Monday, August 29, 2016

Martial Arts Analysis: Breaking down Psi-Wars Tactics


Ultimately, if a player is going to invest points into it, a martial art needs to be effective.  Whether it's "authentic" matters less than if it doesn't work, because the last thing we want is to devise a totally cool version of Force-Swordsmanship, let a player invest 100 points in it, and then cut him down in the first battle, because our vision of Force-Swordsmanship doesn't work.  But for us to create a working martial art, we need to know what sort of opposition a player will face, and how best to tackle it (or alter the rules/opposition so a particular tactic will be effective).  What we need to create is not just an accurate translation of Star Wars that makes good use of GURPS, but an interesting tactical space where interesting player choices interact with interesting opponents, and for that, we need to know, or define, what that tactical space is.

Thus far, we've looked at Star Wars, our source inspiration, and GURPS, our target material, but we would be remiss if we thought we were developing Psi-Wars in a vacuum. Psi-Wars already exists, in large part.  We know what the spaceships look like, we know who some of the aliens are, we know what sorts of gear people use, and what soldiers look like. We've begun to form a picture of what Psi-Wars is, and we've already run some battles, and we already know how battles largely play out.  This means we can say some things about what sorts of tactics we can use to defeat our opponents.  By taking a look at the existing world, or what we expect our world to look like, we can postulate what sorts of tactics, rules and martial arts could live and thrive in such a setting.

Over the next week, I'm going to take a look at existing, or expected, psi-wars tactics.  I'll discuss the NPCs involved, how I expect them to operate, and how I'll use them to defeat the players.  Then I'll discuss the typical tactics PCs of various stripes might use to defeat them, and whether or not they'll be particularly effective, and what it would take to make them effective.

The idea here isn't necessarily to fix or design our martial arts so much as to understand our tactical space.  If it turns out that force swords are a terrible idea, understanding why will help us see how we can change things to make them work better.  If it turns out that blaster pistols are stupid under certain circumstances, we might allow that to stand (in the same way that most dungeon fantasy GMs are fine with allowing bows to be a terrible melee weapon).  But the point here is to look for potential traps, and to understand what sort of tactics the heroes of Psi-Wars might use.

I don't know if I can get to all of them, but most combat scenarios break down into the following:

  • Military conflict (an open battle against soldiers and their combat-vehicles)
  • Ship-board conflict (pirates or battles against marines in the closed confines of a ship)
  • Criminal conflict (sudden brawls in dark alleys or in bars)
  • Assassination attempts against officials (battles against bodyguards and against "soft" NPCs)
  • Battles against unusual enemies
    • Robots
    • Alien monsters
  • Gladiatorial battles (a time-honored space opera tradition!)
I won't be able to get into everything, but I'll see how far I can get. In each post, I'll discuss the tactics I expect the NPCs to use in this sort of situation, the rules according to GURPS Action (and Psi-Wars adjustments), and then I'll discuss the various expected tactics certain players might use, how effective they could be, and how well variations might work.
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