Friday, December 30, 2016

Savage Worlds Deluxe: Explorers Edition First Impressions

I've long had a fondness for generic systems for as long as I've known of their existence. GURPS 3eRevised was my first, and then on to 4e. I've heard about Savage Worlds on and off, but never done anything, so I looked into a Test Drive demo-lite edition and was mostly impressed. I received the full deluxe explorer's edition for Christmas, and have been eagerly reading it. I figured it'd be nice to have something a bit less terrifying to new players than GURPS to run with.

First Impressions: It's fast and simple, and pretty cinematic. It is well suited to the task I envisioned for it, using it as a sub-system for my game's Ultra-Tech characters to jump in and represent the VR games they'll play on occasion for some variety from being space dickheads across the milkdromeda galaxy. It's quick and easy enough that I can let other people jump in as GM if I want to get in on the action (as one of their many crewmates).

Basics of the system are d4 through d12 for human stats, almost all things have a target number of 4+ to succeed. Every 4+ gets you a raise. d4 is below average, d6 is average, d12+ is ridiculously good.
D4 gives 25% chance of success, failing on 1-3, succeeding on 4 before modifiers
D6 gives 50% chance of success, failing on 1-3, succeeding on 4-6 before modifiers
D8 gives 63% chance of success, failing on 1-3, succeeding on 4-8 before modifiers
D10 gives 70% chance of success, failing on 1-3, succeeding on 4-10 before mods
D12 gives 75% chance of success, failing on 1-3, succeeding on 4-12 before mods
Beyond this you get a flat bonus of +1 through +15 depending on how ludicrous the stat is (Dragons and tanks get pretty beefy, for example).

Opposed rolls are direct, your stat vs the opponent's, whoever gets highest wins. Important Characters (known as Wildcards) get a free d6 roll on all stat checks, because They're Important.

Fighting doesn't have an opposed roll, instead you go vs. a Target Number (TN) of 2+half of their fighting skill. Fighting, unless using special rules that require more specialization by type, covers ALL melee, though there are penalties for unfamiliarity. Shields, cover, and maneuvers can modify this TN. Everyone gets a free shot at you if you try to leave melee, with no rules for breaking off safely. Having trained, this isn't quite accurate (D&D does it better, letting you take your 5 foot step out of reach and then running)

Shooting is just vs. a TN of 4, modified by cover. Some edges for being dodgy can give enemies a penalty to enemy rolls against you, but there's nothing you can actively do against a ranged attack on a successful roll, no agility bonus or anything. You want to keep your bits unshot, you keep behind cover. This is kind of similar to GURPS 4e Harsh Realism rules for guns, in that you can take no active defense against them outside of special circumstances. Still, it drives home the benefits of good armor and better cover, and keeps things moving. Much like GURPS, shooting more than a single round per turn tends to assume you miss a lot.

Damage is weird but minimizes bookkeeping. If you hit but don't get a raise on your damage (targeting their toughness+armor), the target is Shaken, and can't do anything until they manage to get their wits about them again. If you can hit someone for two Shaken results before they shrug it off, it turns into a wound or a fatigue level. Beating their toughness with a raise gives a wound. Anything that fails to shake/wound, is just lost. You connected but were deflected, managed to glance off armor, or whatever.

There's a lot of nice rules for handling chases of all sorts, Dramatic Situations (hacking, disarming bombs, etc), and even pretty quick-and-accessible rules for mass combat. There's something I've tried before that usually works decently for allies, where they're given to the players to keep them engaged (particularly if someone's character isn't present, or has been disabled).

Now, the downsides:
First off, the biggest disappointment is equipment. I know I'm jaded by the glory that is GURPS High-Tech 4e, but still. Deadlands, the precursor system to Savage Worlds, had REALLY GOOD weapon tables. Savage Worlds simplifies everything too much for my tastes. Basic Pistol is still 2d6, but it doesn't scale with actual power. A large man with a big sword (greatsword+d10 strength die) does 2d10, as does a flamethrower/firebreath, as does a goddamn .50 BMG. One of these things shouldn't be in the same neighborhood of damage as the others, even with the decent stack of Armor Piercing. Similarly wrong, .308 is given the same damage/range as 5.56 with just a hint more AP. On one hand, I know why: Melee brawls are cinematic and cool, and not having guns as brokenly overpowered as they actually are keeps close combat relevant. Still, guns are statted simply enough that it wouldn't be hard to whip up a "realism" table.

Next is some environmental stuff; Hunger and Thirst can both kill in a day if you have shitty luck with rolls. This is moderately OK with water, but pretty much inexcusable with hunger.

Final disappointment is the apparent power level. IRL I'm above average across the board because I farm character points like a tryhard. The average character is assumed to be trained-but-green. I'm not sure if I'd qualify for anything beyond Seasoned rank (the first rank above Novice, where characters start), but I can just barely approximate myself in my current out-of-shape-and-practice condition without further EXP. I'm not sure if this is a measure of them making some things worth way more points than they should be (Ambidexterity is a common offender: weapons-only ambidexterity isn't all that impressive, but most systems treat it as a Pretty Big Deal), me being overpowered because I train and study as a passtime, or the system being balanced weak.

At any rate; if you're interested, they have a test drive demo, and a free version modified into a Miniatures Tactical Battle game. The V6 test drive is the one I read, I'm not sure how it compares to the 2015

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

Been out and about all day, enjoying time with family and eating altogether far too much food. traded some gifts.

Have a Merry Christmas, I'll try to have some actual content some other time.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

GURPSplosions, Shotguns, and Specialty Loadings: Filling in the gaps

GURPS high tech has fairly extensive lists of specialty grenade and shotgun ammo, and different shotgun shell chamberings listed on rare occasion (the 3" magnum is listed only for the Banelli M1 Super 90, despite the fact that about half the guns on the list are now available in 3" magnum. That might not be their fault due to changes after the book was written, though).

On top of that, Ultra-Tech has a great many specialty warheads and loadings, and some of the numbers seem to work right and others.... not so much, at least not by comparison to the round they would scale from in High Tech. In some cases, optional warheads aren't available for things where they were in High Tech, or neither book features specialty rounds in calibers where they exist already

On top of that, lots of options are only given at one tech level or another, not showing anything for higher TL version (the HE Shotgrenade is listed only at TL7).

Still other options should probably exist but don't.

Anything that would be loaded with filler is going to be modified according to the following data.
Most TL7 explosive fillers are REF 1.4
Most TL8 explosive fillers are REF 2.25 (1.61x  the power of TL7 filler)
The listed TL9 explosive filler is REF 4, (1.78x the power of TL8 filler)

First off, some comparisons, using stuff as listed, then according to Adjusting Damage rules to double check the numbers.
40mm High Explosive. 
TL7 HE 40mm: 4d-1 [2d] cr ex
TL8 HE 40mm: 6d+2 [2d] cr ex
TL9 HE 40mm: 8d [2d] cr ex

Using Adjusting Damage rules to check
TL8 HE 40mm turns into 6d [2d] cr ex
TL9 HE 40mm turns into 12d-1 [2d] cr ex if starting with 6d+2 or 11d-1 [2] if starting with 6d

40mm Shaped Charge
TL7 40mm HEDP: 4d(10) cr ex + 4d+2 [2d] cr ex linked
TL8 40mm HEDP: 7d(10) cr ex + 6d [2d] cr ex linked
TL9 40mm HEDP*: 6dx4(10) cr einc + 4d [2d] cr ex linked
 TL9 lists Shaped Charge as an dual purpose round, rather than pure shaped charge, but much heavier on the shaped charge as you'd expect the 4d [2d] fragmentation effect to be closer to 8d, per HE.

This one's harder to convert using Adjusting Damage because there's more at play in the power of the shaped charge than raw explosive power, but lets just see what we get,shall we?
TL8 40mm HEDP turns into 6d+2(10) cr ex + 7d+1 [2d] cr ex linked
TL9 40mm HEDP turns into 6d2(10) cr ex + 11d-1 [2d] cr ex linked
As you can see, if you treat Shaped Charge as the next evolution of HEDP, things go screwy, with you getting half the listed shaped charge power, and nearly triple the HE blast. There's a High Explosive MultiPurpose warhead (HEMP), but it doesn't come until TL10 for reasons unexplained.

25mm HEDP vs. 25mm Shaped Charge nets similar results
TL8 25mm HEDP: 4d+2(10) cr ex + 3d-1 [1d+1] cr ex linked
TL9 25mm HEDP*: 5dx3(10) cr inc + 2d [1d+1] cr ex linked
Again, between TL8 and TL9, the fragmentation explosion drops, with a substantially higher power shaped charge.

Using Adjusting Damage rules from the TL8 25mm yields the following
25mm HEDP: 8d(10) cr ex + 5d-1 [1d+1] cr ex linked.

In both cases, the ultratech Shaped Charge is approximately 2x the shaped charge damage and 1/2 the fragmentation/dual purpose blast (but no less fragmentation effect). Given the easily acquired nature of DR at TL9+, this makes a lot of sense.

One thing Ultra-Tech DOESN'T have that High Tech does? A shotgun HEAT shell. High Tech has various HE and HEAT shells, but some are only one TL or another, and they vary in size
Based on my research, 3" magnum shotshells tend to have 1.5x to 1.67x the projectile load of a 2.75" shell, and 3.5" supermagnum shells have a full 2x (potentially even more, if you sacrifice some powder charge to drive it). Because the projectiles are approximately cylinders, and the diameter doesn't change, this makes it real easy to scale things up. Interestingly, 3" magnum has the same listed max chamber pressure as a 2.75" shell, but a heavier projectile or going beyond SAAMI spec can both boost power a bit.

Items marked with ^ are custom, made using Adjusting Damage rules.

18.5mm/12g HE
TL7 HE 2.75" shotgrenade: 4d(0.5) pi++ + 1d-1 [1d] cr ex follow-up.
TL8 HE 2.75" shotgrenade^: 4d(0.5) pi++ + 1d+1 [1d] cr ex follow-up
TL8 HE 3.00" shotgrenade^: 4d(0.5) pi++ + 2d [1d] cr ex follow-up
TL8 HE 3.50" shotgrenade^: 4d(0.5) pi++ + 2d+2 [1d] cr ex follow-up
TL9 HE 2.75" shotgrenade: 5d(0.5) pi++ + 2d+2 [1d] cr ex follow-up
TL9 HE 3.00" shotgrenade^: 5d(0.5) pi++ + 4d+1 [1d] cr ex follow-up
TL9 HE 3.50" shotgrenade^: 5d(0.5) pi++ +5d [1d] cr ex follow-up

TL9 3.00" shotgrenades have as much raw explosive power as a TL7 HE 40mm grenade, though less fragmentation effect.

18.5mm/12g HEAT
TL8 HEAT 3.00" shotgrenade: 1d(10) cr ex + 1d-1 cr ex linked
TL8 HEAT 3.50" shotgrenade^: 1d+1(10) cr ex + 1d-1 cr ex linked
TL9 HEAT 3.00" shotgrenade^: 2d-1(10) cr ex +1d+1 cr ex linked
TL9 HEAT 3.50" shotgrenade^: 2d+1(10) cr ex + 1d+1 cr ex linked

HEAT shotgrenades are simultaneously lackluster yet potent. They also don't maintain the effectiveness of other things in Ultra-Tech of being a little over half the effective power of 25mm warheads when customed up to TL9 versions. Still, they might warrant a single shot underbarrel shotgrenade launcher for a primary weapon, and offer enough power to potentially damage the joints and other weakspots of even a heavy combat walker, or power armor of all sorts.

18.5mm/12g Buckshot, all TLs
2.75" Shotshell: 1d+1 per pellet, 9 pellets per shotshell
3.00" Shotshell^: 1d+1 per pellet, 15 pellets per shotshell
3.00" Shotshell: 1d+2 per pellet, 12 pellets per shotshell
3.50" Shotshell^: 2d-1 per pellet, 9 pellets per shotshell
3.50" Shotshell^: 1d+2 per pellet, 15 pellets per shotshell
3.50" Shotshell^: 1d+1 per pellet, 18 pellets per shotshell

Additionally, buckshot rounds for 40mm are listed but lackluster in High Tech, and nothing is given for 25mm buckshot. Given stronger barrels able to withstand full pressure, TL9 buckshot grenades might look as follows. 25mm buckshot is based on the russian 23mm shotgun.

TL7 40mm birdshot: 1d-1(0.5) pi-, acc 2, 20 pellets per shot
TL8 40mm birdshot: 1d-1(0.5) pi-, acc 2, 50 pellets per shot
TL9 40mm buckshot: 1d+1 pi, 40 pellets per shot
TL9 40mm heavy buckshot: 2d-1 pi, 30 pellets per shell

Grenade Launcher Buckshot
25mm Heavy Buckshot: 2d+1, 12 pellets per shell
25mm Heavier Buckshot: 3d-1, 8 pellets per shell
40mm Heavy Buckshot: 2d+1, 20 pellets per shell
40mm Heavier Buckshot: 3d-1, 16 pellets per shell

Given the nature and easy availability of armor in the future, and even at TL8, buckshot loses effectiveness rapidly. A way around this is to use heavy flechettes, maintaining the number of projectiles but turning them into fin stabilized armor piercing darts.
Turn damage from pi to pi-, add (2) armor divisor, no other changes.

Depleted Uranium adds +1 per dart at this level, and optionally increases the armor divisor up to (3) if using my other homebrew rules.

Custom Depleted Uranium, based on Depleted Uranium from High-Tech and Armor Piercing Enhanced Penetrator from Ultra-Tech
Add Armor divisor of (3), +10% dmg, +30% range. Reduce damage type by one step if below 20mm. On penetrating hard armor with DR10+, add an incendiary [1d(2)] attack with fragments cycling every 10 seconds for 30 seconds. DX roll can brush fragments away if they're accessible.

18.5mm/12g Slugs, all TLs
2.75" Slug: 4d+4 pi++ (combines to 5d pi++)
3.00" Slug^: 4d+8 pi++ (combines to 6d pi++)
3.50" Slug^: 8d-4 pi++ (combines to 7d pi++)

I was going to add more to this, but I think that's enough for one post.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

GURPS 5e hypothetical wishlist

Preface: GURPS 4e does a lot of things decently well, and Steve Jackson games seems to have kind of stopped caring about the system, so a 5e probably won't happen. Maybe these will develop into homebrew rules, or maybe I'll inspire someone to go "oh hey yeah that'd work" (unlikely).

First and foremost, is rapid fire rules. By my estimation, a trained gunman (Skill 13) at close range (2 yards, no range penalty) against an average size target that isn't dodging (ex, All Out Attacked, or just facing away), not aiming but with an all out attack and MAYBE mechanical assistance (for +1 from each), should have a reasonable chance of getting all rounds on target, at least from a RCL 2 weapon. All totaled, these conditions lead to an effective skill of 13+1+1+RoF bonus (+1 through +4 likely)

With RoF 5-8 (+1 bonus)
Skill 16, RCL2 gun. Against a stationary, non-dodging but threatening (no "quiet range" bonus) SM 0 target. An average roll of 10 will get 4 rounds on target. With RoF 5, a roll of 8 is required for 100% rounds on target. With RoF 6, a roll of 6 gets 100%, and a roll of 4 gets 100% with RoF 7. With RoF 8, rules as written you cannot get 100% on target without additional bonuses.

With RoF 9-12 (+2 bonus)
Skill 17, RCL2 gun. Same target as above, average roll of 10 still gets you 4 rounds, a slightly better roll of 9 gets you 5 rounds on target. On a roll of 3, you can get 8 rounds on target. Without additional bonuses, you cannot achieve 100% rounds on target.

With RoF 13-16 (+3 bonus)
Skill 18, RCL2 gun. Same target as first option, same average roll of 10 now gets you 5 rounds on target. On a roll of 4, you can still achieve 8 rounds on target. 100% continues to be impossible.

Make no mistake, 4-5 rounds on target is no slouch, and against bigger targets getting an extra round or two when you need that damage is easier. But it still seems off that it's literally impossible to get all shots on target.

Suggestions to fix: You get RoF/X shots on target per success. I'm unsure of where the best number for that is, but 5-10 seems accurate. Faster firing guns leave less room between shots, meaning it's easier to hit with more of them if you're on target

Decaying accuracy. When aiming at a specific hit location, if you fail to make the attack you miss, even if you were aiming at a location inside of another (such as the eye or vitals). If you miss by 1, you hit the torso, even if you're aiming for something in another body part, for example the eye (success by 9 over skill before hit location modifier), if just barely missed, should instead hit the face (success by 5) or skull (success by 7), but current rules say if you missed by more than 1, the shot sails past even if the shot was good enough to hit the face. Similarly, if you succeed by enough, ALL targeted attacks hit the same spot (ex, managing an eye shot with 3 successes hits the eye 3 times, rather than eye, skull, face, or somesuch due to recoil)

Suggestion to fix: Tables are bad, every table that must be referenced for regular play slows things down, so a scatter table isn't the answer. That also potentially leads to needing either several tables to avoid shooting someone in the face and having round #2 hit them in the foot. My idea is to have hit location decay by RCL. RCL 2 shot to the eye will hit eye, skull, head if you exactly make the shot for the eye and fired 3 shots. A shot to the hand will go Hand, Arm, Torso (or to the gun, it goes gun, hand, arm).

This would also likely serve to change how the Targeted Attack technique worked, as skill at shooting particular small targets is different from just base guns skill, but I'm not quite sure how to fix it. Easiest way would be to make Targeted Attack a Hard technique, that just buys off part of the hit location penalties for everything. Alternatively, it might need to be priced as a Wildcard technique for balance. Each hit location is still subject to the restriction on TA that you can never go below half penalty.
For example: 2 points (first level) in TA: Guns (possibly a specialization here), means you're at -1 to shoot limbs, a -2 for the vitals, -4 for face, -6 for skull, -8 for eyes, -7 or -9 for chinks in armor. another point means you're still at that same -1 and -2 for limbs and vitals, down to -3 for the face, -5 for the skull, -7 for the eyes, etc. You get very swiftly diminishing returns.

Next up is a minor tweak. Swords are assumed to be Parry 0, as are the vast majority of melee weapons. However, according to Low Tech Companion, everything else can have a guard added to it for a +1 to parry, which swords are exempt from. If swords are default, everything else (axes/etc) should be parry -1. Alternatively, parry 0 is the norm, and most swords with full guards should be +1. Mostly a minor tweak for internal consistency, and it makes swords actually worth their relatively extreme cost. Having trained with Parry 0 Tomahawk and Parry 0 Cutlass, the cutlass is FAR easier to parry with.

Weapon Skills: Having trained extensively with melee weaponry, martial arts, and a number of weapons both true and recreational (air guns, firearms, recreational laser weapons, nerf guns, and water guns, to name a few). GURPS has very little overlap between melee skills, despite all the old training manuals often recommending training in seemingly vastly disparate skills (Ex, learning epee as a precursor to everything from broadsword to quarterstaff). There's also only so many possible cuts using a one handed weapon, no matter the balance. Similarly, there are no defaults between any unarmed combat skills. The finest judo practitioner in the world, of masterful body control, is at no particular superior position to learn brawling than anyone off the street (assuming they aren't incompetent and unable to learn unarmed combat). Similarly, most guns use approximately the same skill. This is handled currently by very gentle defaults between them, but leads to oddities with weapons that do not fall cleanly into a category (Ex, does a glock 18 run on pistol skill when in semi-auto, and SMG in full? What happens if you add a stock, does it still use pistol or is it now rifle?).

Suggestion to fix: My suggestion is to treat them as overall categories with familiarities. One Handed Melee Weapon, Two Handed Melee Weapon, Unarmed, And Guns, or something to that effect. Balanced vs. unbalanced, vastly different lengths, things of that nature would all justify being different familiarities. Now you don't need learn a different skill, or have strange mismatches, when you switch a fire selector, or add a stock, or a grip, or anything else, to guns. Martial arts now default to one another, and even to other melee combat skills, meaning experience makes further learning more readily feasible (sort of clumsily handled using perks to adapt techniques for use with another skill. Skill at unarmed combat translates to both one and two handed swords, for example, albeit with a penalty initially).

Armor/Gear is slightly odd in how it's handled taking damage. Armor in particular. Shields tend to have moderate DR, and enormous pools of HP to soak up incoming damage that penetrates, allowing them to do things like absorb rifle fire but be gradually destroyed in the process. While certain armor is best handled as flat DR with no HP soak, such as thin leather, other armors (ex, kevlar vest) seem to lend themselves to a shield style, providing a bit of DR and a lot of bonus HP to the wearer. DR as written works well enough, and there are optional rules for armor damage elsewhere so this is idle musing on dealing with the problem of a great many hits either doing nothing to armor, or punching through and potentially absolutely ruining the wearer. It adds complexity to track gear HP, which would require a different character/gear sheet that I still need to take a crack at.

I'd like for Basic Set to include stuff for gear of different sizes, partially included in the various Tech books, but expanded on the most in Low Tech Companion 1, at least to a limited extent. It's not really a universal system if you can only find gear for SM 0 yet the options are there to be +/- 1 SM right at the start. I'd also like to see the various Power Ups books updated with stuff from books published later (ex, Gun Fu has a number of realistic perks that are greatly desirable for a trained gunman), and consolidated into a Basic Set book #3, for gritty details.

Similarly, I'd like a book for Making Things. Mostly it would be Low Tech Companion 1 rules, extended forwards to allowing high tech and ultra tech armors and such. 4e used player stats to build robots, but there were no rules for making a robot and pricing it beyond things listed. A Points-to-Money conversion ratio, possibly with modifiers (size, complexity, etc) seems like a pretty decent way to allow you to build anything as stats, and then convert into an approximate market value. While I have some qualms with Spaceships, its rules allow for fairly quick but still in-depth building of a great many things, and I believe could be expanded for general vehicles to some extent.

Speaking of money, money is incredibly powerful. I've heard it repeatedly mentioned that the single most effective superpower is Money and High TL (McThag first raised this problem/loophole/etc to my attention). At any level where you can conceivably buy something with money instead of points, you should ALWAYS do so unless you have a very good reason. Ex, 32 points for the implant 9mm SMG in basic set, vs. 3 (2 for extra arm (weapon mount, -80%) and 1 for Payload so it's not just bolted to the side of your arm) and $500ish bucks, a small fraction of starting wealth at that stage. The idea behind having money completely separate is because of the love for infinite worlds style campaigns, with gunslingers out of time, dimension hoppers blending in, and so on and so forth. This unfortunately doesn't quite work as well as it seems at first glance. For example, past about TL6, nearly everyone without a good reason has access to "Immunity (Polio)", and so on. Accounting for all the vaccines and things adds up to a not insignificant amount of points for free to the average high tech character. At ultra-tech, buying augmentations and implants gets confusing because sometimes they cost money, points, or both depending on when or how you get them.

Proposed fix: This one is actually a fairly simple one for something with so much complexity, and ties into the starting wealth available.  My proposal is that there be a conversion factor between points and money, with points specifically allotted to "wealth" use. Probably based on TL, this would for example make a TL9 SMG purchased with points or money equally balanced, or DR from armor vs. DR from points). To make it fair, a given campaign would come with however many points are assumed to be the baseline TL, with characters starting at TL0 and purchasing up to campaign TL (or having bonus points to justify being equally badass with less from lower TLs). Mutants and Masterminds does something similar, with everything costing points based on effect (for example, Batman/Ironman and Superman/Hulk are both top tier characters, with the same amount of points. In GURPS, Batman/Ironman would probably be 500ish with some wealth and high TL, and Supes/Hulk would just be a bajillionty points because he apparently has approximately infinite ST/DR/HP/Laser eyes/etc). Essentially this would remove the Wealth advantage/disadvantage, and instead turn it into a per-point-invested thing. It also helps with inventing, bodymods/surgery, and so forth, having money interchangeable. Robots are incredibly hard to deal with on sale price for ones outside of the listed examples, but if points and money have an easy conversion factor, it's a lot more doable.

Also needed are just a few rebalances; Magic has some powerful applicability at higher TLs in making/breaking things (glitch and repair are both mighty powerful, used inventively), but it's essentially worthless to use magic for anything directly offensive. Meanwhile the reflect missiles spell is utterly ruinously broken at high TLs as written. Just including a couple of basic bits of magitech in the base book could substantially solve this problem. At TL5, a magic gun/gauntlet/whatever boosts effective magery by however much, adding Charge Powerstone and making it an entry level spell rather than one requiring massive Magery to reach to the base book to make it more readily apparent that a bunch of small cheap powerstones can be used like ammunition to fire off spells, and so on.

Innate Attack also seems to be something in desperate need of some balancing, as implanted weaponry purchased via the advantage instead of Extra Arm (weapon mount)+Payload is vastly more expensive. Adding Strength Based (from GURPS Powers, allows you to have an innate attack include the user's strength similar to Claws) helps somewhat, but it's still expensive. This may be fixed with the above wealth modification.

Fear Checks. GURPS fear checks have always been kind of weird, because they're only for the super bad things, except not. Any failure, because of the second 3d6 roll+degree of failure, leads to generally moderately severe results. The fix, other than minor rebalancing of the table (giving the option of acquiring a quirk OR some minor negative effect, as with changing/removing/optioning away the fear-barf), is actually quite simple.

Suggestion to fix: Degrees of fright check. Creep, Spook, Fright, and Fear. Creep checks just use Degree of Failure on the table, for stuff like empty abandoned houses, eerie stuff, and minor things where only the most cowardly of characters are likely to do more than hesitate. Spook checks are minor fright checks, and you roll 1d6 on the table, plus DoF. This is for things deliberately unnerving or frightening, enough that the GM might want to see who hesitates or reacts, a bit more strongly than a creep check. Fright checks are for jump scares, and actual frightening things, at 2d6+DoF. Fear checks and beyond work as normal, and are for the major scares, at 3d6+DoF or more (Terror checks, or whatever they get named, could be 4d6, or so on, to handle mindbendingly horrific things)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Saturday musing: There's no tanking in D&D

Proof that I'm actually not dead! Had this half done for ages, now it's as done as I care about.

Or, RPGs in general. This post rises from a chat a while ago, and the relative benefits.

To those unfamiliar, the term tank in games is primarily associated with MMOs, and refers to a character with tons of health, armor, or dodge chance who often includes some manner of aggro mechanic to make enemies pay attention to them despite not necessarily being the largest threat.

D&D 4e and 5e add in tank mechanics, allowing such things as granting disadvantage on attacks against other party members, getting free punish attacks if they target anyone else, or such things. Still, the builds that allow such things are often rather specialized, so you MUST build for the tank. You can't have a big generally beefy dude do it, he must use specific weapons and shields and such.

D&D particularly needs such mechanics because every turn allows a full movement and an attack. In theory, attacks of opportunity are supposed to discourage enemies from simply walking around the pointman of the party to conveniently go straight for the squishiest, most not-obviously dangerous party members, but in practice it's darn simple to avoid this, hence why at least some semblance of aggro mechanic options were added.

It got me thinking; What about other systems?

GURPS makes repositioning for attack a lot harder in melee, you have to either spend FP, move and attack as an all-out, or do a wild swing and probably miss. It also features sacrificial parries, and after all out attacks if made to get a proper attack in, the punish that comes after is a massive threat unless the aggressor is very heavily armored. Further, there's rules for blocking enemies from moving past. Defenders can also hold action to get a swing at anyone trying to get past. There's no aggro mechanic in GURPS, but due to the system it's not super necessary.

Shadowrun allows move and attack as well, though they're substantially more restrictive than in D&D. Still, most shadowrun combat happens with boomsticks and cover, rather than melee brawls. Melee fights have the Intercept action, allowing a fighter to prevent someone from moving nearby or pulling back out of melee. Given that the biggest, tankiest people (trolls) have bonus reach in which they can stop people, this makes tanking reasonably doable. There's also a decently large penalty for attacking on the run to try to get around bodyblocking allies.

Deadlands is similar to Shadowrun, but the time period means combat goes to melee a lot more readily. When the highest magazine capacity around save for crazy steampunk portable gatling guns is around 10, they run dry quick vs. hordes of undead and the like. Still, gunfights mean you take cover, and unlike many other systems, Deadlands has extensive rules for staredowns, intimidation, and the like during battle. Running to try to close distance imposes a BIG disadvantage, similar to GURPS and Shadowrun. Other than that, there's not much to stop the badguys from just going around the tanky folks, though.

Savage Worlds, the evolution from the Deadlands system into a simpler, more generically applicable system. In the quickstart, everyone trying to pull back from a melee gets hit by an attack of opportunity, just like D&D. I've currently only got the quickstart rules, but the full book is promised to have a bunch of extra modifiers and special attack types that are no doubt similar to those in Deadlands.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


*blows the dust off* This thing still on? Despite my best efforts to work myself to death, I somehow seem to have survived in spite of myself. Been feeling the itch to ramble into an empty corner of the internet, so in the unlikely event that this is of interest to you, rejoice!

I'm also presently shrugging off apparently some manner of minor illness and a severely screwed up sleep schedule, so my variety of things I want to muse upon will wait until some other time.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A musing on candidates

Sadly, nothing amusing about the candidates we're being offered.

On one hand, one is likely to pick a fight with something like 5-10% of the population. If we're doing things right, they'll fight back, and we'll fight back with them, and it'll all come to nothing.

On the other hand, the other is guaranteed to pick a fight with between 33% and 100% of the population, depending on whether they notice the entire bill of rights being put through the shredder and if they can be bothered to care.

One might be ugly, and looked back by history as another black stain to learn from, so long as liberty manages to hold out against the attacks that beset it.

The other WILL be messy, and could very easily destabilize the entire planet.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Design things: Themed bars and restaurants

So, I've got a bunch of ideas for themed bars/restaurants knocking about I thought other people might like or have ideas for. I figure I'm probably never going to get to build them myself so I actually don't mind sharing, even if it's just as a humorous hypothetical. The first I came up with on my own, the other two owe at least some inspiration to a variety of sources including the gaming themed 42 Alehouse. (To those not local to Milwaukee, it's a bar/restaurant with walls lined with everything from the full VHS sets of various Star Treks, to all manner of gaming books, to Risk and Settlers Of Catan and everything else. The bar TVs, if there aren't sports on, feature anything from LotR to Star Wars to Wii Games played by patrons).

First up, one I've had for a while, the Legitimate Establishment. It's a 'secret' 1930s speakeasy, a brewpub with the main floor playing a super saccharine, inoffensive restaurant. Main place is something like Mom's, specializing in roasts, stews, and generally homecooked hearty meals. In the basement through one of several secret entrances is the Legitimate Establishment, with dress code (at least a tuxedo T-shirt. Failing to have at least that gets you brought to the back to get "roughed up" and receive a commemorative shirt for the occasion), member's list (On The Dole, the military/police/firefighter's discount). Probably back rooms that can be rented or reserved for private use, poker night or gaming or whatever. Jazz on the jukebox, or played live if possible. Probably some historical cocktails from the period such as can be found. Upstairs would have the "secret" brewery, with tours and classes and such. A number of such places exist, although not quite this exact setup.

Up next is the Adventure Tavern. It's themed like the tavern that every fantasy tabletop RPG starts in, with big imitation monster heads on the walls, old fashioned weapons of various sorts, and so on. TVs would be disguised as everything from magic mirrors to scry spells floating in flames. Food is sports bar fare, simple and hearty, with a rotating menu featuring foreign cuisine from "edible loot". Hawiian, Thai, African, Jamaican, the theme is food, spices, and recipes brought in by adventurers and merchants from distant locales. If there's a jukebox, it's disguised as a crazy gnomish contraption or similar. Special events include Tale Tellin', wherein you share the tales of your adventures, either solo or as a group, in a similar thing to karaoke. Gaming would of course be encouraged. 
This bottle opener tetsubo is actually the jumping off point for the Adventurer's Tavern, from trying to figure out what bar decor would make that fit in.

Finally, there's the Cyberpunk themed bar. Hidden back in a basement somewhere, lots of cables on the ceiling, glowing neon all over the place. Prices might be listed in the 'currency of the future', such as Nuyen (used by the shadowrun universe and largely equivalent to dollars), or they may just be regular. I think everything in the place will be controlled via phone/tablet apps (Hacking's always a big thing in cyberpunk). Possibly one of those food conveyors, some secret back rooms for gaming for "runners". Food, I'm not sure. Possibly a super robust vegetarian menu since most cyberpunk stuff assumed in the dystopian future, everything would be soy based? The decoration is easy, figuring out extra things for it is hard because it's so close and yet so far from where we are today. Probably gaming tournaments and such?

If you've got thoughts to expand on it, or your own zany bar/restaurant you want to discuss/flesh out, comment away! I might doodle up some concept art for more realistic things for what I'd try to build.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Interstellar Warfare Wednesday: Mechs?

A new one of these, on a topic I've given a great deal of thought to recently; mechs.

Traditionally, the mech is viewed as a rule-of-cool technological dead end. Everyone loves giant robots, but a box of armor with a turret on it will be far more stable and heavily armored. Boring but practical, the mech just can't compete with ye olde tanks. Or can it?

To preface, we need to look at what role a mech, walker, etc would serve to fill. There are, far as I can tell, two main roles to fill. The first is a direct competitor to the tank, except not. The second is a lightweight armored gun platform intended to support infantry in the manner of an IFV, without the internal space.

Next, we need a few assumptions about how the thing is built. Legs are pretty complicated, but can be broken down to a few main joints. Hydraulics are finicky and easily damaged, but modern or near future high end servos are compact and powerful. Assuming heavily armored joints, the main meat of the legs can be relatively lightly armored so long as it's sturdy enough to continue functioning with a few holes in it. Because anything will need to keep up with tanks/trucks/etc, these legs will need to have some manner of wheel or track mechanism. Finally, legs are still relatively easily damaged, so they need to be easily swapped when damaged.

Looking more at the first style, the spider tank; Under most use, it's just a tank. Legs folded and tracks engaged, it presents a slightly smaller profile than a normal tank, with the option to poke its head up over terrain to more easily fire from a hull-down position, shift to maintain balance during maneuvering, and other such things. Pressed with an obstacle that tracks can't climb, it may be able walk up or down them, and throwing a track can be worked around by shifting weight away from that leg. Ultimately, the spidertank is just tank+, likely optimized for minimal weight for mobility when hitching a ride. If there are other more traditional tanks (such as those that follow the pattern of the Israeli Merkava (MBT+IFV)), it'd share a turret with them.

The second style is the lighter weight mech, weighing a few tons at most. Any smaller and it'd be a battlesuit, and indeed probably is close in size to a heavy battlesuit, though far more broad. The primary aim is to get a weapons platform that can be airlifted or dropped with troops, able to withstand enough weaponry to play bullet sponge while delivering firepower akin to an IFV. Compact size and weight means they can fit places a heavy armored vehicle couldn't. Still, they'd similarly need tracks/wheels/etc to keep pace with trucks and other armor. Could be built in biped or quadruped formfactors; quad is more stable, but necessarily heavier. Whatever form factor it took, most of the time it'd still roll rather than walk if it didn't need the added mobility.

Having legs available makes further possibilities, well, possible. Adding them as landing gear to dropships and similar allows for easier dropoffs of troops in areas that normally would require incredibly skilled, dangerous hovering, or improve the ability to grab and hold payloads steady. Anything with legs can jack itself off the ground for minor repairs.

I've also been trying to figure out how to model these in GURPS, but that's another post.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Perspective Matters: Away Game Repost

Saw this image shared by Sheriff Jim Wilson on Facebook and decided to expand upon it a bit. Here's a comparison of our "gun death epidemic" to the other causes of death that, you know, actually make up the majority of deaths.

Perspective matters. This is made from slightly older CDC data and involves a bit of rounding, but it's very close to accurate still.
According to the most recent report, there were 33,636 deaths related to firearms. 21,175 were suicide (about half of all suicides), 505 were accidental, and 11,208 were homicide (there's a few missing, probably legally justifiable and police related and whatnot). It's also important to note that both homicide and suicide are OVERWHELMINGLY men's issues, but I'll discuss those in a different post to keep things focused.
That same newer CDC data provides further perspective;
Accidental falls accounted for 31,240 deaths. You are approximately equally likely to trip and fall and die as you are to die to a firearm. Remember that every time you take the stairs, stand on a balcony, or hike a path on a slope.
There were 48,545 deaths from poisoning, of which about 80% (38,836) were accidental. You (or your children) are 1.15x more likely to die of eating/drinking the wrong thing accidentally than by all gun death combined, and nearly equally likely to be deliberately poisoned as you are to be killed in an assault with a firearm.
33,804 people were killed in car accidents. Almost all gun death involves at least one willing participant (the criminal shooting, or the person committing suicide), while very few car accidents involve any willing participants.
Septicemia, a precursor to sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, accounts for 38,156 deaths. That is to say, death by infection when it spreads to the blood. That infection you have is more likely to lead to your death than all gun related deaths combined.
Alcohol related causes (everything from alcohol poisoning to a terminal case of "Hold my beer and watch this!") accounted for 29,001 deaths. It's important to note that alcohol is purely a luxury, and serves exclusively to inhibit the user and impair judgement. Enjoying a night at the bar is very nearly as likely to lead to your death as all gun death combined.
Ever go to the doctor? Around 400,000 people die to preventable medical errors every year in the US.…/deaths-by-medical-mistake… It seems it's likely rolled into other statistics on the CDC list, but taken separately it's the #3 killer of Americans, behind cancer and heart disease (584,881 and 611,105 respectively). Included in that are around 100,000 deaths from catching other infections acquired at the hospital…/19/washington/19hospital.html…
As a sidenote related to mass shootings and so-called assault weapons (a manufactured category that most of the people attempting to ban can't actually define); Even the US, which is supposedly the world capital of them, almost never breaks 100 deaths per year (using the FBI definition of 3+ deaths in a public place, not gang related). For reference, on average 183 people will be killed in animal attacks throughout the US based on data from 2001-2013…/chart-the-animals-that-ar…/
Every death is a tragedy, but with our sensationalist media it's desperately important to remind yourself where the real problems lie. Treated as a single monolithic category, guns amount to around 3% of all deaths in the US. While it's important not to overlook small causes lest they add up, guns are far from the overwhelming epidemic they are made out to be, and what problems are associated with them would be better solved by targeting the underlying causes (legacy of racism and disadvantage leading to gang violence, social mores that cause men to commit suicide vastly more often than women, and so on) is more effective than simply blaming the object.…/liberal-media-gun-grabbe…/ a somewhat biased site with a mostly unbiased collecting of data from the report for readability. the CDC report on mortality released in feb 2016, using data from 2013ish.…/38-putting-murder-by-gun-in-persp… a slightly older thing putting things in perspective with graphs and such.

Monday, April 18, 2016

BAG day shopping list

Having worked a full year at the highest pay I've ever received, my check back from Uncle Sam was the largest it's ever been (but not too large). And yet, I've got all my bases filled. I'm also a mite bit empty after paying various things to move to newer, more spacious digs. 

I think this BAG day I will be buying accessories and training things

A SIRT pistol and AR-15 bolt are high up the list.
A heavy, extended set of AR500 body armor, and possibly some manner of battlehat
A bigger safe, or at least a second one. Need some manner of ammo storage/organization in it or in addition.
Optics for my AR-15 and AR-57 (I've got a lot of rail space but in the interests of weight I'd like some kind of combo. Light/laser, optic/laser, etc.)
More mags, more ammo, before the rest of everyone notices that the stupidity of this political season and buys all the everything. Can never have too much, after all.

That said, the local mountain of geese has a nice looking Century Arms Draco pistol...

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Right, using this; Also new upper

Been quiet for a while. Had topics but precious little motivation, due to big projects at work beating me down. Those are pretty much all caught up now, and a load off my shoulders. Got a new car, nice compact SUV with decent fuel economy and some good capabilities that I'll possibly get a picture of sometime when I can be bothered.

Also bought a new AR-15 upper back in December, finally snapped a picture of it

An AR-57 and a couple of mags, plus a box of ammo for a steal. I expressed interest in it and the store owners began a bidwar with each other to offer a low enough price to get it off their damn wall.

The ammo's labeled "police and military only" from way back when it was first introduced and ZOMG hype better ban it because it can shoot through tanks its so armor piercing. This lead the bf to ask if it was better than 5.56

"No, no it's not. It's actually worse in almost literally every way. About 1/10 the power, more expensive, less range, strange and slow (but neat!) reloads, and I couldn't be happier"

This gun is basically my stupid fondness for pistol carbines, SMGs, and PDWs given its ultimate form. Now it just needs optics and somewhere to actually test it out.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Sci Fi Saturday: Halo Landfall

Still phoning it in a bit, but starting to post things again.

The HALO universe is actually remarkably well thought out, and mostly serves as a decent guess at moderate future technology, although the timeline seems slightly off on occasion. The ODST armor is probably very near to the top of my favorite space armors on its approximate practicality and style.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Gun On Campus: My The Campus

Reportedly someone heard a bolt slam shut on campus and thought they saw the barrel of a gun they thought was an AK-47 in the bathroom. They ran, pulled the fire alarm, and that part of campus was quarantined. No shots or anything, official story about whatever happened still pending.

Given that I suspect 1/3 to 1/2 of the people at the school probably have shotguns or hunting rifles in their cars, an attack on said school seems rather ill conceived.

Further details when they're available, to determine if this is legit or not.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Lessons from my childhood: Cartoons imparting valuable knowledge

Seen on the book of face, possibly from Michael Z Williamson or one of his commentors. The series was often questionable, but it had its moments, and most of those moments involved Mr. Bannon kicking ass.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Motor Monday slightly

So, the area where I work has several MRAPs. You know, the big military truck. Or, if you don't know, these.

Apparently on Friday, one of my coworkers new to the company was driving home, and was passed by a convoy of them. He snapped a picture of one of them. Another one of them then sideswiped him, which was helpfully caught by the dashcam of the squad behind him, and he's totally not at fault. The tires scratched up the side of his car, but the car itself is fine.

Now he gets to engage in the cycle of bureaucracy to try and get some manner of insurance or payment, because the cops were on their way to a raid and couldn't stop beyond a single member going "Yeah ok so I'll file a report but we can't stop call this number Monday bye."

I've seen them myself, I know they've got at least two of them and aren't afraid to bust them out for... I'm not really sure what they're doing that warrants a full on MRAP, there's regions of the area that aren't particularly great but I don't think they warrant quite that much truck...

Monday, February 8, 2016

Lego Cthulu: Horrors for plastic dread.

As a proponent of legos as superb figures for tabletop gaming, I felt the need to share this with what few readers I theoretically have.