Friday, October 31, 2014

Mecha Against the Giants

So my online Wednesday night gaming group has run into scheduling problems, and we're looking at alternate games we can run when the usual GM isn't available but everyone else. Not particularly seriously, I threw out the following pitch:

Mecha Against the Giants
In a mostly low fantasy world, actual giants are invading. The Court  Wizard performs his  mightiest ritual and summons a squad of Heavy Gear/VOTOMS type mecha pilots and their vehicles. Dragooned against  their will, they must use their powerful vehicles and limited ammunition to defeat the giants and  find a way home.
Response was moderately positive, so now I need to figure out some stuff about how this would work in GURPS and I'm using my blog as a scratch space.

Also, I'm going to start calling the mecha Large Armored Knights, but claim they were invented by a pseudo-Germany so they'd be Grosse Panzer Ritteren and abbreviated GrPzRts or Ritters.

Modern Guns, Metal Armor, and Improbably Tall Men

Harking back to Heavy Gear, GrPzRts are roughly equivalent to modern Infantry Fighting Vehicles, and likely armed with a 20mm automatic cannon or a 25mm rifled cannon (plus rockets/missiles, anti-infantry machine guns and grenade launchers, and a small anti-missile system). But their primary weapons do between 6dx3 and 6dx4 damage, or maybe up to 6dx6 (2) with exotic loads like APFSDS. So their front armor needs to be in the DR80 to DR100 range, enough to bounce SAPHE projectiles but still vulnerable to AP and exotic AP.

It's pretty safe to assume that the giants are not going to be strong enough to penetrate the Ritters' front armor nor tough enough to handle being shot by the main guns. Which is fine: that means that I can throw large numbers of giants at the PCs without worrying too much, and the PCs have a trump card as long as they don't run out of ammo.

Still, the giants need some way of harming the ritters. Assuming a weight in the 3-6 ton range, the ritters would have ST 70 to ST 85 or so. Giants that can wrestle a ritter would need about the same strength, which puts them maybe 3 to 4 times as tall as a person. A ST 70 giant with Brawling does 8d+7 damage with a punch, and could reliably crack DR 40 rear armor if he can hit a weak spot. The largest giants, 30' monstrosities with ST 160, swing their clubs and blades for better than 6dx3 damage and can crack a ritter's side armor with some luck.

Giants Versus Giants

Giants need some inherent DR, preferably a lot of it, to avoid getting chewed to death by anti-infantry light machine guns. In GURPS, a strong, trained brawler does 1/4th his own HP on a typical punch. An ST 70 giant punching himself does 8d+7 damage, average 35 points per hit, and would need DR17 or so to reduce that to 1/4 his HP.  A larger 24' tall giant with ST 115 punches for 16d, averages 56 damage, and needs DR 30 or so. The largest 30' giants have DR 40. The idea of TL2 normal humans, almost entirely without magic or special abilities, needing to summon TL9 armored fighting vehicles to deal with these giants makes a lot more sense!

Typical Ritters and Giants

Scout Ritter701/4 115/24, 5/40*4+2175 30020mm AC, 8 70mm rockets
Infantry Ritter800/5124/22, 4/33*4.5+219030025mm Rifle, 16 70mm rockets or 3 125mm missiles
Artillery Ritter85-1/5103/19, 3/28*6+2110030020mm AC and 40 70mm rockets, or 25mm AC and 8 70mm rockets,
120mm Mortar
Ritters have two movement modes: a slow walking mode that handles terrain well, and a faster skating mode (using wheels built into their feet) that bogs down terribly on anything other than metaled roads.
All ritters have DR40 rear armor. They carry 250 rounds for ACs and 90 rounds for rifles. Artillery ritters carry 12 rounds for their 120mm Mortar. They also have a 7.62mm LMG with 1000 rounds or a 60mm anti-personnel mortar with 18 rounds, a 6 shot smoke launcher, and a 10mm anti-missile system with 2000 rounds.
Each ritter has a pilot's survival kit that includes reflex armor BDUs (DR 12/4* with DR 18/7* torso), a combat helmet with visor and gas mask (DR 18 for the head), a carbine with 3 magazines, a pistol with 3 magazines, a survival knife, a bivy tent, a filter canteen, a small first aid kit, a smart blanket, 2 days of compressed rations, and sundry items depending on the expected terrain.

Weak Giant
15' tall, SM +2, ST 55, Move 21, DR 10, Punch 6d+5 (7d+1), Club/Blade swing 8d+9 (10d+2), Two-handed club/blade swing 8d+24 (15d).

Typical Giant
18' tall, SM +2, ST 75, Move 20, DR 15, Punch 8d+7 (10d), Club/Blade swing 10d+10 (13d), Two-handed club/blade swing 10d+30 (18d+2).

Strong Giant
24' tall, SM+3, ST 115, Move 16, DR 25, Punch 12d+13 (16d), Club/Blade swing 14d+16 (18d+2), Two-handed club/blade swing 14d+44 (26d+2).

Massive Giant
30' tall, SM+4, ST 160, Move 15, DR 35, Punch 17d+16 (21d+2), Club/Blade swing 19d+19 (18d+2), Two-handed club/blade swing 19d+57 (35d).

Many giants wear jousting scale armor layered over thin cloth armor, giving them an additional DR +12. Especially rich giants wear massive plate over thin mail (or supermassive plate over light mail for massive giants), giving them DR +18 or DR +23.

(There might be something wrong with the inherent DR values when wearing the best possible armor gives less DR than your skin. Maybe giants should wear giant skin armor...)

Bullets Per Giant, Giants Per Ritter

It takes 4 rounds from a 7.62mm LMG to bring a weak giant to 0 HP and 10 from the same to bring down a typical giant. A single round of 20mm or better will drop a weak or typical giant; massive giants need multiple rounds of 20mm and 25mm or a single shot to the vitals.

A strong giant with a greatclub can slowly crack an infantry ritter's armor (26 hits to HP 0!), while a massive giant with the same can smash any ritter in 3-5 hits. Weak and typical giants aren't directly a threat, but can be a problem if they behind a ritter or if several of them combine to grapple a ritter and pull it to the ground.

PC Templates

This game concept is mostly about improbably tall men fighting giant robots, but sometimes the giant robot pilots are going to need to get out on foot and do stuff. It's certainly likely that the local aristocracy will realize the pilots are both the aristocracy's necessary saviors and biggest threats, and that someone will eventually conclude that while the ritters are necessary to fight the giants, the ritter pilots could be replaced by someone else (this is possibly not true, when has that stopped people from doing stupid and futile actions?)

As such, I'm going to use the Action templates. Wheel Man is an obvious choice for an ace pilot, but Assassin (for a keen shooter), Face Man (for an iffy pilot with a lot of charm), Investigator (for a clever leader), Scout (for a sneaky pilot of a scout ritter), and Shooter (for a heavy gunner) are also possibilities. A Fast Guy or Weapon Master (from Furious Fists) wouldn't be out of place as a mechanical brawler who will come in handy when ammo is low and beating up giants with clubs made out of tree trunks seems like a good plan.

Notes on Online Play

I'm going run this using MapTools, because that's what I do with online games. I don't think I'm going to change the standard GURPS time scale, but I may up the ground scale to 1 hex = 5 yards. I'll have to experiment, I think.

If MapTools could handle multihex critters properly, I probably wouldn't bother. Maybe. There's trade-offs both ways: a small hex scale means more hexes to cope with but it also means not having to muck with multiplying and dividing ranges. Hmmm.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bones: Griffins and Bugs

I got some spiders and beetles as part of the Bones kickstarter. I have some pre-painted D&D spiders, but more is always better, and the beetles are great.

These were pretty easy to paint: thin walnut brown stain as a base, and a drybrush of either dark red (for the beetles) or dark grey (for the spiders). I then went back with a very light blue paint and painted the negative space in side the beetle's legs to give them a little more definition. A little clean-up and they were done!

They're a little hard to see in these pictures, because the focus is the griffins, but you can see them at the bottom.
I always wanted some miniatures griffins for my gaming table. I can't imagine why; I can't think of an actual encounter that involved any that I've ever played in. I think a friend of mine had a lead griffin in high school, which must have been enormously expensive and heavy for something I don't he ever primed, much less painted.

When Bones was kickstarted, orders came with a single griffon and additional griffins were $7 as an extra. I decided to get three of them, because if I ever play a tabletop fantasy game again and use griffins, I'll probably want multiple ones in a the scene.
I think these are largest miniatures I've ever painted, as large as my largest dragons. They were also hard to basecoat, since the paint didn't want to flow in the crooks of the feathers on the wings and the ridged feathers on the back and chest were hard on my brushes.
The paint schemes were simple: dark ivory wings (or at least trailing feathers) and brown bodies. I used chestnut for two of them, and walnut for the third, to make them distinct on the table. Then I drybrushed with a brighter white and a lighter brown to bring out the details. Two tones of yellow for the beak and talons, light tan and yellow drybrush for the arms, and I was done.
This griffin was based on the golden eagle. He had the same brown base as the other brown griffin, but then I hightlighted the chest and head feathers with the same yellow I used on the talons and beak.

I really like how this one came out.
I painted the socks on the back feet in several stages: ivory basecoat, a sharp line with the brown basecoat, and then drybrushed white highlight from the bottom and drybrushed brown highlight from the upper leg heading down. It looks best on this dark brown griffin, since it blended very well and gave a very natural effect.
The eyes are a simple light tan and a line of black with a technical pen. Simple, but surprisingly good.
I'm glad I did these, and even happier that I'm finished with them!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Revising Critical Hits and Misses in GURPS

Doug's work on critical hits and optimum skill levels caused me to think some more on a complaint I have with GURPS: I don't like the current system for critical hits and misses in combat.

The current mechanism is simple, but somewhat unsatisfying: a natural 3 or 4 on an attack roll is a critical hit, and the opponent gets no defense roll. A natural 17 or 18 on an attack roll is a critical miss, and something bad happens to the attacker. An attacker with an effective skill of 15 or better also gets a critical hit on a natural 5. An attacker with an effective skill of 16 also gets a critical hit on a 6 and doesn't critically miss on a 17, though she still misses on a 17.

There's about a 5% of rolling a 5 or less on 3 dice, and about a 10% chance of rolling a 6 or less. So going from effective skill 15 to 16 only slightly increases the chance of hitting, but it doubles the number of critical hits. Against an opponent with significant defenses, that can increase the chance of getting through the defenses by 5%-10% on its own. And attacking at skill 16 also reduces the chance of critical failing from 2% to 0.5%, which is either not much of a difference or a fairly huge difference. A rare event goes from happening one time in fifty to one time in two hundred.

The reason that all this is unsatisfactory is that it makes optimizing fairly simple: attack with skill 16. Going below 16 can slightly increase the chance of getting an attack through defenses, at the cost of giving up potential critical hits (and their beneficial effects such as extra damage or bonus armor penetration) and risking more critical misses. There are circumstances where going to skill 14 increases the chance of getting a hit through defenses slightly (going from 37% to 42% or so in the most favorable case) but most people feel the extra risk of critical misses isn't worth the slight gain in some circumstances.

I wish the optimization wasn't so simple, and there were more situations where having an effective skill ranging between 14 and 18 were valid but different. Different players could make different choices, depending on their preferences and the tactical situation, without feeling that they were making an inferior choice.

Proposed House Rule

My rule is a simple modification of the existing critical hit rules. An attacker with an effective skill of 15 or better also gets a critical hit on a natural 5. An attacker with an effective skill of 18 or better would also get a critical hit on a natural 6. An attacker with an effective skill of 14 or better wouldn't critically miss on a 17.

It's just a simple tweak to the current rules, but I think it opens up some space in play. A moderately skilled attacker can drop her effective skill to 14 to rack up penalties on the defense without increasing her risk of critical misses. Or if she wants to maximize her chances of critical hits, she can raise her effective skill to 18 and go crit fishing. Depending on the situation, she may even want to hold at 16, maximizing her chance of a hit without getting critical: useful when she wants to draw out a defense to set up another character or has an attack that penalizes the defender for successfully defending (such as a lightsaber or some other annihilating weapon).

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bones: Apes! Basecoat and drybrush

Actually, only the largest of these guys is actually from the Reaper Bones collection. The other two are actual pewter figures from Paizo, I think.

I don't have any particular reason for posting these guys. Or for painting them, really, but I figured I should just work through the backlog and these guys were the ones I grabbed. Along with 3 griffins, 4 snakewomen, an eryine or harpy, a succubus, a bunch of beetles and spiders, and a couple of ninja. Not all of them are getting the same amount of attention, but I'm making some progress on most of them. The ninja may get done in a second batch.

Anyway, I basecoasted these guys with a dark brown walnut, and then quickly drybrushed them with a dark gray. I took the pictures to see how well the highlight came out, and I think it's okay. I still need to go over the biggest gorilla with a lighter gray to make him a proper silverback, since the difference in fur color is pretty noticeable in my reference images.