You’re selling your creative services on the internet. That means you need a good thumbnail image–no ifs, ands, or buts about it. TTRPG YouTubers rely on attention-grabbing images to get eyes on their videos, adventure writers need a snappy cover to get those Kickstarter clicks, and you need a great picture to make your game stand out from all the others in your time slot. But if you’re like me and not artistically inclined, you might be wondering what makes a great picture. Here are the three things your game listing image needs to do.

1. Convey What The Adventure is About

Let’s say that you have a cool idea for an epic, combat-focused campaign where players battle their way through the nine hells to kill Asmodeus. You can’t use official art from companies like Wizards of the Coast, so no pictures of D&D’s Avernus. StartPlaying provides a folder of excellent stock art for our GMs to use and edit as they please. See here on where to find it and how to use it. You want to find something that matches the theme/aesthetic of your adventure.

2. Make It Interesting

Continuing our Asmodeus example, you know that you’re probably looking for something fiery. But don’t fall into the trap of just picking a landscape with lava. You also might be thinking of using your custom world map as your image like above, since it shows the scale of the adventure. That’s certainly cool to use in-game but, as you can see, it’s not the most exciting picture. Especially when viewed amidst a group of other thumbnails. You need something that captures the action-packed nature of your quest through the hells. People tend to respond to faces, so try to get an expressive image of a demon. Or in our case, a blazing warrior. 

3. Make It Legible

Text is not necessary–and in fact is not largely recommended–but you might feel it creates an evocative, movie poster vibe. If you do use text, consider that about half of StartPlaying users browse on mobile devices. You’ll need to make sure your text can be read even on those smaller screens. Keep the title simple, short, and match the font to the theme. Finally, don’t feel pressured to have your own personal logo or branding on the image. Such things often serve to clutter more than help.

When you put these three tips together for our nine hells example, you get something like this! 

This paladin brandishes his huge hammer among flames, conveying the adventure theme in an  interesting way. The title is short, sweet, and big enough for mobile. Players should get the idea with a glance, and those interested in a combat-heavy hells campaign will want to read more. 

Aug 25, 2023
Game Masters