Combat in a roleplaying game can be a difficult beast to manage. As I was cleaning the multitude of old links in my browser, I stumbled across this video for a gaming table. I thought initially, “Wow, this is awesome.” The clip gives a good demonstration oh how it is used.
Reviewing the video, I started to think that this appears to be a lot of pre-game work for the DM to have the adventure map loaded and pre-populated. And what happens when they party does the unthinkable, like go off in a completely opposite direction. I am familiar with techniques on how to bring the party back to the story line, but I have recently had some issues with a player ‘testing’ his character’s free will in the game. While I still think this table is pretty cool, I’ll wait for the iTable to become cost effective [holding breath].
This has lead to the thought, how do most people utilize character and monster representation in combat. Aside from power sinking hundreds in prepainted/unpainted/partially-painted miniatures, here are a couple techniques that we’ve employed. The first one is the use of glass gems to represent creatures. We generally try to use miniatures to represent are own characters, but hunting for the right monster to represent one you didn’t have could be time consuming, especially if you are playing a game that does not have its own miniature line. We found glass gems did the trick nicely, with different colors representing different types of creatures. One group I played with did the exact opposite, they still used the D&D prepainted miniatures for the monsters, but each player had their own gem stone with a symbol painted on top of it.
At some point, my wife had bought a number of extra Scrabble tiles and I thought that these would be perfect to represent monsters. Not only are they the perfect size for maps, but the letters make it easy to determine which monster you want to attack, “I’m going to attack skeleton ‘G’.” I tried purchasing some off ebay, but I came to find that Scrabble tiles are highly prized among the scrap-booking community. As a result, I found it was just as cheap to buy a new Scrabble game. So then I started looking for Scrabble games at thrift stores. Due to the popularity of Scrabble, used Scrabble games is pretty easy to find. Since I only wanted 26 letters from a set, I kept searching until I found two different sets of Scrabble tiles. The common lighter color ones pictured here, and a darker set from a ‘Deluxe Scrabble Edition’.
Amongst my searches, I found a small set of tiles from a travel edition, a game of banangrams that also use tiles, and a rare “Alfred’s Other Game” from the creator of Scrabble; the last two do not have numbers along side the letters, which is nice if the numbers annoy you. All in all, I’m pretty happy using the tiles. Characters are able to articulate their battle plans easier and I am able to keep track of the opponents more efficiently. It may not be as efficient as having the monsters preset into a computer program, but I think using tiles and a dry erase map is quicker when you have to create something on the fly.
What does your group use to represent monster and player character’s on the battlefield?