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Snap Shots

07 Mar

I had a few real-world-to-gaming thoughts that I wanted to share today.

These came to me around 6 a.m. this morning after I ran out the front door, barefoot, into the snow, and started shooting my air pistol at the raccoon on my roof who was trying to break into my attic.

Again.

Welcome to Ohio.

After I’d calmed down and warmed my feet back up, in an effort to not curse like a sailor and wake up my kids, I started thinking about the encounter in gaming terms. I was figuring up my bonuses and penalties. On the plus side I have a reasonable base skill with a pistol, the target was at short range, and I had surprise.

However the light was poor, the target was small, I had taken a move action, the air gun has no accuracy bonus, I sure as hell didn’t take a round to aim, and it was the very definition of a snap shot.

My Rate of Fire was two shots before the raccoon took its own move action to run over the peak of the roof and broke line-of-sight. I know I came close, I heard one BB ricochet off the gutter the thing was next to, but I don’t think I actually hit the furry raider.

My conclusion, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has gone hunting, is that penalties stack up fast. I’m a passably good shot at the range. If I have daylight, a stationary target, and a chance to aim I can reliably hit something smaller than a raccoon at several times the distance we were at this morning. But change a few factors and it all goes through the floor.

I might be a little more understanding the next time I’m playing GURPS and I can’t hit anything during a running gun battle.

*****

The other thing I realized is that, as gamers, we take it for granted that we will know the results of an attack. The players roll the dice, the GM tells us if we hit or not, then the players roll the damage and know how hard they hit the target.

Reality isn’t like that. I know I missed once, but I have no idea if the other shot hit or not and if it did hit I don’t know where. I’ve read similar things in accounts from combat zones. If a soldier has a clear view of his or her target, chances are they know what happens after they pull the trigger. But if the soldier is under fire, the target has cover, or it is night, there is a good chance the soldier will not know if they hit or not, let alone how injured their target is.

This is one of those areas where we defer to ease of play over semblance of realism. As a GM I have enough to handle. I don’t want to be rolling for my players too. As a player I want to be making the rolls. I want the illusion that my hand guiding the random number generator makes a difference.

But maybe, just once, it would be fun to try a game where the GM handles all the combat. The GM rolls the players’ To Hit rolls and their damage. If there are any mitigating circumstances the players would have to roll perception checks to figure out if they hit their target and how much damage they did.

The novelty would wear off fast, but for one game session it might add an interesting element of tension.

In the meantime, I have plans to make for my fuzzy adversary. I think I’ll prepare a little surprise for him, maybe something out of Grimtooth’s guides.

Guardians-Of-The-Galaxy

I better stop him soon, before he has a chance to call in Groot.

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4 responses to “Snap Shots

  1. Matt

    March 7, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    I don’t think you’re thinking this through all the way.

    First, you are trying to apply your example of combat with a missile weapon to combat with all weapons and fighting styles. While it might be hard to tell if you’ve hit with a missile weapon (though sometimes, you can be pretty certain of even that), you usually can tell whether your blow with a melee weapon or a part of body has connected with a high degree of certainty. Am I really going to have to roll a perception check to see if my sword blow or fist connected with the target standing in front of me?

    Second, if you are going to roll the To Hit rolls as a GM, then you should also have to roll EVERY skill check for ALL the skills because a To Hit roll is really just a measure of if you are skilled enough to hit a target with the weapon you’re wielding. So if we’re going to bring the certainty of that skill check into question, a GM should roll all skills and then have the player roll a perception roll to see if they’ve succeeded in an investigation, scientific experiment, or social interaction since those too would be in question.

    That’s a ton of work for you as a GM and minimizes the player’s roll in playing their character. However, I think there’s a way to get the result you want without taking this burden of making all skill rolls upon yourself. Ask yourself the following question: What was the raccoon’s stat template?

    What did the raccoon need to roll to make his dodge? Did this raccoon possess a thicker hide than its brethren, thus upping its AC or DR? Is it immune to attacks by missile weapons?

    Now as the PC in this real world scenario, you don’t know any of this information. You merely assume that this raccoon’s stats are the same as other raccoons, and therefore that it will take the same damage as others of its kind. And while your assumptions are pretty safe to make in the real world, they aren’t safe to make in a game because the GM might have tweaked the template.

    However tweaked templates are only part of the solution. Most GMs (myself included) then ruin the effect by informing players whether they’ve hit or killed the creature, only calling for damage rolls on a successful attack. However unless the player knows they’ve missed, call for the damage roll anyway even if the creature dodged or the attack didn’t get through its AC/DR. Let them reign down blow upon blow on the creature as much as they want and then roll a perception check when the player calls for it to judge how much damage (if any) they’re inflicting on the creature.

    Also take a lesson from your raccoon and have it retreat before it’s taken any damage. A thing I’m guilty of as a GM is that my foes don’t retreat or play dead until they’ve been done a significant amount of damage and will die if successfully attacked again. However your raccoon retreated right away, leaving the state of its health in real question. Did you do it damage enough to drive it away or is it biding its time for a counter strike. Only time or further investigation will tell. And if you use this tactic against your players, they’ll be at the same disadvantage and vulnerable to a counter strike if they automatically think they were successful in their attacks.

     
    • Fractalbat

      March 7, 2014 at 12:14 PM

      “First, you are trying to apply your example of combat with a missile weapon to combat with all weapons and fighting styles.”

      Not really. A clear view would fall under the mitigating circumstances I mentioned, and refers back to the idea that a soldier with a clear view would know if he or she hit, but wouldn’t if they were under fire, etc… In hand-to-hand you’ll know if you hit or not. Though you might not know how much damage you’re doing.

      “then you should also have to roll EVERY skill ”

      That depends on what I’m trying to do. If I’m just trying to add an element of uncertainty to a firefight, then rolling everything is not necessary. It’s like how some games have sanity or mental stability rolls and others don’t, it depends on what you’re trying to replicate with that game.

      I do like to roll reaction rolls for social interactions myself, though I don’t do it often enough.

      “However unless the player knows they’ve missed, call for the damage roll anyway even if the creature dodged or the attack didn’t get through its AC/DR.”

      That’s an interesting idea. It dives into the whole, “are hit points just health or a nebulous overall defense,” discussion. That could have legs.

      “A thing I’m guilty of as a GM is that my foes don’t retreat or play dead…”

      You and me both. Probably my most frequent GM-ing sin is forgetting to make morale checks.

       
      • Matt

        March 7, 2014 at 7:28 PM

        “Not really. A clear view would fall under the mitigating circumstances I mentioned, and refers back to the idea that a soldier with a clear view would know if he or she hit, but wouldn’t if they were under fire, etc… In hand-to-hand you’ll know if you hit or not. Though you might not know how much damage you’re doing.”

        While it probably was not your intent, you tried to use this raccoon incident to suggest trying “a game where the GM handles all the combat” and players are making perception rolls to see how well they did. Now we’re agreed that use of melee weapons that I mentioned and circumstances like a clear view would increase the certainty as to whether you hit something or not, but “a game where the GM handles all the combat” does not allow for these circumstantial exceptions.

        If you want to apply the GM rolling all combat rolls to only situations where there are intense firefights going on so that a fog of war effect is produced, it might be worth trying and certainly less taxing than a full game where the GM is making all the combat rolls. However I think there are easier ways to go about it.

        The easiest method is probably not telling your players the penalties they are facing when they make an attack roll. If the target is firing from cover, mention that in the description but don’t tell the player what penalty it imposes or what they need to roll to hit. As long as they don’t crit fail, have them roll damage while keeping the tally of how well they’re hitting and how much damage they’re doing secret from the player. The players never know how many hit points a target starts off with, so they will soon be calling the effectiveness of their attacks into questions if they don’t know which shots are landing, how much damage the armor is soaking, etc.

        However if you don’t want to be using the GM screen as cover and aspire to having your actions and rolls open to the players, have the players roll for other skills when circumstances require it. In a recent CoC game I ran, the players got ambushed at night by firearm-wielding cultist and had to roll Spot Hidden checks to peer through the darkness and foliage in order to find targets to shoot at. It made the combat a lot tougher and more tension-filled since the players couldn’t get a count of the cultists or always ascertain their location from round to round. This scenario also led to one of the players getting gunned down because he stepped into an position he thought was safe only to be gunned down by cultists he hadn’t seen.

         
  2. The Rambling Roleplayer

    March 9, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    I’m ok with the idea of not telling the players what their modifiers are and just having them roll the die.If they are firing at a target in cover or there is some other circumstance where it may be uncertain if they hit their target, I would have them roll their damage dice each time they rolled to hit and then note the results without telling them. Of course if the player rolled really high or low they could make reasonable assumptions about what happened, but this doesn’t seem to out of line with what you are trying to achieve; the shooter would likely have some idea that his shot was particularly well placed or if it was very poor. But most shots would end up in the middle ground, where the shooter wouldn’t be sure if they hit or not. In the raccoon example, we could assume that the shot that ricocheted off the gutter was the result of a low roll, while the one that may or may not have hit fell in the middle ground.

     

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