RPG Evolution: "Why is the Tarrasque on the Table?"

Green rooms serve an important purpose in keeping actors out of sight before they go on stage, but they can serve a similar purpose for role-playing games.


What's a Green Room?​

Green rooms (named because they were painted green in the past), served as staging areas for talent before they went out into the public eye. It's here that the actors would get dressed, have a snack, put on makeup and otherwise prepare for their roles.

Green rooms also hide details from the audience that might otherwise give away key elements, such as a villain in a dragon costume preparing to go on-stage. Which is why green rooms can be so valuable for role-playing games.

The reason green rooms are important in role-play is the separation between player knowledge and character knowledge. Green rooms work both ways. Monsters in a green room are out of sight, but players in a green room can't see the "audience" or "stage" either. If you plan to surprise your character and want the players to enjoy being surprised too, keeping them in the dark beforehand with a green room is one way to do it. This applies to everything from maps to monsters.

Green Rooms in Role-Play​

If you're lucky enough to have a co-DM or non-players who will serve as NPCs, keeping them out of sight can be a challenge. Using technology can help; a role-player could be on the phone or type a message, thereby staying out of sight until required for the game.

Splitting the party into separate rooms essentially does something similar, by putting one group out of sight of the other. But most gaming locations don't lend themselves to this, and it's a significant strain on the DM to keep everyone entertained while they run from room to room. This kind of setup is more common in conventions where there's more space and more DMs to manage the separate play spaces.

Green Rooms in Tabletop Play​

If the tabletop is the stage, then miniatures are the actors. If the miniatures are accurate enough to identify an upcoming non-player character, like a huge red dragon, players are inevitably going to consider the creature's appearance in their plans. In theory, they should separate out player and character knowledge, but in practice this can be difficult.

Of course, it's not always possible to keep miniatures out of sight. This is one reason why DM screens are so valuable, as the appearance of miniatures can give away key plot elements or future encounters. Keeping the miniatures in a container or simply covering them with a cloth works just as well.

Green Rooms in Virtual Play​

Virtual tabletops like Roll20 usually have a means of hiding virtual tokens before they appear, but it pays to have a separate area where NPCs are prepared ahead of time. Conversely, you may want the PCs to not see the map they'll be playing on until game time, so a separate green room for the PCs works well to figure out spell tokens, level up characters, etc. You can see what our green room looks like in the above screenshot.

Additionally, I use a hypogeum, the name for the staging area under coliseums where animals and gladiators would be held before the games started. This is where I keep my NPCs so I can easily copy/paste them over to the relevant map when I need them.

With a little preparation, separating the physical and virtual player space from what their characters see can go a long way to ensuring you don't accidentally spoil the surprise. And it also keeps players from pointing at your tarrasque miniature behind you and asking, "What the hell is THAT?"

Your Turn: Do you use the equivalent of a green room for your miniatures or tokens?
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca


I have not put the players in another room in a long time, but I do use minis for effect. I do not use a DM screen much these days, but have placed minis on the table near me that will be used tonight and the players once meta-gamed about fighting a troll so we need to buy more torches and oil. So now I mix things up on them.

We had a campaign where this recurring bad guy kept foiling the PC by showing up and dropping a few hexes and spells but escaping before the PCs could organize and get her. The figure I used was a drow with a crossbow and each time I placed her on the table, all heads spun around and the players sat up in their chairs. I learned to place her on my sideboard and it had much the same effect on the players. They even asked me about having the figure out but not encountering her. I would just say that she was around but the PCs went another way.


Most of the times I have minis I'm going to use in a plastic tub with a lid, taking them out as needed. Occasionally though, I'll just have them set to the side out in the open as foreshadowing. It just depends. If the group has no idea what they could encounter they stay hidden. If they know they're likely to face giants, I'll have them set to the side. Everyone should be a little nervous when they see the fire giant dreadnought. :devilish: On the other hand, they have no idea they're probably going to face demonically possessed dinosaurs next session, so those will remain hidden.

When I was running games virtually, I used fog of war and kept all the monsters hidden until needed. Of course it also helps that I just got a 3D printer for Christmas so now just about any specific monster I want is just a click away. On a related note, while there are many sources for stl files (the files used to print), there's a guy who created stls for every monster in the MM and quite a few from other sources here.


Podcast host, 6-edition DM, and guy with a pulse.
It can be tough. My minis for the Tarrasque & Tiamat (Kanjira the Worldbreaker & Ma'al Drakar by the amazing Reaper) are too huge to hide. The best method for me at least is keep them on the shelf nearby at all times (bonus, they look cool)


Herr Doktor
I have an old shoe box by my side for miniatures I think I'm going to use in the current session.
Minis too big for the box are always visible on shelves around my apartment anyway, so when needed I can just walk over and grab one of them...


Interesting notion...

I don't play with miniatures, but the concept of a place (conceptual or physical) where my NPCs/monsters can sit on stand-by until their cue comes-up is something I should explore. In the past, many of my NPCs missed their entrance...

Some people think that "Green Room" is derived from "agreeing room", a juxtaposed room to the court hall (when town hall were used as venues to produce theatre) and were actors would get ready. Others say that the green room, being the closest to the stage, was where plants and greenery (of operas, mostly) were brought and kept overnight (green room then becomes akin to "greenhouse"). There are also reference to the curtains or furniture of specific early theatres in England. What most people agree on however, is that people started to paint their green rooms in green to match the name, rather than the other way around. [/theatregeekery]


One of my players accidentally caught sight of the larger Graz'zt monster card I had out for the session. It certainly earned a raised eyebrow from him.


Interesting notion...

I don't play with miniatures, but the concept of a place (conceptual or physical) where my NPCs/monsters can sit on stand-by until their cue comes-up is something I should explore. In the past, many of my NPCs missed their entrance...
It's a slippery slope. We never had minis growing up, but I remember in college I started binge buying them on ebay. Then the plastic WotC minis came out, and now Wizklids is pumping out miniatures sets faster than I can keep up. But, since the pandemic I have played exclusively online, and I enjoy it so much that I am in no hurry to go back. It is cheaper too. I Photoshop all of the Wizkids minis and use them as my own tokens, and it doesn't cost me anything. I've got boxes and boxes and boxes of minis, and as much as I love them, I also like not spending a fortune on the things.




The High Aldwin
This reminds me of my first campaign in 5E. I didn't use the Tarrasque, but put Tiamat under the fog of war in a dungeon the players were exploring with their PCs. When I removed a section, you could see enough to realize it was Tiamat. One player nearly crapped his pants. :D


I have a couple old miniatures from the Todd MacFarlane dragon line. I always intended to use it as a tarrasque if I needed it, but that never came up.


So in person I never really needed to. I don't have a huge collection of mini's so I never had anything to hide. For bosses and big characters I had a little whiteboard token I made that I would just write the name on. For everything else it was a bag of monsters from a Lord of the Rings Risk variant I had stolen from the game.

On Roll20 I use this quite a bit. I have a seperate "home" page for the PC's to keep a pristine copy of their characters that I can just copy and paste, I have a seperate page where I will lay out monsters in the groups I expect the PC's to encounter, and for the battle maps I often will have a hidden fog of war section where I can hide tokens until they are needed.

Thomas Shey

This is one of the ways a VTT really serves you; with Maptool I don't have to make either the map or the tokens (including individual ones) visible until I need them.


I keep the minis I'm going to use for a given game session in a closed box near my place at the gaming table. If I have an overly-large mini I want to spring on the players, I usually leave it in a nearby room or in the closet of the bedroom we game in. Then, when it's time for it to finally make its appearance, I go fetch it and plunk it on the table for the players to see for the first time.

When we used to game at my friend's house, I'd do something similar - leave it in the back of my van and then go fetch it when the time was appropriate.



I set out random, intimidating monsters I have no plans on using just to get them worried. Eventually the players all assume that the big dragon mini is just there to mess with them. Until it isn't. ;)

Interesting points. I have put out the really big D&D minis like the Bulette or a dragon where some players can catch site of them and get nervous. Then after I place them on the table - and they've made attacks or used powers that the monster should not have - I've been known to explain that it's an illusion covering the creature, or a shapechanging spell. It's a nice little bit of DM misdirection.

Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition Starter Box

Visit Our Sponsor

Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition Starter Box

An Advertisement