Battlemats are Television

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8 Responses

  1. Jeff Rients says:

    Excellent post. Thanks for the link!

  2. I’m always torn over the use of battle mats and minis; I was a miniature wargamer first (before I got in to RPGs) and love collecting minis and find them very inspirational.

    However, they do slow things down when you’re in full GM-flow during a good RPG session.

    And, yes, they can also be counter-productive on the imagination front if you haven’t got the EXACT miniature to represent the antagonist you are describing and are having to rely on a proxy.

    It’s probably time to draw a line between RPGs and miniatures games – perhaps the only good use for a mini (or even an action figure) at the table is provide an aide-memoire for players (and GMs) as to who is playing what character (like a graphic name badge of a sort).

  3. kaeosdad says:

    The best trick I’ve figured out for gamers that love minis and battlemaps is to make the environment either to big for the map, or to move the combat beyond the drawn map in several directions. The players who are really stoked on using minis and finding just the right piece to represent this or that quickly forget about all that and find themselves in the game. Mostly I end up using the battle map as a dry erase board/shared notebook to track damage, notes, etc…

  4. drow says:

    if the PCs haven’t rolled for initiative, there’s not much need for a battlemap

  5. Thunderforge says:

    Excellent post. Unfortunately, TV won over radio in the US and radio as a media form has all but died (Prairie Home Companion on NPR has quick sketches every now and then, but that’s all I’ve seen in modern times). Pity that we don’t have Doctor Who radio serials or anything like they do in the UK. Radio, including 99% of internet radio I’ve seen, is always music or talk. So I guess that means imagination has pretty much died in the US.

    That said, I’m definitely for using battlemats for the reasons you’ve mentioned, plus the cost factor. At my university, the classrooms we play in have dry erase boards and I’ve played Savage Worlds by drawing out rooms and labeling characters with letters. I even did an Indiana Jones mine cart scene by drawing squiggly lines on that board, which I could never ever have done on a tabletop! My players loved it and I was convinced that imagination, (with a bit of visual aid to prevent the “So where am I?” questions), is definitely king.

  6. Anarkeith says:

    I keep a bin of beads, rocks and small blocks handy while DMing to make sure my players are looking at a 3d environment with cover, stuff to throw, and things to climb on. Our descriptions still paint the picture (I usually proxy minis) and our imaginations get a workout as well. What I’ve noticed about 4e published encounter design is that the areas seem quite constrained. I think my battlemat is probably 30 inches by 45 inches (sorry for the old school measurement system) and we’re often sweeping books and plates and cans out of the way to use it all.

  7. Ken Newquist says:

    I look at miniatures more as wireframes; they hint at the scene, but your mind’s eye fills in the necessary details.

    Personally, I’d say playing without the map is more like reading a book; you’re responsible for filling in almost all of the visual details. With the map, it’s more like radio — you’re given special effects, voices, etc. that help set the tone of the encounter.

    Dwarven Forge = HD TV. :)

    My group was mini-less back when we started in second edition, lo those many … many years ago, but we ultimately moved to 3rd because a) we like combat and b) it cut down on tactical confusion.

    I think our minis play hit its apex with D&D 3rd Edition; we tend to do things a bit more abstract now as we incorporate skill challenges and such into the game.
    .-= Ken Newquist´s last blog ..D&D 4th Edition: A Player’s Perspective =-.

  8. Elda King says:

    I don’t really like radio, but I do like playing without a battlemat.
    I believe that it’s a different style of play, not a better or worse way to play. Some encounters work better with a map, others without one.
    Sometimes you do not want to concern yourself with exact positioning and distances, the scene is to crowded to fit into 5-foot squares, or you want a non-tatical fight.
    In the other side, sometimes the players need the visual aid for a complex scene (but not too complex, or you won’t be able to picture it – a volcano with plenty of flying platforms that often change place or a piece of swirling chaos of Limbo, for example).

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