I wound up fire-breathing in front of a small audience of students tonight here at school. One of them had seen a few of my pictures on facebook, and persuaded/pressured/nagged me into trying it before a live audience. I set up a safety monitor, which one of the kids did quite ably and successfully, and a fuel station with a can-in-can set-up. I did a fire-staff routine, and a fire-breathing demo, including a dragon breath. No costuming, no fancy setup, but it was OK. I got some clapping when I was done.
One of the kids, afterward, wanted to learn. I explained that it was like smoking a pack of cigarettes at one sitting, though, and not very healthy for you at all. He still wanted to learn, though. I dissuaded him by explaining that I learned the importance of safety in this business by watching someone get facial burns, so that I wasn’t going to teach him until he was 18 years old, and then he could do the calculus-of-death-vs.-really-kewl-skill without involving me in the liability differential.
A comment in my friend ‘s journal led me to explain to him (and his readers) my basic taxonomy of combat scenarios in designing outdoor battlegrounds:
I always think of battlegrounds, as a GM, in terms of one of six basic
types of terrain:
• bottleneck • glade • crossroad • feature • highway • cul-de-sac
And my experience as a hiker tends to bear this out. Usually in the woods or the mountains, or in the plains, you have one of these six sets of conditions (and I’ll add here that they also have battlespace implications)…
• In a bottleneck, you’re at a narrow point on the path (and you’re on SOME sort of path, because the PCs are trying to go somewhere, or get away from somewhere, by definition), and so defining the bottleneck defines the materials available. Typical bottlenecks include: mountain passes, river fords, stream and brook crossings, fault lines, cliff-side paths, and so on. Rocks, thorn bushes, fallen logs, widowmaker saplings, vines, all work in these situations. Battlespace implication: narrow way forward and back, impassable side-to-side.
• in a glade the path has only one entry point, and one exit point, but you have a wide space for a fight. Here your tools are poison ivy, beehives and hornet nests (ground and mud-wasps), and entangling weeds, because glades tendto have few rocks and fewer fallen tree limbs. Battlespace: mostly open in all directions.
• At a crossroad, your characters can turn back, turn off the main path one way or another, or continue onward. Crossroads could have signposts, piles of marker stones, roadside shrines or chapels, holy images (on a bicycle trip across Quebec once, I learned that the definition of a ‘village’ on our maps seemed to be a life-sized crucifix under a small gazebo at a crossroads), fence posts, landmarks (large boulders, ancient trees), cemeteries, inns, posting houses, roadblocks, customs houses, guardposts, and Quik-ee Marts. Battlespace: four (or more) obvious routes in-and-out, constraints and obstacles on diagonals.
• A feature is usually someone else’s forgotten destination. Yesterday I bushwhacked across the ridge-line east of school without getting shot, and encountered a farm house, three fields, a horse jump, a couple of small gardens, an abandoned barn, three abandoned dams and mill-houses with rusting iron machinery, a logger, a couple of logging roads, a goat enclosure, some birdhouses, a small ‘pond’ with a float and a diving board and a canoe, a greenhouse, a collapsed garage, and a pile of prohibition-era broken bottles. Those should give you some ideas about what they might find at hand if your combat occurs at a semi-lost ruin. Battlespace: mostly open in all directions, but centered on obstacle/constraint/hardpoint.
• A highway is a main road where you’re unlikely to be ambushed, but is between towns. Here you
might find abandoned carts, roadside skeletons, skeletons on posts or spikes (did your ancient empire/modern orcs impale or crucify?), Rotarian and Masonic notice boards, and various roadside garbage. You can identify
the Oregon Trail today by the wagon-wheel ruts… imagine what they left by the wayside! Battlespace: mostly open in all directions, easier going forward & back than sideways.
• A cul-de-sac is a dead end, and usually a trap. Various pit mines with rusting, dangerous machinery, broken shovels and rakes lying around, rickety scaffolding makes one scenario. Another
is the headland with a precipitous drop to the sea, with rocks and stones, slippery moss underfoot, crumbling edges of cliffs, hefty sea-breeze, etc. Battlespace: one ways in or out, other constraints in other directions.
Surely you can think of some other scenarios?