5E Roshambo-Style Theatre of the Mind Combat

volanin

Explorer
INTRODUCTION

"Theatre of the Mind combats are intense, exciting and very fast. They can bring a lot of emotion to your most violent encounters, in a way that is completely different from Grid combat. But D&D rules insist on focusing on minutious distances, and many combat tactics depend on exact positions, which are only satisfactorily adjudicated by using a Grid...

Welcome to Roshambo-Style Theatre of the Mind! A simple set of rules designed to make combats even faster to track, fun to play, and with enough tactical options to make your decisions deep and meaningful. Gear up your weapons and be ready to Engage!"

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Today, while taking a shower, I had some ideas about modifying a few things in D&D 5E combat to make it flow better in Theater of the Mind mode. These modifications are quite simple, and try to keep intrusiveness to a minimum. Some of them are loosely borrowed from other RPG systems. The goal is to fix some small things that bother me during play: mainly static combats and distance/position adjudication.

http://www.dmsguild.com/product/224253

It's only four pages and already had a lot of help from people on this board! But if somebody wants to give it a read, I'd really like your opinion as well. Mainly if this can be abused in any way, if something is broken or makes combat boring, or even if I simply forgot something.

Thanks!

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EDIT: Updated to version 1.4!

If you're interested in the thought process behind some of the choices, it's located in this post:
http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?592401-Roshambo-Style-Theatre-of-the-Mind-Combat&p=7255919&viewfull=1#post7255919

If you're interested in reading a nice review about this system, try this post:
http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?592401-Roshambo-Style-Theatre-of-the-Mind-Combat&p=7303684&viewfull=1#post7303684

 
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Today, while taking a shower, I had some ideas about modifying a few things in D&D 5E combat to make it flow better in Theater of the Mind mode. These modifications are quite simple, and try to keep intrusiveness to a minimum. Some of them are loosely borrowed from other RPG systems. The goal is to fix some small things that bother me during play: mainly static combats and Range/AoE adjudication.

http://volanin.com.br/files/totm1.0.pdf

It's only two pages, but if somebody wants to give it a read, I'd really like your opinion. Mainly if this can be abused in any way, if something is broken or makes combat boring, or even if I simply forgot something.
Thanks!​


This looks awesome. I only looked over it briefly at this points, but from what I can see, I would change only two things:

1. The phrase "engaged to" concerns marriage proposals. You want "engaged with."

2. I would take the of targets for AoE spells somewhat random. Perhaps 1 target translates into 1d2; 2 targets in 1d3; 3 targets into 1d4, etc. If you roll too many targets, you're going to hit your allies instead of the enemy.
 

OB1

Jedi Master
Lots of very good stuff here! I've been messing with similar concepts for over a year and am still refining.

I love love love the AOE concept of charging extra targets to avoid hitting engaged allies (I rule that an AOE effects a target also effects every creature engaged with that target, this speeds gameplay in both TOM and Grid). Consider that stolen.

I would consider spelling out distance costs for the types of movement to account for classes that get speed boosts. These don't represent actual distance, just relative movement cost. Perhaps something like

Engage - 20 feet
Dash - 40 feet
Intercept - 20 feet (near) 40 feet (far) distance taken first from remainder of last turn then from your next turn.

So someone with 30 speed could dash to get to someone far and still have 20' remaining to intercept another near creature.

I'd also consider only allowing someone to attempt to hide from creatures that are currently Far from the hiding creature.


Sent from my iPhone using EN World
 

The Old Crow

Explorer
I think it is very elegant. I like the simple designation of Near or Far, and the simple way range is handled.

I take it an Evoker wouldn't have to count extra for engaged allies.

So speedy characters don't lose out on the benefit of their speed, perhaps the chance of using a reaction to intercept can be keyed off speed. The simple way would be to not allow anyone to be intercepted by by someone with a slower movement rate. Or the creature with better speed could get a roll to see if they slip by.
 

volanin

Explorer
1. The phrase "engaged to" concerns marriage proposals. You want "engaged with."

2. I would take the of targets for AoE spells somewhat random. Perhaps 1 target translates into 1d2; 2 targets in 1d3; 3 targets into 1d4, etc. If you roll too many targets, you're going to hit your allies instead of the enemy.
1. Fixed, thanks!

2. This is another very good way to do that, and I indeed playtested it! But at least in my table, the wizards usually prefer predictable outcomes. So I went with the "official" solution in DMG 249. You can still hit your allies in order to target more monsters (it's described in the last paragraph), but in a much more controlled way.


I love love love the AOE concept of charging extra targets to avoid hitting engaged allies (I rule that an AOE effects a target also effects every creature engaged with that target, this speeds gameplay in both TOM and Grid). Consider that stolen.

I would consider spelling out distance costs for the types of movement to account for classes that get speed boosts. These don't represent actual distance, just relative movement cost. Perhaps something like

Engage - 20 feet
Dash - 40 feet
Intercept - 20 feet (near) 40 feet (far) distance taken first from remainder of last turn then from your next turn.

So someone with 30 speed could dash to get to someone far and still have 20' remaining to intercept another near creature.
1. Thanks a lot, really!

2. About the distance costs, while I can clearly see the intention there, this is exactly the kind of calculations and bookkeeping that bothers me during the action. I am trying to avoid numbers wherever I can!


I think it is very elegant. I like the simple designation of Near or Far, and the simple way range is handled.

I take it an Evoker wouldn't have to count extra for engaged allies.

So speedy characters don't lose out on the benefit of their speed, perhaps the chance of using a reaction to intercept can be keyed off speed. The simple way would be to not allow anyone to be intercepted by by someone with a slower movement rate. Or the creature with better speed could get a roll to see if they slip by.
1. Thanks! And you're right: although it's not spelled out (I tried to keep the PDF capped at 2 pages), the intention of charging extra targets was exactly because of the Evoker and it's ability to protect Engaged allies.

2. Actually, I really like this idea, as it keeps Speed relevant. The Monk would be very hard to Intercept (which I like), but the Dwarf would have a hard time Intercepting others (which I quite don't like, because I tend to think of Dwarves as protectors)... but I'll definitely think more about that! Great idea!
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I would use the terms,

‘melee’ (body space, hand to hand)
‘close’ (upto 30 foot move, thrown weapon, close range, close quarters combat)
‘distant’ (beyond 30 feet)
‘short distance’ (upto 300 feet, distance of an arrow shot, city block)
‘long distance’ (beyond arrow shot, upto 3000 feet)



I would radically simplify all spell ranges and areas. Ranges are either melee, close, short, or long. Area of effects are either ‘melee radius’ (catch upto five clustered Medium targets) or ‘close radius’ (catch upto 50 clustered Medium targets). For example, Burning Spray can catch upto five targets. Fireball can catch upto 50 targets.
 

thethain

Villager
One thing that is a bit lacking is the fact you can't really methodically move through the battlefield.

Since you have to dash to go far away, it means you have to give up an action at some point. While an actual battlefield your cleric might continue to cast spells and just take 2-3 turns to get to a far away encounter.
 

Lapasta

Villager
I really liked your ideas! It looks similar to how Numenera handles distances too.
Just some observations:
1) having no limits to how many engaged enemies you can have is a bit weird to me... there should be a limit, either fixed or dependent on class and/or size.
2) there is no way to break an engagement in your rules. Maybe a character can use his movement to either engage another enemy or to break an existing engagement on him. This way ranged characters can sort of keep their distance from melee, if there was only one enemy engaging him.
3) there was nothing as the intercept action at the original game rules. I liked it, but this point should be stress-tested. For example, what happens if more than one character wants to intercept the same opponent? Can I intercept another character’s interception attempt?
4) even though you are trying to avoid numbers, there should be any point to character speed, in order to keep balance to the game, and that some magic items or spells are still valid. I liked the approach by OB1, but following his line of thought the “dash action” (spend your main action to double your movement) should be different to the “move to far distance by spending X feet of movement”.
 

jaelis

Explorer
Once you have engaged an opponent, how does that end?

In your example, where the fighter intercepted the goblin, would the goblin be able to engage the wizard on its next turn? Could the fighter intercept again?
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Nice stuff [MENTION=69817]volanin[/MENTION] - I've not been happy with the arbitrary distances I've been using for TotM combat: "Oh that's about 30ft away, that's 50ft away..." etc etc being able to just say "it's nearby or far away" would make things a lot more natural IMHO.

Looking forward to trying it out when we shift campaigns.
 

OB1

Jedi Master
2. About the distance costs, while I can clearly see the intention there, this is exactly the kind of calculations and bookkeeping that bothers me during the action. I am trying to avoid numbers wherever I can!
I know what you mean, and it's for things like this that I'm still tinkering with my ToM system a year later. I want things like difficult terrain, standing from prone and the speed bumps given by barbarian and monk to mean something, and that's difficult without having some type of standards.

That's why I was thinking in terms of having a standard speed cost for your movement types, but I guess that could be left to DM adjudication as well. How would you handle, for example, a Monk with 50' of movement from class ability and the mobile feat who wants to engage and hit one near enemy and then engage with and hit another near enemy?
 

volanin

Explorer
Thank you for all the feedback.
Let me try to reply to everybody:

‘melee’ (body space, hand to hand)
‘close’ (upto 30 foot move, thrown weapon, close range, close quarters combat)
‘distant’ (beyond 30 feet)
‘short distance’ (upto 300 feet, distance of an arrow shot, city block)
‘long distance’ (beyond arrow shot, upto 3000 feet)
That's exactly how I did it initially, with slightly different terms.
It was Adjacent, Near, Medium, Far, Very Far... and it didn't work at all in table. =(
Too many range divisions (and added complexity) for too little gain.


One thing that is a bit lacking is the fact you can't really methodically move through the battlefield.
Since you have to dash to go far away, it means you have to give up an action at some point. While an actual battlefield your cleric might continue to cast spells and just take 2-3 turns to get to a far away encounter.
That's true.
While you can freely move in the current combat zone (Near range), you indeed have to sacrifice an action to Dash and move to another combat zone (Far range). This was deliberately created this way, because it would give full mobility to melee combatants (making combat much more fluid), while giving an advantage to ranged combatants who wanted to stay distant, firing away.

A Fighter would have to spend his action to Dash and reach the Goblin Archer, but would not be able to attack it in the same turn (which is the whole point of being distant). But the Fighter didn't Dash for nothing: he could still Engage the Goblin Archer, giving it Disadvantage on this ranged attacks. So the Goblin would have to attack the Fighter, fire with Disadvantage, or Dash away (risking an Opportunity Attack).


I really liked your ideas! It looks similar to how Numenera handles distances too.
Just some observations:
1) having no limits to how many engaged enemies you can have is a bit weird to me... there should be a limit, either fixed or dependent on class and/or size.
2) there is no way to break an engagement in your rules. Maybe a character can use his movement to either engage another enemy or to break an existing engagement on him. This way ranged characters can sort of keep their distance from melee, if there was only one enemy engaging him.
3) there was nothing as the intercept action at the original game rules. I liked it, but this point should be stress-tested. For example, what happens if more than one character wants to intercept the same opponent? Can I intercept another character’s interception attempt?
4) even though you are trying to avoid numbers, there should be any point to character speed, in order to keep balance to the game, and that some magic items or spells are still valid. I liked the approach by OB1, but following his line of thought the “dash action” (spend your main action to double your movement) should be different to the “move to far distance by spending X feet of movement”.
1. This is something easily ruled by the DM. It's such an individual thing that I guess I prefer not to codify it in rules. I love the idea of a Fighter trying to Engage a swarm of Goblins!

2. An Engagement ends by using the Disengage action or Dash action (risking an Opportunity Attack). But I see your point there. I have to think about this... it would work if you could choose to break Engagement by risking an Opportunity Attack... but let me think a little more. Nice catch.

3. You can only Intercept attempts to Engage someone. In a party of 4 characters, when the Ogre tries to Engage the Wizard, any one of the other characters can Intercept. There is no reason to dispute who is Intercepting "first" (unless two characters wants to impress the one being Engaged, but this is something apart from combat!)

4. This is a point I am indeed thinking about.


Once you have engaged an opponent, how does that end?
In your example, where the fighter intercepted the goblin, would the goblin be able to engage the wizard on its next turn? Could the fighter intercept again?
An Engagement ends by using the Disengage action or Dash action (risking an Opportunity Attack).
In the example, the Goblin could try to Engage the Elf Wizard again in its next turn, but the Fighter could again Intercept the Engagement by using a Reaction. Effectively, the Fighter could keep Intercepting one enemy every round if this enemy tries to Engage someone. That said, the Goblin has Nimble Escape. It could Disengage the Fighter as a Bonus Action, and shoot the Elf Wizard with its Shortbow without Disadvantage.


Nice stuff @volanin - I've not been happy with the arbitrary distances I've been using for TotM combat: "Oh that's about 30ft away, that's 50ft away..." etc etc being able to just say "it's nearby or far away" would make things a lot more natural IMHO.

Looking forward to trying it out when we shift campaigns.
Thanks!
If you ever use these alternative rules, I'd love some feedback.
Even if it's an one shot adventure! =)
 
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Yaarel

Adventurer
That's exactly how I did it initially, with slightly different terms.
It was Adjacent, Near, Medium, Far, Very Far... and it didn't work at all in table. =(
Too many range divisions (and added complexity) for too little gain.
Melee ≈ Adjacent
Close ≈ Near
Distant ≈ Far

Normally it doesnt come into play, but it occasionally matters:

Distant/Far can be subdivided into:
• Short Distance
• Long Distance

Depending on whether it is within reach of a bow shot or not.

You could even call the Short Distance, ‘Shooting Distance’ or ‘Shot Distance’, or ‘within a Shot’. It is about the distance of a city block. (Or modern American football field.)
 
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lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
That's why I was thinking in terms of having a standard speed cost for your movement types, but I guess that could be left to DM adjudication as well. How would you handle, for example, a Monk with 50' of movement from class ability and the mobile feat who wants to engage and hit one near enemy and then engage with and hit another near enemy?
First, excellent and interesting writeup. Don't really have much substantive to say.

With regards to the quoted part, IME (and I run ToTM) certain abilities and feats become less valuable with ToTM, and certain feats and abilities become more valuable with grid. Mobile is a great example of that (especially in combination with Monk abilities); incredibly useful for grid, not nearly as exciting for ToTM.

A lot of it depends on how you run it; for me, the advantage of ToTM is getting rid of a lot of the fiddly bit in service of story and roleplaying, but it does come at a cost. The more you add in the fiddly bits to ToTM, the less advantageous is becomes to run for those purposes, and eventually you're better off running grid.
 

Mistwell

Hero
Today, while taking a shower, I had some ideas about modifying a few things in D&D 5E combat to make it flow better in Theater of the Mind mode. These modifications are quite simple, and try to keep intrusiveness to a minimum. Some of them are loosely borrowed from other RPG systems. The goal is to fix some small things that bother me during play: mainly static combats and Range/AoE adjudication.

http://volanin.com.br/files/totm1.0.pdf

It's only two pages, but if somebody wants to give it a read, I'd really like your opinion. Mainly if this can be abused in any way, if something is broken or makes combat boring, or even if I simply forgot something.
Thanks!​


This seems very harsh on ranged and spell casting PCs. They will essentially always be at disadvantage, because all someone needs to do is engage them (which is basically free), and they cannot escape being engaged without essentially skipping a turn.
 

OB1

Jedi Master
First, excellent and interesting writeup. Don't really have much substantive to say.

With regards to the quoted part, IME (and I run ToTM) certain abilities and feats become less valuable with ToTM, and certain feats and abilities become more valuable with grid. Mobile is a great example of that (especially in combination with Monk abilities); incredibly useful for grid, not nearly as exciting for ToTM.

A lot of it depends on how you run it; for me, the advantage of ToTM is getting rid of a lot of the fiddly bit in service of story and roleplaying, but it does come at a cost. The more you add in the fiddly bits to ToTM, the less advantageous is becomes to run for those purposes, and eventually you're better off running grid.
Yeah, every time I try and make ToM to fiddly it falls apart, so probably best to just leave it. I actually run with both ToM and Grid depending on the situation.

Medium or easy encounter - Always ToM. It's hard to have 6-8 of these if you have to break out minis and set up a grid every time. I like these to last less than 15 minutes of play time max.

Hard encounter - Usually ToM, especially if there are "action" elements to the scene. This is where I like to build encounters that are on the sides of crumbling towers, through the tops of giant trees, etc. When I use grid it's a loose one where the words "close enough" come into play quite often. I won't suffer 5 minute discussions about placing a fireball in this square or that one. Should be 20-30 minutes if ToM, 40-50 if grid.

Deadly and above encounter - Usually grid with a paper map overlay and keep things closer to the book. If using ToM will sometimes use minis to show clusters and relative distance of combatants, especially if there are a lot of them. Typically about an hour but prepared for to go 2 hours plus.
 

jaelis

Explorer
An Engagement ends by using the Disengage action or Dash action (risking an Opportunity Attack).
In the example, the Goblin could try to Engage the Elf Wizard again in its next turn, but the Fighter could again Intercept the Engagement by using a Reaction. Effectively, the Fighter could keep Intercepting one enemy every round if this enemy tries to Engage someone. That said, the Goblin has Nimble Escape. It could Disengage the Fighter as a Bonus Action, and shoot the Elf Wizard with its Shortbow without Disadvantage.
OK, so it work something like this?
- You can only melee attack a creature you are engaged with.
- You can engage with a creature in the Near zone as a free action.

- An intercept prevents you from engaging with a creature unless you dashed.
- You engage a creature you intercept

- When you take the disengage action, you disengage from all creatures engaging you

- When you dash you disengage from all creatures engaging you, but provoke OAs from each.
- Also when you dash, you can engage with creature(s) of your choice, and can't be intercepted
- Finally when you dash, you can move to the Far zone if you want.

Is there a limit to how many creatures you can engage with on your turn? So in your example the fighter could have (and basically should have) engaged with both goblins and the giant on his first turn?

If you engage with a creature, is it automatically engaged with you? I would think so. Perhaps that is the reason not to engage everyone you can. Similarly for disengaging?

I think these sound like good rules, just want to make sure I'm understanding.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
This seems very harsh on ranged and spell casting PCs. They will essentially always be at disadvantage, because all someone needs to do is engage them (which is basically free), and they cannot escape being engaged without essentially skipping a turn.
Hmm - that's a good point. A few possible solutions:

1) A 3rd range band: "Very far" which would require two turns (move + dash) to cross

2) Some kind of skill check to see if the engager is successful

3) "Engage" is a bonus action only available to certain melee oriented classes? Fighter, Monk, Barbarian, ...
 

Mistwell

Hero
Hmm - that's a good point. A few possible solutions:

1) A 3rd range band: "Very far" which would require two turns (move + dash) to cross

2) Some kind of skill check to see if the engager is successful

3) "Engage" is a bonus action only available to certain melee oriented classes? Fighter, Monk, Barbarian, ...
I would make engaging and disengaging each a bonus action.
 

jaelis

Explorer
This seems very harsh on ranged and spell casting PCs. They will essentially always be at disadvantage, because all someone needs to do is engage them (which is basically free), and they cannot escape being engaged without essentially skipping a turn.
It makes having some meat shields along pretty valuable :) But if you have them, I think it works OK. Your attackers can get to you, but they have to eat OAs to do it.
 

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