Sunday, 3 November 2013

Weapon balance for Monitors

So, I think I'm reasonably happy with the armour system, at least for now, and should move on. What still needs work before I can test this thing out?

  • Equipment of some kind
  • Revisiting skills
  • Revisiting magic in the light of skills and combat rules
  • Actually coming up with some spells and stuff
  • Balancing
  • Probably some more stuff I haven't thought of yet

Eh, let's stick with the "stuff" theme.

Equipment choices

As I discussed recently, if there is a choice of weapons, people will tend to gravitate to the mathematically optimal. This is sensible both IC and OOC, most of the time. What you want to avoid, I think, is (at least) three issues:

  1. having an array of equipment that in practice will rarely be used because it's suboptimal
  2. having characters take equipment that makes no sense IC because they are better than the "correct" choice even allowing for any inconvenience
  3. discouraging players from taking archetypal equipment because some other choice will make their archetype much better at its job

At the same time, I absolutely do not want to implement a really crunchy combat system to lovingly model every possible consideration. I also want to allow leeway for adventure genre tropes. So, what sort of factors might I want to consider - and what should have mechanical treatment rather than being left to the GM?

  • Preferred range - weapons are suited to different ranges
  • Accuracy - how easy is it to hit a target?
  • Stopping power - how strongly is the target affected?
  • Penetration - how good is the weapon at getting through armour, respirators or flare guards?
  • Effects - what kind of effect does the weapon actually have?
  • Subtlety - how loud and obvious is the weapon?
  • Size - can the weapon be easily carried and concealed, or is it a massive chunk of steel?
  • Power - how energy-guzzling is the weapon?
  • Firing rate - is the weapon unusually fast or slow?


I've been vaguely thinking about power for a while as a semi-lampshade way to restrict equipment. With most things being high-tech, it's not unreasonable to say that they need power, and things like weapons or serious equipment will have power needs orders of magnitude larger than things like communicators. That means you need to carry a serious power source. So a character could be limited to, say, ten power points that would run things like weapons, major bionics, gravity dampers, force fields or thermoreg clothing. This would leave characters weighing up bigger guns against other equipment options.

I don't know whether I'm going to implement this one or not, I just thought it was an interesting idea.


Range in Monitors wants to be quick and dirty. My general plan is just to allocate a single Preferred Range to each ranged effect out of something like (Close), Short, Medium, Long, (Extreme). For each slot outside the preferred range, attack difficulty increases by 5. So a pistol would be effective at Short range and suffer a -10 penalty at Long range, while the opposite applies to a sniper rifle.

You'd need to apply common sense here - obviously firing point-blank at a stationary target will be easy - but except for unusual situations like that I think it's probably good enough.


Some weapons may trade off punch for accuracy, gving you a bonus on attack rolls. This shouldn't be a straightforward thing to optimise because it's really going to depend what you're going to fight. An accurate weapon will be great against lightly-armoured targets and poor against armoured ones.

Again, not sure if I'm planning to use this or not. It might be something you can do to weapons rather than a separate category.

Stopping power

This is basically going to come down to heavy weapons or not. Some weapons, if they hit, will wreak havoc on a target, others are just painful. Heavy weapons are good for big beasties, vehicles, tough creatures and just making very sure of the job. This is likely to use the system I mentioned last time of causing multiple dice of damage, each requiring an Armour save.


It's no use hitting something if your attacks don't do anything. There will be different defences that protect against different attack types: most likely something like Armour (for general attacks), Mask (for gas attacks), Visor (for visual effects) and Ward (for some magical attacks). Some weapons will be good at overcoming these defences, while others are easily repelled.


As already discussed, there will be different types of weapon effect. The ones I'm envisaging are actual Wound loss, Blind and Slow. I might be willing to consider others, but every effect added will complicate the game and risk things bogging down in a mass of status effects. Different effects will be useful in different situations. To slightly complicate matters, effects will interact with the actual type of certain weapons: for example, there will certainly be Slowing weapons that target both Armour and Mask.


Monitors isn't just supposed to be a combat game, but one where infiltration, tactics, diplomacy and exploration are all part of the game. In any case, you don't want to bring every guard for miles around down on your head even in a combat game. While I won't be implementing realistic noises (because it's supposed to be a fun adventure game), some weapons will be louder and more obvious than others, and so risk getting you into further trouble.


What with being secret agents and so on, Monitors aren't just supposed to wander around the place in hulking battle-armour with missile launchers. It's also really out of character for some archetypes. Some weapons are light and easy to hide, for those who either want to blend in, or only want it for emergencies. At the other end of the scale, carrying a heavy weapon will make all kinds of things more difficult, as well as weighing you down. Heavier weapons are also unwieldy and tricky to use in a hurry. In between are reliable rifle-type weapons, neither small enough to conceal nor large enough to get in your way.

Firing rate

Another one I'm not sure about using. A potential trade-off for some weapons is a reduced firing rate, due to recharging or recoil. This would probably mean getting off powerful attacks but at a reduced rate, which makes the weapon less effective against numerous targets, as well as increasing the pain of missed attacks.

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