D&D 5E What's Your Table Look Like?

DM Howard

I don't mean your actual table, but rather whether you use a mat or not? Do you use miniatures, tokens, or even spare change? Do you go full on theater of the mind or some combination? Do you use some method I'm not even thinking of?

I tend to use a mixture of theater of the mind and the D&D Adventure Grid to organize my encounters. I make little tokens for the majority of monsters, while having miniatures for special NPCs and the heroes.
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Magic Wordsmith
I run combats and most exploration on a grid with tokens. Some exploration and social interaction will be theater of the mind, but I will usually present visual elements such as cool, evocative pictures and the like to support and and inspire play.

I usually run online these days, but even when I do an in-person game, we're using a virtual table top such as Roll20. So the actual table at an in-person game will just be a bunch of laptops, a power strip, and bottles of booze.


Rotten DM
I use the store mat(player donated to store) or store grid (Player build a grid box the length of the table), or my own grid squares (think role 4 initiative squares). Minis sometimes which actually match the monster or tokens. Some times theatre of the mind if it is going to be a short fight.


Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I use different techniques for different encounters. In my opinion, “theater of the mind” (or rather, combat without visual aid) and combat with map and minis (whether physical or digital) are both tools that DMs would do well to use for the appropriate jobs, and disregard at their own peril. For small, quick battles, I go without visual aid to simplify and speed things along. For combats where relative positioning is important I’ll bust out the minis and we’ll use rough distances on the table. For big set-piece encounters, I’ll prepare a map.


Most of my game is 'theater of the mind' as we use narrative description for locations and dialogue is usually first-person banter between myself and the characters. Smaller combats are also 'theater of the mind' if there are not a lot of terrain difficulties or large numbers of enemies.

My table itself has a 3' x 4' Chessex 1" grid mat with a full sheet of plexi laid on top of it. This allows me to hand-draw some maps over the Chessex grid using dry-erase markers on the plexi (usually drawing the map in reverse so I can flip the plexi sheet over so the dry-erase is on the bottom side.) The plexi sheet also allows me to lay out poster maps and/or dungeon tiles independently or together and then cover them with the plexi so that none of them slide or move around when the minis are used on top of them.

I have a good supply of the WotC pre-painted minis for both the PCs and the monsters when I use full 1" grid maps. But for the times I want to print pre-drawn maps on my color printer that are so large that expanding them to 1" squares would be too much of a waste, I'll print them at about 1/2" squares and then use my supply of meeples for the PCs and a bin of small tokens in various colors for my monsters.

I have one of those vinyl grid mats that sits on the table, but mostly I run theater of the mind. When we do use the grid, there is a mish-mash of minis, some from the old heroquest board game, some from other sources, meeples (the vaguely person-shaped tokens from Carcassone and similar games) and coins.


On that metempsychosis tweak
I use a mixture of Chessex Mats with wet-erase markers, D&D Terrain tiles, miniatures (either purchased for RPG playing or ripped from the awful, awful, awful Magic: The Gathering wargame), and Chessex die boxes for flying creatures.

Theatre of the Mind, totally. If we need to clarify positioning or what something looks like, I jot a quick (and utterly horrible) sketch and work from there, but that’s rare.

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