Shootin' Stuff

So, the first topic I'd like to address here with regard to my skirmish rules is of central importance to a modern/sci-fi wargame: shooting stuff. I'm going to start out a little theoretical and then move into some practicalities as they relate to those theories.

So, the way I see it, in a skirmish wargame, shooting has two main intentions: to control movement and to remove enemy fighters. The second is fairly obvious, but there are some implications to it I want to discuss, so I'll start with "controlling movement".

In traditional Necromunda, you have something called "pinning" when a figure is hit, but not wounded. A pinned fighter misses a turn unless he has buddies around to egg him on and he passes a test. In the previously mentioned WWII game, we modified this a bit to make it a little easier to test to get up, mostly because we made pinning a much larger part of the game by forcing characters shot at to test to avoid pinning on a miss. Pinning, then, achieves the aim of controlling movement, and our system had a pretty cool emergent effect of creating "fire and maneuver" set ups very in keeping with the WWII flavor.

The point for this post being I like the game-play implications of pinning, and I think I like pinning even on missed shots to be a possibility, so I'll probably keep that. Any other thoughts on how shooting can control opponent movements would be welcome in the comments.

Now, the more direct aim of shooting: killing and maiming enemies. In pretty much every GW game, you roll to hit, then roll to wound, and then Armor may or may not come in to negate the wound. Since each step is a simple D6  roll, and you do them all the time, they get to be pretty quick and natural. I'm pretty sure the reason for the separate hit, wound, and armor rolls is to allow for a high level of distinction between different match ups: you can be more or less accurate, shooting with a more or less powerful weapon against a more or less tough foe, and his armor can be better or worse. That allows for a wide variety of characters on each end of the role, and even more possible match ups.

That being said, the intent of shooting is to remove a threat, and so there's no inherent reason that roll should be split up into three steps. So, in the interest of trying to figure out if there's something better, I've been considering some other options. One that has caught my fancy is something to do with multiple dice, possibly of different colors (thanks to a discussion over at Praxis).

Here's the rough idea I have: a shooting character looks at his shooting skill ("Ballistic Skill" in the Games Workshop parlance) and at the stats of the weapon he's firing. Both give a number of dice to roll, which he adds together. Perhaps different colored dice can be specified which "hit" at different probabilities (e.g. something like whites hit on a 6, blues on a 5 or 6, and reds on a 4, 5, 6).  He rolls these and totals the number of hits/successes he's rolled.

Now, the target looks at his toughness and his armor, which also grant dice (again, possibly of different colors). He rolls that number of dice, and any hits/successes he scores negate hits scored by the attacker. If any hits are left, the attacker then assigns them to the target. I'm thinking that the target has a number of boxes that can be checked off in order, going something like "pinned, -1 die on rolls, -2 dice on rolls, out of action" or something like that, with effects being cumulative, and you can't skip a step.

Cover would probably be represented as a number of hits scored in the defender's favor, but possibly as fewer dice to roll for the attacker or more armor dice for the defender.

The notion here is that a character's accuracy stat would probably always be or start out as white dice, with more meaning more accurate (which might translate into hitting a more vital area, if those dice get you enough hits to wound seriously). The kind of weapon and how powerful it is would also be represented by number and color of dice: automatic weapons would have more white dice, powerful weapons would have more red dice.

Of course, another option would be to have a fixed target number (say, a 6) and then different die types (d6s, d8s, d10s, et cetera). This might allow more variability in weapon power.

So, how does this sound? Would it be too many dice per shooting action? Are the opposed rolls too funky?


  1. I like the sound of this a lot. If it were me I'd try and find a way to drop the opposed roll. Either have the target's defensive capabilities affect the dice rolled (fewer dice, d6s become d4s, d8s become d6s etc. or a straight negative modifier) or negate a set number of successes. Perhaps even work in all of these methods for the different variables (armour, movement speed, cover etc.)

    I like the idea of rolling a small handful of dice for a high ROF weapon and getting to bring out the d12s and d20s for big guns.

    Looking forward to seeing where this all goes.

  2. Thanks, Chris, I appreciate the feedback. The main reason I've started with an opposed roll is to keep things consistent across the stats (every stat is dice to roll). I seem to remember having a compelling reason that I didn't like static armor or toughness results, but I can't think of them right now, so you may have a point :)

    As for the big dice, I agree that they're definitely satisfying, but I've had a major headache figuring out probabilities for different sized die pools of D6s, throwing in other dice would make things even more complicated :)

    On a more serious note, larger die sizes have more 'swinginess' when rolled individually or in pairs - the greater range of possibilities means that there's a big numerical difference between the highest result and the lowest result. If everything's scaled to that die size, okay, no problem at all. Likewise, with a limited range of die sizes and a common target number (say, roll 4 or higher on a D4, D6 or D8, depending on how skilled you are) can have some interesting effects. The trouble comes in if everything is scaled to one range of values (say, rolls of 1-6) and you start bringing in something scaled way differently.

    Here's an example of what I mean. In my prior version of these rules (which I may return to if these don't work out) it basically worked the same as straight up Necromunda, but with D10s (which offered more granularity of results, which was helpful). The trouble was, if you kept the same close combat system and added your rolls together and subtracted the loser's score for the number of hits you did, you had the potential to do like 30 freaking hits.

    So, in other words, I think I'd have to really shake up the current direction I'm going in to incorporate the poor, under-appreciated D12 (but feat not, the D12 gets lots of lovin' in the RPG I'm working on!)

  3. Oh! I remembered why I wanted to use opposed rolls instead of static values!That way toughness and armor can be rated by their 'color' as well as their number, just like attacking. You can have 3 white armor dice or 1 blue die, or a blue die and a red die. More options, and I *think* less wrangling to get a system of armor and toughness that works for all the kinds of dice the attacker can roll

    (also I wanted to allow for a total miss, which is really unlikely with more than a few dice)

  4. Interesting stuff. Opposed rolls can definitely be put to good use, I'm just borderline obsessive when it comes to trimming games down to the bare minimum of dice, stats etc.

    Necromunda is a very good starting point too, I should add!

  5. Agreed on trimming things down! Believe it or not, I started the system described in the post as a way of paring down the clunky, kludgy system I had before :)

    Unfortunately, even though I consciously strive for elegance and simplicity, my love of intricate things pushes me to add more and more detail. So thanks for helping keep me honest.

    I'm a big fan. I've played more Necromunda than any other miniature game, and it was the first one I played seriously. The base game is a lot of fun and has provided years of enjoyment, now I just want to be able to do more with it.