Yesterday I asked you guys to watch a movie clip from HEAT and to think about the mechanics involved in the sequence. Today I'm going to break down my take on it. The idea behind this is to one get an idea of what a scene like this could look like in a table top game - and thus vice versa - and two to show what mechanics can come into play, and in what ways, to have more cinematic fight sequences.
Check after the break for the breakdown.
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I'm not going to break down every second of the video, for the record here, just the key sequences. Time sequences will be links to the beginning of the sequence in question.
The beginning of this video is the start of the fight sequence. The players (the bank robbers played by DeNiro, Kilmer, Haysbert, and I forget the 4th guys name) have just finished a big heist and are leaving the bank. They're at the part where they think they're in the all clear, after a job well done, but the GM decides to throw a huge monkey wrench into the plans via some unresolved plot threads. This comes up as Val Kilmer, the last of the PCs to get into the car gets a spot check before getting into the car.
Kilmer's player, in true player fashion, sees the cops and immediately declares an attack action. This takes the GM by surprise enough that he gives Kilmer a surprise round. The attack doesn't hit due to the cover the cops have, but it does give the players a normal initiative check for the first real round of combat. Combat starts and the PCs open up on the cops. Kilmer finds he has an easier shot on one of the special cops (see previous post) and drops him with an attack.
Unfortunately, now it is the NPCs turn and the overwhelming amount of police presence and the attacks coming in gives the PCs one option: they jump into the car and flee. The NPCs on foot by the bank chase, mooks keep shooting while the 'special' NPCs use their actions to run. The PCs leave it to their wheelman and relax sure that they are home free, though the two in the back take pot shots at their pursuers. The GM points out that things are not that easy and a bunch of cops appear in front of the PCs. DeNiro's player has a "what the hell?" moment but opts to attack out of the front of the car. This is where things start to go bad for the PCs as a lucky shot takes out the wheelman PC from the side. He dies and the car comes to a stop. The players now face a choice: stay in the car, or flee on foot.
GM Note: The Wheelman may or may not be a PC in actuality. Watching the movie he is just added to the group at the last minute. It is also possible that he is a new PC hoping to get involved in the group. In which case him being dropped may be a bit cruel, but remember this is specifically a more gritty game. Either way, the pointhere is clear: PCs CAN die.
With a PC dead, and their body still blocking the way on the car - which is shot up anyhow - the PCs get out of the car.I'm not sure if it is by plan or not, but one of the PCs goes off in the "wrong" direction, with wrong in quotes because it is not the way the other 2 PCs go.
Now, what is interesting here is that mechanically, what Kilmer and Deniro are doing here is tactically sound. They are both moving up the street while the other lays down waves of suppression. They're not making specific attacks as much as they are going for speed and movement.
Unfortunately for the PCs while suppression rules are amazing against mooks they are less effective against named NPCs. One of the cops - the special cops - makes his will roll and manages to get a shot off, dropping but not killing Kilmer.
DeNiro, having gone the same direction as Kilmer, goes over and helps his friend up. The GM makes a ruling - or it is in system but most systems I've seen don't cover this - and allow Deniro to help Kilmer move at a faster speed than he could manage on his own. While moving Deniro pauses to suppress the chasing mooks and keep the cops coming after him moving to cover.
They transition to a super market parking lot where DeNiro makes a call. He abandons the rest of the group to make sure he can get himself and Kilmer's player out. The third PC is, at this point, left on his own on the scene. Deniro and Kilmer exit stage left.
GM Note:i Mechanically, in most systems, doing suppressive every other round is somewhat counter intuitive to the desire here because you also lose a round to staying still while shooting. Now, if the system allows for half action shooting it is possible Deniro is just moving and shooting behind him, and the GM in turn is playing the NPCs as moving to cover which is also keeping them back. This is something to keep in mind if you want to do running gun battles, there has to be an advantage to run and gun for some people (even if also penalized) that makes it as viable as standing and fighting.
The last bit of the video to discuss is the death of player 3. This one is a bit weird from a game stand point because the PC seems to have made it out and then an NPC that was chasing the other group shows up. This one kind of breaks my intentions of using this as a scene as either the player had to go, the GM had ruled he couldn't get out once Deniro left, or something else weird is going on. Alternatively, the GM has the entire area mapped out and knows how far that Pacino (the main cop NPC ) can move now that he no longer has to worry about being under fire, versus how far the other PC managed to get in the other direction.
The fight sequence here relies, in game terms, on two things. The first is having a force that is overwhelming enough that the PCs know they should be fleeing not standing and fighting it out. The second is having PCs who are willing to play into the scene, make moves appropriate to getting out, and using mechanics to their advantage. The heavy use of suppression makes me happy hear, as this is the exact type of scene where it should happen.
Above all though, this scene only works if the GM remembers that his NPC opposition, even the mooks in blue shirts, are all people who want to stay alive and live through the day. They're not suicide troops, and as such they will act as befitting the people they are.