As we ramp up to Modern AGE’s release, let me tell you a little bit about how we handle contemporary-era combat. That means firearms, but I’m also going to talk about the ins and outs of combat in general.
Get Your Gun
A Modern AGE round lasts about 15 seconds, so we knew right away that a ranged attack roll wasn’t always going to represent one shot, even when characters aren’t spraying fully automatic weapons around. The assumption is that unless you’re using a firearm where you must reload after every shot, each attack roll represents several shots aimed at the same target (and other targets, provided you use stunts—but more of that in a bit). In most cases, you’re pulling the trigger as fast as you can. This raises two questions. First: Shouldn’t those extra bullets make a difference? Second: How do you track ammunition?
The answer to both lies in the Stunt Die. We wanted to wring more information out of the rolls you’re already making. When it comes too hails of bullets, the Stunt Die represents this by adding to damage whenever you use a weapon capable of rapid fire, be it semi- or fully automatic. The Stunt Die also determines when you run out of ammunition in a way that needs to be addressed during the encounter. In most cases, characters are assumed to have as much ammunition as they need, and to reload during pauses in the action which aren’t necessarily measured in game terms. However, if you miss, check to see if the Stunt Die is equal to or greater than the firearm’s capacity rating, which varies from 2 to 6 (a Capacity of 1 is a single shot weapon, and simply noted as such instead of being given a number). If it is, you use the action specified by the weapon (a minor action for a typical magazine-loaded handgun) to reload. Gritty games modify this to make running low more likely and require characters to state they’re carrying spare ammo.
When it comes to the various tactical options available based on the firearm you choose, Modern AGE has an array of firearms stunts, some of which are keyed to specific weapon types. For example, Short Burst and Suppressive Fire require automatic weapons.
Except for Stunt Attacks (see last week), most of what you’ll see in Modern AGE’s combat rules will be familiar if you’ve played games like Dragon Age, Fantasy AGE, or Blue Rose. One of the main differences are stunts, which are curated into focused lists for various forms of combat. This means Melee Stunts are available if you’re attacking with fists or blades, and Grappling Stunts are on hand for when you want to restrain your opponent. Incidentally, to allow for some basic personalization in unarmed combat, Brawling and Grappling are separate Fighting focuses with distinct stunt groups, though both inflict damage with a basic attack roll. There’s no “grappling subsystem” in Modern AGE beyond that.
Where unarmed combat has been split up slightly, other aspects of combative character development have been streamlined compared to prior AGE iterations. With no classes, there are no niches to protect by penalizing characters for using weapons. Thus, there’s no non-proficiency penalty. You make a standard ability-based attack roll and if you have the focus, benefit from its bonus. Furthermore, since there’s no need to sequester certain light weapons for the use of a particular class, Fighting now applies to all melee attacks, and Accuracy applies to all ranged attacks. To develop a fighting style, pick the focuses you want and talents which support them, such as Pinpoint Attack (which has a name Fantasy AGE players may recognize) and Self-Defense Style. Top it off with specializations like Gunfighter, Martial Artist, or Sniper.
The other new character-centered factor in combat is the Toughness trait, which is equal to your Constitution. Like armor (which is less common in modern games), Toughness absorbs damage, but the type of damage depends on the game’s mode—that is, one of the three genre-based rules options which apply to your campaign. In Cinematic Mode, Toughness works on virtually any form of damage, while in Gritty Mode, it only applies to what we call stun damage: the kind of stuff you take from a punch in the face. Pulpy Mode lies in the middle, absorbing damage from close combat weapons but failing against ballistic damage, which most firearms inflict.
Next Modern Monday I’ll talk about the game’s social and investigation systems. Since most modern settings feature functioning governments and societies, even wandering trouble shooters must deal with more than ruins and woods filled with, let’s say, angry bears. (Or indifferent bears. Don’t go near bears.) How do you run interrogations, make friends and grab clues? I’ll tell you then.