Monday, December 22, 2014

Aiming, what is it and what's its worth?

So in RPGs we're used to rolling dice to see if we hit. These rolls are in turn modified by skill and in some cases aimed or called shots. If the resulting roll is successful we then roll damage and see how much the "bad guy" got hurt. So for example if my character (Ghost) wants to hit her target I see the character's skill, if the target is moving, the range to the target etc., and come with a value say 14. If I roll 14 or higher the shot hit and then I roll for the damage, say for example 2d6 and I get 12, 8, 2, 6, whatever.

Now here's what I think after this weekend's hands on experience. This model doesn't relate too well with gathered data. See the image to the right--->

That's my target after I filled it up with lead from an M4. Notice how all the shots except one are on target and in the red area. There's one shot that's off target right below the ear, but it has its matching double tap shot right on the thyroid. So no, the target didn't make it.

This is the first time I ever fired an M4 and the third time I fired such a weapon, being the first time the AK47 followed by the FN SCAR I fired shortly before. After about 10 shots I was double tapping pretty well. I highlighted four points with bright red dots, those are a double tap to the chest quickly followed by a double tap to the head. Those are "game over" shots for the target and somehow the game rules are telling me I have to roll for damage? Come on!!! Please!

Call me gifted if you want and I'm quite aware that the target is not moving and above all it isn't shooting back, but since when has that been taken into consideration in mainstream games? If the target is, for all practical purposes, standing still while talking with another NPC and totally unaware of my character or if my character wins initiative in the midst of battle the attack roll is pretty much the same. Roll 14 or better and I get to roll damage. Now if I roll 14, 18 or 20 I still roll damage and in that case I can roll a 2 as easily as a 12. This model no longer makes sense to me.

Skill is no longer related to aim, I mean I've got practically no experience and still scored some pretty good shots. Aim in turn isn't related to damage. I put a couple of rounds on the target's heart and head and I still need to roll damage? Really? Fear and movement are not well represented. More so, many players shun from morale checks and related rolls which hamper the character's performance. I'm certain my aim wouldn't be so precise if I had bullets flying my way, and if I was moving and so was my target. In this case timing and not aim is what matters most. Not only who gets the shot off first, but also the damage that shot does and how much said damage is capable of stopping the opponent from firing back.

I believe there should be a strong relationship between initiative and aim. The better I want the aim to be the less prone I am of winning initiative. Skill should not be applied so much to aim as it should to initiative. Saying this in another way, skill should be "offloaded" to initiative because adding mor skill to an almost certain shot is of no value. So being cool and in control and not trigger happy nor prone to fire before aiming is the mark of skill and experience. Although it makes sense to apply skill to aim, at short ranges skill is more relevant to initiative, and this is seldom the mechanics I see in games. Damage in turn should be related to the attack roll, or more precisely to the body part hit, and not some random roll based purely on the ammo's specs.

How does this relate to Saints and Sinners? To answer this let me break this into attack roll, damage roll and initiative.

Attack Roll
In S&S fire arm attacks are skill checks against the range's difficulty. My character is given a set of dice to roll given her skill with a certain weapon and the target's range determines the difficulty. At short ranges like 30 to 50 yards the shot is trivial and even a barely skilled character has a chance of scoring a hit. An unskilled character, one who just picks up the weapon and fires (supposing no loading is required) has a 33% chance of hitting and a skilled character (the likes of me with a bit more experience, but no real training) has a 52% of hitting. An expert would have somewhere around 88% chance of hitting. This is pretty consistent with what I observed. The odds of missing at such range are slim. It's not a question of if I'm going to hit, but rather when and if it will matter at all by then. If I put in a +3 modifier for static target the odds go up to 50%, 70% and 95% respectively.

Damage is one thing I think I got right in S&S. There is a random aspect related to the weapon's ammo, but damage is strongly modified by the area getting hit. Lower leg and arm areas add a penalty to damage, while torso and head shots add a strong bonus to damage. In that sense there is a strong relationship between impact point and damage. Impact point is in turn determined by exposed areas and attack roll. A roll that beats the required value by 10 or more is marked as outstanding success and calls for a critical hit on the target. A torso hit becomes a critical hit to a vital organ. A head shot goes into the brain, main arteries, throat, or spinal cord area. Both are surely incapacitating and almost certainly lethal shots.

The skill levels mentioned in the attack roll section (unskilled, skilled and expert) which had a 50%, 70% and 95% chance of scoring a hit respectively would have a 8%, 18% and 53% of scoring a critical and almost certainly game stopping shot. So while the expert character has only twice the odds of hitting a target than the unskilled character does, the expert has an almost 7 times greater chance of having that shot be a killer critical hit.

Initiative in S&S in not a comparison of individual die rolls by all players, it's a roll below attribute check against the character's mettle score. Whoever rolls the lowest relative to the character's mettle score wins the initiative. If character A has an 18 mettle and character B has a 14 mettle score and character A rolls a 12 and character B rolls a 10, character A wins the initiative because the roll is 6 (18-12) below mettle while B's is only 4 below (14-10). This difference is actual game time measured in quarter second intervals. In this case A beats B by half a second.

Now a character can trade in aim for speed at a rate of one difficulty per beat (equal to 4 initiative tics). Character B being an expert can trade in aiming skill for speed and get an advantage with a high enough odds to score a hit. The character's initiative goes from 4 below to 8 below and beats character A's roll of 6 below. With the modified attack roll character B has an 87% chance of scoring a hit (down from 95) and a 32% chance of that hit being a critical life threatening shot.

If I'm character A I'm at a loss now. I'm getting my shot off half a second later with an odds of hitting of 70% vs my opponent's odd of hitting of 87%. The catch is that my opponent's shot has a 32% chance of being immediately life threatening while mine has only an 18% chance.

So so far I like what I see. The rules seem to be more consistent with reality and give the truly skilled shooter a tangible advantage over the unskilled or weekend shooter. What do you think?

PS : There are a few elements I'm leaving for an upcoming post on handguns. These cover single and double action weapons, adrenaline and suppression (the effect from a shot that misses but comes close enough to cause fear). More on that coming soon, stay tuned.
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