Better Battles With Biomes

Thank you to everyone who emailed me concerns yesterday about my dice cracking in the polar vortex currently enveloping us here! I took this pic on the weekend looking out my back window:

There’s no filter on that photo. It’s early morning and foggy, so things are a cool blue.

I am also continuing my daily walks. You just need to dress up for it. Here’s me ready for my trek on Saturday:

I have to go without my glasses because they’ll just fog up. Dang breathing gets in the way!

Ok, onto today’s tip. Why should we GMs care about biomes?

Well, we can use the environment to add opportunities for clever tactics and cunning stunts in our battles.

In my Wizard of Combat program, I call this the CombatScape of your combat. And this is the second reason why I care about biomes as a GM. (The first reason is here.)

Your CombatScape includes key elements like these to make fights twice as interesting and finish far faster:

  • Base Terrain
  • Ground
  • Sky
  • Air
  • Temperature
  • Precipitation
  • Vision
  • Features
  • Traps
  • Hazards
  • Obstacles
  • Boundaries

All these elements are tools in our GM Toolbox we can wield to make encounters engaging. For example, we don’t think about air much. We breathe it. And…that’s about it.

But, what if the air was moving? From breezes to gusts to gales, each can affect ranged attacks, vision, and movement to shake things up.

Likewise, if using my new Polar Adventures GM Cheat Sheet, air can become an excellent combat design element. When air gets very cold, many interesting battle options open up:

  • Ice crystals and ice fog
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Hypothermia
  • Water freezes fast
  • Certain materials break or become brittle
  • Flames and fire magic weaken

And a classic Simon Says gotcha, skin sticks to metal. Ouch!

You might rule that it becomes harder to concentrate on spells. That after a couple rounds of sweaty exertion, combatants might slow down or take a bit of frostbite damage. Or that thin materials have a 50% chance of breaking, such as the wizard’s precious scrolls and those silk slippers the rogue likes sneaking around in so much.

And these ideas are just from combining two simple elements: air and cold.

When you consider all the options you can squeeze out of your encounter’s biome and its implications on your CombatScapes, no combat should feel same-same again!

Have more fun at every game!

P.S. My latest GM Cheat Sheet is out: Polar Adventures. Create instant 5 Room Dungeons, get ideas for chilling encounter conflicts, discover arctic treasures, plus a plethora of other tables that all connect into a complete adventure outline.

Get if from DriveThruRPG.

Or get two Cheat Sheets free when you pick up my 25% off Cheat Sheet Bundle here.

Platinum Wizards of Adventure and existing Wizard of Combat GMs, if you’d like more details about CombtScapes, you can access Lesson 2.09 On Location: Creating Your CombatScape here.
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