Combat Zones, and stocking them.

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GranFalloon
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Combat Zones, and stocking them.

#1 Postby GranFalloon » Wed Sep 28, 2011 12:59 am

This is largely an attempt to solidify the thoughts I've been kicking around regarding SW without a battle mat. I'm also trying to work in some D&D ideas about terrain, but without them being obnoxious. The idea here is to work out how the "zones" work, then kinda hide it in the background, so that players are thinking of the different places descriptively, rather than mechanically.

So rather than mapping things out on a grid or being meticulous with distances, a combat environment is divided up into "Zones." A fight in a Deadlands saloon, for example, could have the zones: Bar Room, The Bar, The Stairs, The Balcony, and The Walkway (outside). The area can be sketched out if necessary, but it should be pretty freeform. This forms the basis of both movement and combat ranges.

Using one's move action, he can engage to melee range with anyone in the same Zone, or he can move into another zone. If he Runs, he can move 2 zones, but takes a multiaction penalty to anything else he does.

Our ranges are as follows:
Melee
Close: within the same zone, short range for thrown weapons
Short: One zone over. Medium range for thrown weapons, short for things like flintlock pistols and sawed-off shotguns.
Medium: 2 zones away. Short range for Pistols
Long: 4 zones, short range for rifles.

Actually, I guess it would work best if ranged weapons had their ranges listed in zones, rather than inches.

Ok, so obviously it's pretty rough and wonky. Zones aren't necessarily divided by distance, but sometimes by an obstacle, such as the Bar, or a flight of stairs. Basically, it's "where you are."

So here's where the D&D part comes in. In recent editions, they encourage the GM to add nifty terrain features to liven up combat. Then they bog that down with all kinds of rules. I'm just thinking every zone should offer at least one thing. Almost all of them should offer cover in some way or other. All characters in The Bar zone have cover against the other zones, unless they're standing on it. In the Bar Room, they can knock over a table and hide behind it for cover.
Many should also have some way you can use the environment against an enemy. An extra thrown off the balcony is probably done for. Someone hiding behind the bar, taking potshots? Fan the hammer at all that hard liquor behind him and then chuck a lantern back there. I don't know if it would really go up like in the movies, but at my gaming table it sure will.

Well... there's that. Thanks for reading the contents of my disorganized mind.

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#2 Postby steelbrok » Wed Sep 28, 2011 6:05 am

That's interesting and worth developing

It's not a radical departure per se but it might help speed up combats and help players to think about using their environment more

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#3 Postby javierrivera » Wed Sep 28, 2011 6:33 am

First: Hi everybody, first post here. Old role-player but new to SW (just started, deluxe is my first edition), I'm playing my first campaign.

We are doing the same thing but with two small differences:

1) We roll for running. If you want to move 2 (or more) zones you need to roll to run (as per normal rules), if you succeed you can move 2 zones, and one more zone with each raise. We like the swingy factor of SW and we feel that this add to it.

2) Engaging in melee or going to a specific part of a zone (like a door, or a table) requires one movement. So you can change zones, engage someone on your zone, or move to a specific part of a zone with a normal movement. But to engage someone in a different zone you must run (and roll 4+ with running).

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#4 Postby amerigoV » Wed Sep 28, 2011 10:34 am

I like the idea. The Castle Ravenloft "board" game does something like this (basically each Zone is a tile, and everything is in terms of the number of tiles for movement, range, if there is an active trap on it, etc). If the zones are somewhat similiar in size, it helps with the burst templates for magic/grenades issue when you do mini-less gaming.

One thing our GM threw out there was to have a little pile of "Environmental Bennies" - basically a way for the players to add some description to an area that makes sense. You might add something like that as well. For example, in the Bar zone, someone could spend an environmental bennie to have a couple of bottles of whiskey get smashed on the bar. Then their action could be to light up the bar with a lantern/cigar/etc. They could also modify whatever environmental condition you are throwing out there in a minor way.
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#5 Postby Emiricol » Wed Sep 28, 2011 11:27 am

Very FATE-ish, and FFF!

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#6 Postby 77IM » Wed Sep 28, 2011 9:37 pm

FATE does a similar thing, and it works quite well. (There's a free SRD for it online.) Things like cover and difficult terrain are handled at terrain boundaries. In SW terms, shooting across a terrain boundary can carry a cover penalty, and moving across it requires a check (possibly with penalty), like for jumping or climbing or acrobatics or something. I could see this working really well in Savage Worlds.

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#7 Postby Thasmodious » Wed Sep 28, 2011 11:43 pm

I've been using something similar for some time now. I got the idea from Redbox Hack/Old School Hack. It's a nice way to keep track of things and you can keep it behind the screen if you need to. It's a very nice method for the GM to bookkeep with, while sticking to description for the group.
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#8 Postby jonrog1 » Mon Oct 03, 2011 10:02 am

Hey guys, I just wound up using this for a thrown-together pulp game. It allowed very detailed combat with no maps for a group of 4e players who range from "great tactician" to "I hate counting squares and figuring out where to stand."

My basic version was a bit of the FATE version with some tweaks:

1.) You can engage anyone in your zone in melee. If two characters are in melee and you wish to join, that costs your movement. Basically, melee broke down into "engagements" within zone -- necessary with SW's Gang Up bonus, and very clarifying.

2.) You can fire across zones, with the zones NOT automatically creating cover unless the character or NPC has already taken/created cover. Firearms had their ranges tweaked to short/medium/long in terms of zones. Easy to do on the fly. Handgun -- short is one zone. Rifle, short is two, etc.

3.) Use your move to change zones, or run to cross one and enter another. That may require a MAP depending on the terrain.

Now what was cool here was that the dynamics of the group combat changed. It went from "What's on the map that I can use?" to "Can I try THIS?" very quickly, particularly for the players who do not usually innovate in combat.

Essentially, describing the zones allowed them to instantly envision what would be in the zones, rather than looking on the map for objects. When the gunfight broke out in the 1930 Shanghai dance hall. my players in "NIGHTCLUB TABLES" zone instantly started flipping tables and hiding behind pillars for cover, when ordinarily they're trying to figure out line of sight and count squares for ranges. One grabbed a bottle and made a molotov cocktail -- because "of COURSE there's a bottle, we're sitting by the bar".

One character moved underneath the balcony to draw the gunmen above out of cover, because they'd have to lean over the railing to fire. She just instantly envisioned what that bar would look like, and so what the railings on its balconies must look like, and then drew her own conclusions about cover bonuses.

The second combat (oh, gods, yes, two combats in one night, love you SW) was on a train being strafed by biplanes and boarded by cultists. Inside the baggage car, one PC fired at the straps holding the heavy boxes, to block the access up one side of the car -- basically shutting down the zone.

Seriously, for the games I run I may never go back to the grid.

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#9 Postby Clint » Wed Oct 05, 2011 10:46 am

jonrog1 wrote:1.) You can engage anyone in your zone in melee. If two characters are in melee and you wish to join, that costs your movement. Basically, melee broke down into "engagements" within zone -- necessary with SW's Gang Up bonus, and very clarifying.


Nice. So you can join an engagement in a zone, which would grant Gang Up if allies are part of that same engagement, but if you want to leave an engagement, foes would get a free attack for Withdrawing from Close Combat.

Very elegant. :cool:
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#10 Postby jonrog1 » Wed Oct 05, 2011 1:25 pm

Thanks, Clint. This hybrid zone/grid is the most FFF way I've found of playing. I use a variant for chases, as my group likes just a liiiitle more actual control than the new (awesome) case rules.

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#11 Postby Timon » Wed Oct 05, 2011 3:46 pm

I have been very grid-bound (4e back-story) but I am now itching to try this out. Can we somehow preserve this nice addition to grid-free play? Savagepedia? Official game supplement?
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#12 Postby Maine » Wed Oct 05, 2011 8:38 pm

Tempted to try a hybrid. I use the D&D tiles, and sometimes have large areas to cover.

In the past, I've done

- no map/grid/minis combats,

- placing minis for relative position, sometimes using distance markers, a sort of 'zone' system as described here (but not as deliberately planned or as well thought out)

- and finally full on grid-maps, sometimes spanning half the table

Im tempted now to use the tiles to make small set-piece grids for each zone, and leave them disconnected. I'll see how it is to use the grids as-is, and also to just use the tiles as nice visual representations (ignoring the grid on them)

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#13 Postby Lord Stone » Thu Oct 06, 2011 3:23 am

The solution is quite elegant. This I like.

It also severely undermines people who invest in an increased Pace through Edges. It is now mechanically useless in combat situations. This I don't like.

I was tempted to start using this, but once I realized the penalty to movement based characters I am disinclined to after all. I think speed is a very important aspect to action-oriented games, so I would like to keep it around.

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#14 Postby Timon » Thu Oct 06, 2011 4:23 am

Lord Stone wrote:8<..It also severely undermines people who invest in an increased Pace through Edges. It is now mechanically useless in combat situations. This I don't like.

Perhaps there are others, but only Fleet-footed comes to mind. I think you could say that it means you do not sacrifice your movement when going to melee and can cross a zone entirely (some GM judgement needed) without incurring a MAP. Given the usefulness of this subsystem it is worth hacking an edge for I would say.
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#15 Postby Lord Stone » Thu Oct 06, 2011 6:27 am

Timon wrote:
Lord Stone wrote:8<..It also severely undermines people who invest in an increased Pace through Edges. It is now mechanically useless in combat situations. This I don't like.

Perhaps there are others, but only Fleet-footed comes to mind. I think you could say that it means you do not sacrifice your movement when going to melee and can cross a zone entirely (some GM judgement needed) without incurring a MAP. Given the usefulness of this subsystem it is worth hacking an edge for I would say.

The speed spell. Magic items that grant more pace. Setting-specific Edges such as Surge and Improved Fleet-footed from Savage Suzerain.

For me, the usefulness of this subsystem is not worth hacking the entire concept of pace/speed from the game, especially not considering it is a concept I really, really like to toy around with.

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#16 Postby ValhallaGH » Thu Oct 06, 2011 10:00 am

Timon wrote:
Lord Stone wrote:8<..It also severely undermines people who invest in an increased Pace through Edges. It is now mechanically useless in combat situations. This I don't like.

Perhaps there are others, but only Fleet-footed comes to mind.

Also all the hindrances that reduce a character's Pace (Elderly, Lame, One-Legged, Obese).

Now being Old, Fat and Gimpy lets you keep up with the Olympic sprinter, in a fight, Pace 2 be damned.
Last edited by ValhallaGH on Thu Oct 06, 2011 12:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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#17 Postby Clint » Thu Oct 06, 2011 10:00 am

Lord Stone wrote:
Timon wrote:
Lord Stone wrote:8<..It also severely undermines people who invest in an increased Pace through Edges. It is now mechanically useless in combat situations. This I don't like.

Perhaps there are others, but only Fleet-footed comes to mind. I think you could say that it means you do not sacrifice your movement when going to melee and can cross a zone entirely (some GM judgement needed) without incurring a MAP. Given the usefulness of this subsystem it is worth hacking an edge for I would say.

The speed spell. Magic items that grant more pace. Setting-specific Edges such as Surge and Improved Fleet-footed from Savage Suzerain.

For me, the usefulness of this subsystem is not worth hacking the entire concept of pace/speed from the game, especially not considering it is a concept I really, really like to toy around with.


Well, for those who would like to try this version, the system already covers Running, so Improved Fleet Footed and getting a raise on the Speed power are already covered as well (since they simply make Running a free action).

Fleet Footed and a success on Speed would each just add one Zone to free movement (which also covers any magical or other enhancements which are likely based off one of these two).

Surge is, of course, Suzerain specific (like their Improved Fleet Footed for that matter). But for anyone playing it who also would want to use a zone system, I think it could be as simple as spending 2 Pulse per additional zone (or 1 Pulse per zone for the Improved version).

Really, a pretty easy "hack," and most of it was covering effects for a unique setting.
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#18 Postby GranFalloon » Thu Oct 06, 2011 11:29 am

I'm still figuring out just how far folks would be able to move, but I was figuring Fleet-Footed would allow either one extra zone of movement, or a normal Run without the MAP. I guess both actually. So if you're having a gunfight in the street, and you want to run across the street from the Livery to the Saloon, firing your pistols on the way, you're going to want to be fast.

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#19 Postby Lord Stone » Thu Oct 06, 2011 12:31 pm

There may be a much simpler way to combine combat zones with standard movement: define everything using normal movement values. This way nothing needs to be redefined and it can still interact with other actions that use up movement speed, such as rising from prone.

Change combat zone: 4" (storyteller can vary this, making harder-to-reach combat zones cost more to enter/exit)
Engage/Disengage melee: 2"
(I realize these are a bit quicker than the original suggestion.)

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#20 Postby Thasmodious » Fri Oct 07, 2011 12:24 pm

That would work well for designed set pieces, but less for improv'd fight scenes. What I don't like about that is that is gives a hint of accuracy, in that you assign specific distances, but they play out abstractly. I'd rather keep the whole thing clearly abstract and make logical tweaks where required.

When I draw up a combat with zones, I usually jot down notes regarding movement between and in zones, notes on what is or isn't in a zone where needed, and notes on combat between zones, typically for ranged combatants. I gave an example in another thread of a battle at a small fort with the grounds outside, the courtyard, the parapets, and the air (for flying combatants) as the zones. Notes run something like:

Courtyard to/from parapet - move
Air - fire ranged at any target, close to ground melee with move
Grounds - run action to move from ground, through siege tower and reach parapet, 2 climb actions, or 1 with a raise, to scale wall
Courtyard to/from Grounds ranged attacks - no sight, AoE fire possible
Ranged from Courtyard/Grounds to parapet - medium cover from Grounds, no cover from courtyard, short range Courtyard, medium Grounds

With an improv'd fight, I'd scratch a couple of these notes and rule the rest when it comes up. What I like about the zones, is it makes the abstract fairly intuitive. I also find it gets the players, my players at least, playing with the environment more, as they imagine the fight rather than study the battlemat map and only concern themselves with what I've drawn on it.
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