Wednesday, 13 April 2011

CS S T W I Ld ?

I saw a 40K statline written up in a slightly different way yesterday and read a comment mentioning scaleability, and I'm still thinking about those polls at Warhammer 39,999.

Not for the first time I'm wondering if all the numbers in the game are needed, especially given the universal special rules and how vehicle armour works differently than body.

Remember, we're talking about creeping development over four edition changes and sourcebook after sourcebook, codex update after codex update, over 23 years. My feeling is there's a lot of clutter just waiting for a good spring clean.

Here's a thought experiment. Couldn't this work just as well?

CS  S  T  W  I  Ld

Some explanation.

Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill become Combat Skill, because in-game weapon load-outs could be enough distinction - if a model has a two-handed ranged weapon only, it's a trained all-rounder; for each close combat weapon or pistol, one extra attack in close combat, i.e. potentially two extra for a humanoid; if the model has a heavy weapon, it loses an attack. Don't get too excited yet - there's more.

The Attacks characteristic goes because Initiative could do the same job, i.e. I 3 could mean three attacks, plus or minus the number for load-out. For logic and clarity, Initiative could apply to both uses of CS and so also do what assault weapons do now, allowing a certain number of shots; assault weapon ratings would then become modifiers, i.e. I 3, assault 2 gives six shots. Bear with me here.

Save merges into Toughness, for a much higher Toughness relative to weapon strength, by one point per point of AP, i.e. a guardsman becomes T 4, an Ork T 5 and a marine T 8. Weapon Strength and AP would do the same, less one or two points to keep probabilities similar. This could overall offset the issue of increased number of shots and close combat attacks, speed things up and remove the arguable inconsistency of the all-or-nothing AP threshold, getting something like the old save modifier in by the back door. What? Nothing to do in your opponent's turn? Is rolling dice in response anything now? That's easily fixed with a unit-by-unit activation system.

Vehicles get Toughness ratings too, just as they did originally, with the scale going above 10 if necessary, to avoid inconsistencies like tactical dreadnought armour being treated differently than dreadnoughts, jetbikes than vypers.

One or two extra USRs could be introduced to help with exceptions.

Doing this would mean tinkering in other areas, so a more complete overhaul with an edition change than we've seen since second became third, or even Rogue Trader became second. It - or something like it - could be cleaner, lose very little or nothing, make learning the game easier and possibly even stabilise the system, limiting the unforeseen consequences of a change in one area. Unit types with lower levels of ability could be introduced more easily without being squeezed against zero. From GW's perspective that could mean more models on tables, for all of us more choice.

I'm also a fan of additional complexity coming from more universal actions, like going to ground. A simple order system could be introduced along the same lines allowing more options, perhaps as simple as re-rolls, although we can handle modifiers I'm sure.

Leadership could also be used for far more than it is now, but that's for later.

How's that for a first look? Could it work? What have I missed?


Gotthammer said...

An interesting idea, I've done something very similar with my FireZone ruleset:


The main issue is when you start having a large spread, as you suggest for vehicles, the pure D6 system starts falling down - it just doesn't have enough of a range to cope very well.

Melding save into toughness can be tricky as 40k has a wide variety of save types and weapon types (and body types!).
Weapons would purely be defined by their strength, which would lead to less tactical options and variety in lists.

40k is all about the vairety of the forces, and while some more streamlining would certaily be welcome (opposed rolling can go, along with the drag-out assault phase), I'd personally not want to see less variety in the army lists and equipment.

Porky said...

Thanks for the comment. I want to get a debate started and you've certainly risen to it.

I'll go take a look at your ruleset in a mo. I had no idea you'd done anything like that, and I'm excited.

Re the range of the D6, I see your point. That said, using the traditional 7+ approach would overcome it, i.e. with a score of 7 being a 6 followed by a 4-6, a score of 8 being a 6 followed by 5-6, and a score of 9 being a 6 followed by a 6. This allows a five degree spread, S3 harming T8, up to S5 harming T10 and even S7 harming T12. Remember that weapon S would rise part of the way in line with body armour increasing.

Weapons would retain all of the variation they have now, with the expection of AP, but AP could be replaced by wounds caused, with, very roughly, AP--6 being 1 wounds, AP5-4 2 wounds and AP2-1 3 wounds, and these wounds spilling over to other unit members, representing the superheating of the air, concussion or shrapnel. Vehicles would have multiple wounds of course. Weapon S then becomes armour-piercing punch, and number of wounds caused becomes destruction. I'm not sure we have such a clear distinction these days.

I'd love to see us as a community go further even than even a project like Killzone and discuss a complete reworking of the game, to give good material and reasoning to GW to help them in making key decisions for the next edition. We're likely into that window. There are complaints not enough playtesting is done for example, and there are surely practical reasons why; a broad and open discussion could cover more ground than GW could alone. Our contributions could help make the next edition sleeker and more solid, more inclusive even.

DocStout said...

In general, so long as units and entire lists don't become genericized, I support streamlining. Balancing "the crunchy bits" against speed and ease of play is definitely a delicate balancing act.

neverXmoor said...

I really like this idea. Post some more rules!

I like the idea of replacing ap with a damage characteristic and rolling saves into toughness.

I kinda dislike the 7+ dice roll system as it seems like it creates double handling ... but I guess if you just roll your batch of hits and then re-roll the sixes it works fine. Another alternative might be to switch to D10 or something, but D6s are just so much easier to acquire vast quantities of ...

Porky said...

@ DocStout - I agree completely. I dislike loss of variety, and as Gotthammer wrote, 40K really is about this, especially looking back over all those years, at all those options, many now gone. Ideally any change made would support bringing more variety in, maybe back in. My hope is that a good tidy could make space for that.

@ neverXmoor - I don't have any to post! This is really more about starting a discussion, getting all of us to chip in and say where we'd like the game to go. I see the wariness on the 7+, but it really is as simple as you say - re-roll 6s - and of course this would only be necessary in certain cases, most likely only as desperate measures when more powerful weapons were out of position or lost. The D10 might be asking a little too much of the player base and GW. We used all kinds in the early days of course, but the D6 is now very closely linked in the mind with 40K. I'd say it's up to the job though, and there are some thoughts on that here.

Gotthammer said...

Going with a 7+ system can work, but things like assault would need to be re-worked severely to avoid slow massacres (see Wraithlord / dread vs things without P-Fists).
Similarly there would need to be mechanics to prevent a game becoming a wipeout due to all your meltas getting killed against a Land Raider list.

The AP becoming a wound multiplier sounds interesting, similar to the Fantasy mechanic (called 'multiple wounds' would you believe?) so not without precedent.

If I were to write this I'd probably start by making rough stat models for common types (MEQ, GEQ) and then run the percentages on lethality and convert from there.
When writing FireZone I worked out the rough lethality percentage I wanted (ie how likely one shot was to kill or cripple a target) and played with the numbers to get the result. I tried a D8 system but it didn't support the range and stat varience I wanted (not a marked improvement on a D6), so I upped it to the D10.

It might be an interesting exercise to put up something like that in 40k.

Porky said...

I think your approach to FireZone is the one to follow.

Deciding what it is that we want is easier here, because ideally existing relationships in the game would remain more or less the same. With 40K there's a clear pattern to replicate.

As for the next step, moving into the maths would be necessary. I'll have a think about it. The main issue seems to be all the modifications that would have to be made in other areas to support the central changes, and the need to deal with the thing holistically. A design studio can certainly manage this better, with number of minds and time. We have something similar available here of course, with so many blogs and interested or potentially interested parties. Again, I'll have a think, about how we might get something rolling.

Von said...

I'm going to join in with expressing wariness on the 7+ thing. It's not that it's hard; it's that it adds a stage to the process of killing one of your d00ds with one of my d00ds, and I'd have thought the point of streamlining was to remove stages from that process.

At the moment, we've got target-hit-wound-allocate-save, usually in that order, or target-hit-damage-chartroll-save for vehicles. As well as merging these two processes, we should perhaps be looking for ways to reduce their numbers - which you've done, and done quite stylishly by making vehicles work the same way as everything else (o frabjous day!), but now I'm going to blatantly contradict myself and suggest that it should perhaps be done differently.

Rick Priestly liked armour saves because they gave you something to do in your opponent's turn, and helped you retain agency over your own d00dz to the very end: that's why he retained the term 'save' for them. I think saves have to stay, unless the system becomes something more akin to GW's Lord of the Rings or that Old West thing that's similar to it - they're a quiet assertion of GW's original principles that it would be a shame to lose.

If, on the other hand, we could some way incorporate 'target' (choose which of your d00dz my d00d will shoot at) and 'allocate' (you assign successful wounds to your d00dz) in a way that accounts for varied toughness stats across a unit... how might that work? The process then becomes target-hit-wound-save, for pretty much any target; the part of me that's invested in the revamp of Vampire: the Masquerade says four steps is still too many, particularly for a high activation count game like 40K, but it seems to have been working pretty well so far.

Food for thought, anyway?

Porky said...

Welcome in! It's fun to think about. The outcome is definitely less interesting than the discussion.

Good points.

I'd counter the wariness about the 7+ by saying the extra roll would rarely be needed, only when the spread between S and T is three or more points, which is most likely when things start getting desperate - and when things get desperate, the possibility could add hope on the one hand and tension on the other. But the essential point is that even then the extra roll would only be made one in six times per roll to wound. In this sense, it would most often mean one less roll.

I think here we need to question the thinking of the great man himself. Rick had Rogue Trader published 23 years ago. A lot of innovations have come along since then. It may be characteristic, but having the chance to roll a save in the opponent's turn isn't a strength of the game, more a compensation for a weakness. If the choice is between keeping the downtime plus rolling saves, or gaining an activation system and losing saves, the second in my view has only advantages. The more constant engagement of both players and the one roll less in resolving attacks.

I agree with you the turn system / opponent's turn save is basic to 40K, but I do feel that after the initial surprise with the edition change, everything would settle down in the new pattern, and with all the same models on the table doing all the same things, after a few weeks no one would even look back. It would be a gamble from GW's perspective, lesser or greater, but so are price rises of the scale we've seen recently. It comes down to what the players want. There are any number of games I can play today which immerse me more fully and give me more challenge, but if many more players are happy than are unhappy, and those unhappy are sticking around, why change? We see the disillusionment and the departure from the game, but we also see new players, especially previous players, who are returning. GW sees the numbers, gets feedback and may even have multiple versions on the shelf ready for a rainy day. It's their call.

The last idea needs thinking about. Hopefully this channel will stay open, or others will pick up the idea and run with it elsewhere. Again, I think the specifics of the final outcome are less important than the fact they're more what we want collectively, that we as a community are actually thinking about the mechanics of the game with a view to change, being active in the big picture, not only griping about the elements we don't like now. GW wins if we're happier too, and system changes will always mean more or less new model sales as players adapt and renew.