Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Miniatures or Not?

After years debating miniatures vs not, my conclusion is that simply different methods work for different people. That the best approach is to use a variety of techniques tailored for the situation, yourself, and the group at hand.

The method that doesn't work is blindly assume that your "way" is the way that going to work all the time. It simply not going to too. You need to pay attention to the players and learn what works best for that particular group.

I use generally miniatures because they allow me to effectively describe scenes in the shortest amount of time. The key trick I found is describe things as you placing stuff on the map. This minimize the time needed for any verbal followup. If a group likes detailed tactical combat I will accommodate them and take a little longer in setting up. If the group is more verbal oriented I will set up just what I think I need get the description across and just estimate range and movement. For wandering through towns I just use a large player map and counters and verbally describe things as they walk through.

I judge each of the technique simply whether it is effective in conveying needed information for the players to roleplay their characters as if they were there. If it doesn't, then I change it. Sometime I have an idea that doesn't work. Or I need to change because it a different approach works better for that group.

So I view this niniatures versus not miniatures as silly. Both sides are too dogmatic. The fact is BOTH work. Instead develop the wisdom to see which methods work and when they don't. Also remember what works best with your skills as a referee is important.


Christopher O'Dell said...

I agree: BOTH work. My players and I started out with 3.5, so we like to use miniatures when we can, but when a table isn't available or if we're playing online (one of these days we may start using a virtual table-top; the few we've messed with haven't been worth the effort to us), playing without miniatures works too.

Peter D said...

We use minis whenever the situation is either complex enough to demand it, or using them will simplify discussions.

So we might run a fight with minis and then just explain where people are in a room, or run a fight without minis and have everyone place their mini for opening a door. It just depends.

Frank said...

It's also worth noting that the issue is a bit more complex than just miniatures yes/no. There's also grid (none/freeform, square, hex, other, grid used only for ease of dimensioning the encounter space).

Then there's use of counters/tokens instead of miniatures.

Then there's use of 2-d scenery (dungeon tiles, other) or 3-d scenery (dungeon wall kits and/or furniture etc. pieces).

Use also depends on the game system in use. Miniatures would not help, and might actually confuse in my current game of choice, Burning Wheel. On the other hand, I would never run 3.x without miniatures or tokens, and I'm strongly inclined to run RuneQuest with miniatures/tokens.


Byteknight said...

My gaming group in the 80s only used minis once, to play Star Trek ship combat. Apart from that, we never did use them when we rpged FASA's Star Trek.

Of course, we rarely played fantasy, where minis are useful for a dungeon crawl. For modern and sci-fi rpging, I don't think using mini's are as useful as there is more ranged combat and such, which is easier for the GM to talk about rather than use a 6 foot table with minis.