Friday, December 4, 2009

Automatic Weapons

But enough already about all this Jedi stuff. Lets talk about something I have never really seen done well in a game system before: automatic weapons. I recall the GDW system (Twilight 2000 and Dark Conspiracy) having especially clunky systems. In fact, in the original Dark Conspiracy game, fully automatic weapon fire was almost completely left up to chance to score a hit. Skill had little to no affect upon it. I have tried on several occasions in the past to come up with my own system, but these too have always come up short. It wasn't until I spoke (at length and in-depth) with my friend Philip (who spent several years in the 82nd Airborne) that I finally started to get a grasp on something that was abstract and yet 'realistic' enough to satisfy me.

In my game, Automatic weapons essentially break down into two modes of fire.

This covers weapons that fire a 'short' or controlled burst. This mode of fire is used to try to increase the chance of hitting a single target—possibly with several shots. The exact bonus to hit is determined by the number of rounds fired in a controlled burst. Generally speaking, lighter weapons fire more shots in a burst than heavier. Consult the chart below to find the bonus for number of rounds in a burst.

3-Rnd Burst = 0D+2 Bonus to Hit
4-Rnd Burst = 1D Bonus to Hit
5-Rnd Burst = 1D+1 Bonus to Hit
6-Rnd Burst = 1D+2 Bonus to Hit

Once you've determined the bonus, you add it to the shooter's marksmanship (Blaster) skill and roll to hit as normal. From there, you consult the chart below to see how many rounds hit.

Hit Roll <= Difficulty = No Hits
Hit Roll > Difficulty = 1 Shot Hits
Hit Roll > Difficulty +5 = 2 Shots Hit
Hit Roll > Difficulty +10 = 3 Shots Hit
Hit Roll > Difficulty +15 = 4 Shots Hit*

* Of course the total number of hits cannot exceed the number of rounds fired in the burst.

This covers weapons that fire an extended burst designed for area suppression. The idea here is to fill an area with shots in the hopes of hitting anything trying to move through it. For the sake of simplicity, all weapons capable of firing in this mode fire 15-Round Bursts. The area covered by this fire is roughly 5m wide by 2m deep. This results in a 2D Bonus to hit. The procedure for autofire would go something like this:

1) Roll to Hit: Marksmanship (Blaster) skill + 2D burst bonus - Any penalties for wounds, multiple actions, etc.

2) Determine Difficulty to hit the target area. This is solely dependent on the range of the area from the shooter.

3) Compare the hit roll to the difficulty number and consult the following chart to see how many rounds actually hit the area

Hit Roll <= Difficulty = No Hits
Hit Roll > Difficulty = 1 Hit
Hit Roll > Difficulty + 5 = 2 Hits
Hit Roll > Difficulty + 10 = 3 Hits

4) Now compare the Hit roll (from Step 1) with the defense roll (dodge + cover) of any targets within the area. If the hit roll exceeds the defense roll of a target, that target is hit. NOTE: It is possible to hit an area and still miss everyone in that area if they dodge well enough.

5) Finally, divide all hits in the area evenly among all the targets in that area that were actually hit. Any odd/remaining hit will strike the person with the lowest dodge/defense.


1) Bob is battling 3 stormtroopers.

2) Since the three stormtroopers are all in close proximity to eachother (all w/in the 5 x 2m area), Bob decides he will use autofire to take out all three (or at least get them to keep their heads down).

3) Drew fires off a 15-round burst from his light-repeating blaster. He rolls his marksmanship skill + 2D extended burst bonus and gets a 28.

4) The range to the three troopers is medium- the GM determines Bob needs a 14 to hit.

5) Since bob beat the difficulty number by 14 points, he scores three hits in the area.

6) The three troopers dodge the incoming fire. They roll their dodge skills.
Trooper 1 rolls a 29
Trooper 2 rolls a 24
Trooper 3 rolls a 12

7) Since Trooper 1's dodge roll was higher than Bob's to-hit roll, he avoids being shot. Troopers 2 and 3, however, are hit. Thus, three hits were scored on 2 targets.

8) Applying the 3 on-target shots against the 2 people in the area that were hit. Thus, Trooper2 gets hit once and poor trooper3 gets hit twice.

In a standard Star Wars game, the 'stock' light repeating blaster is capable of firing both controlled bursts and autofire. The heavy repeating blaster can fire only in autofire mode.

In general, a person may fire no more than 3 controlled bursts or 2 extended bursts in a single combat round.

Rules for other automatic weapons (such as slughthrowers) will have to be determined by the GM—but in practice, I've found this system to be workable and relatively balanced. The bonus to hit is offset somewhat by the faster consumption of ammo—even with weapons that have 100-round magazines.

I have also found that these weapons make a good foil for a lightsaber wielding force-user. This seems to be backed up in the prequels at least when Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan have to retreat from destroyer droids and their automatic blaster-fire.

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