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5E What's Your Table Look Like?


I use a variety of grid mats, dungeon tiles and even 1st gen dwarven forge pieces for our game. I prefer minis, but when I play at the local store, I use my bag of D6's for the enemy. Whenever combat breaks out, out comes the grid - I often also use it for general exploring, so players don't have to keep track of a map (party mapping for me died somewhere back in 2E). I don't do theater of the mind for such combats as I've had too many in the past end poorly due to questions about positioning, but sometimes the limitations of 5 ft. grid gets irksome (though it hasn't bothered me in 5E yet; combats have been far more dynamic than whack-a-bag-of-hp than I've ever seen in previous editions).

Hawk Diesel

For my in person games, I have a battle map, DIY player and enemy tokens, and I have other visual media going from my laptop to the TV, as well as a music playlist to set the mood.

Online though, 99% of the games I run are purely theater of the mind, though I might scribble some rough drawings during battles to help the players. The only time in recent years I used roll20 to run a virtual table top was because the players were facing a literal army of monsters, and there was no way I could just use theory of the mind for that particular battle due to the sheer number of moving pieces and information players needed for tactical decisions.


I use a wet erase battle-mat. I will draw out rooms as they explore in 10' square scale (which helps the mapper out).

I bought a big pack of Arcknight plastic miniatures. When a player joins my game, I'll let them pick an appropriate plastic mini and I let them just keep it. They're pretty cheap and the time it saves from having to hunt for a mini is way more valuable to me.

If a fight breaks out, I'll sometimes redraw the room in 5' square scale, but not always. I use minis as positional tools not precise playing pieces. I just need to be able to know if a PC can move and attack or how many foes can be struck by a fireball. I don't care about every 5' of movement.

With 5E, some of my players use their laptops and/or phones. I personally dislike it, but I don't make a big deal out of it.

I usually either run from a printed out module or from my own own notes that are hand written... I can't run off of PDFs. With 5E, I use my laptop with D&D Beyond open for reference and monsters stats. When I'm running Basic, I don't need the computer, I can handle monster stats from the book or from memory.


For several years now, since running the official modules, I print out the maps in full color on paper. For maps I don't have, I supplement with flipmaps and dry erase markers.

EDIT - I use minis extensively, but I've also found I'm a big fan of using flat tokens for bunches of low level swarms or small guys. They're easy to see and stand out well on the flat map. This was all the firenewts attacking in a Tomb of Annihilation encounter.

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I use a battlemat or other 1" grid map, and minis, usually painted. Here's my last Princes of the Apocalypse session: 20/M6 1491 DR session 7 Lvl 5 RL6 Scarlet Moon Hall 2 XP 37+7=44 - the dorky standing guy with die in hand is me. :)

I rarely use 3D terrain as I'm usually GMing at pub or someone else's house; this game was at my flat, the boys are my son & a friend's son.
I love 3D terrain but don't use it much either. I'll sometimes throw in some half-terrain though, just to spice things up. I've never played with full Dwarven Forge though, but would love to try it.


Orcus on a bad day
In two games I play in, the DMs have been playing sicne 3.x and 4e and it's all grids. In another game I play it's TotM with sometimes a page-sized whiteboard as a communication aid for explaining terrain or general positioning but no grid or measurement.

The campaign I finished was entirely TotM. I'm currently in a campaign teaching new players and I plan to do a mix, primarily to introduce them to both styles so they can both know them in other campaiugns and form their own opinions.


It is stock that we pull out minis at the same time you bring out your character sheet. Nearly every fight involves a grid. A lot of times there is the old maps from 4e dungeons and we use a lot of 3e tiles. I still think that The King's Road is the most dangerous place in my games.


Very long, it seats twenty. At my end I have a blackboard where I draw my maps, at the other end the boys lay out a field grey military blanket and set up their little metal toy men and model terrain. I run chief architect software on my laptop for floor plans of buildings and have art files for the NPC's appearances.


I've been making a lot of terrain and printing a lot of minis, but what ends up on my table varies according to a lot of factors. Do I know ahead of time more or less where the players plan to go, so I can set up an important area or two ahead of time? Can a scene be thrown together quickly on the table without breaking the flow of the gaming session, or is there a logical break time that will allow a window for me to put together something more complicated?

  • Non-combat and combat-very-unlikely situations are pretty much always TotM, as are very simple combats where range & movement speed aren't going to matter much
  • Chessex mat with crude sketches if I need something quick or don't have terrain for the environment. Sometimes I'll plop some scatter pieces, furniture, chests, etc onto that for a little texture.
  • For outdoor encounters, even some random ones, I have a big 4'x4' board lined with a sheet of the textured green sorta-grassy-looking paper the model train folks use, onto which I'll spread out some trees, hills, bushes, maybe some tents and a menhir or twelve - again, depending on setup time factors and whether I think the encounter warrants it
  • If the characters are dungeon-delving, I'll try to use tiles to define a few of the key encounter areas, while using the chessex mat for the less interesting areas where combat might occur. I'll also sometimes sketch a basic map of where the party has explored already onto some corner of the mat, or more likely I'll have printed a copy of the map and will cover it with pieces of black construction paper I can lift away to reveal each new area as they get to it.
  • ... And then there are the times when I go nuts with tabletop prep :)

(Gah! Can't access my site from work to link to photos stored there! Will add them later, but they're all over the DIY category and some of the campaign updates at (Re)Turning (to) the Tables - Tabletop RPG Geekery Revisited )
*Two 6' folding tables placed side by side.
*Giant flip mat in the center.
-- Social interactions and travel montages are theater of the mind, but all combat is on the mat.
-- A few minis (I just bought a bunch of the paper ones) but mostly pieces from other games to represent characters/monsters.
*Everybody has a binder and dice out.
*Spell slot organizers.
*Dungeon Master screen so I can hide notes and monster hit points.


The promised photos:

Recently went a little crazy on a build for the Wild Sheep Chase:

When I knew there'd be a fight in a tavern:

In my Mighty Protectors campaign, when aliens take over a cargo ship and build a creepy biotech power plant inside:

Dragon's tower at Thundertree: