Ranged Combat Needing House-Rules?

stanshinn's picture
stanshinn
September 8, 2014 - 11:17am
Has anyone house-ruled ranged combat in Star Frontiers? This comment from a review indicated ranged combat is a problem: "A major problem for the game was the combat system. Characters had an abysmally low chance of hitting in gun combat. A beginning character had an average chance to hit of less than fifteen percent at medium range, assuming the target took no defensive precautions, and even the most experienced shooter had a thirty-five percent chance to miss under the same conditions." (source:
http://rdushay.home.mindspring.com/Museum/SF/Starfrontiersrevw.html


Just wondering if ranged combat is satisfying as written. I recall playing Star Frontiers at a game run by Steve Winter a couple of years back, and we seemed to feel ranged combat seldom hit. Thoughts?
Comments:

jedion357's picture
jedion357
September 8, 2014 - 3:34pm
Its even worse if you're unskilled; -20 % penalty. What would suggest? I love the 1/2 ability score plus 10%/level mechanic of the fan skill systems in play now for its speed of play. So what dumbing down the range penalties? Do we really need 5 range bands? Maybe reset the medium range penalty to 0 with short having a small bonus and a big bonus for point blank and conversely a small penalty for long and a big penalty for extremely long?

EDIT: Repost of my comment on Google:

 
I don't think Dushay was all that far off though he may have overstated the chances. I've always thought the range modifiers were a little steep; -80 for Extreme.

If you agree that there is a problem then the simplest answer is to change the range band modifiers and leave the system in tact.

For example switch Medium range to +0 and Short to +10 and Point Blank to +20. Conversely Long could be -10, and Extreme to -20. This levels the playing field for medium range and should greatly speed up combat at tighter quarters.

Anecdotal data: Playing a yazirian priest (inspired by David Caradine in Kung Fu) character on Volturnus that had no shooting skills was no handicap as he moved to contact and kicked the dralasite drool out of the pirates rather consistently, both on the Serena Dawn and after the crash. The shooting by the pirates was as bad as the rest of the PCs and the yazirian priest turned out to be a hero with his marital arts especially when the stun effect kicked in for 01-05 plus any doubles that actually hit.?
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

TerlObar's picture
TerlObar
September 8, 2014 - 4:25pm
Wierd I posted this earlier but it doesn't seem to have gone through.  We're also discussing this in Google+ and here's a link to the post:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+StanShinn/posts/aQUEbFGj25A?cfem=1
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Malcadon's picture
Malcadon
September 9, 2014 - 6:06am
The questions is not "Has anyone house-ruled ranged combat in Star Frontiers?", it "What has not been house-ruled in Star Frontiers?" The rules are so fundamentally flawed all around, its easier to use a whole other system!

I have not used the rules in years, as I could not get past the chunkiness of the combat rules, and the limitations with the skill system. One of the annoying aspects of one of my early SF games, was how no one could hit straight during a big chase scene, and even if one could hit, the damage was too light to have any real effect — everyone had too much Endurance, and no damage thresholds to note degrees of injuries.

Ideally, I prefer a simple, abstract "rules-lite" system, so I can resolve the tasks quickly, to keep the action flowing. The only expectation I would take with keeping it K.i.S,S., is the use of variable degrees of injury and rules for suppressive/cover fire, to make combat more believable.

The rules I use for my SF games are a cross between Mini-Six, and Barbarians of Lemuria. Basically, I use the core mechanics of BoL (2d6+Attribute+Skill vs 9+), but with the skill list and (modified) damage system of M6. I also use a BoL-based game called Dogs of W*A*R with rules for suppressive fire and other useful rules for shoot-outs. With how the odds are for range combat in my game, you'll be foolish to stand out in the open, regardless of the range.

Ascent's picture
Ascent
September 9, 2014 - 8:44pm
Real world weapons are generally classed in short, medium and long ranges. Point blank is considered automatic unless the other dodges. Extended range is considered only where there is a scope available, in which the chances are still considered as long range. High quality precision equipment can bring that down to medium range.

I count extended range impossible without a scope. Scopes provide long range and wing a bonus for quality.

The circumstances should be generalized, at GM's discretion, to be either automatic, -20, -10, unmodified, +10, +20 or impossible.
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KRingway's picture
KRingway
September 10, 2014 - 12:48am
Strange. We never had problems with the combat rules and, as several people have pointed out on Google+, it wasn't as tricky as the reviewer makes out. Starting characters do have a somewhat tougher time, but that's par for the course in any RPG. Experience raises your chances of doing better. Characters at initial levels aren't going to be able to hit things over a certain distance, due to lack of skill. That's a no-brainer, I'd say.

I also think that some people assume that shooting at something and actually hitting it with your fire is not all that easy - unless you have experience. Even then it's not a given.

jedion357's picture
jedion357
September 10, 2014 - 1:56am
There is also the difference between shooting on a range and shooting in combat, they are not the same experience. Thats obvious but it cannot be underscored how stressful actual combat is. For example a friend of the family back in Maine, who could shoot, had an encounter with a big white tail deer while hunting where he emptied the magazine at a running deer (this particular shot gun is actually illegal in that it holds more that the 3 rounds allowed by law). He missed everytime and the experience so rattled his nerves that he never hunted again.

If I had to apply a game mechanic to his experience I would say that his 7 misses were more a function of a failed PER check to remain calm under pressure than a lack of skill.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Malcadon's picture
Malcadon
September 10, 2014 - 6:54am
jedion357 wrote:
If I had to apply a game mechanic to his experience I would say that his 7 misses were more a function of a failed PER check to remain calm under pressure than a lack of skill.

That is why I like fire-suppression/cover fire rules. You can pin someone down — preventing them for moving or firing back — and you don't need to be accurate about it. This is the reason why we have fire-teams: one group shoots at the enemy, while the other group takes the opportunity to move from one cover to the next.

___________________________________________________

One thing I forgot to note before, is that I treat the action as being more or less simultaneous. Actions are prioritized, so that Movers move first, but they can be interrupted by Shooters, and when that is all done, all damage that was taken in this phase now takes effect. Anyone who got into melee range in that phase are locked in hand-to-hand combat. The the Shooters who have yet to fire can now shoot, and when that is all done, all damage that was taken in this phase now takes effect. And on finally, anyone in hand-to-hand combat can now slug it out — attack rolls are based on who can overwhelm who. As usual, damage takes effect when all HtH combat is resolved.

The vary concept of "Initiative" — or Group Initiative — in my games are based on one side gaining a tactical insight on what their opponents are planing, so they can react to it. The concept of "Individual Initiative" (Reaction Speed) is only used to resolve disputes form above steps. e.g. if two men are shooting at each other, the one with the highest RS shoots before the other. Group Initiative works by having the side that lost declare their actions first, so that the side won can declare their actions based on what they just heard.

Group Initiative is based on the Intuition of a group's respective leader, with penalties applied to groups with no party cohesion or leadership.

Reaction Speed is based on Reflex: an Attribute used for Reflex-based saves.

As I only need one social based Attribute, I folded Leadership into Personality, and replaced it with Willpower. This new stat is used to resist physiological effects, and to keep one's cool under fire — like resisting the effects of getting pinned by enemy fire.

jedion357's picture
jedion357
September 10, 2014 - 7:06am
Two Hour Wargames has an interesting and cinematic mechanic that works well whether you are doing a mass battle, skirmish or quasi- role play sort of table top figure action. On a skirmish or smaller level a figure that was shot at performs a "I've been shot at test" which could result in ducking, shooting back or freezing in place. I rather liked that feature. Plus there is the stated promise in the title as to how long the wargame will take.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

KRingway's picture
KRingway
September 11, 2014 - 12:41am
1st edition Twilight:2000 has something called 'Coolness Under Fire' (CuF), a stat which is created and modified by how long your character has been in service and in combat. Admittedly this from a game in which a serious global war, culminating in a nuclear one, has been raging for four years and players might have been in combat for a few years (and may have seen combat in earlier wars). Either way, CuF affects how often your character is likely to hesitate during a combat round when under fire. All characters, unless they have a high CuF, have to hesitate for one round or more during a combat phase (six rounds, IIRC). This models freezing, ducking, and various other things bought on by the moment-to-moment stress of shooting and being fired at. It works very well.

Similarly, your chance to hit with any given weapon depends on skill and range, and even characters with high shooting skills can still miss unless it's at very close to point blank range. Skills go up to a value of 100 (which takes a long time and a lot of experience), and even with a skill of 100 you only have a 60% chance of hitting anything within a certain range. Often as not, you have a lower chance, thanks to various modifiers and the fact that getting to a skill level of 100 is very rare. You usually don't survive long enough.

Either way, I think Star Frontiers does things well enough. Combat featured quite a lot in our games and, like I said, we never had any problems with it. Ditto for the Zeb's Guide rules.

Stormcrow's picture
Stormcrow
September 12, 2014 - 8:53am
I consider the whiffiness of Star Frontiers combat to be a feature, not a flaw.

In a high-technology science-fiction game, everyone wants guns. If guns are realistically effective and deadly, then BAM! you're dead, make a new character.

Think of Star Frontiers weapons as being more like Star Wars gunfire: a LOT of misses. When you're hit for a few points of Stamina, you've been grazed. It's not until you reach 0 Stamina that you get shot full in the body.

Jaxon's picture
Jaxon
September 12, 2014 - 10:32am
My PCs usually have a 30-40% to hit with starting characters. That gives it the Star Wars effect - like Stormcrow said. After about 3 shots - one usually hits. Unless the thing they are fighting is an elephant - after a few hits - it's dead. Sometimes, the creature/person realizes - DANG I got hit a couple of times! I better leave before I get DEAD! And then the bad guy flees. It is up to the GM to make it effective. If the PCs miss A LOT, the GM can go with the one-shot/one-kill! "Gee Bob, you only did 15 points of damage but, you hit the Dralasite Thug in the head. He's dead. The human thug flees and the vrusk thug surrenders!" After a lot of misses - it is up to the GM to keep the game going and not kill it with rules. Wink

Abub's picture
Abub
September 24, 2014 - 6:52pm
I'm considering capping the max SEU settings on lasers.... 5 for a standard pistol, 10 for a standard rifle heavy laser would still be 20.

How do you think that would effect the balance with defenses?

I'm worried lasers are just totally OP compared to the other weapons in the game.
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TerlObar's picture
TerlObar
September 24, 2014 - 7:49pm
I think that mainly it would be fine.  The main effect would be to make combats a bit longer.  Unless you're house ruling that albedo screens only block half damage and not all damage.  Then it probably wouldn't make much difference.  I agree that they are a bit strong but when you're up against a foe armed with an albedo screen and a belt pack, it takes about 50 SEU of fire power to drain that 50 SEU beltpack unless you roll very well.  At lower power settings, that just means longer fights.
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jedion357's picture
jedion357
September 25, 2014 - 7:30pm
The other part of high SEU settings for lasers is resource management.

At High power settings a rifle drains a clip in one shot and a pistol in two.
Changing a clip takes one turn where you cant do much else.

if using a power belt or backpack for the laser weapon it means you might not be using a screen.
If using a screen and laser on a belt and backpack then the character is probably weighted down and moving at half speed.

Personally I set pistols to 5 for 2 rounds of shooting before a clip change and rifles to 10 or 5 for 1 or 2 rounds of shooting. Belt pack powers the screen if I have one and I try very hard to not carry kilos in excess of 1/2 my character's STR.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Jaxon's picture
Jaxon
September 26, 2014 - 6:54am
interesting!

Ascent's picture
Ascent
September 26, 2014 - 11:25am
Ways of storing energy are advancing to smaller and lighter applications. In a future such as would have power backbacks, I doubt the pack would be either large or heavy. The tendency is that lighter conductive materials store more energy. As technology advances, how to make the materials lighter and smaller is of paramount concern. While the pack may be noticibly weighty, I seriously doubt it would hamper movement.
View my profile for a list of articles I have written, am writing, will write.
"It's yo' mama!" —Wicket W. Warrick, Star Wars Ep. VI: Return of the Jedi
"That guy's wise." —Logray, Star Wars Ep.VI: Return of the Jedi
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jedion357's picture
jedion357
September 27, 2014 - 2:07am
The rule is once the kilos carried reaches 1/2 your STR your speed is cut in half. This stacks with pain penalty of 1/2 your STA cutting your speed in half. Power belts and backpacks have weight. By themselves they dont cut your speed but they could contribute.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Ascent's picture
Ascent
September 27, 2014 - 8:44am
A can of peas could contribute. :P
View my profile for a list of articles I have written, am writing, will write.
"It's yo' mama!" —Wicket W. Warrick, Star Wars Ep. VI: Return of the Jedi
"That guy's wise." —Logray, Star Wars Ep.VI: Return of the Jedi
Do You Wanna Date My Avatar? - Felicia Day (The Guild)

jedion357's picture
jedion357
September 28, 2014 - 11:04am
True but the can of peas would likely be like all the other things on the equipment list that are N/A for wt. like grenades, clips and gas masks- I think the game designers were wise in that they did not require players to keep track of every little thing. Of course that does open the system up for some abuse when a player has his character carry 50 grenades becasue they have no wt. Still I like the system as is but with a house rule for the number of grenades and clips a character can carry or X number of grenades or clips equals a kilo
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!