I want to take an on-the-fly approach to my campaign by putting grabby situations in front of my players (by "grabby," I mean stuff that threatens what their characters want) and letting my NPCs react to what the PCs based on how that threatens what the NPCs want. As such, there's not all that much prep that I can do after the planning stage - how I created my NPCs should pretty much tell me what's going to happen next.
This gets a bit tricky, though, when it comes to combat. I can do it free-form, I suppose, but it feels as though Deathwatch combat only has teeth when it's treated semi-tactically - a cluttered space with cover, bottlenecks and
In other words, the old 40K miniatures maxim of, "The more terrain, the better the game!" seems to apply here.
I also want to make sure that each arena takes into account that any given fight has a bigger purpose than just "I'm going to kill those pesky Deathwatch kids and their darn servitor"; if someone starts a fight, it's because they think they're going to achieve something concrete (take a location, retrieve an item, protect / kidnap a person). That way, it's easier to see if /when someone's going to give up without relying on attrition.
The really tricky part is that as this is an online campaign I'm using Roll20, which has a very handy battlemap facility, complete with the ability to choose the underlay for your map and pre-generated terrain.
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…"I'm going to kill those pesky Deathwatch kids and their darn servitor"…
"Zoinks! It was old man Johnsonius, the Haunted Voidbeacon keeper!"
How do you come up with battle-spaces on the fly? What do you find works well with Deathwatch's unique quirks?
I use minis in most of my battles, so my 'on the fly' (as opposed to pre-planned) combats usually just come down to grabbing some terrain from my collection- ideally appropriate to the setting, but sometimes I have to fall back on the old "These treestumps? They're actually stalagmites"- and go from there. My strong preference is for dense blocking terrain that forces the Killteam to get 'up close and personal'- there's nothing more anticlimactic that having the Big Boss killed by long-range sniper fire before he has a chance to react…
My 'fan-created content':
I started using roll20 a few sessions ago, and I love it. I'm not sure what you mean when you talk about getting results quickly. If you mean how do I do my battles, I typically put stuff I don't want the team to see either under fog of war or on my GM Overlay to pop in when it comes into play. Also, having certain stats (armor, wounds, and toughness) on the enemy minis and having NPCs' initiatives pre-rolled saves me a lot of time.
Thanks for the replies, folks!
To clarify, Gaire: What do you do when you need a battle-map that you didn't prepare ahead of time? How quickly can / have you put one together? What did you do to save time while also making sure it was - for want of a better phrase - tactically pleasing?
I can't really answer that one. I use my maps to help tell my campaign's story, so I put them together ahead of time. I've got two and a half missions' worth of maps that my Kill-Team hasn't even seen yet, and I'm always working on building more.
I use Roll20 and tend to put everything together ahead of time. The players are usually always looking at a map of where they are so if combat does arise, it's just a matter of dropping in enemy "minis." But it doesn't take more than 5 minutes to throw together a basic tactical map.
I've been doing some noodling about this and here are my thoughts so far.
Size: 100 metres in length seems to be a good default. It's about the right length for a single city block, the standard bolt gun will never be out of range and though an Assault Marine can jump most of it, that's only with chancing a Run (which means anyone who engages the Marine in melee gets +20WS). From a fiddling management perspective, I'd go with a thirty to fifty-metre map width just to keep things easy. Most Hordes, even Tyranid ones, will have to make four Runs in order to close to charge range (assuming the PCs remain mostly stationary).
Dropping the length down might be a good idea for a shorter fight, though, and length of combats is something I want to cut down on.
Cover: Spacing-wise, eight to ten metres seems a good distance between units of cover, more than a half move but still run-able for most Marines. It encourages the Marines to chance making full-action dashes from point to point. There could be smaller units of cover in between to give the players a shoice between going all-out to secure a location in a round or hopping from place to place so that they can trade shots.
The down-side is, on a hundred-metre long, thirty-metre wide map, that means placing something like twenty discrete units of cover. Borrowing a leaf from the 40K miniatures game, maybe some sort of pre-battle advantage test would allow my players and I to trade placing items of cover, but any more than ten total might take too bloody long (especially given players' propensities to turn everything into a committee discussion).
Objectives: If the Kill-team needs to procure or secure a location, item or person, my thought is to put it in the middle of the map. That might only work if the map is around the 100-metre mark, though, so that Assault Marines would still have to Run to get there. Maybe, with the aforementioned advantage roll, the winner gets to place the objective ten metres closer (plus another ten for every Degree of Success) to their side of the map.
So, situations aside, I might try out a standard battle-map size of sixty metres long, twenty wide and see how it works.
Never used Roll20, but here is something that I do sometimes to create a tactically varied situation. Using grid paper or something similar, make a bunch of small zones (like rooms, hallways, staircases, cul-de-sacs, cluttered areas etc.) ahead of time, then put them together semi-randomly during the battle. It's not perfect, and there are situations that it does not work for, especially outdoor combat, but it's something.
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