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Old 01-27-2016, 03:00 AM   #1
Thunderjoe
 
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Default WWII Gaming Advice

I'm planning on GMing my first GURPS game soon. It will be on roll20 and set in WWII. I'm looking to pitch it here first in order to garner advice from people more experienced than I am.

The full write up for the players(1.5ish pages of story/instructions and six 2 page character sheets) can be found here.

tl dr: The PCs, a group of prgenerated survivors from different units, will find themselves behind the German advance during Operation Grief and will be attempting to return to the American side of the front, hopefully beating the Germans there so that they can warn HQ. Since the Germans will be wearing American uniforms and speaking passable English the players will have to be very careful with seemingly friendly patrols and have to prove their Nationality to others.

The books being used are:
GURPS Basic Set
GURPS High Tech(for arms, armor, and equipment stats)
GURPS Low Tech(for the stats of a long knife, so that I wouldn't be adding the shortsword skill to everyone's sheets so that they can use their bayonets)

The game is set up as a handful of premade encounters, which I am still in the process of writing up, that the players can encounter in theoretically any order, with each encounter being mostly self contained and having little impact on the others. The game will be realistic but hopefully not rules heavy and should last between one to three sessions. Any ideas/suggestions for encounters?

Any suggestions on how to make the game feel realistic while rules-light?

I plan on creating a macro that automates the normal 3d rolls and one that automates firing a gun(accounting for RoF, Hits, and rolling hit location at once). Any other tips on making combat go easy?

Any suggestions on things that I could change or add to make the game easier for a new GM or Player to run/play or anything important that I may be missing?

Since a decent amount of the time the players will be traveling through the woods surviving and/or ambushing others, any suggestions on how to encourage roleplay from and between the players?

Thank you.
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Old 01-27-2016, 06:49 AM   #2
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Sounds like a great idea for an adventure. More than just fighting, and gives the everyman a chance to make a difference, while having high personal stakes.

Looking at the characters, I find some interesting things:

You have very little in the way of social skills. your 'designated face' has a fast talk of 10 and an acting of 11 -- using social skills to pass pieces of the enemy will be somewhere between risky and impossible. As a side note, no one speaks German. Sad. Perhaps this is just my preferred first approach, and I'm sad to find it blocked.

The stats are almost ALL 11's and 12's. There isn't much wrong with this other than that it makes your characters bland and sort of blend into each other. As a player I'd enjoy having some proper weaknesses.

with 'prove your an american' being a big deal, my mind goes back to a story about the best way to prove someone was an american was to ask him about baseball. Cultural skills are somewhat lacking. In some ways that keeps things simple, but in others it denies a historical solution to the problem.

All of these are mostly just comments. You can run the game as is.

EDIT: On the questions you asked more specifically:

Combat is one of the hardest things for new gurps players to get down correctly. Lots of non-combat challenges make it harder on the GM but easier on the players.

I find role-playing is best provoked by doing it. In some ways lead by example, by characterizing NPCs. It also helps to give situations in which their is no 'right' answer, nor a 'strategically wise' answer.

EDIT: For best role playing, give the players stronger homes and backgrounds. Is someone from the south or texas? or California, or the midwest, or boston? Who's from big metropolises, and who is not? Do you have any Jews, Baptists, Catholics, or ardent Atheists? A political aficionado or someone who lied about their age to join -- or a contentious objector? Is anyone Irish, Italian, or German ?(or native american or black -- though I'd advise against those last two because they make identification as Americans a cake walk -- as you have the remnants of several units even the black guy is possible though.) Are they all fresh out of high school, or did some of them join as 25 year olds or even 30-year olds? Who has a wife or girlfriend waiting back home?

If you feel answering these questions for the player is too constraining, make a list of 'quirks' (or let us do that) and make them choose identifying traits for who they are.
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Old 01-27-2016, 11:09 AM   #3
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Default Re: WWII Gaming Advice

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
with 'prove your an american' being a big deal, my mind goes back to a story about the best way to prove someone was an american was to ask him about baseball. Cultural skills are somewhat lacking. In some ways that keeps things simple, but in others it denies a historical solution to the problem.
I've always wanted to run a scene like this:

Soldier #1: Who won the World Series?
Soldier #2: (long pause) Can you ask me who won the Rose Bowl?

The other way, according to legend, is ask them to sing the second verse of the Star Spangled Banner. If they know it, they're a spy.
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Old 01-27-2016, 05:00 PM   #4
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I've always wanted to run a scene like this:

Soldier #1: Who won the World Series?
Soldier #2: (long pause) Can you ask me who won the Rose Bowl?

The other way, according to legend, is ask them to sing the second verse of the Star Spangled Banner. If they know it, they're a spy.
That's good.

The relevant scene at the climax of Stalag 17 is a winner. Lots of GURPS-able scenes in that film, come to think.
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Old 01-27-2016, 05:27 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RyanW View Post
I've always wanted to run a scene like this:

Soldier #1: Who won the World Series?
Soldier #2: (long pause) Can you ask me who won the Rose Bowl?

The other way, according to legend, is ask them to sing the second verse of the Star Spangled Banner. If they know it, they're a spy.
Actual event -- British actor David Niven was queried as above. His answer? "I haven't the faintest idea -- but I do know I made a picture in 1939 with Ginger Rogers." One of the MPs said "Yeah! I remember you."

One way to dodge a bullet.

Also: Depending on your financial resources you might want to buy (either hardcover or download) the 3rd Edition GURPS WWII book, and/or Dogfaces. Extremely good short overview of the war, that time and place.

As for languages remember that lots of young GIs were children of immigrants. So they might well know at least some German or Yiddish (the latter perhaps not so good for mollifying possible Huns, but would allow a chance to understand some of what the Krauts are saying.)

Last edited by fredtheobviouspseudonym; 01-27-2016 at 05:30 PM.
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Old 01-27-2016, 05:55 PM   #6
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I ran through characters and tried to give them higher skill levels in their primary skills. They now have more skills in the 13 area and half of them have at least one at 14-15. Though I'm having trouble coming up with good niches for some of them.

The Bazooka assistant has the skill to actually use a bazooka(which the players will have a chance to find one in the first session) to help them deal with some combat situations. Out of combat though, he is lacking with only his high Lifting ST and 13 in Mechanic keeping him useful and I'm struggling to make him more unique.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fredtheobviouspseudonym View Post
As for languages remember that lots of young GIs were children of immigrants. So they might well know at least some German or Yiddish (the latter perhaps not so good for mollifying possible Huns, but would allow a chance to understand some of what the Krauts are saying.)
That makes me want to make one of them a German American and send a private message to everyone saying that they have each been randomly rolled to be an American. Then drop one hint at the start that, since they didn't know each other before the ambush, they don't actually know if one of them isn't a German in disguise.

The MP does know some French, which would be helpful as a decent number of people in the area would know it.
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Old 01-27-2016, 09:06 PM   #7
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Default Re: WWII Gaming Advice

Thunder, since this is the first game that you've GMed how much play experience have you and your players had?
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Old 01-28-2016, 07:57 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Thunderjoe View Post
That makes me want to make one of them a German American and send a private message to everyone saying that they have each been randomly rolled to be an American. Then drop one hint at the start that, since they didn't know each other before the ambush, they don't actually know if one of them isn't a German in disguise.

The MP does know some French, which would be helpful as a decent number of people in the area would know it.
Is the goal to actually have conflict in the party while they find who the spy is? Even if there isn't one, there would be a lot of paranoia in a group like that. Since rifles are so deadly, a single traitor could easily go full-auto and mow down the party when their back is turned.

Unless the danger of a German IN the party is a main theme of the game (it would certainly be interesting if it was! Sort of like an RPG version of mafia.) I would leave it out completely in case it derails the adventure completely.

On a related note, if anyone does something like this and includes an anti-PC, make sure to make it clear to everyone playing that an anti-PC exists! If not, PC's will normally accept basically any strange introduction, player excuse, ect. without questioning it because they are suppose to be working together.
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Old 01-27-2016, 07:25 AM   #9
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Default Re: WWII Gaming Advice

To remember as base: Full size rifle fire is deadly with basic set rules.

Note on the pregenerated characters: (With the basic set rules)
Most of the characters are at fairly high risk of dying from single rifle hit and very likely to die from 2.
Both German and American rifles do 7d+1 and thus they are very like to have to do death rolls from single hits. Single hit:
10 hp have 90.61% probability for 1+ roll and 19.17% for 2
11 hp have 80.83% probability for 1+ roll and 6.12% for 2
12 hp have 66.78% probability for 1+ roll and 1.21% for 2
14 hp has 33.22% probability for 1+ roll and negligible for 2.
Two hits:
10 hp have 9.26% probability of automatic dying(no roll), 59.19% for 4 rolls, and basically rest 3 rolls.
11 hp have only 1.1% probability of automatic dying(no roll), 29.37
% for 4 rolls, and 87.85% for 3+ rolls and basically rest 2 rolls.
12 hp have negligible probability of automatic dying(no roll), 24.25% probability of 3 rolls, 70.63 % for 3+ rolls and basically rest 2 rolls.
14 hp have negligible probability of 4 rolls, 9.26% probability of 3 rolls, 93.1
% for 2+ rolls, and basically rest 2 rolls.

Each death roll has a 25.93% probabilty of failing(all seem to have HT 11+fit)

Thus one hit: Fairly risk of dying, two hits and they likely die unless they are the 14 HP character. The hits do not have to come in a single encounter either as they cannot heal more than the few points from trauma aid at most during the short campaign.

So both players and the GM should remember that rifle shots are deadly and single burst from a machine gun is way too likely to insta-kill you on good to hit roll anf failed defense. Thus the real combat thing about avoiding detection as first thing and avoiding being hit(things like proper cover) as second is extremely important.

On realism:
There is a saying that goes something like "Combat always seems to happen in the dark, when it is raining and at the intersection of four map pages"

Thus more detail on things like visibility, terrain and such helps realism, but does add to complexity. So balancing those is kind of difficult.

On encouraging the roleplay:
no generic things but one possible thing that might help: Get maps of the area and have the players plan the route back, giving them choices like what type of terrain to cross and such. Such tends to cause planning that can be redirected to players doing it in character.
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Old 01-27-2016, 08:00 AM   #10
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My personal experience with GURPS is that "realistic" and "rules-light" don't usually go hand-in-hand. If you think about it, reality has a lot of rules. You have to worry about a lot of things to keep yourself functioning. A realistic campaign simulates that.

I'd suggest locating the important rules and keeping them handy for quick reference. Hit location and size, speed, and range tables are obvious ones for games with lots of ranged combat. Details about what happens when you take damage or lose FP will also be helpful. Since you know what encounters are going to happen, look up relevant skills ahead of time to see how their success or failure will impact the encounter. The more work you do in advance, the less you have to do during the game.

It might also be a good idea to create ammo counters for all of your players and they're individual weapons. I'm not sure if there's a way to create a counter in Roll20 that your players can't see, but if so that would be ideal. There's nothing worse than spending a turn aiming only to have your gun click empty when you fire it.

My play style has caused me to be branded a killer GM. I've never actually lost a PC (thank goodness for secret die rolls), but the players constantly feel like they're in danger. That is a very deliberate choice I make. When they feel like they're in danger, they behave more like people in their situation actually would. And just like that, they're playing in character.

I also think it's worth pointing out that survival can be just as dangerous as combat if you let it. Forcing the players to hunt or forage for food can be a nice break from open warfare while still keeping them doing something. Don't just have them make Survival rolls, either. Consider roleplaying them hunting a deer. Or, maybe when someone fails their Naturalist roll and concludes that the berries are safe to eat, the whole party gets sick to their stomachs. To make matters worse, a German patrol wanders past. Years from now, your players will say: "Hey, remember that one time we had to hide from a German patrol by making HT rolls to hold in our farts?"

The point is, unless they are really die-hard gamers, they aren't going to roleplay unless something is happening. So, make something happen. Make everything a chance for their characters to either triumph or succumb to adversity. Make them care about the people they are controlling. Some of the best memories of GMing I have aren't clever things I came up with, but things that my players did. I have a friend that played one adventure in a fantasy campaign I ran and that we still call Nut-Shot. I'll let you work out why.

I hope this rant of toilet humor has been helpful. If not, I hope it has at least been amusing. Good luck to you and your players.
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