Monday, June 16, 2008

Playing Outside the Lines

Greywulf is having fun learning 4e, and he has an intriguing insight:

One of the many things that 4e does right is fix that. Move one square in any direction, and it costs 1 square. Just adjust for terrain (difficult costs 2 per square), and you’re done.

So here’s the thing.

You don't need a grid any more!

Read that again, and let it sink in.

Just grab a ruler to measure the inches, and your minis can move anywhere, however the heck they want. No grid needed. Count each full inch of difficult terrain as 2 inches, and move front-of-base to front of base. Go ‘round corners by following the path, and allow free movement of 1” for the shift - the old 3e 5-foot step, reborn.

Getting rid of the grid means getting rid of the battlemat and boardgame mentality. It means that grey tablecloth (the one you washed with your socks by accident. Yes, that one) is your dungeon floor, with books marking dungeon walls. You’re out of Boardgame-land where you’re counting the movement and firmly into Wargame-land with all that entails. Freedom of movement, tactical use of terrain and pure, unadulterated old-school D&D goes back to it’s Chainmail roots fun.

He's got a number of intriguing options that this makes available, including a neat idea for miniatures. I'm not sure they're all worth trading in the ease of counting squares for wrangling of rulers, but I have to admit, I like not feeling trapped in a grid.


Welcome to Dungeon! said...

I admire the "go gridless" sentiment, but this isn't something for which 4e specifically liberates you. We use rulers all the time for 3.x, especially after the light bulb went up that your standard Bic pencil is a perfect single move for anyone who moves 30(6 squares). We even got a bendy drafting ruler for corners and juking. The grid just lets you count the squares if you think it might be faster in a given situation.

There is error between counting squares on the diagonal and using the ruler, but it's not much, about 6%. The only difference 4e's one square any which way means that there's an error closer to 30%, and that if you go gridless you're about five times more off the assumptions the game intrinsically makes.

trollsmyth said...

Good points, Cole. I almost wish they'd go with hexes, honestly, but trying to draw traditional dungeon rooms on a hex map is a bit of a pain.

- Brian

Anonymous said...

I've been gridless since AD&D. I use only tape measures for movement calculation. I used to use battlemats extensively, but they were more a drawing guide for me.

The grid is helpful for determining threatened space at a glance, but aside from that it encourages a video game-style approach to table-top play and I don't want that in my game.

trollsmyth said...

One thing I find interesting about the discussion is the importance in 4e of ranges and movement. In 2e, it was hardly ever an issue. Yeah, I used a gridded vinyl mat and dry-erase markers for larger combats, especially as the party acquired henchmen and followers. But I almost never measured ranges or distances. Even an encumbered character could move 90 feet in a single round, and it was rare that we had dungeon rooms larger than 100 feet square. Small rooms were 30 feet on a side, and medium-sized ones were generally 50 to 60 feet on a side, and in truth, those are fairly sizeable rooms. So it was rare when someone couldn't run across the open space to attack an enemy within a single round, or reach them with a ranged weapon.

We did rarely use rulers and the like for areas of effect, but most of those are so huge, they were fired off before the party reached the room. Most of those calculations were based on the map I had behind my DM's screen, and the effects would often entirely fill the room and crawl up the hallway towards the caster.

- Brian