Friday, November 30, 2012

Vehicular Combat

John McLear (Hector Busamante)
Over the past week, while traveling in NYC, I took a chance to revise the Gear file based on some work another player had done (he turned some Traits--general super-powers--into "gear" and had some questions). The chapter has been revised and streamlined--the general intent made more clear, illustrated with a couple more examples, and rationalized across multiple pages a bit better.

There is still a "gap" in the JAGS rules here: Vehicular Combat.

Vehicular Combat: What We Know
We have tried before to write a cohesive vehicular combat rules-set. Here's what we know right now:
  1. Vehicles have a DRIVE Score. Most vehicles have a set of DP (a small amount) set aside for something called DRIVE (it was called CORE) in the original rules. If you "shoot this out" the vehicle stops. This is necessary because a car has a few hundred DP based on weight but a single shot from a handgun can stop it (and we know that, for example, destroying the tires is a lot easier than crushing the whole car). Hitting Drive usually requires a called shot that hits by 4+. This makes vehicles fairly easy to stop (if unarmored) by decent shots.
  2. Vehicles provide Cover. If you declare you are shooting at someone in a vehicle they get some cover. This is generally 3pts for a standard car and maybe 2pts for a motorcycle (and maybe 4pts for someone in a car "crouched down and hiding." These basic cover rules assume that even if your shot penetrates the car easily--which, our research, suggests will happen for any civilian vehicle and nearly any firearm--there are complexities around hitting targets you can't see well that provide defense.
  3. A moving vehicle provides a set of to-hit modifier negatives to both shooters in it and attackers. Generally firing from a non-mounted gun gives a -2 in addition to some other speed modifiers. I think the general speed modifiers for most vehicular combat will clock in around -3 / -4. For L2 attackers a "drive by" is pretty random.
What Else Do We Know?
Here are some things I think we know.
  • A vehicle moves based on its speed--not the driver's Initiative. Faster vehicles move first (higher Init) and every vehicle must move before you can check for collision. As an Advanced Rule, a vehicle can move "in reaction" to another vehicle's movement even if it is slower--that is, if I move my vehicle counter on top of yours and say "my PC jumps from my car to yours!" you can say, "Not so fast, I take my reaction move to push my vehicle ahead--see, there's still space." If my vehicle is faster, which it must be, since I moved first, I will, by the end of this, still have closed the space-gap--but not, yet--all the way.
  • Having a vehicle move basically straight and not accelerate costs the driver 0 REA. However, any kind of combat movement, acceleration, turning, or deceleration, costs the driver 5 REA. If this is not paid (the driver is Stunned, Dazed, Unconscious, or uses their REA for other things) the vehicle is "out of control" and may crash. We do not have concrete rules for this--but a skill roll is probably involved with some significant negatives based on situation.
  • A Vehicular Dodge is allowed to stop an attack that hits DRIVE. This is the primary purpose of Combat Vehicle Operations skill. It is all important: if your Space-Wing Fighter Jock gets shot by the enemy fighter craft, (a) the enemy is almost ALWAYS shooing at DRIVE (your engines) (b) their shots are either 20mm cannons or "space 20mm cannons." They do a lot of damage. If you are hit, your vehicle will EXPLODE and you will probably DIE. You have a large battery of SP (because you are a super fighter jock) who spends some of those (instead of the craft's DP) to make sure that you don't get blown up. These Success Points are essentially your "DP" for vehicular combat. NOTE: a vehicular heavy weapon hitting the body of the vehicle may fuck it up pretty badly anyway as they can do 100's of points of damage.
Things We Do Not Know
There are some things we are, currently, not clear on.
  1. When a vehicle gets shot up without a called shot (i.e. at the driver or at DRIVE) how do you determine if, for example, characters were hit? If I fire an RPG at a normal car, if it detonates in the passenger compartment it'll likely kill everyone inside. If it hits the back bumper it'll annihilate it but that's all. Sailing ships, for example, would take all kinds of cannon hits without sinking: apparently what got most of them was not the raw damage from the hull being breached but rather fire.
    • There seem to need to be some rules for "blow-through" (the vehicle is hit but the damage doesn't hit anything vital and it's cosmetic, you lose the radio, etc.)
    • There needs to be a way for a character with defensive SPs to spend them to mitigate hits with vehicular weapons that would kill the whole party: there has to be a reason to get into a vehicle. Your gaming experience should not become totally fragile.
  2. Are there any specific rules for specific maneuvers? If we were playing with counters, how do I move the counter? How do I handle 3D combat? It appears to me that, without resulting to a battle-map, most maneuvers are rolls against vehicle ops skill to accomplish something. Failure may or may not result in a crash (usually not, actually, our current thinking is that crashes are usually the result of either (a) low / no skill and a missed roll or (b) a high-skill level character specifically "risking a crash" to accomplish something harder.
  3.  What are the needed "standard dramas"?
    • Racing Dramas: We have some good ones. We've tested them and they work.
    • Battle Ship Exchange Of Fire Dramas: For fleets or long range combat where maneuver is more strategic (facing of ship rather than exact location--lack of "dodging" and more about being hard to track with guns, and so on) do we have special rules?
    • Dog Fighting: How do we handle situations where a more maneuverable ship tries to out-maneuver several attackers. NOTE: because of the way SP points work, if you have a fairly small number of them, larger numbers of attackers add up fast. Is there some kind of dog-fight drama that simply "prevents being shot at?"
  4. How are vehicles used in "ordinary combat"? For example, what is my roll to run over someone in a car? If I use the car as a weapon with some regularity ... do I pay AP for it? If I am buying "ship's guns" with AP's--ultra long range cannons that (presumably) do a ton of damage ... but never get any closer to "the action" than orbit or a port ... are there rules for that? How do those cost in terms of APs?
  5. How do I charge APs for certain kinds of vehicles?
    • Mad Max's car: almost no one has a car. He has a great one. How many AP is that? How many AP is a cycle?
    • Mal's Space Ship: does a PC pay AP to be "the captain" who owns the ship? Or is that a non-AP convention?  Do PCs pay APs for "better personal fighter-craft?" How about "ugrades for their assigned mecha?" (indications are "yes"--but do we have any guidelines as to how much?)
  6. It appears from research that "vehicular heavy weapons" are quite capable of targeting individual humans (and that is my experience as well as an anti-vehicular wire-guided missile launcher in the army: I hit targets down range that were not much bigger than a playing card sized area. It could have been a person). Furthermore: current fire-control systems seem to almost guarantee a hit if you can line up the targeting system on the target. This makes movement and cover all important in modern vehicular (tank) battles. Do we have some set of rules that (a) covers vehicles and rolls to take cover but also (b) covers on-foot PCs and the need to take cover? If we do not have good rules for how cover protects, facing a military heavy weapon is simply a death sentence and however "realisitc" that is or not, it's not good for the game.
  7. How do different kinds of weapon-mounts work: fixed guns vs. turrets? Indications are that turret guns allow fire in situations where fixed guns don't. Slower moving heavy guns have some kind of modifier that lighter machine guns do not, and so on. Maybe those "dog-fight dramas" allow you to evade fixed guns but not turrets?

There's probably more but ... that's what I got now. 

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