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Old 07-15-2014, 03:37 PM   #41
Kromm
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Artillery (and Forward Observer)

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post

Absolutely. No reason they shouldn't come built in to Artillery weapons at a high TL.
They're built into hardware available now. There are fielded examples of gunsights that translate data from networked rangefinding glasses to coordinates to aim at. These rely on GPS at the moment, but it's hardly impossible to have a computer that translates "the place where these binoculars are pointed and focused, with rangefinder data" to "the settings needed for this gun to shoot there." This has been managed with COTS technology in the form of cell phones, which worries certain people in high places. (I cannot say how I know this except to hint that I occasionally edit papers that aren't for SJ Games.)
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Old 07-15-2014, 03:57 PM   #42
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Artillery (and Forward Observer)

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Edit: Also, could I replace the FDC person with an AI at higher TLs where AIs exist?
The only part where you actually need intelligence in the process is the part where you decide what to shoot; solving ballistics problems is a significant part of what computers were originally invented for. Given your coordinates, the coordinates of your target, and some information about atmospheric conditions (plus, ideally, a gravity map), a computer that can determine that you should aim in direction X at angle Y with powder charge Z is actually pretty trivial, and an automated mount that can point the gun in direction X at angle Y isn't much harder, though the vibration from firing the weapon would be a pain and at current tech you'd pay a weight penalty. An automatic loader is the hardest of the three but still not really AI.
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Old 07-15-2014, 04:08 PM   #43
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Artillery (and Forward Observer)

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I don't see what advantage adventure stories would gain by breaking down matters further. Lots of skills are similarly broad for identical reasons: Sticking my finger into the Skills chapter at random, here's Mechanic (Vehicle Type), which covers the controls, engine, electrical wiring, windows, seating, air conditioning, and even the paint job of a vehicle. And here's Writing, which encompasses creative writing, technical writing, report writing, adcopy, editing, proofreading, indexing, and everything else to do with written words.
There's no uniting principles between how to quickly load and fire a cannon and how to do the trig to determine where it needs to point. Artillery, as this agglomeration, seems more like Soldier, in being a cluster of subskills based on a particular sort of common skillset. Except for seemingly being a combination of two quite distinct skillsets in the particular case...
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Given that artillery use already gets two skills (Artillery, Forward Observer), it's doing pretty good. When one person is exposed and taking care of the daring job of observing the enemy, and another gets to fire a big freakin' gun that blows things up, I can't really see it being a fun adventuring task to be the third guy who . . . consults tables. The game is about what's dramatic and fun, remember; simulation always comes second. The general guideline is "one skill per interesting task for adventurers."
I pretty much disagree with all of that sentence-by-sentence. But I understand that's how the thinking goes.
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Old 07-17-2014, 12:57 PM   #44
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Artillery (and Forward Observer)

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All I'm saying is that if you're using a very light (60mm or smaller) mortar – the sort that often has a strap instead of a bipod and no sights better than a line of paint on the tube – for what amounts to direct lay but you're relying on somebody else to observe the rounds falling and speak the very same corrections he would make by hand if he were the gunner, I'd treat that as a Forward Observer-Artillery task, not as a Gunner task. The downside would be having two rolls to fail; the upside would be the possibility of keeping your head down.
When do you use Gunner or Guns with mortars or light mortars, then?

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As for "What are you aiming at?", I find it hard to believe that an experienced mortarman couldn't dead-reckon a guess at the first shot and correct from there, alone or with a friend. The whole point here is to emulate irregulars (not artillerymen with grids and computers and fancy sights) conducting unplanned fire as a hasty ambush or assassination attempt. The mortarman blasts something in the general area of a target he peeked at earlier, his pal tells him what the results were, and they improvise from there. It probably isn't the Proper Military Way, but it seems a lot closer to what guerrillas or assassins would do.
My actual real life experience with insurgent mortars is different. Captured insurgent mortar gear in Iraq includes some very sophisticated (especially compared to the gear we had!) fire direction gear; specifically smart-phones and tablets running high-end commercial ballistic software. That said, they still sucked (especially compared to us); insurgent mortars never hit anything. My platoon typically needed three or less adjusting rounds per fire mission in comparison.

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I
Given that artillery use already gets two skills (Artillery, Forward Observer), it's doing pretty good. When one person is exposed and taking care of the daring job of observing the enemy, and another gets to fire a big freakin' gun that blows things up, I can't really see it being a fun adventuring task to be the third guy who . . . consults tables. The game is about what's dramatic and fun, remember; simulation always comes second. The general guideline is "one skill per interesting task for adventurers."
I personally found the FDC chief's billet to be the most rewarding and challenging thing I ever did in the infantry. The Forward Observer's Call for Fire is a request for fire support. The FDC chief issues the Fire Command. It is the chief's responsibility to determine the specific rounds and fuze settings, the number of rounds used, and the shape of the sheaf. If you aren't going to focus on the "boring" parts then focusing on the part where an Ammo-man pulls the pin from the shell and the A-Gunner drops it in the tube seems to be a poor choice.

Edit: Also when to shoot which is big deal when you are coordinating fires in support of mobile elements and you want to avoid friendly fire.

Last edited by sir_pudding; 12-30-2017 at 05:06 PM.
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Old 07-17-2014, 01:24 PM   #45
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Artillery (and Forward Observer)

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When do you use Gunner or Guns with mortars or light mortars, then?

My actual real life experience with insurgent mortars is different. Captured insurgent mortar gear in Iraq includes some very sophisticated (especially compared to the gear we had!) fire direction gear; specifically smart-phones and tablets running high-end commercial ballistic software. ...

I personally found the FDC chief's billet to be the most rewarding and challenging thing I ever did in the infantry. ...
Posts like that are the main reason I hang around this forum: smart people who know about different nerdy things than I do.

Where to divide skills definitely depends on culture (eg. the fine divisions of Law or History make sense from the late 19th century onwards, but not in earlier societies; artillery organization was very different in 1918 than in 1815).
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Old 07-17-2014, 01:26 PM   #46
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Artillery (and Forward Observer)

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Where to divide skills definitely depends on culture (eg. the fine divisions of Law or History make sense from the late 19th century onwards, but not in earlier societies; artillery organization was very different in 1918 than in 1815).
Yes, TL4 or less "Artillery" really isn't. It can only effectively do indirect fire against preplanned targets and lacks observers and fire direction (both of which are experimental technologies at TL5). GURPS rules seems to say that mostly you use Gunner with TL5 and earlier pieces because mostly you are using direct fire.
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Old 07-17-2014, 01:56 PM   #47
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Artillery (and Forward Observer)

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What would it constitute to 'set up fire direction'? Particularly, what would it involve other than additional division of labor that the group doesn't necessarily have the composition to support?
Plotting boards have to be set up for use. The guns and FO positions need to be plotted, grid lines need to be labeled, deflection needs to be labeled, ect. Ballistic Mortar computers actually need even more; precise grids for the guns and FO, ammo counts by shell, and so on.
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Old 07-17-2014, 02:10 PM   #48
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Artillery (and Forward Observer)

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Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
When do you use Gunner or Guns with mortars or light mortars, then?
Surely when there actually is line of sight from the gun to the target, specifically not true in that situation?
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Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
I personally found the FDC chief's billet to be the most rewarding and challenging thing I ever did in the infantry. The Forward Observer's Call for Fire is a request for fire support. The FDC chief issues the Fire Command. It it the chief's responsibility to determine the specific rounds and fuze settings, the number of rounds used, and the shape of the sheaf. If you aren't going to focus on the "boring" parts then focusing on the part where an Ammo-man pulls the pin from the shell and the A-Gunner drops it in the tube seems to be a poor choice.

Edit: Also when to shoot which is big deal when you are coordinating fires in support of mobile elements and you want to avoid friendly fire.
I don't have the experience but I quite agree on what's more interesting...
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Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
Yes, TL4 or less "Artillery" really isn't. It can only effectively do indirect fire against preplanned targets and lacks observers and fire direction (both of which are experimental technologies at TL5). GURPS rules seems to say that mostly you use Gunner with TL5 and earlier pieces because mostly you are using direct fire.
Interestingly, and I think appropriately, Low Tech specifies Artillery for obligate high-angle cannon (p88) and mechanical artillery (p82).

...I'm not sure how this works with using Gunner for a mortar in direct lay. I might appeal to the matter of sights and the lack thereof of more primitive systems. With a well-designed range-adjusted ballistic sight and standardized ammunition you can make a straightforward mechanical process out of a task that calls for sophisticated-for-its-time science and a touch of art when done with a TL3 bombard.
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Plotting boards have to be set up for use. The guns and FO positions need to be plotted, grid lines need to be labeled, deflection needs to be labeled, ect. Ballistic Mortar computers actually need even more; precise grids for the guns and FO, ammo counts by shell, and so on.
And all of this is supposed to be a negligible additional burden, for a group that might be as small as two people, compared to laying down a few stakes?
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Old 07-17-2014, 02:16 PM   #49
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Artillery (and Forward Observer)

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Surely when there actually is line of sight from the gun to the target, specifically not true in that situation?
Except the "FO" in this instance is just doing what the squad leader does in a direct lay. I'm not really seeing much difference.

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Interestingly, and I think appropriately, Low Tech specifies Artillery for obligate high-angle cannon (p88) and mechanical artillery (p82).
Which is one of the inconsistencies I've been on about. A mortar is a obligate high-angle cannon. Why does it use Artillery for direct fire at TL4 but Gunner at TL8?

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And all of this is supposed to be a negligible additional burden, for a group that might be as small as two people, compared to laying down a few stakes?
The FDC is supposed to be setting up their gear while the guns lay in (including stakes). You can't really do it with two people.
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Old 07-17-2014, 02:42 PM   #50
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Artillery (and Forward Observer)

It is this sort of action that I want to explore more with GURPS - being part of the line, not commandos. Thank you Sir_Pudding for laying this out. I like the different takes on where the responsibility for the action lies. Working out how to make that dramatic will be interesting.
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