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sidescroller

Range bands--any worked example from FFG?

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So I picked up my copy of the beginner game, and found that they stuck with range bands. The beginner game still doesn't offer a worked example. Back in the beta, we had a forum thread about range bands. There was an (unresolved?) debate about whether the mover or the target was the reference for range band based movement, and there was general consensus that range bands don't work except on a single axis.

 

Has FFG published a worked example of this? I'm not looking to rehash that old thread or restart discussion, I'm just wondering if we've seen from the devs how they think that system is supposed to work.

 

Tagging @FFGDerek to see if that does anything, since @FFGDerek kicked off the L5R RPG forum. 

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New to this game (and any RPG designed by FFG as well), never saw that thread you linked to before. And boy, colour me surprised. To me, it seems clearer than day that range bands are just not like a grid system and must not be used as such. I fail to read it as anything else than a handy approach to determine range at the time of a single, given check in broadly subjective but narratively adequate increments. I sincerely applaud this idea.

We don't even need precise range values. Self/Touch, Sword, Spear, Throw, Bow, Volley/Earshot, Sight seem to me to be perfectly applicable and discrete steps, although I might quibble with Bow and Volley. As a DM, I adore those. They enable swift decision-making and fluidity of combat turns.

I have no prior knowledge of this system's history and design, but range bands seem to incarnate the idea that tracking range is unnecessary until you need to perform a check. During a fight everybody moves in every direction at various speeds -- it's chaos, we all know that. And you may well track that with a map and a grid and miniatures, and so forth. But the fact remains that range matters only when you roll dice. I am sympathetic to any system that doesn't try to account for this complexity in its minute details.

After a couple of decades of DMing with other systems I can also see why people want to hold to established paradigms they are familiar with, but I think this game is just a different outlook. I can't wait to try this. I seem to be the right audience for this, that I can say. 

So I would counter with a question: what kind of example would you need to be satisfied with the answer?

Edited by Ascarel

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2 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

To be honest, these range bands do tend to cause strange anomalies, especially if Water Ring shenanigans are popular at your table. 

Since I haven't played this yet in any version or iteration, can you elaborate on those shenanigans? I'm curious. :)

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5 minutes ago, Ascarel said:

Since I haven't played this yet in any version or iteration, can you elaborate on those shenanigans? I'm curious. :)

I think this was actually fixed in the Beta, but you could move infinite distances with the Martial Water Opportunity and repeated Move/Charge/Maneuver actions via Water Stance double-tapping.

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@Ascarel don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of de-gridding combat space, as well. And I'd love to see a non-grid system in L5R, for a variety of reasons. I also thought range bands seemed great when I first read the rules... and then I tried to use them. 

To answer your question, I want an example that shows how the system should work where I found it failed--mostly in skirmishes with multiple combatants moving along two axis. For such skirmishes, the rules do not clarify how to keep consistent range bands without minis or trigonometry. But at that point you're tracking specific distances, which defeats the purpose of range bands. Plus, by specifying a further "fake" target, shenanigans-inclined players can use range bands to reduce the number of maneuver actions they need to reach their actual target, especially once you break out the minis. IIRC, the old thread goes into these issues in more detail, and others as well. 

Range bands worked fine for dueling, where there were only two characters--and therefore one line/axis between them--but one would hope that a combat space system designed for skirmishes would actually work for skirmishes. 

Edited by sidescroller
Corduroy, of course

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50 minutes ago, TheWanderingJewels said:

I tend to equate them with general distance. helps keep things simple

I'll have to see how they end up in the final game, but I'm probably going to abstract them into something like Fate zones. Still fluid enough that you don't need minis if you don't want to, but easily compatible with them.

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4 hours ago, sidescroller said:

To answer your question, I want an example that shows how the system should work where I found it failed--mostly in skirmishes with multiple combatants moving along two axis. For such skirmishes, the rules do not clarify how to keep consistent range bands without minis or trigonometry. But at that point you're tracking specific distances, which defeats the purpose of range bands.

The way I see it, knowing the relative position of everyone in a chaotic skirmish is absolutely not a problem of range units -- but one of representation or memory if it gets too abstract. Take the tokens from the Beginner's box and put them randomly on a table. How difficult it is to know who's at touch-range from who, and then at sword-range, then at spear-range, then at bow-range? In most cases, it's gonna be easy. These categories are pretty functional. You certainly can make a working encounter out of just that, without a grid. Now what about unclear or bordeline cases? Say, people running in opposite directions, are they still at bow range now? Well, don't start calculating a hypotenuse. Just decide what you want to happen here! ;) 

I guess I'll come off as old school, but when you look at it we can probably say that they are two ways to play a tabletop RPG today. You either help build your game with rules, or you let the rules make the game for you. The tactical straitjacket of a miniature game or a boardgame corresponds to the latter -- with that kind of game you will let the game tell you what you can and can't do pretty much at all times. Trying to find an objective answer to all the imaginable variables fits squarely into that paradigm. But -- to me -- the other (deeper?) spirit of a tabletop RPG is to tell a story first, and you use the rules to help it along, and certainly never to hinder a good -- or useful -- idea.

Disclaimer: these days I am DMing the new edition of Paranoia, a pretty funny game where the DM doesn't even throw any dice. How subversive, eh? :P Earlier editions used to write OPTIONAL on every page of the rulebook, just to make a point. Yes, it's one extreme end of the storytelling spectrum, but that's the mood I'm in right now and this colours my answer here. So, see, as it happens I recognized some of that storytelling spirit, this openness, in this L5R RPG, like for example when you allow the players to come up with their own Complication scenes, or with the narrative Opportunities. Oh man, I so love this collaborative stuff. I'm really pumped. :P So in all that, range bands? They're a tool, not a procedure.

By the way, players can only make shenanigans if the DM lets them. Worse, players want to make shenanigans when they think they play against the DM. Playing a RPG like that, in my book that's just a category error.

Edited by Ascarel

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@Suzume Chikahisa I'm actually pretty inspired by Fate zones, too. 

@Ascarel I mean sure, any rule works fine when you choose to ignore it for the sake of your story ? But choosing when to engage the rules is a separate issue than knowing how the rules work, which is my problem. 

3 hours ago, Ascarel said:

The way I see it, knowing the relative position of everyone in a chaotic skirmish is absolutely not a problem of range units -- but one of representation or memory if it gets too abstract. Take the tokens from the Beginner's box and put them randomly on a table. How difficult it is to know who's at touch-range from who, and then at sword-range, then at spear-range, then at bow-range? In most cases, it's gonna be easy.

Right, that's not the difficult part. The difficult part is maintaining consistent range bands as characters move. The easiest way my group found to do it was with minis and string (the beginner game even recommends pulling minis out), at which point we would have preferred traditional tactical grid movement (hexes, ofc ?). But none of us actually wanted to do tactical combat; we wanted a functional narrative representation of combat space. The old thread goes into details on why range bands don't handle movement well.

I guess for me, a good benchmark for "functional narrative representation of combat space" is that the rules easily track the whole party (3-5) and an equally matched opponent party of similar size. 

3 hours ago, Ascarel said:

By the way, players can only make shenanigans if the DM lets them. Worse, players want to make shenanigans when they think they play against the DM. Playing a RPG like that, in my book that's just a category error.

I mean... we could have a philosophical debate about who lets whom do what, but that won't exactly be productive. AND IME, adversarial gm-player relationship isn't what inspires shenanigans. Finding little exploitable rules quirks can be fun in itself, and I'm not gonna deny my players an exploitable quirk when A) it's an obvious result of RAW and B) I don't have a consistent/fair way to adjudicate around it. Which doesn't mean I can't make one, I'd just rather be sure of how the game works (or doesn't) before I go tinkering. 

 

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I tend to think that the move to gridded combat (either with miniatures, or just a sketch map on grid paper) is generally a good thing - it makes it easier to avoid confusion at the tabletop, the GM can communicate efficiently and concisely the relative positions of combatants, where likely threats are, etc (this can be especially confusing when you have multiple threats coming in from multiple directions... If I move one band towards one threat do I also move one band away from another - even if they started off at different ranges? etc, etc). There is also some benefit to using real world measurements - it is easy to visualize what an enemy one hundred meters away looks like, not so much "four range bands". Finally, one of my players is attention-deficient - they tend not to take in a lot of description of a scene, a quick map can help some players visualize things a lot more easily.

Not that I'm averse to not using a grid, it's just that I think there are a lot of positives for it in terms of ensuring that everyone has fun at the table (a player getting slapped because they misunderstood something about the GMs description of a scene is annoying - both for the players and for the GM),

I've played a little star wars, and ran L5R using the beta rules (as well as reading through the LtP set), and I do think this is the part of the rules that is least well communicated in the rulebooks - it is unclear how this works in practice, and can sometimes create a situation where GM fiat seems to determine positioning (to be clear, I'm okay about that, but the rules should at least make it clear that this is the case). This can be especially confusing for the players, and that ain't fun.

A detailed and fully worked (and complex) example would help a long way here - if nothing else it would help the writers communicate the intent of the rules - if GMs don't like that then they can do their own thing - I'm cool with that, but I do think it is a good idea to understand what the writers where trying to achieve before writing it off.

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5 hours ago, sidescroller said:

The difficult part is maintaining consistent range bands as characters move.

You make good points, and you speak from a practical experience, while I mostly talk out of my ***, but I remain convinced this can work and that the idea is good. I'll play it and then I'll see for myself. :)

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8 hours ago, sidescroller said:

Right, that's not the difficult part. The difficult part is maintaining consistent range bands as characters move.

I have not found this to be true at all. I find narrative range bands to be quite easy for use, even using multiple opponents. 
If you need to put figures on the table for large amounts, I still do not find it is better to think in terms of tactical combat, but rather as general placement. Personal opinion, though.

But literally all range bands are are trying to do is quantify narrative engagement lengths to bite size pieces, and it works well for me. It's the same as anyone who enjoys playing TotM.
Same with movement. Did two people move? Which direction? Opposite? If they both moved a range band, then there is two range bands of difference between them. 

I'm, personally, see no problem with range bands. (I also enjoy zones, ala fate and conan, but I do agree that would need to change some base assumptions in this game to work)

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40 minutes ago, gareth_lazelle said:

It's kind of bothering that star wars has been out for a few years, this thread has been open for a few days, and, ignoring FFG for the moment, none of the players seem confident enough in the rules to attempt to explain them... 

I, personally, do not play Star Wars, so I cannot speak to that...
I, also, only have the beta so far, as I did not purchase the beginner box (I am waiting on the main book), so I cannot speak to that...

But range bands seem pretty simple to me.
Now, this will not be a well written example as I have only a few minutes on break, but I can clean it up later if needed.
 

Quote

Let's say Bushi A and Bush B are side by side walking down the road. Let's say, due to the bamboo forested region, they cannot see the horizon. In face, the most they can see is a hundred or so yards/meters up. Say range 4( Bow range).
They see three people coming the other way, bearing no banner, and looking ragged. Perhaps they are peasants, perhaps they are bandits. The Bushi, unafraid, continue walking, but then, suddenly, an arrow strikes the dirt near the Bushi. It seems one of the three had a bow, and thought he was a better shot than he was. Combat has begun, and they are at range 4 from their enemy.

The Bushi, neither of which have bows, want to close the distance as quickly as possible. They both move, and as an action, move again, so that they can close that distance. This puts them at range 2 (Spear range). One of the bandits then throws a spear, then moves back a band. Another bandit, the one with the bow, worries about the closeness, and moves back a range, and fires his bow. Both of these bandits are now at range 3 (Throw) from the Bushi. The third bandit closes on the bushi to range 1 (sword) and strikes with his crude blade.

So, we have Bushi A and B at range 1 with Bandit 1, and range 3 with bandit 2 and 3.

But then, from the side, another bandit (4) comes from the forest at the side. Suddenly, he is at range 2 with the Bushi (and bandit 1). If Bushi A closes to sword distance with Bandit 4, he is now at spear distance with Bushi B and Bandit 1, but still at Throw range from bandits 2 and 3.

It's all relative, and all still narrative.

Some people may need counters to show relative positioning, but if it is described well enough, that is not needed. Nut even then, I prefer this over grid combat. In my personal experience, when people start thinking in grids and exacts, their descriptions of cool combat tend to suffer.
 

 

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With the above example I want to clarify one thing: if Bushi A moves one range closer to Bandit 2 then he will not necessarily get into Range 0  with Bandit 1, the choice is up to the player, essentially. This was a prevalent source of confusion in our games, and we found that re-calculating relative distances after each move is a sort of a must. 

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10 hours ago, gareth_lazelle said:

It's kind of bothering that star wars has been out for a few years, this thread has been open for a few days, and, ignoring FFG for the moment, none of the players seem confident enough in the rules to attempt to explain them... 

Star Wars range bands are completely different, though. So they're not really comparable. L5R has 3 different range bands for melee, SW has 1.

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Thanks for the response KveldUlfr, can I just point out that your example avoids a lot of the move obvious sources of confusion because of the nature of the engagement,

Some examples that might help you understand the nature of my confusion:

1: There are foes at range 4 in front of me and range 2 behind me. If I move one range band towards one of the groups of foes, how does it impact the range to the other? This is especially of interest as my movement distance seems to depend upon which group of foes I choose as the focus of my movement!

2: There are a group of foes at range 2 in front of me and another more important foe at range 3, I want to move towards the further target - how does this impact on my range to the closer target? Because of the longer movement distance can this be abused to enter melee?

3: An encounter I ran during the playtest period - the players (a unicorn and a dragon in this case) are on a road (open terrain) which emerges from some woods (concealing terrain) into paddy fields (entangling terrain, though the road continues to cut through the fields towards a village). A group of a dozen goblins are harassing peasants a little way off the road in the fields, say 30 meters off the road and a hundred meters or so away, but upon seeing the players they split up - one group moves straight towards the players through the field whilst the other heads straight for the road and then turns towards the players. The players, being players, also split up - the unicorn hangs back on the treeline and uses his bow whilst the dragon advances towards the group in the fields - how do you assess who is in what terrain, and relative positioning between all four "units" (that's potentially six distance measurements to track - and all can be important depending upon which talents the players have access to, abilities with areas of effect, etc).

Also, how do you handle movement that isn't directly towards or away from a target (like the goblins moving towards the road)?

It's worth adding that adding more units geometrically increases the number of distances to keep track of! (A fifth unit adds four more measurements, and a sixth adds another five! - a typical player group of four players with an equal number of enemies may have as many as 7! = 28 ranges to keep track of...

--

As I said, Star Wars had a lot of the same problems (I only read Edge of the Empire, so I guess some of the other books might offer some clarity). In our games though, most combat was ranged - so this was a lot less of an issue. L5R has a lot of melee combat, and there a variety of weapons with different lengths (spear vs katana vs unarmed) - keeping track of positions is a lot more critical than it is in SW where you can mostly get away with fudging it.

Edited by gareth_lazelle

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6 hours ago, gareth_lazelle said:

Some examples that might help you understand the nature of my confusion:

I'll try to help with how I would rule these in the moment. I think it's important to remember what the range bands represent.

6 hours ago, gareth_lazelle said:

1: There are foes at range 4 in front of me and range 2 behind me. If I move one range band towards one of the groups of foes, how does it impact the range to the other? This is especially of interest as my movement distance seems to depend upon which group of foes I choose as the focus of my movement!

One is directly behind and one directly in front, creating a perfect line? The easy one is moving toward the group in front of you. This will move you out of spear range of the group behind and into thrown range for both. If these groups don't move at all and you want to move another band closer to the group in front of you, then you already have your answer for what happens, because it is a mirror of what the situation was before, one at 4 and one at 2.

For the opposite, though, does it make sense that moving from spear range to sword range for the guy behind you should move you out of bow range of the guy in front of you? Nah, your range for him stays the same.

Now, to anticipate the next question, because this is where, I think, confusion understandably comes in. Now what happens if you want to move from your new current position to thrown with the guy behind you? Well, as a GM I would say you have to focus on the immediate threat first, that being the guy engaged in melee with you. So you can move a band away from him, but not necessarily a band toward the one further away.

6 hours ago, gareth_lazelle said:

2: There are a group of foes at range 2 in front of me and another more important foe at range 3, I want to move towards the further target - how does this impact on my range to the closer target? Because of the longer movement distance can this be abused to enter melee?

No, you cannot abuse this to enter melee. You can't move to the furthest target without dealing with the first target. 

 

6 hours ago, gareth_lazelle said:

3: An encounter I ran during the playtest period - the players (a unicorn and a dragon in this case) are on a road (open terrain) which emerges from some woods (concealing terrain) into paddy fields (entangling terrain, though the road continues to cut through the fields towards a village)...

You've got a lot going on here, which is interesting, but you also seem hung up on precision which isn't going to do anything but bog down the action. Why is the goblin group splitting up? Are they trying to flank the PCs?

Are they already considered within bow range? That's more important to me than numbers. Don't use meters. It's one more thing to track that's only going to make you more miserable. There are no meters in Rokugan.

One group of goblins is on the road, that's open. One PC is in the paddies moving toward the group of goblins also in the paddies. Both are in entangling terrain, at whatever range band you determined. The last PC is in the trees so concealed terrain again at whatever range band you determined. The goblin group b in the field will need to move toward dragon first, but dragon group b can head straight to the PC in the woods. Figure out who is moving where and then determine, arbitrarily because you are the arbiter, how that affects the other range bands.

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10 minutes ago, deraforia said:

No, you cannot abuse this to enter melee. You can't move to the furthest target without dealing with the first target. 

 

This needs some explaining, because it is true, just not for arbitrary reasons: moving to a higher Range Band cannot get you into a lower Range Band because you cannot move "Partial Range Bands", so the distance you move will be always bigger than the distance you need for melee. 

In the given example with the Range 2 and Range 3 enemy, if you move to the Range 3 enemy then you must move the full distance and end up roughly at Range 2 from the other enemy, despite the two being only 1 Range apart from you. This is because while they are indeed only 1 Range apart when compared to your position, they are actually 2-3 Range Bands apart from each other, so if you get to one then your distance to the other will actually increase because of the change of comparable positioning. 

Imagine these Range Bands like circles centered on the character. When the character moves, so does the circles, thus the relative distances shift as the character moves and do not stay the same. 

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43 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

In the given example with the Range 2 and Range 3 enemy, if you move to the Range 3 enemy then you must move the full distance and end up roughly at Range 2 from the other enemy, despite the two being only 1 Range apart from you. This is because while they are indeed only 1 Range apart when compared to your position, they are actually 2-3 Range Bands apart from each other, so if you get to one then your distance to the other will actually increase because of the change of comparable positioning. 

So, if you move 2 range bands towards the closer enemy, you are still 2-3 range bands to the further enemy.
But if you move 2 range bands towards the further enemy, you end up within range 1.

So, moving 2 range bands is not the same as moving 2 range bands ?
Of course, those bands don't represent the same distance. (*)
But that's the tool we have to adjudicate distances. At some point, it needs to make sense.

 

 

(*) Though, bands 0, 1, 2, and 3 represent very short distances (touch to a dozen meters over 4 bands), and common math should do the trick.
Problems start with range band 4 (12m to 100m is a huge gap; too much of a jump from the previous ones)

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4 minutes ago, Exarkfr said:

So, if you move 2 range bands towards the closer enemy, you are still 2-3 range bands to the further enemy.
But if you move 2 range bands towards the further enemy, you end up within range 1.

So, moving 2 range bands is not the same as moving 2 range bands ?

2

Exactly! Or, to better say, moving 2 Range Bands towards the closest enemy is not the same as moving 2 Range Bands towards the further enemy. 

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