Battle maps required?


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion


Looking over everything while I am glad to see everything not listed in squares instead of actual ranges, I do have to wonder if the more tactical aspect of things leads to me needing to have a battle map to make things run smoothly.

Vigilant Seal

You can play it both ways: theatre of the mind and/or battlemap. A battle map is not required, but if your players are tactic heavy, then yes, it helps a lot.


Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Jason Bulmahn (Director of Game Design) has been running "Knights Of The Everflame" without battle maps.

If you want to see what PF2 looks like being run that way, check out the Paizo YouTube channel
Knights Of The Everflame

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Theater of the mind works just fine. I certainly think maps can help people get a grasp of the situation and I have to admit since I started a collection in the past year buying and painting mini's is super fun.

But honestly as long as the GM has a piece of graph paper and a pencil so they can accurately track for themselves I think it is fine.


I feel like it really depends on the group you're running for. My usual 4 player group would do fine with Theater of the mind, but I'm also running for a group of 7 - 10 players and that will definitely be on a grid because there is just so much more to keep track of.


Had a group who didnt yet play with battlemaps and just put one on the table - they loved it

Theatre of mind usually works well, but I prefer to have a map by now
(also I usually play online on role20 which has an integrated battlemap, one gets easily used to it)

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

While theater of the mind does well for some people, for others it doesn't. My wife and another person who we game with have issues with imagining things. It's got a medical name (which I can't remember, unfortunately), but they can't imagine the appearance of a color or apple. Many artists (but not all!) are the opposite, and can imagine an entire scene incredibly realistically, while other people are somewhere in the middle.

All of which is a long-winded way to say, do what works for your group. I've run theater of the mind before, and I think that PF2 wouldn't be any harder than PF1 in that regard. Some people prefer the maps, though.


I'll add that how helpful a mat is varies from encounter to encounter, not just group to group. On a big enough battlefield it isn't really worth it, but some graph paper or a whiteboard might be helpful for tracking relative distances.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

I run with both methods!

Casual encounters and spur of the moment interactions are all TotM. I like to use a battle mat for pre-designed tough encounters.

I like to treat them as a "this s&+! is serious" mode.


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I find that some kind of visual representation cuts down on confusion. If you rely on verbal descriptions of positions, it is very easy (in any edition or any rpg) for each player to end up having a wildly different idea of where things are in relation to each other.

Having minis or tokens down on a grid or even just on the table helps to mitigate that.

Theatre of the mind works okay for when you are fighting a single creature (or somehow have players who listen really really well and interpret things the same way you do) but with many creatures, it can quickly devolve into confusion with people misunderstanding your descriptions of where things are and you misunderstanding (or forgetting) where players meant for their characters to be.

Sovereign Court

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I have trouble with theater of the mind for the same reasons I have trouble with people giving me street directions. Just show me the map please.


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Personally, I zone out quick in theatre of the mind, while with a map I'm constantly paying attention to the battle and planning my next turn while it's someone else's.

Plus, with three actions, the difference between 'I move once and then...' and 'I move twice and then...' are significant, and I think difficult to adjudicate correctly theater of the mind.


I feel like D&D in general has always worked better with maps. ToTM games are fine, but they tend to distort space compared to playing with minis.


Usually when I'm provided a map I use it. Like if an AP gives me them for a dungeon or an encounter. If I'm not, I am about 50/50 on whether I bother with the grid.

3D combat isn't necessarily helped by a grid, so sometimes I skip it for flyers.


I always use maps and minis to some degree.

With things like movement speed, flanking, enemy and player positioning for AOEs, the Champion's reactions, the Barbarian's Swipe, the Ranger's volley limitation, cover, terrain... there's a lot of little tactical things that are much easier to consider when it's all there in front of you.

It keeps it fairer, and means that if someone has extra movement, or abilities that move enemies around, those options aren't getting muddied by theatre of the mind.


"Required" is a strong word. I'd say that, in this edition, battle maps are more required than in PF1e. We haven't really lost any of the previous things you needed to measure for (spell range, reach, flanking...) plus combat is more mobile in general, so you have to account for more movement.

All that being said, yeah, you can totally run without a battle mat and have a good play experience.

Sovereign Court

Last week I'd forgotten to bring the maps to our PFS game day. We made do with some sketches but afterwards we all agreed that maps just made combat go faster, because you spend less time asking exactly where everyone is and where all the enemies are.


Squiggit wrote:
I feel like D&D in general has always worked better with maps. ToTM games are fine, but they tend to distort space compared to playing with minis.

I agree. I wouldn't even play 5e without a grid for combat, let alone PF1/ PF2/ SF. If I wanted to play D20 with no grid, I'd use 13th age that has proper rules for abstracting the combat flow. Otherwise, you rob players & characters of loads of subtleties of their abilities.

All that said, I don't think PF2 is any harder to TOM than those other games I mentioned.


tivadar27 wrote:

"Required" is a strong word. I'd say that, in this edition, battle maps are more required than in PF1e. We haven't really lost any of the previous things you needed to measure for (spell range, reach, flanking...) plus combat is more mobile in general, so you have to account for more movement.

All that being said, yeah, you can totally run without a battle mat and have a good play experience.

Conversely, with AoOs being rarer you don't have to sweat exact placement as much.


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Captain Morgan wrote:
tivadar27 wrote:

"Required" is a strong word. I'd say that, in this edition, battle maps are more required than in PF1e. We haven't really lost any of the previous things you needed to measure for (spell range, reach, flanking...) plus combat is more mobile in general, so you have to account for more movement.

All that being said, yeah, you can totally run without a battle mat and have a good play experience.

Conversely, with AoOs being rarer you don't have to sweat exact placement as much.

I guess that's a fair point :). Though in 1e, the simple solution was 5' step or don't move at all... So I'm not sure that in practice AoOs are actually rarer :-P.


Captain Morgan wrote:
tivadar27 wrote:

"Required" is a strong word. I'd say that, in this edition, battle maps are more required than in PF1e. We haven't really lost any of the previous things you needed to measure for (spell range, reach, flanking...) plus combat is more mobile in general, so you have to account for more movement.

All that being said, yeah, you can totally run without a battle mat and have a good play experience.

Conversely, with AoOs being rarer you don't have to sweat exact placement as much.

Eh... I'd say it matters even more in a boss fight than other editions, where getting just that extra 5' further prevents them using their two action whammy, or gets out of range of a spell, etc.

Still not required of course, but keeping in mind relative speeds is more important.

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