Watch the Table

When we talked about dramatic games, we talked about watching what goes on around the table, working to support the other Players’ character actions, and working toward safe cathartic emotional bleed. In action adventure games, by contrast, we talk about watching what goes on on the table. This includes maps, miniatures, dice, character sheets, and rules.In a dramatic game, scenes can float from location to location without too much concern for continuity of action. But in action adventure games, maps are important in determining where and how the action takes place. Whether it's the range bands of Classic Traveller, the Zone maps of Fate or the typical grid maps of DnD, space defines much of the action and pace of these games. Good maps are required, so get the right mapmaking tools—like battle maps—and the right markers. With the right tools, Players will learn to get the gist of a scene quickly, including the positions and ranges of all important characters and objects.

Second to maps comes miniatures or tokens—anything that can represent objects on the table. Miniatures are fun because they allow us to express our characters physically. Modern day companies like Dwarven Forge and home hobby 3D printers have allowed us to expand classic battle maps into amazing spaces for our miniatures to inhabit. For online games there are wide selections of tokens to use, and you can even hire an artist to create individualized ones.Character sheets are also super-important, for they relate the scene to the character through the rules, and this carries on through to character actions. Get very familiar with the character sheet and the rules that apply to all the things written on it. To facilitate this, you might even choose to create your own character sheets. In the old days this was done with paper and pencil, while today you can use computer programs to design your character sheets—or even to help create the characters! A good trick is to write down page numbers for those things you have a hard time understanding or remembering.Next let's talk about dice. Dice are an addiction that comes with the hobby, and of course there are many kinds. I can remember as a teenager going to the Gulf Port warehouse of Lou Zocchi—designer of polyhedral dice—and pulling dice out of barrels. What we sometimes forget is that although the rolls of the dice are random, they are always linked probabilistically to all the math required in games. It never hurts to work on your math; the stronger those math skills are, the more you'll understand probability, and the more powerful you'll be in these games.

Finally we come to the rules themselves. The rules of the game can span across many books, so they can be hard to remember—let alone master. Yet, you should try. No matter what game you're playing, the more familiar you are with the rules, the quicker you can make decisions. You should first learn those rules that affect your character directly; this is where writing down those page references can be important. Next, master the game's task system and combat system. The rules for experience and advancement can also be critical to you, as understanding these things helps with character creation, and can even define the ultimate flow of the game.By mastering all of these meta aspects you can help the game run much smoother and faster. This will help facilitate more fun scenes and more action scenes, resulting in the type of game we all want to play: fast and fun!

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