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Doing away with the battlemat

doseyclwn

First Post
In reading the 1e feelings thread, I saw an interesting idea: give up the battlemat. It makes combat faster and more cinematic.

At first thought, my 3.x gorge began to rise. "But how will you do AoO then?". Then I began to smile. As a DM, there's nothing I hate more than deciding to have my villains run, only to be cut down by AoO. I'm sure they would cause some problems at first, but I think I've been brainwashed.

See, I loved 1e. Loved it. And I love 3.x. I really do, it's just that combat takes too f*(&(*g long most of the time, getting bogged down in "tactics".

My question is this:IF you have done away with the battlemat, does it seem to affect the game much, and is it a positive or negative change?
 

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Jeff Wilder

First Post
doseyclwn said:
I love 3.x. I really do, it's just that combat takes too f*(&(*g long most of the time, getting bogged down in "tactics".

Have you tried implementing any of a hundred suggestions for speeding up combat? (By far the most vital, IMO, is a time-limit on player actions. I suggest 15 seconds.)

I just couldn't give up my Magamat. I even used it back in 1E and 2E.

Keep in mind that many feats and class abilities are at least somewhat dependent on the tactical emphasis of 3E. If you get rid of that, you're going to limit character options, especially for fighters.
 

Crothian

First Post
I have been going without a battle mat for over a year and we have a combat heavy group, no devoted spellcasters. Its easy to set up the fight without the use of minis and to keep things moving fast.
 

Stone Angel

First Post
We've done it either way. I prefer without the battle map. There is nothing worse than describing a BBEG in all his glory and then saying so this goblin will reprsent him. Plus I like the players to visualize everything themselves, that makes writing the scenes and setting the moods much more challenging.

My players prefer the mat, oh well.

The Seraph of Earth and Stone
 

Keeper of Secrets

First Post
Actually, in the past couple of years I have begun to swear by the battlemat. I love being able to see where everyone is and have no confusion about how far people are and how the room is set up. For combats with only a small number of people involved is fine. But when you have thirty orcs or some other 'hoarde' kind of villains, it really cuts down on where everything is.
 

Nightchilde-2

First Post
We've been playing sans battlemat for a while.

I severely limit AoOs to only casting while in melee, firing a bow while in melee or using certain items while in melee range (which includes the reach of the various creatures) trigger AoOs. Certain feats change these rules, of course.

Sure, spell adjudication can be a pain sometimes, but I tend to keep a fairly good picture in my head of where everyone and everything "should" be. And if there are questions, we work them out.
 

Angel Tarragon

Dawn Dragon
In past games (pre 3.5) I have never played with a battlemat, but I agree with Keeper of Secrets. It is a great tool and helps you determine your actions better when you know where your enemies are and knowing where buildings and other notable terrain features are.
 

Inconsequenti-AL

Breaks Games
I'm using a battlemat now, but our last 2 campaigns were battlemat free. Was down to differences in how we wanted the campaigns to play.

I think it's fine going without one and it definitely speeds the game up...

...Just as long as the Players and the GM are visualising the same combat. Seen it where that ends up different and it's been bad for the players.

Found a couple of GMs who have tendancies towards very biased rulings without a map:

Fighting 30 monsters in a 61' X 52' room - no way your fireball can catch more than 2 of them. Any player moving = AOO. At the same time no-one is ever about to catch a cleave... Arguing this is not on at most game tables. Found this sort of stuff can be really frustrating for the players.

Give them the map back and it all plays nicely again.

IMO, a great approach is for the GM to swing arguable rules decisions in favour of the players. Or at least in favour of cinema. It keeps things moving smoothly. Feels more satisfying. And frankly the GM can always throw in a few more beasties if it isn't challenging enough?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I play both with and without the mat. For some combats it is faster without, but for many it is faster with the mat.For small, simple combats, it takes more time to set up and use the mat than it is worth.

However, for combats with many creatures, or that are otherwise tactically chalenging, the mat actually speeds things up. Without the mat, you must use a verbal description, and usually the image evoked in the player's mind isn't exactly the one in the DM's mind. That causes confusion and a lot of repeated "and where was he?" type of questions. The mat clarifies these completely. While it takes a bit of time to set up and move minis around, it's often faster than the alternatives.
 

Janx

Hero
Battlemats speed up game play, especially with more players playing.

It's simple. Without mat, each player must wait X seconds before their turn. Say that's 15 seconds. With 5 players, I have to wait a minute for my turn. Easily time for my attention to wander. Thus when the DM comes to me, I have to ask clarifying questions (where's the bad guys, who's hurt, etc).

With a battlemat, all I have to do is glance at the mat and I instantly see the current situation, relevant to me. I can make my decision, and go back to staring into space.

The battlemat makes it easier for all players to pay attention, and to return to paying attention without wasting the GM's time.

Janx
 

Ibram

First Post
I find that using a battle mat keeps the players and the DMs on the same battlefield. I experimented with getting rid of the grid system (replacing 5' with 1" move on a ruler) but it just slowed the game down.
 

Narfellus

First Post
battlemats

We learned long ago that 3e and 3.5 was just too tactic heavy for us. Combat CRAWLED to a slug-like pace, took hours to resolve, and wasn't fun. So we scaled down most of the AoO to work only under specific circumstances. But we still use the battlemat for drawing area of effects, rooms, to overlay with 0one Games prerendered maps, my own homemade rooms, etc etc. I even use the battlemat in CoC games for the occasional times when it helps to draw a symbol, or a room, or an artifact, or a cursed word from a cursed book. There's never a reason a roleplaying group WOULDN'T need a big vinyl thing to write stuff on, even if not delegating block by block combat.
 

EricNoah

Adventurer
I, on the other hand, love the tactics. I don't love boring combats that go "I swing, he swings, I swing". I love the fact that one person's actions might cause another person to move, seek cover, etc. There is a tradeoff -- combats can be longer -- but to me it's worth it.
 

Voadam

Legend
doseyclwn said:
In reading the 1e feelings thread, I saw an interesting idea: give up the battlemat. It makes combat faster and more cinematic.

At first thought, my 3.x gorge began to rise. "But how will you do AoO then?". Then I began to smile. As a DM, there's nothing I hate more than deciding to have my villains run, only to be cut down by AoO. I'm sure they would cause some problems at first, but I think I've been brainwashed.

See, I loved 1e. Loved it. And I love 3.x. I really do, it's just that combat takes too f*(&(*g long most of the time, getting bogged down in "tactics".

My question is this:IF you have done away with the battlemat, does it seem to affect the game much, and is it a positive or negative change?

Running away still draws an AoO. Closing with someone with reach draws an AoO. Those are easy to keep track of without a mat as well. Similarly, getting up from prone after being knocked down. Attacking unarmed, initiating a grapple, sundering or disarming. None of these require a mat to be remembered.

Otherwise judgment call if someone wants to run to the back to hit a back liner they probably have to run past someone in-between and draw an AoO. Who and how many in this situation can get iffy though.

Its not that big a deal to keep AoOs in the game without a mat.
 

Doctor Bomb

First Post
Umbran said:
I play both with and without the mat. ...for combats with many creatures, or that are otherwise tactically chalenging, the mat actually speeds things up.

I second that emotion, but it does depend a lot on the players. If you have a bunch of rules-lawyers playing fighter types or casters using area-effect spells, KEEP THE MAT. Detailed combat maneuvers and creature spacing are their bread and butter.

My players are usually a little weak on the rules side, so for the smaller combats, I describe where everyone is, and usually work in some hints to keep the action going. "The gnolls leap from the bushes about 20 feet from you, dropping their bows. As they draw their axes and shortswords, you notice that you could use your Cleave feat on the pair on the left, if you manage to fell one. Do you want to risk that Attack of Opportunity from the one that already has his axe out?"

With more experienced players, you probably don't need the hints, but letting them know before they act whether they will provoke an AoO and who is within a 5' step of threatening who in a melee really cuts down on confusion and speeds up the combats.
 

Use tact-tiles - so much better than battle mats :lol:
Battle mats slow things down but has the advantage of eliminating ambiguous situations and measuring range etc. It just comes down to preference.
 

maddman75

First Post
I tend to use the mat only for large, complicated, or important battles. If there's interesting terrain or its a large combat then things move faster with the mat than without it.

Here's how to keep things moving

1) Delegate. Pick a player to keep initiative for everyone. No reason the DM has to do it. If you have someone who has trouble focusing when it isn't their turn, this is a good job for them. Also, make your group's Rule Lawyer the official Rules Monkey. They'll keep the core books and any important suppliments close at hand to help look up and determine rules questions.

2) Limit player time. You got about six seconds to tell me what to do. You don't entirely lose your turn, I just go to the next person in initaitve and come back after that to see if they're ready.

3) Don't allow excessing counting. If your players are obsessively counting squares to get the maximum out of their movement or area effect spell, just tell this this is D&D, not chess, and move their freakin guy. Works for me. If need be, you could even go gridless on 'em. No grid, they have to point out the center of the AoE or where they want to move to, then measure out the exact effect. No pre-measuring!

Nothing wrong with losing the mat either, especially for small battles.
 

kengar

First Post
We tend to play tactic-heavy. We don't play d20 though, we use Savage Worlds (another fairly minis-dependent game). In a system like Savage Worlds or d20, the rules tend to favor using the grid because so many of the actions and effects, etc. count on know exactly where someone is. Back when we were playing 1e, we never used minis or the mat and it worked fine.

Personally, I like using minis and scenery, but am indifferent to the grid itself. We use it because we're used to it, and with the Chessex mat, it's so easy to quickly sketch out a room or scene. One day, I may drop it in favor of a wargame-style gridless board where distances are measured (after declaring) with a tape measure, and things like spell effects are checked by templates. :)
 

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