Welcome to another installment of Melee Academy! Today’s topic is “Opening Moves.”
Here are some other posts by other participants
- Melee Academy – Wu Wei – Mailanka crouches in Wait with a post on Wu Wei. How you can use optional rules to create greater tension in your melee game, and why Wait can be an excellent choice for an opening move.
- Melee Academy: Opening Moves – +Peter V. Dell’Orto likes to start things off by chucking an axe at it. Or other things. He considers D&D/Swords and Wizardry and GURPS.
- Melee Academy: The Opening Move Minus One – +Benjamin Gauronskas notes that by the time combat has started, your best moves have already happened. He looks at traps, tactics, and starting combat from an ambush.
- Melee Academy: Pre-Fight Moves – ArchonShiva breaks down some good preparation that starts before a fight. Odd weapons, nasty poisons, and buffing potions, oh my!
Instead of a super-detailed, broad-brush essay on possibilities, I’m going to get specific and talk about my superhero from the Aeon campaign.
The Commander is a fun character to play. He’s got a fully fleshed out background and a fairly well-varied power set.
And yet, he’s a generalist. He’s got a bit of TK – enough for things like 5d double-knockback crushing attacks with no wounding, a TK shield, and a few other things. He’s got a lot of points in Wildcard skills, the five key ones being Fist!, Blade!, Shooter!, Ten-Hut!, and SEAL!.
Plus he has a combat suit and he’s a super-soldier, so he’s got very good stats, including ST 28 and ridiculous Will and Perception.
So for equipment, he has a battlesuit, which is really more like a soldier-enhancing skinsuit than a true battlesuit. It’s got a sensor suite which is mostly non-functional, it provides DR20 everywhere, and enhances my ST and telekinetic abilities by a tetch. He’s also got guns. He uses a REC7 carbine and a FN Five-seveN pistol, because I like both calibers.
His job, in the words of Tony Stark, is “Call it, Captain!”
That is, he’s the guy who rolls vs. Tactics-20 as combat opens, and usually has enough re-rolls to hand out (thanks to Leadership-18 or even Leadership-20 thanks to SEAL! and Ten-Hut! being complimentary skills) to tip things our way.
So his opening move is basically a Tactics roll.
Still, one thing he’s found himself doing up until last game is to open combat by taking his rifle, and using his Extra Attack to Aim and Shoot in the same turn (this is a staple of combat using my On Target alternate rules, and makes for cinematically great gunmen). He did this vs. a few different foes in the last two games.
The thing is, in no case has he actually injured anyone with his rifle firing normal ammunition. In more than one case, the bullet was either stopped by magic or powers, or outright dodged by people with way too much jink in their junk. In a few other cases, the bullets ping off of armor or force fields.
But in every case, it revealed quite a lot about our foes – it was (as much as I hate to use the word) literally reconnaissance by fire. The dodge-masters reveal themselves when a single shot of 6d pi damage comes their way (I aim for the leg. Honest.). The armored guys just stand there and take it. The powered guys will do everything from an aggressive power block/parry (melting the bullets out of the air with a flame blast or something) to plucking the bullets out of the air like freakin’ Neo.
Again: that tells us how we have to fight them. And how fragile they are.
I’m tempted to use this more deliberately; bring a magazine of pistol ammo (because if they just wind up being a normal human criminal in spandex, it’s less lethal) with a variety of bullet types in it. A regular bullet, maybe a low-penetration version to test for speed, a rubber/plastic to check for ability to affect metal (we fought a ferrokinetic last game). That sort of thing. Heck, an under-barrel shotgun loaded with special birdshot might be useful here too.
The point isn’t to kill or even injure the bad guys. It’s to make them tip their hand. After that, the team can assess what’s going on and try and deal with it. We almost lost a PC last game to a super-speedster that could succeed a Dodge roll by 5-10 even when rolling a 16 on 3d6. We got lucky, in the end, but a way to see how amazing this guy was at dodging would have driven our tactics.
Some games the bad guys will be obvious, or at least tactics and threat levels will be accessible through common knowledge. Everyone knows Orcs are strong and stupid. Goblins are weaker, but quick and prone to multiple attacks and gang tactics. Feral Kobolds are weak but employ pack grappling tactics backed up with knives. Lots of knives.
But if you don’t have time to work that out in advance, or you meet a monster with which you’re not familiar – getting some way to assess capabilities is a good idea.