'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Conan 2d20: Thoughts on Zone Representation with Miniatures.

For those of you not familiar with the Conan 2d20 system, it uses an abstract concept of location. It uses no grids but instead action takes place within a zone of indeterminate size. A free action will allow a character or creature to move within a zone, ie move to a place where they can strike an opponent. A Minor action will allow movement to an adjacent zone and a standard action to sprint two zones.

If you have played the board game by Monolith you will have an idea of zones. In the board game Monolith has drawn the zones on the board and denoted a central point that is used within that rule system. If you are using a hand drawn map or a battlemap you could also do this.

However if you are using miniatures and props not having a grid or even measuring movement you have a potential problem, you don't necessarily want to place a zone on a modular piece of scenery, as it might change. Zones are generally defined by a piece of terrain, like a fountain, a stack of boxes, middle of a bridge, etc. What happens if you have a large area that is generally featureless? Do we call that area one single zone? You certainly could, but perhaps, despite it being barren you want it to represent distance and you don't want your heroes merely skipping across it?

I am going to suggest zone markers for this. These are going to be like the central white dots I mentioned above, and are only needed in zones that don't have an easily definable area.

A simple cavern with a well. 
Three zones are easily defined. 1: The Entrance, 2: The Well and 3: The Exit.

The above example is easy and you will often have areas like this that are easy to define. Lets take a look at a barren plateau with an entrance and an exit with some space between the two.

An empty plateau with more than three zones? 
How do we define the extra 4 zones we want on this barren surface?

The simple answer is to make them less barren. I am going to suggest some small pieces of scatter terrain placed in the middle of each of these zones. Not only will it allow you to mark zones but it will make your area look more interesting.

Some suggestions of scatter terrain
  • Pile of rocks
  • Crates
  • Minor vegetation, grass, bush, etc
  • Bones
  • Crater or cracks
  • Small patch of differing flock, ie patch of dirt or grass.
  • etc.


  1. Good article. One of the things I consider when deciding how large to make a zone is to think about how easy it is to more across. Movement is fairly abstract so the actual distance covered by an action to move through zone #1 (slippery rocks and water) may be much different than moving through zone #2 (barren dirt floor). To get from zone #1 to zone #4 a character might have to choose between going through #1, #3, and on to #4 (and being in cover the whole time) or go from #2 to #4; quicker but fully exposed!

    1. Good points, the abstract movement aspect is an interesting thing I am still honestly getting my head around. We have played fairly loose so far.