Thursday, January 30, 2014

Unplayable character? What is that?

A recent conversation about character attribute rolling brought up the concept of "unplayable character". What is that? A character with such poor attributes it can't be played? But why can't it be played? And why is it allowed to exist in the game?

One thing is to take a character with some limitations and play it leveraging its strengths and overcoming its weaknesses. Another entirely different thing is to have a character with all low attributes. Such a character is an uncommon, but nonetheless possible outcome of the character generation process. This is what was called an "unplayable character". A character so limited in its attributes it is very hard to play since it does not allow the player to play the type of character or class they wish to play.

This situation has lead some players to shun random rolls as a means to determine attributes. My question is this, are "unplayable characters" the product of the random process itself which should not be used, or is it the product of a poor game design that allows for nonviable characters? In other words shouldn't games select these random rolls in a way they don't allow for low and "invalid" values? The software equivalent of user input validation.

Select another die roll or adjust what those values represent to the game's mechanics. If a game's mechanics call for attributes between 1 and 20 why not roll 5d4 which ensures values between 5 and 20? Or roll 2d6 + 8. That ensures values between 10 and 20 with most landing around 15. This eliminates the possibility of a "unplayable character" while still allowing for some low attributes which are challenging and fun to play.

I'm a strong advocate for random values because they take me out of my comfort zone and make me play with values I might not consciously select. Humans are creatures of habit after all. A little bit of randomness goes a long way to help me find new attribute combinations that are interesting to play. Yet this is only fun if the values fall within playable limits.

Advocates of point buy say they prefer this mechanism because it allows them to play what they want. Does it? Do they get what they want? I'd say they get less uncertainty as to what they'll end up with as a character. They're more secure in the thought they won't get something bad, but at the same time they're limited as to how good a character they can get.

The 8 + 2d6 random generation process I showed above does allow for the most unfortunate character to end up with all values of 10,  but it also allows characters to end up with all values between 15 and 17, or all 20s (with the same odds of having all 10s). You can't get that with point buy. To get a character with all attributes equal or greater to 15 by means of a point buy mechanics the game designer would have to give enough points to raise values to such high number and then everyone would play with all attributes above 15. Who would forfeit the remaining points to deliberately have low values in some attributes. No one. Every single player would use up all points and end up with super powerful characters.

So from the point of view of a point buy system those characters that were rolled up with 8 + 2d6 and ended up with low attributes sure look shitty. On the other hand from the point of view of random attribute characters that were rolled up with 8 + 2d6 and ended up with high attributes those point buy character sure look shitty.

Looking at it from this angle point buy isn't really giving me better characters, it's actually giving me fewer options.

Pros and Cons of each...

Point Buy

  • Player has greater control of character attributes.
  • Characters don't end up with very low stats.
  • Less attribute value combinations available to players. Can't have all max values.
Die roll
  • Player has less control of character attributes.
  • Character may end up with very low stats. This is solved by a better selection of the roll mechanics.
  • More attribute value combinations available to players. Can roll all max values.


This post also appears on Indie+_ and is covered by the Indie+ Community Standards.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Heavy Armor in D&D Next

Just finished reading Mike Mearl's Legends & Lore article. I must say I'm a bit troubled by the new modifications regarding character speed and heavy armor. He says "allowing characters with sufficient Strength scores to ignore the speed penalties for heavy armor." Then he goes on to explain why it makes sense and puts forward a couple of reason.

I have to say it makes no sense to me. Now, I must confess I'm not following D&D Next development as I used to, but if encumbrance is still related to STR as it is in Pathfinder then I have an issue. Actually two.

I don't see strength related to speed. Sure it helps, but you also need endurance. As any marathoner can vouch for. The D&D attribute that is closest to endurance is constitution. You need good lungs and a strong and healthy cardiovascular system to pump all the oxygen required by those 18 STR muscles. A high constitution would be required to move heavy armor during combat without a speed penalty. Except maybe for short sprints in which oxygen in the muscles would suffice.

The second issue I see is more game design related. A high STR score gives a character a higher carry capacity (I'm assuming this is similar to previous D&Ds, correct me if I'm wrong). A high STR score also gives a combat bonus. On top of this it is also going to give a movement bonus? It makes more sense to me to move this rule to require high constitution and thus require two high values to get a character that can easily CARRY heavy armor AND MOVE QUICKLY in it. Otherwise a single value such as a 17 STR grants too many benefits, IMHO.

Thoughts? Do you think they're using STR too many times or is there something I missed that would make the game more balanced?

Image source

Friday, January 24, 2014

Hit, miss or suppress

"Cover me!" is one of the most useless phrases I've seen used in the modern combat RPGs I've played. Why? Because the games I've played have basically two outcomes: hit or miss. If you hit, what's the point of of covering your buddy, the enemy is already dead. If you miss, what's the point of covering if your shot isn't going to stop the enemy from firing back. If the only way to pin down an enemy in a game is to see him and shoot him dead the player loses a great deal of tactical options with the character.

In Weapons Free suppression fire is the third and most common outcome of an exchange of bullets. Suppression has the purpose of pinning down your enemy and allow friendly troops to reposition in the hopes of gaining a tactical advantage.

In the game you can shoot an enemy even if your character can't see them. "Whoa, what? Fire's coming from that tree line?", all of a sudden everyone shifts fire there even when they haven't seen anyone. Combat is resolvable even if the target isn't visible and the outcome of suppression can be leveraged for the unit's benefit.

So mechanically what is suppression? Suppression is a shot who's die roll is off enough not to be a hit, but not that far off to be a total miss. It comes close enough to scare the hell of the enemy. A miss is the product of a misplaced shot, shooting into the wrong direction or, if the target is dead center, appearing to have no damn clue how the weapon should be used. More often than not you'll either hit or suppress, unless you have no clue as to the enemy's location and your character is just firing blind.

As you might have guessed missing in the game is a terrible thing. It fails to neutralize the enemy in anyway and most surely gives away your character's position. Which can lead to your character getting suppressed. Remember, your character will probably not get hit, but all those bullets flying over his head will not make him comfortable or willing to put his head up and shoot back.

What do I expect to see in the game and what effects does this have? Well I expect there to be a lot more ammunition usage. A lot of shots that don't hit, but keep the enemy or players down. A lot of moving around to reposition and a lot less dying. I believe suppression will reduce game lethality and will go a long way into changing the expected outcome of an encounter from total annihilation to retreat or surrender. Getting totally suppressed should be the equivalent outcome of many "fight to the end" encounters I've usually had. Leading to a retreat or a surrender of the enemies or the party involved instead of a TPK.

Thoughts? What games have you played that allow for non-lethal outcome of attacks that push back the enemy?

Image source

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Rules that enable players and rules that don't

I want to talk a bit about the effect rules have on player options. In tabletop RPGs rules are made to create a game which allows the player play the role of a character in some setting, be this fantasy, scify, modern, etc. As such the rules should allow the GM and players to describe any action the characters could really take in such a setting. Thus if a game has magic there are rules for magic, if the game centers around combat there are rules for combat and so forth.

Yet a great deal of times when rules describe or regulate actions they also limit what players can do. This occurs when rules take certain abstractions into consideration in an attempt to make things manageable. Examples of this are combat rule elements such as attacks per round, initiative and movement rules. In games with detailed combat rules these will dictate what actions are possible and which not and in what sequence. They work to make the complexity of combat fit into a flow diagram that can be followed again and again until combat is resolved.

Unfortunately it is quite common that these rules limit what a character can do. I don't want to get too deep into the debate of "the one attack is an abstraction and actually means many actions taken". I just want to point out the implications this has on the storytelling process and see what can be done about it. Is it possible to arrive at a rule set that sets some limits for characters so the game doesn't blow out of proportion, yet still allows for more narrative freedom and a greater variety of actions?

Lets take a look at an example of such combat rules since they are a clear case of this issue and then look into other ways of working with combat that allow for more flexibility.

The encounter in this example starts as a conversation between the party and a group of kobolds which might unfold into a combat encounter. The conversation goes quite smoothly the GM narrates what the kobolds say and the players what the characters responds and so forth. There's a great correlation between the actions in game reality (what the characters are doing) and game story (what the players are narrating). So far it all looks just as if the players were actually in the game setting itself, doing and acting what the characters are actually doing. Nobody rolls for initiative to see who speaks first, there's no rule saying you can't say something or that you can't interrupt the kobold chieftain in the middle of his speech. There certainly is no rule that limits players phrases per round nor rules that close their mouths as they walk. Now come combat and all that changes. If negotiation goes sour it's time for initiative.

A disparity between game reality and game story arises that wasn't there just a few moments before. The rules begin imposing limits to character actions which are not directly derived from the game's reality. Certain limitations are not a natural consequence of the setting's physics. In an attempt to depict what is happening in combat the rules leave out a great deal of actions and options. Characters that were just moments earlier speaking freely are now taking a turn and having one action in that turn, and while they could freely move around and talk seconds earlier, now they either walk, stand or attack. What happened? Combat rules kicked in.

Combat rules dictate what can be done, in what order and how. Yet they usually fail to explain why. Why is there just one attack? Why only one movement? Why just one weapon? For example when a rule says a fighter can't fight two handed the rule is imposing a limitation. A limitation which is the consequence of some physics of the world the fighter lives in, but not the actual reason. On the other hand when the rule says a fighter can fight two handed, but there's a -7 "to hit" penalty due to the extra burden and the coordination skills required, the rule is not limiting, it is describing a phenomenon. It isn't saying the fighter can't use two weapons because the odds of success are too low. It is saying "here are the modification to the odds" and letting you choose. Two handed fighting may not be in the character's best interest given such a high penalty, but it is certainly not some limitation imposed from "outside his world". Imagine the character's expression when some invisible force stops him from grabbing a dagger AND a sword. It simply makes no sense in for something like this to happen.

Now, not only does this create unreal barriers to player actions, it also adds unneeded complexity to the game. What happens when the character has four arms? Do we write a rule as an exception to the prior rule that limits two handed combat? This make the rules more complex, the rulebook heavier and the learning curve longer. Such rules can add up like polarizing lenses and end up with very little options for the player.

Lets start adding different rules together: weapon use, movement, attacks per round, healing, etc. All the things a character can do can be seen as normal unpolarized sun light. As the first rule is applied only actions that abide to such a rule "may pass". When we hit the second rule actions will be able to pass only if this rule is "aligned" with the first. If it isn't perfectly aligned, or worse yet totally perpendicular to it, less or even no actions will be possible.

The bigger the rule book the more probable it is that rules have contradictions and not all rules are coherent with each other. So in the same way many polarized lenses eventually cut down all light so will rules cut down a great deal of options and actions a player can take.

We can see the effect in a graphical way in the following diagram.

Wonder why min maxing occurs? I strongly believe it is because the final set (the one labeled "After a set of rules") is so small it is easy to wrap one's mind around it and find the key elements at play.

So what's the alternative? I strongly believe a more descriptive and less declarative set of rules goes a long way in solving this. By descriptive I mean a rule that tries to explain why something happens instead of just declaring the consequence. It might get a bit more complicated if for example fatigue rules are used to keep tabs on character actions. On the other hand it makes things a lot more unpredictable because there are more options. Characters still move, attack, act and react to the environment within acceptable limits, but they are no longer bounded to a single attack or movements in 15' increments.

The issue of limiting player options through the rules is currently of great concern to me as I work on a modern warfare game which borders on the action thriller. Can you imagine Jason Bourne having only one action every round? Neither can I.

Thus I've been moving away from the types of rules I grew up with. Moving away from the more fixed type with one attack, roll for initiative and follow a flow diagram type of rules to a more loosely coupled ones. I'm now interested in rules that explain how the character's potential is transformed into actions rather than just enumerating possible actions.  To do this I constantly ask myself two questions:
  • Am I limiting the character beyond the normal limits? If applying the rule somehow limits what the character could reasonably do then it gets taken out. Limits exist, but they're "explained" by some character attribute or fall within reason.
  • Am I really representing the game's reality? Rules are a great way to convey how the world I've conjured should work. They help a GM recreate my world on someone else's tabletop. If a rule does not help to build this it gets taken out or rewritten. As a modern warfare game designer, if I see live combat footage and a rule in my game prevents me from recreating that setting, the rule gets taken out or rewritten. 
The first question helps me push the game into the narrative side of gaming. I want the player to tell a story. The second question helps me push the game into the crunchier side of gaming. I impose certain mechanical restrictions that help describe and thus recreate the setting. In the context of a modern warfare game these rules and restrictions help differentiate one weapon from another and one skill from the other. In a game in which everyone plays a fighter it is interesting to see how these minor mechanical restrictions add up to the tactical value of each element in the team. Couple this with the more narrative combat resolution mechanics and a dynamic emerges in which tactics, player decisions and team work are more important to success than exploiting a fixed combat flow diagram and a set character options.

This post also appears on Indie+_ and is covered by the Indie+ Community Standards.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Team Play

Last Wednesday's playtest brought up the conversation on the value of character teams in RPGs and by team play I don't refer only to all players working as a team. No, I'm also talking about something I've seen generally shunned by players and that's playing with many characters.

I've usually heard that players can't handle more than one character. That roleplaying will only be "skin deep" as one mind can't handle multiple personalities at the same time (at least not a sane one). Characters, it seems, would end up being personality clones of each other. Their only distinction being their stats and skill sets.

On the other hand I'm working on a modern warfare game in which characters are highly trained professionals. As such they work as a team very well. Something that is hard to achieve with players who just meet once a week to play. Squad coordination is better achieve when all members think and act as one. In real life this is achieved through training and can be achieved in game by having one player control the squad.

So here's the sitrep:

  • A one player to many characters type of relationship would lead to less character development by making it harder for the player to manage so many distinct personalities.
  • One player coordinating many characters allows for more "professional" looking actions from the squad (group of characters) and less time spent "getting their act together" between players.
  • For a mission to be successful it may require more characters than there are players available for the session.
  • High lethality in the game means a character can be incapacitated or killed. So having many characters is a way to guarantee continued play.

What is to be done?

We discussed the idea and I agree that the best would be to make the unit the fundamental element for the player. Players will have units with many characters in them. This doesn't mean they need to always play with a unit. A player can use a single character from a unit for the duration of a session or mission. It does mean though that the PCs will have a benefit from being in the unit.

  • A new player can have a one man unit and then grow from there.
  • A unit will be more powerful and better balanced than a single player. It will provide a pool of resources depending on the mission at hand.
  • Morale and leadership bonuses can be given in the game for members of the same unit.
  • Unit points allow the unit to grow. These are handed to the player when a character becomes incapacitated and can no longer be played. They can be used to create new characters with similar skills and strengths as the one that became incapacitated.

The unit sounds like a good solid idea, but I still have some concerns about balance, power growth and a player not being able to develop many characters as well as a single character. What are your concerns with players running more than one character in a game? What issues do you have with large parties that have more than one character from each player? What about the endless minutes players spend coordinating something? How do you handle that? Played last Monday with +Kaan Emirler and he addressed the issue with a game mechanic called "the flow". Our characters had to pay something for us the players to talk and get our act together. Do you impose time limits on your players when they work as a team?

Image source

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Holy cow, I don't know how to play on the tabletop. HELP!

I'll be honest, it's been over 20 years since I GMed on the tabletop. I mean the real tabletop. Back then I had an 8088 8 bit computer with CGA graphics and a dot matrix printer that would hang if the PC ran at 10MHz. That is to say we did everything by hand. We drew on this cardboard with 1" squares and a plastic on top. The best I had were my D&D Battlesystem tokens to put characters and armies.

I came back to roleplaying two years ago and haven't stopped using Hangouts for that and Roll20 as a tabletop tool. I've got everything for that, but honestly, I don't have any printed stuff. Nor real life tokens, figures, maps, you name it. I can't play a real life RPG session. I'm not ready. I don't have a clue what to take. If I were to GM a tabletop game today, what's expected of me to bring?

Monday, January 20, 2014

New attributes and their value range

This week's playtest had raised some good points regarding attribute names, their meaning and how they are determined. This has lead to some attributes changing their name so they're a lot more clear as to what they stand for.

The game has two sets of attributes: primary and secondary. The primary attributes are rolled and they represent the character's "genes". These primary attributes had a name change in the value that represents robustness and physical build of the character. This attribute is now called build (BLD).

The way primary attributes are rolled has changed as well. Instead of having two options, one rolling 3d6 and another 4d6, primary attributes are either rolled using 5d4 or point bought.

Secondary attributes on the other hand represent the current state of the character and are calculated by averaging primary attributes and adding background bonuses. These values represent the upbringing and training the character has had during life and they will also change as the character progresses. Secondary attributes got two new names. What was once enlightenment is now sagacity. Enlightenment was a good name when used in a fantasy game from which these rules were born, but it is not so fitting for a modern combat name. The other attribute that changes was illustration. This is now called cognitive and represents the level of education and abstract thinking the character has.

The overall goal of this changes is to:

  • Use attribute names which are a lot more clear in their meaning and don't refer to some uncommon meaning of the word.
  • Introduce the option of point buying the character's primary attributes. Many players expressed their preference of point buy over rolling.
  • Raise the minimum attribute value form 3 to 5 and group attributes a lot more around the value of 11 and 12. This will lead to less "nonviable" characters. I will also look into the weight each value has in the game. Such a "calibration" will make values between 5 and 9 less of an unusable dump score and more of a weak value.


Build (BLD)

The general physical build of the character.  A stronger build will allow for greater strength.

Intellect (INT)

The smarts and mental agility of the character.

Will (WILL)

The strength of the character's persona.

Agility (AGI)

How flexible and in control the character is of her or his body.

Constitution (CON)

How healthy the character is and how resistant to illness and disease.

Ki (KI)

How in tune the character is with the world.

Determining  Primary Values

By Rolling

Attributes are rolled using 5d4.

By Point Buy

Character starts with all attributes at 11 and the player rolls 3d4 to determine the ammount of extra points  that can be assigned to increase these values.


Strength (STR)

Determines how much the character can carry, lift and throw.  It can be improved over time with rigorous training.  Without sustained training it will diminish over time.
Initial value : average of BLD & CON

Sagacity (SAG)

Sagacity is the intellectual and spiritual openness and perception of the world around the character. It can be beneficial when negotiating with NPCs and being empathic with other characters. It is also important in enduring the hardships of war, the loss of friends and overall shock of modern combat.
Initial value: average of INT & KI

Cognitive (COG)

Represents the level of learning and education the character has.  It is a mixture of studied learning, and life experiences. It is an important attribute for officers and intelligence personnel as well as activities requiring abstract thinking.
Initial value: average of INT & WILL

Dexterity (DEX)    

It is the ability to move fast and with well placed moves. Benefits ranged combat and skills that requires manual dexterity.
Initial value: average of AGI & KI

Endurance (END)

Represents how much and how long the character endure physical strain. It benefits combat and resisting fatigue. High endurance means a stronger heart which translates to more actions per round under the system’s fatigue mechanism. High endurance also helps to counter the effects of taking wounds, like being disoriented or fainting.
Initial value: average of CON & WILL

Mettle (MET)         

It represents the character’s strength of character. It is an important attribute to have coolness under fire and be quick to respond to a changing battlefield. High mettle characters will endure suppressive fire better. Overall they will be more in control of the situation and in a better position to give orders and respond to them as well.
Initial value: average of WILL & KI

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Failure improves your skills?

It should, shouldn't it? That is unless your character is trying to disarm a nuke.

How do you handle skill failure in your game? I've been giving this some thought and realized a great deal of times we as GMs grant XP for success and bonuses for being great and successful, but what about failures and retries?

I've talked about tracer rounds in modern combat and their benefit in "walking" the fire onto the target. You miss? No problem! Next round you get a bonus from the tracer bullets. That is, if you survive! Remember those things work both ways!

What about an archer? The first arrow falls short and the subsequent ones get a bonus. What about picking locks? Does the character just fail and that's the end of it? Or does the rogue get a retry with a bonus? Spells? Cryptography? What about combat? Feeling your enemy, getting to know the moves, predicting what the opponent is going to do, which way the sword is going to swing, which side does the opponent cover most?

How relevant is failure to character improvement in your game?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Point buy or rolled attributes?

Wednesday's playtest brought up some concerns regarding the initial character attribute values. Should the be rolled or point bought?

Weapons Free uses both. You roll base values and then tell a story to earn points to increase these scores. I selected this mechanism because it includes some randomness from the initial die rolls which I find good when it comes to taking players out of their comfort zone.

In my opinion playing with low stat characters is a lot of and I've found it motivates a lot of roleplay. So to maintain this even with high stat characters I've attached a story line behind each extra point players add to the rolled values. This is done by what is know in game as saints and daemons. Background stories that explain why the character has those bonuses, but also come with emotional baggage. Which will undoubtedly become useful later on in the adventure, buahahahahahaha!

Still some players expressed their concern for the initial die roll and wanted all randomness taken out. Although it isn't something I'd endorse, it can be easily solved by adding a minor change to the initial attribute mechanism in the game. As a player you can go down the random road or chose something more static. Either way you'll end up with some value you'll have to then improve with saints and daemons. That way you end up with a story for your character which I find to be a key element for the game.

Thoughts? How do you prefer to roll your stats and how are they related to your character's background?

Melee and hand to hand combat in Weapons Free

So the time has come to address melee and hand to hand combat in Weapons Free. It is something I had delegated until last because a) I was too busy with everything else and b) I honestly had no clue how to begin to create something different and fitting for the game's mechanics.

Unlike the previous fantasy games I've worked on, Weapons Free poses a greater challenge due to the mixed nature of firearms and melee weapons available. A rifle is both a firearm and a melee weapon. Turn it around and bat someone with it. Attach a bayonet and stab your enemy's gut out. Dodge it and come counterattack with a knife. Block the knife with your hands then pin his arm and subdue them or break his neck.

There are so many options it is hard to write a rule for each one. On the other hand I don't want to be so abstract that there is no distinction between one character and another when skill and weapon choice are factored in. I want it to feel real. Not in the sense of playing every single move in a realistic manner, but rather that your character's skill and your choice of actions really matter. So here is a quick overview of the mechanics:

  • There's a base target number for success
  • The base number is modified by the difference between the attacker and defender skill
  • There is a modifier for weapon range that favors the longer weapon. This may be nullified if the opponents get too close. For example a halberd being very effective in the beginning, yet becoming useless if the attacker with the knife gets too close.
  • Stance by style. Combat styles will add a certain modifier depending on the action being taken and its nature : defensive or offensive stance.
  • Attributes will add modifiers. The two that are considered now are strength and dexterity. The attacker's attributes add and the defender's subtract. If both are equal then no attribute bonus is applied as they cancel out.
  • This gives a final target value to beat. Rolling above it means success or failure otherwise.
  • Catastrophic failure is given by a number below the target value. Rolling less than or equal to this means the attack goes wrong and the defender gains an advantage or scores a hit.This allows for a turn around of events in hand to hand encounters.
  • I'm also considering outstanding success given by a number above the target value. Such a roll would not only grant a hit to the attacker, it would also nullify the defenders possibility to respond granting the attacker another attack.
Overall hand to hand combat would be a succession of successes that lead to victory. Skill and attributes will count a great deal in these encounters and should give you the feeling that your character is special. To add to this I'm researching unarmed combat styles to see how these can be leveraged as combat style bonuses for different situations. Keep you posted.

Saints and Sinners is a game based on the Weapons Free game and it's available as pay what you want. Download it here!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The value of unit points and medals upon character death

Last night's character generation playtest with +Kaan Emirler and +Tre' Grisby raised some good points about unit points and the creation of new characters to replace dead or incapacitated ones.

Unit points are a set of points given to the player after a character dies or can no longer continue to play. These points can be used to boost new characters and prevents the player from starting from zero all over again.

Kaan commented that power points should equate what was lost with the character's death. This would allow players who have a special forces character to pick up with another special forces character with the same skills and training.

While I get his point I'm more inclined to give a fraction of the current character's training as unit points. The player can create a new character, but not as powerful as the recently lost. This prevents the trivialization of death, but can be a let down for players.

I believe medals can come into play here. If the character dies and lacks any medals then the character gets somewhere between 60% to 80% "strength" in unit points to create the next character. If the character has earned medals or earns them posthumously this percentage increases. The increase will be proportional to the medal and possibly over 100% if, for example, the character earns the Medal of Honor. Such a great decoration can allow the player to create an even better character next time around or create two very well trained characters.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Suppressing werewolves

So you see this beauty running your way. What do you do? Fire at it with your revolver. Using up those six bullets you so carefully crafted with silver tips? Or do you fill it full of bullets with your squad's M249 SAW?

Chances are given the beast's size and the speed it is moving towards you that the M249 is a better bet if you want to stay alive and not get bitten. But what about the bullets? Namely the silver on the tip. It is one thing to make six or twelve bullets one Sunday afternoon, but at 200 rounds a minute it's going to take a whole month of bullet making to feed the machine gun.

Worry not you paranormal aficionados! This video shows how to quickly apply silver to the tip of a .223 bullet by means of silver nitrate.

Disclaimer: I haven't tested this myself as I lack a werewolf to try the bullets on. Should you happen to have a werewolf at hand locked up in your basement or one marauding your neighborhood please let us know if it works.

PS, take the revolver with the other silver bullets just in case.

Image source

We... need YOU... to game master!

Are you tired of having to wait in line to fire your gun, and then actually just get one shot or one grenade throw in the whole round? Fed up with all these weapons that look and feel the same? Wanna mow down the tree line with the power of minigun as it spits lead 4000 rounds per minute? Wanna zero in your sniper rifle on a target a mile away and be the deadliest element on the battlefield? Do you like maps? Tactics? Planning? Strategy?

Then we want you, to run Weapons Free a campaign. We are recruiting GMs for our playtests and we want you to be part of the team. Are you up to the challenge?

Weapons Free is a modern combat RPG meant to be lots of fun and truly convey modern warfare onto the tabletop. After six months of playtesting and endless nights of watching real combat footage Weapons Free is getting ready to release and we need your experience and feedback as a GM to make this a success!

Our playtest characters have HiLo jumped behind enemy lines in Georgia. Driven a stolen truck through enemy infested towns. Crossed the deserts of Iran to recover a stolen nuke. Engaged insurgents and crossed an Iranian villa under heavy enemy fire with only their HUMVEE's 50 cal and skill to bring them back home. They've stormed buildings, clearing them room by room. Overcome numerous ambushes and done their fair share of their own. Ventured into the most deserted, lifeless place on Earth, Antarctica, enduring worst cold and weather in the world to investigate unknown and possible world threatening activity.

The Black Hawk is revving up, where will you take them?

Image source

Game cover
After delivering U.S. Soldiers and Iraq dignitaries to their final destinations, Crew Chief Sgt. Fred Oser, A. Co. 2-25, Combat Aviation Brigade, attached to 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, dismounts the 240 Bravo Machine Guns from the UH-60 Black Hawk used during the morning’s mission to several Combined Security Checkpoints in the Ninewa Province, Iraq, July 2.

The cleric in a highly lethal game

Nope, the cleric isn't going to be raising dead every thirty minutes, he or she will be doing a whole lot more interesting things than curing light or serious wounds every third round. Let me clarify what highly lethal stands for in this context. It means your character may die from a single hit, any hit is potentially lethal. So hit point heavy characters and their players may face something uncommon at such a level, sudden death in the first round of the encounter. Characters will have to use all their skills and players all their wits not to get hit. Characters are not pampered behind huge hit points, they rely on the real thing: real skill and real luck and divine assistance.

When characters rely on skill and not bulky hit point accounts healing doesn't occur that often. Raise dead may be called for every so often, but the cleric is by no means left unemployed. The cleric's role shifts from being a red cross ambulance to a true representative of his or her deity. Among other things he can provide a channel to the gods and through it be granted divine assistance in battle. This can be done in  many ways aside from a + 1 to hit or + 1 to AC.

Take a moment to shift paradigms from a game in which battle goes on for many rounds to one in which the first round is the most important round. What would you ask the gods if you had to hit first and hit hard? What would you pay to get that advantage?

As a GM, consider that monsters will be as susceptible to sudden death as player characters. No more high hit point ogres and giants. Sure they will be more enduring, and cutting at their feet with little metal toothpicks may not be all that damaging, but they wont have the huge amount of hit points they once enjoyed. Fear will play a factor with them too.

So here are some spells I'd find interesting:
- Clairvoyance powers. Having the party's deity hand over some information on where the orcs are laid out and in what position will add an advantage when targeting that first fireball. The magic user can cast darkness and then, knowing where the enemy is beforehand, dispatch a fireball in that direction.
- Stopping hits. Characters may be blessed with a once a day or once an encounter opportunity to stop a hit before damage is rolled. Getting hit should be way more uncommon than it is in high hit point scenarios. So calling this one can be a real life saver.
- The classic, a bless spell or similar effect spell that grants the character a bonus to hit or better yet initiative. Hit first, hit hard and don't let them stand up.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Weapons Free Character Sheet Update

I'm making more adjustments to the character sheet as I look to have it finished by March. Although it may be daunting to look at with so many tables, rows and columns, rest assured it's much simpler than it looks. To show this I've color coded the areas.

The blue section are the stats you actually roll up and keep track of. The yellow is the new part I'm playtesting this Wednesday and has to do with character traits and background interests. The red part is the weapons related section and its just a copy paste of weapon stats from the manual. The green part are tables placed there for reference so players don't have to keep looking into the manual. The idea is that players can run their character with minimal book usage.

There's a second page to the character sheet and that's used to write down skills, backgrounds and equipment. I'll cover this in my next character sheet blog post. Now that I think about it I should also write a post showing the usage of the sniper table. A table in the green area all the way down to the bottom. It's meant to leverage the skills of a sniper when the rifle is zeroed for a particular range.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Weight and character strength in Weapons Free

The Army specifies the following strength requirement terms when describing MOS (Military Occupation Specialty)

LIGHT -- Lift on an occasional basis a maximum of 20 pounds with frequent or constant lifting of 10 pounds.

MEDIUM -- Lift on an occasional basis a maximum of 50 pounds with frequent or constant lifting of 25 pounds.

MODERATELY HEAVY -- Lift on an occasional basis a maximum of 80 pounds with frequent or constant lifting of 40 pounds.

HEAVY -- Lift on an occasional basis a maximum of 100 pounds with frequent or constant lifting of 50 pounds.

VERY HEAVY -- Lift on an occasional basic over 100 pounds with frequent or constant lifting in excess of 50 pounds.

Information derived from Army Pamphlet 611-21

How does this translate to in game stats?

Building a table from the Army's information we have the following weight range both in pounds and kilograms.

Weight Occasional (lbs) Frequent (lbs) Occasional (kg) Frequent (kg)
Light 20 10 9 5
Medium 50 25 23 11
Moderate 80 40 36 18
Heavy 100 50 45 23
Very Heavy 150 75 68 34

The game's STR to weight has the values as show in the table below. Fortunately for me the weight ranges seem to be very similar to what I initially wrote down as row entries on the table. The unloaded value is what the character is used to carrying and will cause little fatigue. This is equivalent to the Army's term "Frequent". Loaded is what the character can carry, but will create considerable fatigue when moving at rates higher than a walk. This is equivalent to the Army's "Occasional" term.

Putting both together we get the following strength attribute values for a given MOS strength requirement.

Weight Strength Score
Light 3 to 8
Medium 9 to 13
Moderate 14
Heavy 15
Very Heavy 16
What does this mean in terms of acquiring a MOS for your character? Will I limit MOS based on attributes? No, but I'll recommend a minimum and suggest player increase their characters attributes through training quickly thereafter. Infantryman (11B as listed) requires Very Heavy as strength rating. That would require a natural 16 just to be in the infantry and would leave many characters out. If I suggest a 16 and require a 14 things are more accessible. After all the PC can pump some iron and raise a point or two of strength and be within the required value. With a 15 or 16 the character is well set to face the hardship of active duty, carry all the equipment required of him an still move with reasonable speed and without excessive fatigue.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Building the Sniper

1 shot 1 kill

No other phrase inspires more fear. No other element on the battlefield sends a bigger chill than a sniper. No other threat on the battlefield is so technologically unsophisticated and yet so deadly. A man and his rifle. The purest expression of skill and determination.

The thought of a single man pinning down a whole platoon. Taking man after man down, one after the other without being detected, without being stopped. Such a fear inspiring power is something many players seek to have in a modern warfare game. So what does it take to make your character a sniper. Let us take a look at building the sniper in Weapons Free.

Many of you will probably have Vasily Zaytsev in mind when talking about snipers. Made famous by the movie "Enemy At The Gates", Zaytsev had 242 confirmed kills with an estimated real kill count of 500+. He dueled for three days against Erwin Kónig and won (obviously). Keeping the Wehrmacht sniper's scope as trophy, btw.

I must add that sniping is not a realm exclusively for men. Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a sniper during the second world war. She had 309 confirmed kills, scoring 187 kills in the two months in Odessa and 257 in the eight months in Sevastopol. Of her 309 kills, 36 were snipers.

The longest recorded sniper shot in history is credited to Canadian Forces corporal Rob Furlong with an amazing 2430m (1.5 miles). Using a .50-caliber McMillan Brothers Tac-50 Rifle he scored a hit on an enemy machine gun position. Flight time for the bullet: about 3 seconds.

But sniping isn't only about killing a lot of enemies and not getting shot, nor is it only about hitting something halfway across continental USA. It's also about getting into the enemy's territory, operating there for days on end, getting your kill and getting out. This requires skill, endurance and above all determination. I hate to break it to you, but snipers are not going to be rolled up during character generation. You might get a good marksman, but not a sniper.

To have a sniper, you'll probably want to start your character in the infantry branch then get some marksmanship badges and some special training badges (parachuting, diving, navigation, etc.). Round your character out and then take him to the next level: special forces. A level that grants your character access to a whole new set of badges and improvements.

Such a training will take your character through a training 9 to 12 months long that will enhance the character's training in weapon skills, navigation, tactics, camouflage, survival, evasion, tracking, resistance, unconventional warfare and air operations. After this the sniper will be able to operate behind enemy lines, stalk the target, take it out and return home. He or she will stand above the other elements of the unit as one of the deadliest pieces on the battlefield.

What will this require? For starters good attributes, and attributes can be improved through training in Weapons Free, so don't worry if you didn't roll all of them high enough. Secondly, a good field record, being good and gaining experience during the missions. Finally, determination and endurance, that means not only stamina points, but mental strength in the form of mental endurance and mental affinity power points. The job will drain the character, is yours up to the task?

Image source

Rewriting the attack roll

I have an issue with skills and combat resolution. Currently skill is rolled one way and combat is rolled another way, when in truth combat is no other thing than the application of combat related skills. So why do players have to beat a high value with skills and low value in combat?

Well, in the early stages of the game it was intuitive to handle low roll resolution. If you needed a delta 10 to hit (see delta below) and the enemy has 80% cover that converts to 2 or less to hit (10 - 8 [80% of 10]). Please note that a roll above 2 and below 10 still hits the enemy's cover and may still injure the target if the shot successfully penetrates the cover, or does so automatically if the enemy enjoys only 80% concealment, not cover.

Now, I see a couple of issues with this. First of all skill has evolved to be a roll high die roll. As a player you need to overcome a certain target value, say 35 for really hard tasks, 25 for difficult tasks, 15 for easy tasks 5 for trivial and so forth. As a unit, players may stack skill and attribute bonuses from all characters involved in the task resolution. So a delta 28 (quite hard) may be brought down by subtracting the skill bonus of the two or three team members working on the task plus any applicable attribute bonuses. The required value may then end up around 18 or 15, much, much easier to do.

So as a player you're doing all these roll high checks and all of a sudden combat gets turned around and now you have to roll low. This can be a little confusing. Another issue is that in the worst case scenario you have a 3% chance of hitting (which is the odds for a delta 0). In my opinion that's sometimes too high and a bit unrealistic. Some attacks have a much lower chance of hitting than that. PS, as a side note Weapons Free considers suppression fire, so shooting to kill isn't always a goal.

As a GM you don't want to grant the players the chance to wipe out all the opposing force in one strafe, nor grant the enemy the same against the party. This high chance of hitting with a low value also makes it hard to distinguish the skilled from the unskilled. In other words the harder the shot the more susceptible the delta is to modifiers. So a hard long distance shot goes from 3% (delta 0) chance to 25% chance of success (delta 3) with a simple + 3. What's the point of being a sniper then when your average Joe Shooter can get a few pluses in a mile long shot?

Now, if I turn it around and have combat resolved the same way as skill then high rolls will be required for more difficult shots instead of lower rolls. A 20 or higher instead of a 2 or lower. The issue arises with cover, suppression and other combat related elements which are currently handled in a roll low manner. For example if a shot requires 20 or higher, how does cover affect this? With the roll low it was simple, 50% cover converts the 20 to 10 (half the value). Now, with the roll high, 50% is somewhere between 20 and 38. Subtract 20 from 38 divide by two, add to 20.... math is getting complicated and we don't want that.

So maybe I should just dump the whole math/percentile thing and put tags on different values: impossible, epic, very hard, etc. and let the GM sort it out. So a normal shot at a very long distance may be impossible for the unskilled shooter. With some marksmanship it becomes epic, with sniper training it drops to very hard and if your character happens to be Vasily Zaytsev reborn it drops to easy. This "humanized" terminology is better to grasp as a player and GM and to adjust intuitively than a percentage rule applied to a number.


Delta refers to the difference between two 2d20 rolls. The player and GM both roll and the difference between them is the delta value. To roll below a given target delta is to have a delta below the given value. To roll above means to have a delta above the given value.

The 2d20 - 2d20 probability distribution is as follows (graph shows probability of failure when a certain value is required):

The higher the required delta value the less probable the success. Needing a 20 or more implies a 90% chance of failure while 10 or more only a 65% chance of failure.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

CSS, cascading skill sets?

One of the main issues I'm working on right now is character skill sets, how to enumerate them and describe them. I don't want the nitpick character skill list which is more a limitation than an asset for the player. With such specific skills that anything outside the scope is "not possible" for the character.

Other elements that make character skills complex are things such as background experience, multiple progression paths and specialization. On top of this stands the issue that the character may die quicker than it takes to fully describe the skill set fully, and even if the character don't get killed it may take longer to get down to play. These last two elements may cause a great deal of player frustration.

How do I envision this working? Well, during character generation players specify what the character has as background and experience in general terms. These "umbrella" terms encompass a set of skills that would otherwise have to be enumerated one by one. For example : backgrounds such as highschool or college, and military training such as infantry or artillery automatically include skills which will be better defined when they are actually needed, during gameplay. It isn't necessary to specify what weapons the character is good at or list one by one the skills gained in basic training.

As the character progresses certain skills will begin to stand out. The PC may gain more experience with a certain type of weapon. The skill with that weapon goes from basic to experienced to expert to master, etc. Weapon skills go from the general to the specific. For example basic rifle may move to experienced rifle, but the character may, at a lower cost, specialize to expert or master with the M-4. Doing more navigation stuff in a game may make the infantryman experienced or expert with navigation. With enough practice the infantryman may become experienced or even expert, but raising a whole branch one level is way more expensive than just some particular skills. In this way the skill description becomes cascading, if nothing specific is defined then the general value is used in its place.

The character may also add skills from other fields. For example by gaining training as parachutist, pathfinder, freefall parachutist, ranger, etc. the character may gain a whole set of skills or raise current skills to a higher level. Some will be redundant with those already gained, others will not.

To summarize:
  • Characters start with background, school, professional and military "slots"
    • The player specifies a general description for background, school, professional and military
    • The player may keep slots open to be defined later on
    • Example:
      • Character is college graduate who attended OCS (officer candidate school)
      • Player defines the character's background and sets up some hobbies and experiences.
        • Dad had a car shop
        • Did a lot of camping
        • Good with computers
        • Mom is a chemist
        • Always went hunting
      • Player defines the character's schooling and extracurricular activities.
        • Went to bilingual school
        • Joined an art group
        • Played with the band
        • Was in the football team
        • Had an advanced placement course
      • Player defines the character's college degree.
        • Specifies degree
        • What experiences
      • Player defines the character's military training (occupation)
        • Infantry ?
        • Artillery ?
        • Armor ?
        • Intelligence ?
        • Air defense ?
        • CBRN ?
        • EOD ?
        • Ordnance ?
        • Psychological ?
  • Characters progress by
    • Applying skills in field activities or combat that eventually lead to a full increase in level for the occupation. For example: experienced infantryman to expert will rise all related skills one notch.
    • Through additional training (badges). For example parachuting or weapons specialization. For example experienced with rifle (M4) to expert or master. This costs less than increasing the whole occupation and may be improved after a few adventures (maybe even one).

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Knife vs Gun initiative, lessons learned

After viewing this video I got some observations I'd like to include in the game and lay the groundwork for future skill and training benefits in Weapons Free

A trained individual reacts quicker and with more options than an untrained one.
Thus the defender:
  • gains a time advantage to do more actions
  • relocates to disrupt the enemy attack
  • relocates to have a tactical advantage

Now lets look at initiative and activity sequence in a classic way as I've played it before and in the new proposed beats and tics time frame.

Classic initiative resolution
  • Attacker moves forward with knife.
  • Defender is unaware.
  • Initiative roll (some sort of modifier may be applied due to surprise, whatever).
    • Attacker wins
      • rolls to hit
      • rolls damage
      • endures defender's response if defender is still alive
    • Defender wins
      • rolls to hit
      • rolls damage
      • endures attackers response if attacker is still alive
  • Subsequent rounds ensure depending on hit point system and mechanics

Weapons Free solution
  • Attacker moves forward with knife
  • Defender is unaware
  • Reflex roll (ability to determine attack is coming and respond to it)
    • advantage is represented as a time difference
    • if the difference is in the attacker's favor the defender may not have time to respond
    • if the difference is in the defender's favor the defender may take actions prior to the attacker
  • Skill considerations (let's take a moment to consider the following)
    • Unskilled gun man
      • Hesitates
      • Has little options
      • Tries longer attacks, turn around, pull weapon, concealment issues
    • Skilled gun man
      • Does not hesitate
      • Has options
      • Tries quick attacks, and does them instinctively (faster)
    • Expert gun man
      • Does not hesitate
      • Has many options
      • Tries to dodge, parry and attack
  • Skill grants
    • Time advantage: character responds quicker, literally has more time to respond
      • Roll done against character's reflex attribute which is higher
      • The better the roll more the roll grants tics (units of time) to the character
    • Action advantage: character performs more actions in a given time frame
      • Beats (actions) require less tics
      • More actions can be performed by a skill character (instinctive trained response) than an unskilled character

Game mechanics in action
  • Encounter begins.
  • Attacker approaches defender with the knife.
  • GM and player roll for reflex. This is a roll low against the reflex value. The lower the roll the higher the advantage. This advantage converts to tics (unit of time).
  • vs unskilled defender
    • The attacker has a reflex roll bonus due to surprise. A roll is made and the difference is -4. This provides the attacker with a 4 tic lead. Imagine it as time points before zero and after. Negative is good as it represents tics before zero time.
    • The defender rolls and gets a + 2, not very good. He's 6 tics behind the attacker.
    • The attacker stabs the defender. The attack takes a beat (4 tics) to his next action. Four tics later the counter goes from -4 to 0 and the attacker can act again. He stabs one more time. Time goes by again and 2 ticks later at +2 the defender, startled, looks up from his bloodied body to try and attack. He faints and bleeds out.
    • Timeline
  • vs skilled defender
    • The attacker has a reflex roll bonus due to surprise. A roll is made and the difference is -4. This provides the attacker with a 4 tic lead. Imagine it as small time points before zero and after. Negative is good as it represents tics before zero time.
    • The defender rolls and gets a - 6, very good! He's 2 tics ahead of the attacker.
    • He may draw or dodge. Given his concealment and the action bonus the best thing is to dodge then draw and shoot.
    • He dodges and that takes him a beat, 3 tics, not 4 like the attacker since he's highly skilled in hand to hand.
    • The defender has dodged out of the way and is drawing his gun. The attacker arrives two tics later, but can only swing at the air. He turns towards his target, but that will take him another 4 tics to the next action. The defender is only one tics away from his own action. The attacker turns to see a gun raising up and a fraction of a second (tic) later it's all over for him.
    • Timeline

  • An initiative system that conveys skill to real time differences and not just an order or sequence of events allows the PC to leverage skill to obtain a tactical advantage.
  • Good skills + good attributes allow for a significant time advantage that can get the PC out of a tactically unfavorable situation.
  • Eventually highly lethal rules lead to low lethality for the skilled PC. Converting a unfavorable situation to a favorable one is only good if the PC can then neutralize the threat immediately by using high lethality rules. Dodging an imminent attack only to then face an enemy with 50+ hit points in a long volley of attacks and counter attacks is not favorable and could lead to PC death.

Medals, ribbons and unit points

Experience as XP points will not play such a great role in the game. Characters will not become expert snipers by grabbing a rifle and shooting at the enemy then turning in kills for skill level. They will have to train prior and after a mission.

As such characters will gain training into certain fields, they will improve their skills from the basic levels to the more advanced. Ribbons and MOS specialization will represent this and will enable this. Certain ribbons and all medals will represent achievements, others will open new skills and levels.

A certain amount of ribbons and medals will be required to attain higher level training and eventually obtain special forces status : Ranger, Delta, SEAL, sniper, etc. (or equivalent in other countries armed forces). Eventually granting what players want, total badassness!

A character's achievements and medals can be converted to unit points upon the character's demise (death, incapacitation through injury, or becoming MIA). These points are "player experience points" which allows the player to pay for a higher ranking new character and not start from zero. This allows the player to build a unit of highly qualified characters, thus the term "unit points".

Unit points are meant to address two elements: lethality and heroism. Characters will die and that's a fact of war, sorry no rules pampering in the game. Unit points mitigate some of the issues around a highly lethal game, the player doesn't lose everything when the character dies. They can pick up with a new character and not have to start from zero.

The other aspect, which I find even more important, is heroism. Granting the PCs posthumous medals are a way to retribute the player for excellent play. Imagine, the PC dies and the player is granted the Medal of Honor posthumously. Not only a great ending for a dear character, but also the great beginning of a new story.

Image Source

Weapon skills vs specific challenges

Cover, soft cover, isn't too good at stopping bullets, but it is great at deflecting them. This can present a challenge in a firefight. Sure, the counter or wall isn't going to stop the bullet, but it will deflect it enough to make it hart to hit the target behind. Yet with skill and training this can be overcome. A sniper can learn to fire through glass and sheets of metal, plywood, plastic, etc. compensating for the deviation of the bullet and still hitting the target.

Distance is another such challenge. The longer the flight of the bullet the more significant those small elements come into play. Once again skill and training come into play to overcome this challenge. Other elements I can enumerate are wind speed, air temperature and humidity.  All these come into play when making long shots.

What about close quarter combat? What comes into play there? How is skill applied when distance ensures a hit with today's modern weapons? I believe skill must be applied to reflex and the ability to respond quickly and faster in a dangerous situation, and in taking the best advantage of the environment by adding an insight the player may fail to grasp. An example of the former is a bonus to initiative while an example of the later is a bonus to cover.

Question is, at what point does the character's intuition overcome the player's decisions? Should the GM be a guiding hand or should the GM act with a strong arm? There's a broad spectrum when applying skill like this. Direct mechanical bonuses like skill to cover may make cover more effective. For example skill to use a brick wall to grant 90% cover while still being able to attack around/over it when lack of skill would only make such wall grant 70% effective cover.

Things get a bit trickier when the player decides to dash from cover to a new position and the character "feels" it's not so good an idea or has some "in game" feeling the idea isn't so good. In this way skill can be used to obtain some insight of the situation from the GM before making a decision, but it can also be used to change the decision in mid move. For example the player decides to dash forward, the character moves and just a split second later notices something, someone, aiming his way. The character dashes back to cover as the area is riddled with bullets.

Could be called the deja-vu dice? The dice are rolled once for the outcome to be, then "again" as modified by skill to alter the outcome. Thoughts? Could something like this be used in hand to hand combat to anticipate the move?

As I sit down to work with Weapons Free again I'm taking a closer look at skills and training.
  • I like something more than simple bonuses to range and initiative.
  • Skill must allow characters to have benefits in different situations and against different challenges.
  • Skill, training and experience must enhance the whole unit, not only the individual member. 

Image source
Lance Cpl. Lucas Corder, squad leader, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and a native of Roseburg, Ore., directs Marines during live fire exercise on Range 210 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Dec. 6, 2013. Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Bergeron, a platoon sergeant with Alpha Co., said Range 210 is probably one of the most dynamic ranges in the Marine Corps and it does an excellent job of mimicking a combat environment.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Training as a time stopper

The players have been encountering a great deal of close quarter combat. First when they fought off the Russians in the base and last Saturday as they faced five of the natural inhabitants of the sub-Antarctic complex. At such short ranges, 25 m or less, the degree of fire power they carry and that which they encounter is enough to do them in. It's been planning and quick reflexes rather than aim that has kept them alive. Their character's training has kicked in more on the initiative rolls than the attack rolls.

Training helps people react faster. Reacting faster means a quicker response to a events in a battle environment. Needless to say reacting faster can be the difference between life and death at ranges in which a hit is practically ensured. Your character has to hit first and hit fast or else serious injury or even death will surely follow.

Training can come in two ways, first of all how your character sets up a good attack to gain the initiative and secondly quick reflexes so to shoot first, usually handled as initiative. The former is usually handled by players as they setup the strategy and layout their characters on the map. The later depends on the character's skill and the players initiative roll.

For this type of skill to work as a serious advantage in combat there has to be a couple of changes. The game has to be very lethal, one shot and most surely the character is dead or injured and out of action. How else can you take out an enemy in one shot? What's the point of a great strategy and lightning fast reflexes if the enemy still has 32 hit points after taking a double tap? Secondly, the initiative system must have a temporal representation as well. Advantage must not only convert to order of events, but also time. Time enough to maybe pull off an extra action or two.

This effectively slows time down for a skilled character in an RPG. How is training coped with your games? As a bonus to hit or as a split second reaction benefit that gives a character the winning edge in an encounter?

Image source