Thursday 2 August 2012

Taking a Bullet in Arkbound

When I play D&D my imagination can cope with characters' vitals being narrowly missed by swords, axes, arrows and musket-shots. Even though I know how deadly arrows were I can still picture an adventurer stumbling on bravely with an arrow in the shoulder and a gushing spear wound.

But getting shot with a present-day gun? Every piece of remotely grounded fiction I know tells me you're out for the count. That's not even considering your futuristic pulse rifles and bolters!

I won't get into the analysis of how deadly different era's weapons actually were. This is purely how my imagination sees them differently and may just be a personal quirk.

As I'm currently working on a sci-fi game I guess I'd better address how I'm going to keep guns in Arkbound feeling suitably deadly without it being impossible to keep a character alive.

Let's look at Mr. Average and what happens when he gets shot at in the open by Ms. Average.

Starting Stats average at 2.5, which is a little unhelpful. Let's assume that Ms. Average will be dealing with a Complication (-1) to her shot about half of the time. This means she'll be rolling with an average Precision of 2. The target number is always 10 and rolls are 2d6+stat so she'll need to roll an 8 to hit.

She'll hit Mr. Average around 42% of the time.

Your "entry level" weapons range from 1d6 damage for your typical pistol, SMG or autorifle and 1d6+1 for things with added kick like shotguns and the clumsy bolt rifle. We'll be kind and assume she's firing with one of the former.

Damage equalling Mr. Average's Toughness (average of 2.5 again) will incapacitate him and leave him dying. Doubling his Toughness will kill him outright. Here a roll of 3 will incapacitate and 5 will kill.

That gives him equal 1-in-3 spread between being wounded, incapacitated and killed.

If she hit him with one of the heftier 1d6+1 guns? Now it's only a 1-in-6 chance of a minor wound, still 1-in-3 chance of being incapacitated but a full 1-in-2 chance of being killed in a single shot.

Ouch. With odds like this why would anyone want to get into a gunfight? We need to look at what measures Mr. Average can take to push the odds back in his favour.

Firstly, light armour is accessible to all starting characters and subtracts 1 from any damage against you. This pushes the chance of a kill shot from the autorifle down to a less scary 1-in-6 and brings the bigger guns down from 1-in-2 to 1-in-3.

Even better than armour is being in cover, which roughly cuts the chances of Mr. Average being hit at all in half.

The chance of Mr Average being killed in one shot if he's wearing light armour and making use of cover? Just under 4%. That's worse odds than rolling a 20 on a d20. I'm quite happy with this figure.

Still not happy with that small chance of getting a bullet in the head? I suggest you either pump up your Guile score and stay in cover, save up for heavy armour or keep your character out of situations where people are firing at you.

But wait. The arms race works both ways. If Ms. Average has an Incinerator then your flammable cover won't offer any protection. If she's firing with a flashrifle your light armour is useless not to mention the really nasty 1d6+2 weapons like thudguns and rail rifles. Maybe she's got BodyMods and Stims pushing her Precision score higher and fancy weapon mods to counter the usual Complications.

In that case it's probably time to wonder whether it's worth being in a firefight at all. Surrender is a free action.

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