[minis+] Combat: Doll-play vs. Wargame style rules/mechanics/approaches

Or: Why Komradebob hates most RPG design approaches to miniatures use.

In which I get a bit manifesto-y, which in fairness, already happens a bit when I talk about miniatures us in RPGs

(For those just joining, I've written a lot about what I consider to be better approaches to using minis in RPGs. You can find prior discussions by searching for [minis +] at this site.)

Right away, I'm going to skip past some topics related to miniatures use, because they're found in those earlier threads, including the following:
1) "I don't like miniatures"
I kinda don't care, honestly, and posting that in a thread labelled [minis +] is just a terrible threadcrap. You aren't normally a threadcrapper, so hold that sort of comment here, too.
2) Using miniatures as inspiration for characters and adventures
Synopsis: Work from what you do own, rather bemoaning what you don't own and it works better. Start from and use what you have, rather than trying to wedge stuff in backwards. It causes less friction with the verbally described stuff if you work it this way.
3)"The logistics/money/time/skills of using minis is overwhelming and I don't really know how to approach it"
I'm happy to offer suggestions and bring in other minis users, but let's handle that in a different thread.

Whew, now that's all out of the way...

I generally really dislike the way miniatures rules are written in RPGs, because they come from war gaming roots.


It kind of makes them a pain in the ass, really. Usually using them tends to break the flow of Roleplaying, and not just from any set up and break down of maps and minis. It tends to break the flow because you go from playing pretty fast and loose, conversational play into this tactical subgame with measurements, and initiative, and well, all kinds of crap really.

In a miniatures wargame, that stuff exists for a pretty key reason: It's a game-game. It's competitive. It's generally head-to-head, and it's kinda-sorta hardcore gamism.

In RPGs, most of that doesn't apply, and even the gamism you sometimes see is largely more like, I dunno, softcore gamism.

And usually, all that kind of stuff is something that soaks up a big amount of game play time in a session, but not always in a happy way. It gets all slo-mo, but not in a good way.

So what's the alternative?

Doll Play.

Chances are good that if you dislike the war game style sub-mechanics, you're already doing more "doll-play", just minus the dolls ( minis).

If you've used the term "theater of the mind" to describe your gridless, loose-measurement approach to combat, you're half way there.

If you're using Dungeon World style of combat, you're basically there, you're just missing the miniatures.

If you're using Dungeon World style combat, have added minis, but have not altered DW's rules a bit, you are definitely doing Doll-Play. Congrats, go back to your coffee, you already know what you need to know.

The Big Mental Barrier: But if I use minis in an RPG, I must go to grid/measurement and war game style mechanics!
.


Nope.

Seriously...Nope.

Stop that line of thinking. Stop it right now. It's utter, what do the Brits say? Bollox. It's utter bollox.

It's completely unnecessary to go over to war game style mechanics.

Doll Play is nothing more than using gaming miniatures with a more Dungeon World style of approach to combat. That's it. That's all it is. Just like fictional positioning matters in DW, it matters with minis use, but the fictional positioning also includes, in the fiction, things suggested by the physical positioning of the minis and items on the map or terrain items if you're using 3d, wargame style, terrain.


So why did I give it the name "Doll Play"?

Because it's essentially the same approach lots of people used to play with their dolls as a kid, whether they were action figures or breyer horses or smurfs or plushies, and long before they discovered war game style rules ( whether in RPGs or in actual miniatures wargames).
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Comments

  • What does this mean in practical terms for play at the table?

    Spacing and movement is essentially flexible and relative, but the physical stuff is still, and importantly, part of the fiction

    I've been playing for about a year in a D&D 5E campaign. We use a grid on a wipe board for combats regularly, and we use minis as markers ( bleh, but that relates to some of the side discussions I've mentioned).

    And yes, we use the movement rate rules and all the other stuff I've been railing against. I'm not the GM, the other players seem enamored of it and they're good guys, so, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, right?

    That wipe board grid is about 24 x 16 or so. Whenever we end up in a combat, it's time to draw up the location. And worry about distances. And re-draw the next ( often nearby and attacked) location.

    Meh. If the encounter location doesn't fit on the gridded area, we already have one problem.

    I'm sure you've all encountered something similar if you've played in this fashion.


    So how would it differ based on a more Doll Play approach?

    First, chuck the grid ( you can keep the wipe board if you like though). We don't need it.

    Whatever space you have to play with the minis is the relevant space. Does it represent more space than the last encounter? Less?

    Who cares? Doesn't matter. The space is relative. It's the same amount of real world space, but the fiction of the encounter set up determines what it represents. Usually this will be in the hands of the GM, per standard TOTM play.

    If your mini is on the opposite end of the space from the baddies, you're far away. They closer the minis are, the closer and more immediately threatening the stuff is. If two minis aren't in direct contact, someone is going to make at least one move to make contact. Maybe several. The baddies may be out of range initially of ranged weapons, or specific ranged weapons. No biggie, just have the GM define it quickly, again, just like in TOTM verbal play.

    Stuff in the encounter space (terrain) works the same way it would in TOTM play. Yeah, some things make it harder or more dangerous to move across, or block line of sight, just like in verbal only play.

    How far can I move? Again, works just like in verbal-only, TOTM play. Ask the question of the GM, get an answer, run with it.

    IOW, it's basically the same way kids play with toys, using whatever space is available to represent whatever space their fiction demands, and movement rates and ranges are adjusted accordingly, all while play continues largely uninterrupted.

    If that's still a bit befuddling for you ( it's been years since you played with toys and you've been using grids or measurements for a while), try this:

    It isn't about actual distances, it's about how many movements it takes before direct, face to face, contact occurs.

    What's the accurate range of a pistol or thrown weapon? Just slightly longer than one move by a normal, healthy human unimpeded by terrain factors, moving at a combat pace.

    Everything else is relative to that.

  • Well, you've gone a bit into the "how", but I am not really seeing the "why".

    What value does this style of play add to my games? Does it still add value if I use abstract tokens (with facing, if needed) instead? Do you find that even with this style of play, the presence of the map still carries the implications that what is on the map is all that exists in the combat space?
  • I have some observations on tactical skirmish combat with and without miniatures. Our D&D campaign continues chugging along at a steady pace, and occasionally situations are illustrated with miniatures. However, the rules chassis we use is a decidedly non-miniatures strand of D&D, with many elements that have specifically developed independently of any notion of using miniatures. This tends to highlight the true nature of miniatures use when we do use them, as they're definitely coming in as an addition and a tool, rather than the basis of play.

    (Regarding practicalities: the most common type of "minis play" in our campaign is when there's a big fight in an architecturally complex area, such as a hallway with multiple relevant room entrances. I have been carrying one of those Chessex wipeable battlemats in my referee bag, so that's the board for illustrating such situations. I still don't have any markers for it for some reason, so I usually end up just laying out pencils and assorted knick-knacks to mark down the walls and doorways and whatever. Dice are nearly always the miniatures of choice, as they're plentiful, appropriately sized and come in a variety of colors. We have used actual miniatures, too, but only when playing at the house of one of the minis-hobbyists in the group.)

    The one big observation I have about miniatures and miniatures gaming rules is that they are bad at accounting for reactive and ancillary movement of combatants. For our purposes, let's define the terms:

    Tactical movement is when a combatant moves to accomplish something, e.g. to close off a venue of retreat. Ancillary movement is when movement occurs as a natural part of some other action, e.g. while pressing a foe in melee. Reactive movement is when a combatant moves in reaction to something else happening in the battlespace, such as as a part of a defense.

    Now, miniatures are all about fixed position, that's their nature. They thrive as a tool for tactical movement, because you can look at the battlespace and figure out where you want to be to do what you want to do. However, real combat is much more mobile than that, particularly the kind of skirmish combat that D&D concerns itself with: melee combatants move as part of attack and defense naturally. A paradigm predicated on stationary playing pieces, moved turn-by-turn, will necessarily have difficulties with this.

    An observation about miniatures-gaming rules: I believe that a big reason for the preference towards very short combat rounds in skirmish combat games is an effort at mitigating the inherent weaknesses of the miniatures-gaming paradigm. Consider 3rd edition D&D, for a quintessential example: the 5-second rounds, opportunity attack and bull rush maneuver are an attempt at capturing a complex interaction with multiple active participants into a series of game-mechanical snapshots, all simply because the decision to use miniatures and precise positioning means that we have to know moment-to-moment where combatants are and why and how they move about. Unfortunately, while these formalisms attempt to explain why and when movement occurs in skirmish, they also serve to further curtail such movement into special exceptions.

    This is a good place to point out that my issues aren't about "story vs. wargame" or anything like that; I consider D&D a serious wargame in its own right. This is a simulation issue, and I have grave doubts about the efficacy of miniatures as a tool for capturing the dynamic details of small scale skirmish combat. The difficulties are so considerable that it is not uncommon for an abstract battlespace treatment (like in Final Fantasy and similar old school CRPGs) to be superior to a mediocre minis approach in tackling this issue.

    However, I believe that these sorts of issues brought about by miniatures are fixable, as Bob suggests. I am generally dissatisfied with minis combat rules I've seen, and often feel them to be disappointingly conservative in their game design thinking, but there's no reason in principle why one couldn't rethink the entire edifice to bring it more in line with the needs of a skirmish combat rpg like D&D.

    Here are some of the things we do when using minis to supplement the mental battlespace:
    * The miniatures are not game rules, they are merely record-keeping and communication equipment. They are moved when the actual procedures of play indicate changes in battlespace, and they are moved to correct oversights. The movement of the miniatures itself is not a move of play, per se, any more than keeping initiative or hit point notes is.
    * Movement speed is generally a non-factor between human combatants, because circumstantial tactical issues tend to impact speed much more than character encumbrance, longer legs, dexterity and other minutiae usually favoured in tactical rpgs. Instead, characters move farther when they have initiative, good visibility, even ground and a straight route to their destination.
    * Game rounds do not track in-game time, they track in-game tactical decision-making loops. This means that distance, time and initiative are all interchangeable. For example, a character cannot really "fall short" of reaching an enemy on their turn due to movement issues, because the length of the charge is what defines that turn in the first place.
    * Individual combat actions are not "attacks" in fictional terms, they are "bouts". This implies that every combat action has the tendency to shift the lines of engagement on the map, it comes part and parcel in the definition of what it means to be in melee. Character will in fact take defensive penalties for being pressed against a wall or (worse yet) a ravine due to the way this impacts normal defensive footwork.

    I'm sure that much more could be done in the field, but as my own relationship to miniatures is quite casual, I haven't really put on my thinking hat regarding all this.
  • NovanIV, I won't presume to speak for komradebob, but for me, playing with miniatures evokes that ever-nebulous and subjective concept of "Fun." Part of it, I think, is simple tradition; miniatures are something "they" used to use, so I want to use them too (my older brothers had many of them, and they were a part of my early fascination with gaming).

    I also enjoy, for all the talk of the power of imagination in roleplaying games, the concrete, visual aspect that miniatures provide; both for their value, as Eero suggests, in modeling complex spacial relationships to make them easier to understand, but also as a more abstract focus-directing tool.

    I appreciate miniatures for being art, both of the sculptor and of the painter, and the way that they fall into the category of "folk art" and the way it ties into the whole tradition of gaming. A lot of the people I've gamed with have also been very creative people away from the table, and I like that those people have usually encouraged bringing outside creativity into their games. Someone here once used the term "Lonely Fun" to describe the parts of gaming that we can enjoy by ourselves, and I love that feeling when people bring their lonely fun to share with everyone else, making it far less lonely in the process.

    I'm very fond of the physical accoutrements of gaming; not just optional fluffy ones, but anything that we use to play: character sheets, combat maps, dice, specialized decks of cards, the physical books themselves, dice bags, dice towers (actually I hate dice towers but I love that they exist), specialized gaming tables, GM's screens, and cetera. Sure, some games and playstyles actively seek to reduce or eliminate them as "extraneous" items that get in the way, but I feel like acknowledging their potentially inhibitive nature also implies the alternative, that they can enrich (or simply just alter) the gaming experience as well, even if it's in ways that may be subtle or hard to pin down.
  • Yukamichi covers a bunch of what my answer would have been, and it also relates to some of those other, prior, threads I mentioned, NovanIV. I think the last post covers pretty much all of the "Why?" part of your question.

    What value does this style of play add to my games? Does it still add value if I use abstract tokens (with facing, if needed) instead?
    That's still using miniatures mostly as markers. It certainly can help keep fictional positioning straight, but it doesn't do much for any aesthetics or inspiration you may draw from the visual elements for the fiction.
    Do you find that even with this style of play, the presence of the map still carries the implications that what is on the map is all that exists in the combat space?
    With a map ( or terrain), I would say that implies the major items that exist in the fictional space, but not necessarily everything that exists.

    I know that's a bit of a subtle difference, but maybe an example would help.

    A bookshelf is marked on the map or with a terrain piece. It tells you a bookshelf is there.

    It probably shows there are books on the shelf or strongly implies that.

    It doesn't tell you what specific books are on the bookshelf.

    Beyond that, it pretty much acts like theatre of the mind play. A player asks if some item of feature is present. Resolve the same way you would in theater of the mind play.

    Did that cover it, or did you have something more specific( or a follow up question) in mind?
  • Eero:

    Many of the things you're discussing are why I name-checked Dungeon World as an example of a different ( for my purposes, better) approach.

    You know how I gave that weirdly specific, yet vague example of the range of a pistol/thrown weapon, for those who may be befuddled by the rest of my post? I suspect that ties into what you're talking about.

    For everyone following along at home, let's say a common pair of minis using rules looks a bit like this:

    A basic dude moves 6" ( 6 squares), assuming there's no modifiers involved.
    A pistol has a basic range (where it isn't taking penalties of some sort) of 7" ( 7 squares)

    If we wrote up rules like this, mostly the designer is saying: You can probably get a shot at a charging dude, with your pistol, before he makes hand-to-hand contact with you. If he's already close to you maybe not/probably not.

    Okay, well, we could have probably just said this, or said it in another way, making some rule about initiative speeds, or final fire, or whatever. There are a bunch of ways to approach it.

    And it's okay if everybody is using pistols or hand weapons. It probably works "okay" if our grid or play area is 24' x 16" and everybody starts on opposite sides. And no one is coming in from the sides, or is off in the distance but approaching, and no one has a much longer range weapon, and, and, and...

    Then it gets fussy. Rapidly.

    It gets fussy because of what Eero mentions. The rules are these "snap shots", trying to control discrete elements of a swirling chaotic situation and adding lots of handling time.

    So my basic argument is...don't do that.
  • What do you think of rulesets like 13th Age, with its gridless system that still has range zones, but the zones don't even have feet or meters mentioned?
  • I haven't seen 13th Age, so I'm not entirely sure how their mechanics work.

    With what you've mentioned, I can imagine it being relatively easy to adapt to use with miniatures and some sort of map/tiles/terrain layout.

    Why would you?

    1) You still like the aesthetics of minis use and the visual inspiration effects of minis and environment use( really, the primary reason for using minis anyway).

    2) Space ( and obstacles) and their relation to movement still matter to you, in addition to range as a consideration.
  • I think you guys have covered it. I honestly am one of those weirdos who prefer abstract markers as my mini (a discussion not for this thread), and not to mention I more often play online. I was mostly curious if this was an aesthetics thing, or there were procedural benefits from this.

    I do think maps can help convey more information than the GM would normally describe, but I have also noticed that in practice people I play with are less likely to suggest/invent set pieces to interact with, even minor ones, if they aren't on the map. Maybe that is different for your groups, or maybe that is just a side effect of wargame-style play.
  • edited February 2017
    Do your players ever try to use terrain in weird ways or ask if item X is to be found when you use maps?

    As for the aesthetics of the pieces, I will always prefer more representational, but practicalities of time/logistics/money mean that compromises of some sort are always ultimately figured in there somewhere.
  • Do your players ever try to use terrain in weird ways or ask if item X is to be found when you use maps?
    That's a difficult question to answer, not the least of which because of how long it has been since I used a map beyond abstract range bands. Mostly when I have used a map and markers it has been in service of D&D or the like. Mostly the uses of terrain have been in respect to the rules of the game, sometimes certainly and unexpectedly, but still within the confines of their character abilities. In those types of games, the only items they like to imagine that might be there that aren't shown on the map, are traps and loot.

    I rarely got the sort of thing where I would draw a table, and they would ask if it had chairs. In TotM, on the other hand, there's a stronger expectation (again, among people I play with) that the GM is giving incomplete info, beyond the aforementioned traps and loot, and thus I notice a lot more player invention, even if it mostly takes the form of leading questions "Are there chairs?" or assumptions that the GM hadn't actually confirmed "I grab one of the [unmentioned] chairs from the [mentioned] table!"

    Again, since it has been a while, it could even be a growth/change of people who I play with that makes the difference.
  • Okay, I think I see where you're going a bit.

    If it was a wargamey approach and there were some forested spaces, they'd use the forested spaces on the map per the expected rules. The forests provide cover or block line of sight, or whatever.

    They wouldn't poke around asking if stuff you might expect to find in a forest was there and come up with uses for it outside of the base expectations.

    OTOH, in a more TOTM approach, they might do exactly that. Create deadfall traps of their own, look for hollow logs to hide in and let enemies bypass them, hide in the canopy, set stuff on fire, roll a big dead log on top of the baddies, etc.

    It's ( partly) the second bit I'm encouraging people to take when using minis, in addition to the stuff I was talking about regarding relative/flexible time and distance when using them.
  • In my current D&D campaign we are taking it in turns to GM different adventures, so I've recently had experience of both grid-based encounters and doll-play* encounters. I can confirm that wargame-style play is the least creative and most tactical option, no-miniature play is the most creative and least tactical, and loose-map play is a rather nice balance somewhere between the two.

    * In so far as a D&D encounter can be a doll play encounter. We did ignore all of the movement and range rules though.
  • edited February 2017
    I'd agree with your assessment of that spectrum, empowermint.

    Miniatures play certainly isn't entirely without limitations, even in doll-play mode. It works better if players ( including the GM) work with the limitations of the medium, rather than against the medium.

    For example, miniatures play is pretty bad about rapid changes of location compared to verbal play (or verbal play+ quick sketches as needed/desired), especially if the amount of space you have is limited to the traditional open space at the center of a table everyone is sitting around with all of their books and such.

    There are different workarounds* for this, but none of them are going to be as quick as verbal only. So working with the limits of the medium in that regard means recognizing this and working with it. There are going to be down time, non-play, moments when changes from one significant location to another occur.

    (* If you all want to discuss different sorts of workarounds, let me know and we can explore some further and brainstorm others)

    _____________________________________________________________________________________

    A thought regarding the rhythm of doll-play and action/combat

    This gets a little bit into what Eero was getting at, but since I thought a bit about it last night, I thought I'd share something that occurred to me.

    When I was a kid, playing with my Star Wars action figures with my pals, there was lots of action, and combat, and derring-do as one might expect. In play though, there was a certain organically developed rhythm to it, that works a bit differently from a more formalized wargame style approach, even though both were kinda getting at the same thing.

    Doll play sequence:
    1)The discussed fiction has created what would be an encounter situation in an RPG, and the dolls are in their initial positions. We all know action is about to start. Every participant knows roughly who "their"character is ( I'm Han and Chewbacca), and someone may or may not be playing the baddies, but of course, they're around.

    Han, Luke, Chewie, and Ben need to sneak into the Imperial base, past the guards, and free the imprisoned rebel pilots. What they don't know is that in addition to the various storm troopers, several Bounty Hunters are due to arrive soon! What will happen?!?


    What happens next is a type of free play, but with what amounts to an organic "method", based mostly on our parents teaching us to take turns.

    Everyone basically agrees on what is developing, up until something interesting is likely to happen, and the participants don't have agreement on it. Often, anticipating that happening, players already are following this next "slo-mo" rhythm even before they reach a point of ( potential) disagreement about the fiction.

    Player describes action and/or intent of character > Player begins moving doll to represent action> player pauses before completing action and looks for agreement /disagreement from other players> player completes action> Move on to another player

    Now by the organically developed method, it was really very bad form to skip the pause and look for agreement part or to continue going without looking for another player and seeing if they wanted to react, do something with their character, or maybe have the baddies do something related to what the first player was describing/showing.

    So that method we used, it's pretty much exactly the approach Dungeon World uses, but adds the role of GM.
  • An aspect of miniatures use almost never discussed in RPGs at all: Re-Use of the toys, and the fictional justifications and implications involved in re-use.

    This next bit is going to touch on both economic considerations and rules considerations, as well as fictional considerations.

    In childhood doll play, kids will re-use their dolls session to session, and significant character dolls in particular will retain their identity between sessions. This is largely because every session is at least a minimal "re-set" of the fiction, even if significant characters retain their identity each time.

    In plain language, Darth Vader is going to show up again, even if for some reason he died last time you were playing with the action figures. It's a bit irrelevant when storm troopers get killed, because there's a whole bunch of them in the universe. Heck, if you only have a couple of storm trooper toys, they may get recycled multiple times within a play session!

    With miniatures wargamers, much the same thing happens from game to game.

    And then there's RPGs, and things get tricky when using miniatures (and liking their aesthetic value and the inspiration they provide for the fiction).

    In particular it gets tricky with D&D and similar games, where there's a whole lot of death of characters ( including especially major antagonistic NPCs and major monsters).

    This kind of thing rapidly runs up against some practicalities of time and money.

    It isn't such a big deal where it comes to mook monsters, where pretty much everyone ever uses substitution. It doesn't matter a whole lot for nameless, faceless villager crowds scenes. All those bit players recycle easily. Heck, that's one of those times where, even with a decent collection ( okay absurdly large collection. Reaper kickstarters are crack to me), I will use temporary, non-miniature markers of some sort without a second thought. No problem!


    But then there's The Hydra. You own one. It was expensive as a model and you spent time and effort to make it all pretty. It's a boss fight in an adventure, and your players killed it dead! Yay!

    In just pen and paper play, you've simply retired something that existed as a stat block and some fiction.

    With miniatures, you still have the miniature. You're not going to simply retire the thing forever, or only use it with different groups, or for one-off, one-shot, battle scenarios. I mean, it's really rather a lot of time and money you've spent on the actual, physical toy. That would be a bit absurd, unless you are incredibly rich IRL and have other people doing the hobby stuff ( assembling, painting, storing) for you.

    Since RPG related miniatures use rules pretty much only focus on the tactical combat, they never really tackle any of the broader issues of miniatures use at all.

    Sine this post is longer than intended, I'll offer some suggestions regarding these issues in the next installment.
  • So, some thinking on the re-use of people/monster toys in RPGs, with a focus on D&D and similar games, but with application to other genres too.

    1) Substitute as much as you feel like when it comes to human sized miniatures and the minis are nameless mooks/hordes/ soldiers/villagers, etc.
    I think pretty much everyone already does this. Use some basic methods if you have big group scenes to help you identify for the players what is what. A simple common method would be something like needing 24 orcs, but you only own 6 in various poses/kit. Split the orcs up into the needed number of groups, and fill out each group with other, non-orc minis that are effectively armed/armored the same way or simply tell players , "Hey, those orcs are all armed like the actual orc mini, with bows, short swords, and leather armor". In play, take off the ones least "proper" first, moving minis around as necessary to accomplish this.

    2) Consider creating some fictional reasons why different flavors of mook monsters are together
    When I got those Reaper Bones Kickstarters, I laughed at myself a bit, because I realized that while I had a huge collection of minis, I really didn't have enough of any demi-human or humanoids of one sort to threaten anything but a small group of relatively inexperienced PCs in a D&D type game. Naturally, I thought about point #1 above. It was practical, certainly. I also began thinking about fictional justifications, however. I considered declaring all humanoids "goblins" collectively, with individual families or tribes within that greater category, representing the more classic idea of kobolds vs. orcs. vs. bugbears, etc. A "goblin" horde could then be almost any combo of humanoid races.

    Of course, I also counted the classic demi-human races as also "goblins", but from families more likely to be neutral or friendly to humans. Humans generally stuck together, but individuals were more likely to become strongly "chaotic/goblin aligned" or strongly lawful aligned, while most were neutral or weakly "lawful".

    IOW, it was fiction inspired by the toys collection I had available, justifying some of the mixes I intended to use anyway.

    3) Unique human sized critters retain their personality until they're dead-dead or clearly not present in what is going on at this location currently, at which point they cycle back in to the general mix of the pool of mook miniatures
    Roughly man-sized, roughly humanoid critters are the most likely ones to be used over and over as mooks. Sometimes though, you end up creating a meaningfully developed and competent character associated with a specific miniature ( and usually one that stands out in someway due to visual and physical aspects of the toy itself). For purposes of your sanity and the players' sanity, keep using that miniature as that character consistently. Essentially treat it like a monster or major character as described below. Only if that character is clearly not present in the scene ( possibly due to death-death in the fiction), should that character be used, and then only as a nameless, faceless mook, and preferably one of the first removed miniatures in those scenes thereafter, for the remainder of play ( like, the whole damn campaign, really).

    4) Seriously consider curtailing the" monsters that exist and your world which the PCs will encounter and they could have problems with" list down to match your current/developing collection of miniatures.
    This follows from the ideas of Use what you own and Let what you own inspire the fiction. The PCs are going to be encountering stuff you have miniatures for ( or which make easy substitutions with attached fictional modification), even if other stuff exists in your setting. As you acquire more toys, you can always expand that list.

    5) If there's only one of a given critter, or they only ever appear one at a time, they may be entirely unique and they're almost certainly a badass.
    If you only have one grizzly bear toy, if the PCs encounter it, you can rest assured that it's a badass, smart, dangerous, perhaps even somehow supernatural, grizzly bear who will likely have environmental/terrain stuff helping it. Some versions of D&D let you really go to town making solo critters even badder ass for challenging PCs. Use that stuff. This probably also applies to monsters appearing in small numbers (1-3) that you have minis for.

    6) Steal genre tropes from superhero comics for major monsters/villains/NPCs and create rules to support their recycling and/or create in-fiction reasons to justify their re-appearance or reasons why they cannot be killed-killed ( including supernatural or social reasons). These should probably also be applied to PCs for the time the owning players wish to continue using them.

    When using miniatures, treat your major monsters like a writer of a comic book series treats major supervillains. No matter what the PCs do, they probably will pop back up again in the future, no matter how dead-dead they appeared to be.

    Creating in-fiction reasons may help. Some monsters may be incredibly rare, but more than one does exist, just widely separated in time and space ( and likelihood of being encountered). I like this for dangerous beast type monsters, ones that are mostly just animals, if fantastic ones.

    Maybe some of the critters are actually unique, but they're a bit like demons in some fiction. You can "kill" them, but eventually, they always reform, although it may take them an enormous amount of time to do so, and a lot of effort to come back into play in the setting. If that's the case, the PCs may well be aware of this.

    They may be like supervillains in that they have escape plans that make them look dead, or nearly died but escaped anyway through luck or outside help, probably without PCs being aware of it initially.

    There can be social/cultural reasons why PCs can't kill-kill a given monster, but only defeat it. Maybe there are cultural taboos about killing something entirely unique, or some kind of social rules in place for when you defeat such critters that even baddie creatures will largely follow. Again, PCs are likely aware of such social restrictions, and penalties for not following those customs.


    Put altogether, these kinds of methods maximize the use and re-use of the miniatures you own.

  • edited February 2017
    And, since I'm babbling and overcaffienated on my day off, an example of a game that did design in stuff to deal with the re-use issue that you probably don't know about...

    There's a miniatures skirmish game named GASLIGHT, that's essentially a Victorian SF/ Steampunk game. Very generalized rules, very much what you'd expect mechanically from a miniatures war game coming out of the main line of miniatures war game development of the last fifty years or so.

    One of it's supplement is named To be Continued...By GASLIGHT. This variation focusses down a bit from the roughly platoon/company scale (1:1 figure to troop ratio) of the parent game to a more demi-RPG scale.

    The gist of it is, this supplement is for playing a series of linked games, with more heroic protagonists and their enemies, in the vein of an old style, serial, cliffhanger, movie series. Yes, just like the type Ozymandias references in Watchmen.

    The thing will be played over 12 sessions, with each session being an episode of the serial. A session is roughly the equivalent of an RPG "encounter", but with usually a bit more going on than just a straight forward battle. There might be a bit of sneaking or social interaction or investigation in addition to the battle. Anyway, you get where this is broadly going.

    Here's the method/mechanic that matters for the re-use of miniatures:
    No major characters can die-die, no matter what, until the 11th ( for important supporting characters, like key henchmen) or 12th ( any characters) session/episode/final reel.

    Sure, using those straight war game miniatures type rules, a character can be "killed" in a prior episode, but they aren't dead-dead if they're an important character. It's on the GM and/or thee players to decide how the character survived, and they're allowed to skip using that character in intervening episodes if the participants wish, bringing them back later as they see fit, right up until the 11th/12th episodes.

    I've seen a similar mechanic used in another set of demi-RPG miniatures rules as well. In those, if a major protagonist/PC is killed, they essentially experience a "level drain" effect, and the player is required to come up with some colorful fiction explaining why the character survived and what has been happening to them since their last appearance. The character is then welcomed back into the game/campaign with the equivalent of having lost a level of experience, to start playing again. Naturally, several "level losses" in a row may lead a player to choose to retire the character and start a new one, but by the style of play, this is considered perfectly acceptable.
    ___________________________________________________________________________________________
    This is actually pretty important stuff if you're planning on using miniatures a whole lot in an RPG. It's also the kind of stuff that doesn't even get mentioned in the advice sections of RPGs with miniatures mechanics, however.


    Maybe a bit later, I'll post a bit about the other important toys, the ones that give us a sense of place for these events to occur.

    I'm gonna skip talking about wipe boards. You all already know a number of advantages of using those (or even just big sheets of blank paper) to create encounter environments.
  • Well, you've gone a bit into the "how", but I am not really seeing the "why".
    More people should ask this question. Excellent point!
  • Well, you've gone a bit into the "how", but I am not really seeing the "why".
    More people should ask this question. Excellent point!
    I was a bit stumped on how to respond to NovanIV's question, and glad Yukamichi dropped a post in response.

    For this thread, I was jumping a bit ahead in a long running conversation.

    I labelled it, in the title, [Minis+] on the assumption that, upon seeing it, readers would get that I was already aiming the discussion to people who were already using minis, or liked minis, or would consider using minis, but had some bumps that made it less fun than it might be, and were willing to discuss some of the subtleties of different design choices for their use in RPGs.

    So, basically, NovanIV's question struck me as being a whole lot "earlier" in the line of thinking, if that makes sense, which is why I was stumped in how to respond.

  • Arg! killed my own thread!

    Anyway, how would you approach putting in methods/mechanics/ rules into a game with the above mentioned issues in mind?

    Start with these assumptions:
    The people who will buy/use this text like miniatures and want to use them, and further that they're also going to draw inspiration from the art involved to inform the fiction.

    Okay: Go!
  • The reason I brought up 13th Age earlier is because its combat rules are built to handle theater of the mind but they still have relative positioning, relative distance, and interception. Check out the 13th Age SRD section on combat for a taste. Specifically, jump down to the "Positioning" section where the movement and positioning stuff starts.

    The game plays well with miniatures! Since the movement rules are "move freely unless engaged or moving past an enemy," miniatures actually improve play. Without miniatures in 13th Age, there's actually less movement. With them, players know they can move around wherever, intercept people, block, and so on.
  • I think that a large part of the draw here is purely a love of miniatures, isn't it? Some people find that pictures or audio recordings really enhance their play, or are really into pretty dice. Similarly so for miniatures: I'm not a miniatures person, but I would imagine that a miniature fan might spend time, e.g. painting collected figures and daydreaming a bit about their history, where they came from, why they have that little thing on their belt, and so forth.

    One idea, then, is that a miniatures-based game would leverage that. Perhaps character creation would consist of painting a miniature, for instance, with certain colours or techniques being used to highlight aspects of the miniature. Maybe drawing blood on a drawn blade gives the resulting character the "Bloodthirsty" trait. Or maybe once you're done each other player asks a question based on your work, and that creates a bit of backstory for the character.

    I wonder if you're familiar with the Lego Mecha-fighting game that Vincent Baker wrote? I think it's called "Mobile Frame: Zero", but it's gone through a few different titles, if I recall correctly. It has interesting rules for building your "robot" from Lego bits, and then those bits affecting its abilities in combat.

    I also think that an interesting miniatures game should foster one or the other of these criteria:

    * The game encourages you to collect and paint miniatures. Building up your collection is something you do to expand and enrich your play; bringing new miniatures interacts with opening up new areas of play. For example, maybe your campaign world has a "desert" continent, but no one can travel there until players bring appropriate miniatures to the game.

    * The opposite: the game is built to thrive on a limited set of miniatures, and recycling them.

    I don't know if you've ever played In a Wicked Age..., but that game creates arbitrary combinations of characters to tell stories in a consistent world, fleshing it out from different directions.

    Miniatures would be a fun and different way to create such random combinations. For instance, imagine reaching into a bag of minis to pull out some kind of "setting piece" (the wall of a barn) and then three "characters" (a wolf, a young girl, and an alien), and then having to describe a scene (or whole episode/story) with those constraints.

    As minis get shuffled back into the bag and drawn again, you get recurring characters and plotlines. The wolf appears again in a hospital setting, and you find out that it was created several years earlier as a part of a weird scientific experiment in a secret government laboratory. This explains why it behaved unlike a normal wolf in your previous session, and fills in its backstory.

    That kind of thing.
  • Adam: Thank you for the link. I have been hearing a lot of good things about 13th Age. I didn't realize there was an SRD, so much appreciated! I haven't looked at it yet, but I'm always up for stealing great concepts!

    Paul: Jeez, all kinds of great idea there!

    For me, you are dead on about the way the miniature ( and painting it, and how it's equipped) all play into what I mean about inspiring fiction later.

    As for the Lego stuff, I've talked to several Lego fans ( and I have a big Lego fan in my weekly D&D campaign), and they've had some great ideas along those lines. I haven't explored that end, but only because I've never really owned Lego blocks, even as a kid. I suspect strongly that there's a whole world of methods Lego fans could come up with that would be pretty wonderful.

    On the other stuff:
    I also think that an interesting miniatures game should foster one or the other of these criteria:

    * The game encourages you to collect and paint miniatures. Building up your collection is something you do to expand and enrich your play; bringing new miniatures interacts with opening up new areas of play. For example, maybe your campaign world has a "desert" continent, but no one can travel there until players bring appropriate miniatures to the game.
    This is closest to my heart and the way I collect stuff. Sadly, it's probably the harder one to do. The big barrier is really a financial one, and it's especially pronounced in a D&D-like game, with lots of variety in characters, areas, and monster types. Some of the recycling/re-use stuff I was going on about a couple of posts ago really is about these issues.

    I think, even in the context of players liking minis, a game would need to include some kind of reason that players other than the GM would be encouraged to buy/paint/provide minis, to create that effect. I'm not really sure how to encourage non-GM players to buy stuff that would very likely end up representing dangers to their characters.

    Someone more clever than myself could probably come up with a method or mechanic so that" providing minis of opposition also provides unlocks of opportunity for your character(s)". I'm just at a loss as to figure out how.

    Actually ,a really, really clever one would also do the same thing for other toys, like maps/terrain.
    * The opposite: the game is built to thrive on a limited set of miniatures, and recycling them.

    I don't know if you've ever played In a Wicked Age..., but that game creates arbitrary combinations of characters to tell stories in a consistent world, fleshing it out from different directions.

    Miniatures would be a fun and different way to create such random combinations. For instance, imagine reaching into a bag of minis to pull out some kind of "setting piece" (the wall of a barn) and then three "characters" (a wolf, a young girl, and an alien), and then having to describe a scene (or whole episode/story) with those constraints.

    As minis get shuffled back into the bag and drawn again, you get recurring characters and plotlines. The wolf appears again in a hospital setting, and you find out that it was created several years earlier as a part of a weird scientific experiment in a secret government laboratory. This explains why it behaved unlike a normal wolf in your previous session, and fills in its backstory.
    While most gaming minis probably wouldn't survive long in a draw bag ( I can think of some that would), that's a great concept. It wouldn't be hard to come up with some other method of determining ( randomly) the important characters, however.

    It would also be a great concept for people starting out with just a minimum of miniatures, then building up a collection further over time.

    ____________________________________________________________________________________

    Following up a bit on that last thought, from some conversations here and elsewhere, I had some ideas on what the easiest to plunge into genres might be, for people who want to use minis, but who are just getting started.

    Now, the really real answer is always gong to be...the genre you already have access to miniatures ( and toys) for.

    After that though, these two seem ( to me) to be winners, provided you're a bit of a self starter.

    1) A modern monster hunter setting, along the lines of the TV Show Supernatural
    or the RPG Monster of the Week.

    a) Lots of inexpensive, pre-painted Heroclix miniatures are available from online sellers like Troll and Toad. Usually, the "supporting" characters from superhero comics are cheap ( often around $0.50 each) and relatively generic modern people, so it hits the re-use concept. Many of the "monsters" faced are things that are basically human in appearance, unless you see them up close, so that isn't a problem. And sometimes there are even named superheroes/villains that can quickly sub in for monster types, also equally inexpensive, so it is easy to add in one vampire, one werewolf, one gill man, one killer robot, a single alien, a ghost, etc, for just a couple of bucks more if you're getting started and buying in bulk.

    b) Unpainted, generic. model railroad people exist and you can buy them in huge numbers on e-bay for cheap, usually from Chinese companies. I think you want about O-Scale ( either 1/56 or 1/48 in model scale. They'll be a little off from gaming minis scale, but who cares?) but double check with someone who knows their way around Model RR. Grab a gob of these and paint them in a variety of ways. Now you have even more innocent bystanders/victims/random NPCs/zombie hordes as needed.

    c) Terrain and/or maps are pretty generic. A ton of Supernatural episodes essentially involve Small-Town USA. With about 10-20 decent sized tiles of classic encounter spaces or parts to throw them together quickly, you're pretty much covered. As a GM, you can make special maps/terrain for a given adventure, but you've got a whole lot of recycle-ability for not too much expense. Much easier than a very dense urban environment certainly.

    A post-apocalypse setting, with a Gamma World-ish bend.
    a) You can use whatever minis you feel like, so cheap sales ( either as above, with' Clix) or from e-bay or trade/sales sites like Bartertown. Fantasy or modern minis are easy to convert with the addition of modern/scifi equipment from bits sellers or you local minis-head's bitz box.

    b) Mutations mean that any weird critter is justified. A little paint job makes plastic farm animals or zoo animals dangerous mutants. Ditto trees. Never trust plants in Gamma World! And, because of mutation, any single miniature could potentially be a threat to challenge an entire party. Don't forget swarms either. Often you can find bags of tiny plastic ants, spiders, or flies for about a buck per bag.

    c) Everything is in ruins and nature ( of some sort) is reclaiming the former civilized areas that are in ruins. Again, really easy to create on a limited budget of time and money. Plus, your recycling bin becomes your friend. All that weird plastic packaging you were going to send to recycling? Yeah, an exact-o knife and some paint, a bit of glue to mash stuff together and you've got a ton of futuristic ruin or settlement buildings.

    d) likewise, vehicles and other toys from the dollar store or thrift store, plus paint and glue, give you pretty much all sorts of killer tank-bots and so on as needed.


  • Someone more clever than myself could probably come up with a method or mechanic so that" providing minis of opposition also provides unlocks of opportunity for your character(s)". I'm just at a loss as to figure out how.

    Actually ,a really, really clever one would also do the same thing for other toys, like maps/terrain.
    Sure! Sounds very doable.

    For example, in a game fighty leveling-up game, you might need to bring adversaries to the game. Doing so allows you to have some say as to what you fight (which could be advantageous to you).

    Imagine a D&D-style game, where the average enemy is too hard to defeat, but your character has particular strengths. You could bring "enemy" minis suited to those strengths, which would allow you, perhaps, to dictate one feature an enemy has (and one it does not). The GM fills in the blanks, so as to surprise you sometims.

    Likewise, you could have a rule where introducing a mini to the game (an opponent) gives you the right to determine what treasure or reward is at stake. Maybe fighting wolf-people allows you to increase your Wilderness skills, but Gnomes always have platinum treasure.

    Similar for terrain:

    When you bring a terrain to the game, explain how your character is "familiar" with that terrain. You get a bonus when maneuvering in it.

    Of course, you could get more creative; these are just the obvious first things to try!

  • See, now that's much cooler than my vague thoughts about a better XP value of critters if someone other than the GM brought them into the overall collection.

    Anybody who wants to help brainstorm the stuff Paul is talking about, please post here with your concepts, no matter how basic they are. I'm eating this stuff up.

    Somehow in there, I have a vague imagining of a process/system for creating a sandbox to adventure in that involves some kind of back and forth process where players provide at least some of the monsters* and also get to have input into the types of treasures/rewards in the setting, but it's up to the GM to then distribute both around the sandbox. I'm not sure actually how to describe that though.

    * Or perhaps choose monsters if there's already a collection of toys available to the group.

    I'm also wondering how it would work on an ongoing basis. For example, the group starts with a decent, basic collection of toys, but as the campaign continues, players (including the GM) are coming up with more toys to use.
  • Adam:
    I've skimmed that link, and am slowly digesting the text.

    I did realize something that is throwing me off a bit.

    While I often end up playing fantasy games, I'm more of a fire-arms using genres type of guy by inclination. It's going to take me a bit to translate how that stuff in 13th Age could be used, since it focusses so heavily on melee.

  • Somehow in there, I have a vague imagining of a process/system for creating a sandbox to adventure in that involves some kind of back and forth process where players provide at least some of the monsters* and also get to have input into the types of treasures/rewards in the setting, but it's up to the GM to then distribute both around the sandbox. I'm not sure actually how to describe that though.
    That's exactly how I would start, in actuality! It's almost enough on its own.

    Players bring forth miniatures they would like to be used in the game. In exchange, they are allowed to specify things about them: "Look, here's a Storm Giant figurine! Please add that as an enemy for us to face. What we know about Storm Giants is that they have a vulnerability to fire. We also know they often keep magical shields."

    Then you, as the GM, place them in your prep somehow. (It could even be fun to write up an "adventure" or locale with placeholders for certain enemies or factions ("At 12:00, Monster B shows up with several Monsters C in chains..."), and then slot in the figurines the players bring to you. You can also add a twist ("But this Storm Giant is undead!"), perhaps, if your prep doesn't already indicate it.

    I think it would be cool to show up at the game and then see a warlock (figurine brought by your friend Liza) maneuvering around a pet Storm Giant in chains (your figurine), and some sense of what dangers and rewards they represent (but not all of the above!).

  • What if players take turns being the GM for a session and treating the others to an adventure? Everyone has incentives to collect minis/toys then, and the basic flavor of one's collection provides the basic flavor for the adventures they host.
  • That might work really well in a setting where magic treasures were "artifacts" or unique, even little ones, or one where magic items could "gain experience".

    Hmm. I wonder if you could do it in a MadLibs type format.

    ( sounds of gears grinding)
  • In mid-to high level games, players need to supply miniature representing everyone (human and animal) in their entourage: henchmen, hirelings, etc. These all become NPCs for the GM to use.
  • Hopeless_Wanderer:

    Your post made me think of something else.

    Maybe minis using games, even fighty games of a D&Dish vein, might do better if advancement was a bit less extreme in their Zero to Hero range.
  • Sure. Hopeless_Wanderer's idea of connecting improvement to "collecting an entourage" is great in this regard (and even old-school-D&D-like, with followers and henchmen).

    Maybe what's at stake in the game is "which followers are with you"? As you adventure, you gather friends and allies. Maybe sometime you lose some, or they're still your friends but they aren't able to help you right now.

    After all, as you point out, you don't want the *characters themselves* changing too much over the course of play. (Unless you plan to swap out character-identifying miniatures on a regular basis.)
  • edited February 2017
    Hunh. I'd never considered companions as treasure/rewards.

    Or even just "unlocking" NPCs for use as PCs.

    I feel a bit silly now, because that's an awfully cool thought.

    Maybe I'd been so locked in wargame mindset where even in skirmish campaign games, things tend to work on very mercenary concepts ( you can hire in specialists for accumulated treasure) , it just slipped my mind.

    I hope Eero is still following along, because that is all very fairy-tale like as a concept.
  • I'm following. I have some thoughts on this, but they're sort of unformed and specific to particular design cases. All in all I think that this is a fruitful area of design and development, but it's difficult to get over the practical threshold of actually having to work on the miniatures. The inspiration needs to cohere very specifically for the motivation to be there.
  • edited February 2017
    Do you mean the actual assembly and painting of the miniatures, or something else?

    Edited to add:
    As much as I love miniatures, I tend to find the hobby activities ( assembly, painting) sheer drudgery.

    Don't get me wrong. When it's completed, I have a sense of accomplishment, enjoy my friends' reactions to my work, and like that ( even if it turned out to be merely competent levels of craftsmanship) it's distinctly my work. And I love when it gets use in play.

    But, by no means do I love the process of getting it done.

    Some of these discussions really relate to that aspect, my mixed feelings about the process part. Certainly the discussions of building from a small collection or finding ways to re-use and re-incorporate elements has as much to do with that as with budgetary limitations.
  • edited February 2017
    What if players take turns being the GM for a session and treating the others to an adventure? Everyone has incentives to collect minis/toys then, and the basic flavor of one's collection provides the basic flavor for the adventures they host.
    Ah, geez, I missed this post. Apologies, Rafu.

    There is some basis for this kind of thing happening with a subset of miniatures war gamers. I need to explain by way of a contrast.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________

    The likely most visible (and commercially successful)approach to war gaming you'll see at game shops and conventions:
    The Collect Your Own Army Approach.


    This is thee Games Workshop approach, and other companies have imitated it. Some companies have done quite well. Here everyone collects their own personal army, and you play against other players with their own army. Usually you'll use club or game shop resources for your table toys/terrain. Sometimes, in the case of games with pre-painted miniatures of different sorts, you'll be using maps or tiles instead, and those will be sold either in starter packs or separately, designed for the game itself. The various Collectible Miniatures Games work like this.

    You know how D&D seemingly casts its shadow over all RPG discussions? This approach (and its success) tends to cast its shadow over all miniatures gaming discussions.

    The Less-Seen approach, unless you're really hanging out with some aged geezers:
    The Gaming Grognard approach


    This is closer to what you're talking about, Rafu. It tends to happen in game clubs and slop over into conventions.

    In this one, everyone has their own Thing. That Thing is a combo of time period, theater of war, genre, scale, and so on. Usually, that one person collects all kinds of stuff for their Thing, then encourages others to participate in that Thing by putting on club meet up or convention scenarios.

    When they aren't doing their Thing, they're players in someone else's Thing.

    Sometimes, a couple or a few people's Things are somewhat compatible, and you'll see some cross-borrowing of toys between people. For example, if I want to do a Raid on Innsmouth scenario with 28mm miniatures, and I have a good buddy who plays WW1 in 28mm and has some Americans handy, I may try to borrow them for my scenario when I present it at the convention or club meet up.

    Sometimes, if I get very lucky, I'll have someone in one of those games, and they decide they want to jump in a little bit, they'll go out and buy a small amount of toys for whatever I'm doing already. Sometimes if I get lucky a few people will slowly join in. Then we almost have a club within a club. Say we've been doing an Old West setting and one of the players noes a decided lack of Mexican Banditos. They might buy a gang of banditos, mostly for their own use, but also because they're a staple of the genre that wasn't represented yet.

    In any case, it's all very informal.

    To some extent, I suspect that any gamers who would want to play an RPG with miniatures ( beyond their value as positional markers) would probably inherently tend towards this method anyway. I'm partly trying to figure out ways to encourage it faster.

    A bunch of the up-thread conversations about "unlocking" fiction or rewards has to do with that.


  • A bit curious about the range bands concept...

    So, I started looking through the 13th Age rules Adam linked upthread, and I'm a bit torn on the concept. So far, these are my initial impressions.

    The positives:

    I like relative positioning and distances ( nearby, far, etc)

    I like the ease of movement, being simply one or two moves away rather than some set distance (either in real world numbers or in grid squares/inches)

    I like the concept of Intercept and Behind

    It seems like it would be a good way of representing the swirl and chaos of a melee, as characters move around in a relatively small area, going from fight to fight.

    The ( perceived) negatives:

    It seems very linear, as if the default assumption is that both sides simply line up in more-or-less parallel groups and charge at one another, then get into a big scrum until the thing is over.

    I'm not entirely clear how terrain impacts any of this or if it does at all. At initial glance, it seems to me that it assumes a kind of open field, good-going situation as default.

    I'm not at all clear how one works in even basic 2 dimensional battlefield maneuver tactics would work. I mean really basic stuff, like maneuvering people around to attack an enemy formations' flanks or rear, for example, or forcing an enemy to suffer several moves of ranged fire before contact is made.

    Anyone with experience with this have insights?
  • Do you mean the actual assembly and painting of the miniatures, or something else?
    Yes. Specifically, I mean that while it is well and good to speculate about possible approaches, I'm more of a mission-based thinker myself, which leaves me floundering a bit when it comes to general discourse on a topic like this. Everything that's been said is well and good for some specific game design, but before I get that far I'd need to figure out how a subject matter, and a material substrate of gaming tools might connect together.

    I find that I rarely get very far into miniatures-land in the course of my natural gaming, and that's precisely because it's such a chore to prep the toys. To get over that hump I don't really feel like I need clever rules as much as an overpowering vision of a game that integrally needs to be done with minis. The rules bit is easy, I think, relatively speaking.

    What Novan said earlier about abstract markers plays into this as well. Aside from the fairy tale game I specifically designed for minis use (I told you about that earlier), the one game that's actually gotten me to consider using miniatures has been Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition. However, my ultimately conclusion upon that: the superior physical tools method is to have minis for the player characters while the GM uses abstract markers for the monsters. The bother of going fully minis-using is simply not justified for a game even remotely akin to D&D.

    (Do note that my conclusion was also that miniatures could be worth it for a 4th edition campaign for the player characters. You'd be looking at those characters for a long time, after all, so why not give them distinctive playing pieces.)

    As a further datapoint on "how to entice roleplayers to use miniatures" I'll say that my favourite minis games are always the constrained, specific ones that feature a very limited, predictable amount of miniatures. I've never really gotten into the hobby, but I've played enough to know what I like, and if I did start on something, it would a game like Bloodbowl or Space Hulk: something with a discrete, limited set of miniatures, where you could expect to "finish" the crafting phase at some point instead of being stuck from here to eternity painting little tin soldiers to fulfill an ever-expansive need.

    I hope you're not confused by the way I'm approaching this discussion, Bob - it might seem that I'm meandering wildly, but it's because the topic is so extensive and you're clearly just gathering ideas. I don't intend to critique the idea of using miniatures here, I'm just exploring my own creative feelings over them. It's tricky, but it's also clearly a field that can be improved upon.

    Another angle that might be interesting to consider is that I am actually pretty active about crafting for game prep when a real concordance of creative needs and creative tools occurs; one cannot say that it would be hopeless to get me to make an effort. For example, here are some games around which I've done various sorts of crafting over the last few years:
    * I'm planning an Ars Magica campaign where I begin by translating the rules into Finnish (with house rules integrated, of course), and lay them out in a way that enables the group to construct grimoires, with appropriate book-binding methods to get from loose leafs to books. The goal is to have player-specific, customizable, compact rules-references, that also act as spell books and character stables for the individual players. So apparently I'm willing to create actual books as artefacts if I perceive the game-play to benefit from that.
    * My version of Paranoia involves player screens (like a GM screen, except everybody gets their own) that function as character sheets; personal notepads for each player; personalized newsletters the GM writes for the players for each session of play; character displays for important NPCs.
    * I totally play Puppetland with actual puppets. It's a powerful game with an unique feel, no difficulty whatsoever with motivating me to concretize it this way. The GM preps the puppets, and whichever the players don't pick get to be NPC cast alongside a few puppets specifically reserved for specific NPC roles, such as Punch and Judy.
    * Apparently I won't prep miniatures for D&D, but I will prep maps, price lists, encounter tables, fictional languages, tables of organization and whatever else. In fact, thinking about it, physical props are just about the only thing I won't prep, and this presumably has to do with the re-use problem: just about everything else I prep is either essentially permanently useful, or reasonably easy to make for a one-use purpose.

    From a certain viewpoint, the question is not how the rules should be crafted for the miniatures; the question is, what is the form of the game that both impresses me with its creative vision and integrated miniatures to such a degree that I'll actually start buying or making them for the game. The above examples are all games where I've rejiggered the actual rules to whatever extent to make them my own; it's not the rules that convinced me to go to the effort of craftsman-like game prep.

    And what's the lesson with Puppetland there? I mean, that's apparently a game that takes me over the edge when it comes to toy-prepping. It's clearly doing something right (or wrong, I suppose), because when it comes to Puppetland I don't feel like prepping the toys is a waste of time. A few features occur to me as explanations:
    * Artistically provocative, aesthetically dense scenario that encourages the GM to put in the presentation effort for the sake of atmosphere.
    * Very enclosed scenario; however long the campaign takes, it'll be about these particular characters in this particular place.
    * Interesting, ambitious rules that make the game different and a change of pace from other rpgs.
    * The toy-prepping is loose enough and compact enough that it's entirely realistic to get into it without taking toy-making or collecting as a hobby - we're talking of 10-20 hours max to pimp out your Puppetland. Just root through some child's toybox or several, collect a pleasing selection of old junk dolls, perhaps sew up a couple, and get to it. You're only going to use the single set once, and as the play process actually destroys dolls, you don't want to think of them as a permanent collection anyway.

    So yeah, I'll boil that down into a concrete hint for Bob: apparently, if your game presents a few impressive NPCs and suggests that hey, you're going to be playing these guys a lot, so why not prep some illustrations or dolls or something for them - I'm apparently going to do that. But it's going to take genuine character focus, you can't fake that. I want that NPC to be fucking central to the proceedings, the way e.g. Punch is to Puppetland. If it's just one adventure and that's it, I'm not going to bother - it's just like D&D all over again, where you use that stone golem figure once and that's it.

    Puppetland, really - why haven't we talked about that? Thinking on it, it's exactly like the miniatures-based story game game that Bob's been speculating about.
  • edited February 2017
    And, so, I said I was going to talk about terrain toys...

    Let's get one out of the way, right away: various erasable surfaces
    This is easily the most practical. You can figure out the usual size of surface space you have in your home game and acquire something that fits with that. They're flat, they generally don't weigh much ( ease of transport and storage), and generally aren't too expensive, especially if you aren't buying a gridded one made with gaming in mind. The only real long-term cost is the markers.

    They have high re-use ( obviously) and the time to draw an area of action for a scene is pretty quick. Clearing them and drawing the next location isn't terribly hard, and is a good excuse for a brief game break anyway.

    The only real downside is that they don't do much for the aesthetic/fiction inspiration part that I like about minis. To bump that aspect up just a little bit, it would be fairly easy to use small bits of "spot"* terrain, whether 3D or 2D like tiles of the sort WotC sold for a while when promoting minis use with their versions of D&D.

    * Spot terrain is what I call all of those little bits of stuff you add to a bigger encounter area to make it interesting: A treasure pile, a fire pit, a mushroom cluster, a fireplace, some stairs, etc. which don't take up a huge amount of space.

    Printed/Printable surfaces with art work

    A lot of this stuff is a nice mid-point, with some aesthetic joy, but still relatively low-cost and easily transported. You can buy it pre-made or find lots of tiles and similar from download sites. WotC made a bunch for D&D and you can find tons at DrivethruRPG, and sometimes online for free.

    Ease of use is harder to gauge, depending on how you use it.

    If you have a pre-printed encounter space that covers everything you'll need, it's slightly quicker than a wipe-board change of location. If you're using multiple tiles and lots of spot terrain added to it, it takes longer. If the spot terrain is also made of printed stuff, it can get knocked around and out of position easily just in the normal course of play. And, of course, there's the out of game aspects of printing and mounting it, and getting it together and organized for ease of use at the game session.

    For transport, even printed at home and mounted on poster board or foam core, it's pretty simple to transport.

    It's also pretty easy to pair with spot 3D terrain, for a nice mid-way point between 2D and full-on war gamer style 3D terrain, which can help keep budgets more reasonable if you're building up to 3D over time.

    Re-Use and General Purpose/Generic vs. Location Specific

    You will probably want both.

    Generic would be a lot like those sets WotC sold under the Dungeon Tiles Master Set line. They're themed kits ( dungeon, town, wilderness, etc) and come with a few larger tiles and a good bit of spot terrain.

    Location Specific would be more like the Pathfinder Flip Mats line or their encounter tile sets.

    Both types are made by other companies, and, again, lots are downloadable at places like DrivethruRPG. Some of them are modifiable thru Adobe Reader layers, so you can customize them when printing ( Fat Dragon's E-Z line is like this).

    On the whole, generic have more re-use potential, but take longer to deploy in game time, since they'll likely be modified each time by placement of spot terrain.

    Location Specific ones may or may not get re-use. While the obvious ( to me anyway) use is for a specific planned encounter location as a special treat for the group, there may be another (slightly different) use, and that depends a bit on a design/play style consideration.

    I'll get into that in a bit.


    Before I go on to that, the one thing I would NOT do (ever again...) with wipe boards, 2D terrain, and definitely not with 3D terrain...

    I would never try to do an old school dungeon exploration and mapping with the terrain toys.

    Seriously, it's an utter pain in the ass for not a whole lot of gain. And no, I really don't like things like Castle Ravenloft for a similar reason ( although Betrayal at the House on the Hill is okay).

    Going from key location to key location is kinda-sorta okay, and you can feasibly pair that with old style dungeon mapping on graph paper.
  • Eero, I pretty much agree with all of that.

    Somewhere in the initial set up, there needs to be constraints and vision for what the thing is going to be mostly about, and what is going to be needed, and how much everyone is going to contribute. Pretty much what you were talking about with regard to prepping for Puppetland, but with minis.

    You're going to want an idea of what you'll need initially to have some pretty good long term play ( although I'm not against small additions here and there as the campaign develops, but that's more like small expansion rather than the core of the thing), and it needs to not be too onerous and players need an initial idea of what that will be.

    Bloodbowl ( or other skirmish games like Mordheim) does that well. I'll need roughly a gang or team of X many miniatures, and that number is relatively low. ( I'd throw other sorts of terrain toys in the mix as well).

    Really, D&D is just an awful game in this regard, for use with minis. I'm not talking about the on-the-grid stuff ( although I think the handling time is way too involved and finicky in some of the more minis-oriented versions). I'm thinking more in the way characters are constantly changing locations ( sometimes radically- like the other side of the world), monsters and NPCs are constantly killed off ( making a need for a lot of variety to an extent that I couldn't keep up with, even with minis being a big money -sink hobby for me) making re-use annoying/impossible, and the vast range of character growth making early level threats pointless later on as the campaign progresses ( monsters starting to need to appear in large numbers to continue to be a threat, for example).

    None of this is to say that fantasy, even pseudo Tolkien mixed with pseudo Howard is an impossible genre for minis use more generally. Just D&D as generally played is bad for it.


    Now some more upfront constraints and direction ( vision) could fix that.
  • It occurs to me that the generic literary technique for increasing the utility of individual toys is archetypal emblematization: if the characters and places featured in the game need to necessarily be important, everything meaningful, or the work put into propping them up is wasted, then there simply aren't that many possibilities. To wit:
    * Either the scenario is intimate and tight, so we know that the game will be about this family;
    * Or the fictional elements are inherently important to a wide variety of situations, so that we know that surely the King will be featured again and again;
    * Or the fictional elements are archetypal in such a way as to enable reuse of props.

    Considering that last option, imagine a game perhaps somewhat similar to Amber, except less American-adventurous and more symbolic-mythic. Every character in the game has their own personal Tarot card, and in fact there are only so many people in the world as there are Tarot cards. More distinctive people are Major Arcana, etc. - I'm sure this is familiar, a zillion games have done this sort of thing with Tarot.

    So now we know in advance which miniatures we'll need: one for each Tarot card, no more and no less. That's going to be the cast of play, whatever the actual story. Furthermore, we understand that to a certain degree the miniatures are symbolic of the character more than representative; perhaps the character looks like their figure in concrete terms, or perhaps the miniature is merely symbolic of their inner nature. And of course, the eternal archetypes cannot be truly destroyed by the drama: even if you kill the Fool, perhaps somebody else will soon rise to fulfill the eternal role.

    Perhaps it would be desirable to extend this approach to the terrain as well: what if the game was set in the Great Wheel cosmology of D&D, like Planescape? Or something similar - the point is, what if the potential landscape of play was defined as an emblematic series of archetypal alternatives? You'd need only one "Abyss" play area (miniatures terrain or playmat or whatever), because whatever the actual fictional details, the only bit that actually matters in the environment is which plane of existence (or other emblematic location) the scene occurs in. You swap terrains when you swap planes (or cities, or countries, or whatever depending on the game), and otherwise play in one "location" in terms of props.

    In more theoretical terms, this strategy of propping up a rpg would function by reducing the aesthetic ideas you wish to express with the miniatures into an essential emblematic set of meanings; whatever falls outside this essential reality is left to the spoken word, while the toys focus on capturing whatever it is that the game considers essential. This would, hopefully, make it possible to create a powerful set of toy-tools that could be used to play a variety of stories in an efficient way, getting a lot of punch out of every individual piece in the playset.
  • Yes.

    Yes, yes, yes, although my response was going to be a little more earthy.

    An example of what I was thinking of ( and a bit of this was inspired by much earlier discussions of the Archipelago variant by Rafael Chandler "In a Grail Epoch" in other threads) would be something like this:

    I've decided I want to do an Old West Game. I'm a miniatures junkie and willing to do some preliminary work.

    I'll buy and paint up this set of Wild West Townsfolk miniatures :
    http://www.oldglory25s.com/images/BMM512.jpg

    And I'll buy something like this ( although maybe a 2D version for reasons discussed earlier) Old West Town printable/constructible file:
    http://www.wargamevault.com/product/125288/Fatal-Frontier-Playset?manufacturers_id=4244

    (And maybe, I'll buy and do up some other minis, but let's just assume that).

    The concept/vision is along the lines of old TV shows set in the old west. Gunsmoke is the classic one, since it was on TV forever, but maybe Deadwood if my players are feeling grittier.

    Regardless, this is the core stuff of play. Going into it, that stuff is definitionally going to be at the center of things, although the exact bits that are important is hidden to me.

    Any other players can suggest locations outside of town, other characters they want to see, other terrain bits, and so on, but to get them into the overall campaign, they have to be in on the making end of it.

    And I'm thinking some sort of brainstorming session, where we go beyond just the toys and start making up the conflicts and personalities, and start thinking about the greater fiction stuff that will be involved, even before the GM(s) start incorporating that into adventures/sessions or players start choosing their preferred character(s) to play and develop.
  • I find that set of western miniatures interesting because of the way it sets a sort of arbitrary limit to the fictional space. The manufacturer doesn't quite tell us why this set includes this particular cast of characters. Still, it looks like you are correct: that would probably be a sufficient set to take it as a starting point and creative constraint for a western drama.

    It'd be interesting to get that social crafting thing going. My experience would make me expect that it'd be easier with something other than painted miniature figures, though. Something like paper miniatures would be more realistic: you'd need one or two drawing-capable players in the group, and the rest are pretty much on cutting and gluing (and baking and singing and other such support) duty. Making a single figure would take 10 minutes instead of however long it takes to buy and paint a real miniature, too.

    Or, of course, set up the group from miniatures hobbyists from the first. If everybody's into painting miniatures, then it's not that unrealistic to suggest that participating in play involves a modicum of miniatures crafting, too.

    My Ars Magica plans are sort of like this in that joining that game demands more than usual from the players, starting with actual competence with the rules set (far from trivial, it's a complex game) and going into various laborious character-building and grimoire-building exercises. I could see building a group like this as possible, provided the pitch for the game is really exciting and the GM can demonstrate its interest sufficiently to get the players to buy into it. Not as easy as your usual rpg, with extremely minimal entry requirements.
  • I've always wanted to do something with LEGO. I'm even able to put together somewhat of a "setting of play" that would have lots of room:

    http://www.brickshelf.com/cgi-bin/gallery.cgi?i=6062857

    Click on the picture to enlarge, or navigate through other pictures in the series.

    A big challenge of longterm play though would be keeping it all set up... It requires a 5'x15' table (and growing...).

    There's also the considerations of how much modification to the setting is allowed, really just an extension of the issues surrounding lifespan of a character/figure discussed above.
  • ffilz:
    That would be a very HG Wells approach to the whole thing. Maybe not permanent, but a big physical "setting" layout.

    I've seen some miniatures gamers do something similar, mostly for convention/club games. They're usually semi-permanent, since you may need to transport them and re-assemble them.

    I'm a big fan of that concept myself, but that's even more involved than what I was originally thinking, at least as far as general RPG design is involved.

    15' x 5' is biiiig. I stick with fold out 2.5' x 6' tables myself, since that's about the max size that fits in my apartment ( putting two together to make a 5' x 6' surface). I had been pondering possibilities like:

    Using more tables, but in non-rectangles. Maybe L- or E-Shaped, or even some other, odd combo.

    Separate tables of different sizes, to represent different "regions" or locations, and perhaps placed ( in the case of my apartment) in different rooms or at least separated by significant space.

    Either approach might create some fascinating, odd effects.
  • I find that set of western miniatures interesting because of the way it sets a sort of arbitrary limit to the fictional space. The manufacturer doesn't quite tell us why this set includes this particular cast of characters. Still, it looks like you are correct: that would probably be a sufficient set to take it as a starting point and creative constraint for a western drama.
    That particular manufacturer makes a couple of different "civilians" sets for different genres/periods and the market targeted are skirmish war gamers who play what I would call demi-rpgs or semi-rpgs. Those are games where occasionally having some unaligned, non-combatants are useful for various scenario reasons. So those sets are pretty much 20 stereotypical, genre/period appropriate people you'd expect to find in the setting who aren't likely to be a part of a gang/warband.

    It's the fact that they aren't part of an obvious, armed, fighting faction that opens up the possibilities for role-play beyond fighting/combat encounters.
    Or, of course, set up the group from miniatures hobbyists from the first. If everybody's into painting miniatures, then it's not that unrealistic to suggest that participating in play involves a modicum of miniatures crafting, too.
    Yes...and no.

    Yes, because you're right, it would be vastly easier to get people already into miniatures hobby aspects to make the jump to contributing on that end.

    No, in that they're also the most likely ones to view everything through the lens of a competitive side vs. side skirmish game.

    [OTOH, players of non-RPG skirmish miniatures games usually also use vastly less complex and faster handling rules than something akin to D&D 4e, so that at least is a bonus]

    Thinking about it a bit more, while I personally like gaming miniatures, it would probably be easier to get Lego fans to do this kind of thing I'm talking about, especially if their love was more the Lego stuff, and not so much gaming. They'd be vastly less likely to be stuck in preconceived notions about how games were "supposed to work".

    At one level, this comes down to a core conundrum I have when I talk about this stuff, whether the specifically encounter related stuff or the broader stuff involved in using minis at all as an enhancement or core part of a game style.

    Essentially, I have these different groups of hobbyists I communicate with. Each group has talents and brain power I like to tap, related to their hobby, but cross-group ideas are hard to convey.

    If I go to miniatures gamers with a question about where to find some kind of weird miniature or want suggestions on how to build or represent some physical thing in the setting, or how to do the same on a limited budget of time and/or money, I'm covered. In short order I'll have pretty much everything answered in exacting detail. They truly grok the joy of the miniatures as art and how it is important to play in a way that goes beyond the simple function of being positional markers.On the down side, if I ask about RPG-ish activities and how to work them into miniatures play, the best I usually get for answers is a poor, surface answer. For example, if I wanted to get some investigation and clue-finding ( including social mongering) into a game using miniatures, the answers tend to be along the lines of "Oh, just put a clue marker somewhere on the board or on a civilian miniature. If a player moves one of their miniatures into contact, they get the clue. When they get enough markers or the right combo of markers, they solve the mystery." Dull, seriously dull. Misses the point in a way that even the most basic type of RPGers wouldn't.

    If I come here, I have a myriad of people open to all sorts of non-traditional RPG mechanics, who are really willing to explore questions of whether a mechanic is actually providing the desired play experience, and if not, what could be done instead that would do the trick. Usually the answers are very streamlined mechanics, as free of cruft as possible. And other great skills and know-how, too. Stuff about working within constraints, shared GM duties, all-participant input methods for creation of cast and setting. Scene framing and scene cutting, getting to the heart of what's at stake really in a resolution mechanic. I mean, really, just great stuff. Great stuff, provided that it's almost exclusively verbal/ theater of the mind-only.

    What I need, for my manifesto-y take on this, is to be able to somehow take the positives that I find interacting with each group and smush them together, but get around the cultural blockages I find with each group.

  • edited February 2017
    [...] Or the fictional elements are archetypal in such a way as to enable reuse of props.

    Considering that last option, imagine a game perhaps somewhat similar to Amber, except less American-adventurous and more symbolic-mythic. Every character in the game has their own personal Tarot card, and in fact there are only so many people in the world as there are Tarot cards. More distinctive people are Major Arcana, etc. - I'm sure this is familiar, a zillion games have done this sort of thing with Tarot.

    So now we know in advance which miniatures we'll need: one for each Tarot card, no more and no less. That's going to be the cast of play, whatever the actual story. Furthermore, we understand that to a certain degree the miniatures are symbolic of the character more than representative; perhaps the character looks like their figure in concrete terms, or perhaps the miniature is merely symbolic of their inner nature. And of course, the eternal archetypes cannot be truly destroyed by the drama: even if you kill the Fool, perhaps somebody else will soon rise to fulfill the eternal role.

    Perhaps it would be desirable to extend this approach to the terrain as well: what if the game was set in the Great Wheel cosmology of D&D, like Planescape? Or something similar - the point is, what if the potential landscape of play was defined as an emblematic series of archetypal alternatives? You'd need only one "Abyss" play area (miniatures terrain or playmat or whatever), because whatever the actual fictional details, the only bit that actually matters in the environment is which plane of existence (or other emblematic location) the scene occurs in. You swap terrains when you swap planes (or cities, or countries, or whatever depending on the game), and otherwise play in one "location" in terms of props.

    In more theoretical terms, this strategy of propping up a rpg would function by reducing the aesthetic ideas you wish to express with the miniatures into an essential emblematic set of meanings; whatever falls outside this essential reality is left to the spoken word, while the toys focus on capturing whatever it is that the game considers essential. This would, hopefully, make it possible to create a powerful set of toy-tools that could be used to play a variety of stories in an efficient way, getting a lot of punch out of every individual piece in the playset.
    This approach would work brilliantly for a heroquest in Glorantha, as an example. I'm just making an observation about this; because as I was reading, that's what I was thinking. It's partly synchronicity with reading Prince of Sartar.

    It would also work well if your game was based on recreating faery tales/folk tales, Norse sagas, Arthurian legends, or anything tropey or archetypal.
  • edited February 2017
    Using Arthurian legend as an example, you'd need:
    1. As NPCs, a green knight, a red knight, a black knight, a damsel, a child (boy or girl), two or three peasants, an old man/woman, a cleric, an angel (or white knight) and some boss threat if it isn't already one of these first ones (like a wicked king/queen/witch/wizard/dragon). Maybe throw in a wounded king/queen and a righteous king/queen. But really you could get by with less than half of these because no story ever uses more than four of these;
    2. As terrain, a small chapel, a swamp, a stretch of road, an isolated well, a peasant's hut, a castle gate, a bedroom, a single great tree, a stream, and a woods (maybe four or five more trees). If you're really extravagant add a throne room. But really, again, you could get by with less than half of these. You certainly wouldn't need them all to start.

    If your game was about challenging stereotypes or re-inventing these legends, you could change things up a bit, but you still wouldn't need more miniatures and the terrain would be the same. With faery tales, it might even be easier and require less.
  • Sigh. I can't believe I went quite so far afield before getting back to the bit of Eero's post you quoted just now, Hopeless_Wanderer.

    I completely agree with the idea of cutting down to ( roughly) just the core essentials and having those be only relevant parts represented by the toys.

    It's actually easier to describe what I'm thinking by way of an example with a link to product I'm actually considering buying if I ever run a fantasy geared game with minis, but a bit sandbox-y.

    A printable, 50" x 50"Drow City.

    Now, that's pretty big admittedly, but if you look at the link and think about even an adventure module using a dungeon where Drow are involved, it's really not that big of an area represented by the printed product. A module would have all kinds of other connected tunnels and mines and so on and take up even a vaster table area if all done up to use with minis at the same time.

    In play, I would just use that if players were visiting a Drow city. It would be a stand-in for everything else involved, possibly for the entirety of that underground Drow Kingdom. It's the relevant bit where the important action/events will take place if you go visit the Drow.

    I might, maybe, have some smaller tiles/maps printed up if I wanted to represent some locations along the way to the core city. Maybe.

    Likewise, when I was showing off that Wild West Townsfolk set, those 20 miniatures wouldn't represent all of the people in even a very small old west town. They represent all of the (possibly) relevant characters. We can just assume there are dozens/hundreds/thousands of other people as part of the fiction, but we don't especially need a miniature for everyone else, any more than we need every tree for a forest. Show ( and collect) the essential bits, the rest is assumed.

    {Apparently model railroaders have a similar concept. They call it "selective compression", where you show a small-ish area that represents visually and mentally much more. For example, a warehouse and a single factory on a big model rr layout represents an entire industrial area of a city)

    The link FFilz was showing with the Lego layout does something similar, but on a single large table, rather than as a series of printed and mounted maps. If you look at that thing, the lay out is pretty clearly representing much more fictional space than the area covered by the toys, if we scale it to the Lego people.

    And toys do that regularly. Since I've been talking about how "toy play" ought to ( in my manifesto-y way) be a better basis for miniatures use in RPGs/SGs, here's the toy I desperately wanted as a child, but never found under the X-Mas tree ( :( ) : 1970s Death Star Playset.

    Man, look at all the selective compression going on there! They've reduced a moon sized battle station to a few stylized areas. The only thing really missing is the docking bay. As kids ( with my buddy's playset...grrr!), we'd just put his Millennium Falcon Toy next to that. Done. There's our escape to the docking bay bit taken care of!

    Even with all that selective compression going on, we had hours upon hours of toy play with that thing. The same concept or approach can be ported across to gaming with the use of miniatures, if we bring stuff down to the essentials, whether of locations ( like that playset or the Drow City printout) or the collection of character miniatures ( including NPCs/monsters).
  • edited February 2017
    It works, because in these types of tales, only the hero, villain, and maybe one other person (side-kick, rescuee, or mentor/donor) have names. Everyone else is nameless.
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