Using the Dynamic Battlefield

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We don’t have a square grid or a hex grid setup as is found in many traditional RPGs. Unchained Heroes uses the Battle Zones and Battlefields instead. We call it the Dynamic Battlefield, mostly because we want people to start thinking about the Battlefield as something more than just a place you stand across from your foes. It is a lot more than that, a proper battlefield has a personality of its own and makes combat exciting. Let’s look at this very simple scenario where you and a mortal enemy of yours are finally ready to throw down in the middle of the street.

Scene without Dynamic Battlefield

You stand at ready, facing off against your foe in the middle of the city street. There are 6 Battle Zones, roll Initiative.

Scene with Dynamic Battlefield

You stand at ready, facing off against your foe in the middle of the city street. Your feet are firmly planted in 3 inches of muck from the heavy rains last night, while they stand on the high sidewalk, where it is dry, next to the shops. To your left are a number of rain barrels filled to the brim and to your right there is a horse trough with a couple of white eyed horses.

That’s quite a difference for the scene. Some of you might even get an idea or two on how to use the environment to your advantage.

Formatting the Battlefield

In this Dynamic Battlefield, we have 6 Battle Zones in a 3 Wide x 2 Long pattern. The Middle two Battle Zones is the sloppy road, still wet from the rain and thick with mud making walking through it difficult. The Bottom Left Battle Zone is a sidewalk with Rain Barrels. The Bottom Right is a Sidewalk with a horse tether and water trough. The Top right and left Battle Zones are Sidewalk Battle Zones. With that established, here is a quick grid of how it would be laid out.

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There is not much to the grid, but that is part of the beauty of the setup. With a few scribbles and some lines to box out each Battle Zone, you can have a Dynamic Battlefield to use for your adventure.

Battlefield Breakdown

The Dynamic Battlefield consists of the Three Pillars: Terrain, Environment, and Formation. Terrain is the objects, people, and things on the battlefield that you can see. Environment is the temperature, weather, and visibility. Formation involves the size, number, and orientation of the Battle Zones on the Battlefield. All combined, the Three Pillars are what gives us a clear picture of the Battlefield both mechanically and aesthetically. Terrain is an important part that gives us the setting and the look of the encounter, making it much more than just two people facing each other on a flat field. The Environment sets the mood. Here it is standard daylight, so it does not affect mechanically affect this Battlefield, but if this was occurring the night before, it would have had a heavy downpour and occur in the dead of night, making visibility difficult. The sunny day just provides ambiance in this case. The The Formation uses 6 Battle Zones, which is a sweet spot to allow tactical movement and positioning without making melee based fighters feel like they are running all over the earth.

Increases Options for Heroics and Villainy

Each of the Pillars of the Dynamic Battlefield allows us to build game mechanics and events around them. In the case of this example Battlefield, we are going to make movement slightly difficult on the road and dare I say dangerous if you are not careful; there will be places to gain cover from range fire, and a surprise event can occur if triggered around the skittish horses. There is a potential for a lot of mischief to occur, but the more adversity the Combatants face, the more interesting the entire encounter will become. Imagine the Hero trying to run for the rain barrels as the Villain begins firing volleys of projectiles at them, only to slip in the muck and fall to the ground, now they are a sitting duck. Alternatively, that Hero could have made it behind the barrels, gaining Full Cover against the volleys, and can fire with impunity at the Villain from relative safety. At this point the Dynamic Battlefield has altered everyone’s plans and made combat a whole lot more exciting. The Hero might even find a way to get the Villain into the Battle Zone with the horses and trigger their panic, thereby getting some extra damage in on their opponent. There are many possibilities, it just takes some imagination on the part of the players.

Dynamic Battlefields are part of the Fun

Dynamic Battlefields are part of the fun. They are not just the ground on which you stand; they aren’t just grids to move your character across. They are the 3rd and 4th Dimensions of an encounter that makes things come to life, adding that extra spice to your adventures. The next time you build a Battlefield, don’t just think about where your Combatants are going to be placed, think about the setting, the weather, and its shape. Then try to match game mechanics to it. If you need inspiration, check out pages 270 and 271 of the Core Rulebook and you might just find what you need.

I find myself forgetting the scenery all too often, use the Dynamic Battlefield as an excuse not to forget, make your next Combat Encounter more memorable than any before it. I surely won’t forget the time my players ended an encounter by smashing the unholy altar or hiding behind the wagon to shield them from White Dragon breath and neither will they!

 

-Turk Zapt

 

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