Friday, February 26, 2016

Psi Wars: the Second Iteration -- Playtest!

Galaxy Saga: Lance Wielder Regular by Ukutakumuki

At last, I let rubber meet the road, and we see how well "theory" holds up against the hard edges of "practice."  Same scenario as before: A simple fight between our three characters and some troopers, acknowledging the new designs and the rule-set we've added.  Again, we won't cover every possible situation.  Instead, we're doing this as a sort of "sanity check."  Do things hold up?  Do they work out like we expect?  What pops out?  What can we improve on?


The explosions rocking the Willow Star cease, and occupants of the ship feel the thuds of boarding vessels slamming into the hull.

"We need to move," Dun Beltain growls, but Lady Grey is already ahead of him, gliding through the halls of the luxury cruiser as though she owned them.

Ambushing the Party: 

The Empire has presumably tracked Lady Grey to the Willow Star, but how do we actually track her?  The first, obvious way is "With a tracker." Planting a bug on her would require a contest of her Observation vs an opponent's Sleight-of-hand, or someone could have planted it in her luggage with a Smuggling roll. Leylana is good enough to spot someone trying to put something on her (Observation), so it would have to be something she carries or something given to her.  That might be possible.  If she has a tracker on her person, she needs to either use a bug-hunter, or find it directly. None of the characters are good enough with a bug-hunter (Despite Space Knights actually having that option), so she is forced to do a basic search: She needs to beat her opponent's Smuggling + 11 (SM of the tracker) with her Search of 15.  She will not succeed.  She's being tracked!

(Ultra-Tech makes bug-hunting Surveillance vs Surveillance, while Action makes it Security vs Surveillance.  An interesting contradiction)

Following her signal on the ship, a squad of six shock troopers make their way through the vessel, ignoring the whimpering cries or panicked screams of the passengers.  They reach a wall near a passage that they expect Lady Grey will be passing through.  The Heavy Trooper lays a charge...

The updated ambush rules (sorry for this, those GURPS fans who lack my extensive collection) are on page 37-38 of DF 16: Wilderness.  Our party cannot see the troopers, but they might hear them.  I choose to levy a -4 (equivalent to wearing helmets) to the character's hearing rolls representing the thin wall between the characters and the targets.  The shock troopers have a Stealth of 12.  Leylana has an observation of 15 (Effectively 11), Dun has a 14 (Effectively 10), and Kendra has a 15 with a +2 for acute hearing, giving her a staggering 17 (Effectively 13). The soldiers roll an 8, beating their Stealth by 4. Lelyana rolls a 9 and beats her Observation by 2, Dun rolls a 13 and fails, and Kendra rolls and 8, beating her Observation by 5, which is enough to pick them up at 16 yards away.

Leylana's long-legged stride brings them to a large supply chamber, the floor scattered with crates.  The red lights of alarm flare and Dun is about to ask where she's taking them when Kendra stops.  Her pointed ears twitch and she growls "Anyone else hear that?"  The group pauses, Dun shakes his head and opens his mouth to say something, but Kendra hushes him.  "That..."

"Beeping." Leylana finishes her sentence, looking at the same wall that holds Kendra's gaze.  Suddenly, Kendra's golden eyes widen "Bomb!"

An instant later, the wall explodes in a shower of hot, metal shards. Through the smoke, six armored figures charge forward, shouting for the three to put their weapons down.  The GM rules each character must dodge or suffer 1d cut damage from the shrapnel.  Kendra barely misss her dodge, but her bioplas body suit (DR 5 + DR 1 of her own) absorbs the blow (3).  Leylana is also struck, but takes only a single point of damage: a bit of blood ruins the sleeve of her fabulous dress.

Turn 1

The three stand in the center of a large storage room.  The dim red glow of the emergency lights are enough to apply a -2 to vision, scattered piles of crates reach all the way to the ceiling and provide plenty of cover.  The sirens wail dimly over the ringing in our heroes ears (except for Dun, whose helmet provides him with hearing protection) and the shouts of the troopers.  The room is large enough that the conflict begins at "Medium" (-7) range. The same distance stands between our heroes and the exit, and Leylana and whatever item she was trying to fetch before leaving the ship.

There are six troopers: Four "standard" troopers, one heavy with a heavy blaster, and one assault trooper with a neurolash baton (in addition to his carbine).

Leylana and Kendra are tied for speed and DX, so the GM decides Kendra goes first because she successfully detected the enemy attack.  Kendra agilely leaps forward, tucks and rolls right into cover, and as she reaches her feet again, she fast-draws her pistol, levels it and fires.  Movement in Exploits seems to always be chase rolls, but I'm not really sure how to handle it, so I'm going to wing it and say that if she succeed at her acrobatics roll, she closes by a band: Kendra is making an Acrobatic Run (a tumble) towards the enemy.  She succeeds at her acrobatics roll (13). She is now at Short-Range, with the lower half of her torso and legs hidden behind some crates for cover.  Kendra moved (-0, Gunslinger), her opponents are a Short distance away (-3), in a dimly lit room (-2) (Felinoids don't have Night Vision why?) and she's firing at their faceplate (-5) for three shots (+0). She needed a 6, she rolled a 10.  Her bright red blaster bolts splatter around the soldiers.

Leylana opts to slip into the shadows amidst all of this smoke and bedlam.  She needs to roll Stealth at -5 (battle) and she's at -1 from shock: She has an effective skill of 10, she rolls 10 and vanishes.

Dun Readies his force buckler, Fast-Draws his force sword (Skill 14) and activates it all in the same turn, as well as taking a step towards the enemy. Wommmm.

The Troopers:
The assault trooper and two supporting troopers charge at Dun, firing their blasters at him.  All three fire on the move (-3), in a dimly lit room (-0: they have IR visors), while now at short range from him (-3). The troopers need a 7, while the assault trooper needs a 9. None hit.  Their shower of red blaster fires smokes and scores the floor plating around Dun's unimpressed feet.

The heavy shouts out to the rest of the soldiers "Locate Lady Grey!" But he cannot see her in the dust and smoke, despite the tracker telling him she should be there, so the troopers lay down covering fire, mostly focused at Kendra (-2 from Acrobatics and/or cover), in the dimly lit room (-0) at short range (-3). The troopers need a 7, while the heavy needs a 9.  The first trooper scores a critical hit, but Kendra uses her luck to make him reroll twice, and "luckily" he misses: the wild blasts of his friends sent down an avalanche of minor supplies, and falling debris catch his blaster bolts.  The second trooper hits: Kendra has a dodge of 10 + 2 from acrobatics, and manages to evade the blast.  The heavy misses her, his massive blast bursting another pile of supplies in the pile just behind her.

Turn 2

Kendra lets off another three shots at a trooper's faceplate.  She's still at short range (-3) in a dimly lit room (-2), and she's shooting at his faceplate (-5), but she remained still (+5), for a total of 11 or less. she hits with all three shots!  The trooper attempts to dodge, but fails, and is very dead (the first shot deals 11 damage vs 5 DR, and then then she deals another 19-5 and 11-5, for a total of 26 damage, which would kill him even if he wasn't a mook).  She soldier doesn't even have a chance to scream before he dies. She then drops behind her cover, fully concealed.

Leylana is hidden.  The rules state she may immediately attack "the nearest foe", but she wants to maneuver around.  The basic stealth rules require that she roll a contest of stealth (17) vs their perception (12).  The standard modifier for "in combat" is -5, but the GM chooses to waive it given that she's not engaging in combat, and her enemy is focused on the remaining characters.  so it's 17 vs 12: She rolls 6, a critical success, and is able to rapidly advance.  She moves to the rear of the encounter, behind the heavy.

Dun's force sword has fully materialized. Dun lifts his stoney eyes at the troopers charging him and he bull-rushes them in return.  He makes a move-and-attack slam with his shield. Dun closes to Close and rolls Shield (14) (No vision penalties: Dun has an IR visor) to hit and succeeds.  The first trooper fails to defend, and thus is hit: Dun deals 1d+3 damage and rolls 7 damage vs his opponent's 5, thus he can knock him down (Neither takes actual damage, thanks to their DR).  The trooper rolls an 11 and he falls to the ground with a heavy thud.

Of the fire-team with the heavy, the one remaining trooper readies a grenade from his bandolier, intending to toss it at her next turn. The heavy brings his large weapon to bear on the Space Knight he just watched hammer one of his allies into the ground: Dun is at short range from him (-3) and so he needs an 11 or less to hit, and does so.  Dun has a dodge of 9, which is improved to 12 by the shield.  He rolls a 14, which means he'll be hit square in the chest by an 8d(5) blaster fire (The equivalent of being hit with a force sword), and so elects to use his Luck and rolls a 10.  That's still not enough except for his shield, so his shield takes the hit: Effective DR of 33 vs 29 points of damage.  The buckler glows hot from the hit, but holds fast.

The assault trooper drops his carbine and fast-draws his neurolash baton and attacks. Dun has a parry of 12 (+3 from his shield, for 15). He parries with his force sword and destroys the assault trooper's baton.  The standing trooper fires (-0 for range) and hits, but Dun parries him, destroying the blaster.  The fallen trooper panics and fires up at Dun (-2 from being down), and just barely misses (Can we parry a missed shot?).

Turn 3

Kendra pops back out of cover (-2 normally, but -0 because she's a gunslinger) and instantly spots the readied grenade in her opponent's hand as he begins to prepare it for throwing.  She elects to fire at it: She's at -3 due to range, -2 due to lighting, and -5 due to the size of the weapon, but +5 due to being a stationary Gunslinger, and she'll hit on a 11 or less. She rolls an 11, while the shock trooper fails to defend, so she asks the GM if her shot can ignite it.  It's just a mook, so he agrees: The grenade explodes, dealing 6dx4 explosive damage and she rolls a total of 124 damage. The trooper's DR against large area attack is about 60, so he takes, er, more than 1 point of damage and dies.  There is no fragmentation.

Leylana makes another stealth roll, this time at -5 for combat(12) vs the best goon's 12. She rolls a 9, they roll a 13, and so she is able to sneak up on her prey. She taps the Heavy on the shoulder. He turns, she smirks and then blasts him in the face!  She has no range penalty, vision penalties are at -2, and the face is -5 to hit, giving her a total of 7 or less to hit him (That seems rather difficult, but it's sort of a known problem in GURPS).  She actually manages to roll a 7, and deals 12 damage to his effective DR of 5, which is enough to "take him out," as he's a mook.

Dun is no longer in any danger from the remaining mooks, so he makes an All-Out Attack (Double), first on the assault mook and then on his owned opponent.  He makes the attack deceptive (-1) vs the assault trooper, and hits.  The assault trooper needs a 6 or less to dodge and fails, taking 24 damage vs his effective DR 20 chest, and is taken out.  Against the downed trooper, he makes a non-deceptive attack against his weapon (-4) for a 13 or less and hits.  The downed character needs a 5 or less to defend and fails.  His blaster carbine is destroyed.

The downed trooper drops his ruined remains of a blaster and begins to get up.  The remaining trooper readies his pistol.

Turn 4

Kendra rounds on the remaining two troopers and roars.  She has penetrating voice, which the GM deems worth +1 because it'll startle them, and he notes the extreme show of strength that the party just made as a +4, and Kendra's gun is worth a +3 (an Action rule), so she has an effective intimidation of 21, and intimidation in combat is -5, so she needs a 16 or less. She rolls a 9, and the remaining two will take their turn to bolt.

"They'll inform their superiors of my presence." Leylana says as she slips her blaster back into hand bag, so as not to ruin the lines of her dress, and then saunters over to a small, out of the way chest, that she had been seeking in the first place.

"Let them.  They clearly already knew where we were.  And what was so important that you had to come here?" Dun asks?

"This," she says, taking a data chip from the chest. "The secret to bringing down the empire."


Well, that was much more dramatic, but the additional detail came from somewhere: the Action rules.  Consider the ambush.  Previously, I simply had an ambush because nothing in the ruleset, nor the templates, really encouraged me to think twice about it.  The ship was a dungeon, the troopers were orcs, they ambushed the heroes, end of story.  Action heroes would rightly cry foul and ask to know how the troopers knew, and would discuss their communication protocols and how they would double check everything to make sure nobody was looking for them ("Bug Sweeper" might be a nice SOP perk).  So we have to justify how the troopers would know where they were, and thus get the drop on them.  The result is a little spy-vs-spy, which isn't entirely Star Wars, which tends not to nerd out about tradecraft.

I believe that's the nature of borrowing a framework.  The above felt more spy-action-hero because it used a spy-action-hero ruleset.  If we had used the DF ruleset instead, it would have had a more dungeon-crawl vibe, I think.  A friend of mine, LordofDorkness of the forums, argues that Star Wars is less Action Movie and more Swashbuckling Movie.  Given its roots in chambara film, that's not far off the mark, I think.  We'll have to keep that in mind moving forward.

I learned from my previous mistakes.  The troopers were willing to throw some grenades (for all the good it did them), and to drop blasters in favor of something else in melee, but nothing really mattered, because the heroes improved too.  Kendra didn't bother with dual weapon attacks (though I still think they should be an option), and Dun invested in a buckler (without it, he'd have been hit by that blast, which probably would have put him on his back).  I do find it odd that the buckler cannot block blasters; it messes with my vision of things.  Also, why can one only block once with a buckler?  Shields seem mysterious.

Dun once again destroyed opponents in melee.  He could have used a heroic charge, but I thought a shield rush was almost as good.  Kendra took out 2 characters, Dun took out 1, and Leylana took out one. She was much more interesting this time around.  They technically took out one less than before, but finished the fight in one less turn as well.

This is closer to the power-level I picture, though we still have a few problems.  The troopers's armor is too tough: You shouldn't have to blast at specific weak points to kill them unless they are troops specifically noted for how well-armored they are, and also, I do not like that their helmets are so much weaker than the rest of their armor.  Dun still lacks magic powers, so we need to expand into psionics at some point.  And I worry that the templates are too unfocused: Dun should be good at detecting bugs and tracers, but he completely missed it.  Meanwhile, Kendra is actually slightly less combat effective, point for point, this time around than she was before.  It feels like I should pick a direction with templates and stick with it, but I'm quibbling here.  I'm largely pleased with how these characters, and the fight, turned out.

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