Saturday, July 16, 2022

Aero Session 0 (The Need for Speed)

The idea I have for a comic series continuation is the late spring - Aero is an experienced ant pilot who gets an experimental helicopter and goes on a long solo mission that ends up as a hybrid of Knight Rider and Airwolf. Air Rider or Knight Wolf or something. Airrider Knightwolf.

However, I also want to do an actual play to try out some new rules, and just to give me something to do! I’m not done with my ‘let’s read’ series (I’m only halfway through the book, so I still have some reading to do), but figured I can multitask. I definitely want to work on the vehicle rules more. I know that he’s going to be fresh out of flight training and be assigned to an A-180 Lightning helicopter. I hope he can afford it!

Okay, let’s go through the character creation steps (page 17 of the MTDAA: Legacy RPG, for those playing along at home)...

  1. My guy is going to be level 1. That’s the whole point; I think that when I meet him in the comic story I’m currently working on in broad strokes, he’ll be around level 3. Play testing at level 1 is the best idea.

  2. His speciality is going to be pilot. I’m thinking of adding more specialties in the companion book I’m starting to tinker with, but helicopter pilot as a flavor of pilot seems needlessly redundant. Pilot it is.

  3. I check the suggested starting build for a pilot (page 23). I suppose that is as good as anything. I could push Prowess to D8, but would have to give up 2 CPs in skills to do that; and since I want both Aeronautics and engineer, I’m going to let it be. Default factory settings it is.

  4. Traits are as above - factory settings.

  5. His rank - he is going to default to second lieutenant, but there’s a small chance he starts as a first lieutenant. I roll his Mind and get a 6 (explosion) followed by a 5 (that’s an 11); against a DT of 8, that’s success for first lieutenant. Wow. He’s a 1st Lt. out of boot camp, with 300 clout (200 for being a pilot, +50 for each rank he’s just earned). Noice. I was almost tempted to go with the whole Wild Bill GI Joe Warrant Officer thing, but decided I’d just stick with the traditional officer structure. 

  6. I can get my helicopter (250 clout) and have 50 clout left. The starting gear is decent, and my helicopter has to have at least a basic communications setup. I could upgrade my pistol (strongly tempted to because that D4 damage kinda stinks), and/or try to upgrade my chopper. If I spend 25 clout on a pistol, I also have 25 clout to spend which is worth 1 vehicle point…

Sidebar: I really love the rules in Shards of Tomorrow for vehicles in terms of breaking down, upgrades, and reliability; the idea that vehicles are not all the same, but each has its own character and charm and quirks is deeply ingrained from Star Wars, but it’s also closer to history as well; in Unbroken, he speaks about their particular bomber, along with its quirks and tendencies. The idea that the vehicle is a character too is more compelling from both a story and game perspective. Consider those en route.

Before I can upgrade my helicopter, I suppose I have to revise it for the new vehicle rules I’m proposing (and play testing - so I better use them).

And… Ruht-Roh. I see some problems with the speed and movement rules, because I use the concept of a turn as a hard measure, but define turn as one thing you do during a round; you take a ‘turn’, but it’s not a defined measure of time. And, honestly, the speed rules are a little overly clunky.

I think getting rid of a lot of this ‘game speak’ around time would be helpful. If we go with seconds, minutes, and hours, that would help. Insects respond very quickly, and their lives are very short. A fly can respond in hundredths of a second to a shoe coming to stomp on it; revising to a second as the default for a ‘round’ makes a lot of sense considering some of your enemies (like fruit flies) have a life cycle measured in hours.

Let’s start from the real world. In the real world, a red ant walks 9 body lengths per second. If our ‘typical’ ant soldier is 6 mm tall, that equates to about 50 mm per second, or 5 cm. A bee can fly 20 miles per hour (so that would break down to .0056 miles per second, or a little over 9 meters per second). That, to scale, is FAST. Basically, everything moves at (comparative) superhuman speed in this world.

Let’s try some simple rules for movement to see how they work:

Insects and walking. Most insects have a speed of 1. This means that the insect can walk 1 cm in one second and do something else (fire a weapon, explore, activate a device)... If you want to sprint or run, you have to do only that, add your Prowess die rating to your speed that round; a D6 prowess character moves 7 cm per second at a decent jog. That’s a ballpark of the real world, and easy to track.

You can travel your maximum speed for a number of minutes equal to your Body die, then you need to rest for 10 minutes before trying again. You can walk (1 cm per second) right away, but can’t sprint again.

There’s no reason that land vehicles wouldn’t then have the same rules; an insect is often as fast as a land vehicle (an ant moves the equivalent of 30 mph at human scale); however, a vehicle can travel reliably over longer distances. Vehicles don’t need to stop every few minutes and rest.

Insects and flying. Most flying insects also have a speed of 1. This means that the insect can fly 10 cm in one second and do something else (fire a weapon, explore active a device)... if you want to fly full out, and do only that, you add your Prowess die rating (in 10 cm increments) as above; our D6 prowess fly gets to fly 70 cm per second (about 15 miles per hour). Again, this ballparks the real world pretty well and is easy to track. You could fly at top speed for a number of minutes equal to your Body die (as with walking/running).

This means that a vehicle would basically emulate the speed of existing flying insects. Therefore, a flying vehicle with a speed of 1 has a basic flight speed of 10 cm per second (scouting, patrolling, etc) but can go to the operator’s Prowess die rating + Pilot trait. This actually makes a lot of sense. It’s balanced, easy to track, and feels intuitive. A simple pilot with little training is going to add at least 4 to the vehicle’s travel speed from the D4 Prowess. 

I think that I want to play test with Frame (instead of chassis) being a dice value and not a rating. This is the outside of the vehicle, and this is how much damage is soaks when it is hit. I was going to go with fuselage or hull, but those are specific to different vehicle types; hull is closer, but it’s still weird. I think frame encompasses the concept better. 

A simple vehicle then starts with the following ratings:

Control +1 (25 clout); Frame D4 (25 clout); Durability D4 (25 clout); Speed 1 (25 clout)

This might be something like an ATV or a paraglider for 100 clout. This is a bit cheaper than the core rules have these, but it’s not too far off. I mean, I guess a paraglider or raft could have Frame of 0 and just take it to the chin every time… a life raft would have only durability of D4 and that’s it, so it would be 25 clout.

Clout costs

Rating Die Cost

+1 D4 +25 Clout (25 total)

+2 D6 +50 Clout (75 total)

+3 D8 +100 Clout (175 total)

+4 D10 +200 Clout (275 total)

+5 D12 +400 Clout (675 total)

This is better, because it gets rid of the ‘conversion’ system that required you to convert to vehicle points, and then count these. 

This means that our A-180 Lightning Helicopter now is built on 225 clout:

Control +2 (75); Frame D4 (25); Speed +1 (25); Durability D6 (75); Cannon D4 (25)

I like this. Back to Aero; he had 300 clout to start with, and has now spent 225, with 75 remaining. He cannot turn in his pistol, because he has D4 body! Oops. Okay then. The 75 can go right into the vehicle; let’s go with a bonus to Frame, bringing that to D6.

The Wasp Chaser, Aero’s A-180 Lightning (275 clout)

Control +2; Frame D6; Speed +1; Durability D6; Cannon D4

Just for fun, let’s try a tank. 

Tank (675 clout)

Control -2 (-75); Frame D10 (275); Speed +1 (25); Durability D10 (275); Cannon D8 (175)

Not too far off from the core rules. You can take negative control to get bonus clout elsewhere. There’d have to be some rule that you cannot have more than half your vehicle’s value come from this penalty; otherwise, you could get a 675-clout vehicle that just happens to have -5 control for free.

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