Saturday, May 21, 2022


In the lead up to releasing Sons of Lady 87, I am going to do a series of short blog entries tackling questions or common topics that come up around Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate. My primary aim is to provide a clearer picture of how I run the game, what we intended with certain rules and to clear up any misconceptions or reinforce any accurate assumptions. Today I want to talk about miniatures, tactics and theater of the mind. 

Preview of Sons of Lady 87 art by Jackie Musto

Ogre Gate was never meant to be a light and fast martial arts game. We knew going in, with hundreds of Kung Fu Techniques, each one as complex as a spell in a typical fantasy game, that the game wasn't going to lend itself to rules light. So, like Sertorius, it would have a deep list of options for combat and tactics. But we never assumed tactics to mean grid or miniatures. People can absolutely play Ogre Gate with a grid if they wish. I don't have any particular investment in the game being played one way or the other, but in terms of design it is important because we were not designing with a grid in mind. We designed it with Theater of the Mind in mind. 

I never use miniatures. I think I used miniatures twice while running Ogre Gate (once when we first started play testing it live and once when I ran a very large combat scenario). In all other instances I ran it theater of the mind. There are a few reasons for this. I have never been a fan of grid combat and miniature driven combat. I was turned off by miniatures when I first started (a story I will get into in another blog entry) and only ever used them in campaigns where all the players expected it, or when I was running 3rd edition D&D (where it seemed necessary). Personally I like combat to keep moving. And I find miniatures tend to draw out space between turns as players think about their next move. I also like to focus on what we are all describing rather than what a figure is doing on a grid. But I still keep track of movement as a GM. Tactics still matter in my campaigns, even though things are fluid and not always rigidly pinned down at first like they might be on a grid. 

My method for running theater of the mind combat for Ogre Gate has always been to have me, the GM, keep track of where everyone is on a piece of paper. The players don't see this (I mainly game online). But I put a letter on the sheet with their initial and I use lines with arrows to indicate their movement. Important terrain or objects might be marked down. It isn't painstakingly accurate. I don't track hexes or squares on a map. I just want to know generally where everyone is, and I might throw down a scale key just to help adjudicate questions surrounding movement. More important than this piece of paper is what people are describing. It is just a tool to stay true to what is being described by the GM and players at the table. 

And of course this depends on the specifics. Many combats are simple enough that I don't even really need to write things down beyond Turn Order. 



  1. Wow, this whole time I though WHOOG was supposed to be played on a grid. At least that's what I thought after I read the rulebook. I guess you can learn all sorts of things when you hear from the game designer.

    Normally I would argue that miniatures don't draw out a turn because a player can make plans during another player's turn, but that argument doesn't quite work in WHOOG because the turn order can be different every turn which scrambles the plans of many players.

  2. Thanks for the response. I wrote this because I see so many mentions of grid combat with Ogre Gate. So your post is helpful. If you look, there are no real grid rules. I think it is just easy to extrapolate and apply the rules to a grid. But I never really use miniatures or grids when I am running it. I tend to take a pretty cinematic approach to combat. If I do use them, it is more for groups in large combat than for individuals (if there is a combat like the siege towards the end of Return of Condor Heroes for example).

  3. Interesting; I never really thought about using a grid for Ogre Gate. I would probably end up using a battle mat and tokens in online play (just for clarity and some visual stimulation), and ideally I would use minis and terrain on the tabletop for similar reasons — alas, the range of wuxia-appropriate models are hard to find in 15 mm.

    1. Most of my campaigns are online these days, so some of it stems from that. I pretty much just stick to description, with no use of miniatures. I am probably going to do a blog entry on my take on miniatures at some point soon. This isn't to impune the use of such things for Ogre Gate or any other game. Whatever tools work for people, they should use. I just hear from so many people and see enough posts where people assume grid or battlemat is the default, I felt I should clarify what the original aims were (and so people don't feel like they have to use miniatures for it).

      I can only clearly remember one time we pulled out a battle mat for play. It was the first live playtest of Ogre Gate in my kitchen running Ghosts from the Ashes, the adventure that now comes in the WHOG rulebook: prior to that we had a number of online playtests with all theater of the mind. I think there may have been a handful of other uses of battle mats for my Saturday group. But all the Bone Breaker campaigns and Disposable Disciples sessions were theater of the mind. The game wasn't really designed towards miniature use (though I can see how it would give that impression).