Sunday, 26 October 2014

How to track RPG combat without a grid


Industry veteran and author of The Lazy Dungeon Master, Mike Shea, also known as Sly Flourish, has some great advice on arbitrating combat when it's a bit more abstract. I'm a big fan of theatre-of-the-mind combat, but it can be really difficult to track distance, area effects and other such things as a GM.

Shea opts for the Final Fantasy approach to combat, lining up miniatures and ignoring distances between them:

"We can lay miniatures out on a mat to help us understand these things and still ignore the grid and the distance it represents. We place miniatures together or apart based on the abstract distances mentioned above. This lets everyone see who is in melee with who, and who is separated off from the rest.

With a Paizo flip mat we can write damage and effects directly on the map which makes tracking these things quite a bit easier and lets everyone see everything that's going on."

For fiddly things like area effects, Shea suggests three different solutions: go back to the grid, agree that the GM arbitrates all area effects in combat, and the random effect rolls as used in 13th Age (my personal preference):

"We can look to 13th Age for a solution and have area attacks hit a random number of targets. Small blasts hit 1d3 targets. Bigger blasts hit 1d4 or 1d6 or even 2d4 if they're really big. You can even roll randomly to determine who gets hit. This turns over the decision to the dice and helps everyone recognize that things are a bit more fair. You might be unlucky but at least the DM wasn't being an asshole about it."

There's some great advice here, so be sure to read the entire post over at Sly Flourish.