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5E How precisely do you run combat encounters?

Do you run everything by the book, do you cut corners, or even outright ignore certain aspects? Do you otherwise add more precision with variant/house rules?

Consider the question from the separate points of view of being precise on the following:

1- creature positions and movement (e.g. TotM vs battlemat, step-by-step movement around obstacles, counting diagonals x1.5)
2- distances and weapon/spell ranges (e.g. measuring exact ranges vs ballparking near/far)
3- elevation, angles and directions (e.g. adjudicating cover carefully from different directions)
4- terrain and obstacles (e.g. ignoring vs taking small objects on the ground into account, like a chair)
5- lesser actions on someone's turn (e.g. handwaving/enforcing object interaction rules, switching an object between hands)
6- spells somatic/material components (e.g. checking against free/occupied hands)
7- light sources and visibility (e.g. keeping track of exact areas of bright light, dim light, darkness)
8- any particular tactical area (e.g. hiding in combat, flanking, facing)
I do combat by the book ... except

• I encourage stunts, and adjudicate them narratively or by skill checks, ... which actually is by the book!

• I ballpark ranges to 10 feet, 30 feet, 100 feet, 300 feet, 1000 feet. So normally, melee, close (30 feet), or "distant".

• I ignore illumination. Especially indoors, everywhere is "bright", "dim" partially obscured, or "dark" /totally obscured.
 

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ccs

40th lv DM
Bit of all of it. How much or little of what depends upon the scene & what'll make it most entertaining.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
1- creature positions and movement (e.g. TotM vs battlemat, step-by-step movement around obstacles, counting diagonals x1.5)

Both. My players, however, like tactical combat, so we use battlemaps more often than not. Currently I am running a massive dungeon crawl, so there a map up on the VTT with tokens for players and monsters pretty much the entire time. Some random encounters or more simple encounters I'll do modified theater of the mind, but they are still looking at a map, I just don't bother putting tokens down.

When I did Curse of Strahd, I used TOTM a lot more. But I still bought the Schley maps and printed them on a large format printer for use a battlemaps with minis for major encounters.

My first campaign in 5e was homebrew and I did a lot more TOTM and when a battlemap was needed I usually used the Chessex battle map that crudely drew terrain / room features on.

2- distances and weapon/spell ranges (e.g. measuring exact ranges vs ballparking near/far)

I play it RAW. On the VTT it is easy with the area-of-effect templates and distance rulers. When I was using physical battlemaps and minis, I had some plastic templates, but found them more of a chore than a help and would just use measure sticks, when it was hard to eyeball it.

3- elevation, angles and directions (e.g. adjudicating cover carefully from different directions)

Currently, yes, but it is easy in a dungeon. When I did a lot more wilderness and outside ruins and city adventures, I would often guesstimate.

4- terrain and obstacles (e.g. ignoring vs taking small objects on the ground into account, like a chair)

I use difficult terrain rules and may call for athletics or acrobatic checks. But I'm forgiving. Players are heroic and I don't want to slow the game down for every little possible opportunity for spraining an ankle.

5- lesser actions on someone's turn (e.g. handwaving/enforcing object interaction rules, switching an object between hands)

I don't bother with switching hands, am pretty loose about picking something up, but rather strict about getting things out of your pack, bag of holding, etc. during combat.

6- spells somatic/material components (e.g. checking against free/occupied hands)

Pretty much all magic users in my current campaign use a focus. For the most part, I don't pay too much attention unless players start getting ridiculous with it.

7- light sources and visibility (e.g. keeping track of exact areas of bright light, dim light, darkness)

I guess not really because once darkvision comes into play, I just roughly keep in mind how far characters can see. Also, I'm not running a VTT with lighting effects where each player only sees the what their character could see based on vision and lighting rules. Everyone pretty much sees what the deep gnome can see.

8- any particular tactical area (e.g. hiding in combat, flanking, facing)

For my current campaign, I don't use optional tactical rules from the DMG. I did in prior campaigns, but characters in 5e already are so powerful that it felt like it was making encounters too easy. I prefer to make feats and special abilities like pack tactics mean more by not allowing everyone flanking.

Hiding in combat, I do follow RAW. Not doing do would be taking away a lot of the fun for players playing rogues.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I'm another Theater of the Mind GM. If I want to play a board game I have my old HeroQuest set from the 90s ready to go.

In my experience the game board makes players think very two-dimensionally, unless you have the cash to include terrain features, walls, etc. Giving the players something to look at prompts them to focus only on what they see on the table in front of them.

A good description, on the other hand, invites questions and leads to far more dynamic combat scenarios - including flight. I've never played a game with a battemat where players considered retreating or fleeing; in my TotM games it's not uncommon at all.
 

ZeshinX

Adventurer
1. Primarily TotM, but we generally use a quick graph paper draw up of where everyone starts (and any obstacles, but very rudimentary).
2. Very much ballparking.
3. More ballparking for the most part. Cover and what not is adjudicated by me (DM) based on the terrain, environment and the presence of obstacles.
4. Broad strokes mainly. I paint the picture of the encounter for TotM and allow for creative tactics and decision making by the players.
5. This happens all the time. It's not regulated, short of things that would impact it being present (loud, rushing water, a zone of silence, etc)
6. Material components we ignore. Somatic/verbal are treated with reason. Sword + board/TWF, you're not casting unless an ability/feat says you can (or you ditch/drop the shield or weapon, or put one away to free a hand). Two-handed weapon can cast just fine (you can't attack with it one-handed, but you can sure hold it one-handed while your other hand casts). Basically if they have a free hand or ability to simply give themselves a free hand, they can cast. If they aren't gagged, in a zone of silence, etc, they can cast. We don't use foci for mechanical effect, just flavour.
7. More or less binary situation. Yes light, yes see. No light, no see (short of darkvision). Radius/intensity of light is considered if it would matter in some fashion relative to the encounter (or other condition).
8. Just for flavour mainly. Things like hiding in combat and such are allowed if the player can describe an interesting way to make it plausible (in a heroic fantasy kind of plausible...I'm flexible as a DM to a degree....hiding in combat in the middle of an open room with minimal furnishing is not gonna happen....but throw in some furniture and drapery and whatnot and you're not in melee or immediately threatening anyone....sure, you can sneak off and hide).
 

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