Tag Archives: ranged combat

Contested Combat WIP

thoughts on how to make contested combat rolls work so combat is much faster and more lethal



The standard way of doing combat is to have a long list DMs covering all the options which slows the game.

So how do you simulate a firefight without lots of DMs?

What are the key points?

1. Effective armor modifies this general rule but except in the context of surprise characters should almost never be standing out in the open in a fire fight – they should either be in hard cover or running for hard cover

2. As a consequence tactics involve weight of fire, suppression, fire and movement etc i.e. the defender will try and put down enough fire to prevent the attackers moving forward while the attackers try to put down enough fire to either make the defenders bug out or to suppress them enough to allow a detachment to outflank or assault

3. Although weight of fire is the dominant factor, morale, leadership and tactics can be critical also.

How can the key points be abstracted into as simple a system as possible (aka fast system) while still simulating the key points enough to allow player decisions.


Key Point

In the above context what could weapon skill be reasonably defined to mean? It could be defined to mean not just weapon skill itself but also the surrounding skills i.e. use of cover, fire and movement etc. If defined this way a target’s weapon skill could be used to contest the attacker’s weapon skill.


Skill Covers (Almost) Everything Firefights

So in its simplest form say you have two characters firing at each other both with rifle-2, assume they’re using both cover and their weapon according to their weapon skill so both roll 2d6, add their weapon skill DM, winner wins.

rule #1 surprise and encounter distance as book

rule #2 two states, in cover or not

rule #3 sequence

  • flee
  • tactics action (success adds DM+1 to team’s weapon skills)
  • leadership action (success DM+2 team’s remove suppression)
  • action

rule #4 actions

  • fire/attack
  • run to cover (side or forward)
  • run to cover firing (side or forward)
  • assault (close range)
  • flank (close range, suppressed flank)
  • retreat
  • remove suppression

rule #5 highest skill goes first

  • being attacked is the attacked character’s turn also

rule #6 cover

  • cover is by area not by character
  • character assumed to be using weapon skill to make use of available cover
  • cover bonus +0 to +4

rule #7 cases

  • fire vs fire (cover bonus applies to both)
  • fire vs run to cover firing (cover bonus vs half cover bonus)
  • fire vs run to cover (cover bonus vs half cover bonus)
  • fire vs assault (cover bonus defender only)

rule #8 contested rolls

  • winner wins
  • winning roll needs to be 8+
  • each skill rank gives DM+2
  • cover bonus if applicable

rule #9 : a character running to cover can use a melee skill to dodge if it is higher than their ranged skill

rule #10: if a character running to cover wins a contested roll they don’t get hit but they don’t hit the firer either

rule #11: a character running to cover (or assaulting) can choose to fire from the hip, this only gives a DM+1 per skill rank rather than DM+2 but does produce a hit if the runner/assaulter wins

rule #12 : if the winner wins by +1 or +2 they score a suppression; +3 is a hit, +6 is two hits etc

rule #13:  suppression

  • can’t move or shoot while suppressed except to flee or retreat
  • remove suppression on 8+ (cover bonus applies)
  • firing at suppressed character – contested roll but suppressed doesn’t hit if wins

rule #14

  • mooks can only take one hit
  • special NPCs are wound first
  • large  creatures may have multiple wounds

rule #15

  • a character on the flank facing a suppressed enemy on the opposing flank can flank
  • character moves on to same range band and fires, moves back
  • enemy gets no cover bonus


Basic Example

(ignoring armor and weapon types for now)

smuggler (pistol-3) and wookie pal (melee-2) in an argument with bad guys (pistol-2, pistol-1, melee-1) in a cantina when it goes aggro

say cover in the cantina is all DM+2

no surprise.


round one

smuggler has highest skill so goes first, dives for cover while shooting from the hip at the pistol-1. smuggler has DM+3 for skill (running / diving for cover while shooting from the hip gets DM+1 per skill rank instead of DM+2) and DM+2 for cover for DM+5. the pistol-1 stands and shoots for DM+2 -> 15 vs 6 or +9 to the smuggler so two hits and pistol-1 goes down.

wookie melee attacks the melee-1 for DM+4 vs DM+2 -> 9 vs 9 -> fight continues

pistol-2 dives for cover


round two

smuggler and pistol-2 trade shots, DM+8 (skill + cover) vs DM+6 (skill + cover) -> 18 vs 16 -> pistol-2 suppressed

wookie vs melee-1 -> DM+4 vs DM+2 -> 12 vs 4 -> +8 -> two hits -> the melee-1 gang member drops


round three

pistol-2 is suppressed but can choose to flee so flees (goes first) and runs for door firing from the hip at wookie, wookie dives for cover -> DM+2 (pistol-2 only gets DM+1 per skill rank as firing on the move) vs DM+6 (wookie using melee-2 skill to defend for DM+4 plus DM+2 cover) -> 8 vs 13 -> miss

smuggler fires at fleeing pistol-2 -> DM+6 vs DM+4 -> 16 vs 11 -> hit, pistol-2 is wounded


round four

pistol-2 staggers out of the cantina wounded. smuggler and wookie leave the cantina by the other entrance before guards or reinforcements arrive.


Different Weapons (WIP)

Weapons should be different because choice of weapon is a characterful thing so… range DM: melee, short, medium, long ranges.

Pistol: +2 / 0 / – / –

Shotgun: +4 / +4 / – / –

Rifle: 0 / 0 / +2 / +2

Auto Weapons

burst bonus marked (b). suppression bonus marked (s).

suppression fire: DM+2 but if a hit is scored then it counts as two suppressions

burst fire: a hit counts as two hits

Auto Rifle: -2 / 0(b) / +2(s) / +2(s)

Assault Rifle: -2 / +2(b) / +2(s) / -2

SMG: 0 / +4(b) / 0(s) / –



How does burst or auto fire work in real life?

1) It fires multiple shots.

2) It makes it harder to hit after the first shot because of the barrel jumping.

So if the first shot was easy then each subsequent shot would be a little less easy.

If the first shot was difficult then each subsequent shot would be a little more difficult.

3) It’s also good for suppressing / pinning.

4) They jam.

So how to model that in a game?

You figure out the roll you need for the first shot to hit and then add a penalty for each subsequent shot. It could be simple like a DM-2 in all cases or vary by range e.g. DM-1 at point-blank range, DM-2 at short range, DM-3 at medium, DM-4 at long, DM-5 at very long etc.

So a character fires a burst of 3 from their automatic rifle at short range needing 6+ to hit with the first shot, 8+ with the second and 10+ with the third. Or only roll as long as they hit i.e. if the first shot hits then roll for the second and if that hits then roll for the third.

At long range against a target needing 10+ to hit then the second and subsequent shots would be 13+ which is an automatic miss so you don’t roll for that (unless you’re using the same roll for pinning).

A submachinegun firing full burst at point-blank range might be 4+ for the first shot so it’s 5+ for the second, 6+ for the third, 7+ for the 4th etc up to 12+ for the 9th (or the max. size of the clip whichever comes first). Again, maybe stopping rolling after the first miss if it’s a single target, maybe not if there’s a clustered group.

Any time there’s a really weird result e.g. a character firing point blank with an SMG and rolling eight 3s then make it a jam instead.

This creates the realistic effect of automatic weapons being very deadly at close range but not much better than single-shot weapons at long range except…

pinning / suppressing could work off the same mechanic where near misses created the pin effect for example say the maximum roll to hit was set at 13 (auto miss) and a shot within 4 of hitting could have a chance of pinning then a 9+ would give a chance of pinning. In which case a burst of 3 from a machine gun at long range (needing a 10+ for the first shot, 14+ for the second and 18+ for the third would be turned by the maximum limit into three shots needing 10+, 13+, 13+ meaning 6+, 9+, 9+ for possible pins) would still have 3 chances to pin.

A roll of 2 could be a jam although that might be too much so maybe just a chance of a jam (this allows the opportunity for higher tech weapons to get a bonus other than more damage and maybe higher-skilled characters to get a bonus to their jam save to represent better maintenance).



Ranged Combat WIP

Latest attempt at collecting thoughts over RPG ranged combat based on Traveller but applies to all gun combat where the lethality of the weapons makes things like hit points seem silly.

Combined some earlier posts.



  • combat as a series of interesting decisions
  • combat that feels realistic in cinematic terms i.e. if you pictured an RPG combat as a movie scene it would be cool
  • fast and dramatic
  • some element of tactics: suppression, fire and movement


Key Point

  • lethality of weapons unless target behind cover or running to cover
  • hard to hit under those circumstances, easy to hit otherwise
  • maybe target roll: 12+, 11+, 8+
  • sci fi armor can reduce this lethality issue



  • melee, guns and energy weapon types
  • weapons should all represent an interesting decision e.g.
  • shotgun/smg good at short range if low skilled
  • pistol good at short range if skilled
  • rifle good at long range if skilled
  • energy weapons good in zero g
  • sniper shot takes a turn to aim


Fire Mode

  • semi, burst and auto
  • reason is to provide tactical decision
  • burst and auto have chance of multiple hits at short range
  • main purpose is suppression
  • suppression, no damage but easier to score a hit
  • suppression chance: 6, 8, 10
  • suppressed character morale check to not miss turn
  • downside is ammo usage
  • if roll a 2(semi), 3(burst) or 4(auto) -> low ammo condition



  • minor importance unless sci fi
  • passive armor: mesh (melee), cloth (ballistic), reflec (energy)
  • weapons do nd6 damage
  • armor reduces total or armor reduces each die or armor gives a saving throw
  • active armor: combat armor
  • material has properties which diffuse energy of attack
  • effectively gives armor hit points
  • replacement plates / repair options -> tactical decision



  • exo-skeleton
  • power armor
  • gadgets



  • shotgun
  • pistol, rifle
  • ballistic or energy
  • semi, semi+burst, burst+auto
  • sniper scope
  • RAM



  • highest weapon skill goes first



  • weapon skill as defensive DM if in cover or running to cover



Sci Fi Armor: medieval analogy

  • padding, mail -> coat of plates, plate mail -> plate
  • mesh/cloth/reflec -> combat armor -> power armor



What should be the baseline for ranged combat?

A lot of games set the baseline to hit a ranged target at some kind of average chance and then modify it up or down. I think it would be better if it was set at a more specific baseline as then it might be easier to visualize. My recollection from my (very long ago) army days is that after some training most people – if they were stationary and aiming – could hit a stationary man-sized target at close range in daylight most of the time (and by close range i mean around 30 feet for handguns and 30 yards for rifles). This may be a bit off but it’s in that ballpark IIRC.

So the optimal conditions where a shooter will hit almost all the time are defined as:
– basic training
– stationary shooter
– stationary target
– aiming
– short range (defined here as 30 feet for handguns, 30 yards for rifles)
– man-sized target
– good light
– no concealment (fog or foliage)
– no hard cover
– unwounded

The base chance to hit would be set at this point. As this baseline is (mostly) set at optimal conditions then any deviation from this would involve penalties. The exceptions to this from the list above would be point-blank range and larger than man-size target both of which would get a bonus.

On top of these situational modifiers others would be:
– skill
– natural talent (dexterity)
– tech/magic (sights, built-in targeting computers, cybernetics, psionics etc)

Hard cover could be modelled in the same way as a smaller than man-sized target. Say there were penalties to hit along the lines of
– 3/4 human size
– 1/2 human size
– 1/4 human size
– tiny
then the same could be applied to the amount visible behind the cover e.g. a half-covered target could be treated as 1/2 size and a target inside a bunker as tiny size.

The next question is armor. If you have armor added into the hit roll then you can get situations where if a particular weapon has a bonus against a particular type of armor it feels like it is easier to strike one of two targets who are side by side but wearing different armor. That’s not what is happening but it feels like it and creates an immersion jolt imo. So i think armor protection should generally be checked separate from the hit. I think a separate hit and armor/damage roll adds a bit of dramatic tension also.

Armor can have attributes separate from the armor rating which effects hit chance.

Once a hit is achieved there is an armor/damage roll.


If a ranged target has a high dodge rating (due to a high Agility score for example) then should that apply as a penalty in ranged combat? I think no with two exceptions:

1) When advancing under fire in a situation where there is a lot of cover then a high dodge character can apply a penalty to their ranged attackers to simulate them running and diving from cover to cover.

2) A high dodge character attacked by ranged combat at point-blank range can apply their dodge bonus as a penalty.

This would be a situation where armor could have attributes which effect the hit roll i.e. heavier armors could limit the maximum agility of a character wearing it which would limit their maximum dodge bonus.