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D&D General How Do You Like Your In Person Tactical Setup?

How do you like you D&D tactical setup in person?

  • Nothing: Theater of the Mind

    Votes: 10 11.0%
  • Simple: sketches and improvised tokens (pennies, dice, M&Ms, whatever)

    Votes: 11 12.1%
  • Efficient: Dry erase or printed maps with tokens, pogs, figure flats.

    Votes: 38 41.8%
  • Spiffy: Minis and terrain, painted or not, probably DIY

    Votes: 20 22.0%
  • Baroque: Detailed terrain and painted minis of high quality and deep immersion

    Votes: 2 2.2%
  • Digital: table displays, VR, augmented reality, etc.

    Votes: 6 6.6%
  • I don't play in person and it makes me sad.

    Votes: 4 4.4%


I'm in-between efficient and spiffy. Lots of minis (pre-painted or self-painted) and the maps are usually dry-erase, WotC tiles or poster/flip maps.

Every once in a while I'll pull out the Dwarven Forge and set something up, but that often takes up too much time.

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"Like"? Digital is what I would like, Baroque and Spiffy would be pretty cool too, but they cost a money, they take up a lot of storage space, are prone to damage and wear, and take forever to setup.
But what do we actually use? Efficient. A dry erase and minis. Occasional some of the old school poster maps that we laminated years ago.

In recent memory, we've done simple, using Lego figures, chess pieces, and some painted figures of the heroes to clear up confusion of where people are. We've also used a dry erase map and scribbled on it while using the same tokens.

Then we ran digital while covid was happening, in that case we used the options in roll20, sometimes I made detailed maps, other times I used a map which was effectively just like the dry erase board. This was more tactical but took a little more set up than the in person group.

This is very close to my experience. We had just moved up from tokens to Lego mini figs before the pandemic hit and we switched to Roll20.

I think as far as the poll goes on somewhere between simple and efficient. And I'm not opposed to going back to in-person gaming, but our group now includes people from multiple states so it won't be any time soon.


When I was DMing FtF for 5e before the pandemic I really liked using predone maps, flip mats from Paizo, taking the big WotC minis era maps which my brother laminated, or printing out maps from module PDFs with grids but at tabletop size on individual sheets I would lay out on the table.

For a while everybody had minis for their characters and I used the 4e counters from Monster Vault which were fantastic. I also printed out custom counters based off of internet image searches. Now with the current DM having backed two Reaper Bones kickstarters our group uses minis for both monsters and PCs.

Quick to set up so little transition from calling an encounter to rolling dice with minis on the field. Grid access and more evocative than a few scribbles on a battle mat.


Dragon Lover
My group would be between Efficient and Spiffy if we were still playing in person, we use a dry erase board for maps, use terrain tile and pieces to help give areas elevation or to add to the map, and we use figures (painted and not) for both PCs and monsters.

That said, we play online now and I’m pretty happy with the set up because their is so much cool art and cool digital battle maps that I get to use for my sessions.


The choices needed multiple choice.

Mostly I prefer mind theater ... with occasional sketches ... using dry eraser for clarification.

Plus, some scenes are "spiffy", such as an elaborate boss fight with a lot of moving parts.

I sometimes use a metal picture frame, with just the glass only. Then place the glass over a nice map, for minis, and use erasable markers on the glass to draw various effects and features.


A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Yeah, I'm torn at the moment. I've never painted a mini, and I know I'd be terrible at it, considering my general artistic aptitude. I also have really no desire to get into painting. Seems like a lot of work, cost, and space.

I've been looking at pre-painted minis on Ebay and man.. A lot of them are horrible. Why are the faces all nightmare inducing?

EDIT: I shouldn't say they're horrible. I actually like a lot of them. The faces are often really weird though

Then the flip side is the hand-painted minis, many of which look spectacular, but cost a small fortune. I'm put between a rock and a hard place.

Nightmare fuel at $1-$2/ea or really nice minis at $20+.

Going to stick to tokens for the time being it seems.
Have you looked into 2D minis? They are not going to be as impressive on the table as $20 (and often much higher) professionally hand-painted 3D miniatures, but you can get good art on a 2D standee for a small fraction of the money. There are fancier plastic standees from Arcknight or thick cardboard ones that Kobold Press and others sell to go with their bestiaries.

The best bang for you buck is to buy a paper cutter (Cricket and Silhouette are the two most popular brands), get good quality hard stock and buy the mini art from various makers on Drive Thru RPG or Patreon. Some of them come with the paper cutter files so you just have to print and cut. But even for those that don't, after a bit of a learning curve I soon found it easy to quickly set up the cut file from the art in the free Silhouette software that came with the machine. Get a bunch of plastic stands from Litko for various creature sizes.

When I was running games in person, this was a godsend. If I was was already spending thousands on Dwarven Forge terrain or spending a lot of time (and money) making fancy terrain myself with a 3D printer or plaster casting, they might seem out of place. But, like you, I didn't want to spend that kind of money (or time) on terrain that I likely would not get a lot of reuse out of--or worse, would let the investment in terrain influence the encounter setups so I could get more use out of them, rather than running what I though was best for the story. Instead, I used lower cost terrain options and eventually went to a digital battlemap (i.e. a TV laid down horizontally). In that context 2 minis look great.

I could make zombie hordes in an an hour or so. Nice full color art, lots of variety among the different pieces. I could print gargantuan-sized creatures for the cost of a sheet of card stock and some printer ink. I had also went through a phase of printing tokens and cutting them out with a 1" punch. But I can print and cut for less effort using a paper cutting machine. The only advantage of tokens/pogs is they are ready to place a bit more quickly than 2D standees (which have to be slotted into bases before setting on a map).

The other advantage of 2D standings (and tokens) is how easy their are to store and transport.

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