavy armor.



Roll a D20 and add any initiative modifiers
    Order from Highest to lowest
Spells are instantaneous at least in the Beginners set
Initiative is rolled once for the combat and not done each round (if you lose, you lose until the next battle)

Not fond of this at all, seems to be just a way to speed up actions....

So I have a +4 to my Mace attack, +5 if I use a hammer.... so I basically can hit most things with a 12, unless they have pretty good armor.

For example, the Goblins in the set are AC 13, so if I roll a 9 or better at first level, I hit and do 1D8 damage +4


Pretty much the standard ones used in AD&D, no real comments about them



So I ordered and I am reading the Pathfinder: Core Rulebook

I am playing in my first Pathfinder game in April at Philly Gamescon

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Miniatures... why and how...

OK, Let's talk about miniatures and their use in gaming..

Their are games where using miniatures is a must, Like BATTLETECH... where having miniatures really gets the play going... of course you can use flat maps with the Hexes, Terrain without hexes (using a ruler or pieces of string to determine line of sight and distance) or you can create maps with hexes ( This is my favorite to play on)

Now in most Role Playing games, there are ways to incorporate miniatures if it is desired. There are elaborate setups for dungeon tiles and terrain available for purchase.  I prefer the BattleMats as I only want to detail to players what they have to have a spacing for.

I still use mostly Pencil and paper to detail scenes and perspectives but I have used an extensive amount of minis to do that also

Mostly, if there is more than 6 players and 10 monsters I go to the Minis

Back in the day, I used Ral Partha Paints and a Magnifying glass

Battlemech held in place and ready for detail painting
This is one of the best tools you could use for detail work.

Although not as good as the 2 figures I had Professionally done for me, I am pretty proud of them.

My Professionally done figures

So, using figures or scribbling on paper is a fun way to add additional dimensions to your game. Like using mood music or lighting...