I've alway been a fan of handouts in RPGs since I think that they give players a greater sense of involvement in a game, touching something or actually examining a torn document is far different to just describing it and help players become more invested in the game. This philosophy hasn't changed with me moving to playing more RPGs online, if anything it's come more to the forefront of my thoughts, since I can now share images/documents and such like on Google Drive, Dropbox, via Facebook, G+ and many other avenues, these can be linked to events or given to the players in advance to give them a taste of what's coming up in the session, allowing them a sneak preview or chance to look at them as their own schedule allows.
My two rules for making this sort of handout would be:
- Don't blind your players with information, everyone has limited time to devote to game stuff, try and keep handouts and the like short and to the point, no-one wants to have to wade through a 60,000 word dissertation before they can understand the game, ain't nobody got time for that.
- Don't make it vital that players have to have read or examined the handout, because inevitably someone want have done because of RL commitments or whatever, make the handout an optional extra, rather like a prologue in a book, it gives you a broader understanding of what is going on, but isn't required reading.
With that said, below is a video that I created for the upcoming 6th session of our Numenera game, at the end of the last session the players had fled from the headquarters of the Pangea agency with an Aeon Priest and the Director of Pangea in tow after an apocalyptic cult called No Hope stormed the base.
The pic above is a sketch from my session planning notes.
Inspired by this amazing pic I saw on DeviantArt:
Unfortunately I can't remember the name of the artist, if anyone out there in internet land knows, message me in the comments so I can credit him - amazing picture :)