Suppression Fire Commentary

As sometimes happens, a comment is too good to pass up and reply to in the comments section. Kallatari, who I believe knows of what he speaks, wrote in. His comments are in quote-blocks, and my responses or notes follow.

First, just wanted to say that what you’ve described is pretty much exactly how I’ve been gaming suppression fire in my games. The one exception is that I only did one attack to someone who entered the cone of fire, and not once per hex. I’ll be implementing that immediately.

That was a bit to keep things moving, keep the math to a minimum, and make each hex scary enough that it features as a deterrent in the player’s mind, since most times they’re not nearly as risk averse with their little paper men as they should be. Another way to go would simply be to figure out the transgressor’s “bullet exposure” and base RoF on that. But I really do like the per-hex method, because scary.

One thing I’ve wondered about, but never worried too much because it’s never really come up in my game, is what happens when the RoF divided by width gives an effective RoF that’s less than 1. It’s unlikely to occur when the target zone is centered on opponents at range. But, in a hypothetical situation, what if he made his cone 3 hexes wide 1 hex away (really desperate against that horde of zombies that just closed into melee range)? He’s basically covering a 180-degree cone, and the bullets that don’t hit would likely keep travelling quite a bit further away. So at 10 hexes away in this situation, the RoF is effectively a small fraction. Do we apply penalties to the effective skill of 6 (at which point, may as well declare an automatic miss). But what about the fright checks? I’ve now suppressed a 180-degree angle. Should there be a bonus based on the fraction (RoF of 1/2 = +2, RoF of 1/5 = +5?).

This seems as a good a judgement as any, and the two or three bullets per hex which norms to zero isn’t bad. I think that the usual cut-off for suppression fire is RoF 5 per hex, and since that gets a +1 for RoF in the usual rules and my alternate, using a lower RoF and having the shots be vs the minimum 5 or less wouldn’t be horrible. On the other hand . . .

Additionally, I’ve been starting to question why suppression fire is treated differently than any normal gunshots.

There is this. Technically, with the rules in Tactical Shooting how any near miss can induce a fright check, they’re not. At least for fear.

If I pick a single target and fire at his hex with Suppression Fire, I attack him with a maximum effective skill of (6 + 3 =) 9, even if my skill, say, 25. Even if I miss, he needs to make a Fright Check roll to not take cover. Finally, if any bullets miss, then I get to roll to hit anyone else who enters into the line of fire until my next turn.

On the other hand, if I pick that same target and fire 15 rounds directly at him then I get to attack with my skill of 25 + 3 = 28 (minus range penalty, etc.), which means a better chance to hit. But if I miss, he doesn’t have to make any Fright Check or bother to take cover. And if any bullets miss, I don’t get to attack anyone else who crosses the line of fire before my next turn.

I think there’s a case to be made for a few things here

(a) It’s important to hit the fear check for any missed shots. You might even say that the fear-check zone extends RoF bonus more hexes to the left and right of the area being fired into

(b) ANY use of RoF 5 or more creates a suppression line. For a direct-fire attack, that line is only one yard wide – a line, actually – but you get attacked as stray fire if you’re in the line when the bullets are fired, or with suppression fire if you cross that line later.

These are basically almost two identical scenarios with widely different game effects. I’ve therefore been contemplating – but haven’t yet implement – a rule where anyone in the line of fire of any gun shot (or laser beams, or lightning bolt spells, etc.) has to make a fright roll to not take cover, and that, if a bullet hasn’t hit a specified target, than there’s a “live fire” line of attack that anyone who crosses becomes a potential target. To me, All-Out Attack (Suppression Fire) just allows you to divide your shots over a wider area, reducing your chances of hitting in exchange for possibly affecting more people with fright checks.

Or what he just said. Yeah, this is fair if you can remember it . . .

My one hesitation is that it would possibly slow combat down in order to track all the lines/arcs of fire. But since I use MapTools for my combat, I don’t think it would be that complicated.

. . . and VTTs make it really easy. In fact, in Roll20 in the game described, that’s exactly what we did. Drew the cone of fire. We still had one guy run across it, but that was OK. It also makes the Teamwork or Standard Operating Procedure perks that much more useful, as I think one or both lets you cross suppression fire zones of your own team with relative impunity.

8 thoughts on “Suppression Fire Commentary

  1. Good stuff, nabbed for my game. One remark though:

    (b) ANY use of RoF 5 or more creates a suppression line. For a direct-fire attack, that line is only one yard wide – a line, actually – but you get attacked as stray fire if you’re in the line when the bullets are fired, or with suppression fire if you cross that line later.

    This seems to make All-Out Attack (Suppression Fire) obsolete for hosing down a line. Why take AOA to suppress as line when any use of a RoF 5 weapon suppresses like that?

    1. The 6+RoF bonus thing is, I believe, usually applied as a cap to hit chances. So if your natural chances are LESS than this, you roll the lower number. So bracing and AoA (for example) ensure that you still are doing well enough to have the cap be the rate-limiter for attack skill.

      It may ALSO be that you don’t do it, that you’re simply right. If you’re shooting down a line, that’s not suppression fire – it’s a direct attack that happens to ALSO have suppression effecte because bullets. I’d have to play that particular option in a real setting first.

    2. For AoA (Suppression Fire) being obsolete in hosing down a line, I would say it depends.

      All things being equal, I think it should be obsolete in that situation. If you want to fire in a straight line, just shoot at your target. However, if you want to waive your gun to cover an angle, then you use Suppression Fire.

      But things are not always equal. My interpretation: If you shoot down a hall at a single target, then you attack that target. If you hit that target with, say, 3 of your 5 shots, then only 2 bullets remain “unaccounted”. So anyone behind that target is NOT in a Suppression Fire zone. You stop there. On the other hand, perform an AoA (Suppression Fire) down the hall, and you get to continue to attack everyone at your effective RoF regardless if some of the rounds hit the first target, because it’s a guarantee cover of the entire zone. Yes, as you hit target, the remaining bullets that can hit others dwindles, but the rules clearly state that the zone remains dangerous until all the bullets are accounted for. Because you focused on one target, only the remaining bullets count for determining the RoF behind that target.

      Of course, different rules apply for in front of that target. That zone technically got the full RoF so would be suppression fire zone. However, anyone already in the zone in front of the target already provided a “cover” modifier to your initial hit roll. By succeeding your hit roll, you’ve already determined you missed them. So anyone already in the zone in front of the target is already off the hook from being hit. But anyone who moves into the line of fire would be fair game.

      Anyway, that’s how I’d game it. You’d have to look at the pros and cons before making your attack. And it does become complicated.

      Another small difference, AoA (Suppression Fire) lets you ignore darkness and similar penalties. A direct attack doesn’t. That of course is only relevant for the person you aimed at with a normal attack… it wouldn’t apply to the effective zone of fire. Against an invisible foe (-10 to hit), Suppression Fire might actually be the best option.

      If the above seems too complicated, the only alternative I can think of to address this would be to require AoA as a mandatory method for any high RoF, saying, maybe anything over 1/2 of the gun’s maximum RoF…. which brings another interesting discussion on maybe the “suppression fire” doesn’t have a threshold of RoF 5+ but rather a threshold of a certain fraction of a gun’s max RoF. After all, if you fire less than half the RoF, then technically the hex is only under suppression fire for half the turn, not the whole turn. Conversely, if I fire the full 3 of a RoF 3 pistol, then I technically have bullets crossing the line of fire the full second, making that hex dangerous. Despite brainstorming this idea here, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest this alternative as it would start getting really complicated to game, as you need to know the RoF of all the guns involved in play… and it gets messier if you want overlapping fields fire to count as effectively being suppression fire. Basically, while I think this option certainly has better logic going for it, the gaming/GM part of me doesn’t think it would fly.

    3. This also brings up a few other weirds scenarios.

      I can perform a Move and Attack, move at full speed running down the hall, and shoot my full RoF 15 down the hallway as a direct attack at someone standing there effectively creating a Suppression Zone down that hall.

      But I can’t do a Move and Suppression Fire down that same hallway.

      (Even if I didn’t use this suggested tweak and declared, no, it’s not a suppression zone, it would still require anyone to make a fright check to remain in the hallways thanks to Tactical Shooting rules, which to me, is the key effect of Suppression Fire anyway…)

      To me, that’s just another reason why I do think Suppression Fire as a separate maneuver should be obsolete. I’d almost allow a “Suppression Fire” to be an ordinary attack where you say “I split my RoF between these hexes, creating a cone, aiming at the area instead of a target.” I can already do that, splitting my attacks at a -6 per extra target… this is just an extreme variation, where instead of taking cumulative -6, you cap the skill at 6 + RoF.

      If the concept was “that should be an AoA because it takes your full turn”, then any max RoF should be an AoA. But that’s a whole different debate.

  2. First, thanks for taking the time for a full response.

    From your article, I take it that you’re suggesting that an effective RoF of 5+ is the threshold required to allow for “attacking anyone who enters the cone of fire” using the Suppression fire rules to determine the chances of hitting. Therefore, if I only fire a 3-round burst, there’s no field of fire and it’s safe to cross my line of fire after I’ve made the attack roll.

    I think that’s a nice game-play balance (speed vs detail) between needing to track all the RoF 4 or less line of fires and making attack rolls, going by the probability of being hit being next to nil to just assume it’s safe. However, I think I’d instead add that, even the RoF 4 or less lines of fire would still require a “fright check” of some sort to run through them… so you track the lines for fright check purposes, but not hit roll purposes. The “game rules” might be you can’t get hit, but the “realism” would be it is possible, so the fright should still be applied.

    Brainstorming here, but extrapolating on the RoF threshold, I think I’d expand that rule and say that any hex that has a total of 5 or more rounds crossing it, regardless of the source of the rounds, should count as a suppression fire hex. So if Bob fires a 3-round burst at Joe, who returns fire at Bob with his own 3-round burst, all of the hexes between them have an effective RoF of 6, and should therefore count as suppression fire for anyone trying to cross between them. Granted, that creates a mess of determining chances to hit since it’s two different skills (just use the lowest skill – range of the two, then max at 6 + RoF bonus?), and then which bullet actually hits you (I’d just give equal chances to all and roll randomly).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *