I buy a lot of PDFs, especially the Paizo Adventure Paths where I get the PDF free with the book for being a subscriber. I have taken to making a lot of printouts as props for my game.
It’s a shame for the players never to see the beautiful character art for the NPCs. Or else you have to fold the book over, hand it around, and tell them “Don’t look at the stats on the same page!” We’ve done that, and it’s time-consuming, sometimes hard to see when the DM just waves the picture around…
Also, I get a lot of “How do you spell that weird character name?!?” So I’ve cut to the chase, and before a game session I create a bunch of printed strips that I can fasten to the outside of my GM screen with binder clips (bulldog clips to you Brits). It’s sweet – when the party meets their new buddy Saul from the Second Darkness adventure Shadow in the Sky, and I whip this out and clip it to the screen:
Then in later scenes, I clip whoever’s present to the screen. It provides great visual cues of who they are talking to and what their name is, cutting down on the “Tell… Sully, or Slim or whatever… that we accept!” And too often PCs forget NPCs that are even in their party. Have you ever had a PC group say, two combats later, “Oh yeah, what about your follower Gerald? I guess he’s been tending the horses or something.” Out of sight, out of mind. Even if you don’t have images, at least print out the names and post them up. (As an aside, we find ourselves doing this at work for people on conference calls – it makes it easier to remember them and incorporate them into the meeting.)
In many published adventures, there’s images for the vast majority of the important NPCs, and when there’s not, Google Image Search comes to the rescue. “I need a half-0rc wizard. Hmmm… <types “half-orc wizard” into Google Image Search> There we go, the first result!”
Now, there aren’t *that* many easily findable images online. So this may not work forever, but certainly is enough for important NPCs. And if you make a habit of ripping them you can have a library of ready-for-home-use images. You can probably reuse them judiciously in other campaigns.
Extracting and preparing them for use isn’t as easy as it could be. Next time, tips and tools for preparing these little beauties.