Examples of Combat With and Without the Tactical Mat

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Do you use minis and a tactical?

Yes
36
15%
Yes
36
15%
Yes
36
15%
Yes
36
15%
No
6
2%
No
6
2%
No
6
2%
No
6
2%
Sometimes
20
8%
Sometimes
20
8%
Sometimes
20
8%
Sometimes
20
8%
 
Total votes: 248

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Mr.Joel
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Examples of Combat With and Without the Tactical Mat

#1 Postby Mr.Joel » Sun Nov 28, 2004 11:51 am

In another thread, we've been discussing the pros and cons of using minis and the tactical battle-mat, or "tac". Unable to acquire video of other people's play sessions, I wrote up the following examples of combat play.

#1 is the way I imagine a single card playing out in a narrative, free-wheeling campaign that does not use minis and a tac.

#2 is the way a card might play out in one of our campaigns: very crunchy, wargame-like play, focused on the tac and the minis. It's not direct from play, but neither is it exaggerated. Our rounds really go like this.

I'm trying to represent our style of play accurately, both its advantages (precision, fairness) and disadvantages (slow, sometimes quarrelsome).

The scenario is a basic orc-fight. The good guys' main fighter, Tank Ray, has just been dropped by a vicious Blast spell, and is lying by himself on the field of battle. A roguish type, Slippery Pete, has the next card.

#1: THE GM AS NARRATOR.
SLIPPERY PETE: Uh-oh, Tank Ray is down!
GM: Jack of Clubs. That’s you, Pete.
SLIPPERY PETE: I run to Tank and give him a healing potion.
GM: OK, but the orc you’ve been dancing with tries to stop you with his axe. [roll roll] Five. That's pretty low. You’re clear. You run to Tank and slam a healing potion down his throat.
TANK RAY: Thanks, man!
GM: Here’s a benny, Pete. Ten of Hearts is up.

#2: THE GM AS REFEREE.
SLIPPERY PETE: Uh-oh, Tank Ray is down!
GM: Jack of Clubs. That’s you, Pete.
SLIPPERY PETE: I’m going run to Tank and give him a healing potion. [counting his steps on the tac:] 1, 2, 3, 4, --
GM: Wait up. First thing, the orc you were fighting takes a swing [roll roll] A five. What’s your Parry?
SP: Eight!
EDNA THE HOLY: Didn’t you Wild Attack last round?
SP: Crud, I can’t remember. That would still be a six, though.
GM: A miss either way. But if you can't remember, you'll take the worse number. Anyway, this other guy can reach you with his spear, see, so he takes a poke as well.
SP: Didn’t we decide that you can’t do that if I’m not adjacent?
GM: Oh yeah, you’re right. Sorry. I lose track of what we’ve decided about all these things that aren’t covered in the rules. Go on.
SP: 3, 4, 5 –
GM: Ut, you’ll have to pass by this little gentleman here, who attempts to make you better acquainted with his greataxe. [roll roll] Niner! That’s a hit. [roll roll] Eight points. He catches you solidly on the side as you try to skirt past.
SP: That’s a shake. I burn a bennie on it.
GM: Alright, you shrug it off and keep moving.
SP: 5, 6. Crud again. Can’t quite reach him. I’ll have to run.
GM: Don’t bother rolling, you only need one square. OK, you’re next to Tank.
SP: Give him the potion!
GM: As I recall, Pete, you have a sword in each hand.
SP: OK, OK. Drop a sword and draw the potion.
GM: [marks location of dropped sword on the tac] I’m going to require an Agility roll to get that potion out. It’s just like drawing a weapon. Make a roll at minus 4.
SP: Minus 4?? Why not minus 2?
GM: You ran this round, and you’re planning to pour the potion down his throat this round, right? Plus the draw, that’s three actions.
SP: Hey, since I ran anyway, could I have just run around that orc and avoided that hit?
GM: Too late for that. Are you going to give him the potion this round, or wait ‘til next round and just take a minus 2?
TANK RAY: No! I’d have to make a Vigor roll at the start of next round! Do it now!
SP: Fine. Here it goes.
GM: I could really give you an extra minus for the off hand, but I’ll kindly assume that you keep a sword in your left and draw the potion with your right.
SP: You’re a prince. [roll roll] Oops, that comes to negative 1. Screw it, here’s a bennie. [roll roll] Ace! [roll roll] Ace! [roll roll]
GM: You can stop now. You pull out a potion, crouch, and feed it to Tank.
TR: Sweet! Does that mean I’m up?
GM: Not yet. I’ll deal you in next round, unless something happens before then. OK, who’s next?
SP: Hey, don’t I get a bennie for being all courageous and stuff?
TR: Yeah!
EH: He’s Heroic!
GM: Sure, definitely. Here you go. OK, Ten of Hearts is up!

Comments?

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#2 Postby Dave Blewer » Sun Nov 28, 2004 2:07 pm

I must admit, I am a bit confused here...

There seems to be a lot of stuff in your tactical example that probably should have come up in your non tactical example.

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#3 Postby Mr.Joel » Sun Nov 28, 2004 2:25 pm

Dave Blewer wrote:I must admit, I am a bit confused here...

There seems to be a lot of stuff in your tactical example that probably should have come up in your non tactical example.


Well, yeah -- I guess that's my question -- How do these things happen when it's all in the GM's mind? Only because of the tactical do we see that a spearman has reach on Pete, and that he is 7", not 6", from his fallen pal (and therefore must run), and that he has to squeeze right past an axeman to get there.

I'm also springboarding this from discussions where JB and others have recommended not using dice except where necessary, not requiring players to declare in advance how much they're doing in a round, not putting MAP on every action, and so forth. Putting the story before the mechanics, they call it. So my example #1 is a guess -- Is this how they play?

If not, maybe they will tell us.

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#4 Postby Dave Blewer » Sun Nov 28, 2004 2:30 pm

Ah I see...

Well I have used both tactical and non tactical combat examples and I much prefer the former. They are usually less complicated to picture than the non tactical and by their very nature there is less for the GM to keep track of.

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#5 Postby Simon » Sun Nov 28, 2004 5:19 pm

I never use a battle mat.

I'd do the above situation like this:
"Ok, if you want to go over there, here's how we're going to do it:
He's pretty far away, so you'll need to run, and the orc you're fighting will get a free swing at you. Also, there's a bunch of orcs around Tank, you'll need to make an Agility roll (at -2 for running) to dive between them, and on their action they'll probably take a swing at you, not Tank, since he's already down."

I like to give players all the information at the start of their action, so they can make choices based on the best information. It tends to add to the excitement if they know the odds ahead of time too. I find it helps if I imagine fights as a swirling melee, rather than exact positions. I just remember how many are in combat with each character (or write it down) and how many are "spare".

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#6 Postby bighara » Sun Nov 28, 2004 7:53 pm

We use the tac and minis extensively. Part of that is due to our tactics-heavy style of play, partly because SW rules are really written to be used with a grid + counters/minis, and partly it's because I am an avid painter and terrain builder, so I like to have an excuse to break out the lead and use it. :)
Last edited by bighara on Sun Nov 28, 2004 8:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#7 Postby Redeucer » Sun Nov 28, 2004 8:12 pm

I tried running a battle last night without a mat and before the second round, there was such confusion about who was where, etc., that they were asking for a mat to put things in perspective. And this for a fight that was basically three rounds of getting the heck out of there.

My last and best shot at running a combat without a mat...
a trai en pace,

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#8 Postby SlasherEpoch » Sun Nov 28, 2004 11:24 pm

I use a friend's Ping-Pong table, minis, masking tape, building blocks, and a tape measure. Bad guys are generally gaming stones, until they find out if one's a Wild Card or not (then they get the mini treatment as well).

Hoping to get a sheet of Plexiglass and some dry erase markers for Christmas. Anyway, that's how I do things.

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mat vs. freestyle

#9 Postby Indivar » Sun Nov 28, 2004 11:51 pm

I would have to agree that there is something to be said for the freewheeling idea of no mat, but I could also see alot of the mechanics(which we can all agree are the most boiled down nitty gritty of what you need) getting lost or confused. Things like templates being used and weapon ranges can be seen from either side : they get in the way or they help the visualization.

I think I would not use a mat if the deal was a one on one duel, unless range was involved. Other than that I'm all about the minis and range (even if my minis are paper :wink:
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#10 Postby Storn » Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:38 am

I run combat with and without mats and figures. It depends on the nature of the combat and the complexity.

Modern combat, with its ranges and mobility can be difficult to keep ON a mat. I recently ran a firefight between forces on the ground floor in the drive way and PCs up in a 5th story apartment. Fire escape, front door and stairs, hovercars for cover, back alleyway and the apartment itself was all used as the backdrop for one very quick combat (both sides shot at each other quite a bit, bad guys got shot up and retreated... no deaths). There was NO mat. I might have sketched out a rough square to show the building, but I don't remember.

The trick to running combat outta the heads is the players is constant communication and letting the players have some leeway. When a player asked for the fire escape, of course there was a fire escape... it made sense. Now if he asked for a gravtube to take him to another building, I would have to think about that one (it is a Noir, punk, sci-fi game).

However, I've also recently ran a combat with several zombies and skeletons and even a hill giant skeleton vs. 6 PCs and allies, some of whom where mounted, some who were not. The objection was not to fight the zombies, but to get through them to a ring of stones that created a wild path portal. I used figures, had great tiles printed up from Skeleton Key Games (pluggin' these guys, they are great, bought them on RPGnow, wonderful, wonderful terrain).

So. LIke I said, it depends. I like both and I like the freedom of SW to run both.
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#11 Postby jblittlefield » Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:46 am

Storn wrote:I like both and I like the freedom of SW to run both.


Even though I don't use figs and a mat anymore, I can't argue with this statement. It's nice to know that if I ever feel the need to use a mat, then doing so is as simple as pulling it out and marking it up. ;)

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#12 Postby fanchergw » Mon Nov 29, 2004 11:51 am

I've played both ways extensively, using a variety of systems, and can see the advantages of each. Personally, I have a slight preference for without, as I find the wargamey feel less to my inclination than the RP feel.

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#13 Postby lordthrog » Mon Nov 29, 2004 12:26 pm

I am in 2 different gaming groups, one uses a mat and minis, the other does not. I prefer to use a mat, as it ends a lot of discussion as to who is where, and what can each person see, etc. It also keeps the dumb@$$ player who does not understand that the group of robots he has a targeted for an area effect power, are surrounding the innocent bystanders, and he will be killing them all.
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#14 Postby bighara » Mon Nov 29, 2004 12:28 pm

lordthrog wrote:the group of robots he has a targeted for an area effect power, are surrounding the innocent bystanders, and he will be killing them all.


Don't you hate it when that happens? :wink:
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#15 Postby Mr. Freak » Mon Nov 29, 2004 12:37 pm

My only problem with tactical, is drawing to scale, and setting up consumes a lot of time.

On the other hand it does lead to a lot of tactics that my players did not use before, allows everyone to see how the battle is going, and PC's are generally ready to act on their turn.

When I ran with just a description I had to spend a lot of time, repeatidly, answering player questions, and explaining how and where things were

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#16 Postby lordthrog » Mon Nov 29, 2004 12:42 pm

bighara wrote:
lordthrog wrote:the group of robots he has a targeted for an area effect power, are surrounding the innocent bystanders, and he will be killing them all.


Don't you hate it when that happens? :wink:


When GMing, I love it :twisted:

when I'm another player in the group, and he doesn't listen to what EVERYONE is telling him (don't do it!!!!) and does it anyway...
not so much. :wink:
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#17 Postby dap6000 » Mon Nov 29, 2004 1:34 pm

It sounds like you're allowing the tac map to complicate things instead of simplify. Use it as a narritive aid so that players are more aware of what they are running through and past on their way to a fallen comrade. The GM is still in control and has final say. You don't have to make every mook between here and there take a pot shot at him, just like you don't have to tell your players what you really rolled at any given moment. Do what is dramatically appropriate and what helps you to tell the most entertaining and most engaging stories. If the tac map ends up being more of a hinderance than an aid to your style of play, ditch it. No biggie. A poll like this won't really tell you anything because what you're really wanting to know is should you use a tac map or not, and the poll can and will be answered by folks with vastly different play styles. Some of us think the tac maps work great. Some of us perfer to keep it more free form. And some of us can wear whichever hat the current situation calls for. What's good for us ain't always gonna be good for you, and that's cool.

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#18 Postby Noshrok Grimskull » Mon Nov 29, 2004 1:48 pm

dap6000 wrote:It sounds like you're allowing the tac map to complicate things instead of simplify. Use it as a narritive aid so that players are more aware of what they are running through and past on their way to a fallen comrade. The GM is still in control and has final say. You don't have to make every mook between here and there take a pot shot at him, just like you don't have to tell your players what you really rolled at any given moment. Do what is dramatically appropriate and what helps you to tell the most entertaining and most engaging stories. If the tac map ends up being more of a hinderance than an aid to your style of play, ditch it. No biggie. A poll like this won't really tell you anything because what you're really wanting to know is should you use a tac map or not, and the poll can and will be answered by folks with vastly different play styles. Some of us think the tac maps work great. Some of us perfer to keep it more free form. And some of us can wear whichever hat the current situation calls for. What's good for us ain't always gonna be good for you, and that's cool.


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#19 Postby INEEDARIDE » Mon Nov 29, 2004 8:27 pm

It also keeps the dumb@$$ player who does not understand that the group of robots he has a targeted for an area effect power, are surrounding the innocent bystanders, and he will be killing them all.


Woah, wait a minute... It KEEPS him from doing it? Situations like that seem to reaffirm the poor decisions of the dumb@$$ player in my group. :x
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#20 Postby Cethegus » Tue Nov 30, 2004 7:41 am

In my Experience a Battlemat has one major Advantage. It helps clarify what the GM thinks the situation is like. Whenever verbal Descriptions are given, a group of six players will come up with six different visualisations in their respective minds.

So i agree that for small and quick scenes, setting it all up on a tac is not worth the effort. But the GM has to be specific and should assure that his players have all the information "before" the make their rolls. Its a bit frustrating if i think of a real cool move, just to be told something like :"Yeah! That would be a great Trick. Sadly the 3 Bad-guys in your path kill you while trying..." Though this surely can to some degree be very satisfactory for the GM. ;-)


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