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  1. - Top - End - #31
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    DMG p249-250
    I know. :)

    But I don't like players having to constantly answer such questions, and at times it makes things very non-intuitive. For instance, if a melee monster is blocking the tunnel that the adventurers are coming down, and there are a few dozen archers hiding in the woods beyond, that implies widely spaced archers, an its unrealistic that you would hit 4 of them with a twenty foot sphere. Meanwhile, its silly that you would only hit 4-7 if you tossed a twenty foot sphere into a dense hallway packed with kobolds. Also, these rules don't fairly address tactical movement, opportunity attacks, and other minutiae.

    The game has a lot of distance and area-dependent effects. I can see it working with some groups, but definitely not mine.

  2. - Top - End - #32
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    YAY

    Backstory: I have the last year gotten together with my friends to play D&D after our 8 year or so hiatus. We're currently playing 3.5 which are the rules we knew, but I'm greatly looking forward to use 5e for the next campaign.

    Didn't realize it was possible back then, but now I am trying to use TotM as much as I can. It saves a lot of time, it's easier to keep the flow, makes people pay attention and react faster on their turn, and it makes negotions/parlays/retreats etc more natural. Bringing out the map makes the players get into combat mode, start rolling initiative, and they expect that all the combat rules are followed exactly until all enemies are dead or TPK.

    Sure, it depends what you want the game to be about. For me, all the tactical decisions in combat are the least interesting. I get really bored and frustrated spending half the sessions on "five-foot-steps", exact measuring movement and ranges and spell areas, +1 this, +2 that, flanking maneuvering etc.
    If I want to have a lot of tactical decisions with clear defined rules, I prefer to play board games. D&D combat makes for a really bad board game IMO.
    I would rather spend the game/time on how to handle different situations, choices on how to interact with people and strategies, and not the exact accounting of HP and spell slots.

    I feel some of my players, still in the 3.5 mindset, are a little frustrated when some rules aren't being followed exactly. And it is a challenge to me to provide them enough information to act on. They might feel cheated if they can't use their spells optimally since they can't see the exact positions. However, they should also be empowered to do more things as well. "Sorry, you can't charge that enemy, he is 13 squares away, you can max move 12" is not a problem anymore.

    So I still bring to every session a bunch of my old miniatures, nice grid maps and some hand selected terrain features that may become relevant. And I bring them out if there is a large, complicated, or tough (boss) combat. But I am more happy if I don't have to.

  3. - Top - End - #33
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    GnomeWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Grid is far superior to theater for me - it makes the combat seem "real" - it helps everyone visualize it - and it keeps everyone to a certain extent "honest". If there's no way that orc is getting over to hit player A without giving player B an AoO, the grid will reveal it. If theater, the DM will often not allow it if he wants the encounter to "be more challenging" or w/e. And players get resentful. The problem with the theater approach is that the DM isn't loading all relevant info into his/her head - and isn't telling the players enough - in most circumstances. But grid can be cumbersome. If it's a lesser fight and straightforward, i.e. it's on a grassy plain and there's one giant - maybe theater is best - cuz things go faster. Or at least put figures down on the table, maybe w/out grid and guestimate distances. Grid and miniatures is usually worth the effort, though.

  4. - Top - End - #34
    Orc in the Playground
     
    MonkGuy

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by Armored Walrus View Post
    Yeah, I've seen that from time to time in my own game. I got off the grid because we were in the middle of a dungeon crawl, playing on roll20, and the whole experience started feeling too much like a video game. I (over)reacted to that by trying to remove the grid completely in all aspects of play. I've compromised since then and begun to develop a feel of which fights need a grid and which don't.

    To the OP. I read the final question in your post finally. I can say that it is possible to handwave the wrap up stage of combat even on a grid. Either they flee off the map or you can tip the mini over as the combatant drops its weapons and cowers, surrendering. If they feel the need to pursue, either that's now a new encounter, basically, and you can make that as complicated an exciting as the battle itself, or you can offer them one shot with their bow, and if it hits, it drops them, if it misses they get away, or just assume they catch the runner, or whatever works best in a given situation.
    Thanks, I may just keep using grid combat but try to stress that the larger game is still going on and that there are more possible outcomes than just "TPK or TMK". I still think it sounds difficult but maybe it's just a matter of practice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pelle View Post
    YAY

    Backstory: I have the last year gotten together with my friends to play D&D after our 8 year or so hiatus. We're currently playing 3.5 which are the rules we knew, but I'm greatly looking forward to use 5e for the next campaign.

    Didn't realize it was possible back then, but now I am trying to use TotM as much as I can. It saves a lot of time, it's easier to keep the flow, makes people pay attention and react faster on their turn, and it makes negotions/parlays/retreats etc more natural. Bringing out the map makes the players get into combat mode, start rolling initiative, and they expect that all the combat rules are followed exactly until all enemies are dead or TPK.

    Sure, it depends what you want the game to be about. For me, all the tactical decisions in combat are the least interesting. I get really bored and frustrated spending half the sessions on "five-foot-steps", exact measuring movement and ranges and spell areas, +1 this, +2 that, flanking maneuvering etc.
    If I want to have a lot of tactical decisions with clear defined rules, I prefer to play board games. D&D combat makes for a really bad board game IMO.
    I would rather spend the game/time on how to handle different situations, choices on how to interact with people and strategies, and not the exact accounting of HP and spell slots.

    I feel some of my players, still in the 3.5 mindset, are a little frustrated when some rules aren't being followed exactly. And it is a challenge to me to provide them enough information to act on. They might feel cheated if they can't use their spells optimally since they can't see the exact positions. However, they should also be empowered to do more things as well. "Sorry, you can't charge that enemy, he is 13 squares away, you can max move 12" is not a problem anymore.

    So I still bring to every session a bunch of my old miniatures, nice grid maps and some hand selected terrain features that may become relevant. And I bring them out if there is a large, complicated, or tough (boss) combat. But I am more happy if I don't have to.
    You may well like 5E then. Even with the grid, the combat rules are much more streamlined. There's no such thing as a "five foot step" and you hardly ever apply modifiers to dice rolls, using the much simpler and faster advantage/disadvantage mechanic instead (roll two d20s and keep the higher/lower roll, ignoring the other). That said, it still clunks a bit at higher levels, hence this thread. I like your idea of using the grid for boss combats. TotM for most of the session, then get the grid out for the climactic set piece - could work well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chugger View Post
    Grid is far superior to theater for me - it makes the combat seem "real" - it helps everyone visualize it - and it keeps everyone to a certain extent "honest". If there's no way that orc is getting over to hit player A without giving player B an AoO, the grid will reveal it. If theater, the DM will often not allow it if he wants the encounter to "be more challenging" or w/e. And players get resentful. The problem with the theater approach is that the DM isn't loading all relevant info into his/her head - and isn't telling the players enough - in most circumstances. But grid can be cumbersome. If it's a lesser fight and straightforward, i.e. it's on a grassy plain and there's one giant - maybe theater is best - cuz things go faster. Or at least put figures down on the table, maybe w/out grid and guestimate distances. Grid and miniatures is usually worth the effort, though.
    Well I like grid combat for all the same reasons. If I didn't really like the tactical combat element of D&D then this wouldn't even be an issue for me. My problem with the grid is not that it's too much effort but that, as others have pointed out, it tends to lock everyone into thinking in "combat terms". So in the rest of the game the goal is dictated by the narrative and the methods for achieving the goal are pretty much whatever the players can imagine - but suddenly when a fight starts, the goal becomes "reduce all monsters to 0 HP" and the method becomes "make attack rolls, cast spells and use special abilities". I don't want to throw the grid out if I don't have to, but I do want to throw out the hard distinction between "combat" and "not-combat". If that makes sense.

  5. - Top - End - #35
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by HidesHisEyes View Post
    You may well like 5E then. Even with the grid, the combat rules are much more streamlined. There's no such thing as a "five foot step" and you hardly ever apply modifiers to dice rolls, using the much simpler and faster advantage/disadvantage mechanic instead (roll two d20s and keep the higher/lower roll, ignoring the other). That said, it still clunks a bit at higher levels, hence this thread. I like your idea of using the grid for boss combats. TotM for most of the session, then get the grid out for the climactic set piece - could work well.
    Thanks, as I said I'm looking forward to 5e, everything I read about it looks promising. The whole rulings > rules suits my preference as a DM better.
    Not sure if switching to 5e will increase or reduce my use of TotM. Combat in 5e may be smoother, making the grid less a burden, but 5e also seems better suited for TotM.

    Quote Originally Posted by HidesHisEyes View Post
    I don't want to throw the grid out if I don't have to, but I do want to throw out the hard distinction between "combat" and "not-combat". If that makes sense.
    In an encounter, I tend to wait as long as possible before bringing out the grid, allowing for other confrontations than straight combat. I might sketch rough positions on a piece of paper or use some dice on the table to illustrate positions, before judging it neccessary with a grid.

    Now I remember the old days, we sometimes played using miniatures and a string with knots marking certain distances such as 10, 20, 30, 60 ft. It was relatively fast, feels more free than using a grid, and is really more true to the rules. Grid/squares is just an artificial and limiting way of representing the distances given in abilities and spells. Much better IMO to use distance directly, than going through this poor model...

  6. - Top - End - #36
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Theatre of the Mind has always worked ok for me, but if the combat is big, or if the battlefield has special features, it IS a good thing if the DM draws a quick sketch of what the area is like and where the characters are.

    No need to use a battlegrid, but it's hard to argue against the use of a quick sketch to avoid much confusion.

  7. - Top - End - #37
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Daemon

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    I guess I do a hybrid. Physical maps and minis, but no grid.

    I have a glass-topped table that we play on, and I draw an approximate sketch of the map on it when positioning is important. I don't worry about having it down to the 5' accuracy--just get it close enough.

    This takes about 20 seconds, and usually happens when they're rolling initiative. We then measure (using a flexible measuring tape designed for sewing) distances--1 inch = 5 feet. No grid, no fixed squares, just distances. For me and my style it works really well. TotM gets me confused and I forget who is where. It's hard enough keeping track of everything going on--adding all of that would overload me completely.
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  8. - Top - End - #38
    Orc in the Playground
     
    MonkGuy

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    I like the idea of TotM with the Numenera solution of distance being abstractified into close, medium and far. It would render movement speed bonuses from various features moot though.

  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Kobold

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    My group have used TotM pretty much exclusively since the '80s, and we much prefer it to using grids. We've used it in every edition - yes, we even played 4e that way, and it worked fine.

    Occasionally, if there's a particularly complex fight we'll scatter a few things on the table to make an impromptu tableaux of what's going on, but never with a strict grid and exact scaling.

    We find that in the very rare instance that we've used a grid, it feels more like a game of chess than a fight in D&D.

    Besides, combats are often stop-start affairs where they're interspersed with diplomacy and other interaction; or will involve people flying around, running up walls, leaping onto the backs of dragons, and other such things; or will turn into chase scenes (and vice versa). None of that can be represented on a grid easily.

    For us, grids get in the way of imagination, rather than facilitating it.

    We've never had any problem with:

    "How far away is the medusa that Sarah is in melee with?"
    "Around 30 feet from where you are in the doorway."
    "Fine. I'll run up and try to kick her in the head, doing a flurry of blows."
    "If you're trying to run while averting your eyes, it will count as difficult terrain..."

    or

    "If I want to get the ogre in a fireball, how many goblins can I also catch in the blast?"
    "Three, or five if you don't mind Bob being in the area of effect too."
    "No problem - don't worry Bob, I've got 'Careful Spell' so you'll automatically make your save..."
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  10. - Top - End - #40
    Orc in the Playground
     
    MonkGuy

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by Blacky the Blackball View Post
    My group have used TotM pretty much exclusively since the '80s, and we much prefer it to using grids. We've used it in every edition - yes, we even played 4e that way, and it worked fine.

    Occasionally, if there's a particularly complex fight we'll scatter a few things on the table to make an impromptu tableaux of what's going on, but never with a strict grid and exact scaling.

    We find that in the very rare instance that we've used a grid, it feels more like a game of chess than a fight in D&D.

    Besides, combats are often stop-start affairs where they're interspersed with diplomacy and other interaction; or will involve people flying around, running up walls, leaping onto the backs of dragons, and other such things; or will turn into chase scenes (and vice versa). None of that can be represented on a grid easily.

    For us, grids get in the way of imagination, rather than facilitating it.

    We've never had any problem with:

    "How far away is the medusa that Sarah is in melee with?"
    "Around 30 feet from where you are in the doorway."
    "Fine. I'll run up and try to kick her in the head, doing a flurry of blows."
    "If you're trying to run while averting your eyes, it will count as difficult terrain..."

    or

    "If I want to get the ogre in a fireball, how many goblins can I also catch in the blast?"
    "Three, or five if you don't mind Bob being in the area of effect too."
    "No problem - don't worry Bob, I've got 'Careful Spell' so you'll automatically make your save..."
    Where is the DM getting those answers from though? I like the idea of playing this way, but I don't like the idea of the DM making up these details as they go along.

  11. - Top - End - #41
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by HidesHisEyes View Post
    Where is the DM getting those answers from though? I like the idea of playing this way, but I don't like the idea of the DM making up these details as they go along.
    Why? The DM literally makes up the details of the grid, too. The DM makes up the details of every other pillar of the game, and you trust her there, don't you? Why does combat need to be different?

    If you don't trust your DM to run a good game, and need a grid to "keep him honest" that's not really a grid problem, it's a player/DM relationship problem.

  12. - Top - End - #42
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Millstone85's Avatar

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pelle View Post
    If I want to have a lot of tactical decisions with clear defined rules, I prefer to play board games. D&D combat makes for a really bad board game IMO.
    It seems like my DM feels the same, and that's really a pity.

    Me, I feel like I am being constantly teased with this really intriguing board game and I will never get to judge for myself if it is good or not.

    Our group started with the worst edition of D&D in that regard. 4e tried really hard to be a board game. Whether it was the worst edition in general is another matter.

  13. - Top - End - #43
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    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    I guess I do a hybrid. Physical maps and minis, but no grid.

    I have a glass-topped table that we play on, and I draw an approximate sketch of the map on it when positioning is important. I don't worry about having it down to the 5' accuracy--just get it close enough.

    This takes about 20 seconds, and usually happens when they're rolling initiative. We then measure (using a flexible measuring tape designed for sewing) distances--1 inch = 5 feet. No grid, no fixed squares, just distances. For me and my style it works really well. TotM gets me confused and I forget who is where. It's hard enough keeping track of everything going on--adding all of that would overload me completely.
    That is my recommendation, as well. Grids have an inorganic feel to them for me, minis are spaced out in sometimes unrealistic ways, and it can tend to "gamify" the combats a little more in a subliminal way.

    I feel like minis and measurements are necessary for D&D combat to be played according to the rules (their TotM mechanics are basically "DM wings it").

    So I do it as AD&D and prior did, minis on a tabletop with distances measured by tape, 1" = 5 ft (instead of 10 like the old days). I use bits of cardboard and paper and other stuff to represent terrain and doors and such, that I keep handy. I allow one test measurement per player per turn before they decide their action, to see if they can reach a target or estimate where their AoE will reach.

  14. - Top - End - #44
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by HidesHisEyes View Post
    Where is the DM getting those answers from though? I like the idea of playing this way, but I don't like the idea of the DM making up these details as they go along.
    Even in TotM, the DM pretty much always has a map - either one supplied with the adventure or one they've drawn themselves; so they do have an idea of where things are in relation to each other. It's not as if the DM is just pulling arbitrary numbers out of thin air - the announcement (to use the above example) that there are three or five goblins is because the DM (and hopefully the players) are aware that there are three goblins who are next to the ogre and another two that are in melee with Bob.

    But for the exact details and placement? Yes, the DM makes it up. Just as they make up what monsters are there and how they will behave.

    To me, there's no real qualitative difference between the DM saying "you can get four wolves in the fireball" and the DM placing wolves on a grid in an arrangement such that four of them are close enough together to be fireballed. In either case the placement and movement of the wolves (and therefore how many you can hit) is being decided by the DM - or "made up as they go along", if you prefer. It's just that placing miniatures on a grid gives it an illusion of objectivity.
    Last edited by Blacky the Blackball; 2017-08-10 at 11:45 AM.
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  15. - Top - End - #45
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    MonkGuy

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Nay.

    I started White Box with miniatures, rulers, and no grid.

    Worked well.

    Played TotM with our usual DM. Not unbearable. Confusing as hell but it worked - in a crippled, pale way.

    That said, never again; I now bring a case or two of Human, Elf, Gnome and Dwarf miniatures that can stand in for whatever (he has a very small collection) and usually a bag of pennies for horde monsters.

    If I signed up for an AL game or was invited to a non-AL game and discovered it was TotM I would as gracefully as possible immediately withdraw from the game. Simply something I would not participate in. I have a great imagination but I am a visual person and prefer functioning in that mode.

    If I went to the stage or movie theater and somebody on a stool read the play/script I would walk out and demand my money back. To me there is no difference between that and TotM. YMMV but has no reference on my position. Nay, a thousand times nay.

    I still have several thousand (after recently dumping/giving away multiple hundreds) miniature figures that I gladly share if needed for games. All those years as a miniature war gamer (Historical, Fantasy, Victorian Science Fiction, Science Fiction) has given the potential to assist the DM present a 3D model of the event, not just the battles. My dungeon furniture pieces are not too shabby a collection either. All the DM has to do is ask and I wil gladly assist by providing 3D assests.

    Last edited by ZorroGames; 2017-08-10 at 12:37 PM.
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  16. - Top - End - #46
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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by ZorroGames View Post
    Confusing as hell but it worked - in a crippled, pale way.
    QFT



    A grid isn't needed for games that don't use TotM, any table will do, all you need is a ruler

  17. - Top - End - #47
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    I've moved from a complete ToM to having a big whiteboard on the game table. I'll probably ad some minis to it, but I'm very unlikely to use a grid.

  18. - Top - End - #48
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    Knaight's Avatar

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by mephnick View Post
    I'm not a huge fan, but I've used it a few times and it's ran ok. However, you need a very descriptive DM and mature, attentive players that are willing to go with the flow a bit. If you have players that constantly argue about how many creatures they want to hit, or look up from their phone on their turn and don't know what's happening, it's not going to work. At all. Whenever I do it I tend to revert to Numenera's idea of Close, Medium and Long descriptions for distances instead of using feet. It's a lot easier to say "Jurgon, you have 3 Orcs at close distance surrounding you, you see 2 Orcs have sprinted toward Kenra and are at Long distance as they try to shut down the ranger. Thartrik is going one on one with the Ogre to your left at medium distance and he seems to be losing."
    Numenera distances work, Fate zones work, and generally there are a lot of systems that work really well without some sort of concrete visual representation. There's a trend to them, and a lot of it is in the absence of exact measurements - D&D meanwhile has a bunch of mechanics that push towards a grid, and that makes TotM work significantly more poorly.
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  19. - Top - End - #49
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    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by ZorroGames View Post
    If I went to the stage or movie theater and somebody on a stool read the play/script I would walk out and demand my money back. To me there is no difference between that and TotM. YMMV but has no reference on my position. Nay, a thousand times nay.
    Interesting, for me it is kind of opposite. I tend to lose immersion seeing the grid/minis. My imagination works better with only the verbal descriptions, than with minis that have limited movement options, doesn't represent the characters completly, look like a chess board, etc.
    It's like reading a good book, compared to watching a bad movie adaption. I prefer what my imagination comes up with.


    Question for those of you that don't like TotM; is it because you like the combat mini-game (and maybe CaS > CaW), or is it related to immersion, visualizing, having more information about the situation etc?

    I see that the last part can be important to consider more for my players sake, but I will still use TotM alot because for me the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

  20. - Top - End - #50
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pelle View Post
    Question for those of you that don't like TotM; is it because you like the combat mini-game (and maybe CaS > CaW),
    Combat is not a "mini-game", it's one of the pillars of D&D. The default xp system rewards killing monsters, the adventuring "day" is based around a fixed number of encounters that challenge the party's resource management skills. If you tore the combat out of D&D, you wouldn't have much of a game anymore.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pelle View Post
    or is it related to immersion, visualizing, having more information about the situation etc?
    It's critical to actually playing the game D&D, exploration without a map is often Non-Euclidean because of the limitations of most DM's. Combat is totally gutted because no one has any sense of spacing, which is devastating for Rogues. A good example of how grids enhance the game even outside of combat is the Death House prologue for CoS. The first floor of that is nothing but the party exploring the rooms of a creepy Townhouse, actually being able to see a topdown view of the room they were in and exactly were they were standing in it did a lot to make my players feel fully immersed.
    Last edited by War_lord; 2017-08-11 at 04:18 AM.

  21. - Top - End - #51
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by War_lord View Post
    Combat is not a "mini-game", it's one of the pillars of D&D. The default xp system rewards killing monsters, the adventuring "day" is based around a fixed number of encounters that challenge the party's resource management skills. If you tore the combat out of D&D, you wouldn't have much of a game anymore.
    Sure, but using TotM doesn't mean tearing combat, resource management and adventuring days away. Maybe bad choice of word then, but with combat mini-game I was meaning the tactical "chess" aspect of combat, with initiative order, five-foot-steps, standard actions, flanking, careful measuring of squares etc. IMX, using a grid makes the players focus on the rules and mechanics more than the decisions and actions the characters make. Some players enjoy that aspect of D&D, which is fine.

  22. - Top - End - #52
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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pelle View Post
    Sure, but using TotM doesn't mean tearing combat, resource management and adventuring days away. Maybe bad choice of word then, but with combat mini-game I was meaning the tactical "chess" aspect of combat, with initiative order, five-foot-steps, standard actions, flanking, careful measuring of squares etc. IMX, using a grid makes the players focus on the rules and mechanics more than the decisions and actions the characters make. Some players enjoy that aspect of D&D, which is fine.
    Strict adherence to the grid and the way it shifts the focus to the combat mechanics strikes me as bit like the "fade to combat" aspect of some of the Final Fantasy games and their cousins.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    Daemon

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Strict adherence to the grid and the way it shifts the focus to the combat mechanics strikes me as bit like the "fade to combat" aspect of some of the Final Fantasy games and their cousins.
    Grids work if everything is expressed in grid terms and grids are required. They didn't bug me in 4e (more than anything else, anyway). In 5e, they get in the way of the flow of the game. Having a whiteboard to sketch maps and show locations as an aide to the play works well for me--TotM while doing things where exact placement, distance, line of sight, etc aren't crucial. Map + minis + measured distances for things where those are important. It's a good compromise for me and avoids the extra mental overhead of pure TotM while being clearly just an aid (not an exact representation of reality) to avoid the "fade to combat" effect.
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    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pelle View Post
    Interesting, for me it is kind of opposite. I tend to lose immersion seeing the grid/minis. My imagination works better with only the verbal descriptions, than with minis that have limited movement options, doesn't represent the characters completly, look like a chess board, etc.
    It's like reading a good book, compared to watching a bad movie adaption. I prefer what my imagination comes up with.


    Question for those of you that don't like TotM; is it because you like the combat mini-game (and maybe CaS > CaW), or is it related to immersion, visualizing, having more information about the situation etc?

    I see that the last part can be important to consider more for my players sake, but I will still use TotM alot because for me the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
    It's partly about liking the tactical/strategic combat element of the game. It is also about making the most of what the game has to offer - which is mechanics that include making strategic decisions about character abilities and equipment that are only relevant if precise distance and range and line of sight/cover and timing are used in combat.

    To me, using only TotM is like only playing half the game. You ignore so many things and so many things are reduced in importance or utility, and so much becomes completely dependent on the DM's subjective decisions that it is a very different game.
    ToTM:"How many targets can be hit by my fireball?" - "uh, let's say three."(because I don't want the fight to be over too fast).

    Minis+measurements - player looks at the battlefield and chooses to launch a fireball where it looks like it will catch the most bad guys - if the choice is well made, with the right timing and set-up, it will catch more enemies. If they make a mistake or choose poorly, it will be less effective. Either way, it is the player's decisions which have objective impact on the results. The DM will be playing the enemies in a way they find suitable, but the players can use their abilities to objectively affect the battle. Obviously, this is the preferred method for those embracing the philosophy that DM is referee primarily, and DM is storyteller secondarily. ToTM is favored by those who wish for combat to primarily serve the narrative, and to work as a game secondarily.

    Note: I favor gridless combat with measurements and terrain - a grid, especially a square one vs a hex, feels too artificial to me.
    Last edited by Thrudd; 2017-08-11 at 11:23 AM.

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by HidesHisEyes View Post

    All of which suggests theatre of the mind really would work better for this kind of approach. But I have to say there are a couple of things grid-based combat does that I really like:

    A) it makes it easier to design spaces in which PCs (and monsters) can interact with the environment in a meaningful way, with difficult terrain and cover and so on.

    B) it creates a shared objective reality for the fighting to take place in. Everyone can see exactly how far they can move, which enemies they can and can't target, who has cover, when the rogue can get a sneak attack and so on. To me, this definite-ness is really important, since it means that every little decision counts, and that being able to move that extra five feet because you chose to play a wood elf can be the difference between success or failure. To me that's a big thrill and I suspect it would be harder to get with TotM combat.

    Am I wrong? Does anyone use TotM? Or does anyone use the grid but still make the fast-and-integrated approach work?
    I only play theater of the mind. Role playing games were originally designed to be played in this manner. You can see that in 1st and 2nd edition, as well as a large majority of the other original RPGs were played this way. It wasn't until D&D 3.0, for the most part, that you started to see the grid. As a counter to your points above:

    A) The grid stifles player imagination and creativity. A tree can be seen as an obstacle instead of something that can be climbed for example. Also, when you play TotM, players will ask the DM for things such as cover, obscured areas, terrain that the DM did not think of, but really adds to the combat. Such as the rogue asking for a dimly lit area to hide since he has the skulker feat. It also forces players to visualize the beholder they are fighting, not just see it as a miniature on a board, or at worst a poker chip. To me it's just more spontaneous and imaginative to eliminate the grid.

    B) Distance is the biggest challenge with TotM. For the most part you fake it till you make it. I keep track of the combat with a piece of graph paper where I know the exact position and distance in combat, but I only let the players see it briefly if they are completely confused. That way I can quickly answer questions related to distance.

    TotM is the only way to run combat in my opinion, but I know there are those who like to make an RPG half board game. I do not.

    Edit: It has been pointed out to me that 1st was based on Chainmail and that it encouraged the use of a grid. However, 2nd edition made no mention of grids.
    Last edited by mcsillas; 2017-08-12 at 12:17 PM.

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    I greatly prefer having a grid, no small part because I've hundreds of dollars and hours invested into my miniature collection. It's a big rip off when you want to show off your BA mini you painted for your character, and the DM says, "no need for a map. Let's ToTM." I have a special miniature of a T-Rex with a shield guardian riding it for when my wizard polymorphs into a T-Rex to serve as a mount for my shield guardian. That's not something that should stay in the bag.

    But on a more gameplay oriented note, I think the grid adding a tactical approach to the game is an element that is missed by a lot of players if it isn't used. It turns D&D into a mini wargame, which some players love, some might not. I can see how it might somehow break immersion for certain players.

    The only time I'd avoid a grid is in situations where it isn't all that helpful, such as extensive three dimensional combat.

    "I see the dragon is 90 feet from me so I'm going to Scorching Ray it."
    "No, he is 90 feet away horizontally, but 80 feet up, so Pythagoras tells us that's actually 120.4 feet away and scorching ray has a range of 120 feet. You're out of range."
    *Table Flips*

    Once trigonometry is involved, the grid has lost it's usefulness.
    Last edited by PeteNutButter; 2017-08-11 at 02:45 PM.
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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by HidesHisEyes View Post
    In looking for ways to speed up combat in 5E I came across this:

    https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.r...nd_tothepoint/

    Tldr: it describes a general approach where you view combat as intermingled with the rest of the adventure as much as you can. It emphasises keeping sight of the objective, both for the DM and the players. Keep in mind what the party and the monsters are actually trying to accomplish by fighting and a lot of fights can be cut short: monsters might surrender, flee, or fight to the foregone conclusion without having to play out the last couple of rounds. The story moves on with no need to get bogged down in the combat system.

    I really like this whole idea, but one things that jumps out at me is that the author says they use theatre of the mind combat. Now that makes a lot of sense with this approach to combat, since drawing out a map and placing miniatures down not only eats up time but, I think, gets everyone in the "fight mode" headspace, sort of like the screen whooshing and the battle music starting in a Final Fantasy game. It seems to me that as a player, psychologically, I would find it harder to think of the battle as just one more part of the adventure, and not as a mini game scenario to be played out in full, with a battlegrid and minis in front of me. Some players might even feel sort of cheated, I suspect. The author suggests wrapping up a combat once it gets one-sided in the PCs' favour by, for example, just stating that the remaining monsters flee. Now the players decide whether to let them go or chase them. I suspect that with the grid in front of them, a good many players would a) be more likely to give chase without even considering that they could choose not to and b) would expect to play out the chase on the grid using combat rules and might feel cheated if you said "ok now make Athletics checks to catch up" or whatever.

    All of which suggests theatre of the mind really would work better for this kind of approach. But I have to say there are a couple of things grid-based combat does that I really like:

    A) it makes it easier to design spaces in which PCs (and monsters) can interact with the environment in a meaningful way, with difficult terrain and cover and so on.

    B) it creates a shared objective reality for the fighting to take place in. Everyone can see exactly how far they can move, which enemies they can and can't target, who has cover, when the rogue can get a sneak attack and so on. To me, this definite-ness is really important, since it means that every little decision counts, and that being able to move that extra five feet because you chose to play a wood elf can be the difference between success or failure. To me that's a big thrill and I suspect it would be harder to get with TotM combat.

    Am I wrong? Does anyone use TotM? Or does anyone use the grid but still make the fast-and-integrated approach work?
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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    I prefer having a visual reference rather than strict TotM. Too many times have I run into "He's hiding behind the crates" "what crates" "It's a warehouse" "but you didn't mention crates" "you should have asked if there were crates if you wanted to hide."

    I just...if there's anything outside of an open room I feel it's much easier to keep track of features if I have a visual reference. Thinking ahead to how many guys I can fireball without interrupting the DM and someone else's turn, seeing if there's a flank path I can block, or just having the movement difference between a halfling, a human, a tabaxi, a monk, and a barbarian actually matter (like a tabaxi monk doubling movement and taking a bonus action move to run up and around the enemy to their back line, and being able to point and say "yup, the distance checks out").

    I like planning neat stunts using the terrain. I find it easier to do that when I can see "he's next to a wall...hmmm, I have an idea" rather than needing to have the idea first and ask if he's next to a wall. (edit: in a fight with a dragon, I noticed he happened to move next to a ruined wall, still in the air. I climbed the wall, used tabaxi movement and monk jump increase, with the stated height of the walls and my jump height barely made it to the dragon, and grappled him to the ground. I would never have considered that without a map)

    I've not really found it restrictive. If it's a warehouse, and I want to hide behind some crates, but there's no crates on the map...I ask if there's some crates around. The response is either "no" or "yeah, bout here and here" with some squiggles marking them. But I have a MUCH easier time keying off things I can see.

    It also helps me keep track of what everyone's doing. As I said, I key off visuals much more easily. So if someone moves up to the ogre and attacks I can follow things more easily if a mini slides across the table.

    Back in high school, in ADnD 2E, we started pure totm. We found that to keep track of combat the dm basically needed a sketch of where people were, and eventually that bringing it to the other side of the screen vastly reduced confusion and questions.
    Last edited by huttj509; 2017-08-11 at 03:16 PM.

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    This is a good post about it:

    http://www.runagame.net/2016/09/smar...mechanics.html

    Basically, the game uses exact grid measurements for everything, when it really needs an abstracted system to do ToTM smoothly. It's not terrible, but it does force a lot of winging it when there could be a better way.

    When you have a grid, then 'shove 10 feet' matters. When it's ToTM, it doesn't match. It's more like 'shove from 'melee' to 'close', and then have mechanics that kick in if that opponent decides to close to 'melee' again on their turn.

    The 13th Age has a really good system for this. The blog post goes into it.

    I think the only reason they didn't build it in was their design precept of 'make it feel like the D&D we all know and love', and not rock the boat. We might get something like it in an optional rule set, but I doubt it.
    Last edited by Beelzebubba; 2017-08-11 at 03:29 PM.

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    Default Re: Theatre of the Mind: yay or nay?

    I prefer theatre of the mind but i don't mind a grid either. If everyone just accepts what the dm says and the players express what they are trying to do then it's just quicker.
    I attack the nearest enemy and try to stand between the enemies and my party members.
    I shot one of the enemies and try to move behind cover if there is any.
    And so on.
    And when i am the Dm i just love it when the players asks about some detail about the battle that i didn't think of. It's the easiest thing to just add something cool that the players ask about since it's abit vague. I feel that Totm gives alot more freedom than a grid.

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