Grid vs no-grid

This morning I read an article from one of my favourite gaming blogs, SlyFlourish. It is called The Tyranny of the Grid. Basically the author explains how a dependence on using a grid and miniatures can seriously limit the fun of RPGs. Specifically, it argues that an over reliance on grids can inhibit creativity and excitement.

It’s worth reading, but I wanted to address a few of the author’s points:

  • Antagonism: I also agree that using a grid can increase the feeling of antagonism between the players and the GM. I’ve experienced this first hand, actually. It’s as if moving miniatures around a few dungeon tiles taps into a primordial memory of war games. It’s weird
  • Cost: it’s very true that once you start buying things to support grid play, you can get really carried away. I followed Sly Flourish’s advice to get a Paizo flip-mat (they’re really great, actually), but once I finally acquired one I suddenly “needed” others for more varied colours/textures. The same with miniatures/tokens. I got one box set on Kijiji and then I found myself scouring the web for other packs of Pathfinder Pawns. It was harder than I thought to stop!
  • Scope: grids can also limit the scope of battle scenes. It’s as if once the GM draws out the exact dimensions of the cave or room, it can appear a lot smaller or less impressive to the players. They also feel more limited by what is drawn (or not drawn), reducing their perception of what is possible. That’s why I think you need to keep it partially abstract.
  • Railroading: this is a big one. If the GM has already drawn out, or acquired a set of miniatures and buildings to represent a special encounter, odds are that this GM will really want the players to go there. They are more likely to railroad the players. I’ve witnessed this as well (and I’ve been guilty of it!). So don’t spend too much time or resources on planning out an encounter because the players might not even go there!

On the other hand, a roughly drawn out scene with a few pawns to generally represent the  locations of various characters and objects can really help players visualise what is going on. I’d argue that it can make scenes more memorable and immersive.

So I will explain how I do a bit of both: a mix of theatre of the mind and gridding:

  • I use Paizo flip maps, which allow wet or dry erase markers. I only draw out a location if it is required in the game, never in advance (that’s what my GM notes are for). If the players engage a situation leading to a conflict (or straight out battle), I can whip up something quickly.
  • I use Pathfinder Pawns to show where everyone is in relation to each other. I don’t bother measuring 5-foot increments, though. They’re more for general guidance, not strict adherence.
  • I’ll use 4×6 note cards to represent special “zones” or objects of interest by writing things down on them (eg.: “fire”, “cart”).

I’ve found that this flexible use of physical elements at the table helps players visualise, strategize and focus on the encounter. Sly Flourish makes some great points, but I argue that some visual representation of encounter details has more benefits than drawbacks.

NOTE: the featured image includes photos that are not mine; I just hastily Photoshopped them together.

Useful links:

Upcoming projects

Sorry for the hiatus: life happened. Kids kind of preoccupy me these days. Anyhow, here’s a quick announcement about upcoming game modules that I’m working on:

Sepulchre of the Abyss

This is a fleshed out version of a One Page Dungeon that I had submitted to the titular contest; and for which I was one of the 2nd place winners!

This module takes place in a sinister monastery at the bottom of the sea dedicated to the Bodhisattva of the Dark Light. Many treasures, riches etc… but will risk the heroes’ bodies and souls.

Curse of the Grey Isles

A sandbox adventure with many paths and possibilities. It is a merger of two other projects: Curse of the Warlock and King of the Grey Isles.

Many previews of the characters, monsters, locations and artwork for this module can be found in this blog under the tag A to Z challenge.

Here are some related posts:

Conquerors of the Cosmos

A module for the Crimson Dragon Slayer RPG, but could be used for just about any sword and sorcery game that can be used to emulate Masters of the Universe and Sectaurs.

Gonna be hella cool…

Stay tuned, friends!

Back from the dead

The ‘Lounge has been on hold for a while due to summer vacation and social media burnout. But I’ll be writing again very soon.

The biggest update is that I’m merging two of my projects (King of the Grey Isles and Curse of the Warlock) into a single, huge roleplaying game adventure setting called Curse of the Grey Isles. This will be my pet project for the remainder of 2016 and I’ll be reaching out to my friends for help (writing, art and proofreading).

Another big update is that I’ll be moving my site over to my new one called Artax Design. Nemo’s Lounge will cease to exist by this time next year.

Sadly Conquerors of the Cosmos will be cancelled. I had lots of great ideas, but other people in the gaming community were quicker than I was. I’ll be releasing bits and pieces of it to Venger Satanis as free fan-supplements for the next edition of Crimson Dragon Slayer.

Take care and good gaming!