I'm not very good for map building, actually, especially on tactical games such as Savage Worlds; however every time I add some map feature, it becomes so useless or non-interesting that it ends up being forgotten by me and/or the players, or just reminded, but completely ignored because it ends up serving no purpose at all, even if I imagined it'd come in handy or be cool.

We're playing on a modern "Supers" game based on the RPG Scion using SW and Super Powers Companion 2nd Edition. The game should feel more like anime superheroes.

This becomes specially notable on maps that shouldn't have ANYTHING interesting, but I still place stuff that never gets used because players just can use their turns for better. Like, once they were battling on a mansion foyer against a very powerful demigoddess, however they didn't even need to move the figures since nothing of the tactical options presented (stairs, statues, chandelier) were relevant for them since they could just blast crazy.

Even when I manage to place an obstacle for them, they still find a way to just blast through stuff and manage to lock the enemy in place ignoring every tactical element possible.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you give us a short precise on the story setting this is happening in? I can write a general answer about terrain and making sure players use it but it will be much more appropriate to your question if I have more info. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 1, 2014 at 16:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll edit right now. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 1, 2014 at 16:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ For super heroes/anime style superheros can you give us a comparison to any other famous characters/portrayals for their power level? Also can everyone fly, and what other big deal super power does the party have that are allowing them to brush everything aside? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 1, 2014 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Their power level is similar to Madoka Magika or FATE/Stay Night. There is an allied wild card extra that can Fly. All alies are Wild Cards since damage output is huge even at Novice Rank and they can easily lose 2 wounds on a single attack. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 1, 2014 at 16:14

2 Answers 2


"Terrain is often of more value than bravery." — Flavius Vegetius Renatus, De re militari

Just because your players are failing to make use of the terrain around them, doesn't mean their enemies won't

The NPC enemies that your players face should me making heavy use and advantage of powerful terrain features to their advantage. They should be getting a strong mechanical benefit from the terrain and it should be clear to both the players and their PCs that this is occurring. The party losing a fight or two because they neglected to avoid some hazardous exploding barrels or because they took on an enemy in a very secure, defensive position might actually start to think twice about their approach.

As a GM, you set the difficulty for any combat

For the majority of games, Savage Worlds included, when you design an encounter you can in many ways set it up so the PCs should fail. I'm not advocating stacking the deck heavily against them, but reminding you that you have a very strong position of power from which to design combat encounters to make them more difficult/require the players to actually do something more than a rinse-repeat of their usual tactics.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Great answer, particularly the bit where you get your NPCs to show how valuable using terrain can be. The best way of showing players important tactics they could but don't use is to use them against the group and show how effective they are \$\endgroup\$
    – Wibbs
    Sep 1, 2014 at 16:52

There's basically two factors you want to make sure to hit upon.

Consequential Terrain

As you mentioned, the terrain you include doesn't actually influence the combats on the basis of the power levels involved. You should think about what kinds of things DO work at that level. Lava? Alien superstructures that can't be blasted through? Etc. That's just fictional level of what kinds of things count - the other part is mechanical.

Using terrain should often be better than not using terrain.

You should point out that the terrain WILL give X bonuses/effects if used. Players often will avoid using terrain in favor of powers they know because in most games, stunting is a gamble as to whether it will even be worth trying. By letting the players know ahead what the benefit is, they can make an informed choice about using it.

Central Terrain

Terrain that is off to the corner, or easily avoided, is less likely to see action. If you can establish bottlenecks of movement, put hazards or terrain in the middle, people have to meet and interact with it.

I've written a bit on terrain design for dungeon crawls, but the game design principles apply a lot across any tactical fighting game.


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