Monday, October 11, 2010

Combat/Wounding Revision?

We've gotten a few more games under our belt, and had a chance to flex the Shadowitz system more. It still continues to move the game forward in a more or less smooth fashion. Lack of a printed book hangs us up when it comes to looking things up, but that's more a function of me being too cheap/poor to buy more ink for the printer than anything else. Besides, with the majority of players running all sorts of wireless devices at the table, we've managed with pdfs. Hey, might as well put those things to more use than surfing for porn during the game (which does happen).

I noted a while ago that no one ever takes defensive actions in combat. Having played for several more months, this continues to be the case. It's a very small group, so it's not much of a sampling, and this makes it difficult to know if this particular behavior is because of a problem with the system or if it's because of individual play style.

For example, my group currently has 3 members. One doesn't really care about the rules and wants the simplest solutions possible, so in combat he's not concerned about diving for cover, timing his shots, etc. He shoots and moves on. Another has very few combat skills to speak of and considers himself useful if he can goad the opposition into shooting him instead of someone more useful, so he spends all his resources jumping around and waving his hands while screaming "Here! Shoot here!"

And then there's our sam. Said sam doesn't care at all if he takes lead. He's a naked blade that stabs into the deep of combat and twists until all opposition falls. Once his dermal plating's soaked all the damage it can, he tends to rack up injuries fast, then fills in his wounds and eventually drops, condition monitor totally full up (until the medic gets him on his feet again; then it's lather, rinse, repeat). For him, it's clearly a matter of style. He's not a savvy fighter, and entirely too aggressive to bother with dodging incoming fire.

Still, I'm wondering if there's something askew with the combat rules in general if this is the default, and indeed only, behavior exhibited in combat every single time weapons come out. In analyzing a lot of the fights we've had in recent months, characters can stay on their feet for a good long time without any action to preserve themselves. The one shot kill (or take down, really) is possible, but the attacker needs to deal 11 + armor points of damage, not accounting for possible mitigation through injuries.

I've said in the past that the group hasn't faced much skilled opposition, and when they do numbers are usually on their side (one prime runner and a team of mooks, for example). We did have one massive battle royal in an ant hive, and that certainly taxed the team to their utmost. At the end of that fight I said that everyone was laid up in the hospital (as employees of Mega Media, since medical care was provided for in their contract) for nearly four months. Not a single person disagreed with me. Still, for the most part the fighting has been against people not as good as they are.

That changed last game, a little. In that game, the team raided a militant policlub looking to neutralize the leadership. No, it wasn't Humanis, though these guys were just as bad. Anyway, since the group was a paramilitary organization, I built their core membership with a good degree of competency. None of them were as individually good as the team sam, who can chuck close to 13 dice when he really gets going burning his edge for aspects, but they were by no means chumps. In game terms, they were all threat rating 4 with varying levels of dermal armor and reflex augmentation. They also were all armed with submachine guns and wore body armor. The fight involved 4 of these guys, since they'd managed to remove one of the others from the fight through role playing without even knowing it. None of them went down easy, and the sam dropped twice.

But that's the thing: harder opposition doesn't seem to mean anything in terms of team reaction. It just seems to determine whether or not someone drops at all. And this is the thing that has me wondering if there needs to be something more. I've taken to tagging injuries rather often, usually in one big bunch. So I'll pass over a small stack of edge chips and then scoop up a massive handfull of extra dice; injuries are no laughing matter to be ignored in this game. The players know by now that I'll use them often and hard. Still, there's no thought to avoiding damage.

Shadowrun used to have permanent injury rules. Whenever you suffered a deadly wound, you risked some sort of lasting effect. It might cost you a body part (which you could get replaced, but it cost money, and possibly essence), or it could remove an attribute point. That always struck me as nasty, especially given how easy it was to reach deadly; it was a rare game I played where I wasn't at deadly, and I didn't play crazy. I can't recall of such a rule remained in SR4; I'd stopped using those rules back in the 2e days, but I'm starting to see the reason behind that rule. I don't want to create some byzantine system of rolls to determine how screwed you are because you took some damage, but something more substantial might be in order.

Hmm... quick idea flash. Shadowitz rules currently state you cannot heal an injury until all of the wound boxes of a specific level clear out. So if you took a serious injury, you can't heal it until your serious wound boxes (boxes 8 and 9) are cleared. With a good Endurance rating, however, you can clean out your entire condition track in a couple of days. If you're in a crappy place with a low Lifestyle, you pay for some extended care under a halfway good physician and you'll be fine. I saw this happen in the last game.

So rather than bolt on yet more rules, why not just change that balance? You can't heal wounds until your injury of that level is cleared out? Current healing rules put injuries on a much longer timetable for recovery, and even a low level injury can clog up the works for healing higher level wound boxes, since healing wounds roll down your condition track, and if all the low boxes are filled up and stuck because of an injury, those high boxes won't have anywhere to go.

It's a simple rules adjustment, but one with some big consequences. I think we're going to give that a go next time we play.

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