While the sword has come to rule the battlefield in the New Dark Ages, guns still remain: many relics of ages past, others hand-crafted for nobles and still more stamped out by factories to fuel house armies as they march towards war. With ammunition dear, they are often used to soften an enemy up before true battle begins, but they remain deadly - and even more deadly are fearsome energy weapons, true artifacts of the distant past.
Ranged Combat Basics
Unlike melee combat, which models the give and take of two sides squaring off, ranged combat is mostly a test of one person, the shooter - are they skilled enough to hit the target?
When making a ranged attack, a character rolls Dexterity + Shoot (or another applicable ranged combat skill) and subtracts VPs from their result based on the range and cover of their target. Targets actively avoiding being shot will also be able to make a contested "get down!" roll to further decrease the shooter's VPs. If the shooter scores 0 or more net VPs, they hit; if not, they miss.
Just as in melee, characters are assumed to be mobile: they can shoot once per round as well as move.
Advanced Shoot Actions
The basic shoot action above is essentially 'Move & Shoot'; however, it is not the only shoot action a character can take.
- Precise Shot
- The character draws a careful bead and fires once at a +2 goal.
- The character fires twice. Single-shot weapons cannot snapshot.
- Cautious Shot
- The character fires once. The character also receives a +2 goal bonus to any 'Get Down!' rolls they make.
- Reload & Shoot
- The character fires once shot. The character can also reload one shell, bullet, or magazine.
- Full Reload
- The character reloads three shells or bullets or changes a belt. Usually, a character has their head down while reloading, increasing their level of cover by one.
If a character wants to move while performing an advanced shoot action, she takes a -2 to her goal roll.
Characters armed with automatic weapons have more options. First, any time they might fire a single shot, they can instead fire a short burst of two to five bullets. Short bursts are at a +1 goal. Automatic weapons also have access to some other actions:
- Long Burst
- The character fires 7-10 bullets with a single pull of the trigger, increasing his chance of hitting and doing damage. He makes a single attack roll at a +4 goal.
- Empty Clip
- The character fires 20-30 bullets at once, firing with a +6 goal. The character needs at least 20 rounds left in his magazine to use Empty Clip, and after using it a character needs to reload unless he has a particularly high-capacity belt-fed or box-magazine weapon.
When using these actions, characters with automatic weapons can target multiple opponents. They can shoot at two or more nearby targets; every additional target past the first incurs a -2 penalty to the goal. A character firing at two targets rolls twice at -2; at three targets, three times at -4; at four targets, four times at -6 and so on. Targets of a spread action must be grouped relatively closely together, and the shooter cannot 'skip' targets in a line.
Range and Cover
Range and cover operate under similar principles; the farther the distance or the more cover a target has, the harder they are to hit. This difficulty is measured in VPs, and represents the number of VPs a character must score on a roll to hit a target at that range or under that cover.
- Short Range - 0 VP
- Short range is any distance from 'point blank' range - roughly 2m - to a weapon's first range increment.
- Medium Range - 1 VP
- Medium range is any distance between the two range increments on a weapon.
- Long Range - 2 VP
- Long range is any distance beyond the last range increment.
While weapons have no official 'maximum range', extremely long shots may impose additional penalties or just be impossible at the GM's discretion.
Firing in conditions that decrease visibility like night-time, fog or smoke reduce the range brackets of a weapon, usually by half. Particularly dense visibility may reduce ranges to one-quarter or even less.
- Light Cover - 1 VP
- Light cover protects a character largely through concealment; it provides little or no intrinsic defensive value. Examples: lying prone or hiding in the bushes.
- Medium Cover - 2 VP
- Medium cover provides more substantial protection; characters are generally either well-covered by something that will slow but not stop bullets or partly covered by something that will stop bullets. Examples: hiding behind an overturned table or sofa, taking cover behind a pillar, tree, or lamp-post.
- Heavy Cover - 3 VP
- Heavy cover provides the best protection, with characters well-covered by something that will stop bullets. Examples: taking cover behind a concrete wall or inside a building.
Characters moving between cover in a round treat the cover as one or two levels lower, depending on how far apart the objects of cover are. Characters in a melee also receive cover; see 'Firing into a Melee', below.
The cover rules assume characters are using cover while being active - looking around, firing back, or otherwise participating in the fight. If a character is keeping their head down and putting all of their effort into not being shot, increase their level of cover by one. In some cases, this may result in them being impossible to hit.
The 'Get Down!' Roll
Characters who are aware that someone is shooting at them are allowed to make a 'Get Down!' roll, representing their last-minute attempts to take cover, spoil someone's aim or otherwise make themselves harder to hit. This is not 'dodging bullets'; instead, it represents evasive actions taken in most cases just before an enemy fires.
'Get Down!' rolls are Dexterity + Vigor or Intuition + Vigor checks at a penalty for the type of weapon targeting the character. Characters targeted by a thrown weapon roll at a -2 goal. Muscle-assisted weapons like bows, crossbows and the like carry a -4 penalty, and bullets and energy weapons carry a -6 penalty. Any VPs scored on a Get Down! roll are added to the total an enemy must achieve to hit a target.
Characters engaged in melee combat do not generally receive 'Get Down!' rolls, as they are too focused on the fight in front of them. However, melee combat provides its own protection; see 'Firing into Melee', below. Additionally, some martial manuevers may allow characters to defend against ranged attacks of various sorts through other means.
Firing Into Melee
Firing into a melee combat not only makes it difficult to hit the target but poses a risk of hitting someone else engaged in the fight.
Melee combats provide cover as described in the cover section above; a melee combat with two people provides Light Cover, for 1 VP, while a melee combat with three to six people provides Medium Cover for 2 VPs. Chaotic fights of seven or more people provide Heavy Cover for a 3 VP difficulty.
If you miss when firing into a melee, you may hit another person in the combat. At the GM's discretion, characters who miss within the 'margin' provided by the melee's cover may do their ranged weapon's base damage to another character.
Automatic weapons are particularly dangerous when fired into a crowd, as stray bullets may hit other participants. If a short burst fired into a melee scores only a 0 VP hit, another character may also take basic damage from the weapon. The same happens if a long burst scores either a 0 or 1 VP hit. Wide bursts and spread actions will always hit other participants in a melee if they hit their target.
Guns additionally may hurt other characters by 'blowing through' a first target. At the GM's discretion, a critical hit may cause some of the damage to 'blow through', doing half damage to another character in the melee.
A character with a Small weapon or smaller in each hand may attempt to fire both weapons simultaneously. A character with a firearm in her off-hand may fire an extra shot or burst (if the firearm is capable of automatic fire). If a character uses the weapon in her off-hand, however, she receives a penalty: -3 for small or smaller weapons or -4 for medium weapons. Large weapons are too unwieldy to use effectively in this fashion without an appropriate maneuver.
Gam Hatchett, a Muster chief, is in a firefight with Two-Face Slim, a Scraver associate. Slim steps out from an alley as Hatchett is walking down the street and opens fire. He snapshots, firing two shots from his pistol as Gam returns fire and runs for cover behind an overturned cart.
Slim rolls his Dex + Shoot, scoring 3 VPs on his first shot and 2 VPs on his second. Hatchett is at short range - that's one VP - and moving into medium cover. Normally, medium cover provides 2 VPs, but because Hatchett is moving, he gets only 1 VP of cover. Hatchett rolls his Dex + Vigor at a -6 for his 'get down' roll; unfortunately, he fails, and Slim hits him for 0 VPs and 1 VP.
Now behind cover, Gam returns fire, scoring 2 VPs on his shot. Slim is also at short range - 1 VP - and the GM decides that he is close enough to the corner of the alley to get Light Cover for an additional 1 VP. Slim tests Dex + Athletics for his Get Down roll and succeeds with 1 VP, for a total difficulty of 3 VPs - Gam misses!