Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Royal Navy

Ryan came over and we played four WWI scenarios of Jack Greene's The Royal Navy. These were hypothetical situations; they didn't happen in history, but could have if an admiral or two had made different decisions. The first three featured British ships attacking the SMS Goeben; the fourth was Scharnhorst and Geisenau vs HMAS Australia.

Scenario 1: This situation supposes that when Britain declares war on Germany, Indefatigable and Indomitable have maintained contact with Goeben and Breslau. The Brits quickly sank Breslau and did serious damage to Goeben, but not enough to keep her from escaping to the East. This counted as a draw.

Scenario 2: A night action, with a British flotilla trying to stop Goeben and Breslau. The Brits need to make a successful torpedo attack to have any real chance of stopping Goeben. I sacrificed one detroyer in a (successful) attempt to collide with Goeben and slow it down; however, my other destroyer lost its torpedo mount before I could get in position to fire, which left only my light cruiser able to fire, and Ryan cleverly maneuvered outside the torpedo's threatened arc. The German ships easily escaped off the map. Technically, though, they only sank one of my destroyers--I sank the other one myself. Something about "You shouldn't have been in my line of fire" and "You were ramming a battlecruiser, you were going to die anyway." German win.

Scenario 3: Four RN armored cruisers, with Goeben and Breslau trying to escape again. The Brits quickly sank Breslau but Goeben's faster speed and longer range guns meant she was able to hover outside the Brit's range and still shoot. Assuming optimum German play, I'm not sure the Brits can win this unless they get lucky with hit and damage dice on the first turn or two. German win.

Scenario 4: This sitiation posits that armored cruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst (not the WW2 battlecruisers) ambush the Indefatigable class battlecruiser Australia as she comes out of harbor; the Australia can't shoot in the first turn and fires at a penalty in the second and third turns, as she clears for action. When the action started, the two Germans closed in, trying to get to a range where their guns could penetrate, with Scharnhorst cutting ahead of their victim and Gneisenau circling behind. The German guns couldn't penetrate Australia's heavy armor but did a lot of damage to her unarmored sections and started two fires. On turn 2, with all the ships at close range, Australia focused on Scharnhorst; she shot off three of the Scharnhorst's four turrets, then blew her up for good measure, Geisenau's return fire resulted in a critical hit that would have blown up Australia, had it managed to penetrate her armor belt. On the third turn, Australia's unarmored sectons proved to be her undoing, and she slipped beneath the waves. The crippled Gneisenau's damage control crews put out fires and the ship limped away at half speed. That counted as a draw.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Monster Characteristics, System Agnostic

RPG monsters tend to have a sameness about them, at least with the GMs that I've had. The monsters see you as you see them, the monsters attack, they fight to the death. If any of them flee, they cease to exist as soon as they step off stage; they don't run to bring reinforcements, set up ambushes, go tell the women and children to hide, or trail the party and try to snipe them.

Michael Prescott, on I'll See It When I Believe It, had an interesting post about what he describes as "Non-Mechanical Difficulty Levels for Monstrous Threats". If you know you're going to face a hundred orcs in an area, would you rather the orcs were all lone wolves, or trained like a Roman century?

Prescott lists several categories, although I've changed a description or two:
  • Speed: immobile, slow, medium, fast
  • Cohesion: hostile, rivals, neutral, fragmented, factional, cohesive, unit, gestalt
  • Aggression: evasive, defensive, aggressive, predatory, ambusher
  • Perceptiveness: oblivious, inattentive, alert, vigilant
  • Territoriality: immobile, site-bound, territorial, regional, relentless
  • Numbers: single, few, many, horde
  • Lore: fully understood, familiar, unfamiliar, unknown
  • Camouflage: invisible, stealthy, obvious, blatant
  • Morale: panicky, fragile, firm, heroic, fanatic
If there are two dragons in an area, they might be Fast (they can fly), Hostile (they're more likely to fight each other), Aggressive, Terrritorial (if you don't poke your nose into the lair, you're reasonably safe), Alert, Single (you won't encounter more than one at a time), Fully Understood (everyone knows all about dragons, their strengths and weaknesses and motivation), Blatant (no one is in any doubt that there's a dragon around), and Panicky (once a dragon feels threatened, he's going to try to flee or negotiate).  Your orc warband (drilled as a unit, aggressive, firm morale) will feel different from your goblin tribe (factional, ambusher, vigilant, territorial, panicky).

Some of these (speed, for example) should already be built into your monster stats; adding the rest should make your monsters stand out from each other.