Hunter
 member, 1420 posts
 Captain Oblivious!
 Lurker
Thu 8 Feb 2018
at 01:29
Resolving Tactical Combat without Maps
I'm currently running a Pathfinder(ish) game where we're not currently using tactical maps to resolve combat.   It's worked okay so far so I thought I'd share it (such as it is) for everyone to tear down.  ^_^



I've designed a simple and relatively quick system for resolving tactical based combat such as Pathfinder without the need for maps, measuring, or the like.     It's intended to simply things for the GM and allow the players to imagine the combat for themselves rather than just staring at a mat.

Melee
Whether using a weapon or a touch spell.  Entering melee or withdrawing from melee with an opponent is a move action, you may freely attack/charge any opponent not already so engaged (i.e. you can enter or withdraw from melee without provoking an attack of opportunity).  Should you desire to flank, you may either accept an attack of opportunity or attempt an acrobatics check to avoid same.

Ranged
Ranged will function as normal.

Area effect spells
You may either affect all opponents or choose to selectively target.   Should you choose to affect all, then you will also damage any allies in melee combat.
Should you selectively target, you will roll a dice (1dX) to determine how many enemies are affected.   It's possible to get just one or all of them using selective targeting but by the same token, you don't affect allies.

Special
In the event a spell caster or ranged combatant gets engaged in melee, they may be assumed to take a 5-foot step (free action) to disengage.
horus
 member, 377 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Thu 8 Feb 2018
at 02:39
Resolving Tactical Combat without Maps
In reply to Hunter (msg # 1):

I'm shooting from the hip because I have very little familiarity with Pathfinder.  Take what I say with a Small Siberian Salt Mine(TM) in your hip pocket, please.

A simple dodge to handle ranges that's used in Traveller is to use a sheet of notebook paper to keep track of relative ranges (called range bands)  It has its shortcomings, but can simplify things to the extent you may be seeking.

Mark everyone's relative positions in terms of what range band they are in on the sheet, moving their marks as they move in combat.

Question:  why "not already so engaged"?  Where's the fun if you can't gang up on a particular opponent to take him out (or did I misunderstand something)?

AoE Spells should not have a conscience.  If they are truly "area of effect", then anyone in the area should be affected.  That Allowing directed use of AoE spells would tend to skew the mechanic, allowing powerful area of effect spells to be used when they should not be.  If I wanted to do something like this in a game (as GM), I'd probably limit "directed area of effect" spells to much higher level casters, and only if they have the spell/skill for doing, call it Spell Direction or something.

This message was last edited by the user at 05:03, Thu 08 Feb.

swordchucks
 member, 1465 posts
Thu 8 Feb 2018
at 03:32
Resolving Tactical Combat without Maps
The #1 thing to do if you want to do this is be very clear about it up front.  Explicitly state that you're doing this and maybe even elaborate that players shouldn't design overly tactical characters where positioning or the like will really matter.

From there... play it by ear and err in favor of the players.  Simple rules of thumb work best.  For instance, instead of rolling dice, assume that an AOE spell can get half (round up) of the enemies in it at any one time without endangering allies.

Again, the #1 thing is to make sure it's clear up front.  If players have a problem with it, they simply won't apply.

All of that said, the biggest problem I predict with this in Pathfinder is that ranged builds will get even stronger.  The main limiter on ranged attackers (zen archers, etc.) is soft cover, firing into melee, etc., which is a bit more fiddly than you're going to have with an abstracted system.
engine
 member, 542 posts
Thu 8 Feb 2018
at 16:22
Resolving Tactical Combat without Maps
I run mapless combat here with 4th Edition. It works fairly well, but it's not perfect.

What I find is that it's not enough to let description speak for itself. If I move or position a figure on a battlemat, it's easy to see if I provoke opportunity attacks, or what size area attack could hit both this figure and this other one but not that other one. If everyone just speaks in rough terms it might not be clear what a given maneuver achieves. Even if they give exact relative distances from every other figure or feature (which I hope they don't do), synergies that might be visible on a map might not be apparent to anyone.

So, I focus on and I ask my players to focus on what they're trying to achieve with their movement. It might be several things like "get out of flanking and behind cover" or "get close enough to my ally for healing word but far enough away that we can't both be hit by the flameskull's fireball."

I find that this works because I find that in the vast majority of cases, if there isn't something specifically preventing or triggering off of a movement or position, then it's possible to achieve. Sometimes finding the exact way in which it can be achieved takes a  bunch of people sitting around a table counting, sketching, referencing rules and arguing more than they're actually playing, but the point is that there's a way.

So, if I just assume there's a way to do something that no one has specifically said can't be done, and if I game with people who want every one to be having fun rather than annoyed and miserable, it works pretty well.
Hunter
 member, 1421 posts
 Captain Oblivious!
 Lurker
Tue 13 Feb 2018
at 04:42
Resolving Tactical Combat without Maps
In reply to engine (msg # 4):

I'm putting it out here because there's people like me who don't have any sort of map making skills but still enjoy GMing.
DarkLightHitomi
 member, 1278 posts
Tue 13 Feb 2018
at 04:50
Resolving Tactical Combat without Maps
I have archived a couple of the old game design threads which address this very thing. If anyone wants, this weekend I could PM the key posts. If I get dropbox up and running again I can even upload the entire threads.

For the most part, the ideas go a bit more in depth than the OP, accounting for more things, but are still rather simple to implement.
Kenderkin
 member, 2 posts
Wed 14 Feb 2018
at 16:41
Resolving Tactical Combat without Maps
Communication and clarity is very important

I did a street level and a stage set on the back of a wagon.
When the actors were attacked I remembered to include an ooc of what PCs would have to roll to get up onto the stage or how long it would take to go around and up the stairs...
engine
 member, 561 posts
Wed 14 Feb 2018
at 18:06
Resolving Tactical Combat without Maps
In reply to Hunter (msg # 5):

That describes me.
Hunter
 member, 1422 posts
 Captain Oblivious!
 Lurker
Wed 14 Feb 2018
at 20:36
Resolving Tactical Combat without Maps
In reply to engine (msg # 8):

I'm also one of those people.