Seeking Suggestions: Moving during small-scale combat

I'm interested in hearing how other groups handle movement during combat. Coming from a traditional D&D background, we're used to movement being fixed increments on a grid map. Tenra's rules only mention movement range being 10m x Agility for movement across a battlefield, so it is up to the GM how to handle movement in small skirmishes.

How has everyone else handled this? Continuing to systematize movement with Agility on a smaller scale, like 1m x Agility or 1 step x Agility? Or using something more conceptual, like moving from long range to mid-range to close range?

So far, I've been considering steps for very small spaces, 1m for most spaces, and 10m only for large battles.


  • I think the rules already treat this as "small-scale"... think of anime, where folks easily jump across half the battlefield in the blink of an eye

  • Hey Karsing! This is a really solid question.

    Some academic background: Tenra Bansho Zero was written at a time where gaming (including in Japan) was transitioning from "realistic" rules to "dramatic/imaginative" rules. From "how many meters does this gun shoot"/"How many meters can the superninja run" to a more FATE or 13th Age style "Which of these combat zones are you in? Are you at the Courtyard Front? Courtyard Back? Or Balcony?" Unfortunately, they completed the game and published in the middle of that gestalt shift without basically rewriting the system from scratch to remove all that stuff. Further, my publishing license did not allow me to remove those sections or completely rewrite the rules (with good reason, too, otherwise I'd probably STILL be working on it today!).

    Further: In every play report in Japanese I've read, not one single GM - not even the designer of the game - uses range realistically in combat scenes. In fact, most combats tend to be "The charatcers are close together in the inn/castle/garden: 4 Samurai appear and attack!" <-- And the combat becomes a free-for-all where every single character can reach every single NPC (and vice versa) with no measuring or calculation. Maaaaybe there's some fight scenes where there's a gunner or archer who is "pretty far away. It'll take you a round of running just to get to them. ...Oh, you're spending Kiai to take another action? Ummm... okay, you're there."

    Back to your question:

    Instead, most people (you included!) tended to "get it": While the game abilities say things like "you can move X meters", for most of us including netermoresnight above, we just visualize all this stuff. We don't scale it out on a battle mat in order to tell "with accuracy" how far the badass magical techno ninja can move in 10 seconds.

    It instead becomes a "That's nice to know that this character can move 70m in 10 seconds", but you don't carefully measure that on a battlemat, you just plug it into your head as everyone imagines the battlefield.

    • If the bad guy is about 50 meters away: "Okay, I can get to them this round."
    • "Then, I want to attack bad guy two the next round." To this the GM says, "Ah, that other guy is actually on the top of a hill 100 meters away. It'll take you another round to get over there." That sort of thing.

    While I say that a lot of these details are in our head: That's true, but I often do use battlemats and figures (or coins; or markings with a dry erase marker) to paint a clean picture of what's happening: If you say "The bad guy is gloating from on top of the castle", the players might be imagining a normal Japanese castle, but the GM is imagining a Tenra-style MEGACASTLE, so drawing some squiggles on a map or paper will help people understand in general what's going on. There's no need to, from there, pull out a ruler to confirm if the bad guy is actually 68 meters away (in range) or 72 meters away (out of range).

    But your suggestion on "range" is how I handle things. I was using basically "zones" (from 13th Age, even before 13th Age came out):

    The combat starts at a tea house in a bamboo grove. 5 ninjas attack from the bamboo grove by shooting or throwing ninja stars; 3 ninja attack the players outside the tea house with melee weapons; and there's a master ninja patiently waiting inside the tea house to burst out and attack. As a GM, I would do this:

    • Pull out a sheet of paper and pencil. Draw an uneven square to represent the tea house, and a big circle around it to represent the garden/area in front of the tea house and the bamboo grove outside the circle. I tell the player "It's about 10 meters from the tea house to the bamboo grove", just so everyone has a rough idea of scale.

    • Drop a couple coins or dice on the map to represent the ninjas: 5 in the bamboo grove area, 3 inside the courtyard/garden circle, and one Big Thing to represent the master ninja.

    • Have the players push forward a representative die or something to show where their character is.

    • And then from there, standard anime action combat: I'm not exacting with details, and neither are the players: For the most part they'll each run over to one enemy and do an attack...

    • ...But if one player wants to blow their Kiai and make a bunch of attacks, saying "In round one I'm going to jump from ninja to ninja in the bamboo grove area, making an attack on each": I'd do some "GM Drama math": If the character in question has a high Agility, and I look on the map I drew and it looks like (at a glance) they could make the distance in a circle, sure I'd say that they can try that. But if there are 5 players and in doing that they would be stealing the show a little from the others, I might say "Well, if you past each one you could run that distance, but actually making an attack too? You'll only be able to face 3 of them this round unless you spend more Kiai for additional (running/attack) actions". Since my players are cool with drama/pacing in RPGs and not exacting strategy/realism, they would accept that and combat would commence.

    So ultimately, yeah: Use zones, or your range zones, or whatever you feel comfortable with: And on top of that, use your "gut" as a GM for what you think is Cool, Dramatic, and Fair for All at the table. But I'd specifically AVOID using actual measurements in combat, it's really not meant to be played that way.

    Hope that helps!

  • Coming from an anime backround my play style is similiar to Andies; most of the time everyone is in melee range of everyone else unless there is a Dramatic reason for them not to be.

    Or they are not in the area (zone) like was previous mentioned. Running from one room to the one next to it could be fine but if someone jumps on a moving armour it might take an action or a Movement roll to get with range to melee them.

  • Thank you for the replies everyone, especially for the detailed examples!

    This has cleared up a lot of concerns I had with handling movement, I think the confusion arose from a combination of old habits and enough detail in the Tenra Bansho Zero rules regarding hard distances and ranges.

    I ran a game by referencing distances, but without a grid, so it has mainly been visualization of set distances. It was a bit messy, but using zones and approximate distances between them seems like the way to go for the next game.

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