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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
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"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Friday, November 4, 2011

It's Necromunda time! (Part 2: Skills)

(Pictured: not my gang, but only barely.)

Likely the most problematic section of the Necromunda rules are the skill lists; even the designers have as much as admitted that they are atrocious, releasing several semi-official changes to them that help some, but still leave them with some fundamental problems. The most obvious of these is simply balance- some of the trees (Techno) are far better than the others (Muscle), with the latter in particular being basically complete trash.

Worse, most of the trees have at least one or two skills that are amazingly narrow- Escape Artist (from Agility) is a good example of this; the skill does absolutely nothing for you unless you first go down and then out of action and then roll a particular, non-common result on the Serious Injury chart, in which case you... get to pretend the whole thing didn't happen. Yeah, uh, that's totally worth it.

No, the skill charts in Necromunda are far and away its most problematic section and, even if I hadn't done anything else, they would have required fixing. With that said, many of the fixes others have written (or that the designers have offered) help a lot, so quite a bit of my work was already done for me.

The first change, for those that haven't seen the add-on lists, was to create the Leadership and Heavy skill groups, which served to siphon off all of the "____-only" skills and allow us to create some type-specific results without ending up with a skill table that was, realistically, only four or fewer long for some gang members.

I also chose to tweak the advancement table itself slightly, resulting in this:

2 New Skill- Any (Roll a random skill from one skill table of your choice; only Leaders may take Leadership and Heavies Heavy.)
3 New Skill- Gang (Roll a random skill from one of the tables normally available to that gang member.)

4 Characteristic Increase. Roll a d6:
1-3 Initiative 4-6 Movement

5 Characteristic Increase. Roll a d6:
1-3 Toughness 4-6 Strength

6 Characteristic Increase. Roll a d6:
1-3 Weapon Skill 4-6 Ballistic Skill

7 New Skill- Gang (Roll a random skill from one of the tables normally available to that gang member.)

8 Characteristic Increase. Roll a d6:
1-3 Weapon Skill 4-6 Ballistic Skill

9 Characteristic Increase. Roll a d6:
1-3 Wounds 4-6 Leadership

10 Characteristic Increase. Roll a d6:
1-3 Attacks 4-6 Player's choice

11 New Skill- Gang (Roll a random skill from one of the tables normally available to that gang member.)

12 New Skill- Any (Roll a random skill from one skill table of your choice; only Leaders may take Leadership and Heavies Heavy.)

The main issue was the center result on the old table giving you Leadership and Initiative, which we didn't feel was particularly appropriate or interesting. By shuffling the numbers around, we maintained the same overall number of skill results (1/3 of the table, both in the old and the new) and percentage of gang skills vs. others, but spread out the stats a little bit. Weapon and Ballistic Skill remain the most common, with all the others (except the aforementioned Ld/Ini) being roughly the same. Also notable is the addition of Movement and Player's Choice results for stats- since a conscious decision was made to avoid giving bonuses to any of the characteristics in the Skill lists (something Mr. Case had experimented with in his version and I found interesting, but the others didn't particularly like), I wanted all of the stats to have at least some kind of option for increasing.

1. Catfall: Any time a fighter with this skill falls, they may make an initiative test; if succeeded, they have managed to roll out, go limp, grab something, or otherwise slow their descent- no damage is suffered from the fall and the model is not pinned (unless the fall was caused by being shot). A fall of 12" or more will still take the fighter out of action as normal.

2. Dodge: The model has a 6+ invulnerable saving throw against damage from melee and shooting attacks, representing their uncanny ability to get out of the way of danger. If the model is hit by a blast or template weapon and succeeds this save, move them up to 2" to try and escape the attack; if they can move completely out from under the template using their movement, they escape unharmed; otherwise, they are struck as normal and the dodge save provides no benefit.

3. Evade: Enemies shooting at the ganger from long range suffer a -1 to-hit penalty, and those at short range suffer a -2 penalty. If the model is in cover, either apply this modifier or the modifier for cover, whichever is greater.

4. Leap: Either before or after their normal movement in the Movement Phase the model may elect to leap, moving up to d6" and passing over obstacles and models of up to man height; this movement can also carry the ganger over gaps, but the attempt to leap must be declared before the roll is made, and if insufficient distance is rolled they will fall. A model may not hide or assault in a turn in which it uses Leap.

5. Gecko Crawl: As long as it doesn't carry a heavy weapon or otherwise encumber itself, the ganger can scale right up the side of otherwise-impassible walls! Count such movement as across difficult terrain (1/2 speed); it will generally be impossible to actually place the model in the appropriate spot, but a note should be made of its height so that it may be suitably "suspended" to check if enemies can draw LOS to it, etc. A model may not shoot or charge while climbing, but may Run.

6. Sprint: When running, the ganger moves three times their movement characteristic rather than just double.

Agility was one of the easiest trees to modify- many of its abilities were just fine as they were and just needed a little cleaning up in the language or small tweaks to make them work properly. Evade was moved here from the Stealth tree for flavor reasons and Gecko Crawl was added to allow one additional "mode" of movement. I had concerns about Leap, since I felt it was potentially too good, allowing a ganger to effectively Run every turn without losing their ability to shoot, but others felt it was fine, so we left is more or less as it was. Most of the Agility skills were pulled either from the errata or from some of the house rules I had found floating around.

1. Combat Master: The ganger's prowess in a fight is such that they will always hit enemy models on a 3+ in close combat. Additionally, if involved in a multiple combat, instead of having to divide their attacks between opponents, they make their full allotment against each enemy.

2. Disarm: At the beginning of the first round of combat, before any blows are struck, roll a die for each model they are engaged with; on a 4+, the model knocks one of the enemy's weapons away (this does not have to be a melee weapon) and it may no longer be used for the remainder of the battle.

3. Dirty Fighter: Each round of melee combat, you may reroll one missed attack or failed wound.

4. Furious Charge: When the ganger charges, they benefit from +1Str and +1Ini for the first turn of combat.

5. Rampage: Each time this model downs an enemy in close combat, they gain a culmulative +1 bonus to their Attacks and Wounds characteristics; these bonuses last only until the end of the battle.

6. Step Aside: The model has a 4+ invulnerable save against all attacks made against it in close combat.

More so than any other tree, Combat required rewriting because of the changes we made to the game system, as most of its abilities simply didn't function without 2E-style melee combat. I also wanted to follow the course others had taken and steer away from melee combat being an "all parries all the time" thing, which the Combat tree only reinforced. Combat's big schtick is that it lets you win fights, not get into fights; you need other skills for that. Most of the skills are fairly simple in what they do, but I feel they significantly swing the fight in the favor of their possessor in most cases. A few of them (Disarm, Step Aside) were kept more or less intact from their original versions, but the majority were rewritten entirely.

1. Tough Luck: The ganger can force a single die per battle to be rerolled, so long it is one of their own hit or wound rolls or such a roll made by an opponent against them the ganger.

2. Hard As Nails: The ganger is so tough and resistant that they are entitled to a 6+ armor save; if they wear armor, this instead increases the value of that armor by one (6+ to 5+, etc.)

3. Impetuous: The model's charge range and follow-up moves are increased by 2" each, so normally movement + 2" for the former and 4" for the latter.

4. Killer Reputation: The ganger has a terrifying rep that paints him or her as one of the most vicious foes in the underhive. They benefit from Fear, as described in the rulebook, and the first time each enemy model tries to shoot at them during a game, they must make a Leadership check; if they fail, they are too terrified to attack the fighter and only quail instead!

5. Nerves of Steel: The model may attempt to escape from Pinning at the beginning of their turn even if there is not a friendly model nearby; if they were otherwise allowed to do so (because they are a Leader, because there was another model present) they may reroll a failed check.

6. True Grit: The first time this model rolls an Out of Action result while down, instead treat it as a Flesh Wound. (If this reduces their WS or BS to zero, this will still take them out as normal.)

The Ferocity tree before was a bit confused about what it was trying to do, but there was a good start to a theme going on there and it had several very worthwhile skills. I kept a good chunk of these as well, though most all of them with tweaks of one kind or another, with Tough Luck being the only really "new" skill. The new Ferocity tree is basically defensive in nature, but does so in ways that encourage the ganger to play aggressively- it's sort of the complement to the Combat tree, helping keep you alive to do things.

1. Body Slam: The model can, during either Movement, Assault, or both, choose make a "rush" move instead of moving normally. A "rush" moves the model d6" (or movement + d6", if it chooses to run) in a straight line, ignoring obstacles, difficult and very difficult terrain, and even walls- the ganger crashes right through them! The model must move the full distance rolled, and so should be careful of ledges and dangerous terrain, lest they hurtle just a little bit too far.

2. Iron Man: The ganger's tough physique lets him shrug off all but the most powerful of blows. Any melee or shooting attack that hits him is resolved at -1 Str. (Armor modifiers remain unchanged.)

3. Crushing Blow: The ganger can, before any blows are struck, choose to trade his normal attacks in for Crushing Blows. A Crushing Blow attack is always resolved at Initiative 1, but strikes as though his strength were two higher than normal (which can be increased by weapons as normal) and may not be parried.

4. Bulging Biceps: The ganger's prodigious strength allows him to carry far more than any normal person could hope to. The model is never considered encumbered for carrying a heavy weapon (although they are still limited to having only one) and may wield two-handed weapons in one hand (and thus get bonus attacks from having a second weapon, are not limited to only having one, etc.)

5. Hurl Opponent: At the end of any round of melee, the ganger may choose one model in base contact to throw- move this model d6" in a direction of your choosing, and they suffer a hit with Str equal to half (round up) the distance rolled on the die. The model will stop if they contact any obstacle, solid object, or another model, but in such a case both will suffer damage as if thrown. You may even choose for the ganger to "hurl" one of your own models, if they are in base-to-base contact; treat this exactly the same as above, but reduce the strength of the hit by -1.

6. Relentless: The ganger can charge after firing Special and Basic weapons and his bulk allows him to reroll failed Initiative tests to avoid being knocked off an edge.

Oh god Muscle. By far the worst tree before, most of Muscle's abilities were things that only helped in specific melee combat circumstances (giving you "break even" choices that were no better than what you already were doing, in most cases) or limited in who could have them. To make matters worse, the theme for the group is rather limiting and does not lend itself well to ideas, at least in my opinion. We managed to salvage several of the old Muscle skills, however, and add what I felt were several new ones worth taking. I still think it's one of the worse trees overall, but with a couple standouts (Iron Man, Body Slam) that make it potentially worthwhile.

1. Marksman: The character may ignore the normal requirement to shoot at the closest target, instead being able to pick any target they can see. In addition, all Pistol and Basic weapons the ganger uses have their maximum range extended by 50%- so a weapon that could normally shoot to 24" can shoot 36", etc; this extension is part of the weapon's long range.

2. Gunfighter: The ganger can wield (and use) one Pistol weapon in each hand, shooting with both of them simultaneously at the same target. He cannot do so, however, if one of his hands is occupied carrying another weapon. If involved in a Fast Draw, the model can also double its initiative for purposes of those rules.

3. Rapid Fire: If they stand still, the ganger can fire any one Pistol or Basic weapon carried twice during the shooting phase. A ganger that fired a Pistol weapon in this way may not charge.

4. Hip Shooting: The ganger can ignore the normal restriction against shooting in a turn in which they ran, but suffers a -1 to-hit penalty and may not use any weapon sights when doing so. Note that this does not alleviate the restrictions on move-or-fire weapons.

5. Spray and Pray: Once per battle during the shooting phase, the model may choose to fire one of their weapons as if it had an extra die of sustained fire. (If it normally does not have any, this will give it one.) Once the attack is resolved, make an ammo check for the gun in addition to any it had to make for the results of its to-hit dice.

6. Crack Shot: When a ganger downed by one of this model's shooting attacks makes a recovery roll, they treat rolls of 5-6 as "out of action" instead of the normal results. (If the weapon would use a special table for downed targets, instead increase the top category in size by one.)

Shooting was mostly a good tree, handicapped by a couple of weird issues (stacking abilities, stat-dependent skills) to fix. As such, a lot of the skills were kept as they were, with only a few changes to make the tree more viable for everyone. I'm not entirely happy with Crack Shot, since it ends up being a "screw the enemy" skill, not a "help your gang" skill somewhat, but we were unable to agree on a better version, so this is where it stands.

1. Ambush: The ganger may hide and go into overwatch in the same turn, instead of having to expend their entire turn to enter overwatch as normal.

2. Dive: The ganger is allowed to hide after running.

3. Escape Artist: At the end of any round of combat where this model is still engaged with the enemy, they may "leap back" d6" in any direction, passing over man-sized obstacles and enemy models. If this movement is sufficient to take them out of base contact with all enemies, they are no longer engaged and may act freely; enemies do not get to make follow-up moves. If this model rolls a "Captured" result on the serious injury table, instead treat it as "Survives Against the Odds."

4. Concealment: Whenever the model is in cover, increase the cover penalty to hit by an additional -1. (Weapons which ignore cover penalties will still ignore this modifier.)

5. Infiltrate: When deploying on the table, the model can always be placed last, after all other gang members from both sides, and may be anywhere on the table out of line of sight of the enemy gang. If both players have models with Infiltrate, roll off to determine who places theirs first.

6. Scout: After all players have deployed all their models (including infiltrators) but before the game starts, the ganger can make one free move as though during the movement phase, including Running or using other special movements. Additionally, when sentries attempt to spot this model (in scenarios where those rules are used), they halve all distances to do so.

Stealth, like Agility, had several well-designed skills that were elegant and functional and several complete trash skills that you dreaded rolling up. Unsurprisingly, we kept the former and got rid of the latter; as with Muscle, filling in new skills was tricky, but we eventually settled on some relatively simple choices. Notice that several of the skills secretly have some of the old skill rolled into them as a one-line rider ability.

1. Chemist: After each battle, roll a d6; on a 6, the ganger has created a small stache of useful drugs. Each successful roll with this skill will create d3 doses of a random drug; roll randomly amongst the "Drug" results on the trading post chart.

2. Cartographer: After each battle, roll a d6; on a 6, the ganger has discovered an unclaimed section of the underhive for his gang to take over- roll on the territories chart to see what it is. Your gang is still limited to a maximum of seven territories, as normal.

3. Inventor: After each battle, roll a d6; on a 6, the ganger manages to cobble together some sort of unusual device. Roll on the trading post chart to generate the random item; if you get a Drugs result, roll again, and if you get a Weapon Surplus result you may choose any one common weapon. If you pay 10% of the item's cost, the invention is successful and you add the item to your stache; if you do not or cannot pay, the invention is a failure.

4. Medic: After a battle when rolling for serious injuries, you may have a Medic aid one other ganger and reroll any result on the chart. If you have multiple gangers with this skill they may each aid a character once (granting additional rerolls), but the final result always stands, and each Medic can only aid a single gang member each battle.

5. Specialist: The model gains the ability to use Special weapons (and Basic weapons, if they are a Juve.) If the model could already do so (due to being a Heavy, Leader, or Gang Hero), they instead may reroll all failed wounds with Special weapons.

6. Weaponsmith: Whenever the model rolls a failed ammo check (or explosion), roll a die; on a 4+, it is ignored.

Techno, in its previous incarnations, pretty much just blew all of the other skill groups away by virtue of having multiple good skills and only one trashy one. Fixing it didn't actually mean significant nerfs to any of its abilities but rather making everything else more worthwhile to bring them on par. I also wanted to avoid making it too much the "I'm the best at ammo checks" skill group, and as such agreed with the removal of Armourer to the Heavy skill group. Techno is a very random group, as many of its abilities only function on a six after a battle, but we felt this was okay, as it fits with Necromundas overall flavor and wackiness. Specialist is still rather strong, but we didn't want anyone to be able to roll a "dead" skill on any of the charts, so we chose to give it a secondary bonus despite that.

1. Scorched Earth: The heavy's talent with area of effect weapons is legendary. Weapons that use a blast marker scatter half the normal distance; weapons that use the flamer template automatically hit all targets even partially underneath it.

2. Long Shot: No one can line up a bead like the heavy can. So long as they only fire one shot from a heavy weapon, they gain a +1 to-hit bonus.

3. Walking Fire: When using sustained fire to shoot at several models, additional targets need only be within 6" (instead of 4") of the original target.

4. Big Man: The model may move and shoot a heavy weapon, but suffers a -1 to-hit penalty when doing so.

5. Covering Fire: If the heavy shoots at an enemy model, one friendly gang member he can see gets +1Mv on their next turn.

6. Armorer: The heavy tunes and checks up all of the gang's weapons before each battle, allowing every gang member to add +1 to all ammo rolls (including rolls to see if a weapon explodes) made during the battle. A result of '1' will still fail, and weapons that automatically fail ammo rolls are unaffected.

Stealing the idea from the expanded Necromunda rules, a chart specifically only for Heavies was added, giving them another option to pick from. Three of them are designed to nudge the heavy towards using specific types of weapons, while the others are mostly just ports of existing heavy-only abilities. Covering Fire is something of a placeholder and I'm not entirely happy with it, but lacking any better ideas it is what it is.

1. Trash Talk: at the end of their own movement phase, the model may "talk trash" at the enemy by succeeding a Leadership roll. If they do, any enemy which can see them and chooses to shoot must choose them as the target, even if there are closer enemies or easier shots, unless this model is pinned, down, or hiding. If they wish to continue trash talking in their subsequent turns, a new Leadership roll is required each time.

2. Iron Will: You may reroll the first failed bottle check you are required to make, so long as this model is not down or out of action.

3. Fence: The leader always seems to know a guy who knows a guy. Any search rolls to find a rare item are made with 2d6+2 instead of the normal 2d6, and the random cost for any rare item (except those with no fixed component) is automatically the minimum.

4. Mentor: Other gangers, juves and heavies may reroll all results on the advancement table, but must accept the results of the second roll.

5. Informant: If you choose, your leader may visit his informant instead of searching or browsing the trading post (and thus will not get to roll for rare items unless you send one or more gangers to do so.) If you do, you may make a Leadership test for them- success means you add or subtract two from the roll to determine what scenario is played during the next game.

6. Inspirational: Gang members may use the fighter's Leadership value if they are within 12" instead of within 6", as normal, but they must be able to draw LOS to the Leader to do so.

Also stolen from the expanded rules, Leadership is mostly intended to be a "meta" tree that benefits the gang in a variety of indirect ways, rather than just making your Leader more fighty, etc. Mentor and Iron Will (even despite the nerf) are both quite good and look to be potential standouts, but lacking any experience with the tree, we're going to give things a try before making any further changes to it.

So there you have it, the skill trees. I know there are many other people who have come up with solutions of their own to the problems with the skills; in many cases I drew on their suggestions or outright stole their work when writing these.

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