Strategic Primer: Combat Models

The current campaign of Strategic Primer hasn’t yet had any real need for a developed model of combat. This is good, because I’ve rejected the idea of using either model used by previous conceptions of the game (which I’ll describe below), firmly in one case and tentatively in the other. But so that I don’t have to scramble to create something quickly when the game does call for it, today I’d like to get down my current thoughts on what a combat system for the current or a future campaign might include.

But before we look at my current thoughts, I’ll describe the previous models.

Random Chances Table

The first campaign used (as I mentioned in that post) a table for determining outcomes for a small set of actions (not all of which were combat-related, but most were) based on the roll of between one and three six-sided dice. (Or, soon, computer-generated random numbers.) For the record, and for reference for readers of the log of that campaign, I reproduce it below, at the end of this post.

For each “event,” a die was rolled (and, if its result called for that, another was rolled), determining the outcome or “chance.” Remember that most “units” were supposedly fifty men, and their “hit points” were simply the number of men.

Attack, Defense, Accuracy, Huh?

After the end of that campaign, in what I call “the middle period”, I scrapped that and began to develop a more versatile system. In it, each unit (from a group of a few dozen men to an interstellar spacecraft) had a number of “hit points” that was no longer so directly tied to its number of soldiers or “crew”, a “movement rate” that was originally in something like miles per hour but was soon converted to “movement points per turn,” a “defense” statistic that somehow (I never wrote that down and have long since forgotten) reduced the effectiveness of attacks, a vision range (in tiles), a cost (in the game’s single currency, which also determined its maintenance cost each turn), a “required accuracy” percentage that determined how accurate a ranged attack needed to be to hit it, and the number of men needed to make up or “crew” the unit.

Each unit’s description also included what “improvements”, mostly weapons, it was made of. Units didn’t have any offensive capability without those. Improvements could provide bonuses or penalties to any stat, but weapons gave a unit “attack,” “ranged attack,” and “accuracy” stats. A melee attack was presumed to always hit, though perhaps the “defense” stat was subtracted from the “attack” stat to produce the amount of damage dealt (or something like that). A ranged attack, on the other hand, compared its accuracy stat plus a random number between one and one hundred to the target’s Required Accuracy, and on success used its “ranged attack” stat (possibly minus the Defense stat?) to (somehow) determine the damage dealt.

I’ve abandoned that mostly because while I have several (largely overlapping but mutually incompatible) lists of stats for various units, improvements, and so on, I no longer remember and either never wrote down or lost any explanation of how those stats are supposed to fit together to resolve combat.

Current Thoughts

Here are a few (somewhat haphazard) thoughts I have about what the current campaign’s combat model ought to include.

First, I’ve been working under the assumption that it will be at least vaguely based on the d20 system (because that’s the off-the-shelf system I know best), borrowing concepts and ideas where that makes sense. For example, I might use the idea (I think new in Pathfinder) of separate and possibly-distinct attack bonuses for melee and ranged combat, and I might also extend that to “armor class.”

Second, combatants’ skill with their equipment is important: using equipment one is not proficient with imposes a penalty to attack bonus, armor class, or whatever other relevant check, and additional training or experience (“skill levels” in the current skill-advancement model) can give a bonus.

Third, the model needs to include rules for multi-person machinery involved in combat, such as catapults, chariots, laser cannons, tanks, and aircraft. My current thought is that “ancient era” machines (catapults, ballistae, etc.) tend to attack with the combined “strength” of multiple people (or of one person repeatedly over several rounds) but with one person’s dexterity—they take several more than one person’s strength or more than one round to wind, but are only aimed by one person. More advanced machines, on the other hand, substitute a fixed base for the “strength” part of that (a gun doesn’t have to be wound up), and don’t require as much dexterity (aiming assistance). But how each machine works, precisely, will have to be determined on a case-by-case basis: some machines require everyone working together at once, so a “critical fumble” from anyone spoils the shot or worse, while others work in stages (load, draw, then fire) that may or may not be able to work in parallel so that a critical failure usually only delays the next shot.

And fourth, since running Strategic Primer is a strongly computer-assisted process, perhaps combat ought to be run in “simultaneous turns,” rather than letting the combatant with the highest “initiative” go, then the next, and so on. And in particular, the flight of projectiles ought to be resolved separately from their being fired.

If you have any ideas to add, please let me know.

Appendix: Original Chances Table In Full

This is the table, or “chart” as I called it, that was used for the first campaign. Some explanatory notes too long to go in the table:

  • If a gun fires too soon, the event “gun fired too soon” is rolled.
  • A malfunction means a shot is wasted and the whole firing sequence must be redone.
  • A gun explosion or weapon breaking makes further shooting impossible until the weapon is fixed in a fortress.
  • If a weapon is “too complex to fire fast,” firing takes at least twice as long to fire, and firing properly still isn’t guaranteed, but for that shot further rolls are made as if the green unit was a veteran.
  • An “out of step” foot unit or other unit “out of formation” loses some attack and defense strength until it stops to rest and reform.
  • “Bogged down” means the unit fails to move any significant distance at all, but does not count as resting for the purpose of getting back in step.
  • In the “Rolls” column, a number plus “X” (such as “3+X”) means that number followed (in a subsequent roll) by anything other than that number.
  • If a shot “just misses,” a subsequently rolled 6 means the shot grazed its target.
  • If, in a charge, a soldier is “beaten immediately,” he surrenders on a subsequent 6 (and presumably dies on any other roll).
  • If a charge results in “out of formation,” the penalties for being out of step or formation apply but the event is re-rolled until some other result comes up.
  • If, in a charge, a soldier is not beaten immediately and the enemy either holds his ground or remains able to fight despite being swept out of formation, both roll repeatedly on the “hand-to-hand fight” section relevant to their opponent’s weapons until at most one side remains standing and not captured. If the enemy is unable to fight, his fate is determined by the “anyone unable to fight” section.
  • “Disabled” means that subsequent “disabled” results change to (depending on the weapons involved) death or capture.
  • In ship (etc.) combat, the fourth “damaging hit” is fatal.
  • When a ship or aircraft is bombarding a target on land, the part of the table for the gun, not the ship or aircraft, should be used.
  • If an aircraft crashes and survives, it lands half-way to its destination and can’t move again until messengers reach it with supplies.
  • Either unloading or failing to unload from a troop carrier prevents further action for either the carrier (except unloading other units) or the unit being carried, unless either unit’s description says otherwise.
Event Chance Rolls
Gun ordered to fire Gun fires properly 1,2,3
Gun fires too soon 4
Gun malfunction 5
Gun explodes 6
Green complex non-gunpowder weapon ordered to fire Fires properly 1
Too complex to fire fast 2
Malfunction 3,4
Weapon breaks 5,6
Veteran complex non-gunpowder weapon ordered to fire Fires properly 1,2,3
Malfunction 4
Weapon breaks 5,6
Green simple non-gunpowder weapon ordered to fire Fires properly 1
Malfunction 2,3,4
Weapon breaks 5,6
Veteran simple non-gunpowder weapon ordered to fire Fires properly 1,2,3,4
Malfunction 5
Weapon breaks 6
Green foot ordered to move fast Moves correctly 1
Out of step 2,3
Bogged down 4,5,6
Veteran foot ordered to move fast Moves correctly 1,2,3
Out of step 4
Bogged down 5,6
Green foot ordered to move slow Moves correctly 1,2,3+X
Out of step 3+3,4
Bogged down 5,6
Veteran foot ordered to move slow Moves correctly 1,2,3,4
Out of step 5
Bogged down 6
Green machine with wheels or on skis ordered to move Moves correctly 1,2,3+X
Out of formation 3+3,4
Bogged down 5,6
Veteran machine with wheels or on skis ordered to move Moves correctly 1,2,3,4
Out of formation 5
Bogged down 6
Green gunpowder or non-gunpowder weapon fires correctly Hits 1,2
Just misses 3,4
Misses completely 5,6
Veteran gunpowder or non-gunpowder weapon fires correctly Hits 1,2,3,4
Just misses 5
Misses completely 6
Green foot charges Attacks, not beaten immediately 1,2
Attacks, beaten immediately 3,4
Out of formation 5,6
Veteran foot charges Attacks, not beaten immediately 1,2,3,4
Attacks, beaten immediately 5
Swept out of formation 6
Green unit charged upon Holds ground 1
Swept out of formation, can fight 2,3
Swept out of formation, can’t fight 4,5,6
Veteran unit charged upon Holds ground 1,2
Swept out of formation, can fight 3,4,5
Swept out of formation, can’t fight 6
Anyone swept out of formation (when charging, or unable to fight) Dies 1,2,3
Surrenders 4,5,6
Hand-to-hand fight using fists or slings Unscathed 1,2
Disabled 3,4
Knocked out 5,6
Green unit in hand-to-hand fight with bayonets or swords Unscathed 1
Disabled 2,3
Dead 4,5,6
Veteran unit in hand-to-hand fight with bayonets or swords Unscathed 1,2
Disabled 3,4
Dead 5,6
Green unit in hand-to-hand fight with pistols Unscathed 1
Disabled 2,3+X
Dead 3+3,4,5,6
Veteran unit in hand-to-hand fight with pistols Unscathed 1,2
<Disabled 3,4
Dead 5,6
Day sneak attack, no cover Noticed 1,2,3,4,5
Unnoticed 6
Green unit, day sneak attack, cover available Noticed 1,2,3,4,5+X
Unnoticed 5+5,6
Green unit, night sneak attack, no cover Noticed 1,2,3,4
Unnoticed 5,6
Green unit, night sneak attack, cover available Noticed 1,2,3
Unnoticed 4,5,6
Veteran unit, day sneak attack, cover available Noticed 1,2,3,4
Unnoticed 5,6
Veteran unit, night sneak attack, no cover Noticed 1,2,3
Unnoticed 4,5,6
Veteran unit, night sneak attack, cover available Noticed 1,2
Green sea unit ordered to move Moves at proper speed 1
Forced to tack 2,3
Becalmed 4,5,6
Veteran sea unit ordered to move Moves at proper speed 1,2,3
Forced to tack 4,5
Becalmed 6
Green air unit ordered to move Moves properly 1,2
Crashes and survives 3,4
Stuck on the ground 5,6
Veteran air unit ordered to move Moves properly 1,2,3,4
Crashes and survives 5
Stuck on the ground 6
Troop carrier ordered to unload Unloaded 1,2,3
Failed 4,5,6
Sea or air battle Miss 1,2
Damaging hit 3,4,5
Fatal hit 6
Submarine ordered to ram enemy Fails 1,2,3
Succeeds 4,5,6
Submarine ordered to torpedo enemy Fails 1,2,3,4
Succeeds 5,6
Ship ordered to ram enemy ship Fails 1,2,3
Succeeds 4,5,6
Ship ordered to torpedo enemy Fails 1,2,3,4
Succeeds 5,6
Messenger moving through enemy territory Gets through 1,2,3,4
Captured 5,6
Messenger moving past enemy unit Gets away 1,2,3,4+X
Captured 4+4,5,6
Gun explodes Man injured 1
No injuries 2,3,4,5,6
Gun fires too soon Misses next shot 1,2,3,4,5,6+X
May hit next shot 6+6

Conclusion

Thank you for reading; again, if you have any ideas, I’d be delighted to read and consider them.

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