[RPG] New DM running Hoard of the Dragon Queen (5e) in roll20, how to approach using the maps?

battle-mapdnd-5e

Some friends and I decided to give D&D 5e a try. Two of us have played 4e and pathfinder before, and it's my first time DMing a game so this is all new to me.

We've got our character sheets made and imported into Roll20, but I'm not sure how to approach using maps in and out of combat. When I played D&D 4e our DM had a physical map with tiles and character tokens that he pulled out which made dungeons and combat easy to visualize, but in this book there's only a few tiled maps to use. Other times there are maps but they aren't tiled and just seem to be for reference.

I've heard that 5e works well with pretty much any system, such as using tiled maps for everything, no maps at all, etc. What should I go for?

For towns, some dungeons, etc, I can see playing without a map fine as I can just describe the area as its described in the book, but for more complicated spots and combat I'm not sure how it can work without a map. Should I just describe it, and then when combat happens, pull up a simple battle area and put them in combat?

Best Answer

In 4th edition it was important to have an accurate map as you had all those abilities that moved players around the battlefield, so knowing exactly where a creature or player is was very important. In 5th edition they have moved away from having to have a map to it being an optional extra if you would like one.

Pretty much any map type will work, as there are almost no abilities that shift/move creatures a specific number of squares, square or hex or any other format.

Most of the time no map or a simple map showing where everyone is works well. It does also depend on how much of the environment your players use, as well as how complex the battle field is; open field with a few boulders vs an obstical course of barrels half-walls and ditches.

If it's simply players vs monsters then a basic description of the layout, distances between players and monsters so they know their movement options and ranged weapons. If you have things like NPC's or civilians that you don't want to get caught in AOE spells then a map, even if it's a simply one, is often a good idea.

Ultimately it's up to you and your group what people are most comfortable with. Some people have good imaginations and can picture the field as described, others want to know exactly where everything is.