What do you see in your head in Theater of the Mind?

What do you see in your head in TotM?

  • Everything laid out clearly like a movie.

  • Detailed still pictures.

  • Rough sketches or blurry images of the set-up.

  • No visualization - just mentally keeping track of where things are.

  • No visualizations... and not really able to keep track for anything complicated.

  • Other - check comments


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Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Aphantasia is where a person to some degree or other doesn't have a mind's eye (something like 3-4% of people apparently). Some can't summon up any pictures in their heads, while others can only get very rough or fleeting sketches. Sometimes it's accompanied by not being able to mentally summon smells or sounds. And some don't dream visually.

For me, years ago before I knew it was a thing, it surprised me when a friend didn't like hearing about anything gross because they pictured it in their head -- and I thought that was strange (the being able to picture part, not the disliking hearing about gross things). Anyway, even having all the pieces, it just hit me tonight that for some (many?) people, Theater of the Mind actually meant seeing things in their head like being in a theater. I had always thought it just meant keeping track of things mentally!

So, anyway, what do you have going on in your head in TotM? How do you picture the other characters and monsters? Do you have sounds too? Does having miniatures interfere with it? Do you have nothing? When the DM or a player clarifies and the picture in your head was wrong, what is it like adjusting it?

---

For me, any songs or voices I think about are just my voice in my head making them. Scent wise I can sometimes conjure up a rose, but that's the only one I've managed. Visually, it's sometimes like there must be some other part of my head keeping track of where everything is and feeding it to my more conscious side because I can still keep track of relative positions usually when playing or DMing and just describing things verbally. But seeing it? I just can't relate to that. Even for familiar people and things in real life the best I can get is a brief flash without much detail if anything (I can usually do better with trying to visualize a picture of them, than them themselves). As for dreams I definitely have visual dreams, but I have yet to remember later how the sound worked or if there were any smells.
 
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Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
No real details other than what is actively relevant to the combat, but usually either a rough, static 3D or top down view of the scene as a whole. The second something is asked about specifically, that part snaps to more focus.

Edit: If someone asks about something, and I hadn't pictured that before, or have no reason not to add that as necessary, I have no issue saying that's how it was the whole time, and my picture smoothly adjusts.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Is it ever jarring when you realize you imagined something wrong (what someone looked like or positions), or does the visualization just adjust and it goes on?
Adjust and move on, probably with some jokes about those sorts of movies with intercutting alternate versions of scenes as one character corrects another.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
In day to day life, I completely visualize the things in my head, to the point of sometimes not seeing what's in front of me. But when it comes to TotM D&D it is just mental math with almost no visualization. I assume the difference is based on the intent and use of the visualization.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I usually have some vague idea of what's in the scene, but any sort of precise and consistent spatial relationship--or really even detailed description--is right out. Its rarely visual at all.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
In day to day life, I completely visualize the things in my head, to the point of sometimes not seeing what's in front of me. But when it comes to TotM D&D it is just mental math with almost no visualization. I assume the difference is based on the intent and use of the visualization.
That makes sense, but I had never thought of it as a possibility!
 

SakanaSensei

Adventurer
For me personally, I can keep up a, very sketchy, mental image of a single scene for probably about 5 minutes. This leads to combats in systems where things can move quickly, like Blades in the Dark, to work fine in TotM for me.

But in something like DnD? I've lost the plot by the time my first go comes around in initiative order!
 

I'm fully aphantasic in all senses and also lack sensory memory - my memories are entirely verbal. Unlike most "aphants" I enjoy descriptive writing and imagery, I just can't experience it visually. I didn't realize everyone wasn't like me until an all-night conversation with a close friend in college who is off-the-scale hyperphantasic. (Incidentally, the statistic I've heard is 2% of the population, but I doubt enough research has been done as yet to actually know.)

My group uses TotM exclusively and always has. Though these days we play games that aren't as combat-intensive as D&D.
 

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