Zone terrain


A month or so ago I was watching Adam koebel run FATE and thats where I seen zones used for the first time in a clear way. There was a scene in a hotel room.
The zones were-
Reception. (police arriving)
Hallway. (pc preparing a trap)
Hotel room. (dead body and rest of pcs)
Fire escape. (the way out)
And street. (Freedom, almost)

During the scene it developed further and he just added another called alleyway, which was over the road. I found this so clear to understand. He displayed it just in a simple flow chart.


For me, The real money is when you give a zone an evocative mood-inspiring adjective and a detail: a distinction, sensory element, contradiction or contrast, or Connection to The Past. (This is the same rubric I do for NPCs more or less.)

Might become:

Outdated Reception That Smells Like a Burned Coffee Pot

Cramped Hallway With Shag Carpeting

Blood-spattered Hotel Room with Spotless Ceiling

Rustiest Fire Escape Since The Nuremberg Job

Darkened Street Glistening from Rain

The urge to overdescribe and over plan can be compromised with. One adjective of Mood or Mannerism, and one extra detail (as above) strikes the balance to make things most memorable and visualizable with the least prep and notes.


That is so good, I’m stealing that describing method.

I suppose for an npc airship captain. “the slightly overweight bearded captain who smells of cigars”. Would suffice.

Rather than "the 6foot tall, slightly overweight captain, roughly 50 years of age, who’s beard is ageing around the edges. Wearing a blue waistcoat over a grey shirt, brown trousers and shiny leather boots halfway up his shins. Has a red handkerchief tucked into his left pocket, reaches into his opposite pocket to retrieve a half smoked cigar of the cholt variety. He bellows in a hearty voice… (Insert monologue here) ".

You know damn well the players will just remember. captain. Cigar.


“Pudgy Cigar-chomping Airship Captain” would be enough for me to mentally see the beard without ever having heard the word.

The trick is using the most evocative descriptions you can. Let one word or phrase carry the load of 10 (by connotations, shared archetypes etc.) When you go against a stereotype, that can be the contrast or contradiction that makes it memorable:

Example: “Pudgy Cigar-chomping Ballerina”

But you can’t do that all the time because the stereotypes are actually a big help and carry a lot of the cognitive load. So use them when they make sense, and go against them when emphasis and memorability is desired.

ETA: If you are a Patreon supporter, the Mainframe on Essentialism is totally worth your time. It dovetails with this concept really well but on a bigger scale.


:joy: :joy: :joy:
Yes I see what you mean. When you really want them remembered, go against stereotype. Good advice :slightly_smiling_face:
I am a patreon supporter so will go listen to that again (unless it’s the latest one that I haven’t listened to yet).


Found it. Listening now. Must of missed it. Thanks