Friday, November 20, 2015

Firearms, cover and damage in Weapons Free

As a modern warfare game you can imagine firearms and damage take a center roll. Yet surprisingly damage is something that's rolled less often than you might expect. You and your opponents will take a lot of precaution in not getting hit. Actually achieving a hit should be an uncommon event. Suppression and rolling for damage on armor and cover, well that's quite another thing. Suppression plays an important roll in the game and is something you need to learn how to leverage as a player and use it to move around the battlefield and obtain a better position against your enemy. As a GM you should see few deaths and should remember that your NPCs don't want to die. They will seek to retreat if they can and surrender if they can't do anything against an advancing force. Of course history is full of cases in which troops fought to the end, but aside from a one shot session it is highly discouraged that you engage in these types of style of play. NPCs should not stand up fearlessly to take that shot that would kill the characters. Play it out as if you want to live through the campaign and get back home or at least live to fight another day. Now without further delay let me jump into the actual example.

First of all the thing to remember is that combat and attacks is just a more specialized version of a skill check. As such it is resolved by two die rolls just like skill checks, one for the attacking party (skill roll) and one for the defender (task roll). The outcome is determined by the difference between the rolls. The character's skill determines the skill roll and the distance to the target determines the difficulty of the attack and thus the task roll. The possible outcomes are: critical miss, miss, suppression, hit cover, hit, or critical hit.

Unlike normal skill checks with just four outcomes: critical failure, failure, success and critical success; combat has two more outcomes and a deeper interpretation of each. Suppression is the outcome of an attack that misses the target but comes close enough to scare or hits the target's cover without actually penetrating through. Thus a hit to cover also produces suppression as we'll see below. The second additional outcome is hit cover. This is when the attack would actually hit the target but something stands in between, be this an obstacle or body armor.

Simple attack

Lets take for example an attacker who rolls 3d8 and a target that rolls 3d8.

For this simple attack example if the result of subtracting the target roll (difficulty) from the attacker roll (skill) is less than -4 the attack totally misses(cyan area). If the roll falls between -4 and -1 (yellow) it generates suppression. If the roll falls between 0 and 5 it hits cover (green) and also generates suppression. Depending on type of cover and damage it may penetrate and hit the target. If the roll is 6 or better (orange) it hits the exposed parts of the target. If it rolls 10 or above additional effects will be experienced due to a critical hit and if the roll is -10 or worse the inverse happens due to a critical miss.

The image visually represents the example mentioned above.

The values for cover and suppression depend on the degree of cover (obviously) and the weapon being used. Higher rate of fire will lead to better suppression. Thus heavy machineguns and Gatling guns can generate suppression on a -6 or better.

Complex Attack

Now let me analyze a more complex real life situation as shown in this diorama. A group of GIs are protecting a point from an Axis advance. We've got men in the open, prone, behind sandbags and in the trees. This presents varying degrees of cover and targets with different cross sections to the advancing Axis soldiers. Needless to say the smaller the cross-section the harder it is to hit the target.

Let's take a look at what the German soldiers see from their point of view (POV).

As you can see from this photo the same targets that were easily visible from the eagle eye view shown before are now very hard to distinguish. Cover, cross-section and camouflage make them hard to spot and even harder to hit, and I'm not even adding movement to the equation.

In the following image I'm overlapping the eagle eye view and the Axis POV and labeling targets so I can work out the mechanics for each in this and upcoming posts.

A is the rifleman kneeling behind a tree. His cover is so good it hard to distinguish from the German POV. Instead, from the German point of view you see the GI throwing the grenade from behind.

B is the rifleman prone by the tree. This target isn't even visible from the German POV.

C is the bazooka kneeling in the middle of the road getting ready to zap the tank.

D is a rifleman prone in front of the sandbags.

E is the rifleman standing behind the sandbags.

F is the MG crew kneeling behind the sandbags.

G is the rifleman running toward the Germans.

The Germans are in turn armed with MG-42 by the looks of it, some rifles, submachine guns and of course a StuG IV, a formidable armored vehicle with a 7,5cm (StuK 40 L/48) cannon and a MG-34. With this the Germans can attack point targets, attack an area or shell a target.

The German riflemen and the MG in the ruins have a clear view of the treeline and the man with the bazooka, but the tank blocks the view of the Allied MG and most of the men behind the sandbags. The Germans at the other side of the tank have a clear view of both, but their weapons have shorter range and the Allied treeline is much further away. You're the attacking German force, what do you do?

As the Germans in the ruins you have two clear targets the bazooka GI and the grenade GI. Initiative aside, which I'll cover in another article, lets say the MG goes for the bazooka and the rifleman for the grenade GI. 

Basic Example Rifleman vs Grenade GI

The basic rules are simple:
  • Get a result of 0 or better and you hit.
  • Skill determines attack roll and distance determines difficulty roll.
  • Skill and difficulty determine the value on which your d8 dice get to explode. The least skilled and easy tasks explode no dice at all, novice characters explode on 1, experienced characters explode on 1 and 2 and so forth up to legendary, and the same for difficulties.
Lets say for the sake of this example that the targets are at short range for the weapons at hand. This means the difficulty roll is easy 3d8(1) (the value in parenthesis indicates up to what value to explode on). The German soldiers are experienced and roll with 3d8(2) and thus explode 1s and 2s.

Rolling for the difficulty I get 18 (6, 4 & 8) and rolling for the grenade soldier I get 18 (7, 1, 2, 4, 1, 3). Since I got ones and twos I added that value and rolled the dice again until I stopped getting 1s and 2s.

Now this gives a result of 0 (18-18) which hits the target and damage should be dealt with now.The rifle's ammunition does 2d8 points of damage and I get 5 & 7. It is important to keep the values separate for now as damage depends on the point of the body hit. Since I just barely achieved success (got a 0), the success is marginal and the GM dictates its a hit to the arm or lower leg. This provides a -2 modifier to the damage (we'll get back to damage by body area later) and the result is 3 and 5 points (5-2 & 7-2) for a total of 8 points. The hit soldier has a pain threshold of 3 which acts as a buffer and subtracts from the damage leaving only 5 points to be dealt with to hit points. This is one third of the total hit points and the character suffers a serious wound and drops to the ground. It was nonetheless a good shot. Had it been a better roll, say for example a 22 vs 18 the GM could have dictated a hit to the torso with no -2 modifier. This would have produced a total of 10 points of damage and left the GI in a very delicate situation.

Revisiting Range and Modifiers

In the previous example I skipped a lot of modifiers to get the example through and through covering damage as well. In a real life situation the target isn't static and movement adds to the difficulty of the attack. There is also the element of visual range. The same rifle is more effective if optics are added. The quality doesn't change, just the ability to spot the target better. An iron sight is not as good as a scope and although the rifle is good at such short range the soldiers visual precision is not.

So at such a range the attacker suffers a -2 due to movement and a -2 due to visual range which  turns the 18 into a 14. This in turn produces a -4 outcome (14 - 18) which is not good enough to hit the target, but good enough to have the character suppresses and looking for cover. The GM can dictate that characters close to this GI can also come under the effect of suppression even if they're not the target of the attack roll.

Counter Attack

The GI prone on the ground sees the German firing and shoots back. For simplicity's sake let's say the M1 has the same performance as the K98. The difficulty roll is 3d8(1) and the skill roll is 3d8(3), the GI has been on since Normandy and is quite an expert by now. His rolls explode up to a 3.

I roll for the task (7, 3, 1, 8) getting 19, and then for the GI (5, 5, 2, 3, 5) getting a 20. Notice how I rerolled the 2 and 3 for the GI but only the 1 for the task.

The result is a 1 (20 - 19), certainly a hit, but the German is behind cover 50% this gives a 4 cover modifier which means I need a 4 or better to hit the German directly. The shot hits the wall and stops there but it generates suppression which will have the German running for cover unless it can be overcome it through a mettle attribute check.

Now, lets imagine for a moment that the wall is some material the bullet could get through, like wood or thin metal. I'll roll damage and apply the stopping power of armor. 

The damage is once again 2d8 and I get 3 and 7. The wood has an armor 2d4 and I roll getting 4 and 3. The dice are compared linearly against the damage from highest to lowest. The 7 vs the 4 and the 3 vs the 3. Since 7 beats the 4 it goes through leaving 3 points of damage (7-4) and the other 3 totally stops the bullet's 3. A total of 3 points make it through to the target and since the shot was marginally successful (only a 1) the GM dictates once again that it hit a non vital body part like the lower leg. The body part modifier of -2 is adding dropping the damage down to 1. With a pain threshold of 3 the German absorbs it all with no damage going to hit points. It's just a simple scratch not even worth calling a flesh wound.  Notice that if the shot had hit the torso which has no -2 modifier the full 3 points would be delivered to the character. Nonetheless this is still not a wound as it is easily absorbed by the character's paint threshold and stamina.

Damage and Pain

Before closing this post I'd like to comment on the damage mechanism. Characters have two pools of points: stamina and hit points. Stamina is a buffer that represents lesser damage and can be replenished quicker than hit points (in a matter of hours). Hit points is serious physical damage that can take days, weeks or even months to heal. The amount of damage that can be absorbed by stamina at any one point is determined by the pain threshold. This is a window below which all damage goes to stamina and above it goes to hit points. This article covers the mechanics in full detail.

In the next post I'll go over the scenario in which the MG is used against the tree line and the rifle is used against the bazooka.

Diorama source
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