Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ship Movement Over Water

Yesterday, when I said I could move on to other things, I'm sorry if the reader got the impression that I meant I was done with ships.

After much consideration, I have decided that the best method for determining the movement of ships during combat, with respect to battles and naval warfare, is to adopt a simultaneous ship movement chart. It is a convenient fact that a ship moving at 1 knot of speed covers a distance of 20 feet in the space of a combat round (see Naval Hex). This means that a ship moving at 5 knots in a round will travel a distance of 5 naval hexes - which will also mean that combatants taking part in combat between ships will find themselves in situations where they may be very close to an enemy at the beginning of a combat round and 80 feet away at the end of that same round.

Where two ships are moving in relationship to one another, turn-based movement such as is found in ordinary D&D combat simply can't represent the orientation of combatants with respect to one another. Therefore, some sort of simultaneous movement is warranted. This will help manage the ranges between combatants in moving ships.

Moreover, it will also help control problems that arise in "real time" with respect to the manner in which rounds are divided up in my game (see Action Points). The captain gives an order - this is one action point in the game. However, following that order requires the use of every action point the crew has thereafter in order to make the ship turn. At the same time, combatants with action points are as bound during ship combat as any other time by the rules regarding the loading and firing of weapons, with additional time-based rules regarding grappling, ungrappling, reloading siege engines and so on.

Therefore, the "simultaneous" movement of the ship cannot be based upon merely the ship's movement, but upon the one-fifth increments of the combat round in which participants are bound by how much they can do in a set amount of time.

Another aspect of combat that must be managed is initiative. Since the movement of ships precludes the convenience of turn-based combat that usually occurs in D&D, where both the party and the enemy's combat movement (which should be happening simultaneously) can be glossed over for the sake of convenience. Such is not the case with ship combat, since the surface of the combat is itself moving (in multiple directions). Whereas boarding battles can still be worked out according to the turn-based system (since the surface isn't moving for the combatants) - for simplicity - outside influences on those battles and missiles fired between combatants have to be staggered through the round. See below for an explanation for this.

Let's look first at the movement chart for ships each fifth of a round, based on the ship's movement according to it's attitude (the direction of the ship in relation to the direction of the wind). This is the sort of chart well known to table-top wargamers.

The numbers on the right indicate the number of naval hexes that all ships move in the AP segment of the round. Thus a ship with a speed (whatever that might be according to the ship's attitude) of 4 knots would not move during the first segment; it would then move in every segment of the round thereafter. A ship with a speed of 7 knots would move 2 naval hexes in the 3 AP segment and 1 naval hex in the 4 AP segment and so on.

Where determining the initiative between combatants hurling or firing missiles against each other, the starting segment of the two sides is staggered. Whereas the combatants who have won initiate begin counting their movement (and firing of missiles) from the first column (1 AP), the enemy begins counting from the 4th column (4 AP). Here is a comparison between the two groups:

Imagine that we have two ships moving towards one another and that it is the first segment of the initiative-winning party. Caleb, aboard one ship, has just finished loading his light crossbow (which took all the previous round) and now intends to fire. He cannot fire in the first AP, however, because it requires 2 AP for him to pick his target and fire his weapon (see the action point page again). By then, the ships will likely have changed their orientation with one another; therefore, when the 2 AP column for ship movement has been resolved, Caleb may say that he'd rather wait: the other ship may be moving closer or the turn of a ship may be bringing his ship into a better line of sight with an artillerist crew on the other ship vigorously working to load a ballista. He may therefore hold off on firing until the 3rd AP, the 4th AP or even the 5th AP. However, just as the actions of one round are never carried over into the next round (all rounds are separate and distinct actions), adopting this staggered rule does not change any previous rule of combat engagement. Caleb cannot hold his shot over until the 1 AP of the next round! If he does not fire his weapon in the time he has, he is judged to have lost his focus and not fired at all, meaning that he must begin the next round exactly as all rounds have always begun since the beginning of turn-based combat: from scratch.

Players are very likely to argue this rule: but I am adamant that they understand that the staggering of the combat rounds has nothing whatsoever to do with breaking all future combats into segments for a grittier management of time (which I can do without). It is strictly intended to compensate for battle fire during ship movement. Period.

If Caleb does hold off until the 5th segment of his round to fire, it should be noted that this will be the 2nd segment of the enemy - and that it will appear that the enemy will be able to fire simultaneously with Caleb. Again, no. Fundamentally, I don't intend to change the turn based system with regards to the order of combat - only with regards to the movement of the ships. Therefore, no matter what comparisons may be made between the one staggered set of combat rounds vs. their opponents, all attacks for one side should be considered to have happenedbefore the other side's fire is resolved. Yes, this will mean that an enemy that waits until AP 5 will be considered to have happened before a player firing in AP 2. This is not a result of travelling back in time - but in making the best of a difficult system that we don't want to solve by making it grittier still. For the most part, since we are only talking about missile combat, we can simply assume that both missiles are in the air at the same time, with the power to designate which one hits its target first.

At the same time, it must also be acknowledged that, in normal turn-based combat, when players choose not to use their AP in the time they have remaining to them in a given round, those AP are lost. This should not change with regards to combat at sea.

See Naval Warfare for the complete status of my ship rules so far.


Adam said...

It's unusual to see a few days go by without a post. I know things aren't easy over there but I hope they will start looking up soon. Best wishes.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Yes, these are brutal times. I'm okay.