Thursday is GURPSDay, and while writing a review of GURPS Action 2: Exploits, hopefully for this coming Sunday, I was reading through the section on Squad SOP from Chapter 2, and the point made on “Subtlety” jumped out at me. The advice it gives is “The GM should ask each player to describe his PC’s “stealth mode,” and note the relevant skills and equipment modifiers. This will prevent arguments like whether the shooter had his machine gun under a trench coat!”
This is excellent advice, and seems exportable to nearly any game, and definitely a few of them in which I’m playing.
In fact, it seems like broadening the concept is a good idea, and as usual, Action 2 gives a lot of the right cues.
Instead of just picking a “stealth mode,” players should specify in moderate detail their character’s choice for the C-HEADS in Chapter 2 in the case of “casual circumstance,” “subtle but ready,” and “brashly offensive.”
The easiest way to show this is probably by example. I’ll pick on first The Commander, my superhero modeled a bit on Captain America, but he’s playing out a bit more like a combination of Jean Grey and Steve Rogers rather than how I thought he’d go. In any case, here are the examples, which can be read right out of the Table of Contents in Action 2’s preview. But I’ll lead off with everyone’s favorite concerns, weapons and armor.
- Casual: The Commander has a super-suit that has chameleon properties. So he could conceivably be in armor all the time, perhaps excepting when he sleeps. That suit is not the highest point value part of him, but it is basically irreplaceable. He’d take it off to sleep and when in known-secure locations. Otherwise, he’s wearing it.
- Subtle: His subtle mode is the suit redone as military fatigues in the latest pattern. It doesn’t look like armor, but it is – right down to a transparent face-shield
- Brash: His “all-in” costume is no more protective, but it is a lot more overt. Modern samurai-looking garb worn for intimidation and recognizability. It screams ‘I’m here, and I’m in your face,” as a deliberate statement.
- Casual: A concealed pistol.
- Subtle: His pistol and his sword, which he’s rarely without. His rifle would likely be present but slung or otherwise hidden, or perhaps left behind. He might go with a telescoping baton instead of the sword, for melee.
- Brash: Rifle, pistol, sword. This is how he spends most of his time, because the high Reputation and recognition of his face, his sword, and his method of doing things.
- Casual: Cell phone, like the rest of the planet. Perhaps it’s a secure one, but basically nothing special.
- Subtle: He can use gestures and military hand signals for silence, but that isn’t exactly subtle, though it is quiet. And he needs other military guys to receive those signals. His combat suit has embedded comms, though, so subvocal communication is viable.
- Brash: Loud voice, tactical comms.
The Cavalry (the name of the super team) has done very little thinking on this, and it shows. We usually show up in Brash mode, full battle rattle and capes flying. This is in genre, but we’ve never done subtle or casual as part of a mission. We need to think on this a lot more.
- Casual: We have tended to arrive either by VERTOL (the opposite of subtle) or with Eamon carrying us in flight mode (less overt, but still – guys dangling in the air isn’t exactly super-normal).
- Subtle: We have no plans or positions. The Commander has, in fact, broken out of subtle and careful in some Impulsive=like behavior in a few recent missions, pulling Leeeroy Jenkins! when things were bogging down in his mind. We need a way and a formation to enter into things. Probably the Rat Queen on point, as both recon (disasembled) and heavy hitter (she is a mighty tank) that can take a shot if the cover is blown. Then the Commander and Arc Light as the front line, with Zephyr as light cavalry in skirmish mode – in and out to test weaknesses and exploit holes. Eamon is a bit of a glass cannon due to low defenses, but he can literally lift a ship with his TK, and his gravity manipulation shape the battlefield. So he’s in the back. Yukio the Dog of NIMH is a hey diddle diddle, straight up the middle kind of puppy, and not good for subtle.
- Brash: As above, but with Yukio in full-on “Fezzik, tear his arms off” mode. Rat Queen enters in Rat Ogre form, instead of dispersed.
Light up the Night
- Casual: Nothing special, or perhaps a tactical flashlight dismounted from a weapon
- Subtle: Ironically, The Commander is quite sure his suit has vision-enhancement, but is also quite sure he can’t make it work for some reason. So he’s forced to rely on his enhanced natural senses . . . which given Perception-18, are good enough that if he moves slowly, he’s as good as most people are in broad daylight when there is an overcast sky with a moon in it (-8 to Vision). So his “stealth” light source is no light source at all.
- Brash: Not sure if Arc Light’s suit has a day-glo mode. Otherwise, senses and flashlights, or even torches and lanterns.
There are some very basic questions here that can and should be asked and answered of any adventuring party, regardless of Tech Level. How do you travel? How to you communicate? How do you go about town without attracting attention, and how well protected are you when you do so? When the lights go out, can you see? How? Can others see you by your own light?
As The Commander, I typically sport DR 21 or even DR 41 if attacked willfully and overtly from the front with a physical attack – a combination of armor and force fields give me enough juice to stop a .50 BMG. So he can go about protected, and his martial arts and telekinesis provide weapons that can’t be taken away or seen. But we have yet to think much about transport, formations, light, or comms . . . and this last time it nearly cost us.
In a Fantasy game, the questions aren’t that different, and still as useful. And they’d be useful still in Swords and Wizardry, Fate, Night’s Black Agents (!), or D&D. These are universal adventuring concerns, helpfully laid out for us by Sean in Action 2.