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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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Default Re: WWII Gaming Advice

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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Last edited by ericthered; 01-27-2016 at 07:36 AM.
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Old 01-27-2016, 07:25 AM   #3
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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   #4
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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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Old 01-27-2016, 09:38 AM   #5
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Default Re: WWII Gaming Advice

Corporal Michael Joshua Norman (the MP) has 8 points in Shortsword. It is also mentioned that "His knowledge of US identification papers and law as well as his skill at dealing with rowdy soldiers will no doubt prove useful on the road home" I see no skill that'd represent knowledge of US ID papers or for that matter dealing with rowdy soldiers (unless Intimidation is to be used for the latter, and Administration for the former). He also lacks Military Rank.

As far as I can see only one of them has more than -25 points in Disads, the suggestion in Basic is to have half the starting value in Disads. None of the characters has any Quirks.
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Old 01-27-2016, 10:16 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Žorkell View Post
Corporal Michael Joshua Norman (the MP) has 8 points in Shortsword. It is also mentioned that "His knowledge of US identification papers and law as well as his skill at dealing with rowdy soldiers will no doubt prove useful on the road home" I see no skill that'd represent knowledge of US ID papers or for that matter dealing with rowdy soldiers (unless Intimidation is to be used for the latter, and Administration for the former). He also lacks Military Rank.

As far as I can see only one of them has more than -25 points in Disads, the suggestion in Basic is to have half the starting value in Disads. None of the characters has any Quirks.
...unless 8 points in shortsword is meant to represent hitting rowdy soldiers with a baton...
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Old 01-27-2016, 11:09 AM   #7
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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, 11:17 AM   #8
Thunderjoe
 
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Default Re: WWII Gaming Advice

First of all, thank you everyone for responding so far.

The initial thought was that by spreading out social skills forces more players to be involved when they needed to. Would it probably be a better idea to make sure everyone has at least one point in diplomacy or something?

The thought process for the low skills is that these are young men who have been drafted and as such I thought high skill levels wouldn't make sense. Should I give them a bump to make the characters more distinct?

Cultural skills/familiarity are missing because I figured that it'd be understood that they have them. Since I can't expect the players to know the answers to baseball turnouts in 1944 I was probably going to run it as rolls against IQ with modifiers for difficulty.

I am definitely going to stress that one bullet to the chest is likely to kill any of the characters. It is likely that the first time someone is hit it will just happen to be in the arm and it can be used to stress how serious a bullet is.

Survival encounters are definitely on the list for things to happen with the ratio of people to survival encounters depending on how far off the main roads they go to avoid being seen. Unfortunately I'm worse at writing survival problems than enemy based ones.

Yea, 8 points in shortsword is a little much, though it was mostly a joke on the "handling rowdy soldiers" thing. I could easily throw some of that into social skills. Otherwise I figured that a combination of legal enforcement powers and intimidate would be able to handle most offenders. Is administration not the skill for someone who would be checking paperwork at a military base? I was just going to give him like a +3 on individual soldier's paperwork as that would be the stuff he was checking most often.

So I was trying to keep the characters with a certain level of vagueness so that the players could grab the American ethnicity they were comfortable with and attach it to the player. Is that a bad idea? What if I made a gave the players like 10 points to spend on a list of culture skills? E.g. languages, area knowledge, etc? If I did do this, what would be a good skill to represent things like "I watch a lot of baseball" and others like it.
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Old 01-27-2016, 11:38 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thunderjoe View Post
The initial thought was that by spreading out social skills forces more players to be involved when they needed to. Would it probably be a better idea to make sure everyone has at least one point in diplomacy or something?

The thought process for the low skills is that these are young men who have been drafted and as such I thought high skill levels wouldn't make sense. Should I give them a bump to make the characters more distinct?
Spreading the social skills is not a mistake at all. Choosing the fast talker to present the case rather than the diplomatic or the protocol guy is a very interesting choice to make. Making them low is a little more of a problem. Draftees will have less experience than full fledged adults in most skills, but social skills are likely to be an exception. I'd also be a little worried using skills at level 11 if a failure on that roll means something as bad as getting everyone's cover blown. I'd rather have tension come not from the streetwise guy failing a roll, but how the street savy guy is going to get his non-fast lipped colleagues through.

Quote:
Is administration not the skill for someone who would be checking paperwork at a military base? I was just going to give him like a +3 on individual soldier's paperwork as that would be the stuff he was checking most often.
I actually would roll against military law there. Its on his sheet. And yeah, a hefty bonus is appropriate.

Quote:
So I was trying to keep the characters with a certain level of vagueness so that the players could grab the American ethnicity they were comfortable with and attach it to the player. Is that a bad idea? What if I made a gave the players like 10 points to spend on a list of culture skills? E.g. languages, area knowledge, etc? If I did do this, what would be a good skill to represent things like "I watch a lot of baseball" and others like it.
The list of culture skills may be heavy, but If you want to let them choose what they are, make them choose. write up a list of suggestions even.
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Old 01-27-2016, 11:57 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thunderjoe View Post
The initial thought was that by spreading out social skills forces more players to be involved when they needed to. Would it probably be a better idea to make sure everyone has at least one point in diplomacy or something?
With these low point totals, you could make the players feel more capable by specialising the characters a bit. Give the ones with mostly IQ-based skills one more level of IQ and one less of DX, that kind of thing. You might also consider taking some points out of attributes and putting them into each character's key skill(s). Having six people who have Diplomacy at 9-10 is generally less effective than one who has it at 13 or 14.
Quote:
The thought process for the low skills is that these are young men who have been drafted and as such I thought high skill levels wouldn't make sense. Should I give them a bump to make the characters more distinct?
Skill levels can simply represent some talent for the skill, or previous experience before the draft.
Quote:
I am definitely going to stress that one bullet to the chest is likely to kill any of the characters. It is likely that the first time someone is hit it will just happen to be in the arm and it can be used to stress how serious a bullet is.
If you use range modifiers, most of them aren't going to hit much with those rifles, unless they Aim, brace, and all the rest.
Quote:
Is administration not the skill for someone who would be checking paperwork at a military base?
That is the correct skill.
Quote:
If I did do this, what would be a good skill to represent things like "I watch a lot of baseball" and others like it.
Connoisseur (Sports) or Hobby Skill (Sports Trivia).

Something else you might want to consider is load carrying and movement. They're carrying quite a lot of stuff, at Light encumbrance and would move faster if they reduced their loads down to No encumbrance.
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