Cypher System Range Map

Range Maps:
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Star Wars: Red Peace

While I love ‘Theatre of the Mind’ play, where there’s no gridded battlemap and everyone tries to picture the scene in their head… it sometimes just isn’t practical. There’s simply too many details for the players to keep in their minds accurately.

Some games support playing mapless more than others, for example 4e D&D practically has to use battlemaps, whereas I can’t imagine anyone pulling out a battlemap for Ten Candles.

For me, the Cypher System slots somewhere in the middle. Most of the time any sort of battlemap is just unnecessary extra setup and consideration. Yet occasionally the areas where combat are taking place becomes so complex, or the number of combatants becomes so large (or both of these) that some sort of reference is really handy.

Range Map Download and Rules

Putting the ‘goods upfront’ here is the download link for the Cypher System Range map and rules on how it works.

The rest of the article below explains how distance and movement works in the Cypher System and a step by step example of how the Range Map works in play.

Click to download Cypher System Range Map with transparency
  • Anyone in the same segment is in immediate distance
  • Anyone 1 segment apart is a short distance away
  • Anyone 2 segments apart are a long distance away
  • Anyone a very long distance apart are placed at the edge of the map relative to each other.
  • Anyone a specific distance away is placed off the edge of the map in the relative direction, with their specific distance listed (either written on the map itself, or on a scrap piece of paper next to their model)
  • Variant Rule: Often play combats with combatants at very long distance? Shift all the ranges down one:
    • immediate range being ‘touching’ tokens/models
    • short distance the same segment
    • long distance 1 segment apart
    • very long distance 2 segments apart
    • specific distances at the edge of the map in relative direction

This system was inspired by the original Cypher System playmat, which is laid out in this exact fashion. I specifically thought it was designed to be used in this way (maybe it was?!) but can’t find any mention of it… so apparently I just made it up and thought it was the intended design. All the other playmats released before and after it just feature a single image, so that seems likely!

The original Cypher System playmat

How does distance work in the Cypher System?

If you know how the Cypher System handles different ranges, feel free to skip ahead to the next section.

Distance Ranges

There are 5 different distances within the Cypher System.

  • Immediate distance: Within reach or a few steps, up to 10 feet.
  • Short distance: Anything greater than immediate distance (10 feet) but less than 50 feet or so.
  • Long distance: Anything greater than short distance (50 feet) but less than 100 feet or so.
  • Very long distance: Anything greater than long distance (100 feet) but less than 500 feet or so.
  • Specific: Any distance beyond very long distance (500 feet) should be given a specific distance, such as 1,000 feet or 1 mile and so on.

Movement and action distances

Characters can move and carry out another action.

  • A character can move an immediate distance as part of another action without penalty.
  • A character can move a short distance as their entire action for a turn.
    • Attempting to move a long distance instead is a Speed task with a difficulty of 4.
    • Attempting to move a short distance and carry out another simple action (such as attacking) is a Speed task with a difficulty of 4.

Using a Range Map for Cypher System

When all the characters (Player or Non-Player) exist at the same relative distances, combat is easy. If the player characters are grouped together when some enemies show up, well you simply say “The goblins and their orc leader appear at the end of the pass, a long distance away from all of you.”

But what if there’s characters in multiple different locations, all at varying distances? Let’s intentionally make a somewhat complicated example.

Horre asks “How far away is everyone to me right now?”

  • Nub is next to him. (Immediate distance)
  • Gralidien is 30 feet away to the north west, engaged in combat against a troll. (Short distance)
  • Yu Xia is 40 feet away to the north. (Short distance)
  • The goblins and their orc boss are 80 feet away down the pass. (Long distance)
  • Eden, shapeshifted into an eagle circles overhead 1,000 feet up. (Specific distance)

Trying to keep this in your mind, especially with it potentially changing every single time a character acts, is somewhat challenging. Experienced players might not struggle, yet what about newer players, those who struggle with theatre of the mind, or even those with cognitive disabilities?

By using a range map, you can simplify things without losing the complexity. You simply turn all ranges into their Cypher range and then use a map like this:

A ‘complex’ Cypher System battlemap

As explained at the top of the article, here’s how it works.

  • Anyone in the same segment is in immediate distance
  • Anyone 1 segment apart is a short distance away
  • Anyone 2 segments apart are a long distance away
  • Anyone a very long distance apart are placed at the edge of the map relative to each other.
  • Anyone a specific distance away is placed off the edge of the map in the relative direction, with their specific distance listed (either written on the map itself, or on a scrap piece of paper next to their model)
  • Variant Rule: Often play combats with combatants at very long distance? Shift all the ranges down one:
    • immediate range being ‘touching’ tokens/models
    • short distance the same segment
    • long distance 1 segment apart
    • very long distance 2 segments apart
    • specific distances at the edge of the map in relative direction

From this we can easily see that now only is Yu Xia a short distance from Horre and Nub, but also only a short distance from the goblins and their boss, or from Gralidien and the troll.

Let’s say that Yu Xia takes their turn and moves a short distance to assist Gralidien. We simply move their token into that segment.

Yu Xia has moved a short distance towards Gralidien

We can easily tell that Yu Xia is now in immediate distance of Gralidien and the troll, but still in short distance from Horre and Nub and from the goblins and their boss.

Now if it is Nub’s turn and he moves up closer to the goblins and boss, but wants to keep a long distance away from Gralidien, Yu Xia and the troll, he simply moves like so.

Nub moves up the flank

Next Horre moves himself forward, straight up the middle, due to wanting to remain in short range of all his grounded allies.

Horre moves forward, keeping Gralidien, Yu Xia and Nub in short range and now in short range of the goblins and their orc boss.

Eden, now seeing battle about to be joined decides to fly at full speed towards the battle. Able to move a long distance each round due to being an eagle, they decide to try to move twice as far as usual (a Speed task with a difficulty of 4) and succeed. This moves them 200 feet closer to the ground… but still beyond very long range. As such only their specific distance note changes.

Eden’s move is still beyond the very long range of 500 feet, so their specific distance note changes but they don’t move on the map

Finally the goblins move up, spreading themselves out to try and pin down all of the grounded player characters.

The goblins move forwards, spreading out to multiple segments.
Our complex battle just got more complicated!

I think in a lot of ways this is how people handle theatre of the mind combat already. They group different areas or combats together and just narrative how far those clusters are from each other.

With the Cypher System Range Map you can just move any tokens and instantly know exactly how far away each combatant has become relative to each other. There’s no need to try and understand or keep in your mind the narrative distances the GM is providing, because the map clearly illustrates it.

Unlike a fully gridded battlemap we aren’t doing things like counting squares or trying to exactly pinpoint combatants. Yet, there’s nothing to stop you from trying to model it with this map either. Maybe Yu Xia takes a defencive position between Gralidien and the newly arrived goblin, preventing it from reaching him. Our map above seems to imply that already, but we could make that explicit if it was important.

Not every combat needs a map

As stated at the very beginning of this article, not every combat needs a map. I certainly wouldn’t start using the range map for combat within a single room, or possibly even for combat across two adjoining rooms.

Yet, when things do start getting complicated, it doesn’t take long to quickly put everyone into position. This gives everyone at the table a complete understanding of each character’s position even when it becomes quite complex.

In the past I’ve gone as far as placing ‘walls’ between segments to show that you can’t travel from one to the other directly. I’m sure there are incredibly complex situations where even this map can’t make sense of everything, without just resorting to a fully drawn map… but I think those sorts of edge cases are not really where Cypher System games tend to end up.

Have you used battle or range maps in Cypher System before? Do you have any modifications, house rules or differing advice on how to handle them? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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