5th Edition, maps, and minis


4th Edition

Sovereign Court

Hi everyone,

So I thought I would take stock of those playing 5th edition and whether or not they used maps and minis, and how different the experience has been when compared to D20/Pathfinder and/or 4th edition. What does everyone think so far?


I prefer using maps and minis. I always have. No matter how detailed you are in describing something, no one has the same mental image of things. That's my only complaint about the whole "theater of the mind" style. Though most of my game is theater of the mind, when combat happens, in comes the maps and minis. I know there are many who go full on "theater of the mind", but over the years of that style of play, there have been too many instances where people were not on the same page of what something looked like. It's similar to a chat room waaaaay back about 20 years ago (holy crap has it really been that long? o.O) that I frequented. It was a fantasy based RP chat room, where the inn that the common chatroom was based in had a good 40 or so shadowy corners, if you went by everyone's description of where they sat...

As for different the experience has been compared to Pathfinder and such. There is no real difference. I have used maps and minis (more like torn pieces of paper as markers and such) since my brief time in 2nd edition. Of course, it is easier now, since I only get to play over roll20.net, but I have noticed no difference. Except for combats going by quite a bit quicker. No longer does that "D&D, where a 3 hour journey takes 2 minutes and a 2 minute combat takes 3 hours" apply to my gaming experience.

Sovereign Court

Wonderful, I thought as much. Many make claims that the current edition makes map use unimportant, but I rather imagine that not to be the case.

Although 4th edition may have been very map and mini focused, I wouldn't think that anyone would eschew them for 5th edition. Or if they did, I would presume that they simply never cared for map and mini in the first place.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I joined a group with whom I've played 5 sessions at 3rd level. There's been 1-3 combats per session, and I haven't used a mini or seen a combat grid a single time. The only map used at all has been a rough sketch of a keep we tried to invade.

I don't know about their combat habits prior to this game.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I would prefer to run my 5E game without maps - in my opinion, going mapless tends to result in more experimental actions from the players. Once there's a grid, they tend to focus on moving into "the best" tactical position and put less effort into describing their attacks. I think 5E is a good system for rewarding creative actions, so I'd like to run combats in a way that complements that.

Having said that, my players much prefer flipmats, so I haven't yet had the chance to try it with 5E. :(


Jiggy wrote:

I joined a group with whom I've played 5 sessions at 3rd level. There's been 1-3 combats per session, and I haven't used a mini or seen a combat grid a single time. The only map used at all has been a rough sketch of a keep we tried to invade.

I don't know about their combat habits prior to this game.

For a second I was like "this sounds a lot like my group that just added a new player". Then I realized that you were that new player.

Hi, nice to meet you for the second time.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Irontruth wrote:
Jiggy wrote:

I joined a group with whom I've played 5 sessions at 3rd level. There's been 1-3 combats per session, and I haven't used a mini or seen a combat grid a single time. The only map used at all has been a rough sketch of a keep we tried to invade.

I don't know about their combat habits prior to this game.

For a second I was like "this sounds a lot like my group that just added a new player". Then I realized that you were that new player.

Hi, nice to meet you for the second time.

Oh! Your PM makes a lot more sense now that I've seen this post. You're the paladin, right?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

When 5th edition came out, I was excited to go back to the no-grid style that we had when we played twenty years ago. I am happy to say it has been as fun as I remember it being. It is also nice that the rules lend themselves so easily to having no grid.

It is very freeing for me, as the gm, to follow the players' lead and not have to worry about a map. It also allows the players to be much more experimental and creative in their actions. Pathfinder, for me, devolved into a rigid rule set in which I was saying, "You can't do that," much more than, "What a cool idea!"

However, when 3rd edition came out in 2000, I was excited to switch to minis and maps. I imagine the pendulum will keep on swinging, but for now, we are having more fun with 5th ed and a no grid style.


Jiggy wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
Jiggy wrote:

I joined a group with whom I've played 5 sessions at 3rd level. There's been 1-3 combats per session, and I haven't used a mini or seen a combat grid a single time. The only map used at all has been a rough sketch of a keep we tried to invade.

I don't know about their combat habits prior to this game.

For a second I was like "this sounds a lot like my group that just added a new player". Then I realized that you were that new player.

Hi, nice to meet you for the second time.

Oh! Your PM makes a lot more sense now that I've seen this post. You're the paladin, right?

Correct.

This isn't the first time this has happened to me. I once found out that I had known my cousin's husband for several years on a different (long dead) forum.

Liberty's Edge

For complicated fights I measure with a measuring tape along with minis. No grids though. Many times I just eyeball it and move something in position. goes faster that way.


I use minis and terrain, no map or grid, and we only move the figures around when something that really makes a difference in the battle has to be see to be believed.

Sovereign Court

Quite a swing around from what I expected, but I appreciate this input as well. It makes me wonder if I should go mapless in my initial 5th edition outing.


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Lorathorn wrote:
... Many make claims that the current edition makes map use unimportant...

5e make maps non-essential, not unimportant. If you love maps, it will work great with them. If you don't, the game still works great. Everybody wins.

Sovereign Court

That assessment of it makes me happy. I'd love to hear more from those who go mapless.


I tried running one combat in 5E with no maps and it didn't go over very well. In hindsight, it was for a group of Pathfinder players, and I don't think any of us were really in the right mindset. In short, I think we were all trying to play using maps without using maps. If that makes any sense. :P

I'd give it another go, but I've parted ways with 5E for unrelated reasons.

Sovereign Court

I'm curious to know more about your parting ways with 5th edition.


I'm a fan of mapless, unless the fight has a lot of moving parts or is difficult to describe and keep track of for everyone at the table.

I think maps are fine in general. I think the biggest time sink in 3.X and 4E aren't the maps, but rather the tactical grid. While that tactical grid can be a lot of fun, it's also the biggest sink on time in combat (and sometimes the least obvious). I personally can play fast on a tactical grid, but I used to play DDM competitively (earned my way to nationals twice) where there's a time limit and you have to be aware of most of the possibilities ahead of time.

In the game that Jiggy mentioned, we only play from 7:30-10pm (sometimes we go late to 10:30) and we can still finish 3 combats in one night. Mapless (or at least gridless) speeds up play IMO.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Lorathorn wrote:
I'd love to hear more from those who go mapless.

I'm starting a 5E PbP soon, and hoping to go mapless as much as possible. Feel free to read along and see how it goes, or heck, you could even throw your hat in the ring and (if accepted) experience it firsthand.

Sovereign Court

I believe I will look into it.


My first 5e table game (last year) we used a ruined tower and some wall pieces from Dwarven Forge, and some blue and green paper to indicate shallow marshes where the ruin was located.

I did up stats for Gryndilows and had them hiding in the ruin, when the party found it.

Right away the druid and the mage wanted to scramble up the small (only 3 feet high) ruin walls and get advantage due to height in the battle, while the fighter wanted to keep running from one pile of rocks to another to confuse the monsters with his talents (he chose a background that made him a former street performer who could throw his voice, he made that one up himself)

We didn't need a grid and it was a lot of fun


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Lorathorn wrote:
I'm curious to know more about your parting ways with 5th edition.

I hope he tells you over PM, as many of us are pretty certain of the reasons, as he made clear in numerous other threads about 5th edition, and it could quite easily derail this thread.

Nothing against you, bugleyman.


I like to do a little bit of both for face to face games. Bringing out the map for the big combats.

For play by post though I find maps are pretty much essential. Especially if your playing an arcane caster with AoE spells. Face to face it doesn't take long to resolve a 'how many can I hit with burning hands' situation, where as on a PBP it could take days.

Liberty's Edge

Lorathorn wrote:
That assessment of it makes me happy. I'd love to hear more from those who go mapless.

A map with miniatures no matter how helpful points out that everyone is playing a game. There is no way around that. All of us grew up playing board games and maps and minis look just like a boardgame even if the game is not one. This is similar to looking up lots of rules while trying to play. It points out that everyone is playing a game and could be distracting.

A mapless combat requires the GM to describe things more. As a GM gains experience in mapless combat, he or she begins to detail all the moving parts out loud. The best mapless GMs create a moving picture, keeping all the parts moving in their heads and sharing that visual image to the players.

This is not to say that a GM can't do that when a map is out. But players eyes are going to be looking at the map while trying to listen to what the GM is saying. They are distracted, especially if what the GM says doesn't match the map exactly. Without a map, the players focus entirely on the GM.

Is it more work for the GM? Maybe. But it focuses everyone on description and imagining the scene, which in my opinion for RPGs is a good thing. The less distractions there are to the ongoing play the better.


Lorathorn wrote:
I'm curious to know more about your parting ways with 5th edition.

Read my profile. As others have pointed out, this isn't the place to discuss it.

Back to the topic at hand: For most RPGs which do not rely explicitly and heavily on a grid, I think playability is rooted in expectations and GM skill. If you attempt to duplicate the tactical map experience without a map, you're bound to be frustrated (which is where I believe I went wrong). On the other hand, if you learn to paint a vivid picture in the minds of the players while subtly guiding people away from expecting to grok the exact positioning of every combatant, then I think it can work wonderfully. That is easier said than done, though, especially if everyone at the table -- GM included -- is accustomed to playing with a grid. It's really a whole different mindset.

One of these days I hope to be skilled enough as a GM to provide a compelling experience with something like Dungeon World. But talk about your different mindsets... :)


bugleyman wrote:

One of these days I hope to be skilled enough as a GM to provide a compelling experience with something like Dungeon World. But talk about your different mindsets... :)

Learn by doing my friend.

If you want to try it as a player, see if any conventions you attend have something called Games on Demand. GenCon for example has a huge room for it (I'm planning on being there this year to run games). It's a place that's usually more focused on the smaller press/indie games and Dungeon World has been fairly popular since it was released (though it's fallen down in popularity for new things recently). You can get in a game to see how others run it and maybe try running it yourself.

Sovereign Court

My experience with the Exalted RPG was great for the abstract combat approach, so I'm at least familiar enough with it. I think my transition from Exalted to Pathfinder was more about the contrast between the two, and I embraced the grid. Now I wonder if I should try it the other way, but I'll have to find a group that is not composed of my children, as they are far too interested in my miniatures collection to not want to use them. Still, even if I were to play in two games, one with and one without maps and minis, I think I'd revel in the experiences.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

We usually use a grid, but for really simple combats, we skip it.

But I really like using the grid, especially for tactically mobile characters.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Update: My aforementioned PbP just finished their first combat. They were in a forest, but instead of mapping out where the trees were, I just said that ranged attacks had disadvantage and saves against AoEs had advantage (unless the point of origin is adjacent to the target). Went off without a hitch.

Sovereign Court

I like that approach. This thread is assuredly appreciated.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Jiggy wrote:
Update: My aforementioned PbP just finished their first combat. They were in a forest, but instead of mapping out where the trees were, I just said that ranged attacks had disadvantage and saves against AoEs had advantage (unless the point of origin is adjacent to the target). Went off without a hitch.

Yeah, 5th Edition seems ideal for PbP. :-D

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Update: My aforementioned PbP had their second mapless combat. There weren't any terrain elements involved, but there was one AoE and one multi-target spell. Still, no issues at all.

Sovereign Court

Impressive. What is the post per day expectation?

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Lorathorn wrote:
Impressive. What is the post per day expectation?

Once per day per person. Why do you ask?

Sovereign Court

I was curious. I've run a few PBP in the past, and it's been too long. Having people post regularly was always the biggest challenge.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I'd hazard a guess that if you put an expected posting rate right there in the recruitment thread (that's what I did), then you're likely to only get applicants who expect to be able to post at that rate consistently.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Just started my third combat, this one with relevant terrain features: a choke-point cave entrance and lightly-wooded/rocky wilderness. Here's the post where I describe the setup. If someone deliberately takes cover, attacks against them will have disadvantage unless/until the attacker moves to a better position.

All without a map.

Feel free to read along and see how it goes. Just remember to take any questions back here, rather than posting in my game! ;)

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