To each their own, but having read through your post I have some disagreements, especially when it comes to GMing Savage Worlds. I hope I read the gist of your words correctly, but I have to admit I found it difficult at times to follow your logic due to your writing style - so my apologies if I didn't read your words correctly.
What you describe as old school D&D game play (I started in 1980 with the original rules) doesn't completely jive with my recollections and experiences. I should probably mention that at least every other month I play with those rules at a monthly gaming meet - so it's not like they aren't fairly fresh in my mind. I agree that maps weren't as prevalent in the early days and what you describe as the GM source map and a mapper among the players is what I remember too. However, that wasn't a given and there was a lot of variety in how encounters were handled. As well, I can hardly remember a table where a good helping of Ral Partha (or 1 of the other popular tabletop brands) miniatures weren't present - some skillfully painted.
I and a few others at my college D&D group around the mid 80's, initiated a hobby of creating nicely illustrated and colored small scale location maps (like cities, town and portions of wilderness) and large scale encounter maps. Our campaign table was by far the most popular of the 5 or so tables running at our college. We had many a player that came to our table and commented that they really liked they didn't have to 2nd guess scene details, or worry about NPC positions, Monster positions and room dimensions dynamically shifting to the GMs benefit. For sure there were some good GMs that came prepared and could do nice job of conveying scene details entirely via narration, but IME they were more the exception that the norm and by the mid 80s many players were interested in moving away from that.
Sometimes i would say ok building before the game any chance of cover ? If yes I would either do a random room table on a die or say make a wisdom check vs a variable d20 if they beat me I would say ok theres light cover so -2 to hit or whatever.
Wanna flank dex check opposed vs target if the PC beat the monster or NPC then theyd get a +1 or 2 to hit. Very easy to do with a little thought.
I dont need a map to figure out tactics heck if the room is 10×10 roll a d10 to see how far away you are from something there are always ways for a GM to figure the little things out.
Sorry, but I have to say if I played in a session where a GM ran things in such a scattered or random way, I'd be frustrated to say the least. Leaving such encounter dimensions and elements up to the randomness of a dice roll, when players are concentrating -some even struggling- to visualize and comprehend an encounter scene, is IMO abuse of the role of GM.
GM MEGALODONJC wrote:I said to the combat hungry player if you want combat go play warhammer fantasy or 40k because story means nothing to someone who just wants to conquer and eliminate with no story. As far as Im concerned all of us savages want a proportionate mix of story roleplaying intraction and some high octane action and Savage worlds delivers all of this on all the levels that matter.
I'd say you're making quite an assumption there. While playing with a nice mix of story might very well be true for the majority of SWD campaigns (certainly is for almost all of mine) there are some GMs and players that are looking for much more combat-focused experiences. In fact Pinnacle produces the Savage Showdown rules for such players that want to play their PCs in something much closer to a tactical miniatures experience. I can speak first hand from experiences at my monthly miniatures club, where military-themed campaigns using the SWD rules are at times run. IMO there's nothing wrong with running such narrative-light campaigns, if that's what the audience of players wants. And I'd disagree it isn't roleplaying, considering players are still playing PC's that have their own personal shortcomings and strengths.
Maps are helpful in setting the scene, but it clutters up table space and in a small way makes imagination of players suffer. Tactical maps are heavy focus which can be both important and at times encumbering of the action. Gms and players are to work together in helping the direction of cinematic flow and excitement in their imagination. Mechanics in Sw are there to help address issues of flanking and cover with imagination or someway of setting a tactical perspective..
To which I'd say nonsense; a skillfully crafted map in a good gaming environment doesn't clutter table space at all. If all you've got to game on is a small, flimsy, fold-down card playing table, I could see that. I run things on a decent sized table and use 20x30 or 24x34" maps for about half my encounters. All of those maps go under a sheet of plexiglass on which players are free to roll dice and place their character sheets, pencils, erasers, etc around the edges. There's hardly any clutter at all, just a much cooler looking tabletop. I also sometimes run with 3d scenery and props, which looks even cooler.
As to making the "imagination of players suffer"; not IMO if the maps are crafted and presented correctly. You just need your assortment of scraps of cardstock, or other decent covering material, to conceal those locations that will be revealed. Folding the concealed map areas underneath on maps such as Paizo's neutral terrain maps, is easy and works well too. Don't get me wrong, I've seen some bad mapping and at times can't help but think the GM would be better off not having them. But for every bad one I see as many good.
Sure you can run SWD completely in narrative/Theater of the Mind by multiplying distance by 2 to get yards, or by 6 for feet (do it a lot myself) but the default of inches for distances says to me that the intent of Pinnacle is that the rules be played on a tabletop. Then there's the fact that some people are simply not able to visualize the details of an encounter where gang up positions or free attacks when moving away from being adjacent, or other more precision game elements are factors. While other players may be boardgamers (very common at D&D Adventure League play in my area) and not at all accustomed to visualizing locations. Personally, I don't think such players should be left out, when it's so easy to put down a map or combat grid.
I have to admit, the whole "it's not RPing unless you're running Theater of the Mind" argument is getting annoying to me. If you want to make that case for highly narrative systems like FATE or Dungeon World, fine, but don't assume every other RPG must be run that way. I say run to the desires and abilities of your audience and do your damn best at doing it.