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?
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!
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).