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Episode 2050: Ridgy Dodge

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Some gamers like explicit battle maps, with everything drawn and mapped out to scale, often with grid squares or hexes to control movement, so they can play combats as a tactical skirmish, with full information laid out in advance. If it's on the map, they can use it to their advantage; if it's not on the map then it's not there.

Other gamers prefer a more conceptual, free-flowing style. They may use rough maps and miniatures to give ideas of relative positions, but it's not necessary to draw to exact scale or to show all the important features. Players and GM both have some latitude to interpret the terrain in ways that enhance the action.

And some people prefer an almost totally abstract style, sometimes called "theatre of the mind", in which the battle scene is laid out purely by GM description. This results in movement and actions being very loose and potentially very cinematic. For the most part it's not important to keep track of who you're next to - a fight can become a free-for-all in which you can attack anyone.

It's important to remember that none of these options is "right" and none is "wrong" - they're just different, and people will have preferences. It's also possible to switch between them in a single game, depending on the importance of the enemy and of the outcome. A random encounter with a couple of wolves in a forest could be handled entirely in theatre of the mind, while the final showdown battle in the villain's lair could be mapped out for tactical combat in advance.

Besides people's style preferences, you also have to take into account that the more tactical a combat is, the longer it takes to play in real time. That wolf encounter could be played as theatre of the mind in a minute or two, while the same fight with tactical movement on a map might take ten minutes or more to run. And the final boss fight could vary from 10-15 minutes for theatre of the mind, up to well over an hour as a tactical battle. Picking the right style for any given combat has to be a balance between the desires for tactical detail versus how much time the players are willing to spend resolving the battle.

Commentary by memnarch (who has not seen the movie)

Interesting that rate of fire is what matters here. That could just be a fancy description for multiple attacks per turn though, like a 25% increase in attack accuracy instead of +5 to hit. Being able to make multiple attacks versus groups of enemies is great when you find yourself greatly outnumbered. Minions in tabletop games are usually designed to be beaten very easily, but they can still be quite dangerous when you're facing a large enough group, they know how to work together, and you can't take them out all at once.

And you don't always need a battle map for combat. In fact, if you don't have one, you can argue more easily that you should get all sorts of bonuses if there's less detail already described or shown. Rather than asking what cover is available, Pete could have say he dives for cover behind a nearby tree stump! The GM could say there's no tree stumps of course, but if the roll is good enough, it could be a stump-like boulder instead!

Commentary by Keybounce (who has not seen the movie)

[Keybounce's comments will appear here when received.]

Transcript

Rey: Is he firing at me?
GM: Your blaster has a higher rate of fire. You can shoot again first.
[SFX]: Pow!
[SFX]: Boom!
Rey: 15! That’s more like it!
[SFX]: Pow!
Rey: I pick off some of the troopers firing at the bar.
[SFX]: Boom! Pow!
GM: You take one out, but another has a bead on you.
Rey: What cover do we have?
GM: You’re in the open, standing on an elevated ridge, silhouetted against the trees behind you.
{beat}
Rey: {running for cover} See, this is why you should always have a battle map!
[SFX]: Pow!
BB-8: But at least you had the high ground!


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Published: Sunday, 19 September, 2021; 02:11:05 PDT.
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