August 1, 2013

[Let's Look At] Mutants & Machine-Guns: A Gonzo Post-Apocalyptic RPG, Part 11: Sample Combat 2

Several weeks ago, I was delighted to find a couple friends of mine in my hometown have been up to something exciting, and I thought what better way than to launch a new series of posts to revive this long-dead blog. [Let's Look At] is where I try to read through and dissect every chapter and corner of a new RPG that I have yet to play, and explore it with all of my musings about its design, some notes, and experimental plays to better understand it. I don't really intend these examinations to be a review of the game, but rants and raves may seep through the seams at times.

In my last [Let's Look At] post, I pitted my sample characters against a group of Spike Mushrooms that were quite easily dispatched to demonstrate the Combat rules of Mutants & Machine-Guns.

While the sample scenario did an admirable job of showing how the basics of the Combat rules worked, there were a few concerns that I wasn't able to showcase in that scenario due to the fragility of the enemies. I wasn't even able to show how Psionics worked because the Spike Mushrooms were taken down so easily within 3 rounds.

So I decided to run another combat scenario, this time with much tougher enemies for my characters to see how the tactics and the dynamics of the combat would turn out differently with more challenging critters. This time I would set my characters against a group of Porkers, also found as one of the sample critters in Mutants & Machine-Guns.

Continuing where I last left off my characters...

Clearing the previous occupants of the wreckage site, our characters burned the bodies before conducting a thorough search with a better peace of mind. Though still cautious in case more critters showed up, our characters managed to find some much needed ammunition and food from the site. After they were done, the sky was slowly turning dark, and our characters decided that they would camp on the site for the night in a defensible position from any unwanted intruders in the night.

After having their meal of canned mushrooms which the previous occupants were more than glad to leave alone, the Pure Human and Mutant Human decided to turn in while the Evolved Animal would take the first watch. As the humans soundly went into sleep, the mutated tiger gazed upon the stars of the night sky and for a moment, forgot the troubles of surviving in the wasteland. That would not last forever, however, as his keen sense of smell picked up a whiff of danger in the wind; a smell of fur and feces that unmistakably belongs to a group of Porkers, who thought that they could ambush the sleepy crew. There were 3 of them, he could tell.

Quickly waking up his comrades while having his battle axe drawn, the Pure Human and Mutant Human were able to arm themselves with their firearms and close-ranged weapons while awaiting the approaching intruders. Sensing that their prey had long detected their presence and were ready for them, the Porkers emerged out of darkness and charged towards them...

Because the characters were attacked before the day had past, I would assume that my Mutant Human was not able to generate any new Detonating Pods, so she continues to only carry 1 that is with her. Also, I am considering that the characters had rested a full evening, so their Hitpoints are restored back to full after their last encounter. 

Combat Setup
Round 1

Like before, I would use the same initiative for the Porkers, while each character would have their own chance to roll for their own initiative. After rolling their Combat Rolls, this is the initiative order for combat after adding their respective Combat ability;

Mutant Human 10
Evolved Animal 8 
Pure Human 5 (simultaneous)
Porker 5 (simultaneous)

Making sure that her pistol is loaded, the Mutant Human takes the lead and steps forward to get into range of the Porkers and uses the Move action to get into plane B.

Up next, the Evolved Animal follows behind with a Move action to plane B carrying his battle axe as he notices that two of the Porkers are armed with Clubs, while the third has a Shotgun.

The Pure Human grows a little nervous but follows behind his comrades with his Shotgun and takes a Move action to join with his comrades.

All the Porkers grunt through their nostrils as they move to plane E with their Move action and end the round. 

At the end of Round 1
Round 2

Entering into Round 2, the Mutant Human takes another step with her Move action into plane C that puts her in range to fire her Pistol at the Porkers. Rolling 2 from 2d6 and adding her Combat ability gives her a total of 5, which misses the Porker with a Defense of 9. She rolls 2d6 to see if she has to reload her weapon and doesn't get a double.

The Evolved Animal stands next to her after using his Move action but doesn't have a ranged weapon to use on the Porker, so he ends his turn waiting for them to close in.

Stepping into range after using his Move action, the Pure Human fires his Shotgun at one of the Porkers. He also misses with his total roll of 6 after adding his Combat ability and the battle is off to a bad start for the characters. Rolling 2d6 at the end of his turn, he gets double 2s on his dice, which means that he has used up all his ammo in his Shotgun and would need to reload it before he can use it again.

The Porkers take one more step closer towards the characters with their Move action into plane D, except for the one armed with the Shotgun who fires it at the Mutant Human. Hitting a Defense of 9 with his Combat ability of 3, she takes a critical 9 Damage from the blast, knocking down her Hitpoints to 6. Rolling to see if it needs to reload, the dices tell him that there is more where that came from. Already the tide of the battle is swinging in favour of the Porkers.

At the end of Round 2
Round 3

Badly wounded from the single Shotgun blast of the Porker in the last round, the Mutant Human desperately needs to regain the lost Hitpoints if she wants to keep fighting. With the situation calling for it, she takes a Psionic action and decides to use Life Leech to drain some Hitpoints from a Porker in the adjacent plane. To use her Psionic Mutation she must lose 1 Hitpoint, taking it down to 5 and then make a Mental roll to see if she successfully uses it. She rolls a 7 out of 2d6 and adding her Mental ability of 3, she passes the Target Number of 9. Whipping the Porker with a psionic lash, the Porker takes 6 Damage out of a d6 but has 4 remaining Hitpoints, while she regains the same amount to her Hitpoint, bringing her up to 11. 

With his Move action to plane D, the Evolved Animal charges towards the unhurt Porker and swings his battle axe to draw first blood. Hitting a Defense of 11, with his roll and Combat ability, the axe deals 5 Damage, taking the Porker's Hitpoint down to 5.

Forced to use a Reload action, the Pure Human watches helplessly as the battle is joined.

The drained Porker tries to step towards the Mutant Human but according to the rules, combatants are not allowed to pass through enemies that are in the same plane. Since the Evolved Animal is in the same plane, he has effectively created a bottle neck that must be eliminated before it can move forward. With no other target it can attack, the Porkers of plane D goes for a flanking attack on the Evolved Animal to take it out. The first Porker gets a total of 11 for his Combat Roll over the Evolved Animal's Defense of 9, bludgeoning him with 3 damage out of 1d6 to reduce his Hitpoints down to 8. The next Porker attacks and hit a Defense of 9, just enough to deal an additional Damage of 3 to the Evolved Animal and pummeling his Hitpoints down to 5.

Seeing the Mutant Human using her Psionic Mutation, the Shotgun-wielding Porker decides to fire another shot at her. Hitting her Defense of 9 with a higher Combat Roll of 11, she barely survives with 3 Hitpoints after taking 8 devastating Damage from the Shotgun. Rolling a 2 and 1 indicates that the Porker doesn't need to reload on his next turn, as it is ready to finish off the Mutant Human once and for all.    

At the end of Round 3
Round 4

Although taking heavy fire, she plans to take a risk to put an end to the Porker she had used her Life Leech on. With her Use an Item action, the Mutant Human draws out her Detonating Pod from her stash and tosses it at the Porker. Here comes the tricky part. In the rules for Detonating Pod, it is unclear what is its range and whether she needs to make a Combat Roll to hit the enemy with it. So for the sake of following the default Combat rules, I would ask her to treat it as a normal attack that requires a Combat Roll.  With a roll of 9 and adding her Combat ability of 2, she hits at 11 which is more than the Porker's defense. The pod explodes on the Porker dealing 5 damage out of 1d6+2, killing it into a cloud of bacon.

Still joined in battle with the other Porker, the Evolved Animal continues his attack with a Combat Roll of 8, which is parried by the Porker's club.

Desperate to distract the ranged Porker from killing his mutant counterpart, the Pure Human aims with his Shotgun and fires with a Combat Roll of 9. His shot deals 6 Damage to the Porker, while he taunts it to get its attention. Meanwhile, he cocks his Shotgun to find there is still more shots to fire.

Not disheartened by the fall of his compatriot, the Porker on plane D continues to attack the Evolved Animal and hits it with a Combat Roll of 10, and dealing only a minor Damage of 2 to take its Hitpoint down to 3.

After taking a heavy hit from the Shotgun of the Pure Human, the ranged Porker realises the true threat that is on the battlefied. He swings his own weapon to fire at the Pure Human and hits him with a 9, dealing 9 Damage to him to reduce his Hitpoint down to 6. Pumping his weapon once more, the Porker intends to finish the job without needing to reload on his next turn.

At the end of Round 4
Round 5

Seeing the dire situation that they have fallen in, the Mutant Human tries to even the odds by trying to kill the most dangerous Porker with its Shotgun. Trusting in her Mental ability more than her Combat ability, she uses her Move action into plane D to get into range, and takes a Psionic action to use Life Leech on the ranged Porker, hoping to drain all of its life force to kill it. After cutting her Hitpoint by 1 down to 2, she makes her Mental roll and gets a total of 11 to successfully use her psionic mutation. With all her concentration, her pulls out a total of 5 Damage from the weaken Porker and kills it while she subsumes its life energy into her, bringing her Hitpoint up to 6, since the Porker only had 4 Hitpoints remaining.

Seeking to finish the battle, the Evolved Animal goes for another strike at the last Porker and barely strikes true with a Combat Roll of 9. The Porker tries to block the attack one more time with its club, but the Evolved Animal's attack was so ferociously that his battle axes cleaves through the weapon and rends a huge tear from shoulder to torso, killing it with 8 Damage.

At last, the battle is over as the characters take a few moments to breath a sigh of relief from the bloody encounter. They decided that it would be too dangerous to remain in the wreck site if more of the Porkers come poking around for their lost comrades and quickly pack up to leave. Of course, they didn't forget to take along that dangerous Shotgun the Porker was using, which would be very useful in future adventures.

Combat Ends

That was a really close call. I nearly lost a couple of my characters there but admittedly those Porkers are pretty dangerous with a high Combat ability of 3, which makes hitting a 9 Defense quite easy. It was a good scenario though because the toughness of the combat did allow me to see some of the quirks and gave me some some thoughts about combat.

Firstly, any combat-related Mutations should have proper combat-related explanations, especially if they need a Combat Roll to use and its Range, if any. It's hard to adjudicate sometimes because with unclear rules, there can be many interpretations of it.

Completely not allowing combatant to passed through an enemy on the same plane feels a little too restrictive and can be exploited. By restricting combatants from moving pass an enemy would just encourage 'bottlenecking' tactics that I demonstrated earlier. I suggest that combatants should be allowed to make a Combat Roll against the enemy with the highest Combat ability on the same plane. If they are higher, they may pass and failure means they have to stay (maybe incur an Attack of Opportunity kind of consequence). I'm basing this that is something similar to the Flee rules, which I didn't get to use in this scenario, but I think having a chance to do this means it could add another dimension to the tactics of combat, instead of 'charge-and-kill'.

Again I think there should be rules for firing into close combat, although I deliberately tried not to do that in this scenario. However, ranged weapons just feels a little overpowering as it is when compared to close combat, especially if they can be used in any kind of situations. I'm guessing that they shouldn't be allowed to be used when the character is in same plane with an enemy, but that hasn't been stated in the rules as well. Maybe having certain conditions to 'force' characters into close combat could balance this factor.

I liked how using Psionic Mutations are a risky gamble like how often my Mutant Human could have died if her attempts had failed. It's a good thing for players to weight the benefits and risks about this aspect of this mutations and the payoff after a success feels about right.

Another small suggestion that I might add is to allow characters to take their Move first or after they have taken their other action. This could add some tactical element for the player and makes combat feel less restrictive, if they want to be able to make every one of their actions count.

Until there is a new update for the rules, which I think could certainly benefit it, I think this concludes my [Let's Look At] series for Mutants & Machine-Guns. I believe the designers can further solidify some of the foundations of this otherwise really quick and fund game to play, and there is certainly more potential areas that it can expand to, though I think that would be the subject of many more supplements for this book.

So for now, see you in my next post when I find something new to write about.    


Robertson Sondoh Jr said...

KC, I will be honest. I really really enjoyed both the combat scenario. I will change some aspect of the game accordingly.

Since Mutants & Machineguns is a simple game, a lot of consideration is decided by the GM. I should have put that statement in the rulebook. Anyway the review is fun and great!

Thanks again! If I have another game in the pipeline I will show it to you.

Questing GM said...

Hi Rob,

Really glad that you enjoyed it. I thought I was being ignored. Huhu..

For the most part I think the game would run more smoothly if some of the rules were more clear, especially for things like combat. It makes it fair for everyone.

I think having a statement to encourage GMs to adjudicate is a good idea, because it fits well with the spirit of this game. At least with that statement, they will feel more confident to be in control than following the rules (like other games).

Really looking forward to more games from you and Experimental Playgrounds! That will help to show more RPGs made in Sabah! (When can we get a RPG with Sabah-elements with headhunters, bobohizan etc.?)

Would also love it if you create new supplements and adventures modules for M&M too!