Sunday, 3 April 2011

Into the depths! (1)

I'm very interested in how we can better merge game types. Here's a strange idea for blending tabletop wargames more with pen-and-paper roleplaying, for heavy terrain like jungle, medieval cities or post-apocalyptic ruins, especially when there are too few modelled pieces to do a setting justice.

It also stands to reason over a larger combat zone of this kind a commander would more easily lose control of troops as they pass out of sight, not least in situations in which comms are simple or non-existent and global positioning not an option.

So how could we simulate this with no terrain on the table?

How about doing away with true space? Rather than place the miniatures on a modelled landscape and measure distances between the various elements, simply set up the armies anyhow on a bare table. For each unit which a controlling player would like to move, roll a numbered die and leave this die with the result face up beside that unit.

If the game is turn-based, in Player A's first turn this is all that happens. In Player B's first turn any units moving also have the same kind of die rolled for them. If the result for any of Player B's units is equal to the result rolled for any of Player A's, then both that Player A unit and that Player B unit are placed together in a free space on the table.

If more than two units end up with the same number, simply place them all together, leaving each movement die with its unit. We'll call this group of units an 'engagement'.

Player B - as the moving player - may then choose for each unit whether or not to enter close combat or shoot.

If close combat, Player A's models gain any bonuses for defending and B's for attacking and the combat is resolved. Pair models off, with Player B choosing the first match-up, then Player A the next and so on. Excess models can be placed freely by their player.

If shooting, each of Player B's models is assumed to shoot at the closest possible range without being in contact. Player A's can respond if this is usually possible. If a unit breaks and escapes, it leaves the engagement and is free to roll for movement as normal when it rallies, perhaps with a delay of one additional turn for every turn fleeing.

If other actions are possible, command-related for example, or psychic attacks, you'll need to decide how to treat them. Should be easy, but best discuss it before playing.

In Player A's next turn, movement is conducted as for Player B for any units not involved in an engagement, referring to the results of the dice still face up beside Player B's units. Any units rolling a number already relating to an engagement join that engagement as if drawn by the activity. If multiple units are engaged, the moving player always has priority and can act with all of his or her units first. The moving player is able to decide which of close combat or shooting - or other actions - will take place.

The game carries on like this, with roles reversing all the way. If the game has an activation system, it should be possible to adapt this idea relatively easily, by having the die rolled after activation, with the first few activations far less likely to lead to an engagement, just as with the first turn in a turn-based game.

The larger the number of faces on the die the less likely troops will encounter each other. The more units, the larger the number of faces needed to maintain the status quo. I'd suggest very roughly a D6 for 1-6 units per side, 2D6 or a D10 for 6-10 per side. There should be some tense wandering in the landscape, sounds of battle echoing around.

The ruleset used may have various bonuses or abilties linked to movement and other actions using distances. Translating these into simple advantages in this system should be easy, the freedom to break away from an engagement if fast-moving for example, or switch dice with a slower unit. Also, better leadership - especially unit leadership - could allow one or more movement re-rolls per turn.

You might also want to allow the defender in an engagement the benefit of some cover, whether a reduced cover save or modifier to rolls for incoming fire. Vehicles could be highly vulnerable, but that really ought to be the case so I'd advise against changing it.

Lots to explore and tweak. Just a fun idea, an extra option.


Desert Scribe said...

Good idea, Porky. With a little tweaking, this could be adapted to space fleets searching for one another among various star systems.

Porky said...

Thanks. I'm aiming at the simplicity of the ideas at a place like The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms. He writes games and manages to fit big things into small mechanics. He's working on a B-movie roleplayer at the moment, which might be interesting to quite a few people reading this.

Excellent point about this suiting space combat. You're the go-to guy for that of course so it's no surprise you saw it, and I like the idea a lot. It comes down to technology too, the power of sensors, but if they aren't especially long-range, or are put out by large bodies or other phenomena, it makes perfect sense to have fleets blundering around looking for needles in haystacks. It would also work well in challenging regions, asteroid fields for example, or areas like that compact nebula at the end of The Wrath of Khan.

Anyway your blog is a great starting point for this kind of thing and you probably have a lot of other thoughts on it.

Anyone who's never been should check it out - it's Super Galactic Dreadnought.

On the subject of other uses, I realised after posting it could also simulate a dark night or heavy fog.