Combat Thoughts

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
BP
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Combat Thoughts

Postby BP » Tue Jun 01, 2010 7:41 am

apoc527 wrote:Now I want to have a discussion about this!
...
Can you explain your issues in a bit more detail? Why does it fail the "duel" test? (as an aside, I have come across VERY FEW RPGs that handle duels well) What do you mean by "mime" believability test? And why is the initiative/turn handling so bad?
Duel test - ala classic Western shootout style... with snub pistols:
I am your common movie bad guy (Gun Combat-0) - you are this guy (ok, maybe not that guy, call it Gun Combat-4).
I get the initiative. I shoot and hit (more likely miss) - your turn.
Ok - maybe I got lucky (right) or you were daydreaming.
Next turn - I shoot first again (see the problems?...)

"Mime" believability test:
Ok, draw and fire your 'hand' pistol. What portion of 6 seconds did that take?
Now, take a bead on an imaginary running foe and fire. How many 'rounds' did you get off in a 6 second span?
Draw and throw your imaginary sheathed knife from your boot. Count with me...

Inititative/turn handling
Watch any real fight - heck, you can even watch many movie fights! ;)
(see Duel above)
I stand out in the open, fixing my comm gear, for about 6 seconds. You shoot at me. Once. (My turn... I go first since I had the 'initiative'...)

Don't misunderstand - MGT combat isn't any different than most RPG combat in these respects. In fact, I suspect the problem with most RPG combat mechanics stems from the original creators being inspired from miniatures wargaming and board games - thus, placing too much emphasis on abstract, group combat simulation, dice rolling, and turns. Unfortunately, this is fundamentally not roleplay - and combat takes on a digital kind of feel. The 'story' generally becomes all chopped up, stilted, and just plain unbelievable.
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Postby Stainless » Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:31 am

Forgive my stupidity, but I'm still not sure what your problem(s) are (particularly the duel example). The problems you are trying to point out are all implied, not explicit, so I'm missing them. Perhaps if you could give counter examples to each of yours, stating what you think should be done.
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Postby rust » Tue Jun 01, 2010 10:36 am

I see the problems, and I think that they are one of the reasons why we
do not like to play out combat scenes in any detail, they take a lot of ti-
me, almost always feel unrealistic and disrupt the actual roleplaying.

Far too often a combat scene moves the "feel" of the game from roleplay-
ing to "rollplaying" , where numbers and dice become far more important
than the personality and motives of the characters involved.

Many game designers try to make their games more realistic by adding
layers upon layers of modificators, sub-skills, tactical moves and thelike,
but in the end this kind of roleplaying combat just takes even more time
and becomes even more mathematical-mechanical, not more realistic.
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Postby Stainless » Tue Jun 01, 2010 10:50 am

Ah, then may I suggest Trail of Cthulhu for the simplest combat system I've come across.
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Postby rust » Tue Jun 01, 2010 10:59 am

Stainless wrote:Ah, then may I suggest Trail of Cthulhu for the simplest combat system I've come across.
Indeed, after years of moving in the opposite direction by searching for
the best roleplaying combat simulation ever this is almost exactly where
we are now, a short series of contests with opposed rolls that deals with
the average combat scene in less than a minute. :wink:
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Postby BP » Tue Jun 01, 2010 12:16 pm

Very well stated, rust.
Stainless wrote:Forgive my stupidity, but I'm still not sure what your problem(s) are (particularly the duel example). The problems you are trying to point out are all implied, not explicit, so I'm missing them. Perhaps if you could give counter examples to each of yours, stating what you think should be done.
They are not 'explicit' in order to save forum space. ;) If you know the rules - then figuring out the problems should be academic.

In the duel example - the speed of the 'famous' skilled expert is not allowed for - it doesn't take much thought (watch the video <grin>) to realize it should be . It is simply overruled by initiative. While, in the first round, perhaps the 0 skill level guy manages to 'surprise' the master gunman (though this is a 'duel') - in the second, that is highly unlikely (read absurd).

As to the other 'examples' - the rules [pg 60-61] allow one significant action (attack) per ~ 6 second combat round. Pistols do not have Auto rating [pg 97] - thus one shot per ~6 seconds. Hint: depressing a trigger takes less than 1/3 of a second for the average person - record holder can fire a revolver over twice as fast (accurately hitting several targets) in one second. Regardless of such facts, just 'mime-ing' the act of firing a gun easily demonstrates the 'problems'.
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Postby rust » Tue Jun 01, 2010 12:41 pm

Yep, in a real world gunfight of the kind described the combat would be
over at the end of the first combat round. Either the amateur would have
disabled or killed the expert with his first surprising lucky shot, or the ex-
pert would have emptied his pistol's magazine into the poor amateur's bo-
dy, almost certainly disabling or killing him.

To model this with combat rules, one would only need to determine whe-
ther the amateur's first shot did hit and do any significant damage, if not
the expert could get an automatic success including - if this were his in-
tention - killing the wounded amateur with a last aimed shot to the head,
all within that first and only combat round of six seconds.

As we handle it, this combat would consist of one very difficult action for
the amateur, and in the case of a failure the result would be obvious - in
almost all cases one die roll for the entire combat scene.
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Postby Stainless » Tue Jun 01, 2010 12:57 pm

BP wrote:They are not 'explicit' in order to save forum space. ;) If you know the rules - then figuring out the problems should be academic.
OK. I wrote the Mongoose Traveller combat flow chart so know the rules fairly well. Plus, I'm an academic in RL. :shock: Ahh, that must be the reason I didn't understand.
BP wrote:In the duel example - the speed of the 'famous' skilled expert is not allowed for - it doesn't take much thought (watch the video <grin>) to realize it should be . It is simply overruled by initiative. While, in the first round, perhaps the 0 skill level guy manages to 'surprise' the master gunman (though this is a 'duel') - in the second, that is highly unlikely (read absurd).
Yep, I see this. Of course that assumes the 4 skill equates to quickdraw shooting specialisation, not under combat pressure, in a controlled environment. The duel example to me appears to be a specific special situation nested within the general combat system. I agree, it's a gap in the rules, but it's not supposed to be a simulate-everything system. I'd rather have this rather than some fiddly speed factor to skills.

Then again, the quickdraw shooter could be simulated by having a higher dex which may give a bonus to initiative and he may opt to act hastily, which will give him +2 to initiative and a -1 skill penalty (he has skill 4 so can afford to sacrifice 1 for the speed). Also, the skill of a quickdraw shot is not necessarily how quick it is, but that it is quick and accurate. Thus, you might be able to shoot before him, but the 0 skill level means it's more likely to simulate a wild spray and pray approach.
BP wrote:As to the other 'examples' - the rules [pg 60-61] allow one significant action (attack) per ~ 6 second combat round. Pistols do not have Auto rating [pg 97] - thus one shot per ~6 seconds. Hint: depressing a trigger takes less than 1/3 of a second for the average person - record holder can fire a revolver over twice as fast (accurately hitting several targets) in one second. Regardless of such facts, just 'mime-ing' the act of firing a gun easily demonstrates the 'problems'.
This assumes the 6 seconds is dedicated purely to pulling triggers, thrusting with blades, throwing weapons, etc. However, I interpret it as an abstract time period that encompasses moving around, targeting, assessing the situation, slight faints, etc.

At the end of the day, all RPGs are gross abstractions of reality. I don't think one could hope to nail down a rules set that covers realistically and internally consistently all possibilities and remain playable. The Traveller system is a compromise between simulation and playability. That its origins are from turn-based wargames can be said for quite a few RPGs. Try more cinematic/narrative systems like Trail of Cthulhu or Duty and Honour/Beat to Quarters instead.
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Postby BP » Tue Jun 01, 2010 1:39 pm

To be sure, a duel is rather extreme, but it still highlights deficiencies - as related by the other examples.

rust's way is more how I would handle it - with the odds being that even if the unskilled fellow got the first shot and killed his opponent, there would still be a good chance his opponent got off a shot (or two) before his hands stopped twitch'n.

If I were trying to fit this scenario into MGT rules - Initiative could be set to the master gunman and an opposed check used to determine if the less skilled gets a chance to shoot the first time. Then normal combat could be used - with the expert having a near certain chance of hitting if at optimal range (though, that changes quite a bit if at medium range). Damage is still uncertain, but Effect helps.

Of course, there is no provision for the expert to shoot the gun out of his opponent's hand. And, instead of emptying their guns in a matter of seconds, they could spend over half of a minute doing so. Which is fine as long as there are no other interested parties...

Related to that issue though, is that the marksman should get several more shots per round than the amateur.

Again, this is just one example that highlights several points at once...
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Postby The Chef » Tue Jun 01, 2010 1:59 pm

Given the duel above how about this.

1. GM gives the target number 8 + all the usual dms. This would be to hit the other person. If the Expert states "i'm going to shoot the other guys gun out of their hands" apply a penalty dm..

2. both parties then roll simultaniously as an opposed roll + all the usual dms.

3. Compare the results. Who ever wins the opposed roll shot first and rolls damage (if applicable)

These sort of off the cuff situations are always better settled outside the standard rules. The rules as stated cover 99% of situations and so far i've not had to even remotely bend them to fit in my games. BUT for plot devices such as the Duel then its probably best to do it as a roleplaying exercise using best judgement and opposed rolls.

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Postby Egil Skallagrimsson » Tue Jun 01, 2010 2:32 pm

Overall, I think the Mongoose Trav combat rules strike a good balance between playability, narrative and reality. The problem with initiative is common to many games, the only way around it is simultaneous iniitiative, but that can be confusing to implement in a large fire fight or mellee without using wargame conventions and reducing the role of the individual, which is what the players want to see. The quickest draw in the west scenario is an interesting one, but hardly typical, and just requires some creative use of rules, as suggested by The Chef or others. My suggestion is that, in such a straignt draw and shoot situation, both players increase their initiative by one point for each -1 DM they accept on their to hit roll. This would benefit Buffalo Bill, while giving the local cowboy some chance.

Miming combat actions can be rather misleading, tasks usually take longer than expected, and targets rarely appear just where you want them to. Having said that, I can see the arguement for allowing semi-automatics to fire twice or thrice in a six second round (with a - DM, especially for longer ranges), especially if the firer has a slug pistol or rifle skill of 2 or more, but I still think it is a fairly needless addition unless quick draw gun fights at 3m or less are common in YTU. As always, if it doesn't work for the kind of narrative you are attempting to portray, change it!
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Postby dreamingbadger » Tue Jun 01, 2010 4:05 pm

Or look to something like Judge Dredd and use Combat Acuity , which lets players with that ability roll 3d6 for initiative
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Postby apoc527 » Tue Jun 01, 2010 4:17 pm

I guess I'm in a totally different time zone from all you guys! It's just now 9 am for me. Heh.

Anyway, I have some ideas to add to the mix. First, I'm glad to see that BP's issues really aren't specific to MGT. What he's described is endemic to all D&D style RPGs (to be differentiated from non-simulationist, conflict resolution systems). In melée heavy games, it's easier to abstract a 6 second combat round into a series of parries and hits. This doesn't work for gun combat very well though. Initiative is a tough one-generally the only decent rule one can use is an interrupt style system, which MGT has in the form of Delay and Reactions (consider allowing a melée "attack of opportunity" as a Reaction).

For me, I have a simple house rule: semi-autos can be fired a number of times in a round equal to the skill level of the attacker. However, this takes both your significant and minor actions and has a hefty DM price.
-Apoc527
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Postby Egil Skallagrimsson » Tue Jun 01, 2010 5:09 pm

Makes sense, lose minor action as well, obviously the semi automatic extra shots would have to be taken against the same target, suggest a -1DM at close, -2 at short, -3 at medium, -4 at long and -6 at very long for second and subsequent shot, steady aimed fire is better than blazing away, other than at close range where instinctive point and shoot becomes important.

Of course, this rather upsets burst and autofire rules, and is perhaps an instance of over complicating a simple system. Perhaps, like burst fire, rather than rolling another 3d6 should be replaced by just adding a +1 to the damage. At one time allowed automatic pistols to fire a burst, but have subsequently limited that to submachine guns (i.e true automatic weapons)

Still inclined to limit semi-automatics to one shot a round, even if this is a little unrealistic, to keep the rule simple.

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Postby apoc527 » Tue Jun 01, 2010 7:03 pm

Another reason to avoid multiple shots per round is the sheer lethality of it. It may be realistic, but it's not good for gameplay.

The fundamental tension appears to be those who enjoy "cutting out" to a mini-tactical game and those who'd rather their roleplaying not be interruped by jarring combat rules. I'm a member of both camps depending on my mood.
-Apoc527
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Postby AndrewW » Tue Jun 01, 2010 7:38 pm

apoc527 wrote:I guess I'm in a totally different time zone from all you guys! It's just now 9 am for me. Heh.
Well, not all. It's PDT here as well.
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Postby JdeFalconr » Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:42 am

I do agree this is a big problem. I see two possible solutions:

-Allow for multiple major actions per round at a penalty to ALL actions during that round (a la Alternity). One major action is at no penalty, two is at +2 to each, three is at +3 to each, etc. Those modifiers can of course be changed. Combine this with Apoc's rule regarding semi-auto fire and there you go. Also, don't Traveller weapons already have a max-actions stat?

-Use an initiative system similar to Shadowrun in that you make your initiative roll (the actual rolling mechanism will likely need to be adjusted as well) and then reduce it during the round by a fixed amount as you move down the initiative values to determine multiple actions. This system also works well with D6's, BTW and more actions per round will be hard. Example: one person rolls 3D6 and gets 15, one rolls a 9. Subtract 10 from both and the result is the initiative order. So, the first person goes at 15, the next person goes at 9, and then first person goes again at 5. I'm in class so I can't explain further...someone who knows Shadowrun will have to elaborate, or I'll have to explain more later.
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Postby apoc527 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 4:13 am

I have an idea, but it might be fatally flawed:

Multiple Actions and High Initiatives

Characters may act with a complete set of actions up to twice per round. A character’s first set of actions takes place on his Initiative. A character’s second set of actions occurs on his Initiative -12. If this number is 0 or less, that character does not get a second set of actions.

Simple as that. It's the implications that might kill it. What if people just want to Delay at the start of every combat so that they can get a higher initiative? If you have even a single DM to your initiative roll, Surprise becomes REALLY scary. If you take Combat Drug or Slow, you become a BEAST. If you have a really good commander (Leadership or Tactics), you become considerably more effective.

Actually wait, all that sounds good to me. Maybe this will work?
-Apoc527
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Postby apoc527 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 4:19 am

Ah heck, here's a bunch of stuff for you all to peruse:

New Reactions

Full Dodge

When a reaction is used to dodge, a character can attempt a “full dodge” instead, which costs an additional 2 points of initiative. The character then make an Athletics (co-ordination) check to increase the effect of the dodge. However, if this check fails, it’s possible that the character’s attempts to get out of way backfire and make him easier to hit than if he’d just taken the standard dodge DM. Moreover, this is a normal skill check, so it is subject to the –DMs from earlier Reactions.

Athletics (co-ordination) task: Full dodge: Dexterity, 1-6 seconds, Average (+0). The Effect of this task becomes the DM to hit the character, but with the sign reversed (a failure may result in a +DM to hit, while any success is a –DM for the attacker). If a character attempts this task while in cover, it is Easy (+2 DM).

Attack of Opportunity (melee only)

As a reaction, a character can attempt to make a melee attack against any opponent in reach that has “let his guard down” in some way. Generally, any action that distracts an opponent from the melee-armed character may allow such a reaction. This includes Aiming with a ranged weapon, attacking any other person with a ranged weapon or moving at speed through the area reasonably threatened by the melee-equipped character. The melee attack suffers from the -1 DM for the reaction.

New Combat Rules

Burst Fire House Rules

Instead of adding to damage, burst fire allows one of two fire modes: wide burst or narrow burst. A Wide Burst grants a +2 DM on the attack and Effect adds to damage, but no additional rounds may hit. A Narrow Burst grants no DM, and a number of rounds hit and inflict damage based on the Effect (0 = 1 hit, 1-5 = 2 hits, 6+=3 hits), but Effect is only added to damage for the first hit. Regardless of fire mode, a Burst uses up 3-4 rounds. Weapons with Auto 8+ that are capable of Burst Fire may make an extremely high rate of fire Burst Attack granting a +4 DM on a Wide Burst and a +2 DM on a Narrow Burst, with the same number of rounds hitting. Recoil is increased by 1 for this attack.
Burst fire has no capped skill and no limit on the Aiming or sighting aids DMs.

Autofire House Rules

Roll 2d6 plus all normal DMs with full skill (this is the first few shots before recoil really kicks in). Then roll a number of dice equal to the weapon’s Auto Rating. You may pair the dice as you see fit. These attacks are capped at Skill 3-Effective Recoil. Effective Recoil = Recoil not canceled by Str DM, minimum value is 0. This attack expends 3xAuto Rating of ammunition. At Skill 4+, you expend only 2xAuto Rating rounds of ammunition per attack. DMs from Aiming and all sighting aids apply only to the first 2d6 thrown (not Auto dice). Additionally, if the first skill task fails, then all Auto dice have a -2 DM. Finally, the Auto dice have a –1 DM per point of Effective Recoil.

Note that some weapons use special rules for ammo expenditure—those always take precedence.

Effect does not add to damage for any attacks, but Effect 6+ on any given pair of dice results in one additional hit that is rolled normally. Recoil is increased by 50% or +2, whichever is greater, for this attack (otherwise Burst Fire has higher recoil).

Rapid Fire

Most modern semiautomatic weapons can be fired rapidly in a 6 second combat round. This method is not particularly accurate (unless very skilled) but is an effective way of getting multiple rounds into a target. Bolt-action or pump-action weapons may not use this rule.
Rules: You may fire a semiautomatic weapon once per level of skill by using both your significant and minor action on the attack. The first shot is normal, but each subsequent shot has a cumulative -1 DM and Effect is not added to damage. Further, all subsequent shots are penalized by -1 for each point of Recoil in excess of Strength DM. Roll separately for each attack. If you switch targets, you receive an additional -2 DM. If you Aimed, that DM applies only to the first shot.

Example: Wild Bill has Gun Combat (slug pistol) 4. His Strength is 10 (+1 DM) and his Dexterity is 12 (+2) and he’s firing a heavy revolver. He can fire up to 4 shots in a single round with DMs of +6/+4/+2/+0 (not including range, conditions, or reactions).
-Apoc527
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Postby JdeFalconr » Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:02 am

Characters may act with a complete set of actions up to twice per round. A character’s first set of actions takes place on his Initiative. A character’s second set of actions occurs on his Initiative -12. If this number is 0 or less, that character does not get a second set of actions.
That's the basic gist of the Shadowrun system right there. I think, though, a key question will be how you generate this initiative number. My suggestion would be to roll D6's equal to your DEX DM. Or, if you want to figure mental capacity into initiative (which I definitely am for) take your DEX DM and add it to the DM of the average of your INT and EDU (which reflects both a sharp mind and training). So, for instance, someone with DEX 9 (+1), INT 7 and EDU 11 would roll 2D6 ((7+11)/2=9, for +1 DM) for initiative. Normal tactics bonuses apply, of course.

The next question is what the number to subtract from that generated value would be to use to determine multiple actions. I think 10 would be a bit better value given the above system - two actions wouldn't happen often but it would be a distinct possibility. A freakish person with huge DEX and INT or EDU would fairly reliably go twice, possibly even three times.

I don't think limiting this system to max two actions per round is necessary...if someone is fast and smart enough to act three times in a round then while that's extremely powerful they should in fact be allowed the chance to do so, provided they make the roll. In a subtract-10 system (my above idea) the person would have to roll 30+ on their D6's in order to get that; without tactics modifiers that requires at minimum a total of +5 in their DEX and INT/EDU dice modifiers.

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