Combat Interlude, pt. 3
Alright, I lied. There’s one last thing I needed to cover before we get to actions & initiative, and that’s the logic behind how the attack/damage system works. It starts with cel-shading.
When envisioning how difficult it is to shoot and hit a person, it helps to imagine them as being cel-shaded, like a character in Crackdown or Borderlands. If you’ve ever played those games, you know that each character has a thick black outline around the edge of their body that marks where their skin stops and the air begins.
Now fill in that outline with black, and you have a silhouette. Your job, with a gun, is to make your bullet impact the target’s silhouette.
As they move around, that silhouette gets larger and smaller. Think of the iPod dancers from those iTunes commercials, the dancing silhouettes. As the dancer whirls around, crouches, turns, and jumps the silhouette changes size and shape.
A target’s silhouette changes size and shape exactly the same way and for exactly the same reasons. And the smaller the silhouette, the harder it is to hit them with a bullet. But if you do, you might do some damage.
We roll damage in RPG’s, because sometimes a hit hurts more. It makes perfect sense, in hand-to-hand combat, because it’s a muscle thing: like swinging a bat, sometimes you swing harder, sometimes softer. But what about bullets? Do they go measurably faster or slower, all at random?
Of course not. That’s silly. So why do we roll random damage for guns?
Real world time. In order to hurt a target more, you shoot it in a vulnerable spot. Eyes, throat, vitals, head, groin, whatever’s applicable. Shoot it there — on purpose or accidentally — and you hurt the target more.
‘Course, the same general hit location has areas which differ in vulnerability. Hitting the thigh might mean a grazing shot, just tearing skin, or it might mean going through the muscle, which is serious but not usually immediately lethal, or it can mean you hit the femoral artery, which will kill the target in short order, unless they get immediate first aid to stop the bleeding.
All of this can be represented by a random hit location chart (including damage modifiers for more vital areas), and for a while I considered it. But it can also be represented by rolling for damage: when you do more damage, you hit a more vital spot, when you do less damage, you hit a less vital spot. The damage roll is, in effect, an abstracted hit location roll.
In this system, the Attack roll represents just hitting that silhouette. Your hit location, and how hard you hit it (for melee combat and missile weapons), is reflected in the Damage roll.
Attackers can deliberately target vulnerable locations, of course, which penalizes their attack in return for increased damage (and an increased chance of missing entirely). This “Called Shot” is a simple mechanic, yet it represents reality tolerably well.
This goes for the whole combat system. The two-roll method is very simple: roll a Bonus, add to Attack Skill. Roll a Bonus, add to Damage. Very simple. Yet it represents reality pretty closely, which you wouldn’t expect.
This is not a perfect system, or a perfect mechanic. But it’s the least imperfect mechanic I can devise right now. Which makes it the perfect mechanic for this system.
Now it’s time for Actions & Initiative.