Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wasted Shots & Ammo Management

I believe I have mentioned that I am running a Deathwatch game on here, and if not, well, I am running a Deathwatch game. Currently there are six players (2 Librarians, a Devastator, Apothecary, Assault, and Tactical), and while we've only done one session so far the game looks like it'll be a lot of fun. However, the game - mostly the book - has got me thinking a lot about ammo and general equipment management. I'll talk more about the latter later in the week, most likely, but for now I want to talk about Ammo and Wasted Shots.

See, in Deathwatch the rule for basic ammo is that Space Marines have "enough" for the mission. Enough is a wonderfully vague word, and you need go no further than the official forums to see some disputes on it. Some people read enough as basically infinite ammo, just slapping magazine after magazine into the gun like your armor was a munitions factory. Others are very quick to point out that 'Enough' does not mean infinite, just that Space Marines carry a good amount (the average suggestion here seems to be about 3-5 magazines for a standard issue bolt rifle). The more realism based military enthusiasts, or just people with experience with real world military, are very quick to point out that an actual soldier will be carrying anywhere from 8-16 spare magazines on them at any given moment, and if that is done in the real world, surely a super soldier of the 41st millennium could carry at least that much.

This is usually where the debate starts, and the answer seems to lie with the kind of game that the GM wants to run. Do you want battles of attrition to be the factor? Do you not want to have to worry about counting ammo? Are you going for more realism? For that matter, why is it we can put 10+ magazines on a modern soldier and have them run out of ammo very quickly, while in game terms, even without resupplies, that same ammo supply could last you for weeks?

The reason for this seems to be that in the real world, and in fiction, there is more of a tendency to waste shots. This goes as far back as World War II where tests showed that most soldiers, if not being directly observed, would shoot over the enemy's head instead of directly at them. Then there are aspects like pure survival instinct. With fire incoming your body won't want to pop its head out, leading to a lot more blind firing, or just random unaimed shots in the general vicinity of the enemy.

In a game? Well, I can't tell you the last time I've had a player fire an unaimed attack anywhere. There is usually checking for an enemy, and then trying to attack them directly. Suppression fire is rarely used (though bless their hearts, they did use it some in the last Deathwatch session), covering fire is rarely used, random shots to just 'keep people at bay' are rarely used. Every round fired, every attack made, has a specific purpose to it of winning the fight, not just keeping you alive for a few seconds longer.

And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that at all. Any time there is a game of something it will be a bit faster, quicker, and 'more epic' in a way than the real life counterpart. Look at the Madden series of games, where if you put the play clock to regulation time, even with regulation rules, it is not uncommon to find scores in the hundreds. Why? Because it is a game, and so people attack it like a game. In the real world, other considerations come in to play.

This is why it seems like 5 magazines of ammunition is plenty for a game character, where a real soldier will carry 3 times that many. Those 5 mags will go a lot further than their 15 real world counter parts, because each round in those mags will be fire with a specific purpose. Sure, some will miss - that just happens - but they will be fired with an intent to hit, injure, and kill, not to just ward off or buy time.

Now, for me, I'm still toying with what I want to do with ammo in the deathwatch game. I'm currently holding them at 5 mags by default, but I may increase it. I may do away with the limit altogether aside from dramatic situations.

Anyone else have thoughts on this? How it could work? How it should work? How you handle it in your games?

1 comment:

  1. I feel that in a game like Deathwatch you will see fewer wasted shots than the parent game Dark Heresy due to skill alone. But even the most simulationist game like GURPS will see fewer wasted shots than real life because of players. Unlike real life PCs will (almost) always, as you said, shoot to kill. Another thing is the "flaw" in games that every shot that hits nearby isn't subjecting you to a Pinning Test. Autofire doesn't have the good possibility of hitting you if you so much as stick your nose out of cover, so why stay down. If people aren't in cover, fewer shots are wasted. I feel it comes down to the simple fact that no matter how gritty, no matter how failure oriented, every game is more cinematic than real life because it is to tell a story, not watch buddies die messily.