Nov 092011

Usually when there is a combat scene, it’s either all melee, all ranged, or a mix of the two. For most combats, using the Personal Zone Scale is the best option. The actual size of zones is only relevant to the scene and does not need to fit any fixed constraints. However, when dealing with mixed combat, it is sometimes best to combine scales.

As an example: an assassin snuck through the tall grass and reaches a squad of guards watching a press gang. The assassin’s task was to kill the guards without harming the press gang. Most of the gang were in a trench digging, and the guards stood above them at the edge of the trench. The assassin moved to within range of his bow (one zone) and started killing the guards one by one.

It was not until after the second guard fell that they had an idea where the shooter was. Once the direction of the arrows was known, the guards initiated a charge to get the assassin. The guards had six zones to cover, and held formation in their charge. To keep the formation, the guards could only move 2 zones per round. During the guards’ charge, the assassin held his ground and shot the remaining guards before they could reach him.

What?! Yes, the assassin was one zone away for archery and the guards were six zones away for movement. How far is a zone? Well, that depends; a zone is as large as it needs to be. Even though a bow only has a range of one, that does not mean it needs to be the same zone(s) used for movement.

Strands of Fate (in fact all Fate systems) use zones. Zones use a zone/measurement system that operates differently from a grid system, but still performs the same function. Unlike traditional grid/ fixed measurement systems, zones can vary in size and shape – and all on the same map. Grid systems use a fixed distance for each square on a given map. Despite the different sizes, each zone measures one unit of movement. The roughness of the terrain or obstacles bordering zones are used to determine the zone’s size and dimensions. If the zone seems too large to navigate in a standard three second round, remember that time is also elastic in Fate. There is no harm in saying that a round lasts longer than three seconds or even a minute.

Normally, when there is a combat, all the combatants use zones of the same scale, whether using hand-to-hand action or ranged attacks. In melee action, despite the actual range of bows and guns, they use the same personal zones for range as movement. This suits ranged combat by representing the brief time given to aiming before shooting. It also suits melee combat because of the chaotic nature, and prevents ranged weapons having a significant advantage in a story driven game.  If it helps for melee combat, think of range weapons as being pointed and not aimed during the time pressed combat.

When dealing with mostly ranged combat, the zones could represent larger spaces and time that allow for aiming. There is no need to worry how large a zone is for ranged combat, because if someone moves, the flexible nature of time in fate will adapt to fit the scale of the zone. Sometimes there can be a trade-off, like when using one scale for ranged weapons and another for hand-to-hand combat.

In the case of the assassin, he had time to set up and put himself at the furthest range for accurate bow shooting. The best combined scale for that scene was six personal zones per skirmish zone. As long as the assassin did not move during the combat, he was allowed to use skirmish scale zones for range. If he moved to keep his distance from the guards, he would have been forced to use personal zones to represent the haste and confusion of combat at personal range. This simplified combat between the assassin and the guards. It also meant the assassin would pay a price for moving by losing his range advantage.

Whenever one type of combat is going on during a scene, using the same scale is the best option. The few quarks concerning ranged versus melee combat is not a game killer. In fact, it can enhance the drama. For those occasions where the range of a weapon does not fit into a melee scene, combine scales by adding skirmish zones to the personal zones.

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Richard Mortellaro

I have been playing since I was 17 (30 yrs). I started with Basic D&D boxed edition and changed to 2E D&D when I started playing with a group in the basement of a hobby shop. Over the years, I have played first editions of many games including Call of Cthulhu, Battle Tech, Champions, and others. Currently, I am running a medieval campaign with the SoF system.

  5 Responses to “Playing with FATE: Using Different Scales in Combat”

  1. Awesome elf! Where did you find her?

  2. I found the image at Passion Fantasy, but they reposted it from somewhere else. Unfortunately, I don’t know the original artist.

  3. I like this, though I must say that I missed this in reading the book. Thanks!

  4. I went over the text several times to make the article. Some elements of the game are implied or only expressed in examples. Some of it came from running the game. The assassin incident happened during a session I was running. I had to decide on the fly how to handle the situation. I figured it might be helpful to others.

  5. One of the things I’m enjoying with SoF is how flexible the system is and how easy it is to adapt to your specific needs.

    Currently I’m part of the “beta-test” for Strands of Power and I can say that there are literally dozens and dozens of great examples of how to use the system in different ways to achieve different feels. Looking forward to seeing it in print.

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