Saturday, November 26, 2016

EM Guns Feedback Part 2: G-Verse Variants

So, last post, I offered the context of G-Verse, for those who need to know how the setting works and how games played out.  I've also tagged my Andromeda Incident After Action Reports from ye olden days if you want to go back and look at them.

Now, for the actual feedback.  How did G-Verse actually play and how would it play out with Pulver's suggestions?

G-Verse Classic: with the Original Rules

We have a lot of guns I could cover, but I want to hit the four most popular, the ones my players would actually ask about if I made a universal change to firearms.

The Gauss Rifle

The standard weapon for infantry combat was the 4mm round, found in both the LSW and the gauss rifle.  The complete weapon, accessories and ammo cost $8,664, with the ammo making up a measly $54.  The weapon system weighed 17.15 lbs, with five and a half of that in ammo.

The 4mm gauss rifle round, whether from an LSW or the rifle, dealt 6d+2(3) pi-.  If it struck an unarmored target, it dealt an average of 11 damage, which was enough to knock someone  unconscious, but not enough to kill them,  With a ROF of 12 and a recoil of 2, though, usually more than one bullet hit, and two was enough to kill most people, or at least leave them deeply unhappy. 

Of course, most people weren't unarmored.  A nanoweave tacsuit stopped 10 points of damage (1 point of blunt trauma), which meant the attack did about 7 damage, all things considered.  I liked this.  It meant that a tacsuit turned a very dangerous wound into something that knocked you off your feet, but didn't necessarily put you out of the fight.  That was good.  Unless, of course,  it hit you multiple times, but that's why you used cover and dodged when necessary.  A combat hardsuit would usually absorb everything that hit the torso, but the limbs were slightly vulnerable, taking 2-3 points of damage if hit.  Thus, a shock trooper might get hurt, but he could stand to charge a man who was firing straight at him, if only for a second or two.  Power-armor, at a DR of 100-150, was impregnable to gauss fire (one player commented that it might be like being in a tin shed during a rainstorm: you can hear it, and it's very dramatic, but it isn't actually bothering you).

Most infantry didn't snipe with a gauss rifle, but recon specialists certainly did.  The Gauss Rifle had an accuracy of 7+2, meaning that a character who aimed for 3 turns gained 7+2+2 = +11 to his attack.  With targetting software, he had another +2, for a +13 to his aimed shots.  Assuming a skill of 15, a recon specialist could expect to hit you on a 15 or less 300 yards away (which is still within 1/2D).

Infantry would just open fire with the thing.  With an ROF of 12, it had a +2 to hit, and +2 from targetting software.  The enemy already knew you were there, so it's often worthwhile to try to get a lock if you can, for another +3.  The net result is that a skill 14 infantryman has a 21 or less to hit you.  If he wants a 16 or less (for additional hits), he can afford to just fire without aiming out to 15 yards, and will hit an average of 4 times if he does so.  This might be typical for urban combat.

The Portable Railgun

Probably the most beloved weapon in G-verse, this was primarily a sniper's weapon, used by commandos and infiltrators.  It dealt 5dx3(3) pi+, or an average of 75 damage against an unarmored foe.  It cost over $25,000 and weighed about 22.5 lbs.  Ammunition was not a major concern for it.

Against someone in a nanoweave tacsuit, it was one-hit, one kill.  It dealt around 60 damage, meaning your armor might as well not exist.  You just had a gaping hole in your chest.  Most snipers didn't bother with average infantry, though, and if they did, they'd usually reduce the damage with a subsonic shot, dealing "only" an average of 37 damage, more than enough to kill someone.  Against a hardsuit, the chest plate protected for 25, meaning the shot still did 30+ damage, which was usually enough to take out shocktroopers (though a subsonic shot would usually fail against them).  The real trick was using it against guys in powered armor.  The average portable railgun shot is just deflected by heavy power armor, and if you did some damage, it wouldn't be much, usually 1-3.  Most heavy troopers tended to take a hit, then turn and focus their fire on where the sniper had fired from.  Bad news!  If you wanted a sure shot, you had to aim for an armor weakpoint at -10, or for a limb.  This reduced the armor to DR 75, which means you did ~30 damage, enough for a kill, or a shot to the limb would usually deal enough to cripple it (hopefully you picked the right one!).  Most heavy marines carried trauma maintenance systems, meaning that if your shot didn't take them out, it was highly likely they'd be spitting mad and still in the fight.  "Infiltrator vs Heavy Marine" was one of the more tense standoffs in our game, when they happened.  Boosted velocity also helped, but players seldom used it: +5 damage meant you'd do about 7 damage vs the marine, which might be enough to stun him.

Accuracy was the name of the game with a portable railgun.  4 turns of aiming gave it 7+2+3 or +12 to hit, and targeting software gave another +2.  Radar might help, but you didn't want to tell people where you were, so most snipers didn't bother.  The net result was an elite, skill-16 sniper could afford to attack an armor weakpoint out to 50 yards with a 11 or less, or simply hit a target out to 1500 on a 13 or less.

The Gauss CAW

While the UBGL was certainly an important weapon, people really liked the CAW, especially loaded with HEMP.  We loaded it with other stuff, but everyone just used all HEMP all the time when they could.  A CAW with 3 clips of HEMP came in at a little over $3500, which was cheaper than a rifle!  It also weighed about 15 lbs, about 5 lbs was the clips.

An 18.5mm HEMP round did 6dx2(5) imp inc + explosive damage that seldom amounted to anything meaningful (tacsuits always soaked it up.  Shrapnel was similarly unnoteworthy, even for large grenades).  Against someone in a tacsuit, it dealt 70+ damage: there's no kill like overkill.  Against hardsuits, it dealt 50 damage, again splattering the target.  Heavy power armor was less impressive: it doubled its DR against HEMP (EM armor), which meant the average shot did absolutely nothing against power armor.  Doh!  Fortunately, they still have 25mm UBGLs, but the failure of a CAW to kill a guy in power armor always disappointed my assault guys.  Boosted or low-velocity options didn't matter except for range, and most fights were close range and noise didn't matter.

Accuracy mattered most "On the move." The typical assault guy would be in a highly built up environment and needed to just respond with the pull of a trigger. With ROF 15, it had +3 to hit, +2 from targeting software, and +1 from its laser sight, giving a skill-15 shocktrooper  skill 21 to hit.  Most attacks were pretty close, so -3 or so, which hit on a 17 or less If he was "on the move" the bulk of 4 would drop his attack to 13. In both cases, one or more hits were probable.

The Gauss HMG and the Semi-Portable Plasma Gun

These were the two most popular heavy marine weapons, and while the plasma gun isn't a gauss weapon, it's worth noting that it often competed with the gauss HMG for attention.

The gauss HMG clocks in at around $50,000 and the plasma gun around $150,000.  Weight for neither really matters, and ammunition costs are a rounding error for both weapons.

The HMG did 16d(3) pi damage, which means a single shot did around 56 damage, making it almost as bad as the portable railgun.  Low-velocity shots did 28 damage, but it's rarely necessary to reduce damage.  Boosted-velocity deals around 72 damage.  A standard shot will deal 45 damage to a guy in a tacsuit, 30 damage to a guy in a hardsuit, and around 6 to a guy in power armor.  A boosted shot will deal 22 damage to someone in power-armor, though I found it more useful to save energy and just rain steely death on other targets in power-armor.

The semi-portable plasma gun was a hot-shotted weapon that dealt an average of 91 explosive damage.  A direct hit would instantly kill someone in a tacsuit, an indirect hit (in the same hex) would also instantly kill someone in a tac-suit, and someone in a tacsuit one hex away would take an average of 15 damage.  A direct hit instantly killed someone in a tacsuit, and an indirect hit in the same hex would deal 15 damage.  A hit one hex away wouldn't kill someone in a hardsuit.  A direct hit would deal ~15 damage to someone in power armor, certainly knocking them off their feet and perhaps tacking them out of the fight.  It was also excellent for setting cover on fire.

A heavy marine, usually skill-15 or -16, would usually walk and fire, thus he wouldn't aim but he wouldn't move and attack either.  With an ROF of 20, he had +4 to hit and his targeting software gave him +2.  Radar locks didn't hurt anything, though often a guy in power armor was cutting through the enemy so fast that he didn't have time to stop and make one.  Even so, that's up to +3.  Thus, he has About skill-25 to attack.  That'll hit on a 15 or less (thus, likely several times) out to 100 yards.  Most fights are much closer than that, removing the need for radar lock.

I had intended the plasma gun as another assault weapon, but those who had it liked to treat it as a sniper weapon.  They'd aim once, and between the acc of +12 and the targeting software of +2 and, what the heck, a radar lock of +3, a skill-16 marine could reach out an touch a target out to a mile on a 15 or less... and with three shots and a recoil of two, probably hit him several times in a row.  If the plasma gunner needed more accuracy, most of the time hitting the ground beneath the target (+4) was sufficient.  They often liked to spread their fire out, especially against unarmored infantry, just raining down plasma death from as far away as they could.  The one problem with the weapon is that it broke down on a 14 or more!

G-Verse Brutal: Using ETC Weapons

Originally, I had thought the post requesting feedback wanted feedback regarding ETK.  That seems not to be the case.  They want ETC, which is IMO a much more reasonable technology.  The post has been revised to accommodate that.

The Infantry Rifle: ETC Assault Carbine and the Storm Rifle

The Gatling Carbine, the Assault Carbine and the Storm Carbine could all work, but the assault carbine seems to "fit the image" best, especially as its the cheapest and lightest of the three.  An ETK assault carbine with the same gear as a gauss rifle would cost ~$4500 and weight 10 lbs by itself.  4 clips of standard 7mm ball ammo would cost $100 and weigh 6 lbs. The ETK weapon weighs slightly more and costs less (the ammo costs twice as much, but the weapon costs far less).

The ETC assault carbine deals 9d pi damage, or roughly 3dx3, which is about 30 damage.  A straight up round will fail to penetrate a tacsuit.  APHC rounds will add (2) and pi- but double ammo cost from $100 to $200.  Such a weapon will deal an average of 8 damage to someone in a tacsuit and will still fail to damage someone in a hardsuit.

Accuracy is weaker: The weapon has accuracy of 4, three less than the gauss weapon, which means everything above still applies (same ROF and everything), but it halves the engagements ranges, or reduces skill from 15-16 to 12-13.

Now, with gauss weapons, I stuck with a gauss rifle for recon specialists, but with the greater variety offered by conventional weapons, I'd upgrade my recon specialist to a storm rifle.  The weapon system would clock in around $6500 and weigh about 10 lbs.  Ammunition costs and weight aren't a major concern, as the character prefers to snipe.

The ETK Storm Rifle deals 6dx2 pi+ damage.  That's 40 damage.  If we load APEP (and why not? That makes one bullet $12, but a single clip is only about $150.  5 clips, which is enough to take out 60 people, costs you less than $500), a storm rifle deals 30 damage to someone in a tacsuit and 15 to someone in a hardsuit, but will fail to penetrate power armor on average.  A shot to a weak point will deal 15 damage to someone in power armor, though.  An ETC storm rifle is weaker than, but somewhat comparable to, a portable railgun.  Accuracy is only 5, -2 compared to a portable railgun (which typically halves engagement range).

Is this better than Gauss?  The Storm Rifle is arguably better than a portable railgun, but it's close.  It does a similar job for much less $$ and lbs.  The assault carbine is largely the same, while slightly cheaper (though more expensive in the long run) and slightly heavier.  It's certainly no quantum leap from TL 9 ETC to TL 10 gauss.

The Sniper Rifle: ETC Anti-Material Rifle

The obvious parallel to the portable railgun is the Anti-Material Rifle.  It comes with its own enhanced targeting scope, and costs $16,000 and weighs 30 lbs.  A single clip clocks in at a heavy 2 lbs (for only 10 rounds!). A full clip of APEP rounds will cost $400.

The ETC anti-material rifle with APEP round deals  22 pi++ damage. which is an average of 77 damage Against someone in power armor, this deals 75 damage, which is instantly lethal to someone in power armor. Power armor is no protection against an anti-material rifle.  That might be intentional: the intent might be to take out armored vehicles, and power-armor tend to be a step less protected than those.

The ETC anti-material rifle is...accuracy 6+3, exactly as a portable railgun with enhanced targeting scope! It's only -1 when it comes to accuracy.

The net result is that the ETC anti-material rifle is completely superior to the portable railgun in cost, power, similar in accuracy, heavier, and worse for ammunition costs. Given its weight, I might favor storm rifles for commandos as well as recon specialists.

The CAW: ETC Close Assault Shotgun

I'll sae you some time on this one: 18.5mm HEMP is 18.5mm HEMP.  While I included slugs and shotshell for it, most players didn't bother with it.  The CAS might be superior to the CAW for raw slug damage, but raw shot damage isn't enough to punch through most forms of armor, though a slug will deal 12 damage to someone in a tacsuit.

The bulk of the weapon is worse (-5), the ROF is worse, the recoil is worse, the number of shots are worse, the acc is the same, the weight is the same, and the CAS costs slightly less (though its ammunition surely costs more).  It's all around a worse weapon than the Gauss CAW.

Heavy Weapons: The Heavy Chaingun and Assault Cannon

The obvious parallel to the Gauss HMG is the heavy chaingun.  This weapon costs ~70k, which is more expensive than its guass counterpart, and weighs about the same.  A clip is lighter, but much more expensive per shot (200 shot for the HMG is $48, while 50 shots for a chaingun is $200).

It also deals 22d pi++ damage.  It is, in short, a machine-gun with anti-material rounds.  Out of the box, it won't punch through power-armor, but if we give it APHC rounds ($400 per clip!) it'll deal 3  damage per hit to someone in power armor, which is... not great.  APEX rounds will deal 4 damage per hit, plus 1d-2 explosive (which triples in the body), thus an average of an additional 3 damage, for a total of 6.  That's pretty respectable, but it doubles the cost of your clip again.  APEP rounds are as effective as an Anti-material round, but I question the practicality of cligs that costs $2000 apiece.

At RoF 12, it'll hit with slightly less accuracy than a gauss HMG, but has largely the same recoil.   Given the superior damage, I think most players would happily make the trade.

What about an Assault Cannon in place of plasma?  The weapon is literally 1/10th the cost, though its rounds are much more expensive, and it's also less error-prone.  However, it can fire shaped-charge rounds that deal 65(10) damage on average, and explosive shots that deal 18 damage on average. It's also vastly less accurate than a plasma weapon.  All in all, probably an inferior weapon to a plasma gun.

How does this compare to gauss?  How does it change the landscape?  The chaingun is definitely a more expensive weapon, both for ammo and weapon, than the gauss HMG, and it's slightly less accurate though I doubt most players would notice a 1-point difference.  Damage can be effective, but it needs expensive ammo to make it work.

G-Verse Refined: Using the Revised Gauss Rules

The new rules say: pi instead of pi- for smaller rounds, x1.25 damage, no armor divisor, but you can load one in.

The Gauss Rifle

Costs are the same.

The 4mm round now deals an average of 26 damage with no AP.  That's not enough to punch through a tac suit, but if we add APHC rounds (reducing it to pi-), we'll deal an average of 6 damage... about what we were doing before!  If we go with APEP rounds (which cost as much as Assault Carbine ball ammo!), we'll deal 8-9 damage, and we'll deal 1 point of damage per shot to someone in a hardsuit, on average.  With a boosted shot, we'll deal about 7 damage to someone in a hardsuit.

The net effect is that the gauss weapon is roughly the same as it was before: ball ammunition isn't interesting enough to use, but APHC or APEP rounds aren't really that expensive, and could take down people in hardsuits.  Is it better than an ETC Assault Carbine?  Yes, definitely: It's more accurate, and its ammunition is comparable in price, and it can afford to take out heavier opponents.  In fact, if we use APEP, we can eliminate most of the danger of hardsuits from the battlefield, which might not be what I want to see. I would definitely choose this gauss weapon over an ETC assault carbine.

The Portable Railgun

The new portable railgun deals an average of 63 damage.  With APEP rounds ($8 a shot, which is 1/5 the cost of 15mmCL APEP rounds), we'll punch through power-armor to deal 13 damage, or ~30 damage with a boosted shot.  This makes it absolutely superior to a storm rifle, definitely, but not as good as an anti-material rifle.  On the other hand, an anti-material rifle round is much more expensive, and it's a much heavier weapon.  If your portable railgun can kill someone in power-armor, why bring even more firepower?  Is it better? Yes.  Would I favor it over ETC?  Yes.

The Gauss CAW

Nothing has changed here except that its underlying damage is superior.  It now does 10d p++ with slugs making it even more absolutely superior to the conventional CAW.

The Gauss HMG and the Semi-Portable Plasma Gun

The Gauss HMG now does an average of 20d, or 70 damage.  This is almost exactly the same damage as a heavy chaingun plus we can make a boosted shot that deals 90 damage.  With APHC rounds, we'll fail to penetrate power armor, but with a boosted shot we'll deal 7 damage (note that this also becomes pi- in this case, not pi!), which is a major wound for someone in power armor. Note further that the round is too small to be an APEX round.  Each APHC round is $0.48 (that's about 50 cents) compared to $8 for the Heavy Chaingun.  70 damage is enough for most cases, and when fighting a guy in power armor, you just boost your damage.  The Heavy Chaingun is potnetially more destructive, but the HMG is a cheaper weapon, with cheaper ammo, higher ROF and better accuracy, and it "does the job" just as well.  I think I would honestly favor it over ETC.

Would I use 'em?

Right, I must say I'm a little relieved that we're looking at ETC, not ETK like I initially thought.  If i had included ETC in my original campaign, the numbers would have largely shaken out the same way.  In general, the old version of gauss vs ETC was more of a lateral shift from superior damage to superior logistics.  The new version is a definitively superior version, without being so much better that my entire battlefield is ruined.  I think I actually like it and would use it.

The one bit of weirdness I note is that 4mm rounds are pi and so are 7mm rounds.  That's not necessarily a problem, just something I thought I would note
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