Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Alternative Autofire Rules for the Cepheus Engine

Players love to roll dice and see stuff explode! Thus, the typical RPG, including Traveller and the Cepheus Engine, allows multiple attacks per round. Especially with automatic fire. However, such fun turns into boring drudgery when too many combatants stand on the battle map, each rolling their multiple attack rolls. It becomes even more tedious when many of the combatants are lowly-skilled grunts who rarely hit.

Below, I suggest an alternative, partially inspired by the old, Classic-era Azhanti High Lightning and Striker! rules. The basic idea is to roll once per combatant. For mobs of poorly-skilled thugs, roll once per mob. Then determine how many times the autofire hits its target - or targets - according to its Effect.

(Effect is a Mongoose Traveller 1E/2D6 SRD/CE term which refers to how much your adjusted roll exceeded 8; e.g., if your total adjusted roll is 10, you get an Effect of +2).

Before I get to the autofire rules, however, I will first re-post my alternative, streamlined armor rules which go perfectly with them.

Streamlined Armor
The Cepheus Engine uses the default armor system from the 2D6 Sci-Fi SRD. That system presents armor as a damage absorber - i.e. it subtracts the target's armor rating from any attack's damage. For the sake of simplicity and to best suit these rules, I propose a simpler armor system. Under that variant system, armor does not absorb damage but rather incurs a negative DM to incoming attack rolls, as presented in the following table:

Armor TypeTo-Hit DM

* The first number is against ranged attacks, the second against melee attacks.
* The first number is against non-laser attacks, the second against laser attacks.

Alternative Automatic Fire Rules
An automatic small arm, such as an SMG or autorifle, makes one attack per round. This uses 4 rounds and attacks at DM+2. For each 2 points of Effect (or part thereof) of a successful attack, the target suffers a hit. For example, an Effect of +5 causes three hits. The maximum number of hits is 4. The shooter can distribute these hits as desired between the primary target and any other targets within 1.5m ("adjacent" in CT terms) of the primary target.

A machine gun makes one attack per round, using 10 rounds, at DM+4. For each 2 points of Effect (or part thereof) of a successful attack, the target suffers hit. For example, an Effect of +5 causes three hits. The maximum number of hits is 10. The shooter can distribute these hits as desired between the primary target and any other targets within 3m of the primary target.

A shotgun enjoys DM+2 to-hit vs. flying targets within Medium or shorter range. Also, the blast attacks up to three additional targets within 1.5m ("adjacent" in CT terms) from the primary target with no penalty.

Now, I will re-post modified rules for mobs.

A mob is a multitude of untrained irregulars who lack adequate combat training or tactical awareness. They may be enraged or even fanatical but will typically rush at their enemies instead of employing a more cautious tactical approach. As noted above, the classical "low-tech local peasants chasing the spacemen with pitchforks and torches" or "zombie apocalypse" are good examples of this theme.

Each mob includes up to 12 members. In many cases there will be multiple mobs involved. Do not track individual characteristics, damage, or skills of mob members. The mob moves as one unit. It makes a single attack roll per round. Make this roll at an effective "Skill-0", with DM+1 for every four active members in the mob, or part of it. Thus, a big mob of 12 members will attack at base DM+3, modified, of course, by weapon and range DMs; a mob of 5 members will attack at base DM+2. Make the attack as if the mob is one character; use automatic fire or shotgun rules as usual. While the entire gang might be unloading a hail of bullets, these shots are badly aimed and only a few have a chance of striking true.

PCs attack the mob as if it is one target. Most mobs are either unarmored or wearing Jack or Mesh armor; apply DMs accordingly. A non-automatic ranged attack which hits the mob incapacitates one member; if its Effect is +4 or better, it incapacitates two members, one from the bullet and another from "Shock & Awe". When automatic fire, a scattergun, or a grenade hit a mob, a number of mob members equal to the attack's Effect are incapacitated. Obviously, as with single shots, "incapacitated" does not necessarily mean "killed by a bullet" but rather "out of the fight" - killed, wounded, or maybe just shocked enough to be ineffective in fighting. The latter is the reason automatic fire can incapacitate more than 4 mob members while an automatic burst only contains 4 bullets.

Mobs are much more dangerous in melee, with a to-hit DM+1 per 2 members. A mob attacks once per round, but scores one hit per two points of Effect in a melee attack. When skilled characters fight a mob in melee, they "cleave" - each hit incapacitates a number of mob members equal to the attack's Effect, up to the character's relevant melee skill.).

Mobs rarely fight well under fire. In any of the following cases, make a morale throw, which is a Leadership, INT, Average (DM+0) check. Without a "Rabble Rouser", the mob is Unskilled in Leadership and has an INT DM+0, giving it DM-3 on this roll. On the other hand, if such leader is present, use their Leadership skill and INT modifier; in most cases, assume a total DM+0 for both Leadership and INT. Failure means that the mob disperses and is no longer effective in combat.

Fanatical mobs are immune to this effect and will continue swarming the PCs regardless of death. 

Triggers for morale throws include: 
  • The first time the mob comes under ranged fire. 
  • The first time the mob loses a member. 
  • When the mob first falls to half or less of its size. 
  • Each time the mob is attacked with flames, explosives, or a similar shocking attack. 
  • When first attacked by armored vehicles or troops in battledress. 
A "Rabble Rouser" character with the Leadership skill may attempt to rally a dispersed mob back to fighting shape by a Leadership, INT, Difficult (DM-2) throw.

The Referee might also want to consider groups or herds of various small-to-medium-sized wild animals, but not apex predators or particularly large animals, as mobs.

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