Does anyone use grid-based combat, or some visual form of combat for DW?

Does anyone use grid-based combat, or some visual form of combat for DW?

Does anyone use grid-based combat, or some visual form of combat for DW? It seems one could argue it goes against, or at least could potentially distract from the narrative focus of the game. That said, I could also see how it might help not only keep track of the chaotic fun that is DW combat, but also help players better visualize the options they have, dangers faced, etc. I have yet to play myself, but have been wondering about this. Thanks!

20 thoughts on “Does anyone use grid-based combat, or some visual form of combat for DW?”

  1. I use a wet-erase battle mat to draw terrain and what not. It’s not drawn to scale per se, but it does serve as a nice visual representation.

    In a related note, I run free-form combat but still use miniatures and terrain pieces as the group likes the spectacle of the presentation.

  2. Thanks for the feedback so far – I have a LOT of tilesets, which I love but of course have grids. In the past, I have told players “ignore the grid, we’re just using it for the terrain”, but that never seemed to work as well as I had hoped so I’m not sure it will be better here – that said, DW does not cover specific ranges for anything so maybe they won’t get hung up on it as much… hard to say though.

  3. Mike Weem


    * hand – adjacent square

    * reach – one square beyond adjacent

    * near – 10 squares / maybe 15

    * far – 30 squares / the whole map?


    * 6 squares, -2 for “short” “slow” tags, +2 for “fast” or “tall” tags (you’ll need to assign those)

    * You can move and attack! Or move twice.

    But, most importantly, if you have them on the grid, make sure you require the players to say what they are doing before they touch their figure.

  4. I recommend to try running without gridded maps or exact positioning.  Drawing rough maps of locations is cool (the book explicitly calls for maps), but don’t get bogged down with “well, he’s too far away to reach”.  Dungeon World excels at the sort of fluid fights you see in good fiction, and this fuzzy positions is part of it.  A lot of the situation you get from from a tactical map (“You’re too far away” or “the zombies are right next to you”) comes out from GM moves on failed rolls. It’s not obvious, but it really does work and it’s pretty awesome.

  5. We tried it once, and dropped it about half-way through the evening.  It slowed things down much, much more than we’d thought it would as all of us are D&D players and quickly reverted to trying to use positioning, what if I get behind here, does that person have a clear shot at me anymore, that person is now outside the radius of our torches so he’s harder to see, etc, etc.

  6. But getting behind someone without a grid is as simple as “I get behind him.” Then the GM says “okay, but as you’re working you way around you’ll be exposing yourself to the archers (tell them the consequences or cost and ask), what do you do? Until the GM says that, there is no consequence in DW. The map takes that away from the GM.

  7. Mostly I was concerned about keeping track of the chaos… in a situation where you have 5 players, each one facing between 1 and 3 Goblins (for example) with more entering the fray from range, up close, etc, it seems like it could be hard at times to know what is “in play” and available to you (as a GM) or needing attention (as a Player).

  8. …back in the day (old school D&D) I just sketched the area on a sheet of paper, with dots as the players/enemies, but we have resources now like Tilesets etc, so I’m trying to consider what I can use (that I have a lot of) vs what could get in the way. Great feedback so far, thanks again everyone, I appreciate it 😉

  9. James R   In confined or dangerous situations, getting behind someone is typically a Defy Danger roll.  Or maybe Aid if you want to provide a flank.  Roll poorly and you’ll get hurt, or maybe grabbed, tripped, etc.  It’s not always as easy as “I get behind him”.  And even if you do get behind him, there is no automatic flanking bonus, no facing rules, etc.  He’s still in combat with you if he knows you’re there. 

  10. Sure. That’s a different GM response based on fiction. “I get behind him!” And then the GM says, “Okay, but you’re in a confined space and there’s all these archers on the parapets shooting down at you. Make a Defy Danger roll with Dex as you’re ducking and weaving.” That’s the GM’s power to shape fiction at work.

  11. I briefly thought about using a grid, but threw the idea out once I realized that it might lead my players to revert to a DnD mindset. I do draw maps though, very rough maps, but no figs.

    My problem with figs is that they make each character seem like they are stuck in one position until they act, rather than swirling around wherever the fiction dictates.

    Not saying there is no way to make figs work… I remember playing with action figures as a kid; it worked out just fine. Grids, though, leave them for the board games.

  12. Having a general terrain map sketched on a piece of paper is helpful because you can point at it if people get confused (“the archers are where?”) but I’d avoid a gridded system. DW is meant to give you a more exciting dynamic feeling without getting bogged down in questions like whether a goblin is 10 or 30 feet away.

    There are definitely tactical decisions to be made and players who are interested in tactics will come up with ways to use their relative positions (via aid) or the environment against the things they’re fighting. Players who aren’t interested in detailed tactics can focus on other parts of combat, like describing how awesome they are. 🙂

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