OK, don’t have a long time to write tonight, as I have to wake up early tomorrow, but here are some more thoughts on this. And apologies beforehand if I get a bit wordy. I tend to ramble when I start analyzing RPG mechanics.
When to Use Engagement Zones
This is a big consideration. You wouldn’t want to use engagement zones every Fight. If everybody is engaged in melee, all in the same general area, there is little reason to add this sort of complexity. There has to be a reason.
If engagement zones are used at all, they should be reserved for Fight scenes in which range is important, and the geography of the land and/or the dynamics of the battlefield are interesting enough to warrant handling them with multiple die rolls instead of one. Remember, the core rules can handle almost any sort of scenario, but most actions are handled in a single die roll. Interesting conflict scenes are taken to Fight/R&C/DoW, because it’s fun and interesting to bring multiple die rolls into account when the stakes are high. Similarly, movement on the battlefield can be handled with a single physical action. You’d want to break out engagement zones when it’d be more fun and interesting to break it down into multiple physical actions.
Which is why ranged combat is important to take into account. What’s the point of scripting multiple move actions if there’s no element of danger/suspense? If somebody’s shooting at me while I charge across the battlefield, sure, that adds tension. But honestly, it’s hard to envision any other scenario when I’d want to use engagement zones if there were no ranged opponents. Ranged combat seems to me to be THE reason for using it. If all you want to add is terrain modifiers, just add terrain modifiers to the regular game. However, I might see a use for engagement zones if there was some sort of time pressure to the Fight scene.
How will This Change my Game?
I can’t speak for Luke, but if I had to guess why Mr. Crane chose the Fight mechanics he did, I’d say it’s all about consequences. You bring a gun to a fistfight, you could get punched.
With more traditional RPG combat mechanics, ranged combatants were always the safe guys, hanging about at the back of the battlefield, only worrying about other ranged combatants. Rare was it that they were ever forced into melee.
No fear of consequences goes against the BW philosophy though. In this game, you fight for what you believe, and you only use the Fight rules when the stakes are high. And the stakes can only be high if the consequences of failure are drastic enough to make you care. You have to take risks to reap the rewards. Sitting in the back shooting arrows is a cheap way of avoiding the consequences and the risk.
So, how will adding engagement zones change the game? Well, if you let ranged combatants engage at range (which they really should be allowed to do if this mod is used), you’ll have to also engage them at range. If both sides don’t have ranged combatants, I wouldn’t use this mod. Also, expect the Fight scene to be pretty much over once all ranged combatants on one side are picked off. I might even drop out of Fight at this point, actually, and finish off with a Bloody Versus or something.
Setting up the Map
Zone maps are much easier to sketch up than wargame-style grid maps. Just sketch the terrain, and draw in some zone boundaries. I’d like to suggest not sticking to only geographic groups though. You want to create an interesting battlefield dynamic more than anything. It’s kind of like drawing a board game playing surface. Paying attention to where and how the zone boundaries meet is more important than laying them out logically.
Don’t make too many zones! But just the same, don’t make too few. Try to guess how long the conflict will go on for, and how far the characters could possibly move in that time frame. And remember, most Fight scenes are over very quickly.
Once your zones are laid out, add some notes:
[li]Put cover in where it’s appropriate. Some cover would give Ob penalties to attackers, others would grant full cover.
[/li][li]Note difficult terrain. Note Obs.
[/li][li]Add in a special feature or two that might be declared as advantage dice.
[/li][li]Don’t add too many notes! Allow room for players to assess for cover/special features mid-scene.
Lastly, start the groups of opponents off close to each other. Nothing’s more boring than wasting half an hour walking to the fight. Start near or even in the action!
Script one physical action to move one zone. (takes two actions in Fight)
I would not suggest requiring a Speed test to move between each and every zone. Movement to a zone with no difficult terrain modifiers should just be granted for free. Movement into a zone with difficult terrain requires a Speed test versus the Ob of the terrain. I’d still allow the character to reach his desired zone on a failed test, but it’d take up an extra number of actions equal to the Margin of Failure (MoF). Any scripted actions are lost and changed to “Still Moving”, with no future action penalty.
Why these movement rules? Just, more fun. Also allows the GM to set up a map with some really hostile terrain. You’re negotiating a lava field, Ob 9 Speed test! Very doable, but it’s gonna take a while unless you burn some Artha.
Allow engagement across zones with ranged weapons. Optimal range should be kept fairly short for all weapons. Firing at further ranges would suffer Ob penalties of +1 Ob for Extreme and +3 Ob for Out of Range. Max range would be ignored in most cases, unless you have one heck of a big battlefield. A few examples:
[li]Elven Bow: Optimal 2 zones. Extreme (+1 Ob) 3-4 zones. Out of Range (+3 Ob) 5+ zones.
[/li][li]Hunting Bow: Optimal 1 zone. Extreme (+1 Ob) 2 zones. Out of Range (+3 Ob) 3+ zones.
[/li][li]Thrown Weapon: Optimal same zone. Extreme (+1 Ob) 1 zone. Out of Range (+3 Ob) 2+ zones.
[/li][li]Melee Weapon: Optimal same zone. Can’t attack beyond this range (unless you throw your weapon!)
Just off the top of my head. Obviously, the specifics would need some playtesting and tweaking…