Hi, guys! A promise is a promise, and a long time ago, I promised folks a conversation about terrain. Terrain is the area of land or battlefield upon which a conflict is played out. This can have a lot of different meanings.
1) A lot of people think of terrain as simply whatever the ground is under their feet. This is kind of silly, because terrain can change in an instant. What if there isn’t any ground in the first place? A better way of thinking of terrain is “The sum total of the local environment.”
Is that pet dog or someone’s parked car part of the terrain? As far as a battlemap is concerned, yes it is. Can characters be part of terrain? They sure can! Just strap an unconscious PC to a rocket and threaten to launch him, and lo and behold, he’s an environmental factor.
2) Can the terrain be dangerous? Sure it can! Lava, high-speed rapids, an ocean storm, or a construction site can all be examples of dangerous terrain. These combats are always the most fun, too, because the environment as opponent can’t be argued with. If you have to fight the bad guy on a tightrope over a windswept canyon, then everything just became ten times cooler (and ten times more dangerous).
3) In some cases, terrain presents obstacles. In other cases, it can make things easier. It is important to remember that this doesn’t always work great for everyone. What is good for Fred may be lousy for Bob. Thick jungle that impedes ground movement will be awful for super sprinter, but fantastic for monkey boy!
4) Challenge people with terrain! A battle on a rocky outcropping over a pool of Lava is always going to be more challenging than a battle on a flat plain, given an equal level of opponent.