Sunday, May 20, 2018

Combat in Space Opera

Art by Joe Doolin

Given its association with the Space Marines miniatures rules, one might reasonably expect the Space Opera combat system to dispense with simplicity.  One's reasonable expectations would be correct.

The default duration of a combat turn is six seconds; however, depending upon circumstances, a combat turn can supposedly lasts for a minute, six minutes, or an hour.  (A Space Marines combat turn has a duration of twenty seconds.)  Here are the nine phases of the combat turn sequence:


In Phase I, both sides roll 2d6.  The side with the larger result decides whether to be Side A (the mover) or Side B (the counter-mover).  In a six second turn, “a running man covers about 30m.”  Actions other than basic movement are 'functions' which reduce the amount of time a character can spend in movement (and which would presumably reduce distance covered).  For example, a 90° - 180° turn causes one second to be lost.  “Leave/enter most vehicles (per man)” has a cost of three seconds.
Actual combat (firing, etc.) does not depend upon having time to perform the function.  Rather, movement depends upon one's having the time left to do so.  For instance, if a PC intends to fire his weapon in the turn coming up, he must allow -2 seconds from his movement time if he also plans to move.
The percentage chance for a character to successfully hit a target with direct fire is derived mainly upon the character's firing stance and the distance to the target.  Various modifiers may apply.  With regard to small arms, “Each level of expertise adds 2% to the probability of hitting a target...”  So, the difference between someone with rudimentary skill and an Olympic level marksman is 18%.  Physical characteristics do not affect the chance of success, only the chance of increasing one's expertise.

In a melee phase, “each combatant rolls 1d20 (random factor), to which various modifiers will be added.”  In case you didn't realize, 1d20 generates a random result.  Characters attack in descending initiative order.  Page 39 informs us that a character's hand-to-hand capability for “Unarmed Combat, Quarterstaff, Clubs, etc.” equals “expertise + 2/5 (Dex + Agil + Str + Con + IQ) +2.”  A character's race and whether or not he is an armsman adjusts capability.  For instance, a human armsman has 110% capability; a human who is not an armsman has 80%.  An ursoid armsman has 200% capability; a non-armsman has 150%.  Hand-to-hand capability is apparently not the same thing as hit probability.  “All melee weapons have a basic 35% hit probability.”  The attacker's expertise adds to this chance; the defender's expertise subtracts.

Humans and humanoids have sixteen hit locations.  Aiming at a particular location modifies the attack roll.  A random hit location is determined when a character succeeds with an attack that was not aimed.  Different locations offer different wound profiles.  Non-humanoids have their own hit locations.  Apparently, hit locations for “Silicates & Cold Planeters” are irrelevant.  Rather than just state this, the rules offer the following table:


In terms of armor, there are eleven categories of protective value, coded 'A' through 'K'.  'A' offers the most protection and 'K' the least.  There are three categories for any given type of armor:  one for melee damage, one for missile weapons and explosions, and one for energy weapons.  For example, chain mail is classified as H/H/I.  Every weapon has penetration values associated with the various armor categories.  Against 'J', the value of a hurled dagger has a value of 7.  This means a 7 or greater must be rolled on 1d10 in order for the target to be damaged.  We learn that, “When a living target is penetrated by a projectile, energy bolt, or melee weapon, wounds result.”

To determine the effect of a wound, 1d20 is rolled and the result is checked on a table according to hit location.  For humanoids, there are five 'levels' of wounds:  very light, light, moderate, serious, and critical.  (Non-humanoids have only light, serious, and critical wound levels.)  The wound roll may be modified by weapon type.  Brass knuckles cause a -3 modifier while a fusion machine gun applies a +5 modifier.  Anyway, a very light wound causes 1-3 points of damage.  A serious wound inflicts 9 - 13 points damage (or 8 - 13 depending on how one chooses to interpret the rules).  Aside from damage being applied to a character's Damage Factor, wounds can cause various effects:


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