How we roll (And Jump, and leap, and run)


Today, we’re going to talk about movement. What? Why do we need to talk about movement in games? Most game systems have movement systems built in, right? And we declare our actions and take them, right?

Well, that’s part of the problem to which I am going to offer a solution. As gamemasters, and as players, we don’t often take the time to visualize our combat zones enough.

Most people want their characters to be able to do the same kinds of things they do in the movies, and that’s all well, and good, and awesome, except that sometimes the limits of what the system will let us do don’t allow us to do those things.

But they do. And this is where the rub comes in. Often, the problem comes in where we simply don’t read the rules for movement and combat closely enough. Many modern games focus so much on the character generation side, that we forget that there are rules and a combat system that may allow us to get what we want by changing the way that we move, inserting skill rolls into the way we move, or changing our mode of movement altogether. Rather than visualize a single action, try to imagine your character’s actions as a fluid whole, the way he or she moves, thinks, fights, and engages situations.

On the surface, this sounds nuts, right? Well, I’ve learned that faced with a battlemap and a detailed set of combat rules, many players and GMs stop thinking about this completely. I love complex tactical battlemaps with difficult terrain and all that other stuff. Combats like this can be fun. BUT…

Sometimes, doing this every time inhibits creativity rather than inspires it. This is all well and good most of the time, but there are two things that may help this out a bit.

1) Every so often, run a combat mapless. There really isn’t a reason for this other than allowing people to visualize what their characters are doing. Actions have to be better described, and the GM will have to get a better idea of what distances are like in his head.

2) Listen to how players are describing their actions. If you think their descriptions are confusing, help them out a bit. Don’t be afraid to ask them if this is really what they mean. They may not mean what you heard.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Hopefully, these styles will eventually merge. Then you’ll get the descriptions you want and the battlemaps players think they need.

This may not always be the way to go, but remember that visualizing how your character moves is the first step to a smoother combat.

  • Upcoming Appearances

    Heroicon, Decatur, Illinois, May 15-17

    Michael will be appearing at Heroicon as a Special Guest, where he will run games and appear on panels. All proceeds from this convention go to benefit troops overseas with games, both donated and purchased, sponsored by a group called Games for Troops. I know it's a trek. Come join me anyway.

    Nexus Game Fair, Milwaukee, WI, June 25-28

    Michael will be appearing at Nexus Game Fair as a Special Guest, where he will run games and appear on Panels.

    Gencon, Indianapolis, IN, July 29-August 2.

    Michael will be attending Gencon and representing Blackwyrm Games, where his latest products will be playtested and he will have at least one signing.