Saturday, 27 August 2011

Join up, see the wood

Here's a way of managing line of sight and cover in groups of trees, columns and other obstacles.

It's a supplement to the park, garden and farm post, inspired by seeing the Pi Day geomorph again - here on the left. For more ideas on using it there's a list of great sources in the last post.

The problem is how to suggest individual hiding places and lines of sight in a mass of cover, in a situation in which specific number and location are unknown or unimportant, as with area terrain pieces in wargames, or in map-free roleplaying.

It should work for trees in woods, columns in vaults or consoles and so on in engineering compartments, but possibly also for groups in a crowd, at a party or demonstration say. In the last case it could be especially useful in playing out chase scenes or infiltrations.

The solution expands the Into the depths! idea. It involves rolling dice to find position; more faces should suggest a bigger cluster, and more dice a higher density at the core.

Every time an individual, party or squad enters the cluster roll for initial position. This should be recorded, ideally by leaving the dice face up beside the player(s) or model(s). If individuals want to branch out, they can each move up to one position higher or lower. So if a party rolls an 8 for entry point, they can spread out over positions 7, 8 and 9. It's assumed the ends of the range meet, so the highest number is also next to the lowest.

You need to decide how much time each further movement needs, how many rounds, or how many moves per turn, depending on game system. You also need to decide how far a move can be, whether one space or more. I recommend using at least two dice for position, and rerolling one of these to find a new position. If two or more individuals have the same number, they are in the same position and interact as if actually in contact.

For line of sight, an individual in the cluster is assumed to be able to see the positions numbered one point higher and lower, but could be given a bonus to this range for higher perception. Instead of this - or in addition - you could make a roll as if for position and have the individual see a range centred on that point; this would keep things dynamic.

For ranged attacks you may want to decide the distance between positions in tabletop terms. For speed, I'd suggest the usual basic unit per number, for example 1" or 1 cm.

One other thing to consider is whether line of sight between positions means they're clearly visible to each other or partially obscured. For simplicity I'd suggest visible, but another option - if the system you're using allows it - is to increase the level of cover for each position over the usual maximum. For example, position 6 might see positions 5 and 7 clearly, but positions 4 and 8 as lightly obscured, and 3 and 9 heavily obscured.

It's simpler than it seems, but will probably need some adaptation. What did I miss..?


Ray Rousell said...

Hmm? This is a very interesting idea, I'm trying to think if I could use something like this for my FIW rules that I'm still trying to write, obviously because most of the games will be in dense woods........I shall ponder more, me thinks!!

Porky said...

All the way I was focusing more on a single, fairly small cluster. I wonder how it would work for a massive forest, with very high-numbered dice?

The most interesting thing then might be the record-keeping, that even by placing dice as markers the number range on them could make it tricky getting a sense of who's close to who; two individuals could be close by each other without the controlling players realising it. That's quite realistic of course if understood as the isolation and breakdown of command.

It could also be exaggerated by rolling more dice, in that the players would have more adding to do and quick glances would be harder. The downside with too many more though is that it could get too busy at the centre, making the forest seem smaller.

If you do try it, I'd love to know how it goes.