In a number of posts from around the time when we began our campaign, I grumbled about the awkwardness of mapping in face-to-face games. This led to me getting more and more abstract until finally I arrived at systematically creating simpler "single site" locations (like the Circle of Standing Stones in my previous post) that require no mapping during play. Even dungeons are small, maybe two to four rooms. This works well with the 3 x 5 card approach, since each site goes on one card.
I've been keeping larger locations abstract as well, by making the few maps I have ungridded. Here for example is Ravensburg:
Here is the country of Harrow in which it is located:
And here is the continent of Oberon surrounding the Kingdom of Harrow:
Abstracting the locations in these ways picks up the pace in comparison with other games I've run. In this evening's session, Brie's character and her henchmen went from Ravensburg to Willowgrove to a strange lamp post up the road out of town (that matched one in a snow globe Olivia found in Willowgrove) to a Bugbear camp in the woods upriver and back to Willowgrove, with about five encounters along the way.
This increase in pace is due to there being no hex-by-hex or room-by-room exploration. The trade-off is that since there's no real exploration possible, I have to make sure NPCs give the PC's party very clear directions as to where things are located so it makes sense for the party to simply "go there."
And while I obviously can't put an entire "dungeon's worth" of stuff in one location, I find I am putting more things in a single site than I otherwise would have with more of a hex-by-hex or room-by-room set-up. So there is less "stuff" to interact with in a way overall, but each individual location has more "stuff" to interact with than the individual rooms or hexes I would design in a hex-by-hex or room-by-room format.
All in all, these forms of abstraction have worked quite well for me in recent sessions. Combat is shifted to become very abstract/narrative in nature, but is still tactical -- just not in a positional maneuvering way as in a board game or minis game. Combat abstraction though is another beast, and I'll ramble on about that in an upcoming post.