This one is for all you D&D'ers or Shadowrunners out there. I would like to take a moment to feature two of the most useful RPG products I have ever used. If you don't have them you aren't giving your gaming group an optimal experience.
How many times has someone in your game gone..."No, I wasn't caught in the fireball. I was around the corner!"
For most of us this isn't too big a problem, we either play with "purely imaginative" type players who always let the DM beat them up relentlessly. Or we use the old battle-mat and markers. It's cheap and it's efficient. It does have two drawbacks though. It's messy and it ain't pretty. Well, it ain't pretty unless you are a professional hand draftsman or some such, but I'm not.
So what can a DM do to increase the visual stimulation of his players, and the veracity of any "combat rulings" without costing him/herself a bundle?
I have two solutions and you can pick between them or combine them.
And before you get all worried, no I am not referring to the Dwarven Forge stuff, which is beautiful but unless you are Bill Gates it is unaffordable for most games.
The first product is World Works Chunky Dungeons.
The Chunky Dungeons, and other World Works products, are beautiful, fun, and easy to use. Their only drawback is they take time to assemble and you have to have some minor skill at modelling. All said though, the World Works stuff is something you should have on your hard-drive.
The other product with near limitless functionality is for those of us who aren't master Photoshoppers, but want nifty looking maps and cartography (oh and battle maps too because you can print 1" scale maps for use instead of the messy battle mat). That product is Fluid Software's Dundjinni software. Dundjinni is a full-featured fantasy map creation program. It allows users to create walls and floors, place objects, insert text, and more. It boasts an intuitive interface and an impressive selection of objects and textures (over 190 images). It also allows you to author d20 adventures in a simple yet elegant way.