Reliance on tactical maps

I've played every version of D&D and for the most part 4e is my favorite edition. I like it's organization, unique monster abilities and the relative simplicity and balance of character creation compared to previous editions. My one gripe about 4e has been, in my eyes, an over reliance on tactical maps for combat.

In previous editions it was common in most groups I've been in to play completely without a map, with the DM basically just mentally estimating how close everyone was to each other. It required little physical set-up to play, you could just jot down stats and notes and get to it. And more importantly to me, players focussed more on roleplaying their characters during combat than on the nitty-gritty details of exactly where they were standing on the floor. 


4e's combat system is great if you're in the mood for a tactical board game style fight. But personally I get most of my enjoyment in D&D from talking with the other players and playing in character and the combat mechanics are secondary. And unfortunately in my regular 4e groups it seems like the other players and DMs spend much more time preparing and staring at the battle map and focussing mostly on what square they want to be in, flipping status indicators and sliding tokens an inch or two here and there to maximize effectiveness. That's great strategy but ends up with players hardly roleplaying at all during combat compared to the prior editions. Out of combat 4e is perfectly fine, we roleplay plenty, but once combat starts you may as well forget it.


My main hope then for DnD Next is that it keeps the relatively great organization of rules and mechanics, unique monster abilities and simplicity in character balance and creation but moves away from what is pretty much a requirement to play with a battle map. For instance focus less on abilities that slide and shift, balance combat so on average you fight fewer monsters that are each a bit more powerful, concentrate more on a melee/range toggle than square counting, etc.



Of course that's just my opinion, plenty of other players love battle map combat. But honestly the reason I play D&D isn't for the combat, it's for the roleplaying during combat, so I'd like to see it move toward a simpler, quicker combat system so we can get back to just BS'ing in character while we bash some heads.
in my experiance is:

in 2nd you could do some simple fights without a map/models, but they where essential in the bigger more confusing fights.

with the introduction of flanking and atacks of opertunity in 3.0 a combat map has become a must.
as the discusions about if sombody gets a attack of opertunity or not would be longer then the time it took to set up the map. 
That's great strategy but ends up with players hardly roleplaying at all during combat compared to the prior editions. Out of combat 4e is perfectly fine, we roleplay plenty, but once combat starts you may as well forget it.



The problem is that the designers did such a good job of making combat fun and interesting in 4E, that people tend to forget the role playing, because they are so engrossed in the tactics. It's absolutley possible and supported by the system for people to include role play, interesting narration or even just in-character banter in the fight scenes. The reason it doesn't happen isn't a system flaw - it's because the system is too good at what it does.

The question about tactical maps is a bit of a red herring.  The real question is whether you want tactical combat. 

If you do want tactical combat, maps are unquestionably superior.  There's a reason that almost none of the people who play Chess seriously do so playing the Blindfold Chess variant.

If tactical combat is a lower priority, then it's often not worth the time or effort to keep track of how many squares away is that kobold.  "I shoot the kobold" works just as well.  For some it still is worth it, if for nothing more than maintaining some semblance of at-a-glance assessment of "ok which tunnel were we going down again?"-level situational awareness.

The question of how much you should value tactical combat does not have an objective answer.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
That's great strategy but ends up with players hardly roleplaying at all during combat compared to the prior editions. Out of combat 4e is perfectly fine, we roleplay plenty, but once combat starts you may as well forget it.

The problem is that the designers did such a good job of making combat fun and interesting in 4E, that people tend to forget the role playing, because they are so engrossed in the tactics. It's absolutley possible and supported by the system for people to include role play, interesting narration or even just in-character banter in the fight scenes. The reason it doesn't happen isn't a system flaw - it's because the system is too good at what it does.



Please don't tell me you're advocating the "Bad Rules Make Good Roleplaying" line of thinking. It seems to be increasingly common here for posters to wax nostalgic about when the rules were so poor they were usually ignored wholesale, and increasingly common for people to give anecdotes about how 4E apparently makes peoples brains fall out and makes them unable to do anything but drool and slam their fists on their power cards.
EVERY DAY IS HORRIBLE POST DAY ON THE D&D FORUMS. Everything makes me ANGRY (ESPECIALLY you, reader)
The problem is that the designers did such a good job of making combat fun and interesting in 4E, that people tend to forget the role playing, because they are so engrossed in the tactics.


I'm pretty sure "I hit it" has been the extent of combat role-playing in most groups since 1977.
I believe at this point grid-less combat will be the Basic core in 5th Ed, with tactical map/grid and miniatures as an optional module.
i believe the last transcript specifically stated the module containing the optional map-based experience will be part of the first set of books or something to that effect.
I have to admit, this is one of the controversies that escapes me.   3.5 holdouts wax apoplexic about 4e's grid-dependence making it a board game, when 4e just held on to grid-referent rules 3e originated, and, at worst, simplified them a bit.  It's bizzare.

D&D grew out of miniatures wargaming, in fact, 0D&D said right on the cover that it was a wargame for use with minis. 

Whether you're an old-school D&Der, 3.5/Pathfinder fanatic, or 4e convert, you should be OK with minis and whatever play surface - map, grid, sandtable, battlemat - you put them on. 

 

 

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To me one of the best parts of 4e was how combat was so tactical. I will wait and see how good or extensive the optional rules are but to be honest, if the majorty of the game mechanics will be written assuming grid-less I just don't see how battle will have the organic flow the way it does in 4e. 
In my games players have always been Exceptional individuals, not Exceptions to the internal logic of the game world.
You can play 4e without a map. It might be a little harder, but it is absolutely doable. It might help for the DM to keep a little grid to pencil things in and out, but all the players need to know is how close various creatures are to each other and terrain features such as braziers or buildings.

The problem is that the designers did such a good job of making combat fun and interesting in 4E, that people tend to forget the role playing, because they are so engrossed in the tactics. It's absolutley possible and supported by the system for people to include role play, interesting narration or even just in-character banter in the fight scenes. The reason it doesn't happen isn't a system flaw - it's because the system is too good at what it does.




Sure, if you love tactical combat than 4e does it really well. On the other hand if you're like me and don't care that much about tactical combat than the fact that the system does it well at the distraction away from other aspects of the game during a fight then it will be seen as a flaw. 


So yeah, if you really love tactical combat, 4e combat is terrific.  If you're like me, though, and don't care too much one way or another about combat and mainly like roleplaying, the lengthy tactical map-driven combats of 4e are more of a distraction than a plus. It's just a matter of personal perspective which way a given player sees it.
I believe at this point grid-less combat will be the Basic core in 5th Ed, with tactical map/grid and miniatures as an optional module.



And I'd be quite happy with that. That kind of system lets groups that love map combat to do a lot of it, while groups who want to move combat along quickly and do more non-combat play can do that instead. That's kind of how 3rd edition handled it too and I thought 3rd edition was nicely flexible in that regard. (Mind you, I'm not endorsing other parts of 3rd edition combat, like the ridiculously complicated grappling rules. But it was nice being able to decide to not use a map or only use a very rough map and not feel like you're missing out on a major chunk of the game.)
You can play 4e without a map. It might be a little harder, but it is absolutely doable. It might help for the DM to keep a little grid to pencil things in and out, but all the players need to know is how close various creatures are to each other and terrain features such as braziers or buildings.



Actually I ran a 4e campaign for a few months doing exactly that, in part because at the time in that particular group we didn't have enough room on the table to have a battle map bigger than a sheet of paper and they didn't have access to a way to do a virtual map on a monitor or TV. So I kept track of the combats on an 8x11 somewhat rough map, basically using erasable markers on a laminated transparent folder to keep track of where everybody was. The players would say who they wanted to attack or flank, etc, and I'd move them around on my mini-map as appropriate or let them know if what they wanted to do wasn't feasible.


Did it work? Yes. There were a couple of problems though. One was that the players tended to get confused over what was going on without a visual cue because of the nature of 4e's group versus group fights. When you've got eight or ten enemies including minions running around attacking five player characters it's easy to have trouble roughly visualizing in your head where everybody is relative to one another.  Another problem was that it made players who had abilities that allowed them to do tactical movement like shifting, pulling, pushing, etc, feel like they weren't quite able to live up to their potential. They could use them somewhat but not to full effectiveness, which made them feel like they were missing a step relative to their potential. And while combats took slightly less time running things this way, unfortunately the difference was muted by the extra time spent answering player questions about relative positioning and so on.

So while it's certainly possible to run 4e without a map or with only the DM having a personal map, and you can indeed shorten combat time slightly doing it that way, the problems seemed to outweigh benefits, at least when we tried it. 4e is definitely designed with battle maps as a core part of the game. Not using them is possible but not recommended.


And that's a difference between 4e and 3rd edition.  In 3rd edition you could easily run mapless combats and not feel like you're losing out on major portions of the system. But 4e has so many abilities that are tied to moving around a map combined with a larger number of combatants per fight that combat simply doesn't feel quite right without one. Mind you, I'm not saying I liked everything about 3e combat (3e grappling was terrible!), but I respect its flexibility when it comes to whether or not to use maps.
I am a highly visual person.  I played 3E without maps or grid, for the most part, but I came to love them later and in 4E.  Why?  Because every round, I had to ask the DM "How far away is he?" or "And where am I?"  It just became easier to use the map instead of repeating the questions every round because what was happening in my head was not the same as what was going on in the DM's head.

That's really the bonus to the battlemat, in my opinion: it standardizes what's going on so everyone is on the same page all the time.
I believe at this point grid-less combat will be the Basic core in 5th Ed, with tactical map/grid and miniatures as an optional module.



so you think all flanking and atacks of opertunity are going to disapear in 5th core?

if not it will be hard to play without a on table representation of the combat of some kind.
3.X made a grid a must for every combat.
I believe at this point grid-less combat will be the Basic core in 5th Ed, with tactical map/grid and miniatures as an optional module.



so you think all flanking and atacks of opertunity are going to disapear in 5th core?

if not it will be hard to play without a on table representation of the combat of some kind.
3.X made a grid a must for every combat.



That's not true. You could for instance simplify flanking to say that an opponent is flanked if he is being attacked by two or more enemies simultaneously, or alternatatively say that he is considered flanked if he has been attacked by another opponent without getting a turn of his own, for example. Using that sort of flanking rule you still keep flanking in the game for the most part but don't need a map to keep track of it, you only need to keep track of who has most recently attacked whom or who is standing next to whom.


Likewise for attacks of opportunity. You can alter the rules for attacks of opportunity to say that if you are currently in melee with an opponent and move away without shifting or make a ranged attack you invoke an opportunity attack. You don't need a map to keep track of who is in melee with each other, you can abstractly just keep track of who is next to or not next to each other.


We did both those things all the time in 3rd edition without a map and it worked fine. What makes maps more essential in 4e isn't flanking and opportunity attacks, it's forced movement and shifting and some other things like the variety of zone and burst and blast sizes that vary by just a square.
whom or who is standing next to whom.
fastest way to do this is plopping some minies on the table.

in second you had combat movement move half your speed and make a attack and no attacks op oppertunity.
so saying those guys are in melee was enough.

as soon as you have to track who is next to who you can only do that in fights with only a few oponents wintout cousing confusion.