Friday, August 22, 2014

Antiquated Squad Leader

There's one more zoom-in, perhaps, one can do in the Domains At War: Battles rules - from platoon to squad.

It's certainly not necessary, nor would it be recommended. It may not work out in practice, but once the title of the post entered my mind, I had no choice but to do it. And make a cover.

It is extremely likely I'm zooming in too much for the backend math that makes up the Domains At War unit HP/damage/etc. rules, but, we forge ahead heedlessly.

To be perfectly honest, this all boiled up from laziness at wondering how to abstract a handful of archers all firing at the same player, since I already knew how to do ~30 archers hitting a player from D@W's Platoon rules.

I've been sitting on this post for a year or so now, waiting for D@W's final release so I didn't slap out a bunch of silly house rules before the product was done. Hopefully I've gotten everything reworked to the final document, so we have a set of extremely silly house rules that match up!

Squad Scale Units

Squad scale units are one-quarter the size of platoon units. Each foot unit is 8 infantry, arrayed 4 men wide by two deep. Mounted or large units represent 4 individuals, generally arrayed in a 2x2 formation. Huge units are a single creature. Squad-scale hexes are 15' across.

Combat rounds are the standard 10 seconds, and movement rates & ranges are doubled from platoon scale, and quadrupled from company scale. As an example, light infantry will move at 8/16/24, and if armed with javelins, can throw them as far as 8 hexes.

It could be recommended due to the increased movement rates that squad scale battles be done on a hexed battlemap at a 1-inch scale, utilizing regular miniatures or downsized counters. A 6' by 4' battlemap would produce a 72 by 48 hex area, which may suffice in a majority of cases for small squad battles.

Often, some movement may become abstracted off the battlefield - a fast-moving flier or cavalry squad may arc out of play temporarily during movement. You may choose handle these occurrences however you normally would during the more abstract, theater-of-the-mind man-to-man combats.

Combat At Squad Scale

Withdrawal: Squads of Loose Foot or Mounted, or Flyer units may reduce damage dealt by withdrawing 4 or more hexes, up to a maximum of it's marching movement. Each 4 hexes of movement reduces damage by one point.

Huge and Larger Creatures at Squad Scale

One huge creature equates to a single unit at squad scale. Gigantic creatures will take up the same hex space and shape as a Colossal creature does at Platoon scale (see D@W:Battles), and follow the same rules.

Colossal creatures take up an area of 7 hexes - one center hex, then each hex sharing a face with that center hex. The 3 hexes bordering that area on the top and bottom comprise the front and rear faces of the creature, while the 3 to either side are flanking positions. (and rotated as appropriate for the creature's actual facing)

The colossal unit's UHP and number of attacks is multiplied by 8. Rules for terrain type occupation and movement follow that for the platoon scale rules in D@W:B.

Officers and Heroes at Squad Scale

At squad scale, the qualifications for acting as an officer or a hero drops.

Commanders: NPC of 3rd level; or a monster of HD+1. (call these Lieutenants)

Lieutenants: NPCs of 1st level, or a monster of regular HD. (call these Sergeants)

Independent Hero: NPCs of 3rd level, monsters of 5 HD, arcane casters of 1st level or divine casters of 2nd level.

Hero Visibility at Squad Scale

Visibility ranges are doubled from the platoon scale rules.

Squad Scale Unit Characteristics for Heroes

Quadruple movement and missile attack ranges for heroes at squad scale from their company scale defaults.

Also, multiply the number of the hero's pre-rounded attacks from the company-scale conversion rules in Chapter 8 of D@W:Battles by 8. The full formula for hero's attacks is:

(Number of Attacks + Cleave Factor) * Average Damage / 3

As an example, a 3rd level fighter operating as an independent hero, wielding a longsword and doing 1d8+3 damage per round (average of 7.5) will have ((1 + .65) * 7.5) / 3 ~= 4 attacks against squad sized units.

This maps out decently to the man-to-man scale - a 3rd level fighter vs. average 1HD creatures is doing above-HP-average damage consistently, and will have 3 cleaves to work through. 

Attacks on Heroes by Squads

Squad-scale units do 2d6 HP damage to a hero for every point of UHP damage dealt.

Company scale damage is 2d6x10, or 70 HP on average. Platoon scale is 5d6, or, 17.5. Quartering that again yields 4.375. Average on 2d4 is 5, average on 2d3+1 is 4. It is undoubtedly true that quartering things again is breaking the math on UHP and the general underlying math of D@W formations.

If we take Alex's breakdown of UHP/HP, and say our 1HD individuals (whose unit has 8 UHP) have 6 HP on average, that actually comes to 6HP/UHP. That pushes us up to (theoretically) 2d5.

Nobody wants to have to roll 2d5. So, 2d6 it is, and that matches nicely to the company-scale unit-to-hero damage.

However, we're well into the "why bother with this" area. You're trading 8 chances to hit a foe for 1 chance to hit - and the average damage over time that 8 attacks at 1d6 can do far outweighs 1 chance at 2d6. 

Assume for the moment the 5 ft hex, containing a hero. Up to 6 other creatures can surround that hex. If we simulate the difference between 6 men getting a "touch" on our hero vs a squad of 6 with one attack, the squad  gets a touch about 16.6% of the time that 6 single men do, for any hero AC.

The squad does 2d6 (7 avg) rather than 1d6 (3.5 avg). Doing twice the avg damage over 16.6% of the actual touches means they're doing 33% of the damage that 6 single men do. 7 is 33% of 21, which gets us back up to the Platoon scale of unit-to-hero damage. In fact, the squad does 40% of the damage of 5 single men, which gets us to 17.5.

Is the Platoon-scale unit-to-hero damage a minimum perhaps? Are a virtual 5 of the 30 men in a platoon getting a good bead on a hero, and perhaps the larger Company-scale damage represents a much more violent dogpile (by the rule of quarters, 20 men), or at least one that spares more men for what is probably an amoeba-like attack with a portion of the formation? Consider that heroes can retreat to reduce damage, and visualize the idea of a smaller mob of soldiers blobbing out from the formation to attack a hero, and the hero prancing away - a platoon would necessarily spare less men, and perhaps the Squad is the minimum number within the Platoon.

More likely, I've accidently mathed myself into a false comparison. But that won't stop me from pressing on pretending I know what's what!

Withdrawal: Heroes may withdraw 4 or more hexes to reduce UHP of damage dealt - every 4 full hexes withdrawn reduces damage by one point. Heroes may end their withdrawal in the same hex as another friendly unit or hero.

Squad Scale Spells

I've made my best assumptions, guesses, presumptions, and predictions about how these will act based on comparisons of Platoon and Company scale.

It's going to get a bit fiddly with the Cone spells; but that happens on a battlemat. Heck, there was a company that used to/does sell wire template overlays for 3.X, that's how fiddly that got.

Since everything scales the same, the only major thing I've done with damage spells is to remove the damage cap - in most cases, quadrupling the limit removed it entirely anyway.

Bless: This spell affects up to 4 adjacent units within 4 hexes of the caster.

Burning Hands: This spell blasts up to two units in a line extending (2 hexes) from the caster's hex. Damage from the spell is equal to the caster's level, minus 1, with a minimum of 1 and maximum of 5 points. A mounted/chariot unit takes double damage. A successful save vs. Blast reduces the damage to half.

Call Lightning: Every 60 rounds, the caster may target one unit with 64 hexes with a bolt of lightning. The targeted unit takes 8 points of damage; if mounted, the damage is doubled. The damage is halved if the unit makes a save vs Blast.

Cloudkill: As the D@W:B text, with two exceptions. The cloud takes up a 3 hex area, and moves 1 hex every round away from the caster.

Continual Light: This spell targets up to 4 units arrayed in a 3 hex formation within 24 hexes of the caster.

Cone of Cold: At squad scale, the area of effect extends 4 hexes away. To figure the area of effect, draw a straight line from the center of the caster's hex, extending away through one of the unit's front hex faces to the center 4 hexes away.

The first hex in that line may not lose more than 1/2 it's UHP (rounded up) from the spell. The subsequent 3 hexes have no damage cap. The two hexes on either side of the adjoining face of the third and fourth hexes take a maximum of 1/2 UHP damage.

A successful save vs Blast halves all damage. The damage is equal to the caster's level, doubled again if mounted.

Cone of Paralysis: The area of effect is equal to that of Cone of Cold, above. The unit in the hex closest to the caster and in the hexes to either side of the adjoining face of the third and fourth hexes lose 1/2 their UHP. The remaining three hexes lose their entire UHP. The spell effect is the same as for Platoon scale.

Confusion: This spell disorders up to 4 units in a 3 hex area within 8 hexes of the caster.

Control Plants: This spell effects up to a 3 hex area of jungle, forest, or impenetrable forest within 4 hexes of the caster.

Control Weather: The radius of the weather effect is 48 hexes. A summoned tornado moves at 24 hexes per round in any direction within 48 hexes of the caster.

Control Wind: This creates a high winds effect, as in Control Weather, in the caster's hex, and in each hex surrounding that hex. It lasts for the duration of the battle or until dispelled.

Death Spell: This spell has a range of 48 hexes.

Dispel Magic: The spell has a range of 24 hexes.

Earth's Teeth: This effects any units in a 3 hex area. Each unit takes 4 points of damage on a successful attack throw from the caster.

Fear: The area of effect matches that of Cone of Cold, above. A unit in any affected hex must save vs Spells.

Flame Strike: This spell creates a column of fire that effects up to 4 units in a 3 hex area, up to 16 hexes away. Units suffer 8 points of damage, and may save vs Blast for half. Damage is doubled against mounted units.

Fireball: A ball of flame explodes in a 3 hex area up to 48 hexes away. Damage from the fireball is equal to the caster's level, halved with a successful save vs Blast. Damage is doubled against mounted units.

Fly: The caster's flying movement rate is 24/48/72.

Growth of Plants: The area of effect is a 7-hex area; a single center hex and the six surrounding hexes. It may be placed anywhere within 24 hexes of the caster.

Gust of Wind: The area of effect of the spell follows that of cone of cold, above.

Hallucinatory Terrain: The area of effect is a 7-hex area; a single center hex and the six surrounding hexes. It may be placed anywhere within 48 hexes of the caster.

Insect Plague: The spell creates a swarm of insects within 48 hexes of the caster.  The swarm occupies 8 hexes on the battlemap; placed contiguously. The swarm may move one hex per round during the caster's activation.

Lightning Bolt: At squad scale, this spell affects 4 adjacent hexes (in a straight line) within 12 hexes of the caster. Units within the hexes suffer damage from the lightning bolt equal to the caster’s level.

Lower Water: This creates a 12-hex-wide ford anywhere within 24 hexes of the caster.

Massmorph: At squad scale, this spell will hide up to 7 units.

Move Earth: The caster may place or remove terrain features as described within 48 hexes. 1 hex is created every 4 rounds. Prior to battle, during set up, the caster may place up to 16 7-hex terrain features, 36 3-hex features, or 108 1-hex features anywhere within 48 hexes of the caster.

Obscuring Cloud: The cloud fills 1 hex if the caster is 1st level, with an additional hex per two levels from then on (2 hexes 2nd - 3rd, 3 hexes 4th-5th, etc.)

Panic: Affects all units within a 16 hex radius.

Prayer: Affects units in a 3 hex area within 12 hexes of the caster.

Scouring Wind: The area of effect of this spell is the same as cone of cold, above.

Sleep: This affects one unit of 4 HD or less within 48 hexes.

Stinking Cloud:  A reeking cloud of vapors arise in a 3-hex area up to 2 hexes away from the caster.

Transmute Rock to Mud: 8 contiguous hexes of mud are created within 12 hexes.

Wall of Corpses: The wall is up to 8 hexes long within 8 hexes of the caster.

Wall of Fire: 8 hexes long within 4 hexes of the caster.

Wall of Force: 8 hexes long within 8 hexes of the caster.

Wall of Ice: 8 hexes long within 4 hexes of the caster.

Wall of Iron: 6 hexes long within 4 hexes of the caster.

Wall of Stone: 6 hexes long within 4 hexes of the caster.

Wall of Wood:  8 hexes long within 4 hexes of the caster.

Squad Scale Magic Items

Drums of Panic: Affects all units within a 16 hex radius.

Helm of Telepathy: 8 hex range.

Horn of Blasting: The area effect follows that of cone of cold; the unit in the closest hex and the two hexes on either side take 2 points. Units in the remaining 3 hexes take 4 points. Cavalry suffer double damage.

Medallion of ESP: The range is 4 hexes.

Squad Scale Assaults

Squad scale is too small to effectively mount assaults. It is recommended that to play assaults at squad scale, that the assault or breach actions first be performed by platoon or higher scale units.

That being said:

Fortified Structures at Squad Scale

To convert structures from Platoon to Squad scale:
  • Any round structure with a size of "1 hex" now takes up a 3 hex area. Each hex of the structure has one third of the SHP (per story) of the original structure.
    • Example: A "round tower, stone, 40' high, 30' diameter" has 400 SHP per story. Therefore, each hex of each story the tower occupies has 133 SHP.
  • Any square structure (like the gatehouse) with a size of "1 hex" takes up two hexes in a line. Split the SHP per story between the two hexes.
  • Any structure which is "1 hex long" remains 1 hex long, for a 15' stretch. Halve it's SHP per story.
  • A square structure which is a 2x2 hex area now takes up a 4x4 hex area - 4 rows or columns of 4 hexes each. Halve the amount of SHP per hex per story.

Damaging Fortified Structures at Squad Scale

Artillery: Squad scale units are unable to employ artillery. Alternatively, at the Judge's discretion; 4 squad units may employ an artillery piece as a single platoon unit does.

Monstrous Units: At squad scale, a single Huge creature is its own unit, and does 1 point of damage to wood structures, and no points to stone. Gigantic and Colossal creatures do the same amount of damage as listed for platoon scale.

Rationale: A gigantic or colossal creature was already it's own unit at Platoon scale, so the damage ought to be the same. I'm cogitating on whether or not the reduced target scale of the monster (it's attacking a 15' space rather than a 30' space) means anything or not...

Damage From Sieges Preceding Assault: Each 1,000 SHP of damage represents 4 smaller 15' holes.

Siege Equipment: A squad scale unit may employ a single cauldron, moveable gallery or mantlet, siege hook, or siege ladder.

At the Judge's discretion, standard siege towers may be represented as a 2x2 hex area structure, holding 2 units/story, with a SHP of 6/SHP/story/hex. It has a movement of -/2/- (WM).

Platoon Artillery Units: At the Judge's discretion, platoon-sized artillery units may exist on the battlefield and target squad units. Use the same damage values as the tables on D@W:B pg 74, for the number of creatures in the squad.

And there it is, utterly unplaytested, wildly speculative.

The next step, obviously, is a two-man fireteam, or one man and a horse. :)

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Great Salt Lake

As the family was in Park City, UT at the start of July, we did the needful and visited the Great Salt Lake, via Antelope Island State Park.

Let me paint you the picture, then I'll frame it for you.

You emerge out of your car, having already been exposed via your air vents to the stench of sea death, and are assaulted by the sun. You've parked at the beach access area, and from where you're standing the man-made sand beach quickly descends into several hundred feet of dried lake bed - grey sands, flat stones, little patches of salt.

You/re looking forward to getting to the water. The lake's maximum depth anywhere is around 33 feet, so it'll be nothing but wading. The water should be cool on your flip-flopped feet - it certainly beats the hot sand.

Much like kelp left on the beach, the water here leaves something on shore - brine fly chrysalis. A reddish-brown line of minuscule shells baking in the sun. Stepping over that, you reach the waterline.

Here, at the waterline, brine flies - a constant undulating cloud at toe level. They pop up as you step through them, landing as you pass. They'll land on your foot, but jump right off as you continue - they don't want you, they want the algae.

The water is comfortable and warm - it should be, it's extremely shallow. It will take some time to even walk out to knee level. Dead flies float on the surface as far as you can see.

Nothing else lives in the lake - just flies on top, invisible shrimp underneath, the water is clear. It's up to 8 times the salinity of seawater, depending on where you're at, and if you reach in to pick up a stone, the water will leave salt dust on your arm as it evaporates in the sun.

There in the first week of July, you just missed the biting gnat eruption. What's left are hundreds of large spiders, orb weavers, throwing innumerable webs among the sage brush. They're not poisonous, but they are large and omnipresent - you'll see more spiders there in a half hour than you will in an entire year.

Spiders, flies, tiny shrimp shells, heat, salt, sun.

It's a wonderful feature of nature, to be sure. It's a remnant of ancient Lake Bonneville. It's an important waypoint for migratory birds, as you'd learn if you visit the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

It is, also, some strange post-apocalyptic parody of an ocean beachfront. Hard grey earth and salt rather than soft beach, brine flies by the millions, spiders, undrinkable water, a hard sun.

You can drop this into a Mutant Future / Gamma World campaign with very few changes.

There's a road on a dike crossing through the lake to the island - very defensible. There could be all manner of reasons creatures just can't swim or boat across. Maybe the brine shrimp now act like invisible omnivorous piranha - creatures or boats entering the water get swarmed and slowly disintegrate as the shrimp attack.

The visitor center is a brutal concrete slab of a building - very easy to modify into a fortress; maybe dig underground for more room (not sure you can easily).

There's antelope and buffalo on the island - mutate them a bit, just enough to be fun but not enough to not be a food source.

Water can be taken from the many natural springs, or, maybe there's some mad scientist in the group occupying the island that's got some sort of Rube-Goldberg desalinization machine. Maybe the resultant salt is formed into bricks and used for fortification.

Let the island be a refuge; a safe base. There's plenty of room for a small settlement, if the muta-buffalo aren't too aggressive and the spiders haven't become man-eaters. Remember to keep the lake level a little higher than usual - in fact, if you flood it out, you get the water into the ruins of the surrounding urban areas, which is fun - everything useful on Antelope Island is pretty high up.

There's plenty around the area to get into:

You've got Hill Air Force Base in Layton just across the way; it'll be full of old-world weaponry, perhaps. The ruins of Salt Lake City aren't far - maybe there's some  'Planet of the Apes' cobalt-bomb style cult in the ruins of Temple Square. There's the old Hercules Powder Plant, now some company called ATK, which should have some weaponry and interesting explosives.

In fact, here's some Google Earth mapping, with a 6 mile hex overlay:

The light blue line, if you can see it, is the shoreline of the lake (at whatever point Google Earth decided it was). That line coming out of the green Visitor Center marker, that seems to separate the water of the lake, is the road to Antelope Island. Imagine a chase scene on that tiny stretch of road; the party racing to get to the wall just ahead of a pack of mutants; on either side, invisible, deadly shrimp waiting for their next meal.

The white stretches are the salt flats, I believe, left behind as the lake level changes. It's so shallow that even small volume changes create large area changes - that's why you'll want to raise the water level, to keep the island an island.

I'm pretty sure the Salt Lake is already a feature in Gamma World (Zalt Lake?).

And there's much more in the city that could be used than I even know about - we were off the map to the right a bit in Park City.

There are plenty of places on the globe where Nature has taken it upon herself to post-apoc' the environment. Sadly, there are places we've done it ourselves. Visit a few yourselves; find ideas for your game; and decide who is the more formidable.