Simple Area-based Combat

In the last session of the Riverlands Campaign I ran a combat encounter where the party was invading a bandit camp.  I wanted to make the combat feel more concrete and significant than the previous encounters.  The party was taking on the first of the bandit leaders and that needed some mechanical bits to prop it up.  I’ll write an article later about the different ways to run an encounter and when to use them.  Right now, I’m just going to talk about this technique.

For this encounter I knew I wanted something between the Theater of the Mind style of combat and the full-fledged, uber-detailed Map and Minis.  So I went with a concept that I’m pretty sure I originally saw in FATE and adapted it to Myth and Magic.  I’m calling it Area Based combat.  Someone should come up with a better name.  Really.  Please, do.  Area Based does describe what it does pretty well, though.

First, I knew I wanted the encounter to be focused on a bandit camp.  On a large sheet of butcher block paper I sketched out the camp divided into various areas or zones.  For example, there was a river that ran along the north side of the camp.  It had 3 zones; a ford and the two deeper areas on either side.  The north side of the river had two zones; a brambles area and a clearer trail area.  The south side of the river was the camp proper and had 5 zones.  Three of the zones were on the ground and were simply the east, west, and central parts of the camp.  There were 2 zones that represented lookout platforms built into the trees that existed within the east and west camp zones.

Then I described the zones briefly with mechanics.  The brambles zone gave anyone in it concealment from ranged weapons.  The ford zone cost 1 movement action to enter but 2 movements to exit.  The tree platforms required a climb check to move into but gave a bonus to AC against enemy fire due to height.  That kind of stuff.  Each zone should have a little something that differentiates it from the other zones.  If 2 zones side by side are mechanically identical then they should probably be combined into just 1 zone.

Rules for movement and combat were pretty simple.  You could use a move action to engage any character in your zone.  You could use a move action to move to an adjacent zone; unless some attribute of the zone dictated otherwise.  Ranged weapons used on someone in your zone were at short range.  One zone over was medium range.  Two zones over was long range.  Everything else was pretty much rules as written in the Myth and Magic Player’s Guide.

What I’ve found is that this technique allows for some tactical gaming without adding too much overhead.  It tends to run faster than full Map and Minis combat but a bit slower than Theater of the Mind.  It draws attention to this particular encounter as important but still keeps things moving along relatively quickly.

Any question?  Feel free to ask in the comments.

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