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NotTheBubs

Am i a bad GM?

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Hi all,

I’m brand new to Roleplaying games, my group and I have only played for a few months all total, I was the only one at the time who was willing to be the GM. We played for a while and then took a break because of school. During that intermission I tried to build a small campaign, and got very excited for the prospect of returning to play. The basic premise was the members of the party were going to be rebel operatives, and over the course of the game they would wind up discovering a plot against the rebellion and saving the day. We recently had our first session back and it went poorly.

 

By the time we stopped playing before, my group said combat should be more lethal, which I interpreted as they wanted more challenging encounters, so I worked on making sure the first combat encounter of the game was going to be challenging, and before the night started I had made sure to tell them that we were going to have more lethal combat encounters this time around, they said they were fine with it.

 

I opened the session with the party on a ship that had just been attacked by the Empire and was crashing towards the planet below, and this, I think, worked out as well as it could have. I had made it clear to my players after the crash the Imperials intended to storm the site, while doing so inadvertently letting slip the Empire was after something on the ship.

 

So in the little time I gave the party to breathe they had rigged up the item with explosives set to go off with the use of a specific commlink signal, and had loaded up all the able bodied people that had survived the crash into some shuttles they had escaped in to try to get them to the nearest city. One of my players decided they were going to accompany them, despite me very plainly saying, if he went with them he wouldn’t be around for the coming encounter, he said that he was cool with that.

 

This put my party down a man for the encounter I had built to be challenging for them all together. But then my party came up with the idea to try to use the item as a bargaining chip, which I thought “They’re going to try to talk their way out of the combat, cool, I wasn’t anticipating that.”

 

For the encounter I had foolishly decided that an AT-ST would make a great prop, I could put my antagonist (whom I had built using inquisitor rules for the most part) in there and I don’t have to use her for anything but “tactical direction” for the rest of the minions. There was her acting as a supportive role, and 4 groups of 4 stormtroopers, (3 yellow die attack rolls). My intention being that the players “break” their morale by killing/separating the minion groups which I had predetermined would cause a retreat.

 

The party consisted of 3 members main combat skills were one melee (3 yellow+1 green with frenzied attack), one ranged light (1 Yellow+ 2 green), one ranged heavy (2 yellow + 2 Green),   I had also given the party 2 minion groups of their own to command during the fight. Based on my previous experience, this should have resulted in a relatively fair, but challenging encounter, and I even took time to run a mockup of the encounter, it matched my expectations.

 

However, (if this didn’t wind up in a colossal failure you wouldn’t be reading about it) because the party had decided to try to strike a deal with the imperial officer, she had gotten out of the AT-ST,(and as such was effectively another enemy on the field I hadn’t accounted for) and met the party alone out in the open, I had her place her blaster on the ground in show of good faith, (though I didn’t offer to drop the vibrosword on her side, they didn’t request she remove it). One of my players offered to escort her inside to claim the item, instead she offered to send in a squad to collect it, and wait with the rest of the group, no one objected or insisted.

 

The one player led them to the item, and quickly darted into an escape pod before setting the explosives to go off. The melee specialist of the party decided to use the opportunity to attack, but got very angry about having to roll upgraded dice from adversary- he failed his first attack, and with a lucky attack the imperial officer dealt over half of the player’s wounds, my player again angry about the dice rolled. The session ended with the party’s retreat.

 

Afterwards the one player dumped on me a myriad of things I did wrong, stating I clearly didn’t balance the encounter at all, complaining I don’t use a battle map (like his D&D group) and the fact I am always terrible at communicating and always forget small things said during sessions, among many more comparisons to his D&D group that I fall short on, and apparently this is always the case.

 

This has me very discouraged and at this point I don’t even want to prepare for my next session, so I wanted some feed back: based on that, am I a terrible/incompetent GM, should I quit for my group’s sake?

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The part about "always forget small things said during sessions" reminds me of a game I played in recently which was challenging for the players. Not being at your table I can only explain the outcomes at this game and see if you recognize any similarities at your table in an effort to help. In a recent game one of our DM kept throwing out details then forgetting them causing the group to react in certain ways and having to "remind" the DM what he had just said 5 minutes ago. This became very frustrating as it ruined the feeling of immersion. A couple of examples were saying as our ship crashed on a successful perception check that the pilot noticed a city to the west. Then after the crash as we started to head west he said no the city is North. In another exchange we we talking with an npc that triggered an encounter and then when laying out the encounter said the NPC was at long range behind cover which lead to the players asking how were we just speaking then? Small details during the session that lead to frustration by the player party, this could be resolved by taking notes, especially if giving the players information on the fly that you may not have planned for. 

 

I don’t use a battle map (like his D&D group)

 


So we have three folks in our group of 10 players that GM and that means for everyone to play we have three campaigns running at once with different assortments of players. The first problem we encounter is that the non-dm players expect the same experience at the table from different writers. Often we'll hear an argument when one DM makes a ruling that another DM would have ruled differently. This is tough because the players want consistency which is fair, but three different people running games will respond differently as we don't share a brain. Are you a part of his D&D group? Does that DM play with your group? If your separate entities then the player needs to live with different house different style and game in my opinion. If your all part of the same gaming group I'd put together a couple of offline meeting of the DM's to help align expectations as much as possible. We did this and it seemed to help. I also try hard to support the other DM's when I am at the table even if I question something they say and will wait until after the session to discuss something I may not have agreed with. 

Sounds like your in a tough spot. The only other thing I can recommend, if your open and willing to, is to talk to some of your players offline one on one and ask suggestion on things you can do that might make the experience more enjoyable. Find an ally in the players to help at the table. In a D&D game I ran, there was a torture scene to set up the main Villain. One of the players took a brutal series of public torture and had to test to keep from calling out (picture the end of Braveheart). Prior to the scene I discussed the full ordeal with the player and assured them they would come off better for it after. Having the effected player cool with it at the table prevented the rest of the group from freaking out and allowed me to build a super dramatic scene, which would not have been capable had the player not been in on the events and plans as he multiple times stopped the group from interrupting the scene on his behalf. 
 
 

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This has me very discouraged and at this point I don’t even want to prepare for my next session, so I wanted some feed back: based on that, am I a terrible/incompetent GM, should I quit for my group’s sake?

 

No, it ain't you.  You're learning, and bound to make mistakes, but I can't see anything egregious in your description.  The whining is pretty pathetic.  Constructive criticism is one thing, but if they didn't take time to learn the game then they shouldn't complain.  If they wanted more lethal combat, they can't complain when they get it.  Maybe they didn't know about "Adversary", but then they should read the rules.

 

You don't need battle maps either, it's a crutch that's just a limit on you and the player's narrative abilities.  It might be useful sometimes to have a sense of the terrain...easily scratched out on graph paper as needed...but you don't need it.  This is a fast paced game with lots of movement, the minute you draw a map somebody will want to go beyond it.

 

As for "balance", three comments:

 

The first thing the players have to give up is that D&D idea that all encounters are standoffs fought to victory.  Point them to all the movies, TCW, and Rebels:  the heroes are often running away.  Expecting a stand-up fight is not really what the game is about.

 

The second thing is:  this game *is* somewhat difficult on the GM in that regard.  D&D has very consistent mathematical odds behind everything so unless the players have a string of low rolls, they should be okay with a suitable challenge rating.  EotE on the other hand is a lot harder.  The power curve is flatter, so stormtroopers will always be a threat.  If you want the players to survive an encounter, you have to err on the side of caution, but set it up so that you can bring in reinforcements if you need to without breaking verisimilitude.  If the players think you're doing a bad job, tell them to try it see how good they are.  They'll be quieter if they do...

 

The third thing about balance is a sideways question:  what is the encounter for?  SW is riddled with conflict where defeating the enemy is not the main goal.  In fact, the enemy is usually just "terrain in the way" of accomplishing something larger.  Chases are your friend here because they can incorporate just about every skill, including combat.

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Don't worry. This sort of thing happens to every new DM. 

 

The important thing to realize is that it's not the job of the DM to ensure that the players always win. The DM's job is to create interesting encounters and scenes.

 

IOW, there is no such thing as a "combat encounter". The players will try to talk their way out of fighting encounters and fight their way out of talking encounters. So, going into an encounter with plans for how the encounter is going to play out will only end in frustration and disappointment. 

 

The important thing to focus on is the NPC. What do they want? What do they have (resources like troops or air support or money)? And, most importantly, what are they willing to do to get what they want? 

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If you're as new to GM'ing as you say, then it sounds to me like you did a pretty amazing job. You came up with an exciting scenario, were flexible in the path you allowed the players to take; and if the PCs lived, then you can't have balanced things THAT badly. The real GM nightmare is the Total Party Kill and you avoided that! (I did a TPK once, by accident. Horrible!).

I think your players, or at least that one particular player, were overly hard on you. You can't always get what you want and sometimes you have to run away. This really isn't D&D where you get combats designed around you. You have to be clever, you have to think on your feet and yes, sometimes, plans don't work out.

This is Star Wars after all...

post-40618-Han-Solo-were-all-fine-here-n

Edited by knasserII

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Dude, you have only been running games for months and you made an encounter that well? And had it work?

 

When you get some experience, you will be a fine GM. 

 

You are not the problem, your problem player was. Anyone who demands a map for this game is missing the point of how the game is supposed to work. This is a freeform game like the old style RPG, not some map based wargame, like the old style wargames. Also, when someone gets pissed off about die rolls, and I mean really pisssed off, then it is time for them to get a time out. Being really annoyed with the dice is fine, but if they get pissed at you, tell them to walk away from the game. Ive been on both sides of the screen when the dice decided to be uncooperative, and that is part of the game. If the player cant handle that, then they can go back to their own group.

 

If the player finds you poor at communication, then it is up to him to ask questions. That is how you learn how to be a better GM.

 

I could pick some nits on what you did (dont split the party :) ), but it sounds like you did a really good job.

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I agree with the above posters. As I was reading your post I saw several good things, though honestly expected the end to be “and then the AT-ST wiped them out, all of them.” Since it didn’t, I say good job! It’s clear nothing in what you described was GM fiat; with the above average homework you did I imagine it was your intention to try to avoid any shenanigans. It sounds like it was a good encounter I would be excited to be a part of if I was at the table. Something which should be commended is having a way for the combat encounter to end which wasn’t, “one side is dead.”

I like the AT-ST in the encounter, it feels very Imperial. I don’t know how you used it, but the AT-ST doesn’t have to use its main guns all the time. One thing I’ve noticed in this system is mid-encounter balance can be tuned by choosing which weapon the enemy attacks with (especially prominent on creatures). Again I don’t know how you used it, but I would switch between the personal scale grenade launcher and shooting the allied minion groups with the side blaster (I forget if the side blaster is personal scale or not). This should keep the PCs from having to take vehicle scale fire for a few (4+) rounds while still letting the AT-ST be scary. In that time they should have decided how to deal with it (come up with a plan and/or run away).

As long as you mentioned she had a vibrosword then they can’t say anything about her not dropping it too. If you did forget to mention it then maybe she has one of those concealing sheaths or you just refluff it to be a concealed vibroblade/vibroknife (the stats aren’t that different, except for defensive). I guess the last game was pretty softball if they never encountered adversary, but a good player should accept it as what is happening and look it up/ask about it at the end of the session. Also, have they never been shot with a blaster rifle before? A hit with that will clear half a non-combat character’s wound thresholds in 1 shot. Unless it’s a fistfight, combat in this system puts even rugged (5-6 soak, 14-16 WT) characters down in 3-4 hits.

As for the player dumping on you, to me SW is the ultimate “there’s always a bigger fish” setting. Having the AT-ST even in the encounter should’ve told the PCs they were not going to win a stand up fight. Encounters don’t have to be balanced; they have to move the story forward, preferably in a thematic and exciting way. Not only do you not need a map at all, the system doesn’t support gridded combat. That being said, having an idea of where things are has helped me on both sides of the screen and I can recommend at least sketching out (on a dry erase board or something) fights which have a lot going on.

Remembering details was something I was horrible at in the beginning. Along with getting more practice, maybe have a bullet list of 1 word reminders on a sticky note for the encounter. That way you can look it over after you’ve said your peace about X, Y, and Z to make sure you didn’t miss anything. It might lead to some, “oh yeah, there’s also….” moments, but at least it gets across. Also, get the players to take notes, especially if it’s involving their character.

TL;DR: Sounds like a fun encounter you did your homework on. Yes, enemies hit hard when the gloves come off. The more players think of it as a comic book or movie, and less like a game, the more fun they’ll have. Everyone needs practice, goes for both you and your PCs.

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Sounds to me like you did pretty well. Improvising when the players throw you a curve is probably the most valuable skill a GM can have.

Don't let the D&D fussiness get to you. As some people have only played D&D (or a game derived from the D20 system) they tend to think all RPGs should work the same. Just be ready to help with the transition from time to time.

So like with the battle map. If they need a visual aid, scrawl something out. It doesn't have to be perfect, or detailed, or gridded. And explain how the players can do things like use Triumphs to add features to the encounter.

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Lol, I also thought the end of your story was going to "and then the AT-ST killed everybody". You're doing fine, the players having to retreat is great.. she's now an epic villain in their mind.

Sounds like your problem player (cause as you've laid it out thats what he sounds like) has played too much DnD and is unwilling to shift to the narrative style of Star Wars. I've had to deal w helping players adjust to the different rules and stylistic choices FFG has made.. his choice to jump the Empire and throwing any semblance of a plan out the window, was a bad one.

talk to him and try to explain that this A) isn't DnD B) it's your game and he's got to accept that it's not going to be ran in "his style" and C) that constructive criticism is fine, but if he wants to be hostile, he should find another game.

That last bit might seem harsh, but I've had to ask one of my friends since childhood to stop playing w us, cause his drinking had gotten out of hand and even sober he was getting too loud at game sessions when others were talking. As GM you're partly responsible for the enjoyment of the group as a whole.. never let a bad apple ruin it for the rest. Hopefully you won't need to go that far, usually these things mellow out over time as the player adapts to the differences, unfortunately running a game is like parenting.. your kids don't always appreciate what you do for them.

Keep up the good work, and keep us posted!

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Sounds like you just have a player who didn't understand how an adversary worked and got grumpy about it. From the information you've provided it sounds like it's your player's issue, not yours. There are two sides to every story though, so without his side of the story it's hard to judge.

 

I've always been of the opinion that it's not the GM's job to kill players but you've gotta let them kill themselves if they so choose. Guy tries to solo an inquisitor, that's a bad decision, and there should be some consequences for doing so.

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I used to and still in many ways think this, and I have been GMing this system for over a year and a half, my first time ever GMing too.

 

You get better, and you improve, you did everything you could and I don't want to sound like a broken record since everyone else has given in depth answers, but it seems like it was a problem with your players and their expectations.

 

As a new GM I highly recommend you check out the Order 66 podcast, those guys have given me so much sage advice over the last year and a half, I regularly never listen (inside joke).

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I see a great story for a new GM and a frustrated player that get angry because the dices roll against them. Seriously, in a game with dices, this is bound to happen. Dont take it personnaly. Your angry player just let his frustartion slip and, hopefully, in your next session, all will be forgotten.

Edited by vilainn6

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As everyone else said, I think you did fine. GMing is a learning process, that takes time to nail (nevermind doing it in a new system too). Your one player was an asshat, plain and simple. I understand why (as someone else said, and this seems to happen with D&D the most), there are people who think "ALL GAMES MUST BE THE SAME AS MY OTHER GAME!" It does take time to wean them away from that mindset. Also, FFG SW is a narrative style game, so things work differently (and die results are MUCH more swingy - I've got a player who's grumbling about this now; he wants to be able to mathematically verify his chances for everything he does in game, including combat, which I'm trying to get him to see that ain't very star Wars).

Edited by StanTheMan

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I think you did great. I know exactly where you're coming from with the mentions of D&D, having had a group of players that all come from D&D backgrounds, thankfully none of mine seem to be as fussy as what you've described. As others have mentioned, it will take time to pry them away from their d20's and their mathematics based roleplaying (how does that statement even make sense) but keep swinging and eventually the wall will break down and they'll come around to how awesome a system it can be. Growing pains are bound to happen with a new system, much less a new GM but keep at it man, the world needs more GM's.

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As a GM in this system, I find the first part of an adventure, lets call it the setup, is the easiest to flesh out. Beyond that, its best to limit the adventure beats to a couple of sentences to explain what is going on, an idea of what stats you want to use (and don't be fooled - stormtroopers in my campaign make great experienced troops, royal guards, etc). Beyond that, you, as the GM, are at the whim of the almighty dice roll - for good or bad.

 

Personally I think you did fine as a beginning GM, and you are better GM for wanting to know how to make the game better for your players. I don't think that point is celebrated enough.

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Dude, I just did a quick read through, so I have a good understanding of what you wrote and some of the other postings, but I didn't read everything here word for word, but wanted to drop you a quick note.

First, it sounds like you did fine.

Second, tell the players up front that THIS IS NOT D&D OR EVEN SPACE D&D! Get over it! This is a different game, and a different system. This game does not require "battle map"! Thank the maker.

Second, while you did give the players what they wanted, more deadly combat, it may not have been exactly what they wanted. I don't really use too much combat in my games, but my players and the characters they built are not really into that in this particular campaign.

My only advice, build them a scaling adventure, with a few encounters where you can showcase and easily explain the parts of the good guys and enemies skills and talents. Have a group a minions, and you can quickly give a run down on what they can and can not do. Then in another encounter show a rival that has Nemesis 1, and explain what that means, and remember, NPCs don't follow the same rules for building as PCs like most D20 games! A lot of players of trouble with this concept. I had a player who could not get over the fact that while it took him forever to get a certain talent, a NPC had the the talent too, but didn't have a lot of the of the other stuff behind it. NPC's don't have to have all the other stuff in the talent trees. You just pick the talents you want them to have, not all the ones they need to just have the ones you want them to have as well. This makes NPC making so much easier. So for example, I want an armor master guy with really tough armor. I just some of the cool armor master talents from the bounty hunter gadgeteer, I don't have to go buy him all the other lower tier talents to get to those high level ones.

Just some advice, some people don't seem to know this, or sometimes forget this about NPCs. If you don't have or use Oggdude's character generator, um, use it!!!!

Edited by R2builder

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"am I a terrible/incompetent GM, should I quit for my group’s sake?"


 


This is a little cliche, but a "terrible GM" wouldn't ask that question. 


 


Competence comes from experience, but as others have said, you're doing great. The fact that you spent so much time on a particular scenario and then changed it when the players came up with a different plan shows a lot more flexibility than I had when I started. 


 


As a player, I once felt as your one player did. I yelled at a GM and told him it was "wrong" of him to force capture on the PCs. We should have at least had a chance to blast our way out of the docking bay and escape, blah blah blah. That was over 20 years ago, mind you. Sometime between then and now, I realized that storming out of that game, I missed out on what could have been a dramatic and very interesting game. At the time, though, I was just not ready to handle anything "bad" happening to my character. (I did mention it was 20 years ago, right?) Now, I find myself a bit more zen about getting into trouble, because it means an opportunity to figure a way out of it. 


 


Oh, and that "Bad GM" from so long ago. He's designing games now. 


 

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Sounds like you probably did better than *most* of us this early in your 'career' as a GM.

 

My first disaster as a GM happened back when D&D 2nd Edition was *new*.  The adventure ended with 2 PCs dead and eaten, and the players kind of muttering about how bored they had been, and how very little had made sense.  (I wasn't too good at thinking on my feet back then, and they took a *serious* left turn from where I'd anticipated, and thinks went south from there quite badly.)

 

The word disaster I've played in involved a 50,000 year-old crater in a world with an ancient ship in the middle, and a newer ship landed off to the north of it.  The party (sensibly) tried to sneak down to figure out what was going on.  One Jedi wanted to go around behind the ancient ship to get a different vantage point.  The GM *then* informed us that the '50,000 year-old crater' was glass-smooth, and the Jedi had wandered directly in between two active and *hostile* forces (one from each ship), that hadn't been mentioned at all prior to the Jedi being spotted "with his lightsaber out and active".  He was promptly attacked, and nearly killed by several reactivated sith battle droids, and 3 of the 8 big-bads we had been tasked with bringing to justice.  The rest of the party was likewise spotted, and fired upon with the new ship's weapons.  This was in Saga Edition.  We were 4th level.  Needless to say, we had a 'come to Jesus' talk with the GM right then and there about what the **** we had understood him to describe, meant with our actions, and how the heck he'd figured that a Jedi *making a stealth check* would have his lightsaber lit.  He gave the Jedi back 5 hp, and continued the fight from there.  It didn't end in a TPK, due to some  down-right *miraculous* rolling on our part.

He's also the same GM who gave us a few *really* good encounters, though.  And the same GM who *accidentally* set up a drop-the-other-players'-jaws moment for me that made for an epic night for everyone involved, involving only TWO combat checks, both mine.

 

You, on the other hand, seem to have had a rough patch where the players stayed involved, and interested, and *thinking*.  Everyone has rough nights.  (Even *players*.)

 

If the 'little details' comment is accurate, you might need to take/make more notes to help with that, since contradictory details can make things overly difficult for players to keep straight.

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Hi, sounds like a rough but interesting start to your GMing career. If your group plays with another group comparisons are inevitable but they need to consider that you are brand new to RPGs and GMing. Complaints from players when you have put effort into a story for them can sting, the important thing on your end is to remain diplomatic, if they get mean, ask them to keep it constructive. Try not to get offended or discouraged, every GM has their beginner difficulties and having the group split up can mess up a lot of planning.

Going forward I recommend three things.

First talk to them, remind them that you are new to GMing and like anything you will grow more skilled with practice and if you work together it will go faster. Remind them in a non defensive way that they asked for a more potentially lethal game and you gave them that and they were unexpectedly a man down, it will take some tuning to find the right balance. IMHO starting a session on a crashing ship sounds like a blast!

Second look up some podcasts, YouTube channels and blogs. They don't have to be related to the FFG game you are playing, though that will help. Order 66 is probably the most well known podcast, I don't follow any YouTube channel consistently but the last Edge of the Empire one I watched was by a group called Dicestormers, Critical role is pretty well regarded fantasy game series with voice actors as players. I know of one Edge of the Empire/FFG blog on tumblr devoted to GM tips and a few good ones with a more general focus. Just search Edge of the Empire, RPGs, tabletop RPGs or GM tips on tumblr or any other blog site and you should find a bunch. I have a link to my own in my profile.

If you don't have the beginner box or a published adventure book already, seeing how they set up the info needed for each encounter could prove handy and running something published by FFG could help with structure.

The answer to your question though is no, you are not a bad GM, you may be new at it but you are imaginative, trying to improve and want to give your players a good time. Those are the most important things

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No you aren't a bad GM, you are just new. My first game (werewolf the forsaken) had me abandoning the game after two sessions because I came across the first mass effect game.

You will do fine, it's just that you need experience (including managing the players).

On the battlemat issue, I am not married to using a grid but I really want a paper sketched with what is going in a battle both as a GM and as a player.

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On the battlemat issue, I am not married to using a grid but I really want a paper sketched with what is going in a battle both as a GM and as a player.

I have a 17x11 white board and a plethora of markers. A quick sketch of the arena helps a lot. I make sure each of my players has a marker to call their own (all in the same color and different than what I use for the original sketch) so they can make alterations as the battle wages on.

I make sure they have the same color so no one can be indignant and say, "Well if Pete hadn't set the car on fire, I'd have line of sight" since, by the end of a few rounds most seem to forget who did what beyond their own changes.

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