Combat without miniatures?

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Hoghose
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Combat without miniatures?

Postby Hoghose » Wed Jan 30, 2008 5:30 pm

Howdy folks!

Im fairly new to Conan although Ive played various RPGs since I was 13(ergo: 17 years ago). I have a simple and straightforward question:

How do I manage combat without miniatures? Is there some proven way that works without puncturing an artery in my brain from exertion?
"Twas brillig and the slithy toves,
did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
All mimsy were the borogoves
and the momeraths outgrabe."
VincentDarlage
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Postby VincentDarlage » Wed Jan 30, 2008 5:38 pm

I almost never use miniatures in my game. That comes from years of playing AD&D, though. I just learned to describe what was going on very well.
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Hoghose
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Postby Hoghose » Wed Jan 30, 2008 5:42 pm

Ah, yes. The old imagery ploy... Of course this is how I usually manage things when I GM an adventure, but since the rules of combat in Conan are so focused on distance and position I can see myself going mad from the strain of keeping track of everyone.
"Twas brillig and the slithy toves,
did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
All mimsy were the borogoves
and the momeraths outgrabe."
sgstyrsky
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Postby sgstyrsky » Wed Jan 30, 2008 6:08 pm

Miniatures do make combat faster and easier. They slow down the game in other ways: setting up, putting away etc.

But as I've said in another post, I was trained from AD&D to run combat w/o miniatures. As Vincent said you just have to do a good job describing things. Also, when I've played w/o minis in the recent past I always warned players (based on my mental image of the battlefield) when they might provoke and attack of opportunity (which is where minis are really helpful).

For players who took feats based around AoO I'd let them know when they might earn one. Sometimes they would suggest it and I'd rule right then if it was so. Also, I'd play monsters in different ways. Dumb monsters, animals, enraged monsters would provoke lots of AoO while the adventure's main villain was hard to catch this way. (Though not impossible.) This way PCs with these feats didn't feel cheated.

I'm rambling. I'll stop.
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Hoghose
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Postby Hoghose » Wed Jan 30, 2008 7:30 pm

Thanks, and no you´re not. Quite helpful advice =)
"Twas brillig and the slithy toves,
did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
All mimsy were the borogoves
and the momeraths outgrabe."
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Postby Spongly » Wed Jan 30, 2008 8:40 pm

I have to say, having played Conan for a number of years now I don't know how in hell I'd manage without miniatures, or at least counters of some sort. The combat system as written cries out for them. Its complex but good - it makes tactics important in a fight which is rare in a tabletop RPG.
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Postby rabindranath72 » Wed Jan 30, 2008 10:36 pm

without miniatures you should ditch about half of the combat system of Conan, which is based on exact placement, counting of squares etc.
If you are willing to do so, you may well adjudicate the game with a minimum of fuss. Start removing Attacks of opportunity, and things will start to go faster. Or better yet, change game system :)
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Hoghose
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Postby Hoghose » Thu Jan 31, 2008 12:33 am

rabindranath72 wrote:without miniatures you should ditch about half of the combat system of Conan, which is based on exact placement, counting of squares etc.
If you are willing to do so, you may well adjudicate the game with a minimum of fuss. Start removing Attacks of opportunity, and things will start to go faster. Or better yet, change game system :)
Nah, thanks but I´ll stick with sgstyrsky´s advice =)
"Twas brillig and the slithy toves,
did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
All mimsy were the borogoves
and the momeraths outgrabe."
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Hervé
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Postby Hervé » Thu Jan 31, 2008 8:20 am

When position becomes indispensable, a few dice or tokens on a sketch of paper is generally enough. In most situation, I think that miniatures tend slow game play rather than fasten it. It will help you if you want a "boardgame" approach in your game (as designed in the rules). But in the end, after long years of trying, I found that the use of miniatures makes the combat more static than descriptive combat.
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thelevitator
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Postby thelevitator » Thu Jan 31, 2008 9:03 am

I felt the same way as most with using miniatures. It always took so long to set everything up for each encounter, and switch encounters. I also disliked the limited space available with a physical battlemat. That's why we went digital, and both groups that I run love using a virtual tabletop. In my tabletop group, we use my projector and 8' screen running Maptools on my laptop. My online group also uses Maptools as a client/server program.

One thing I always disliked about using entirely visual/descriptive combat was that I played with some control-freak DM's. They thrived in this environment because they could decide whether or not something could be done because nothing was really "set". I might want to duck behind a pillar for cover, but a control-freak DM wants me in the open and says I can't make it. With a digital battlemap, everyone can see the layout of friend, foe, room layout and obstacles. I'm sure that there are tons of DM's out there that can keep all the detail of a huge battle area straight in their minds, but I'm just not one of them.

One thing I love about using Maptools is that I can quickly create HUGE maps. My groups have a lot of outdoor encounters and they were always difficult on a standard battlemat. I've created outdoor encounter maps that were 1/4 of a mile square! Add to that that Maptools uses topology and FOW, and characters could easily hide behind trees and see what their characters could see.

With a virtual tabletop, it has actually enhanced my combat descriptions, because the players can see what their characters can see, which allows me to focus on the fine details.

Of course, you don't have to use a projector and screen. I know a lot of groups use regular televisions as their battlemats. I know it's not for everyone, but everyone I've gamed with so far with this method has seemed to prefer it as a great compromise between battlemaps/mini's and pure visualization/description style combat.

On a side note, it's probably worth mentioning that we use facing in our games, so character/creature position is very important. :wink:
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Postby Clovenhoof » Fri Feb 01, 2008 6:02 pm

We don't use minis either. Maybe sometimes, if it's really crucial to know who is where, we use coins or something like that, or just scribble on a piece of paper.
My players also don't have to worry about a lot of game mechanisms - they may just describe what they want to do, and I translate that to the rules.
Still, there is a fair share of AoOs for everyone. Opponents may act stupid or according to priorities other than self-preservation. If the players announces an action that would provoke an AoO, I inform them of it so they can decide if they want to pull it through.
So I might describe things like "The guard rushes past you to the rear, trying to protect his master. You can take a free swing if you like" or "If you try to rush past the guards, each gets a free attack on you, are you sure you want to do that?"

At higher levels, a lot of characters (Barbs, Pirates, Nomads) will be pretty much immune to AoOs, so you don't need to worry about them, but you still need to keep in mind that other classes still draw AoOs.
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