Well good old Johnny has decided to take a step away from his usual deep (and mostly bullshitted) posts about meta-gaming to try something different. I’m going to start a series of posts called Johnny’s Five, wherein I detail 5 nifty things about Gaming, 5 ideas that might help out a GM or 5 unique pieces of . . . something you can use in a game. You get the idea. Why Johnny Five? Cause the robot is awesome and Johnn Four was already taken.

So here is my first Johnny’s Five: Five Awesome Pieces of Terrain.
(Click the titles for visuals)

1. On Top of a Giant Statue
Whenever you involve a giant representation of something that is big enough for the characters to climb on, it evokes all the wonderful feelings we had as small children when the world was so big and we felt an epic sense of wonder about anything bigger than us. Stage your next combat on a giant statue and watch the players think about the unique ways that they can hang from the nose, slip through the crook in the arm, swing off of the elephants tusks or D.F.A. from it onto their enemies.

2. Anyplace near a cliff
When you have land and then suddenly not land, you provide a lot of interesting movement and combat opportunities. The danger of falling off is always present, as is the possibility to throw your opponents off for a quick kill/disabling. Even if you never get into combat near a cliff the possibility of falling will evoke a certain tactile caution in the players. It also provides that stark contrast between earth and sky that makes an area feel more epic.

3. The Outside Of A Spaceship
The final level of the original Unreal Tournament game was fought on a spaceship. Not in a spaceship. On. You could move from the inside to the outside and jump around in space. Get too far away and bam, sucked away from the force field that was keeping atmosphere in. Fighting on the outside of a spaceship was a mind-blowing experience. While this has a lot in common with fighting on the outside of an airship, the space factor adds in one more wow moment.

4. On top of A Giant Monster
Anyone ever play Shadow Of The Colossus or God Of War? After playing SoTC I completely rethought the way combat with giant monsters should go. Setup the monster as the terrain and move the characters on and around to find the weak spots in the enemy’s armor. Put those climbing skills to the test and make them work for their experience.

5. In an endless field of tall grass
Fields of tall grass attract ninja with a supernatural ability. They make an excellent place to fight small and sneaky creatures. Excellent for the creatures that is. They also provide a kind of ambiance for one on one fights. Tall grass can also obscure enough of the ground that gopher holes and hidden logs can turn the tide of a combat.

So what do you think? What awesome pieces of terrain have you used in your games? Where they awesome for the feeling the evoked or the combat options they opened up?

9 replies
  1. Karizma
    Karizma says:

    I’m tempted to DISASSEMBLE your points, but they’re good!

    Shadow of the Colossus struck a chord with me too, and have since been totally re-thinking how fighting big baddies SHOULD be.

    Great (second) post (in one day)! You Gnomes are workin’ hard on GM’s Day. Though we all know this is totally an excuse for you Gnomes to slack off for the next few weeks. But we’ll forgive you this time!

  2. John Arcadian
    John Arcadian says:

    @Karizma – No disassemble Number Five!

    SotC was an awesome game. I’ve designed a few game mechanics around the idea of moving on the giant creature. Its such an interesting concept, and when you think about it, it is really the only way to effectively fight a large creature without long range weapons or massive firepower.

    Wait till you see what we’ve got lined up for tomorrow.

  3. Tony Graham
    Tony Graham says:

    Small boats, gondolas, barges, etc. all pulled together into a larger floating raft that forms a shifting platform. Raft or boat towns can be found near any major port where people make their living on the water.

    Put a fight or chase on it. Cut some lines – water appears between what was a shifting but solid platform. Drive a hole through the bottom of one – oops. Watch out for the fishing lines, nets, rope, gaff-hooks, sails, lobster & crab cages, etc.

    Add a healthy crowd of irate dwellers to complete a living environment and constantly changing piece of terrain for an action sequence.

  4. Wing
    Wing says:

    A long and narrow spiral staircase that leads to where the players want to go. Enemies at the top and bottom. The stairs limit teleporters and movement. Even minions can be very challenging in this situation. The players get separated easily too. For added variety, make the inside of the staircase hollow. Nothing like a wee fall to set things right.

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