Gaming Terrain. Ramblings Version 1.

I love gaming terrain. Especially 40k terrain.. but I do not play. Terrain is pretty and inspiring and fills me with a sense of ‘awe that is FN cool’. And while in 40k, terrain is often thematic and strategic the large difference between RPG terrain and tabletop war game terrain is ‘Usefulness’

Do you really need any terrain at all while playing an RPG like pathfinder?

RPG’s classically do not need a 1″ grid map to track combat. Heck, even with the 1″ grid rule induction in and around the 3.5 ruleset you can still get away with RPing whole sessions without breaking out anything for the PC’s miniatures to romp around on. There is no doubt about it. Terrain causes players to stop focusing on their characters and start playing the meta-game. This is especially true if the whole dungeon is mapped out before them. 

So what are ways to get around this? I’m going to experiment on a few tables and see what happens when players are forced to RP up to the point of initiative being rolled. This will require some diligent crowd control. Everything in game is supposed to be happening simultaneously for the most part. Often times players will let the most social, or talkative player at the time be long winded in their character’s actions streaming together 5-10 minutes worth of activities in one paragraph. 

If a player takes an action that is going to set them up for an attack you must delay the action without giving away the surprise to the other players. If they catch wind that the leading character is in trouble, the will meta-game more cautious actions for their character this blends out of character and in character knowledge.

Meet our sample party. TED the fighter. BOB the rogue. WENDY the mage.

Over the crest of a hillside you see the crumbled bases of 2 decaying towers in the nape of a winding trail. They are nearly 100 yardss away. A crow sits perched upon the eastern most tower, it’s caw echoing off the rough stone exposed in this mountainous landscape.

TED, being the least shy of the group, rolls perception to see if they look occupied. 

The ruins appear to be empty.

TED, voicing over the group again, explains that he will be ducking from stone to stone in an attempt to look into the ruins at close range.

– the dm knows that the towers contain a small group of camping hobgoblins, two of which are awake and on guard duty – Ted begins his exploration towards the ruins. Bob, Wendy – what do you want to do.
after a moment, both Bob and Wendy decide to follow their leader towards the ruins. As you close in on the ruins The Crow, startled flies away in noisy protest. You hear a loud Grunt coming from the ruins followed by the snap of two bow strings. Please roll initiative.

When the fighter began his charge on the ruins the DM could have easily let him trigger the event. Instead, he used some crowd control to allow the entire party to play their characters. Maybe next time Bob and Wendy will speak up instead of following their stalwart leader into a surprise round. 

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