Help for grid-less combat

I started with 4e, so I've never experienced combat that is purely descriptive without a grid.  Without any context, it's kind of difficult for me to conceive of how it works; moving is a fundamental part of a combat turn, and many techniques, spell effects, etc., depend on creatures' positions relative to each other.  It all sems to me rather unfeasible to keep a good sense of without visual aid.  If grid/miniature combat truly is intended to be optional, I think the rules could benefit from some tips on "theatre of the mind" play and a complete example of a combat round or two.
I started with 4e, so I've never experienced combat that is purely descriptive without a grid.  Without any context, it's kind of difficult for me to conceive of how it works; moving is a fundamental part of a combat turn, and many techniques, spell effects, etc., depend on creatures' positions relative to each other.  It all sems to me rather unfeasible to keep a good sense of without visual aid.  If grid/miniature combat truly is intended to be optional, I think the rules could benefit from some tips on "theatre of the mind" play and a complete example of a combat round or two.




TotM is a little more "DM May I", it requires a good DM to be both descriptive, and keep everybodies position in mind. it's not easy to do, but it works well with a group that is comfortable.

part of whats important with TotM is for everybody to be very descriptive and flavorful, and less concerned with the rules. think of it as playing round robin with a story, and less of a game.
I started with 4e, so I've never experienced combat that is purely descriptive without a grid.  Without any context, it's kind of difficult for me to conceive of how it works; moving is a fundamental part of a combat turn, and many techniques, spell effects, etc., depend on creatures' positions relative to each other.  It all sems to me rather unfeasible to keep a good sense of without visual aid.  If grid/miniature combat truly is intended to be optional, I think the rules could benefit from some tips on "theatre of the mind" play and a complete example of a combat round or two.



Just use your grid just don't think of the combat as if you has eight pages of powers that affect the battle since you don't and likely won't. The idea of deciding where your monsters are and where the players are is simple. decide how far away they are and describe the scene to them. if you decide that encounter distances are at missile range out doors then the players will need several rounds to reach the targets. if they start combasat indoors then it isn't that hard to determine how close together they are. from there it's all about details. you need to give the players as much information as you can. Because there aren't any real grid based maneuvers fights will likely be static once the fighting starts unless you or your players want to do some fancy move related stunts or ude hit and run tactics.

But I suggest staying with the grid unless you really want to go free form for speedy encounters.
To start, use ToTM for smaller conflicts like:  "Two guards stand before the locked door"    "Three goblins huddle around a dead human body."   "The Owlbear roars and rushes toward the party"

When fighting "mooks" or only a few opponents positioning is less important so ToTM works well.  It is descriptive and faster moving.   

After you experience more and more ToTM, you'll be able to use it in more combat situations.   

Keep a scrap piece of paper handy so that you can keep track of position of foes/players, hit points of foes, etc.   Sometimes just a few scribbles helps me keep it straight...that makes it easier to narrate for the players.


         
    

A Brave Knight of WTF - "Wielder of the Sword of Balance"

 

Rhenny's Blog:  http://community.wizards.com/user/1497701/blog

 

 

Grid-less doesn't mean you have to be completely paper-less. Even in Call of Cthulhu RPG they tell the Game Master to draw out a map of the place on a piece of paper. Then use pencil to mark where the players and monsters are. Erasing and drawing new positions is not hard at all. You'd be surprised, you'd think you'd spend an hour just erasing and redrawing, but the fights are quick, and people don't move every single round.

With the Blingdenstone Adventure they included generic underdark cavern maps (originally in "Descent into the Depths of the Earth") on the second to last page, the maps are perfect to break out, put some dots on to represent Orcs, and some letters to represent the players. "R" for rogue. Then let everyone see the map.

You might want to blow up the map slightly. I think each square = 10ft not 5ft.
All of these approaches illustrate my main point:  That there really should be some guidance in the rules about how to approach it, for the benefit of people that just aren't familiar.  Not a rigid prescription, mind you.  But just some examples and words of advice, saying "players would typically act out a combat by . . ."

Myself, I still really have trouble conceiving how (if you avoid visual representations for the PCs altogether) to adequately describe positions in a combat with more than a couple enemies, to the extent that's needed for a wizard to know exactly how many people are "within 20 feet," for a fighter to know when he's going to provoke an opportunity attack, etc.  

Also, let me clarify:  It's not that I feel compelled to avoid using any visual representations.  I almost certainly will continue using a grid with my group, whether we're using the actual "grid combat" module or not.  But this is just intended as feedback on the playtest packet:  If grids and miniatures are optional and not "part of" the core rules, give us some more details on how to play a combat without them. 
All of these approaches illustrate my main point:  That there really should be some guidance in the rules about how to approach it, for the benefit of people that just aren't familiar.  Not a rigid prescription, mind you.  But just some examples and words of advice, saying "players would typically act out a combat by . . ."

Myself, I still really have trouble conceiving how (if you avoid visual representations for the PCs altogether) to adequately describe positions in a combat with more than a couple enemies, to the extent that's needed for a wizard to know exactly how many people are "within 20 feet," for a fighter to know when he's going to provoke an opportunity attack, etc.  

Also, let me clarify:  It's not that I feel compelled to avoid using any visual representations.  I almost certainly will continue using a grid with my group, whether we're using the actual "grid combat" module or not.  But this is just intended as feedback on the playtest packet:  If grids and miniatures are optional and not "part of" the core rules, give us some more details on how to play a combat without them. 



I totally agree.  The final product needs to give advice and examples.  They also need to beef up the "improvisation" part of the rules too.  I love the idea that players can try anything they can think of (within reason), and some players are really good at it while others need to see examples.  Sometimes it is easy for the DM to adjudicate, and sometimes it is difficult.  I'd love for them to write pages to give exemplars for improvised actions and possible ways to adjudicate, as a guide.  Then, we can apply our understanding of their examples to other actions not strictly mentioned in the guide.

A Brave Knight of WTF - "Wielder of the Sword of Balance"

 

Rhenny's Blog:  http://community.wizards.com/user/1497701/blog

 

 

The issue is, the book can give all the advice it wants, but it boils down to a simple truth. Tactical Combat comes from a book, TotM comes from the DM. It's easy to play with gridded rules because they can be described easily. Good TotM play can only come from experience. You can't add too many guidelines without comprimising what TotM play is
My two copper.
The issue is, the book can give all the advice it wants, but it boils down to a simple truth. Tactical Combat comes from a book, TotM comes from the DM. It's easy to play with gridded rules because they can be described easily. Good TotM play can only come from experience. You can't add too many guidelines without comprimising what TotM play is



There's a huge gap between too many guidelines and no guidelines.  You're coming at it from the perspective of someone with experience in TotM who knows what it's all about.  I am the DM of my game, and I don't have a clue how to do TotM.  If I was to try it, why should my players suffer through me flying blind?  We need a little help.

It's a core part of the game, if grid play is modular.  So it needs examples.  We could also take out the parts of the rule book that explain what a roleplaying game is, that it involves people sitting around a table pretending to be their characters, that they verbalize the actions they'd like to do, etc.  That would avoid too many guidelines; it would also leave the uninitiated utterly baffled about how to play this game.
It really comes down the confort level of the players and DM, as to using your imagination versus playing things out on a grid. I have played D&D for a long time, and soon as I moved to advanced dungeons and dragons we invented our own grids to track distances and such, as to many debates broke out when a spell was cast. Plus back in the day it was fun just getting together to paint miniatures. But I can appreciate those the play gridless do not appreciate the minute details of 4E in regards to tracking conditions and pushing/pullng/and sliding creatures every round in combat. That is alot of stuff to track in your head.
i think part of the proglem is there are very little good guidelines you can actually give, and you definently don't want them to be "rules"

TotM is very DM style defined