I tried something a bit different in last nights game. I let the players decide what the battle area looked like.
Some time ago I realised that I was never going to be able to make the tiles I have line up exactly with the maps in the WotC modules. In fact, that’s an impossible task when you want to replicate things like this:
So instead, I’ve been going with an approximation, hell, the players are never going to know are they? (well, they do now). We also have Mark in our group and he’s the party mapper. We have to constantly play the old chinese whispers game with each other:
“30 feet north to south, with a door”
“Near the top?”
“No, just below centre”
“Its a double door”
So I thought why not kill two birds with one slingshot, and give the players something to focus on during that dead time where I’m normally rooting about for maps and minis between encounters. So I handed the dry wipe pens to Mark and set about going old school with my descriptions while he drew out what he thought it looked like. Do you know what? he wasn’t far off, and actually it didn’t matter if he was. I then placed the minis and off we went.
Later we had a cave encounter. These are even more awkward to lay out with tiles than square rooms are. So I handed my collection of Caves of Carnage tiles to Mark and told him what I wanted. A big cave, with at least 8 squares space in the middle, an entrance and an exit. Mark got busy while I did my notes and in 1 minute we had a nice layout that I could improvise a description over. He’d added a water tile that wasn’t in my book, no problem, it added in a bit of flavour that wasn’t going to harm anyone (in fact I blended in a healing fountain from the next room).
The experiment worked, and I’ll do it again where possible.