Thursday, February 13, 2014

RQ6: Firearms

So it turns out one advantage of d% games being 'dead' is that the supplements are quite inexpensive, and sometimes free.  For example, I realized after finishing RuneQuest, for example, that I happen to have a Chaosium BRP sourcebook (Treasures of Middle Earth) that I picked up for a couple books at a used bookstore once.  Looks pretty compatible to me, despite being separated by 20 years.  Also picked up a pile of supplements from rpgnow at a dollar a piece the other day, which is quite a reasonable price.

Likewise, the publishers of RQ6 have put out a free supplement on the topic of firearms, ranging from muskets to lasers.  Overall it's pretty well-done.  Dodging bullets is impossible, getting hit with them is bad for your health, suppressing the enemy is good, and cover is your friend.  Before I go into my concerns, I'd like to emphasize that on the whole, this thing looks very usable, and I suspect that RuneQuest With Guns would do WH40k tabletop better than Dark Heresy, despite both being percentile systems.

So, points of contention:
  • I'm under the impression that bleeding to death is one of the more common ways to die of a gunshot wound if the initial shock doesn't kill you, which makes the removal of the Bleed special effect from firearms somewhat curious.  I guess that's just rolled into inflicting major / serious wounds? 
  • Drop Foe special effect seems really ridiculously good.  I'm not all that familiar with the psychological effects of getting shot, though, so might be that that's how it actually works.
  • I'd've built burst fire differently,.  The first shot in a burst is no less accurate than a single shot of semi-automatic fire; recoil only affects the later ones (unless you flinch preemptively, which you shouldn't!  Do as I say, not as I do, though I'm getting better).  As a result, assigning a difficulty mod to hit with the burst as a whole seems curious.  Since RQ already has the elegant Special Effects system, I'd rather see "burst hit" as a special effect, usable only when firing on burst, that lets you hit with an extra bullet to a random hit location (stackable, to a max of number of bullets fired in the burst).  So if you pull a critical hit with a three-round burst, you can hit with all three bullets and still have one effect left over to make one of them a headshot or something.  If you fire a three-round burst and only get one special effect, maybe you choose something other than the extra hit.
  • It also irks me that the current burst / auto mechanics mention that suppression is one of the purposes of those fire-modes, and yet suppression (in the form of Pin Down effects) is harder to achieve with them than it is with single-shots because of their difficulty modifiers!  Fix: make Burst Hit a special effect and provide a penalty to Willpower rolls against Pinning caused by burst or auto.  This also has the advantage of providing something to do with a low-effect burst other than hit with a second bullet.
  • Any time you go assigning damage numbers by pistol calibre, you're going to spark holy wars.  I don't have a strong opinion here, but I don't think I would've gone into that level of detail.
  • No modern armor to go along with the weapons?


Pete Nash said...

Hello there! Someone told me about your review, so I thought I'd pop over and try to explain some of the design concepts that lay behind your points of contention.

Bleeding to death. The Bleed SE (Special Effect) is supposed to represent the rapid bleed-out which follows severing an artery or similar, i.e in half a minute or thereabouts. Although gunshot wounds do cause death from bleeding, it usually takes minutes, not seconds. As you have already figured out for yourself, this is catered for under the effects of a Major Wound (RQ6 p163). So being shot by a high powered rifle, or taking several handgun shots to the same location can actually kill you by bleeding out.

Drop Foe. Yes Drop Foe does look remarkably good, but it also reflects many accounts of shooting victims simply collapsing from shock/surprise, despite taking mere flesh wounds. From a game design perspective, it also allows PCs to render hostile foes incapacitated without needing to brutally slaughter them with excessive rounds.

At face value your suggestion for Burst Fire looks reasonable. However, from a mechanics perspective it actually doesn't work so well, because in most firefights the shot will be unopposed, meaning that the shooter will _automatically_ gain a Special Effect if they hit. Thus someone firing bursts will always get two hits, unless they specifically choose a less lethal SE... which for most PCs is unlikely to happen. This makes an 'Extra Hit' SE excessively powerful unless made 'Critical Only', at which point you've undermined the whole concept of a burst. In addition, there are weapons which fire more than 3 round bursts.

The reason burst fire suffers 1 level of difficulty is that its modelling the entire combination of shots and in the midst of a firefight you rarely get time to line up that first shot without snatching at it (that's what Steady Weapon is for). Its the most elegant way of doing it without rolling multiple times. If you 'hit' then the first round does indeed always goes home and its the one that gets the SE. ;)

Suppression Fire. Yes in the rules-as-written _forced_ suppression is more difficult because even though you can automatically choose Pin Down if you succeed on a roll, your chance of actually hitting is reduced. But this is only for inflicting the Pin Down Special Effect. Any player character who isn't diving for cover on first sight of a fully automatic weapon is probably going to learn their lesson the hard way.

Multiple Calibres. This is why at the end of the document there is the "A Bit Elaborate for a Toothpick" paragraph. I'm not interested in sparking holy wars, only in providing a basic range of generic weaponry for GMs to use as they will.

Modern Armour. The focus was on firearms only, as per the title. Ballistic protection of vests and flak jackets is a horrifically nasty thing to model and needs an entire free download of its own. If you want rough APs for modern body armour, use the Armour Levels provided by NIJ Standard-0101.06 and add 4. Thus Type I would provide 5AP, Type II 6AP and so on.

John said...

Fair points all, and always good to hear from an author! Not going to contest bleeding or burst (except perhaps as regards suppression, in that I have seen some unduly foolish and short-lived PCs in other similarly-lethal systems, and yet my players do not learn). Good suggestions on armor, more concerned about Drop Foe being employed against PCs than by them.

Pete Nash said...

"Good suggestions on armor, more concerned about Drop Foe being employed against PCs than by them."

Surely using Drop Foe against PCs is a good thing? Assuming you as a GM want to keep them alive that is! :)