Friday, January 22, 2016

Psi-Wars: The First Iteration Playtest

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Now that we have a basic setting, we should go ahead and look at how it works.  A simple mental experiment is enough: By walking through how the game plays, we'll see where there are holes, and where it performs well.  This will guide our next iteration of the setting.

We already have our three characters, the Space Knight Dun Beltain, the "Diplomat" Leylana Grey, and the Bounty Hunter Felinoid Kendra Corleoni.  We also have some basic, well-armored troopers.

Let's fight!

While it won't cover every aspect of our game (Chase scenes? Tense negotiations? Stealth?) combat is pretty central to our game, so a decent fight scene is pretty necessary for our game.

Setting the Stage

Leylana and her friends are on the Willow Star, a luxury cruise ship, when it is suddenly boarded by the sinister forces of the Empire!  Hyperlaser fire rocks the ship, explosions burst, and people run screaming, while Dun, Kendra and Leylana make their way to the escape pods.  Meanwhile, 6 troopers approach them!  Three are making a bee-line for our heroes, while three more are moving to flank them.

The three that make the frontal assault announce their presence by blasting open a wall with a charge, and then laying in fire on the heroes.

We start with 6 troopers, because 2-to-1 odds should be easily defeated by Psi-Wars heroes.  If it's not, then we have a problem.  We'll treat the troopers as mooks: They will not roll defense, they will not use fancy options, and a single point of damage will take them out.

Fight!

An explosion rips open the wall nearby, but moments before that, Dun and Kendra get a chance to roll their danger sense (Leylana lacks danger sense, and so can do nothing).  This doesn't actually count as "Surprise!" since the characters expect trouble, they just don't expect an exploding wall, and also, I don't want to bother with the Mental Stun rules (in any case, all three have Combat Reflexes).

Kendra has an IQ of 11, and barely succeeds.  She knows to take cover and she fast-draws her guns.  Dun has an IQ of 12 and +1 ESP talent, so he rolls a 13 or less, and handily succeeds and also takes cover and readies his force sword.  Leylana is caught flat footed.

The soldiers blow the wall, which sends sharp (1d cutting) fragments bursting out.  Kendra and Dun are safe, but Leylana takes a hit for a total of 3 damage (2, no DR, and cutting bonus).

Turn 1

The troopers get to act first.

The troopers attack, each firing three shots. They are at a distance of 10 yards (-4 to hit) and fire three shots each. Kendra and Dun are in cover (-2 to hit exposed bits) and Leylana is exposed. They hit Kendra and Dun on a 8 or less, and Leylana on a 10 or less.  The soldiers miss Leylana and Kendra, but one trooper manages to hit Dun with all three shots.  Dun cannot attempt to parry (his forcesword isn't activated, and even if it was, he lacks Parry Missile Weapon and Precognitive Parry.  That's a serious oversight). All three shots hit the torso, but none penetrate its DR.

Kendra comes out of cover (pop-up attack, -0 for a gun-slinger), doesn't actually move (+Acc to her shots). She makes makes a duel weapon attack (-4) at an enemy's faceplate (-5) ten yards away (-4) and does the same with her left hand (-4) at a separate target.  She has effective skill 22, and with her penalties, she'll hit on a 9 or less, or a 5 or less.  Both shots miss.

Dun activates his force sword. It will finish forming at the end of his turn.  He remains behind cover and sinks lower to avoid any further shots.

Leylana takes cover immediately, fast-draws her pistol (10, -3 from shock, and she barely succeeds), and then aims her pistol at one of the men, requiring her to expose her arm, head, neck and half her torso.

Turn 2

Only Leylana is exposed enough to attack, but only half of her torso is showing: the troopers will hit her on a 8 or less.  None of the shots hit.

Kendra pops back out for her shot.  She gains her accuracy bonus because she is a Gunslinger.  This time she makes a shot with her right hand at the trooper's legs (-2) who is ten yards away (-4).  She has an effective skill of 17.  She hits (Troopers do not defend), and she rolls 14 damage The Trooper's legs have an effective DR of 12, so the shot penetrates.  A single point of damage is enough to remove him.  He goes down.

Dun's blade has materialized.  Before he can say what he'll do, the GM asks him to roll Danger Sense.  He does so and succeeds and "has a bad feeling about this."  He looks to the side just in time to see the three flanking soldiers, who fire at the unprotected party. No shot hits (by GM fiat: In 3e, it was known as the "Imperial Stormtrooper Marskmanship Academy" rule) and Dun charges them. He is able to cover the distance in one turn and make an attack (-5 Move and Attack) for a 9. He misses, but he certainly has their attention.

Leylana fires at the faceplate of one of the troopers (-5) who is 10 yards away (-4). She gains +5 accuracy from her aiming, so she has an effective skill of 9 or less. She hits!  Her weapon does 10 damage vs the effective DR of 4, dealing enough to take him out.  One trooper remains. She crouches again,

Turn 3

The remaining trooper (of the first set) waits for Kendra to pop up before firing.

The three troopers with Dun attempt to fight Dun.  All three attack him.  He's one yard away from all three, so not in CQB, thus they have no penalties.  All will hit on a 14 or less. All three hit.  Dun chooses to parry all three.  Because he's trained by a master, he's at -2 per parry, not -4.  He manages to parry the first attack, but not the other two.  This "parrying" parries the weapons, not the blaster beam.  The force sword also damages anything it parries... including the guns!  The troopers gun is sliced in half (a mook weapon will be destroyed with a single point of damage, but practically, a blaster carbine has about 7 hp and DR 4, and the force sword does an average of 28 damage and reduces the DR to 1. This is sufficient to force a few survival checks with the weapon, so I have no problem shorthanding all of that by declaring it dead).  The remaining two attacks deal 9 attack to the leg (effective DR of 12) and 14 to the torso (effective DR of 20), thus deal no damage to Dun.

Kendra rises up and fires at the faceplate(-5) of the remaining trooper (-4) with her right-hand pistol (+5 acc).  Before she can attack, though, the trooper gets to fire (he Waited).  She is partially exposed (-2) and 10 yards away (-4). He hits on an 8 or less.  A success!  She needs to dodge, and she does so on a 9 or less but fails.  The shot hits her light clamshell, reducing its effective DR to 12, and deals 9 damage... not enough to penetrate the armor. She'll hit on a 13 or less. She does so, and inflicts 20 damage vs his effective DR of 5, which is more than enough to remove him from play.

Dun makes an All-Out Attack (Double) against the two remaining armed troopers.  He'll hit on a 14 or less. Both attacks hit, and one is a critical ("Treat any damage as a major wound")!  His attacks deal 33 and 32 damage vs their effective DR of 20, both doing more than enough damage to remove them (the critical hit fellow is severed in half and dies gurgling).

Leylana turns and aims her pistol at the remaining, unarmed trooper.

Turn 4

The remaining unarmed trooper drops his useless, smoking weapon, and flees.  Kendra rises to pursue him, but Dun lifts his hand to stop her. "Let him go." He says.

Thoughts

I had expected this fight to go quicker, honestly.  Six mooks should be a cake-walk for our heroes.  Instead, it was a bit of a struggle, but partially because the characters are poorly built, often with very inefficient choices foisted upon them by the Space templates.  I wanted Kendra to be a dual-wielder, but the Bounty Hunter template had no such options, and she wasn't able to deal with the problem with her own skill.  Thus, she's better off making direct shots.  She turned out to be much less impressive than I expected, and came in second behind Dun for effectiveness.

Leylana was less useless than I thought she would be.  I assumed her pistol would be unable to deal with the hardsuits, but the hardsuits proved to be a mixed bag: If you can aim for a hit location, they're too easy to kill, but if you can't, they're too hard to kill. Leylana had no problem aiming.  Also, the troopers proved to be terrible shots (thanks to not aiming).  She's the only one to take any damage (a total of 3, reducing her to 9 HP).

Dun proved far more capable than I expected, though most of his defense came from his armor, which was not my original intent for a Space Knight.  Clearly, the space knights need work.  That said, the force sword far exceeded my expectations.  He utterly destroyed opponents who got into melee range with him.  I'm less worried about melee characters keeping up with blaster characters in this setting, though I should note that I started the enemy very close to the group and I did this expressly to make melee and pistol-based combat more viable, which suits our Star-Wars knock-off.

The troopers weren't very dangerous, probably because carbines just don't have enough punch. On the other hand, a single tossed grenade might have ruined everyone's day.  They seemed threatening enough to me to be a believable threat, while still relatively easily defeated.

Having seen this in action, I'm more pleased than I thought I would be.  If I sat down with a group of players who knew nothing about GURPS, I expect they'd have a pretty good time with these characters and these rules.  The First Iteration works. The Space Templates do what they set out to do, Ultra-Tech provides enough material for a decent fight scene, and GURPS, as the backing ruleset, makes for some dramatic and exciting fight scenes.

That said, the Templates in Space are very sparse, more starting points full of core elements than really fully fleshed-out characters.  They also lack the optimization that we see in later templates, like those from DF.  We're also missing some really vital stuff, like decent psi powers and martial arts.  We could also afford to vastly expand this setting.  We have one alien, a handful of templates, and a smattering of tech.

You could run Psi-Wars this way, but I want more.  I think I can do better.
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