[minis+] Can someone give me a synopsis of how Fate games use sketch maps and zones?

So, everybody who has seen earlier threads of mine knows I love using minis in games.

Right now, I'm in a D&D 5E campaign. We've been using minis extensively and...I hate it.

I hate the grid rules in WotC D&D editions. Like...a lot. A whole lot. One of my least favorite parts of play. Seriously, it makes using minis in-fun for me.

So, I was thinking about the way that Fate games sometimes use sketches with zones. I've heard about it, but I don't play those games so I don't have first hand experience with it.

It sounds a little like the way the old TSR Marvel Superheroes game ( FASERIP) used area movement on maps, but possibly even looser.

That sounds positive to me.

Anyone have insight on how this all works?

Double bonus points if you're a minis fan who has used them with Fate style sketches and zones successfully.


  • I think it is just one of many possible degrees of "abstract movement".
    You can also look at how the game 3:16 deals with it.
  • I was looking for something slightly more than what 3:16 offers. I still want the action and combat to take place in a chunk of space, if that makes sense.

    IIRC, 3:16 is really abstract, with the only real direction involved being distance. I'd like at least some maneuver beyond close in and move apart being involved, as well as some terrain mattering.
  • You might like at Old School Hack, which has some simple zone rules and I should freely available.
  • edited September 2017
    Thanks for that tip, Paul.

    Edited to add: Just checked it out. That looks like kind of a great game in general, even beyond the way it uses the arenas.

    I was hoping for a pointer to something I could just peruse for free to get the basic gist of the approach people have been using.
  • I was looking for something slightly more than what 3:16 offers. I still want the action and combat to take place in a chunk of space, if that makes sense.

    IIRC, 3:16 is really abstract, with the only real direction involved being distance. I'd like at least some maneuver beyond close in and move apart being involved, as well as some terrain mattering.
    I see. Thennnnn I'm not sure what to suggest.
    Fate Core, if I remember correctly, is a bit more articulated than 3:16 but mostly does the same thing:
    - split the location in meaningful sub-areas
    - abstractly handle movement from one area to the next
    - use fictional positioning and Aspects to detail stuff like cover, terrain, etc

    Maybe that's enough details for you. I don't know Old School Hack so I can't compare :P
  • Having skimmed old school hack, it basically does something where an encounter area has "arenas", pretty much like zones in Fate ( I guess, still kinda figuring it).

    Each arena has some qualities that can impact play ( including just plain being open space for the most part), and players can also move between arenas.

    Further, there's an indication that players can also suggest arenas, based on what fictional info they have. I think the example of this was a player suggesting that, in a town fight, they wanted to get on a rooftop, effectively creating another connected arena with GM approval.

    Like the Fate stuff, "how big" an arena is depends on need. It isn't actually a measured space, grid style. it's more like... a concept of relevant space separated from other related spaces. Think of it a bit like the rooms in a Five Room Dungeon.
  • edited September 2017
    I can say more later if you need, but the conflict rules are online here. (The bit about Zones is about a quarter of the way down the page). Are you also looking for feedback about how it feels/works in play?
  • Oh yeah, go ahead and hit me with your thoughts on it.
  • The War of Ashes mini rules are a bit crunchier:
  • edited September 2017
    DannyK: Looked over that link. It seemed a bit more like what I was first thinking.

    I'm still contemplating how I can combine the concept with minis use. I like the "fractal" effect that is discussed a ton. I'm just trying to figure out how to use the zone concept with the kinds of toys and terrain have available to use already.

    Really, that's the big trick for me. The minis aren't a big deal. It's how to define the zones when using the terrain.

    Basically, if I drew zones on a wipe-board, that's super simple. If I had something like premade tiles, whether for rooms or distinct outdoor spaces, that isn't too hard.

    Not quite sure how to work it easily with more wargame style terrain, even with a lot of pre-game layout done. Essentially, I'm trying to figure out how to put the boundary lines down and keep them put.

    Stephen P: Were you the person who suggested in another thread, that when using 3D terrain stuff, it might be easier to define the stuff by the center /main object/terrain piece than by the boundaries?

  • What do you mean by "boundaries"?
    Can you offer a practical example? Like, you have a room drawn on a whiteboard and a "library" piece of 3d wargame furniture, or a "boulder" or something else.
    What do you need the game to define, so that you can use it?
  • edited September 2017
    Well, basically, the zone boundaries.

    Don't imagine a wipe-board with a piece of terrain placed on it.

    Imagine more like a wargame table set up. But instead of using it with armies, we're going to use it with more RPG numbers of character numbers.

    At any given time, we aren't going to be using the whole board. We'll use parts of it at a time.

    Drawing from real life, I have a 5' x 6' table. I've decided that we're playing a game where each major location gets its own 2' x 2' square, so we have 6 units, in a 2 unit by 3 unit rectangle. The positions of each unit roughly show how those areas are located in general relation to one another. Like this, with each unit (each square being a general location for the broader adventure).


    Within each unit, we can get a little fractal. Maybe Unit 1 is the inside of a laboratory, while Unit 2 is the jungle you have to pass through to get there. And each unit has zones/terrain/areas of interest and impact within it.

    The lab might be pretty easy to do, whether it's a single big room divided into zones or a complex of multiple rooms. That jungle unit gets trickier.

    I thought about just using yarn, but that seems like a bit of a pain in the butt. I've also considered just drawing zone lines on the surface of a unit as part of pregame prep, but that largely means I can only use that surface for one game.

    Matters get a bit trickier than that if I don't use that very regimented system of units ( maybe I really don't need a consistent 2' x 2' block, maybe some are smaller or larger or more irregular, or there's more than 6 units total).

    That's also on my mind.
  • @komradebob I don't quite understand the concept of zones and boundaries yet, but my first thought about drawing the boundaries is to use tape (lightly stuck to the board and terrain). Clear tape would be less distracting from play, but still visible for when it needed to be visible. If I begin to understand what's going on in this thread after a few posts, maybe I can think of a better solution.
  • Part if it is that I feel, in an RPG context, counting grid spaces is just dumb and a waste of time, even when using minis. I'd like to cut that time out of minis using play, and I'd heard that Fate style zones might be a good starting point, but I don't play any Fate games, so I really needed a bit more understanding of how they worked.

    The cross-issue is that I actually really like minis as more than markers,
  • I have toyed with this many times. My most promising two ideas are overlapping zones and external state markers.

    Overlapping Zones:
    Boundaries are inherently fuzzy. Abstract then reify that. Now I have a Field and a Forest as two adjacent zones, so there is a third zone Between, "between the field and the forest". My character is in the Field, your character is in the Forest, it stays like that unless I make a move toward the Forest (maybe I end up Between, maybe in the Forest) or your character makes a move that places me in Between. Mostly, being Between is the same as being both in the Field and in the Forest, except for interaction with other zones (maybe I can no longer easily shoot at the field-adjacent Road).

    External State Markers:
    Zones and positions within them are inherently fuzzy. Abstract then reify that. Place your mini where aesthetic and update your token on your character's decent-sized cardboard circle off the map, saying which of 6-8 discrete directions you are canonically facing, your relative positioning in the overall zone, possibly your momentum if needed. These dictate the broad scope of targeting, whether you can reach the next zone, etc.
  • My understanding of Fate-like zones (and Red Box Hack arenas, which I assume Old School Hack is based upon) is that they're either a theatre-of-the-mind thing, or a sketch-out-boundaries-on-blank-paper-or-a-whiteboard thing.

    Since you're using wargame terrain (how dense or sparse are terrain pieces on your table, usually?), defining zones by centerpiece rather than boundaries - as you say yourself - looks like the obvious thing to do. For those who said you're not getting it: it means defining your zones such as "by the oak tree", "around the keep" or "close to the farmhouse", leaving boundaries entirely fuzzy.

    The alternative I can think of - and the reason I'm posting this, really - is using your terrain as boundaries. Read the table as a non-square, irregular grid, where each line-of-sight blocking terrain feature counts as an intersection in the grid, each prolonged, obvious barrier as line (that is, at least two "nodes", where it begins and where it ends). Any two nodes you can easily paint an imaginary line between, those lines are the lines in your grid, your zone boundaries.
    This should make for zones which are easy to read (it's still a grid) without drawing any actual grid, but which are perhaps hard to label/describe - thus, it won't work well with rules that care which zone is broken ground and which is forest, which arena is crowded and which is dangerous... But I expect it to work well if it's about charging and retreating and more traditional D&D-ish stuff.
  • Some good stuff. the more I think about the clear tape suggestion, the more I like it. It's something I could definitely use for times when it's a mostly outdoors type table set up and I'm using a big sheet of felt as the table base.

    Guy hit on something important to play style. Even with zone/arena translations to minis use/2d/3d, I'd still want players to at least give a nod to aesthetics. That's part of the fun of using the toys! Frex, if a zone ( blown up a bit so minis can fit there) was supposedly a maze of stacked crates, I'd want players to think a bit about position within that maze of crates when duking it out or shooting it out within that zone with some baddies.

    I get that zone style/arena style approaches do assume a certain swirl-of-combat/action, with characters in motion, regardless of the static pose nature of miniatures, but, aesthetic joy is important. How much that matters in game mechanical terms I'm still pondering.

    The more I think about it, the more I wonder if I could combine the concept of zones/arenas with the 'center piece" of the zone idea, through using little glass craft beads. I'm thinking of those little rounded, flat on one side things you find in craft sections and floral sections of stores. We used to use them as blood point markers in games of Jyhad/VtES years back.

    Here's my thinking: At the start of an encounter, the GM just plain lays out some of those beads on the surface, roughly at the center of each zone/arena. FATE-style, if there's some Aspect equivalent to note, they just do that verbally.

    Of course, for aesthetic reasons, there should be some related terrain that makes sense to pair that with. Even "Big open field with low weeds" can be an aspect, right?

    In terms of numbers, there's never going to be a lot of zones at any one time for a single encounter. Probably in the 3-7 range.

    Of course there's also the opposite implication on a fully laid-out table: if it isn't established as a zone at the start of an encounter, it isn't considered relevant to the encounter. Someone moving a miniature out of the defined cluster of zones/arenas is only allowed to do that if they're trying to say they've abandoned the action of the encounter entirely.

    The zone boundaries are visually fuzzy, but the connection of one zone to the next should be fairly obvious. (Maybe?)

    Once action commences, it's important for the players to note where their characters are, in terms of zone/arenas, and naturally, people are going to have to say specifically if they're attempting to leave one zone and enter another. It can't be functionally an accidental slide into a new zone.

    By the time those beads get moved ( almost inevitable, given play with minis), the zones should be already established in players' minds.

    I think/hope that can work. Does anyone see any serious, obvious problems I'm overlooking?
  • edited September 2017
    Right now, I don't have any pics of a table layout I can show you with a big 3D layout.

    I have been looking at the following 2D product for a while now, thinking about doing a short (1-3 session) I6: Ravenloft inspired game:


    I'm thinking that the beads idea might be the easiest way to approach that. It gives a lot of flexibility to effectively slow down initial exploration in a way that I want, but would be hard to achieve with more standard D&D movement rate/range rules ( any edition really). With standard movement and range rules, PCs could basically zoom through the place. Not really what I want.

    I could do things like sub-divide bigger rooms into a couple of zones or only allow a few directly connected rooms to be an encounter zone cluster.

    On the flip side, if the game ends with a big showdown/chase through the whole of the place, I could also just broaden the zones to include multiple rooms as a single zone, perhaps with some sort of aspects that differ from the initially used ones.

    Does that make a bit more sense?

    Good idea? bad idea? Overlooked problems?
  • I like the beads idea; it seems very practical.

    I feel like you should allow the creation of new beads/nodes in play, as well. That would make the system more dynamic and it would make it much less stressful to decide on the initial zones, eliminating any kind of hesitation or sense of paralysis.
  • edited September 2017
    The War of Ashes description covers it very well:
    Even in physical conflict, zones aren't measured in yards in the fiction or inches on a map—they're much more abstract than that. Roughly speaking, if another combatant is close enough that you could take a few steps and attack them with a hand-to-hand weapon, like a spear, axe, or dagger, you're both in the same zone.
    Practically, when playing Fate in an indoors setting, I consider each room a zone.

    In open terrain (or large indoor spaces), zones in Fate are in my experience less about tactical movement/range but more about situational aspects and creating advantage. For example, a small hill could be a zone that could be exploited due to higher ground by anyone in this zone. A sand field could be a zone where anyone in the zone could be compelled (slow movement in sand) but could also create an advantage with sand (throw in opponent's eyes)...
  • Yeah, they do talk about adding zones if it makes sense as you go and someone suggests something that would justify it.
  • edited September 2017
    The War of Ashes description covers it very well:
    Even in physical conflict, zones aren't measured in yards in the fiction or inches on a map—they're much more abstract than that. Roughly speaking, if another combatant is close enough that you could take a few steps and attack them with a hand-to-hand weapon, like a spear, axe, or dagger, you're both in the same zone.
    Practically, when playing Fate in an indoors setting, I consider each room a zone.

    In open terrain (or large indoor spaces), zones in Fate are in my experience less about tactical movement/range but more about situational aspects and creating advantage. For example, a small hill could be a zone that could be exploited due to higher ground by anyone in this zone. A sand field could be a zone where anyone in the zone could be compelled (slow movement in sand) but could also create an advantage with sand (throw in opponent's eyes)...
    The Aspects aspect ( even in systems that don't specifically do that in those terms) is certainly something that was on my mind. I mean, if there is some sort of physical quality of the area for players to exploit or to annoy players with, that makes things a bit more fun, right?

    What I found recently playing a 5e D&D game with grid being used along with minis/markers was that, in practice, we were almost using zones anyway. OTOH, we were still stuck with some general silliness of space counting. Space counting that in practice did very little other than waste time, whether for movement or ranged fire issues.

    What I mean is, we were using a fairly big dry erase grid ( maybe 30 x 20 or so?), but the battle we fought last ended up effectively breaking into say 6-7 zone equivalents. Occasionally, a PC would make a longish move, but it generally then brought them into another "zone" where some sort of melee was going on with baddies. Occasionally, a PC maneuvered a small bit to come into range of a target with a ranged attack, but it was always a bit minor in effect.

    Yet we still counted the squares and so on ( including for some reason annoying diagonals count differently rules. 4e had it right, diagonals are the same distance, just watch out for choke points blocking diagonal movement!).

    It would have been so much easier to skip that nonsense and just declare a zone to zone move. Ranged attacks could have been easily translated in some fashion as well.

    And of course it also allows a bit for what War of Ashes is talking about-distances are relative. Maybe a 6" x 6" zone really is D&D style and represents truly a 30' x 30' area. Maybe it's a bit bigger, 60' x 60' or 90' x 90'. It doesn't really matter all that much, but we can also reasonably guess it doesn't represent 6 miles by 6 miles unless we're suddenly fighting with some other sorts of weapons/vehicles than normal.

    In terms of handling speed, it would be vastly easier to simply say something like:" I'm now moving Black Bart from this zone where a scrum is going on to this adjacent zone to help out my buddy, and I want Bart to do [action X] when he gets there".

    Boom. Done.
  • I have to run to work in a few minutes, but I'd like to run a couple of thoughts past you folks later about using that Not-Ravenloft 2D product I linked above. If y'all have a sec, follow the link so you have an idea bout what I'll be discussing, since I don't have another pretty picture to show you right now.

    I find that in any discussion of minis use, visual aids really do help.
  • edited September 2017
    @komradebob In Vincent's ( @lumpley ) game, Otherkind, whenever the story calls for a roll, you role four dice and assign them to narration, motion, life, and safety. In particular, motion and positioning works strictly narratively. On a 5 or 6 "you move decisively towards your goal", on a 3 or 4 "your motion towards your goal is mixed, misdirected, blocked, or uncertain", and on a 1 or 2, ÿou lose ground". Zones and boundaries aren't really needed.

    I might be missing something here, but I remember in an earlier thread we talked about centering the action around a specific terrain piece, e.g. a fountain in the town square; which is narratively important. So, the monster is coming out of the fountain. The warrior-princess says she is going to attack it, rolls 3,4,3,2. Assigns 3 to motion, she can only get part way there this turn (something blocked her way, or she tripped on a loose paver, etc., whatever). Meanwhile the the huntress-wizard, fires her bow at the monster. She is really far away, but rolls 2, 4, 5, 6. Assigns 6 to motion. However the player narrates it, she is in range. Maybe the character leaped into range at the last possible moment, or the monster's tentacle lurched towards her just close enough, or the hand of the goddess miraculously guided the arrow, whatever.

    It seems to me, that in a story-game (even one where the aesthetics of the toys are the point), movement/time is both relative and a combination of multiple characters/entities actions taken in concert--and therefore shouldn't be strictly quantified. Nothing is really static--static time/turns/movement is an old wargame management technique.

    (Edited to explain my thoughts more clearly. And nobody had commented yet)
  • edited September 2017
    Moreover, even if the huntress-wizard was "in range" to start with, but instead rolled all 2s, why did she miss? A sudden gust of wind? A guard screaming on the balcony of a near-by building distracted her? whatever. If she has skills but still missed we still have to come up with a narrative reason why she missed--something unexpected happened.

    If you are trying to model narrative reality with too much granularity, you are sacrificing play-joy for mimesis. That's antithetical to your original starting point (as I remember it).

    And I'm not even sure that granularity guarantees mimesis in the first place, anyway. We both know that WRG went through seven editions before Phil Barker completely gave up and moved to the DBX system. (That's an old wargamers cite that will make sense to Bob, for those who didn't follow the last paragraph.)
  • Focusing on Fate, I like the following ideas for zones:
    They even suggest mental or social zones, interesting.
  • Focusing on Fate, I like the following ideas for zones:
    They even suggest mental or social zones, interesting.
    While I probably don't have a use for the social or mental zones for the thing I'm talking about in this thread, the rest of it is very close to my general thinking.

    Right now, I'm still digesting the most recent posts. I promise, I will get back to them.

    For a sec, I'd like to go back to that link to the Vampire castle I mentioned earlier, and use it as example of where my thought process is going right now. Partly because I'm thinking of using it for a one shot Halloween game, partly because the gist of I6: Ravenloft is pretty widely known even if you've never played it, and partly because I don't have pics of a 3D table set up to share with y'all as an example.

    Anyway, here's the link again, so take a quick look at it:

    I'm sure you all get the essence of the situation: there's a Bad vampire Who Needs Killin' and the party is heading to his chateau to do just that.

    Looking at that ginormo tile layout, you probably also notice a couple of problems if you've been using those D&D style grid rules. Even a 50' x 50' mat doesn't really end up being a whole lot of real estate compared to the move and range distances used in those grid rules, even when you account for double/triple move cost for some of that terrain and blocked lines of sight.

    And then, of course, when you start actually putting minis in that space, it becomes pretty dense in any room, even with just RPG levels of opposition + party members.

    OTOH, that same mat takes up a whole lot of real world, real table real estate with its 50 x 50 footprint.

    And on a general play thing, you neither want the party to zoom through the whole layout nor do you want every monster to come running to lay siege to the party the very first time a noisy fight breaks out. Even in a one-night one-shot, you want a bit of exploration and at least a few distinct scenes/encounters, right?

    Okay that's the rub of it, and The Problem. This post is long, so I'll stop here and come back in the next post to talk about thinking of this in terms of zones/arenas and bead marking.

  • Okay, so you've got that link open, you're looking halfway down the page, you can see the small pic of what the whole layout looks like, right?

    The lower third of the layout is woods and trails leading up to the castle, the upper two thirds the castle itself with a tiny bit of narrow outside areas surrounding it. Feasibly our heroes don't need to go through the front door, but they at likely to start somewhere in that lower third, and hey, that almost calls for some kind of encounter potential on the way to the castle.

    For simplicity, let's say they start at the lower left edge, on the trail. Seems like a good spot and we can probably place our 4-6 hero minis down there easily. Baron Fang likely has some minions lurking about. The players start cautiously following the trail up and to the right, when (gasp!), they run into some minions! Who knew?

    Let's say the head of the party march column/scout is about where that little clearing is just above the S in the word maps in the pic. A few verbally descriptions by the GM give some clues about what is coming, and a werewolf, a wolf pack and some bats pop up to threaten the party!

    Great, so where do the beads go to define roughly the zones?

    I spot four zones/arenas immediately:
    1) The clearing itself
    2) NNW( left and up) of the clearing, the clump of trees and a bit of cliff
    3) NNE ( right and up) The sparsely tree covered cliff sides
    4) SSE ( almost straight down and to the right of the clearing) Another clump of forest

    Now any of those could be given the equivalent of a starting capital A Aspect.

    My intention here isn't to tightly define any one of those arenas/zones. It's to break up the fight a bit, make players make choices about where to be and how they can sup[ort each other's characters in the scrum. The zones should roughly ( I hope) imply how they're connected, even though I haven't gone out of my way to specify boundaries. Without boundaries it should still be a situation where we have enough room for minis in each zone, and players can still get creative with using any on mat illustrations in creative ways. A little moving around within a zone is to be encouraged for toyplay joy reasons as well.

    As to all of the rest of the mat? If it ain't defined initially as a zone, t either needs to become an added zone through play of the encounter, or it needs to just plain be considered to be an "exit and holding pattern" area.

    All I mean by that is, if a player says something like " I want to dash over to the steps of the castle", I need to ask some questions about intent. Is the dash to those steps about gaining some kind of advantage in the current encounter in one of the zones, or is it about escaping the current encounter? I guess that how I'd deal with that would be informed by my broader interest in not seeing all of the mat used in one big running scrum.

    Anyway, that's the basic concept I'm at right now.

    Thoughts? Overlooked problems?
  • In defence of 5e and counting spaces on a grid I have to say that it only makes any difference if there is cover and significant obstacles at least every 20' or so. If the battleground is going to be always a barren open space that will definitely make counting spaces a time-wasting useless chore. And yes, never use those diagonal counts differently rules, they suck.

    However, when we use maps for a whole area those are never scaled to mini size, and used instead for travel-like navigation. We only jump to mini-scaled maps for battle. So, whenever the PCs find an encounter on the navigational map and stealth or talking things out fail, only then we draw a quick map defining the boundaries of the area and near accessible areas if they matter for the battle. Going out of this map means the character is escaping and we use plain abstraction and rolls when things get there, unless a chase scene with some combat ensues, which happens rarely.

    The thing about having significant obstacles and cover is that these create smaller and more dynamic zones by themselves; maneuvers for flanking, getting sneak attacks, hiding, finding cover from arrows or spells, etc. become far more interesting. Players have to think in 3d and also climb to get advantage. Monsters can fly and climb too, which makes them even more dangerous. And if you set the battle arena so their opponents have some advantage and/or made preparations like traps, choking points, hiding places, etc. the challenges may go up 1CR just because of this.

    After a while, the next time they play on a barren space will feel like more dangerous as they will have to rely on AC and HP to keep fighting.

    I'm not a fan of putting the whole map on the table as it kinda ruins a bit the fun of discovery, though its mostly because I enjoy more googling up some 'concept art' of whatever place the characters could be and showing that to the players to boost our immersion. But that's just our tastes, I understand how laying the whole map for the players to enjoy and wonder what's that up in the north could be tons of fun too.

    But that's 5e.

    With a system of your own however, without using grids nor full abstraction there are other simple ways to deal with distances and zones. Zones are basically boundaries that require certain conditions to get through:

    -You need to win a combat there to go through safely, or risk receiving damage when going through and maybe more when running away from it.
    -You need to traverse it in stealth or risk being discovered and have opponents rushing in this zone every 1d6 turns.

    Also inside that boundary the same conditions prevail despite the dimensions of the zone. A vertical pit will present the danger of falling damage, a road will be somewhat the same for a few yards, a clear in the forest without no other features will have the same lighting conditions, etc.

    So you just need to define those conditions and then mark/explain the boundaries of each area to the players. All this can be done through narration, it will feel more natural and I'd say that on par of using beads anyway.

    About distances, you can always set up your own ruler. I think I got this idea from some modern minis wargame:

    -Take a belt-shaped (or is it a tape-shaped?) piece of flexible cardboard.
    -Cut it to be as long as what could be considered a 'far' distance in your map, as in the longest range of a bow.
    -Mark each third of it. 1/3 is the maximum range for weapons, 2/3 is the maximum range for dashing your whole turn.

    In play, this ruler is used -somewhat loosely- for both firing range and movement. Use it straight for ranged attacks -things in the path will block line of sight- and curve it around obstacles if needed to measure movement distances.

    The thing about making your own measuring tape is that you can scale distances to make rushing your whole map in one turn physically impossible. Abstract boundaries will reinforce this.

    Your beads idea looks solid in paper, but by rule of thumb procedures that you and your group aren't familiar with will usually get overriden after a few tries for whatever feels more familiar for your group, unless the procedure actually makes things a lot more easier. Most possible is that you will lose the beads after a while as your group learns to use zones more quickly. Best luck with this! :)

  • Yeah, I'm hoping the whole beads things is more like training wheels for the concept that are dispensed with quickly after some experience.

    To a degree, I also wanted them to indicate where you couldn't go. Basically, a way to say "We aren't using that part of the table yet".

    I also have some mixed feelings about having everything laid out from the get-go, but I think discussing that right now may distract from the main thread.

    (FWIW, when I started considering that specific printable layout, I'd considered using both minis and terrain bits hidden off-table at the start of the game, and possibly also making some sort of roof tiles to initially cover different areas.)
  • In my experience, Fate-style zones are more like playing with action figures than a war game. If your guy is behind some crates, that nicely represents invoking the "Full of Crates" Aspect.

    Taking it too far past that, i.e. using line of sight, is going to put the very simple system under a lot of strain IMO.
  • In my experience, Fate-style zones are more like playing with action figures than a war game. If your guy is behind some crates, that nicely represents invoking the "Full of Crates" Aspect.
    If I could figure out how to get a minis using game playing like that consistently and with some easy description of how to do it, it would pretty much achieve all of my goals. That's exactly what I'm looking for.

    Taking it too far past that, i.e. using line of sight, is going to put the very simple system under a lot of strain IMO.
    Talk to me more about this warning bit. I kind of know where you're going with it, but can you give an example of what to watch for?

  • edited September 2017
    Woah! I'm gone for a weekend, and there's tons of good discussion here!

    Yeah, it was me (among others) in that other thread who advocated for "zones as centers of gravity" rather than "zones as areas inside of defined boundaries."

    I need to go to sleep now, but I'll be back tomorrow evening. In particular, I want to share how I do "center of gravity" zones with a traditional 3-D terrain wargame setup--it might be useful to you, though it's not easily transferable to printed-grid style approaches (like those dungeon tiles that WotC made for 4e). (I haven't looked at the link yet, so not sure exactly what you're going to use--I'll have a gander tomorrow.)
  • Yeah, I wonder about the differences between outdoor/semi-outdoor situations* ( or outdoor-like situations, say an enormous underground cavern) and more indoor, dungeon-y type settings and using these methods, too.

    * A village or town would be an example of semi-outdoor. Imagine a village with a church, an inn and four other buildings surrounding a town square, with some fenced in areas near each building and a couple of roads or alleys separating some of the buildings. How many zones is that? I suspect there are multiple possible answers to that, and that the answers could vary even in different "encounters" in the same overall game.

    I cheated a bit in that example gave of using the vampire castle layout I linked upthread, by using one of the outdoor areas on the layout.


    It would get trickier once the party hits the interior, I suspect, even if I printed that thing up with the No Grid option.

    On the left side of that layout, about a third of the way down from the top, is a throne room. In the old I6: Ravenloft, there's an encounter/scene with Strahd and his throne room, that could be fun and inspirational. If it comes down to combat ( why wouldn't it, really?) what would the zones/arenas be?

    My instinct says there are at least three initial zones: The dais, and two main floor zones. Three, if for no other reason than I want to break things up a bit, and even give the ranged characters a chance to show off their Thing. I might consider a fourth zone, being whatever the last room the characters were in before they entered the throne room. I could possibly see adding two different extra zones/arenas depending upon what happens in play. One could be the ceiling and upper columns if someone starts flying about or Baron Fang starts some Spider-Man type antics, and another if Baron Fang decides to go out a window behind the throne as a quick escape.
  • BTW, some of y'all are hitting me with some $10 Vocab words.

    Truthfully, mimesis and reify are both outside of my wheelhouse. Put together, I thought of Deified Mimosas, but that's more something that comes up more for the local pantheon's brunch, I suspect.

    Can you guys clarify a bit?

    Hitting Wikipedia really didn't give me the kind of understanding necessary to appreciate the subtleties of what you're getting at in those posts.
  • edited September 2017
    @komradebob What I meant, and should have said clearly in the first place, is that I don't see where using zones and boundaries really gets you. It appears to be--at first glance, anyway--just more old-timey wargaming simulation. I don't really see how it's any different than measuring distance, or using a grid.

    Now, I'll be honest: I'm not really knowledgeable about this style of play (i.e. zones and boundaries), so I'm hoping that you or someone else might explain why this would work in a "toy-joy" game.

    I have more questions, but I'll leave it at that.
  • edited September 2017
    A-ha! Okay, now I'm getting you.

    I personally see it as a transitional step to bring folks back over to eventually using more free flowing toy play.

    At some level, I want toy use informed by war game style stuff. For example, I don't want someone going wildly off the general way other folks are playing because there are no written constraints on say, move distance.

    I just want it vastly more freeflowing than grid or measured movement.

    At the same time, I wan to not use the entirety of a physical layout all at once, no matter what form it takes. Zones/arenas or something like them suggested itself for that reason.

    Some of that simply comes down to difficulties/limitations of the medium of miniatures and terrain. Whether 2d or 3d or a combo of both, it would be whole lot easier for me to do a pregame setup for the bulk of the non-character/monster layout ahead of time for a session, rather than doing lots of change ups mid-session to limit the areas of use at any time.

    That's a bit of what that tangent about hypothetical standardized 2' x 2' units was about back near the beginning of the thread.

    Several years back, I did some experimenting/play testing of no rules, free flow, toy play style approaches. In the first game, it was me and one buddy, and it pretty much worked out great. Between us, we gelled on the concept of only using part of the layout at a time, and so on.

    Second time around, it was 5 or 6 players trying something broadly similar. All but one guy got it. That one guy though threw a lot of the rest of it off by trying to do things like use the whole board at once. rather than "entering" the scene's physical space with a character first ( specifically involving a wildly cross board rifle shot with a character).

    I'm also trying to avoid that.
  • reify ... Can you guys clarify a bit?

    Hitting Wikipedia really didn't give me the kind of understanding necessary to appreciate the subtleties of what you're getting at in those posts.
    A useful technique is to state what you think the actual problem is, hold the generalized notion of that problem in your head and peer at it inquisitively, then formalize a mechanic to tell everyone at the table how each instance of the problem will be resolved regardless of nuance.


    It's hard to tell how much battering a character can take before being incapacitated. In general it's hard to go from fictional harm to fictional consequences of that harm in a principled way that everyone's on board with. Let's wipe out the nuance, then, and just say a character has 10 points of "I'm not dead yet!" and when they take harm they lose set amounts of points and when they reach 0 they're dead. Just invented HP. But shouldn't the fighter be way hardier than the wizard? Okay fighter gets 12 HP and wizard gets 6 HP. Now fictionally, do whatever seems appropriate based on the number of HP you have left, possibly compared to your maximum HP.

    It's hard to tell whether a character with a mini here can run up to and attack a character with a mini there with a sword. In general it's hard to tell distance and fine facing with minis on a map, especially compared to move speed and momentum and terrain obstacles and whatnot. Let's wipe out the nuance, then, and have a set number of Areas probably based on a central feature apiece like "this is the farmstead Area", and each area is a Zone as well as make an intermediate Zone for each adjacent pair (or triples, etc) of Areas like "this is the farmstead/river Zone", and that induces a graph with Zones as nodes and connectedness as edges and no Area Zone is directly connected to another Area Zone. Each character must be located in a node on the graph, and their mini may be placed wherever seems appropriate on the map based on correspondence between the map features and Zones. Melee can freely move up and hit anyone also in their Zone, or run to an adjacent Zone and hit anyone there with a penalty, or run 2 Zones. Ranged can shoot in Zone or adjacent, or 2 Zones away with a penalty, or run to adjacent and shoot in new Zone or adjacent with a penalty, or run 2 Zones. Just like each character has HP to track external to the map, now each character has Zone location to track external to the map.

    Here is a map: https://www.elventower.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/44-Throne-RoomL-1200x903.jpg

    Here is one graph you could draw, Areas in bold: https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1b_WWThbDEszWjlHmm9ao73MDKAX3_HT7yvs6X7K5ReM/edit?usp=sharing

    Here is another graph you could draw, to incorporate spidering: https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1LRMz7ZnXrhnDkXc4grX_NuvqPS3_vKwt5yo6Mgeqikc/edit?usp=sharing

    In that one I've cheated a bit already and let the "climbing" intermediate Zone be connected to any of the main room's regular Zones. And maybe you want to allow a special two-Zone-move plus melee attack for this map only. But that's what the graph is about: a new concrete representation of the abstract space, more easily manipulable by rules.
  • Okay, I understand a bit better what you're talking about now.

    Basically, placing the beads at the start of the thing is my attempt to create something like the nodes on your graphs. And for similar reasons, so I can then make some relatively simply move/ attack/ranged rules very much like what you've suggested.
  • Yep. My only innovation is in the explicit intermediate spaces, which is why I called it "Overlapping Zones". The extra detail in the graph that these force is I think enough to make simple rules that capture enough of what I want.
  • So, folks who have been participating, you saw that last couple of exchange posts between Guy and myself, and probably looked at those graphs Guy made and linked.

    Guy's suggestions on more basic sorts of rules to interact with zones/arenas/nodes is very much what I'm going for, but I wanted to throw a few more issues out there about things I'd like and want to accomplish. Some of it has to do with the physical constraints involved with minis use. Some of it has to do with the toy play fun aspects.

    Some general concepts:

    A) When an encounter occurs, the GM ( or scene setter) has to define 3-5 nodes ( although maybe up to 7 ? ). Lower than that should be rare, and probably you never want to start with 7, although circumstance may suggest a couple of possible add-on nodes during play.

    B) As the nodes are defined, a marker is placed somewhere within the physical area representing the node, and the GM mustpoint out any obvious "aspect" of the node and note any non-obvious connections (or problems with connections) between nodes as the markers are placed. Basically, if there's a problem moving between 2 nodes or firing from one node to the next, ya kinda gotta note that when you lay the beads down. To degree, this may be defined by some wysiwigness of the terrain toys.

    C) By implication, a character is in a node or not in a node, and there's an inherent implication that moving between nodes takes some sort of statement by a player (and effort by character), as does interacting between nodes.

    Toy Aspects and space

    A) A node needs to be big enough physically for character toys to fit into it How big? Kinda flexible. How big are the toys? What are the terrain toys like? A fight with a big whacking Dragon toy might require a different use of nodes and space than a scrum with more human sized critters. In any case, a node is still a node.

    B) Players need to state ( and possibly clarify as needed) what node their character is in at any time. Where toys are concerned, they need to be placed in a way that shows they're interacting in a specific node.

    C) Within a node, players and GMs are supposed to be using what they see in terms of terrain. This gets a bit into the "aspects" talked about earlier. If there are crates in the node, a player can state that their character is ducking behind the crates and should place their toy to show that.

    D) Minis are "semi-static", especially within a given zone. This is one that I have some concerns about. While it was discussed earlier how more abstract, non-minis versions of these concepts assume a certain "swirl of combat", that you can't quite be sure where a given character or opponent is in a given node because everyone is presumed to be moving around a bit at all times, I do favor a somewhat more static approach when using minis ( although looser than grid style rules). To an extent, where people are physically shown to be by the minis in a given node should matter to a degree.
    Example: There's Node A where a fight has been going on. A PC mini has been described as ducking behind crates on the West/Left side of this node. The player now wants to move their character from Node A east/right to Node B. In Node A, a bunch of baddies are involved in some other combats going on between where the PC is hiding and the general obvious path to Node B. I still want this to matter, even though we're assuming some general movement as the baddies are involved with melees with various other PCs in Node A. FWIW, this could equally be an issue of firing between Node A and Node B.
    Mind you, I want to keep the rules fairly light. I guess I could give penalties ( if you move through the melee to get there, maybe you have to make a roll to do so, or you can make the move to the next node but all of your actions are essentially used up doing so. If you're shooting into the next node, you take a penalty for what is going on between your PC's location and the next over, but on a miss you can decide your character simply refused to take the shot because they couldn't be sure of doing so without hitting a friend, etc).

    Anyway, that's where I'm at right now.
  • edited September 2017
    I like the nodes/beads system. (Although I agree with your potential complaints, as well.)

    In my opinion, the most fun way to do this would be a little different: instead of measuring or marking zones and locations on the map, what if we Create some "meta" rules which we apply by judgment case by case?

    A simple example:

    Normally, a character/mini can move wherever it seems reasonable, simply by saying so and moving the mini.

    However, the other players can draw on one of the following rules if the movement seems more complicated:

    "That is a challenging maneuver/you might not make it through" (e.g. Climbing a wall, swimming through a moat)

    "You might not make it there in time!"

    "There's someone in your way!"

    "That sounds desperate; you might arrive off-balance"

    "That could give you a tactical advantage"

    Each would have some simple form of resolution attached. When it's announced, the player can reconsider and choose a different move or go through with it afternoon all.
  • Reminds me a little of some of the Archipelago mechanics, so I like that.

    Let me broaden this a bit.

    For those of you who've played with folks used to grids ( or measured movement, etc) and then gone over to more something like nodes/zones/arenas, what were the difficulties in getting other players on board and how did you deal with them?
  • Hmm I think that things can be solved with even less rules. I mean, for one, nodes are dynamic: they get defined by where the opponents clash and the boundaries get determined by changing circumstances. Two spaces separated by a wall could become two areas... unless defenders use the wall as a barricade and then the wall becomes a single node for this battle.

    Range distances are static: ranged weapons will have a range able to cover two or three zones top, but that's it. Common fiction limitations will take charge of the rest, even if the weapon range exceeds the size of the map. You could get obscured targets and cover as well as the shape of the places also determine a feasible excuse to not let players snipe opponents from a corner of the map. Even if that happens, it will be believable if that's how the terrain is, barren, open and with no place to hide.

    This will make you think different as a GM if you embrace it. Changing the rules so it doesn't happen is the path to breaking immersion and having strange things happening in the fiction. I'm seeing this ranged-weaponry abuse case myself as one of the players in our D&D campaign is mostly based on ranged weaponry and stealth, as in taking advantage of the maximum range of the longbow and navigating the fiction to start the battle at that range, as often as he can. You will probably agree with me that this makes for a cheap one-trick pony that ruins what could otherwise be an epic battle where characters can hear whatever they shout at each other, where close quarters make things really dangerous. But there are ways to deal with this without changing the game rules.

    Now whenever I'm doing prep I just try t think too: how does this opponent protects itself from ranged attacks? Is his normal defence enough? Then, does it uses minions, cover, stealth, magic or what? I found that the game itself has a lot of reliable tools to take charge of this, I just have to think about the problem and solve it in the fiction.

    The rest of the tools I use:

    -A caveat we agree on before play: "nothing is infallible", meaning that nothing in the system gives a player an automatic success, they have to earn that success either by navigating the fiction properly or rolling high enough for it. (I don't even narrate "you fail" too often, I narrate instead how the opponent does something more clever, unexpected or perhaps is plain lucky.)

    -The question "And exactly how do you do that?", which gives the narrator enough detail about the execution of the intent to determine if the fiction is being navigated in a way that gives the character an automatic success, a bonus to the roll, a penalty or if the action fails automatically given the circumstances presented or still hidden in the prep.

    -Everything can be handled by rolling dice: Want to go there? You can, roll athletics to make it in time, though. Roll stealth to make it quietly. Roll athletics again to climb that high. Want to shoot a guy on the other side of the map? Roll perception to see if you get a clear shot. Now roll the attack. Make it just a couple of rolls if you can; more and it will look like you're making excuses for railroading as you can see here.

    -Consensus by the dice: For any occasion where consensus couldn't be reached through argumentation we left things to the dice and moved on. It must be either your call or my call? then let's roll a die and whoever rolls higher gets their call executed, doesn't matter who was right. We move on and make up a ruling later if necessary.

    I've been playing for years using maps and no grid. IMHO the less fancy the rules, the better.
  • edited September 2017
    I've been playing for years using maps and no grid. IMHO the less fancy the rules, the better.
    Funny thing is, I got away with it for years, too. Used some very similar methods even.

    It's only having played WotC D&D ( 5e) that I start to become concerned with this.

    As to ranged abuse, I'm torn. I really do et why a player would want that to be their character's Thing. It's very Robin Hood at minimum. OTOH, our group was discussing our high level Ranger's capabilities a while back, and the player of that character pointed out that, in theory, they could fire their bow fairly accurately out to 600'/200 yards.

    I did some quick mental math on what that would mean on the table top with minis.
    600'/5'= 120 grid squares ( which are 1" x 1" in real world measure). That's10' in real world distance ( a bit under 4 meters for you metric folks)!

    Good Lawd, y'all! Who has a table that big!?! I rarely see that even at conventions!

    Compare that to rules in actual minis games and it still seems huge. I think max range on long bows used by elves with gaming scale ( 25/28mm) minis in Games Workshop games maxes out at about 36".

    Anyway, still looking forward to Stephen P's thoughts.

    edited to add:

    Some of this quandary is surely my own fault for wanting to have more set up to use, than will be used at one time.
  • You're right Komradebob, when we noticed he could shot anything from one corner of the mat to... a mat in another room, I had to start thinking on other excuses beyond "no, your target isn't in range". He even got the class features/feats to negate disadvantage and gain more accuracy, making this range dominion as his character's thing, so I asked myself, why should I take it away from him? Fortunately there's still line of sight, cover, obscured targets, shields, magic and ambushing monsters to make things hard for him from time to time, so he still has to navigate the fiction, which is all I need to keep 5e as a fun challenge.
  • edited September 2017
    Compare that to rules in actual minis games and it still seems huge. I think max range on long bows used by elves with gaming scale ( 25/28mm) minis in Games Workshop games maxes out at about 36".
    Well, max range for a bow in something like Warhammer is sorta supposed to relate to the stopping power of massed troops shooting at massed troops; in something like D&D, it's the single best shot an elite sniper can attempt at an individual target.

  • Pardon, but no.

    The range in a GW game is so you can actually fight a battle with your toys on a table top.
  • That's reasonable.
  • If you want some "fun", go check out some minis gaming sites where historical, hardcore players complain about the incredibly short distances compared to figure scale that GW games ( or games influenced by them like the Bolt Action WW2 rules) have.

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