Grids and Operational Spacing #RPG #TTPRG #DnD #4e

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In 4th Edition D&D, the sizes used for creatures were Tiny, Diminutive, Small, Medium, Large, Huge, Gargantuan, and Colossal. I know that wasn’t for everyone, but I liked that. A lot. I liked that level of distinction and didn’t find it confusing or hard to memorize. In fact, in the game system Vic and I are developing, we added “Vast,” which is obviously larger than Colossal. Each of these sizes has corresponding space they take on the battle map. 

Tiny 1/8 square**
Diminutive 1/4 square
Small/Medium 1 square
Large 4 squares (2 x 2)
Huge 9 squares (3 x 3)
Gargantuan 16 squares (4 x 4)
Colossal 25 squares (5 x 5)
Vast 36 squares (6 x 6)
Medium Space (Full Table)

As I said, I liked this system a lot, but I’ve toyed with a new terminology that requires some extra abstraction. Also, to be mathematically consistent, the top row (Tiny), should be 1/9 square, but I’m probably the only person who cares about that. Besides, that’s about to be adjusted.

Note #1: I wrote a long post justifying my position with a lot of math. It referenced exponential progression and irrational numbers. I trashed all of that in favor of just giving you my conclusion.

Note: This post isn’t intending to solve a problem. It’s just introducing terminology that expresses what most people already do intuitively, but tweaks that a tiny bit.

This should be an easy exercise for you. Imagine an encounter consisting not of a bunch of medium sized creatures fighting each other but rather of platoons of troops in a mass combat, or perhaps jet fighters in a dogfight, or starships flying at incredible speeds. Despite covering very different ground within game, the dining room table and battle map are the same size. Ergo, a 1-inch square adjusts its meaning depending on the size of the combatants and/or the distances they cover.

The terminology I use to reflect this adjustment is “n-space.” We generally run our games in Medium-space (because Small/Medium-space is too wordy), which means “one square represents the area a Medium creature needs to operate,” and other size categories are represented relative to that. For an encounter involving a larger base unit, we use, for example, Large space, which looks like this.

Tiny 1/64 square = 1/26 squares 64 creatures/square
Diminutive 1/16 square = 1/24 squares 16 creatures/square
Small/Medium 1/4 square = 1/22 squares 4 creatures/square
Large 1 square = 12 squares = 1/12 squares 1 creature/square
Huge/Gargantuan 4 squares = 22 squares (2 x 2) 1 creature/4 squares
Colossal/Vast16 squares = 24 squares (4 x 4) 1 creature/16 squares
Large Space (Full Table)

You’ll notice a few things. First, the 1 creature/square entry now applies to Large creatures, which is the definition of “Large space.” Second, if you reverse engineer the math, you’ll see that 16 Tiny creatures (not 8 or 9) would occupy 1 square in Medium space, because they’re now (properly in my opinion) treated as taking half the space of a Diminutive creature. Finally, you’ll see that Huge and Gargantuan objects are lumped into the same category, as are Colossal and Vast objects. Again, unless you want me to show you some exponential progressions and irrational square roots, you’ll have to take my word for it, but rest assured there are still Huge creatures, so you don’t have to throw out your Huge minis and that Colossal red dragon you paid hundreds of dollars for on eBay. Their size remains relevant in Medium space.

If we didn’t pair Huge creatures with Gargantuan ones, we’d have to say, “12 Huge creatures fit in every 7 squares in Gargantuan space,” or “1.7 Huge creatures fit in 1 square in Gargantuan space.” No one wants that.

Well, if my goal is to simplify things, I haven’t yet met it. That table is still a lot to take. Fortunately, in Large or larger spaces, we don’t need to worry about the low-end cases, and in Large space, we probably don’t have to worry about the high end case either. This is because no one cares how many pixies fit on a starship (“A bunch; that’s how many!”), and a trebuchet isn’t going to fit in a pixie’s treehouse. We also don’t need the column explaining the math. So, here are the additional, easily-digestible tables you’ll need:

Tiny1 creature/square
Diminutive1 creature/4 squares
Small/Medium 1 creature/16 squares
Tiny Space

Tiny4 creatures/square
Diminutive1 creature/square
Small/Medium 1 creature/4 squares
Diminutive space

Small/Medium 4 creatures/square
Large 1 creature/square
Huge/Gargantuan 1 creature/4 squares
Large space

Large 4 creatures/square
Huge/Gargantuan 1 creature/square
Colossal/Vast1 creature/4 squares
Gargantuan space

Large16 creatures/square
Huge/Gargantuan  4 creatures/square
Colossal/Vast1 creature/square
Vast space

They’re nearly identical tables with three entries each, but with shifted labels. Your starship minis can be the same size as your human minis. You just need a few minis representing mobs or swarms of things (which you all have in your collection), and you’re good to go. Of course, this is what we’re all doing anyway. With just the slight tweak of how Tiny creatures are represented, and grouping larger creature sizes together in spaces larger than Medium space, I’m just introducing a terminology to define it. If this were explained in an RPG sourcebook, you could provide even less justification than I’ve done here. Most people want only the rules; they don’t need the math to justify it.

One last note: I could imagine adding Enormous space and Immense space as categories to a system like Star Trek or Star Wars because Vast space would be cosmic in size. I’m not sure that’s necessary, but if such a choice were made, it could work. Those two terms have the benefit of using a different first initial, allowing each size category to be expressed as a single letter without confusion. For that reason, Cosmic space wouldn’t work. It would create an ambiguity when referenced with Colossal space.

What do you think? Is treating a 3 x 3 creature differently from a 4 x 4 creature really that important when sieging a castle? 

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