'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

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Zones Revisited for Miniatures. Conan 2d20 RPG

One of the things I have struggled with is zones, especially when outdoors. Playing an action scene with miniatures and having zones that are not clearly defined can be difficult. D&D and others get around this by using grids, one square typically equals five feet. If you character has a move of 30'/turn, they move 6 squares. Nice and easy. Some players of these systems have moved away from grids and gone gridless. In systems like this if 1 inch equals 5 feet. A character with a 30'/turn moves 6". Still simple. This is generally how wargames work.

Of note is an independent skirmish wargame called "A Song of Blades and Heros", which is an awesome game that I highly recommend. In this game characters are moved via a move stick. No measuring apart from the stick. You do lose a little granularity, but what you lose there you make up in speed. It's a cool system.

I am sure some of you are wondering what I am on about. This is CONAN 2d20! It doesn't use a grid! It uses abstract zones! Zones based around scenery, zones based around where the action is happening!

Yes. This is all 100% true and if you can easily define zones you can create areas that are larger and some that are smaller, allowing you to control speed of the characters moving across the environment. ie a large zone represents an area a character can move fast and a small zone represents an area a character needs to move slowly across.

If you have time and can create defined zones in your outdoor scenes that your players can clearly identify, this is the way that more closely resembles how the rules are written and I suggest that it might be the best way to go. Best, but not fastest.

Using some of the above ideas from gridless D&D games as well as SoBH, I want to suggest the use of a stick. This stick is the size you want your average zone to be, + 1/2 that length again. In the case of a 4.5" stick we mark it at 1.5" from the end, and label it "Close", label the remainder as "Medium".

Indoors it might be small, say 4.5" long, and outdoors it might be double that size representing faster movement in larger, more open areas. As you can gather this stick represents the length of a zone. At the start of a players turn we assume his or hers character is sitting in the middle of their "zone".
  • Adjust - Free action - Miniature may move within any point listed as "Close" on the stick. Representing moving within the zone.
  • Move - Minor action - Miniature may move within any point on the stick. This represents moving to any place within "Medium" Range.
  • Sprint - Standard - Miniature may move to any point on the stick + the medium range portion of the stick, representing moving to "Long Range".

Basically we are picking a length for what we want the "MOVE" action to be. In D&D that might be a 6" stick representing the move of 30'. Once we have that we are allowing half that distance in the free action "Adjust", that full length for "Move" and two of those lengths for "Spring". Compared to the zone map we had before we can see how this might look and how well it translates.

This is a simple method that will allow your more tactically minded players to have a better grip on how far they can move in a round of play. It does have it's downsides, the biggest of them is you can't simply make a zone larger or smaller because the terrain is easier or more difficult to move across.

If you play Conan 2d20 with miniatures I would love to hear your thoughts on using a measuring system vs a zone system. Drop me a comment below and let me know. If you don't play Conan 2d20 but do play gridless I'd also love to hear what you think of it. Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!


  1. Yeah... this is a very good technique!

  2. Instead of varying zone sizes, you could require tests to move through certain obstacles, stalling on a failure.

    1. This is an existing mechanic in 2d20, some zones can slow unless a successful test is passed, others have barriers at their edges that require a test to pass.