Playing with miniatures, but no map

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LikelyArrow

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One of my favorite game sessions, we played with miniatures, but no map. I was GMing, and we had been playing for several sessions with carefully-laid-out tile maps, but I found designing the adventure around tiles I actually had was a pain and a time-sink, so one session I decided, "Screw it, let's just group the miniatures to show who's next to who." It worked well, and the players loved it. (Unfortunately, the group broke up afterward so there was no follow-up. Since then, my groups have tended to use dry-erasable grid maps with minis.)

I've seen a lot of talk about miniature(+map) play vs. theater of the mind, but I've never run across anyone else who has done minis only. It seems like it splits the difference, allowing a the dungeon to exist in its full glory in the imagination, while providing a visual aid for remembering who is doing what and roughly where they are in relation to each other.

I'm curious if anyone else here has tried this approach?
 

Bunch

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Just to clarify. When you say group together so you know whos next to who do you mean something like combatants XY&Z are in a cluster here then in a cluster maybe right next to them is another cluster with AB&C but cluster 1 and cluster 2 have no meaningful locations on the table? Or are the clusters also somewhat loosely showing where the clusters are in relation to each other as well?

The former I would say is really mapless but the later seems like an implied map with very little detail.
 

ffilz

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I haven't quite done this. I did extremely crude map once, pencils to lay out a couple walls, not really to scale, minis for the PCs. Tokens or something for the monsters.

Unfortunately unless the system is entirely theater of the mind (like Burning Wheel), I do prefer a scale map and tokens or miniatures.

I think the minis to show grouping and proximity and otherwise theater of the mind IS a valid way to play though, it just isn't to my taste.

I've also seen use of, or at least heard of, minis purely as character illustration, and they just sit in front of the player.
 

LikelyArrow

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Just to clarify. When you say group together so you know whos next to who do you mean something like combatants XY&Z are in a cluster here then in a cluster maybe right next to them is another cluster with AB&C but cluster 1 and cluster 2 have no meaningful locations on the table? Or are the clusters also somewhat loosely showing where the clusters are in relation to each other as well?
If I remember correctly, we did put the different clusters sort of in the right directions relative to each other (if there was room on the table), but the distances were completely abstract: an archer separated from everybody would have been put a little further away just as a reminder, but we wouldn't have bothered with the actual distance.
 

Bunch

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If I remember correctly, we did put the different clusters sort of in the right directions relative to each other (if there was room on the table), but the distances were completely abstract: an archer separated from everybody would have been put a little further away just as a reminder, but we wouldn't have bothered with the actual distance.
So back in the day before easy access to dry erase markers and board we would have done things like that. It probably would have at least included an attempt to identify relative distances and major obstacles (usually marked with dice on the table). It worked until something got miscommunicated and one person(usually the DM) assumed something different than what the player meant. As adults it probably works fine. As early teens it caused big fights sometimes.
 

Brock Savage

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Micheal Shea has written a decent article about lining up miniatures Final Fantasy-style and using 13th Age nomenclature such as “nearby”, “far away”, “grouped”, and “engaged.” It's a decent compromise between full on grid + minis and theater of the mind. This happens to be the method I use when the grid is impractical or unnecessary but distance and/or position still need to be tracked.
 

warwell

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Yes. That's how we did it back in the last millenium. We had figures for our characters but no terrain. We just lined them up on the tabletop. We didn't even have monster figures. Plastic figures from Milton Bradley's Battle Cry (the 60s version) filled in. It worked fine.
 

VisionStorm

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I don't do this per se, but I draw dots in a piece of paper and crude obstacles in between to establish character positioning relative to other characters and NPCs/Enemies, as well as obstructions in the environment. But keep no accurate distances, other than maybe half an inch = roughly 10 to 20 feet, or something like that.
 

Bunch

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I don't do this per se, but I draw dots in a piece of paper and crude obstacles in between to establish character positioning relative to other characters and NPCs/Enemies, as well as obstructions in the environment. But keep no accurate distances, other than maybe half an inch = roughly 10 to 20 feet, or something like that.
This is as I recall what we tended to do for some battles back in the day.
 

Shipyard Locked

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I've been running my current, very outdoorsy D&D campaign using chess pieces for PC, scrabble tiles for NPCs (enemy A, enemy B, etc.) and tape measures for distance, no grid. Coins are trees, Jenga blocks are arranged into the outlines of structures, and trimmed paper shapes serve as difficult terrain. It's extremely liberating, and it's giving me the opportunity to really test what a campaign with a lot of horse riding is really like.
 

PolarBlues

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Sort of. I have a house rule for my Fudge games in which I generate combat encounters randomly using colour-coded D6 rulled randomly from a jar where the colour maps to the critters Rank ("Level" is you prefer) and the rolled value its hit points. There is a little more to it, but I find it works really well for me.

As an extention of this, I often place the dice on the bare table to give the player an idea of who is where. And yes, it does mean they can see the Rank and actual hit points of the critters, but that just saves me having to describe which one looks tougher or looks more injured. It also means I don't have to keep track of hit points on a piece of paper, I just flip the dice over. I am a very lazy GM.

Add to that some random tokens to show the placement for the player characters and what you basically have a quick and dirty, mapless miniature system.
 

WillPhillips

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One of my favorite game sessions, we played with miniatures, but no map. I was GMing, and we had been playing for several sessions with carefully-laid-out tile maps, but I found designing the adventure around tiles I actually had was a pain and a time-sink, so one session I decided, "Screw it, let's just group the miniatures to show who's next to who." It worked well, and the players loved it. (Unfortunately, the group broke up afterward so there was no follow-up. Since then, my groups have tended to use dry-erasable grid maps with minis.)

I've seen a lot of talk about miniature(+map) play vs. theater of the mind, but I've never run across anyone else who has done minis only. It seems like it splits the difference, allowing a the dungeon to exist in its full glory in the imagination, while providing a visual aid for remembering who is doing what and roughly where they are in relation to each other.

I'm curious if anyone else here has tried this approach?

I kinda take this approach for the reason you mentioned above.

Given how far-ranging RPGs can be, I prefer to not bother with a bunch of terrain or maps that will just be one-time uses (or constrain the game/story too narrowly). I'll just make terrain for wargaming, thanks.

So I end up going pretty low-fi, just to players have something to visualize on the table. Paper minis and whiteboard maps.

 

AsenRG

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One of my favorite game sessions, we played with miniatures, but no map. I was GMing, and we had been playing for several sessions with carefully-laid-out tile maps, but I found designing the adventure around tiles I actually had was a pain and a time-sink, so one session I decided, "Screw it, let's just group the miniatures to show who's next to who." It worked well, and the players loved it. (Unfortunately, the group broke up afterward so there was no follow-up. Since then, my groups have tended to use dry-erasable grid maps with minis.)

I've seen a lot of talk about miniature(+map) play vs. theater of the mind, but I've never run across anyone else who has done minis only. It seems like it splits the difference, allowing a the dungeon to exist in its full glory in the imagination, while providing a visual aid for remembering who is doing what and roughly where they are in relation to each other.

I'm curious if anyone else here has tried this approach?
Sounds like how distance actually works in 13th Age, Legends of the Wulin and other games:thumbsup:!
 

TJS

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Quite a bit.

I've used it with a small dry erase whiteboard where I just scrawl on basic details, or even using index cards to just indicate different areas and zones.
 

Vidgrip

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Back in the day we used figures only to show "marching order" and who was "up" or "back" during combat. No grids or measurements.

These days I do outdoor encounters on a green felt mat (no grid) and use rulers to measure distance (1" = 5ft). It works great and after measuring a few times, players get a good feel for it and generally don't need to measure at all.
 

xanther

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....

I've seen a lot of talk about miniature(+map) play vs. theater of the mind, but I've never run across anyone else who has done minis only. It seems like it splits the difference, allowing a the dungeon to exist in its full glory in the imagination, while providing a visual aid for remembering who is doing what and roughly where they are in relation to each other.

I'm curious if anyone else here has tried this approach?
Done it all on that spectrum. We often use miniatures just to show positional relationships, marching order etc. Long before had a dry erase type/or grease pencil type map (and even after) just sketch up a room on a piece of paper if needed. Visual aids help so much.

Beware Dwarven Forge though. My players love it so much they request it, also non-rpg players want to just play with it or use it in stop motion animation. :smile:
 
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