5E Brainstorming TotM - Page 2
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  1. #11
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    I would make it clear to players before the game begins that you're using TotM, because there are certain abilities that are much more useful when using a grid (such as the Mobile and Sentinel feats). If players don't design their character to optimize using the grid, it makes things a lot easier for everybody.

    The biggest thing to making TotM work best is to reduce the number of combatants. While most people think D&D is best with a larger group (5+), TotM is better with 3-4 players. In addition, the DM should use smaller numbers of more powerful enemies, or turn a group of enemies into a swarm for mechanical convenience. The less you have to keep track of, the smoother everything should go.

    In addition, you shouldn't fret the details. Movement and distance is whatever you want it to be, so don't try to keep exact figures in your mind. If you think something is within range, it is, and that's it. Sometimes player won't like your answers, but that's not really any different than being 5' short on the grid (a common annoyance IME). I'd keep the DMG rules for AoE targets handy, and use that with a dose of common sense as well.

  2. #12
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    Using ToTM means never having to say "Sorry, you're 5' short of the target"
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  3. #13
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    I think you need experienced players to run TotM without it turning into a dogs breakfast - or at least players with some ability to visualize space well. Personally, I'm not a fan, but there's nothing wrong with it. As mentioned above, you need to be recursive with the description of the environment, and you also need to be pretty thorough in your prep to have dimensions and distances in the environment planned out. If you are both making up dimensions on the fly because you're a DM of the No Planning School, and you're also slipshod on the descriptive end, you're probably running crap combats. Just my two cents. I don't love battle mats either (too board game-y for me), and tend rather toward moderately to scale sketches on whiteboard, but it's all DM preference and group ability really.

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Laforet View Post
    I think you need experienced players to run TotM without it turning into a dogs breakfast
    Ha! I spent my first 13 years of playing D&D without a battlemat, so I don't think that experience comes into it. It's definitely a big gear switch from gridded play, but it may actually be more natural to some.

    I think the big thing is to be desriptive, be fair, and encourage the players to ask questions whenever they're uncertain.
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  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Azzy View Post
    Ha! I spent my first 13 years of playing D&D without a battlemat, so I don't think that experience comes into it. It's definitely a big gear switch from gridded play, but it may actually be more natural to some.

    I think the big thing is to be desriptive, be fair, and encourage the players to ask questions whenever they're uncertain.
    Newbs often struggle with TotM - they lose track of where they are, where the monsters are, and pretty much everything about the environment. That said, although new players will mostly struggle there's no real way past that, except to live with the growing pains. So lets not call it a barrier, but rather a challenge - gotta get those players trained. It's a lot of improvisation and micro-decision making for the DM too. Like I said though, good planning can take some of the sting out of that second part.

  6. #16
    I started playing using only TotM. I was still a kid and had a good imagination, but I never had a problem with it.
    In the last game I ran for 6 players, 3 were completely new, I used it for everything. I had a map of the area, but I never drew anything for the players. None of the new players had any trouble with it.
    It does depend on the players. Some are better at picturing everything mentally than others. But it doesn't matter if they're experienced or newbies.
    However, I do think you need a DM that has experience with it for it to go well. They are the ones that need to make sure to keep setting the scene. I like to start every person's turn with a brief recap. Like "Brom, it's your turn. You just saw Kharn slay the goblin across the room. Behind you, Elly just went down from goblin arrows and the goblin in front of you is grinning wickedly. What do you do?"
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  7. #17
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    Sure it matters. It's not just about keeping the room description in your head as a player. If you want to make tactical decisions you need to able to answer questions like "can I reach that orc in one move or not" and in TotM a new player is almost never going to able to answer that question without asking, not unless the answer is already obvious. What that does is put a lot of questions and decision making back on the DM. I'm not saying that's a good or bad thing, YMMV, but it is most certainly a thing. It's less of an issue if all your combats happen on a flat 2D plane devoid of obstacles and movement hindrances, but then you have a very different problem - boring combat. So sure, TotM works just fine for a 20x20' room with a table in the middle for pretty much every player, they can keep that in their heads just fine.. But if you're fighting in a big cavern filled with stalactites, ledges, loose rock, and a river, new players will struggle, as will a lot of GMs. Keeping all the range and movement stuff straight is hard, and you need that information to run a tactical combat or it might as well not be there. I'm not saying you can't run that second combat TotM style, obviously you can, but it's not easy and new players aren't going to manage it without a hitch.

  8. #18
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    When using ToTM I presume competence and superior knowledge on the part of the character.
    Solves a lot of issues.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Laforet View Post
    Newbs often struggle with TotM - they lose track of where they are, where the monsters are, and pretty much everything about the environment.
    It's the DMs job to keep track of the state of the combat and clearly narrate the situation for the current player. The players job is to simply pay attention to the ongoing narration and be ready with their action(s) when their turn comes up.

    Yes it is a burden on the DM, but the last thing they should do (but too many actually do) is say: "Joe, you're up..."

    That's when things drag and 20 questions begins.

    It should be: "....Jill, your fighter takes down that ugly goblin with that massive blow from your greataxe. Joe, you're engaged with the last orc who's looking ready to bring some pain. What do you do?"

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Laforet View Post
    Sure it matters. It's not just about keeping the room description in your head as a player. If you want to make tactical decisions you need to able to answer questions like "can I reach that orc in one move or not"
    The Roshambo approach to TotM addresses a lot of these tactical issue with a very neat system. Check it out if you haven't already. (I linked to it earlier in the thread).

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