Saturday, August 31, 2013

Drawing guns

It was bound to occur soon and I had a rule that worked pretty well. Draw and aim speed became a concern in last nights game.

The first sniper team had just left the building through the window with the prisoner at hand. The second team stayed in the room to cover the entrance. Then the dreaded cling clang of a grenade being dropped into the room followed by the flashbang that blinded and disoriented the team in the room.

The Marine spotter outside turned back to the window and aimed inside as the Spetsnaz rushed in to finish of the team in the room. In a heart stopping roll the player rolled low enough to not only win, but take a two action advantage on the Spetsnaz. Before any could fire on the stunned Marines the spotter had put a shot into each Russian. One went down the other was saved by his vest. Her moved right and turned to shot at the Marine in the window. A bullet scraped the windowsill barely missing the Marines head. The Marine fired back barely injuring the Spetsnaz who in turned fired back hitting the Marine in the helmet and causing a painful, but non lethal wound. The Marine fell back and the call for "medic!!!" was heard.

The Russian quickly turned his attention to what was his prime objective, the team already in the room. Too late, the team´s spotter had gotten enough of his wits back to aim. The Spetsnaz faced the blazing barrel of an M4 as he was crushed against the wall by its rounds.

The rule is simple, you need to row low below your attribute score. The lower you roll the better, and the score can be modified up by the character's skill with the weapon. Making the character even more prone to win by a large margin. For every four points or "beats" the character rolls below this score an action is granted to the player. The Marine won by 8 versus the Spetznas' 4 and 2. This gave the Marine one extra shot before any one of the Russians could fire. He shot the Russian who rolled the 4 first and kill him. Four "beats later" it was the Russian's turn with a roll of 4, but he was already dead. Tough shit comrade. So the Marine fired again against the slowest of them with the 2. Hitting him he drew attention from the stunned team to himself, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Image source

The cloak of balance

Rule induced balance in a game is a cloak that hides entire sets of options and possibilities from players. This is a lesson learned from this month's playtest sessions. It is possible to survive a highly lethal game without the need for "balance rules" that make for a fair game.
Granting every player an opportunity to participate in the game is important. Balancing stage time is important so no one get bored. Enforcing such a thing through a set of rules mean to balance character strength and even pamper the character from the perils of the adventure is a very risky thing.
I find it risky because it creates playing habits that block out entire options from gameplay. Certain actions, strategies and activities are simply not done because the rules for balance don't promote them or worse yet, hinder them.
Such has been my experience with things like fixed attacks per round, deciding to move or attack, initiative rolls and hit points. I've granted many attacks per round to characters even as they run around, made round duration a rather variable value, done away with initiative and fixed hit points at a very low level. Yet characters are not dropping dead like flies and no player is left out of the action.
On the contrary, a lot of new dynamics have emerged. Players have done things that were not common in my games before because I was playing bound by a set of "balance rules" that were "cloaking" all these options from the players. Now characters may die at any moment, but they're more alive than they've ever been.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Fighting on a bad stomach, being ill in a dungeon.

Had a bad day yesterday, my stomach was killing me. Fortunately it wasn't Moctezuma's revenge, but I did feel terrible. Some food poisoning from something I ate for breakfast.

This got me thinking how often do characters in your campaigns get sick. It is possible to carry iron rations for a week or two, but water? Where do characters get water in a dungeon or wilderness area? How do they purify it? How does this affect your cleric spell list?

Hunting for food and not cooking it properly can pose a whole set of risks to the character's health. From short term infection to long term parasites. Have you taken into consideration these aspects in your campaign?

If you do, how do they relate to game mechanics, hit points, health, spell casting abilities and combat?

Not cutting down on lethality in a tabletop RPG

Character death is not something well seen in RPGs, nobody wants to drop out of the session because his or her character died. Yet it is tough to roleplay a modern warfare game, specially one centered around black ops, without considering that your character won't make it back. Worse yet, that he or she can't make it back or must not make it back.

When the mission is more important than the soldier is your roleplaying more important than your character?

Making things extremely lethal has not only opened the doors for new ways to resolve combat and make encounters survivable through skill and tactics. High lethality is also opening the door to new aspects of roleplay which are more realistic and seldom explored by many. So far it has added a greater importance to planning, speed and resolve over everything else. Retreat, cover and redeployment have become common place when previously stand and deliver strategies were used, legacy of some other less lethal games. Now comes the question of paying the ultimate price. Are players up to the task?

Had an interesting conversation last night with +Jonathan Henry and +Keith Bailey and Jonathan brought up the issue of the obligation to complete the mission. Will players sacrifice their character for the benefit of other player's characters? Will the do so for the mission? Will all players sacrifice their characters if that is what it takes to succeed?

If so, how does this affect character development? Would you as a player invest lots of time in developing a character that might not make it through the first session? Wouldn't this make the game an eternal succession of one shots?.

Now lets draw a line between overdeveloping a character and delaying the "getting down to play" vs overdeveloping a character that may die soon. I don't want to delay the game, and that is not where my question is going. The character may not die, living on for many more sessions only to arrive at this one moment when they all must die to succeed. Would your investment in your character stop you from succeeding in the mission? Would you sit down and play again?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It's not the weapon it's the soldier, making skills matter

Crossbows came first. They open the way for easy killing power to the common peasant. Suddenly it was easy to train a soldier to kill a knight. Such was the fear of the crossbow by the church and nobles that it was banned many times. The common peasant could stand up and kill a knight in full armor with one shot. Whereas bows required great upper body strength, skill and training to operate effectively the crossbow could be trained in weeks if not days and used by a common peasant to kill a knight.
The trend didn't stop there. Firearms quickly became popular for the same exact reason. It is relatively easy to pick up a gun and use it to kill. If it's so easy to use, what's the value of skill and training? Aside from issues like weapon cleaning and upkeep, there has to be some value when it comes to combat, what is it? This of course is a rhetorical question. It is clear that skill in firearm use is a must. While shooting someone at short range can be easy, doing so at longer ranges can get complicated. The real question is: How to represent this in a realistic way? By realistic I mean a way that means something substantial in the game at the right moment.

This has concerned me ever since I started writing up the combat rules for the game. Linear probability distributions don't work to well with this. Every + 1 is the same probability increase no matter what. It's all 5%. Change to d100, each plus is still the same 1% increase. A - 5 for range can be countered by a + 5 for skill. This + 5 is a good bonus. But someone with a + 2 almost cut that benefit in half. How long did it take to train to have a + 5 and how long did it take to train a + 2? Is it fair? Probably the shooter with the + 2 just trained a few weeks and the one with + 5 months of not years. Now lets consider point blank range, + 0 modifier. Can we honestly say the expert shooter with the + 5 bonus is safer than the one with the + 2? Are the odds of missing at point blank so off that those bonuses would actually matter? Honestly I don't think so. They're both in a load of trouble at point blank range.

So to make skill matter what I'm using now is a bell shaped distribution. One in which the end point values add little benefit to the odds for each skill bonus. Range and weapon quality put you some point along the line. Point blank places you at the top most values where each + 1 from training counts very little towards increasing your odds. Facing off an untrained shooter will not be that much easier than a trained one. There is a very low probability of missing and you're in a load of trouble no matter how good you are.

Things become interesting when you begin to put some distance between you and your target. The range places you on the part of the curve with greater slope. Now skill begins to matter. Each + 1 means a much bigger increase in the odds of hitting than at point blank range.  Suddenly the + 5 means a whole lot more than + 2 and the better shooter has higher odds of hitting its target, by a long shot, than the lesser trained one.

Finally there is long and extreme ranges. Targets so far that shots are impossible unless specialized equipment (rifles and scopes) are used to take the shot. Unskilled users will have practically no possibility of scoring a hit. Skilled users, those trained in the use of the rifle and scope, will be able to benefit from the bonuses these pieces of equipment give. Yet these bonuses are just enough to put the shot at the beginning of the distribution curve. Just as it begins to slope. Good skills will count, but not enough to ensure a high hit rate. Excellent skills, those acquired after months of training and years of experience are needed to get those high odds to hit required for a one shot one kill.

100% precision

How comfortable are you with shots that can't miss? How about cumulative bonuses that add up round after round to arrive at 100% precision, or so close characters won't miss? How about impossible shots that become possible after such bonuses are added?

When using machine gun fire tracer bullets can be used to walk the weapon to its target. You literally can't miss. The downside is that this requires time and leaves a bright red line leading straight to your position.

I haven't seen many rules that allow for bonus "to hit" to add up miss after miss, but it does make sense not only for machine gun fire with tracer bullets, but also for sniper fire and even melee combat. Every miss and for that matter every hit could mean a learning and adaptation process that makes the attacker better.

When Corporal Craig Harrison (UK) took his record breaking 2475m kill (2009, Afghanistan) it was by no means a one shot one kill attack. He was way beyond the effective range of his weapon, but his spotter kept adjusting based on prior bullet impact positions. This allowed Harrison to zero in on the target until he took the machine gunner out. This was a slow lengthily process that put his unit in peril.

After the first MG operator was taken out another enemy soldier took the MG and started firing again only to be taken down by Harrison's next shot. After all Harrison had already zeroed in on the target and the second attacker was dumb enough to start shooting from the same exact position. So not only was the "bonus" applicable to the hitting shot, it was also applicable to all following shots as long as the enemy didn't change position or for that matter tactics.

What would the effect on gameplay be if players could keep adding and adding more bonuses as they keep missing? Making impossible hits possible? If each gun shot allowed for bonus for the next roll. If each machine gun strafe allowed for a bonus in the next strafe. If each miss on an armored knight allowed a plus on the next attack as the attacker becomes better at predicting the defenders movement.

For this to work well lethality must be a big concern and time of primordial essence. There's an urgency to getting that shot placed and those bonuses, round after round, are paid at a very high price. The price of getting dead from incoming fire or melee attacks for that matter. The rule could be left open to allow bonuses to grow and grow. With low hit points and high lethality there's little odds of getting to +5. Your character will probably be dead before missing so much, or as was the case with Harrison his unit would have been overrun and killed if he kept missing.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Massive weapon fire in RPGs

Watched Act of Valor this weekend. It was a 6 hour bus ride to Guadalajara so I had time to watch it and watch it again. I was enthralled by the boat(SWCC) ambush scene when the team is trying to escape on a truck. The ditch it into the river just as the SWCCs turn the river bend and open fire with amazing force against the pursuing forces. I watched over and over again trying to get the feeling of it and transpose that into the game without going crazy with die rolls.

The idea is to create a simple mechanism to represent weapons shooting in excess of 2000 round per minute. The SWCC has:

The GAU-17/A is a variant of the M134 7.62mmx51mm Minigun. Six rotating barrels and an electrically-powered feed system, the GAU-17/A is capable of up to 4000 rounds-per-minute and is a great area weapon used to suppress enemy fire in the case of needing to buy a few minutes of time during a Hot extract.

The Browning M2 is an air cooled, belt fed machine gun. The M2 fires from the closed bolt position. The M2 fires the .50 BMG cartridge, which offers a max effective range of 2000 yards, accuracy and an excellent fire suppression weapon at 1200 Rounds Per Minute.

The M60 is a gas operated, air cooled, belt-fed, automatic machine gun that fires from the open-bolt position and is chambered for the 7.62 mm cartridge.  It has a max effective range of 1000 yards at ~2800 feet per second

Mk19 Automatic Grenade Launcher. The primary ammunition for Mk 19 is the high explosive dual-purpose M430 grenade. Upon impact, the grenade can kill anyone within the radius of five meters, and wound them within the radius of 15 meters.


So far I have worked with just the M249 and a 50 cal mounted on HUMVEEs. But seeing the amazing firepower GAU got me wanting to put it into play, but a bit more than just waiving it as some suppression rule and without going crazy with die rolling. Here's a clip of the scene so you get an idea what I'm talking about.

And another nice video from the Navy showing the craft in action.

Using massive fire power in tabletop RPGs can be a daunting task given that hits are determined by die rolls. At 4000 rounds per minute and ten seconds to the combat round, that's 666 die rolls for all those bullets (what a nice round number that gives [grin]). As appealing as rolling 666 times may sound it is just out of the question in a real game. I'm using a single roll for the attacker and an additional roll for every target to determine suppression, hits and effects of cover.

To do so I'm taking a more statistical approach to the mechanism based on bullet coverage, rate of fire and affected area. The intent is to suppress first, kill later. No one in their right mind will stand up in such a hailstorm of bullets, but they still keep firing, why? To keep them pinned. If someone brave enough or stupid enough were to stick his head out to shoot I want to determine the odds of getting hit. I also want realistic odds of getting hit from the initial surprise attack.

So boat comes in, opens fire, kills as many as possible while the surprise factor is on and enemies are exposed. As enemies take cover they become harder to hit, but not harder to suppress. They will still be forced to tuck in and cover. If someone where to sneak out and try to return fire I want some odds of getting hit, not a simple "surprise, you're dead".

The following table shows the odds for different rates of fire for different area sizes. I'm working on two sizes 10m and 5m, meaning the weapon is continuously swept over either a 10 meter or 5 meter area where enemies are believed to be.

Odds of body impact
Type of Fire Odds of hit Odd for suppression 100% exposed 50% exposed 10% exposed
MG Fire into 10m area 100 RPM 35.47% 66.79% 35.47% 28.27% 9.99%
MG Fire into 10m area 200 RPM 57.53% 81.39% 57.53% 47.04% 9.99%
MG Fire into 10m area 500 RPM 74.76% 95.16% 74.76% 57.53% 16.57%
MG Fire into 10m area 1000 RPM 90.86% 99.11% 90.86% 70.94% 16.57%
MG Fire into 10m area 2000 RPM 97.03% 99.99% 97.03% 78.24% 23.03%
MG Fire into 10m area 5000 RPM 99.38% 100.00% 99.38% 86.72% 23.03%
MG Fire into 5m area 100 RPM 66.79% 86.72% 66.79% 52.43% 16.57%
MG Fire into 5m area 200 RPM 90.86% 97.73% 90.86% 70.94% 16.57%
MG Fire into 5m area 500 RPM 99.59% 100.00% 99.59% 86.72% 23.03%
MG Fire into 5m area 1000 RPM 99.99% 100.00% 99.99% 92.52% 29.34%
MG Fire into 5m area 2000 RPM 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 97.03% 35.47%
MG Fire into 5m area 5000 RPM 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 98.75% 35.47%

Odds of hit : the odds of hitting a human size target standing in the area.
Odds of suppression : the odds of any target (under cover or not) of being suppressed and wanting to take and keep cover above any other action.
Odds of body impact : odds of taking a hit given a certain amount of cover. At 100% exposure odds are the same as odds to hit.

As you can see at 4000 rounds per minute the GAU has high odds of taking anything standing in its line of fire that isn't behind solid cover. Popping out to take a shot back at the enemy still gives the GAU high odds of scoring a hit (23 and 36 % depending on size of affected area). Suppression will be great for any weapon firing 500 or more rounds into the area. This will require skill and training to overcome and be able to return fire. To do this the enemy may pop up, aim and shoot, giving more time for the GAU to blow his brains out or simply stick the weapon out and fire blindly at the target.

Those will be covered in the next post related to blind shooting into an area.

Weapons Free is a modern day warfare RPG I'm currently developing. You can join the community to follow on its progress and join playtest sessions.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Does age affect your game designs?

How does your age affect the games you design? And in what way?

For me there's experience with older RPGs, the more classic ones. This tends to shape your view on RPGs, as with everything else in life. The first things you meet, specially when young, leave a longer lasting impression. Younger players are exposed to many more rule systems than I ever was in my highschool years.

Secondly with age comes a greater value for time, or simply less of it to put into gaming. Much less so game design. In my case I could no longer digest the endless tomes of books I used to read in highschool. So not only do I lack the time to write endless collections of books, even if I did have the time, I wouldn't do it. I simply can't burden someone else with something I personally wouldn't do myself. So no long rulebooks either.

Do you think your age affects the games you design? If so how and if you were younger or older what would change?

Initiative rolls as to hit modifiers

A lone soldier is walking through the jungle, suddenly he stumbles upon a patrol of enemy soldiers. He has his sidearm in hand and another revolver holstered. The enemy has assault rifles strung from their shoulders. Conventional RPG wisdom would call for a die roll to see who shoots first. Whoever wins gets the first shot and if it's a hit there is a high probability of taking out the target and not being affected by return fire.
The truth though is that unless the shot severs the spinal cord at the base of the head they will all get return fire regardless of initiative roll. On top of this both parties are in a rush to get their shots off. Conventional RPG wisdom dictates that once the initiative is won the shot is a controlled and aimed one. Not really a hasty shot meant to incapacitate and stop an enemy with a weapon already drawn at oneself.

Let's break down the "initiative phase" into its constituent components.
  • Realization the enemy is there, overcoming the surprise and reacting to it.
  • Drawing/raising the weapon to a shooting position.
  • Discharging the weapon.
Now instead of one initiative roll to see who does all this first lets think for a moment that both parties are startled by the encounter. They quickly recover their wits and respond to this. The real difference isn't in how quickly they respond as they're doing it at practically the same instant. Once again, the response is so close to each other that unless the "first" shot hits the head and stops the brain's signal from reaching the finger, the trigger will fire. So figuring who shoots first is pointless since any hit will be lethal yet not fast enough to stop a response. Aim not initiative is the factor here.

The key is coolness and how well the character can aim when all his instincts are telling him to turn and run. We can apply an initiative roll, but whoever wins gets the difference between his roll and the enemy roll added to the to hit roll. The winner of the "initiative" has better aim. Shots will be fired simultaneously, but there's a higher odd for survival on the part of the "cooler" character.

Thoughts? Have you ever roleplayed a shootout in which the initiative roll took the excitement out of the encounter?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Multiple characters per player

A quick and dirty solution to the high lethality in my modern warfare game is simply to increase the amount of characters per player. Now let me be clear. The character's skill and training should be enough to give a good fighting chance, but let's face it with grenades flying around, mortar rounds dropping from the sky and machine guns spitting 1000 rounds a minute something is bound to go wrong and I don't want a player to be kicked out of all the remaining fun. Specially payback fun for killing one of his or her characters. (grin)

I initially took the idea of a squad per player from DCC's funnel, but have since come to see other benefits, albeit with some drawbacks. When players have whole squad under their control the characters are more coordinated as to what they do in the game. More like real life.

Usually players don't train together day in and day out. So getting them to coordinate four characters in a game is hard. Which comes to explain the lengthily hours of combat as players take minutes to figure out how to enter a room, kill the rats and take the copper. When one player controls four characters all this unnecessary chit chat doesn't occur. The characters act more like a team and their skills stack up adding to even more survivability. Which brings me to the first question. "What slows down game, too many players or too many characters? Personally I haven't see too much of a slow down with three players managing twelve characters.

A concern I do have is that characters may not mature and be developed as much is a player controls more than one. With one I tend to cherish it, develop it's personality, and flesh it out over time. With many this might get a bit harder. Creating and role playing four different personalities at the same time can be tiresome and may lead to similar characters if the player isn't in the right mind set just then. Thoughts? Can you manage different personalities as you play with many characters at the same time?

Photo credit

Nick Jensen

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What's his status?, He's dead sir, Bennet is dead.

After clearing the second building of Spetsnaz and taking three prisoners the team discovered an underground tunnel that lead to the building from which a truck had escaped a few minutes ago. Concluding this vehicle could be carrying the weapon the put the Predator drone to follow it. Sure enough it had a crate and it was headed to the lake's shore. With little time to waste the team saddled up and rode the HUMVEEs bath through the town in an attempt to give chase to the runaway weapon.

The drive through town was a lot harder than than the previous one getting in, reminiscent of Blackhawk Down's convoy scene. The town was way more awake and ready to engage them this time. In spite of their massive firepower PFC. Bennet took one to the head while manning the 40 mil cannon, fell to the HUMVEE's floor and bled out before he could be assisted.  Reed "Hawk", the second sniper team's spotter took the gunner's position and finished off the attackers. Heavy fire was still encountered as they drove the last few hundred meters out of town and onto the surrounding hill sides.

This part of the mission ends with 48 locals dead, 8 Spetsnaz killed, 2 prisoners and 2 KIA (Bennet and Butler). The weapon is still at large somewhere in the Iranian desert. A buyer, a purpose and destination still needs to be found for it. Our next session will take the party undercover into the heart of Iran to search for the contact to whom this weapon will be delivered to.

When failure is not an option, stacking skill bonuses

There are some jobs in which failure is simply not an option. Players have to be able to succeed at all costs. To encounter challenges in a game in which failure means more than TPK (see image bellow), means players must have a high, almost certain, success rate. On the other hand if success is assured where is the challenge in the adventure? If success is a sure thing because failure is so catastrophic, doesn't the game just become a story in which the GM just narrates the outcome of one success after another?

Or is there a way to stack bonuses so skill checks are quite certain to succeed while still having that little margin for error that makes your heart skip a beat when you roll the dice?

I'm working on some skill mechanics to allow for characters to add their skill bonuses to a task, work together and make success almost certain. That almost might seem like too certain a success rate, until you see what's at stake if you fail (once again see image at left).

So here are some ideas to make this work:

  • Die roll with a lot of steps, like d100 vs d20 which has only one fifth as many.
  • Diminishing returns which means a bell shape distribution.
  • Characters can stack their skill bonuses and attribute bonuses to the roll. There will still be a chance of failure given the diminishing returns.
Things I want this to work for:

Cut the blue wire
Weapon disarming in Weapons Free may be a very common task. Having help from an external source may add bonuses to your explosive skill check. Failure to cut the right wire or follow the proper disarming procedure can be quite catastrophic.

Identify agent
Someone is ill, what biological agent is it? Running some tests in a team of medics should add bonuses to solving the issue quicker. Failure to isolate the pathogen and find a way to stop its propagation can be quite catastrophic. Even if just confined to the unit in the adventure it would still be a game stopper.

Close quarter combat
The odds of putting a bullet in a target should be astronomically high at close quarter range, but drop off drastically as range increases. Skill should play a strong role here. At longer ranges bonuses from equipment like scopes should add up to make long range shots easy for those trained in their usage. Failure to be the first to hit its target when entering a room can be quite painful for the character that fails to take the target out.

Thoughts? How many games have you played that allow many characters to chip in on a die roll to increase their odds while still keeping a margin for error that makes the game exciting?

Image sources

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tactical Nightmare Dungeon

Damn, I've got to use this in my next mission! This is an Afgan village in a hill, not on, in it! A modern day dungeon crawl in the making. Got this cool add on for Campaign Cartographer so I can create isometric dungeons. I figure it's the only way to represent something like this.
Just imagine trying to put this on many layers and then switch between pages in Roll20. It would be a nightmare that would turn combat into a crawl.
I'll work this weekend on something and post it on my next map blog. I guess I'll have to do the interiors with the isometric icons and then do some touch up work with the GIMP to add exterior detail and indicate what is outside and what is inside. If all goes well I'll be able to run a session with this map in two weeks time.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Laser bullets

We're all used to energy clips and laser rifles as standard scifi weapons. When the energy clip runs out one that fully charged is put back in its place. But what if instead of energy clips conventional clips with laser bullets are used? The bullet being a one time charge for a blast.

Imagine a much simpler, chemical based laser blaster that uses bullets to power each blast. There are no electronic components which may be susceptible to EMPs. The bullet is triggered and a reaction takes place inside that powers the laser device. Once used, the casing is expelled and another one put in to fire the next laser blast. The chemical could be something characters could carry in a pack and could reload the casings with.


Sunday, August 04, 2013

Full campaign on!

Last night I ran the first full blown Weapons Free campaign session with +Kaan Emirler +Gabriel Perez Gallardi +Tre' Grisby  and +Brian Kelsay. They're on a broken arrow mission and must recover the weapon's core before it falls into the wrong hands. They crossed the Iranian border and entered a small village to recover it by quickly deploying support teams in the south and storming the building. Brian did a great job at clearing the south building, but the weapon wasn't there!!! So Kaan picked up the assault team with the HUMVEEs and drove them over the light blue line to the other suspect building, the north one.

This was not a welcomed move by the locals who attacked the convoy turned the scene into something taken from Blackhawk Down, the convoy scenes. Kaan and Brian had to put some heavy 50 cal and 40mm canon fire into the building to suppress the enemy while they drove by. Meanwhile Tre and Gabriel were giving support fire with the MG and sniper rifles.

As they arrived on the north end of town they positioned the HUMVEEs behind some walls and moved in on foot after popping smoke in the area. Gabriel took some targets out who ventured on the roof and Tre gave relentless MG fire into the southern wall. Meanwhile Gabriel's second sniper team moved to reposition itself on the north western side. Kaan gave support from the HUMVEEs as Brian moved in to raid the building. To his surprise the occupants of the building were not some simple thieves and smugglers, they were well trained SPETSNAZ. They weren't dropping as easily as the unarmored men encountered in the southern building. Held back by the increased thread the team pulled out and began looking for another entry point. As they were going around some men on a pickup with a 82mm B-10 recoiless rifle stormed out the building and attempted to escape. The team is putting some fire into the pickup in an attempt to stop it before it escapes. The session ended as the south team notices another vehicle leaving from the eastern building, at full speed and into the night. Who's who and who carries the warhead? We'll settle that in the next session.

Here's live footage from the mission. Kaan's characters laying down some serious fire on the SPETSNAZ infested building as Brian's men try to storm in. You can make out the gun purring and the cannon going tuk tuk tuk.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Perfection is the enemy of usefulness

So Numenera is out and from what I'm reading it's a really good yet imperfect product, with typos and other observations about setting and rules being made. But it is here and now and it is useful. Meanwhile Monte's old employer is still questing for the perfect RPG balance while trying to push something out the door and someone with a very active Facebook account is still figuring out how to start writing the rules for the perfect dwarven game.

What's happening to the others? Feature creep? Baggage from the past? Trying to please everyone while pleasing no one? Inexperienced publisher? Why is Monte out with his game and the others not? Now from what I've been reading about the rules( I don't have the book so I'm going by word of mouth) the game has its caveats depending on who you read. It is d20 based with a whole set of new terms. Some easy mechanics and some different goals, like no XP for killing creatures. It seems a bit like a step in some odd direction coupled with some "bad strategies" like new terms players don't know that may lead up to steeper learning curves and slower acceptance. There are some things that seem incomplete, not fully tested or maybe unbalanced, or maybe it's just misinformation from my lack of the full document. Either way, in spite of its imperfections,  it's a wonderful piece of work which is creating a whole new phenomenon from what was originally meant to be just one book, and it's here now.

This reminds me of Pablo Picasso's words "Every act of creation is first and act of destruction". I see in Monte's work a big step from what was being done, a destruction of the old and the creation of the foundations for the new. Is it perfect?  I doubt it, but it is here now, on time and scarcely a year after work started on it. It promises to get the job done beautifully, it is useful and practical and opens up the door to an exciting new setting. I honestly prefer to have an useful item today than a perfect one tomorrow. I'm  excited to see where this project goes from here. What will all the things that were left undone, unpolished and unfinished transform themselves? I'm sure Monte left lots of stuff out to finish on time and he will treat us to some surprises from that. I'm also excited about having a live product that will evolve and provide newer things. The true downside for me is I'll have to wait two weeks to get my copy. Patience.

Let's Rock!

This is one of my personal favorite scenes from all movies. The moment when the Colonial Marines realize they're something really bad around them. Vazquez screams "Let's rock!" and lights the aliens up with her MG. So bad ass!!!

Here's a short 9 second clip from the movie.

Now try replaying this in a modern RPG.

"Let's rock!"
Roll for initiative, and most surely lose. I mean they're fucking aliens, did you see how fast they move?
Ok, we'll grant the element of surprise and let your character shoot first.
Great, I fire at the first one. 
Wait you can't see it.
So I shoot wild.
Uh, the rules don't have a clear way to resolve this. So I could add a modifier to your roll or ok, lets say you see one over here.
Ok, I shoot at it.
Ok roll for attack.
Rolled an 8, you missed.
WTF, how can I miss, did you see the fire power in that thing?
Yes, but you miss.
Ok I attack again.
Rolled 18, you hit.
Roll for damage, it's a big round 1d12
Ok, (rolls), got a 3.
Barely scratched the alien.
WTF? It's an explosive 10mm round, what the fuck are you talking about.
Ok, sorry forgot that. Round explodes and delivers an extra d12 of damage
Ok, (rolls), got an 11.
Ok, (GM mumbles to himself about HD and HP), ok it took 14 points of damage and it's still standing.
Ok I shoot at it again.
Uh, sorry you only have two attacks per round, it's the aliens turn, all 12 of them.
Fuck!! What? I run out of there.
You can't you've already attacked twice,  you can't move.
Fuck, fuck and triple fuck. We're fucked.

Now take initiative away and replace it with coolness, remove the limit on attacks per round, allow for moves and attacks and include massive fire rules.

"Let's rock!"
I fire the MG into this 10m area of the building hitting whatever is hiding in the walls.
Ok, roll 2d20 to hit.
Got a 24
Ok, (GM rolls secretly for the aliens, odds of the MG hitting at that range is 65%, 7 of the 11 aliens get hit, GM rolls secretly for damage 3d6 yielding results in the order of 9 to 12 for each round plus explosive damage.)
You hear a lot of squeals as some sort of creature is getting hammered in the tunnel. They're many, some drop to the ground wounded, but others keep coming on the walls and roof.
I begin retreating as I put more fire into the area.

See the difference? This is the type of game mechanic I'm looking for in Weapons Free. More realism by a different set of rules that open up the options for players without breaking the balance.


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Bonuses for MY sword

Not bonuses for any sword, I mean the sword my character has grown up with, trained his whole life. The one he went to war with as a lad.

The sword isn't of great quality. It isn't magical either, but the character has grown up with it. It's an extension of the character's arm. Isn't this worth a bonus?

Maybe a bonus to initiative as it's second nature to use the sword. Maybe to hit as it's a seamless extension of the characters body. How about a bonus to parry as an AC benefit? Or an extra attack due to the ease of use?

Have you given bonuses to weapons like this one? If so what type of bonus?