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Theater of the Mind vs Battle Grids

Jan 8, 2020 1:48 pm
I know this topic has a variety of forum responses and videos around the internet, but I'm curious as your opinion on Theater of the Mind vs Battle Grids/Miniatures and the like. Pros and Cons of each? Your personal preference? Do you embrace one over the other; run a hybrid of the two?

I know that our PbP forum here operates mostly off of Theater of the Mind...could be wrong, but I think so with minimal visual aids. But, how do you feel about each in "face to face" play as well as online play (forums, roll20, etc).

Any information and opinion on the topic would be helpful. Thanks!
Jan 8, 2020 1:50 pm
Theater of the mind since it is online would be best.
I have tried running games with maps and it slowed things down.
Jan 8, 2020 2:17 pm
I think it can help if the Gm feels they're not confident enough to describe what a room/landscape looks like. It can help them as visual aid to make sure everyone's on the same page. But I prefer Theater of the Mind. :)
Jan 8, 2020 2:20 pm
I'm of two thoughts on battle grids.

1) It's an additional tactical mini-game overlay to a RPG. It adds something that wasn't really there. Several popular RPGs have mechanics that are best used when you can set up particular paths and situations (BattleTech/Mechwarrior, attacks of opportunity in D&D 3/4/PF, ...)

2) Because it's an overlay, and the rest of the game is TotM, be it GM description, conversing with PCs/NPCs, it does take you out of that headspace. As such, I find that grids turn the whole game into a more tactical simulation (mileage may vary in your troupe).
Jan 8, 2020 2:24 pm
Depends on the game.
Pathfinder runs much better with a map but in my opinion it's a bit of a hassle to do that in PBP.
I would still argue it's better to have a map, even if it's a quick ascii style one for this type of game but then again, I also think those types of games aren't particularly well suited for PBP so I would recommend just playing in a system that doesn't rely on exact positioning like that ;)

Outside of that, I think visual aids and maps can be useful to give a better understanding of the area(especially to people with limited visual imagination) but aren't necessary.
Jan 8, 2020 2:36 pm
In person, we always use maps as we love a little bit of a tactical feel to the game.

In PbP, I've gone back and forth. If it's a particularly complicated battle I am more likely to use a battle map than if it's a simple battle in a 30x30 room.
Jan 8, 2020 3:15 pm
I have participated in some games here where battle grids were involved. It does make for a more tactical game. I suppose whether or not that is a good thing depends on the goal.
Jan 8, 2020 3:21 pm
I find that, without a grid map, I have a very hard time picturing the action and understanding where objects and characters are in relation to each other. So having a map actually makes it easier for me to write PbP combat posts that are both evocative and make sense in the context.
Jan 8, 2020 3:25 pm
I've had some experience on some make-shift grids. Actually my first ttRPG was with D&D 3.5...well, a home-brewed version of it. The GM used a grid and tokens. I've done a grid-less tabletop before. I've used tokens (even paper flats) to represent trees, rocks, or what not and my measurements are done with piece of string I have with little marks for increments of 5 feet or whatever. Basically a "grid" without a grid. :) To me, that worked really nice in person so you did have a visual. Only utilized it in combat encounters.
Jan 8, 2020 4:53 pm
I think it really depends on a lot of situations.

1. Are you playing a game which is more tactical in nature? In this case, playing with grids might be a prerequisite.

2. Are you playing with people who have trouble picturing the battlefield in their mind? Then they might need a grid as a visual play aid (or at the very least a rough sketch of where everyone is...).
Jan 9, 2020 12:48 am
I personally like the maps because of the tatical element.
IRL: having a map slows things down unless its preprinted...
PBP: i like it because it'll give a visual aid and layout. I have minimal photo editing skills so i use a FakePhotoshop and align everything up on that.

I have done "by reference" maps before, during a chase scene the other day i was useing boxes and cards as depictions of the War Machines (D&D Descent into Avernus) as a where things are in relation to the players but i didn't like it much.
Jan 9, 2020 3:05 am
I use a combination of the two. I often provide a map to show the layout of a room, but rely on TotM when it comes to action.
Feb 25, 2020 1:40 am
For face-to-face I use 3D printed terrain and minis for my 5e campaign. I think my players find it immersive. In prior pbp games I’ve run I’ve used both totm and battle maps. It depends on the situation and how complex the encounter it.
Mar 6, 2020 8:16 pm
On the boards here, for small encounters we just use TotM, but when they get more complicated we use a grid.
In person, we always use a grid. It allows players to move and use area of effect spells with some knowledge of what the result will be.
Mar 7, 2020 4:02 pm
I'd say it really depends on the system and theme of the game, for example, if we are playing a game with military theme, we are soldiers completing missions and such, this game would require a lot of tactical planning and a lot of information will be needed for the players to assess the situations. In such cases battle grids would be neccessary, as the saying goes: "A picture is worth a thousand words".
As a player, I am comfortable with TotM though, whatever game I am playing, as it forces me to think of good descriptions, so that GM and other players know what my character is doing and where he is positioned. Although, the requirement of detailed descriptions can be a drawback, as it can lead to a lot of confusion.

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