Aphantasia and Role Playing Games

I have just been reading the Crown and Skull Free Player's Guide and came across this line in the intro
You’ll imagine yourself in each scene, your friendsemerging from the landscape, your own details adding to a ‘living’ view ofan imaginary universe. All the muscles of reading a great novel will serveyou well here: translating words into images, and images into emotions.
And I thought it might be an interesting discussion, for those of us who have Aphantasia. I never knew I had aphantasia, or even had heard of it, until listening to one of the excellent 'No Such thing as a fish' podcasts - highly recommended for QI fans! One of the hosts has aphantasia which means he is unable to form images in his mind. The easy 'test' he mentioned was think of an apple, eyes closed, what do you see?'. I see nothing, never see anything in my 'mind's eye'. When I read stories of people seeing the faces of their loved ones, or similar, I thought it was all poetic licence. I close my eyes and I see blackness, nothing else at all. It's interesting to find after 50 years that your mind works very differently from the norm! Apparently, 1~3% of people have this condition, two of my four kids do, so I guess it must be genetic. My wife sees the full on every detail image from below, she's #1 and I'm #5 - I must say I am jealous!

Aphantasia - Wikipedia

For me, then role-playing lacks the visual pictures that (I imagine haha) others imagine. I focus very much on the rules and challenges, not so much the emotion. I can't do theatre of the mind and always need maps of some type to help me, even if it is just dots on a sheet of graph paper. I normally DM and I can describe things perfectly well, I just don't see them. I think that makes me a more 'technical' DM and I know that has meant I have not been a good fit for some groups. Even of people we are still very good friends, I can play board games with them, but DnD just didn't work. I am wondering if any others on here also have anaphantasia? And how does it affect your gaming?

On a positive note, it means I can read a book and when a movie comes out it is not ruined by the character not looking exactly as I visualized :)

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I’m not gonna lie; I was wondering what was this ‘aphatasia’ campaign setting I had never heard of…

That explains a lot of things tho, and brings another level of awareness of how to interact with one of my player that may have aphantasia to a certain degree


This has some things too...

I can sometimes do a 3 fleetingly, but it works better if I'm trying to picture a photo than a person themselves. I can do a four for somethings (like a room layout if I work at holding the image), but often a 5. Part of my brain apparently keeps track of things though even though I can't call up the pictures, such as relative positions for theater of the mind if it doesn't get too elaborate - and I can usually tell where furniture should go arranging a room even though I can't picture it. I'm find with getting into the emotion of the character, and I've been disappointed by a movie character before a couple times even though I couldn't picture them in advance.
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aramis erak

I've known one person with aphantasia - she doesn't do TTRPGs, tho'.

I'm firmly on the visualizer side, and then some. When I visualize the apple, I can smell it, too.
Then again, I also have PTSD and flashbacks because my memory fails to prune properly, too.


I pretty much went my whole life thinking everyone else was the same way. I even began college as an art major and did pretty good! I only switched over to engineering two years later because I wanted an excuse to take more math classes. Poetry, music (guitar), drawing, and painting, all without "visualizing" anything! In a way, I think that was my way of visualizing; slowly adding elements to my existing design with no clue what the end result would look like. Always a fun surprise.

Thinking about it, Physics was the subject that about killed me. I had to repeat two of my classes, but I think it helped me go from a "5" on your scale to a "4"; which makes me think, with enough practice, maybe it's possible to "exercise memory muscles"?

Anyways, on the plus side I can read fiction really fast. With no need to visualize anything, I can condense 10 pages of action into: "Dresden encountered a group of vampires and disposed them with magic" pretty quickly!


I sometimes suspect it's more common among writers and artists than the general population. Something about depicting things accurately rather than from memory, maybe? Anyway, I'm a 1. At will I can enter my own VR world with lifelike detail.


He / Him
My friend who I played with for 20 years has this. It never really impacted our play, but he did always like to draw pictures of what was happening. I'm very much the opposite, I can picture things in extreme detail (and sometimes it's hard to keep images out of my mind, like if I'm reading something gorey). So it was interesting talking to my friend about our shared, but different, experiences of playing D&D.


I find this both baffling and terrifying. I see stuff in my mind even when my eyes are open.

Out of curiosity, does this extend to other senses. Those with this difference, do you not "hear" thoughts, too?

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