Monday, April 30, 2012

Sandbox Thoughts - There is no Grid in My Sandbox

That's right, there is no grid in my sandbox styled campaign, at least not how one is used in 3.5 and especially 4e D&D.

There is a reason Adventure Paths are popular with the 4e crowd (and started with the 3x crowd)- the adventures usually come with battle maps or tiles.

3.5e is nearly impossible to play with out a grid, and the amount of house ruling it would take to remove the grid from 4e would make it a totally different game (5e perhaps?).

It's hard to run a gridded game with a sandbox. Sure, you can use a battle mat and write it in washable marker, or maybe pull a map from your collection that you've used before that kinda fits the location, but it's not a great solution. Heck, you could map out battle maps for all of your possible random encounters, but then when would you have time to game?

Did anyone use a grid with G1-3? T1-4 (TOEE). None that I know did more than a sketch and a room description

That is why sandbox style play is very much "Old School", where counting hexes and spell templates are replaced by a quick description or sketch and the Theatre of the Mind.

Not that I have a total aversion to using a battle mat / map if it helps sort things out. I just don't want my players, my campaign, or myself being a slave to it.

The moment players start counting, measuring, checking facing or asking about spell area effect templates I know the map has gone from imagery to grid.

There is no room for a grid in my sandbox, but a map, mat, whiteboard and the like are welcome. Even if it has little hexes or squares on it. Just don't treat it as a grid.


  1. I understand what you are saying, but I don't think it's an either/or situation.

    We go back and forth between the theatre of the mind and a Hirst arts dungeon. We use mini-lite rules. Basically movement, flanking, etc. but that's pretty much it. We don't allow it to go over take the game.

    I think you are specifically talking WotC mini rules, is that right? I would agree, but you can adapt them to suit your needs.

    One thing I strongly prefer are the minis rules for movement in 5foot squares vs AD&D movement rules, I find it easier to conceptualize.

  2. I think in the end it comes down to "do you serve the grid or does the grid serve you?"

    I'd argue starting with 3x players are there to serve the grid.

  3. Yep.

    I see a new Mearls' deal is up.

  4. I use MapTool when I DM and it serves as both the 'players map' and battle grid during fights. I just zoom in to a room sized level to play out the fights using tokens. I agree its hard not to be a slave to the grid but to me it makes battle resolution move much faster as well as for keeping track of movement and distance..


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