4E: Off the Grid

This is a problem I’ve poked at before, how to play 4E ‘off’ the battle map. I’ve sort of given in on our 6-Pack release – and upcoming releases – for 4E adventures but when it comes to my own games there’s simply not going to be any way I can use a board.

Where I play we don’t have a table and with six or so players getting up and down, ordering takeout etc, any map would get stopped, spilled, burned or mangled in some way in short order. Even if not that, it’d get knocked and you’d lose track.

We’ve never really used a board in our gaming. I think I used a board when I first started playing MERP (the hex maps from the box were pretty useful in all sorts of different circumstances). We’ve always tended to rely on our imaginations. I’ve done some bodge-job fixes in the past but with a Dark Sun game coming up in the near to mid future it’s necessary to re-address the problem. Maps and position being so bloody, annoyingly, important in 4E.

This is basically the same solution that I have come up with before, but a little extended and formalised.

Multiply by 5ft and use that as a vague gauge and you’re golden.

Short of outright running away, movement doesn’t make that much of a huge difference in boardless combat. In the tactical game it provides significant advantage by opening enemies up to flanking attacks or moving them into danger. In place of this slide/push points will go into a tactical ‘pool’ that can be tapped into by anyone on your side, allowing you to set things up for others in your team.

Each space of Push/Pull/Slide is translated into a +1 bonus that can be applied to combat skill checks, to hit rolls, armour class/saves during combat and to damage, all representing the combat advantages to be gained from controlling the field of battle. What you earn is taken away from the enemy pool until it’s gone and then added to your own pool. This also allows groups of characters some compensation against singular big-bad enemies who will be more powerful, but less manoeuverable, allowing the characters to build up tactical advantage and then press home for the killing blow. This is similar to a system I am working on for a couple of my upcoming games that are based around group tactics.

EG: The group is engaged with a dragon, unable to take it on directly they spend several turns working on manoeuvring it into position and getting their fighter into position to attack. When he does so he can spend their accumulated bonuses in a devastating blow, representing the accumulation of their tactical advantage.