5E Brainstorming TotM

Fenris-77

Explorer
I don't disagree with you given your example, but that doesn't really speak to combat in complex environments. That's when the simple action recap stops being sufficient in a lot of cases.
 
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.
I disagree with this. A new player will more likely say, "I want to run up and stab that orc." And then as the DM, I will point out if they are in fact too far away or tell them to attack. For most combats in TotM, it should be very obvious if a character can get there in 1 move or 2. You should never have a case where the enemy is 5 feet out of reach of the characters.
Part of the point of TotM is to not have to worry about all the little fiddly stuff. If you approach it with the same highly tactical viewpoint as you can get on a grid, then you might find it a struggle. And you can still have interesting combats in interesting locations.
The new players won't have a problem if the DM is describing things well and they are letting themselves get immersed in it. TotM might not be for you, that's fine. Everyone is going to have different experiences with it. Some new players will struggle and others will totally love it. But newbies don't automatically suck at TotM. In my opinion, it should be easier for new players. They aren't worrying about learning how many squares they can move and how to count diagonals and things like that. It's less for them to learn at one time and makes it easier to understand the other rules.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Wow. Reading my posts would be a big help, and that's supposed to sound less sarcastic than it probably comes across. First, at no point did I advocate for grid maps, nor did I advocate for players being 5' out of reach - I don't use grids for precisely that reason. All your reservations about grid-based combat are valid, and personally I agree with you, they just have nothing to do with anything I posted.

My point was that once you multiply battlefield complexity past a certain point it becomes very difficult to keep the details in your head, even for the length of time it takes to recap. I suppose an unstated corollary there is that complex battlefields are more interesting and more tactical than flat open battle fields. Anyway, all I was suggesting is that TotM breaks down at a certain complexity level for a lot of people, an issue that has two solutions. One, never design a battlefield more complicated than X, were X is the level of detail retained by your average doode from an action recap, or, b, occasionally use a sketch or something to help players keep all the obstacles, movement issues, ranges and locations of foes straight.

Personally I like complex battlefields sometimes (maybe a lot), and I don't see a lot of value of being dogmatic about narrative style, so I go with the sketches when I think it's necessary.
 

EpicureanDM

Villager
If you’ve not read the Roshambo approach to TotM combat, do it, it’s cool and puts a lot of new options back in front of players. http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?592401-Need-feedback-on-these-alternative-rules-for-Theatre-of-the-Mind-combat-(updated-again-to-version-1-2)
13th Age will solve all of your problems. It's got the best TotM system for D&D-based games and it's available for free through 13th Age's SRD: https://www.13thagesrd.com/combat-rules/

If you're not familiar with 13th Age, it's sort of like "D&D 4.5e". Since it's based in D&D 4e, it's also interested in transforming grid-style combat into something that's looser, faster, and fun to run. It provides a small, manageable, powerful set of rules and ideas to keep everyone on the same page and minimize confusion. But it still feels like D&D. Look in the Combat Rules section of the SRD and you'll see the basics of the system. The other piece can be found in the spells and abilities of each class. Each spell or class ability defines how many targets it can affect. For example, Fireball (see, told you it's based on D&D) hits "1d3 nearby enemies in a group". So if you group's narration says that there's a group of enemies that are Nearby the wizard, the spell will hit 1-3 of them. You can see the trade-off between the precision of the grid ("I can hit exactly two enemies in these two squares without hitting my allies.") and the looseness of TotM ("We aren't exactly sure where everyone's standing, so you might not hit all of them.").

The Roshambo guide reads to me like it could be a nearly-direct rip-off of the 13th Age TotM system. The author doesn't seem concerned with acknowledging the tremendous influence of 13th Age in their guide and that doesn't seem right to me. I'd avoid it and just use 13th Age's system.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
The Roshambo guide reads to me like it could be a nearly-direct rip-off of the 13th Age TotM system. The author doesn't seem concerned with acknowledging the tremendous influence of 13th Age in their guide and that doesn't seem right to me. I'd avoid it and just use 13th Age's system.
Huh, I checked out your link and my eyes rolled back in my head with all the detail. While Volanin has admitted to being inspired by some of the approaches described there, there's nothing like the simple Roshambo core mechanic to connect the main actions. I think he's added quite a lot with that innovation. Perhaps there's some other link that makes that leap appear less revelatory?

And dude, you just got here. No need to muscle around town, guns blazing. :)
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Personally I like complex battlefields sometimes (maybe a lot), and I don't see a lot of value of being dogmatic about narrative style, so I go with the sketches when I think it's necessary.
If you like complex battlefields and players making precise tactical choices then, yes, TotM is not going to give you the granularity you need. It's for more casual tables that want the story of exciting combat rather than the precision of tactical challenges.
 

EpicureanDM

Villager
Huh, I checked out your link and my eyes rolled back in my head with all the detail. While Volanin has admitted to being inspired by some of the approaches described there, there's nothing like the simple Roshambo core mechanic to connect the main actions. I think he's added quite a lot with that innovation.
You can't claim that Volanin somehow innovated on the already-existing TotM system from 13th Age while also admitting that you don't understand the 13th Age ​TotM system. That makes no sense.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
You can't claim that Volanin somehow innovated on the already-existing TotM system from 13th Age while also admitting that you don't understand the 13th Age ​TotM system. That makes no sense.
OK dude, you're obviously up in arms over this. Good luck on your vendetta.
 
The Roshambo guide reads to me like it could be a nearly-direct rip-off of the 13th Age TotM system. The author doesn't seem concerned with acknowledging the tremendous influence of 13th Age in their guide and that doesn't seem right to me. I'd avoid it and just use 13th Age's system.
When I first read the relevant bits of 13A, they didn't look particularly unique or innovative, either. I'm sure I've seen similar mechanics and techniques used long since, back to the 90s (hilariously, an RPG spoof, HoL, stands out in my memory as having some of the same TotM-facilitating tricks), if not in the early days of the hobby.

(Not to take away from 13A: it's a very well-done D&D-style FRPG.)
 

EpicureanDM

Villager
When I first read the relevant bits of 13A, they didn't look particularly unique or innovative, either. I'm sure I've seen similar mechanics and techniques used long since, back to the 90s (hilariously, an RPG spoof, HoL, stands out in my memory as having some of the same TotM-facilitating tricks), if not in the early days of the hobby.
I've got a copy of HoL and I know what you're aiming at. ;)

I acknowledge that many RPG designs are built on the shoulders of predecessors, transforming and adapting them to new uses. If we grant that 13A's doing the same thing, it transformed and adapted prior techniques to a D&D-style FRPG in a way that hasn't been done before. It's difficult to argue that the Roshambo/TotM system is doing the same thing if you're familiar with both systems.

Take a look at how volanin handles themselves in this thread where they're "developing" their Roshambo TotM system: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?592401-Roshambo-Style-Theatre-of-the-Mind-Combat

There's no acknowledgement of the debt owed to 13A in the Roshambo system and suggestions that volanin is somehow taking credit for pre-existing ideas and terms in 13A's TotM system.

EDIT:
When asked late in that thread if the Roshambo TotM system was inspired by anything other than a 1992 video game, here's volanin's response:
But I must say [that the 1992 video game was] not the inspiration for this system (although I can definitely see some similarities). This system proposed here grew more organically, from the necessities at the RPG table, and eventually cleaned up and coded in this small ruleset for a clearer reference; and also to gather more ideas from feedback, that would improve the gameplay at my table!

Again, given how many similarities it shares with 13A's system, not only in design but in terminology, it stretches credibility to suggest the system grew organically from experiences at the table unless those experiences were playing 13A. ;)
 
Last edited:
I've got a copy of HoL and I know what you're aiming at. ;)
"It's really, really, really, really, really, far..."

(I'm goin on memory, not sure I ever owned a copy.)


I acknowledge that many RPG designs are built on the shoulders of predecessors, transforming and adapting them to new uses. If we grant that 13A's doing the same thing, it transformed and adapted prior techniques to a D&D-style FRPG in a way that hasn't been done before.
wrecan's SARN-FU was awfully similar, and was up on the old D&D boards before 13A was even an idea.

13A did do a good job of facilitating both TotM and grid play from the ground up, which is more than we can say for any edition of D&D, nor most of it's other imitators, with or without addons like SARN-FU or Roshambo.
 
Do you know where I can find that? I've only found dead links.

Compare Roshambo to 13A and you tell me whether I'm off-base or not. :)
It might even have been preserved on this site somewhere, I know a lot of stuff was...

On the wayback machine, it's a little ugly, but:

http://web.archive.org/web/20150916182511/http://community.wizards.com/content/blog/698936
http://web.archive.org/web/20150917233320/http://community.wizards.com/content/blog/752351
http://web.archive.org/web/20150917233319/http://community.wizards.com/content/blog/764451

...and, no, in retrospect it's only generally similar, for instance, using 'knots' instead of a die roll to deal with targeting AEs...

I'm not interested enough in Roshambo, but from briefly perusing the thread about it, it does look like it used a lot of the same terminology. Like 'engage' and 'intercept.' Engage is awfully common. Intercept perhaps less so, but still quite intuitive. And like using a die to determine the number of targets affected - which is definitely familiar from somewhere else besides 13A, though now I'm not sure /where/.

IDK if wassisname intentionally ripped off 13A and doesn't want to give it credit out of ego, or if he's just afraid that the perception of 13A as a successor to 4e would de-legitimize his offering in the eyes of the target audience by association with that edition.
 
Last edited:

cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
I have a friend who had a DM use a die roll to determine targets affected back in 2e so it definitely isn't a new concept and could easily be thought up independently.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I have a friend who had a DM use a die roll to determine targets affected back in 2e so it definitely isn't a new concept and could easily be thought up independently.
This. As for the ''movement zones'', I know many games that use the same idea in one way or another, such as Beyond the Wall, TinyDungeon, the One Ring, Dungeon World etc. Some details may vary, but its similar enough to say that what the 13th does is in no way unique.

Not to say that its not a good system; it work splendidly.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
"It's really, really, really, really, really, far..."

(I'm goin on memory, not sure I ever owned a copy.)
I do own a copy, and it's marvellous. For what looks like satire, it's a surprisingly robust and useful RPG. I still call the relevant section of my 5e Character sheets Equipstuff in memoriam. It's also a solid resource for GMs in the minimalist school, TotM included. Did I mention it's really funny?
 

Azzy

Cyclone Ranger
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.
And, yet, my point that was that when I and all my friends were "newbs", we played TotM without any issue. I don't think that we were ultra special.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
All newbs? OK, fair enough, but newbs aren't generally running the kind of combat I'm talking about. When everybody is new there's no yardstick for success or failure either, not with what we're talking about here. Everyone usually has a blast, which is great, and new players shouldn't care that their combats aren't this or that. That said, I suspect that the kind of combat complexity that I'm talking about isn't a usual feature of all-newb campaigns, and even if it is, those complex environments would tend to get sanded down by the inability of the group to fully visualize and use the space. This matches up very well with my own memories of early RPG experiences. That isn't a criticism of new players of GMs either. I don't think my contention that new players and GMs fail to realize the full depth and scope of certain game features or systems should be at all controversial.

I'm not saying that TotM is bad somehow either, or that new players can't do it. If you'd read all my posts you would know I've not said that. All I said was that TotM often struggles with complex 3D battlefields, especially in the case of new players. Your lack of struggle with TotM doesn't really speak to that issue unless you were running the kind of combats I'm talking about. Were you running the kind of combats I'm describing?
 

EpicureanDM

Villager
This. As for the ''movement zones'', I know many games that use the same idea in one way or another, such as Beyond the Wall, TinyDungeon, the One Ring, Dungeon World etc. Some details may vary, but its similar enough to say that what the 13th does is in no way unique.

Not to say that its not a good system; it work splendidly.
I don't mean to say that every part of 13A's TotM system is unique or was never done before. 13A might have taken some ideas about TotM - some of them new and others borrowed - and arranged/designed them in a particular way to suit a D&D-style FRPG. I can't speak to how much 13A's designs explicitly relied on prior ideas. I'm not aware of a published TotM system preceding 13A that contains sufficient similarities to 13A's TotM that a case could be made that 13A is borrowing pretty heavily from it. What I can suggest, however, is that a direct comparison of Roshambo TotM and 13A TotM might indicate that a Roshambo owes a heavy debt to 13A, a debt that the presumption of independent development might not overcome. If Roshambo owes much of its design to 13A and Roshambo is being sold for money, the author should at least acknowledge publicly and in the rules' text that their work is based on someone else's.
 

cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
Or maybe, and I know this might sound a little crazy, but what if they didn't feel the need to acknowledge them because they didn't base it on 13th age totm.
 

Advertisement

Top