The Wild Bunch Meets Probability Management

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The Angle
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The Wild Bunch Meets Probability Management

#1 Postby The Angle » Wed Feb 25, 2009 2:26 am

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Here's the scene --

Revolutionary Mexico, 1914; the villa of Mapache, a brutal Huertista general. Four hardened, gringo filibusteros armed with 1873 Colt Peacemakers, M1911 Colt .45s, pump shotguns, a Maxim machinegun, and a box of hand grenades are about to utterly destroy the better part of an army in the most glorious ballet of blood and carnage in cinema. Yes, it's the climax of the greatest film ever made, The Wild Bunch. (Spoiler -- they all die in the end, but what a way to go.)

A friend and I are presenting this as a miniatures skirmish at Cold Wars (Lancaster PA, Sunday, March 15, 9 a.m., "The Wild Bunch"). There will be 8 players -- 4 controlling one of the Bunch apiece, the other 4 controlling endless hordes of Huertistas. The battle will last until all of the Bunch are dead, then the players switch sides and do it again.

Here's the problem --

To recreate the film, the outlaws need to mow down their poorly-trained opponents like wheat. It's easy enough to load up the heroes with edges that make them walking murder machines. Much harder is finding a way to keep them alive long enough to commit all that mayhem.

When the game starts, Pike and his Bunch are staring down General Mapache and a few of his cronies. Arrayed behind them (the heroes) are 30 Mexican soldiers eating and lolling about. On the first turn, only the Bunch get to act. The moment they gun down Mapache (probably with the first shot), the entire Mexican force becomes shaken. Then it's a dash for the central patio, the MG, and the grenades, gunning down officers and German advisors along the way. So far, so good.

But within a turn or two, those 30 Mexicans are unshaking and beginning to act. By then, the Bunch should have cover (mostly -2), meaning that they'll be hit only on 6s. That's when probability starts rearing its ugly head.

Because the Mexicans need 6s to hit, that's automatically an ace and a re-roll, which means a 50/50 chance that every hit will be a hit with a raise. Then they start rolling damage dice and acing those, too.

Any individual shot doesn't have much of a chance, but with 30 guys shooting back (did I mention that the Mexicans keep getting reinforcements?), it doesn't take long before the odds pile up and Dutch Engstrom takes an 8-wound shot straight to the hat rack. For the sake of dramatic tension, it's essential that the Bunch gets whittled down slowly, wound by wound, and not all at once.

Certain things about the scenario and setup can't change, such as the size of the compound (roughly 3' x 3', with the MG about 2' 6" from the front wall) or the fact that this absolutely, positively must allow 4 characters to slaughter 40+ enemies before succumbing to accumulated wounds.

So I'm looking for suggestions on how to make that happen. Here's what I have to work with survival-edge-wise from the rulebooks and Savagepedia:

Brawny: Toughness +1.
Combat Reflexes: +2 to recover from being Shaken.
Courage Under Fire: Ignore 1d4 wounding attacks
Dodge: -1/-2 when shot at.
Hard to Kill: Wound modifiers not applied to Incapacitation rolls.
Iron Jaw/Steadfast: +2 on soak rolls.
Nerves of Steel: Ignore 1 (or 2) point of wound penalty.
Solid Determination: Immediate, free soak roll against incapacitating wounds.
Resilient: Immediate, free recovery roll when shaken; Raise = recover.

As a player, how would you feel about any or all of the following special rules:

1. Spending a bennie negates the attack automatically, without a soak roll.
2. No attack can cause more than 3 wounds.
3. Each Mexican player rolls 1d6 every turn; only that many figures can attack, but all can move. This prevents turn after turn of 20+ attacks.
4. Mexican soldiers (most armed with rifles) have their ranges halved. This would prevent, or at least discourage, them from lining up at the front wall and banging away at long range.
5. Any other suggestion you care to toss on the heap.

Brainstorm away!

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#2 Postby SlasherEpoch » Wed Feb 25, 2009 3:44 am

Band of Brothers: Effectively a point of Toughness for each member of the Bunch within 5".

And as a PLAYER, I think all those rules are great, since they benefit me! As a person who likes roleplaying games, you're aiming to create a one-sided victory, and that's not good. Tension comes from the spontaneity of play and the luck of the dice. I think it's unrealistic all the PCs have that huge cluster of Edges.

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#3 Postby Tavis » Wed Feb 25, 2009 3:58 am

I'd agree with using the "Band of Brothers" edge from Tour of Darkness - though you could of course rename it "The Wild Bunch"

That would certainly add to Survivability.


Also bear in mind the 'innocent bystander' rules - and tweak them a little.

Instead of making them come into play when there's a Mexican in base contact with one of the Bunch try this ...

If Mexican 1 (or anyone else, for that matter) is shooting past Mexican 2 (line of fire crosses the 'square' containing said Mexican 2)- a 1 on the shooting die will hit the 'not-so-innocent' bystander.

Yes, if they need a 6 to hit, there's a 50/50 chance of getting a raise. But they have the same chance of rolling a 1 as they do that 6 - and if there's anyone 'along the line of fire' they could also be hit.
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#4 Postby Sadric » Wed Feb 25, 2009 7:13 am

Look for the pulp rules from the TAG-website.

Deny extras (the mexicans) the shaken status, they are ok or out (will definitly speed gameplay).

Say that damage from a extra couldnt explode. So a normal attack with a 2d6 pistol could only do a lucky maximal of 12 points of damage, or very lucky 18 with a raise.

Hide a lot of bennies for the bunch. A bennie for all and one for the killer if Mapache get killed. A Bennie for the first of the bunch that fire the machine gun, take the first wound, uses the first grenade, kills the first mexican, has first a body count of 5, 10, 15, 20.

How do you manage the action card of the mexicans?
If you have 4 players for the mexicans does this means all of them play 8
mexicans and get his own action card? Maybe only mexicans with a red card could shoot, because there are such a panic and surprise. (black card means a men as reinforcement enter the field)

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Re: The Wild Bunch Meets Probability Management

#5 Postby DerFinsterling » Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:03 am

The Angle wrote:Yes, it's the climax of the greatest film ever made, The Wild Bunch. (Spoiler -- they all die in the end, but what a way to go.)
Ah, while a freat film, I'd heartily dispute the "greatest ever". But that's beside the point.

Because the Mexicans need 6s to hit, that's automatically an ace and a re-roll, which means a 50/50 chance that every hit will be a hit with a raise.

Uhm, how come? They have a 1 in 6 chance to score an ace, then they'd need to score at least a 4 to get to a hit and a raise.
And this is only taking cover into account, not distance, lighting, multiactions...

So I'm looking for suggestions on how to make that happen. Here's what I have to work with survival-edge-wise from the rulebooks and Savagepedia:
Hard to Kill: Wound modifiers not applied to Incapacitation rolls.


This is more or less an absolute must-have.

Also, consider that while it's good to have high toughness, there are two additional points:
Dodge gives your attacker a penalty on ranged attacks.
If you're quicker than the guy attacking you, you can take him out before he takes a shot at you. That's what Quick and/or Level Headed are for.
Last edited by DerFinsterling on Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#6 Postby Noshrok Grimskull » Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:06 am

Yup, Hard to Kill should be on their list of Edges, as should (Improved) Nerves of Steel. Not bothering with those pesky Wound modifiers keeps them effective that much longer. :)

Also, if you want to shift probability to allow The Wild Bunch to last longer, why not give the Mexicans a d4 in Shooting instead of a d6?
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#7 Postby Clint » Wed Feb 25, 2009 11:06 am

DerFinsterling wrote:
The Angle wrote:Because the Mexicans need 6s to hit, that's automatically an ace and a re-roll, which means a 50/50 chance that every hit will be a hit with a raise.

Uhm, how come? They have a 1 in 6 chance to score an ace, then they'd need to score at least a 4 to get to a hit and a raise.


Um, I think that is what he said. Each successful hit (1 in 6) has a 50/50 chance of being a raise (rolling a 4+ on a d6).

Still with 30 Extras, that means 5 might hit on average, and 2.5 of those will possibly get a raise. Without knowing the exact damage, it's not possible to judge the probabilities of its effects, acing or not.

I suppose if we consider them to have the equivalent of 3d8 damage (a d6 for the raise on the attack plus whatever a rifle does, but probably 2d8 at least), then those 2 attacks would typically cause 2 wounds to a WC with around a 4-7 toughness.

Considering the WCs have three Bennies to Soak with, I'd say high Vigor with a Wild Bunch Edge for +2 to Soak rolls will keep them around pretty well. A d12 Vigor would give them an 8 Toughness, pushing the odds more towards only taking one wound, and with the Edge, giving them about a 2 in 3 chance with one roll of Soaking two wounds if they do take that much.

Add in Improved Nerves of Steel so they can take up to 2 wounds with no penalties or 3 wounds with just a -1, and they should be good to go.

Noshrok Grimskull wrote:Also, if you want to shift probability to allow The Wild Bunch to last longer, why not give the Mexicans a d4 in Shooting instead of a d6?


Actually, the very first thing I thought of as well, but I could see some "real world" play issues rolling a handful of d4s versus a handful of d6s for four players.
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#8 Postby Boldfist » Wed Feb 25, 2009 11:20 am

Wow. I wish I would have known this game was being played at Cold Wars earlier. A friend of mine asked me if we wanted to go and I turned him down because I didn't see any Savage Worlds games or any .45 Adventure being run.

Oh, and from experience a group of 4 Veteran Wild Cards (with some of the Edges you mentioned) should do very well against 40 extras. Although if you have one player playing each of them they might get a bit bored just running one figure on the table. Especially when they see the other players moving around a couple of squads of 5 or 10 figures each.

And I third the recommendation of Band of Brothers. Great Edge to help with survivability for a gang of outlaws.
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#9 Postby SlasherEpoch » Wed Feb 25, 2009 12:30 pm

Sadric wrote:Hide a lot of bennies for the bunch. A bennie for all and one for the killer if Mapache get killed. A Bennie for the first of the bunch that fire the machine gun, take the first wound, uses the first grenade, kills the first mexican, has first a body count of 5, 10, 15, 20.


JUST A FLESH WOUND achievement unlocked!

HIGH EXPLOSIVES achievement unlocked!

BODY COUNT achievement unlocked!

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#10 Postby Harboe » Wed Feb 25, 2009 3:08 pm

Mass Combat Rules?

Maybe the fight is secondary and/or reaching a certain point (fortified?) will be their focus, whereas the whole Mexican Shootout is just to keep things inconspicuous :razz:

Also, mooks are notoriously bad at even basic strategy. Innocent Bystander rules should kill plenty...
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#11 Postby The Angle » Wed Feb 25, 2009 4:27 pm

I think it's unrealistic all the PCs have that huge cluster of Edges.

They don't all have all those edges. That's the list of edges I found that help to keep characters alive and fighting.

Band of Brothers: Effectively a point of Toughness for each member of the Bunch within 5".

Except that this forces, or at least encourages, the heroes to bunch up in a group around the MG and never move around. I want them to race and stalk through the villa, room to room, both attacking and retreating.

Instead of Band of Brothers, I'll probably give each character a leadership edge that works like, "as long as this character is alive, all his allies get X advantage." X, obviously, will vary from character to character, but they'll probably follow the standard leadership bonuses to toughness, shaken recovery, shared bennies, etc.

Hide a lot of bennies for the bunch. A bennie for all and one for the killer if Mapache get killed. A Bennie for the first of the bunch that fire the machine gun, take the first wound, uses the first grenade, kills the first mexican, has first a body count of 5, 10, 15, 20.

I like this. Lots of possibilities.

Each Mexican player gets his own initiative card. Placing restrictions on what they can do based on their card is a better alternative than rolling a die -- another good suggestion.

Dodge gives your attacker a penalty on ranged attacks.

Although, its effect is lessened here. The most common condition is going to be Shooting d6 trying to hit a target at close range with -2 cover -- needs a 6 to hit. If the target has Dodge, the shooter needs a 7 to hit. If he rolls a 6, he gets a 7 automatically on the exploding die. It cuts the odds of a raise from 50% to 33%, but that's its only effect in most cases.

why not give the Mexicans a d4 in Shooting instead of a d6?

As Clint noted, it's mainly because rolling a handful of d4s is no fun. What's worse, because the standard TN for Mexicans is likely to be 6, a d4 actually makes them MORE likely to hit, not less. The chance to roll a 6 on a d6 is 16.7%. The chance to roll a 6 on a d4 is 18.75%. As above, it would cut down on raises but actually increase hits.

Although if you have one player playing each of them they might get a bit bored just running one figure on the table. Especially when they see the other players moving around a couple of squads of 5 or 10 figures each.
I think it's the difference between eating 6 ozs. of prime rib vs. a bucket of microwave popcorn. Everyone gets to play both sides before the game is over, anyway, so this doesn't concern me.

Innocent Bystander rules should kill plenty...

I can't count on this. A 3' x 3' compound is more than big enough to allow for clear lanes of fire, especially if figures can shoot mid-move (which I expect to disallow).

I think that some of the things suggested here, coupled with the morale rules from Showdown, might just do the trick. Now it's time for more playtesting.

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#12 Postby Clint » Wed Feb 25, 2009 4:54 pm

The Angle wrote:
why not give the Mexicans a d4 in Shooting instead of a d6?

As Clint noted, it's mainly because rolling a handful of d4s is no fun. What's worse, because the standard TN for Mexicans is likely to be 6, a d4 actually makes them MORE likely to hit, not less. The chance to roll a 6 on a d6 is 16.7%. The chance to roll a 6 on a d4 is 18.75%. As above, it would cut down on raises but actually increase hits.


Yeah, but seriously, by an extremely minute amount. Out of 30 attacks, instead of 5 hitting on average, a sixth might hit about every other time. Comparatively, instead of half the hits getting a raise; the effect is halved again to only a quarter of them on average. One fewer hit with a raise every round is worth way more than one extra normal hit every other round.

It's definitely more advantageous to the Wild Cards, and that's ignoring the fact it only occurs if they always stay in a position where they have exactly a -2 modifier to be hit.

Still, doesn't change that a handful of d4s is a pain. ;)
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#13 Postby Noshrok Grimskull » Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:52 pm

To increase the survivability of The Wild Bunch, you could also give them the Hardy Monstrous Ability. :eek:
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#14 Postby The Angle » Wed Feb 25, 2009 8:52 pm

Lots of bennies + bonuses on soak rolls appears to be the ticket. It rewards exactly the type of behavior I want from the players without straitjacketing them into it. Characters can take wound after wound and shake them off with relative ease IF they have the bennies to spend, and to keep the bennies flowing, they need to really take the fight to the enemy and not just hole up somewhere. Today's bout of dice rolling and figure pushing showed that the heroes as currently configured can expect to burn through at least a bennie a turn on soak rolls alone, which means that if they aren't earning at least one a turn, they're losing ground. The heroes earn bennies individually but can give them to one another, and that should help to foster a sense of shared destiny, too -- at least until things get really hairy. I may even allow bennies to be spent for things like instant reloading. The faster they flow through the players' hands, the more exciting the action will be.

Clint: You're right about the odds. It's all to easy to get caught up in the digits and overlook that you're talking about a 2% swing. It's one of those oddities that distracts me more than it should. Rolling a clutch of d4s just hurts your hand, AND they barely bounce, AND they're hard to read. The real penalty to having a d4 stat in SvgW is not the low odds of success, it's the plain aggravation of having to roll a stinkin' d4.

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#15 Postby SlasherEpoch » Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:04 pm

Noshrok Grimskull wrote:To increase the survivability of The Wild Bunch, you could also give them the Hardy Monstrous Ability. :eek:



Oooo! Okay, yes. That would easily give them the survivability you're looking for.

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#16 Postby Boldfist » Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:05 am

Quote:
Although if you have one player playing each of them they might get a bit bored just running one figure on the table. Especially when they see the other players moving around a couple of squads of 5 or 10 figures each.
I think it's the difference between eating 6 ozs. of prime rib vs. a bucket of microwave popcorn. Everyone gets to play both sides before the game is over, anyway, so this doesn't concern me.


That's certainly different in a Showdown. How are players going to get to play both sides during the game? Sounds very interesting?? Or are you running the game twice with the same players?
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Re: The Wild Bunch Meets Probability Management

#17 Postby Noshrok Grimskull » Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:07 am

He's playing twice.

The Angle wrote:The battle will last until all of the Bunch are dead, then the players switch sides and do it again.
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#18 Postby jamused » Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:43 am

One thing you might consider is that based on what I've managed to google, the rifles the Mexicans would likely be using held 5 rounds and probably would take more than a turn to reload. Since it sounds like you intend the combat to last more than that, but tracking ammo is a pain (even in the probabilistic fashion of SW Extras and ammo levels) you might either give them a lower rate of fire than 1 (factor the ROF they can actually sustain in from the beginning) or after the opening volley or two designate some fraction of the entire group (1/2 or 1/3 or something easy to eyeball) that has to sit out each turn, reloading.

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#19 Postby Lord Inar » Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:23 pm

jamused wrote:One thing you might consider is that based on what I've managed to google, the rifles the Mexicans would likely be using held 5 rounds and probably would take more than a turn to reload. ...


or just have them have to reload, unjam, whatever (take an extra turn) if they roll a 1 on the Shooting die, and indicate with a marker.

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#20 Postby VonDan » Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:07 pm

In my research for my chick action or chicksplotation (a term coined about me by the director of vampire trailer park) writing I have found that most mexican armies of the time had a number of women = to about 75% of the men who followed them to cook and nurse and forage for food and a few went into battle openly or dressed in men. So my only comment is

Add at least one Soldita with derringers in her garter


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