Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vehicle-Scale Weapon Damage and Fire Control

As much as I love the Star Wars D6 system, there are things in it that require explanation/rationalization as to why they are so—explanation beyond simply ‘game balance mechanics’. Or at least they do for me. If a player asks me ‘why is this like this?” I like to have some kind of answer for them.

What I’ll be talking about in this post in particular are the combined mechanics of vehicle-scale weapon damage and fire control. Damage is pretty self explanatory—the damage the weapon dishes out. The more powerful it is, the more it does. Fire control represents an ‘assisted aiming’ system that most vehicle-scale weapons have—the weapon’s ‘targeting computer’, if you will.

We’ll start with damage—but before we do, I want to gloss over the whole problem D6 has with wildly varying stats. For instance, a basic ‘laser cannon’ is listed in various Star Warssource materials as doing anywhere from 1D to 5D damage. This seems to have no rhyme or reason to it—it was simply a number picked by whoever authored the source in question. For the purposes of moving this discussion forward, I’ve come up with my own ‘rules’ for standard damage per weapon type. Here is a brief example:

A ‘blaster cannon’ is lighter than a laser cannon and does 3D damage
A ‘laser cannon’ is the standard vehicle weapon and does 4D damage
A ‘heavy laser cannon’ is heavier (duh) than the standard and does 5D Damage

I like the symmetry here between vehicle scale weapons and character scale weapons. For instance, the standard blaster pistol does 4D character scale damage; the standard laser cannon does 4D vehicle-scale.

At this point, the system seems to work. Where the ‘wrinkle’ comes in is when you have ‘fire-linked’ weapons. For instance, the 2 laser cannons used by the TIE fighter. Logically, one might assume that if two 4D weapons are fired simultaneously, the resulting damage would be 8D. Yet, the stats in all of the sourcebooks list the damage of a ‘dual laser cannon’ as 5D. Just 1D higher than a single cannon. Similarly, the Falcon’s ‘quad laser cannon’ does not do 16D (4x4D), but ‘only’ 6D.

How to explain this…

The best that I have come up with is that ‘linked’ weapons do NOT fire simultaneously, but rather alternate to keep up a higher sustained rate of fire that a single weapon can not. Thus, a craft hit by a dual laser cannon isn’t (necessarily) hit by both blasts every time- but odds are you’re going to do more damage when you hit. Maybe one hit is square, and the other is just a graze, or maybe both blasts hit, but both are grazing shots. The D6 system is very abstract when it comes to damage anyway, meaning that a bad damage roll already DOES indicate a ‘grazing’ shot, while a good roll indicates a more solid hit. Thus (I feel), the adding of a D or two of damage helps reflect this AND keeps damage rolls in game balance’.

My general rule for this is as follows:
A ‘single’ weapon does its base damage
(example, a laser cannon does 4D)

A ‘dual’ weapon does its base damage + 1D
(example, a dual laser cannon does 5D)

A ‘triple’ weapon does its base damage +1D+2
(example a triple laser cannon does 5D+2)

A ‘quad’ weapon does its base damage +2D
(example, a quad laser cannon does 6D)

I also feel rather ‘justified’ in this explanation by what we see in the films. Weapons DO seem to alternate their fire. TIE cannons alternate. X-Wings seem to fire their lasers in sequence. The Falcon’s quad guns fire 2 x 2, etc.

Now, all this having been said, how does Fire Control fit into all of this? Well, I am of the opinion that Fire Control is NOT just the targeting computers on the ship, but also a factor of the rate of fire that vehicle weapons put out. In vehicle combat- particularly ‘dogfighting’- it is VERY difficult to hit a moving target. This is why cannons mounted on modern aircraft are of the ‘automatic’ variety. They fire a ‘stream’ of rounds at an enemy in order to increase their chances of hitting with a few of those round. The same is shown in the Star Wars films.

So, for me, the fire-control of a vehicle is part computer, part rate of fire. Say your average TIE fighter has a fire-control rating of 2D. In my opinion, 1D of that would be the actual assistance of the computer, the other 1D would be from the ‘burst fire’ effect. A vehicle with a 1D fire control would have only a basic target computer and rely almost entirely on the burst effect to help them hit targets. A vehicle with a 3D fire control would rely more on its computers (providing 2D) and less on its burst effect (which still just provides 1D). This has no actual effect on the mechanics of the system—you would never roll 1D for computer then 1D for burst effect, but I do like to THINK of the system in this manner.

Also, if you consider that burst effect and want to add some more depth to your vehicle combat system, you could allow different fire modes on weapons that could alter both the weapon damage and fire-control. This is a concept I always enjoyed in the old X-Wing and TIE Fighter video games.

In these games, if you had a craft with dual weapons you could switch between the standard alternating shot to a ‘dual fire’ mode, where both weapons fired at the same time. The effect in the game was that your rate of fire dropped (it took longer between shots for both weapons to recharge) and with it your chances of landing a shot, but when (if) you hit, you did more damage. With a quad-firing weapon (such as an X-Wing or TIE interceptor) you actually had 3 fire modes. The ‘standard’ was firing alternating pairs of weapons. But you could also switch to a mode where each laser fired individually, in turn. This upped your rate of fire (and chances to hit), but lowered the damage when you hit). Likewise, you could switch all four weapons to fire simultaneously. This resulted in a very slow rate of fire, less chances to hit, but more damage if you did hit solidly.

In game terms, this could work simply as follows:

For dual-weapons:
Alternating Mode (standard): Damage normal; Fire Control Normal
Dual-Mode: Damage +1D; Fire Control -1D

For triple-weapons:
Alternating Mode (standard): Damage normal; Fire Control Normal
Triple-Mode: Damage +1D; Fire Control -1D

For quad-weapons:
Alternating Mode (standard): Damage normal; Fire Control Normal
Single-Mode: Damage -1D; Fire Control +1D
Quad-Mode: Damage +1D; Fire Control -1D

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