Minis or Theatre of the Mind? (Survey)

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As with many things in life, I tend to go both ways. :p

I typically use Tableau Vivant only for larger battles, or battles with complex terrain. TotM is generally perfect for small battles where the impact of terrain is not a massive factor. That said, even a perfectly flat terrain battle if cramped enough can call for Tableau Vivant just to track all the threatened spaces and OA potential.


Elder Thing
I run Theater of the Mind exclusively. If I want to play a boardgame I pull out HeroQuest.

Plus, there are many situations I see popping up on these boards that seem a direct result of using minis instead of describing scenes.


Retired game store owner
Minis for marching order and most combats. ToM for most exploration and social encounters. Though I often put a mini on the table that is a good representation in social encounters just for a focus.


Lowcountry Low Roller
From a certain perspective, I prefer TotM because it's most adaptable, requires less prep time (I don't have to draw anything out, in advance or ad hoc), and doesn't run into problems with (for example) the Wizard player counting off squares to see how big his fireball is so that he can drop the boundary right between the Fighter PC and the troll she's in melee with.

I find these situations a great opportunity for an ability check. 'So you think you can lob that fireball with precision? That's a hard Int check to place it just so... Fail and your Fighter will be hit too!" Nicely raises the stakes.

Another "both" vote here. Just depends on the nature of the combat, the environment, etc. I've had ToM battles lead directly into mini-and-map battles, and vice-versa.


Another vote for both.

If it's a somewhat balanced combat encounter, in a space that can be easily represented on a grid, then I'll use minis if I have them.

For just about everything else: TotM.


Sparkly Dude
The secret to success with TotM is a DM who uses minis or a sketched grid behind the screen.

Confusion is avoided if the DM has a concrete reference for describing the action and making calls.

Personally, I use standard graph paper that I markup with a pencil as the encounter unfolds.

Nothing arbitrary, clear determinations, empowered to be the senses of each character without forgetting anything important or juggling too much in my head.

Highly recommended!



First Post
I prefer miniatures in most situations, as others have stated I grow tired of having to constantly track and reiterate where people are. Additionally, if I'm using VTT (which is the norm these days) I can whip up some cool looking tokens, which is generally viewed as a plus from the group.


I prefer minis - or at least tactical representations everyone can see - for combat and dungeon exploration. But I'm happy enough to play without, as long as everyone around the table is sensible about it.


The most memorable combat encounters over the years for me have been with Theater of the Mind. Those with miniatures, while visually appealing at the time, are somewhat forgettable. The focus tends to me on the minis, and not the narrative.

Don't mind minis at all for marching order.

I use for our sessions, which gives me the advantage of doing both. Most combat is using maps I have made, while any RP moments is theater of the mind, using sound FX form battle bards, or any of the other music/ambiant sounds form ROll20

Both, depending on the circumstances. Tend to favor some sort of battlefield diagram - from a Dwarven Forge complex to a battlemat to a small drawn map we can use for reference, for most set piece battles, especially those involving several opponents. Theater of the mind works well for some combats, too. Things like simple beast encounters, strange terrain that is hard to translate to the tabletop, etc.

I spent nearly 20 years roleplaying without a mat (1980 til 3E) and while there were many great stories in that time, I found the clarity a mat to be help reduce confusion in battle ("But I teleported behind the necromancer!") for both player and DM. It was definitely an improvement in play.
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Blistering Barnacles!
Generally minis, although I don't spend $ on them. I bought the Pathfinder Beginner Box a while back and use the same pawns and flip mat over and over and over. Some players use cardboard pawn, some buy their own.
With a big group I feel I pretty much have to otherwise big 'ole soup sandwich!


A mix is my technical answer, but at a push, I choose mini's. Whatever you lose in imagineering, you gain in tactical and strategic options. I *love* playing D&D with mini's.


We play TotM most of the time. For complex encounters, we sometimes put out markers of some kind on a quick sketch of the encounter area, but we don't draw to scale or use a grid of any sort; the markers are just general indications of where people are (e.g., "I'm up in the front rank" or "I'm hiding behind the door"), rather than representing exact locations or distances.

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