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-   -   [Basic] Skill of the week: Strategy and Tactics (http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread.php?t=147257)

johndallman 12-02-2016 10:51 AM

[Basic] Skill of the week: Strategy and Tactics
 
Strategy is the IQ/H skill of planning military operations and predicting the enemy's plans. The defaults are IQ-6, Intelligence Analysis-6 or Tactics-6; both those skills have defaults to Strategy. Specialisation in a broad kind of conflict is required, such as (Land), (Naval) or (Space), and these specialisations default to each other at -4. The specific types of forces are less important: another nation, or even a different TL, would only give -1 or -2, provided you understood their capabilities properly.

With a successful Strategy roll, you can deduce the military plans of an enemy whose leader lacks Strategy. If they have a strategist as leader, you need to win a quick contest of Strategy to deduce their plans. If you fail an uncontested roll, or lose the contest, you get bad information. Of course, knowing the enemy plan is only any use if you can do something about it. Much of the Mass Combat rules are about contests of Strategy, and the many things that can modify them in a large conflict.

Tactics is the IQ/H skill of organising and winning fights on the scale from small infantry units to personal combat. The defaults are IQ-6 or Strategy-6, and Strategy is the only skill with a default from Tactics.

Tactics has several uses in combat that are often neglected in the games I've played.
  • You roll against the best of Perception or Tactics to spot ambushes and surprise attacks, and in cases of Partial Surprise knowing the skill gives your leader at least +1 to initiative rolls.
  • If you had any time to prepare for a fight, you can make a Tactics roll to start in an advantageous position (behind cover, higher ground, etc., based on margin of success). If you fail, don't try to use Tactics, or don't know the skill (a default is no use here), you start somewhere determined by the GM.
  • If you're in command of a group small enough that you can give all of them orders directly, or through one layer of subordinates, then you can use uncontested Tactics to deploy them correctly for an ambush, post sentries effectively, and possibly get clues as to what the enemy are trying to do. To out-manoeuvre the enemy, gaining some advantage for your command over them, you need to win a contest of Tactics with the enemy leader.
Martial Arts has two optional rules for Tactics that can replace the group rule above. Both involve a quick contest of Tactics between the leaders of each side. In abstract combat, the winner gets re-rolls (like uses of Luck) which he can grant to his allies, if he can describe how tactical factors like formation and cover help. In mapped tactical combat, the winner decides who sets up first on the map, and once all fighters are placed, gets to move them around to improve his side's situation.

Both these skills appeared at GURPS 1e. Basic says that they're usually only taught by the military, but there are exceptions to that in the modern world. Riot-trained police learn something like Tactics for tackling demonstrations, and the War Colleges that train military officers in Strategy and related skills also admit senior civil servants and occasional businessmen, at least in some countries. Expert Skill (Military Science) will provide information about strategy and tactics, but won't substitute for them in action.

These skills are options on most templates for characters with military backgrounds, but few demand high skill levels. Action uses Tactics for adopting the right procedures, planning fights, spotting enemies or avoiding being spotted, bodyguarding and assessing enemy plans; Strategy can be used for planning the actions of an NPC force. DF makes Tactics compulsory on several templates, lets you use Tactics as a complementary skill to a friend's active defences and as part of Shield Mastery. Fantasy discusses several ways of running large battles, and Roman leaders offering their own lives to the gods for victory, gaining bonuses to Strategy, Tactics and Leadership, plus weapon (but not Shield) skills; Fantasy-Tech uses a leader's Tactics-6 as the "weapon skill" for reflective shields. Infinite Worlds has Tactics software that gives +2 to a group, and LTC3 uses Tactics for large-scale hunting. Magic has an elixir that boosts both skills, and several schools of Dungeon Magic study them.

Martial Arts allows use of Tactics to counter Feints and Ruses, in some circumstances, and to control Flurries in tournament combat. Monster Hunters can use Tactics for estimating the time until the next attack, and for stealthy communication of battle plans. The Power-Ups series has talents, quirks and wildcards for these skills, and Powers and Psionic Powers have several ways to use them with powers. Social Engineering uses Strategy as a qualification skill for promotion within an army, and provides social means for hampering an opponent's Tactics, while Back To School uses Tactics as an example for child prodigies, and both skills can be aided by Assistance Rolls via Pulling Rank. Space suggests that Tactics may be a TL skill in science-fiction settings, and the Spaceships series has rules for both skills in space combat. Supers has advice on precognition, Tactics rolls at the start of a fight, and tactical computers. Tactical Shooting has far too many Tactics applications to list. Thaumatology has magic items that provide both skills, while Chinese Elemental Powers has earthquakes to boost Strategy, if you know they're coming. Ultra-Tech has TL9+ software tools for both skills, and cunning Tactics are advisable against hordes of Zombies.

In the more detailed treatment of military command in GURPS:WWII, Strategy was a TL skill with no specialisation, making it more like "Grand Strategy", which is the overall moves and objectives of an entire war, or of a nation, empire or alliance in peacetime. The new skill of Operations was inserted between Strategy and Tactics to handle what the military calls "Operational Art", putting together tactical-level actions and their supply and support to accomplish military objectives. In 4e, Grand Strategy and Operational Art are both clearly parts of Strategy. Grand Strategy could be an additional specialisation; Operational Art could plausibly be an optional specialisation of the conventional forms. Strategy is not a TL skill, but could plausibly require TL familiarity.

Likewise, in G:WWII, Tactics was a TL skill, and required specialisation in a type of combat, although the list of specialisations was rather long: (Infantry), (Armoured), (Artillery), (Air-to-Air), (Air-to-Ground), (Naval), (Submarine), (Guerrilla), and (Police). The 4e skill is not TL-dependent, although TL familiarity would be plausible, and handles small units, at the level of personal command, probably no larger than an infantry platoon, which the military call "Minor Tactics." It's a fairly common house rule in 4e games to add alternative specialisations for quite different kinds of combat, like (Air-to-Air) and (Submarine).

Strategy for submarine forces is part of (Naval), but the thing that navies took a few years to learn is that trying to operate submarines as part of a surface formation doesn't work. The submarines can't communicate readily, and the surface forces can't tell the difference between enemy and friendly submarines. Indeed, they tend to be doubtful about the whole concept of "friendly submarines," and the submariners are no help with this at all. Strategy for submarines consists of working out where to send them to find targets, individually, and keeping them at a safe distance from your other forces.

I've had these skills on a fair number of GURPS characters, but they haven't been used much. I've mostly used them as license for exploiting experience in playing RPGs. I've quite enjoyed exploiting holes in GMs' tactical schemes, and creating simple but unexpected moves in other systems, but that's been player-level rather than character-level stuff. In the Weird War II campaign I play, the scale is either personal combat, or grand strategy, with one intermediate-scale event resolved using a wargame in a decade of play.

What have you done with these skills?

evileeyore 12-02-2016 11:21 AM

Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Strategy and Tactics
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by johndallman (Post 2062281)
What have you done with these skills?

Too much to enumerate.

Honestly alongside Stealth, Observation, and Weapon skills; Strategy and Tactics are top go-tos for my Players.

johndallman 12-04-2016 10:43 AM

Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Strategy and Tactics
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by evileeyore (Post 2062285)
Too much to enumerate.

Anecdote for us, then?

dripton 12-04-2016 01:56 PM

Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Strategy and Tactics
 
Tactics is a popular one. Uses include +1 to surprise rolls, generating rerolls in combat, and getting chosen leader of the group. I haven't seen it used to actually substitute for the player's tactical ability in combat, though.

I've seen Strategy on a few character sheets, but I don't think I've seen it used. It would be useful if you were running the kind of game where the PCs lead large military forces, but I think those are pretty rare.

fredtheobviouspseudonym 12-04-2016 01:56 PM

Strategy and Tactics different from Strategy (Art) or Military Science
 
Part of the skill in S&T (yes, I used to subscribe decades ago) is knowing how to do things when you DON'T have enough information to be certain. This latter element is one missing from most civilian studies of strategy and operations.

The "fog of war" is quite real and not just a title for a documentary. Clausewitz did see action as a junior officer at Jena (IIRC) and was an observer at Borodino, one of the most costly battles in Western history. Any military commander of note has to make the right decisions when he (and nowadays, she) has not enough information to be certain about the whereabouts & strength and current activity of his/her own troops, much less the enemy's.

A good exploration of this is Andrew Gordon's The Rules of the Game about Jutland 100 years ago. British Admiral Jellicoe had to make his own decisions about where & how to deploy with utterly inadequate information about the locale & actions of his own fleet and worse info about the German battle squadrons. While he made some errors he did quite well considering.

Years after the war Jellicoe was lecturing at a British naval college and some questions came up about Jutland. There was a plan present showing the various fleets at a key moment. Jellicoe paused and then used his hands to cover most of the plan. "These were the ships I could see -- " some 20 out of the 250 total present. "I had to make my decisions based on this."

I expect any other commander could make similar statements.

There have been, however, amateurs who have done a good job in planning & sometimes operations with limited military experience. Geo. Washington was, IIRC, at only two battles (both losses -- Fort Necessity & Braddock's Defeat) before he became CinC of the Continental Army. Vo Nguyen Giap was a history professor before he became the planning chief of the NVA in the 1950s. Cromwell had, IIRC, never been on a battlefield before the English Civil War. Henry Knox was a Massachusetts bookseller who had an interest in military history before he became Washington's chief of artillery. (Perhaps all rolled a Critical Success in strategy or tactics' studies?)

jason taylor 12-04-2016 05:17 PM

Re: Strategy and Tactics different from Strategy (Art) or Military Science
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by fredtheobviouspseudonym (Post 2062653)


Years after the war Jellicoe was lecturing at a British naval college and some questions came up about Jutland. There was a plan present showing the various fleets at a key moment. Jellicoe paused and then used his hands to cover most of the plan. "These were the ships I could see -- " some 20 out of the 250 total present. "I had to make my decisions based on this."

That is a bad excuse for a professional officer. Even I know that you make your decisions based on ALL the information you have and you better have a good reason for filtering intelligence.

Imbicatus 12-04-2016 05:54 PM

Re: Strategy and Tactics different from Strategy (Art) or Military Science
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jason taylor (Post 2062674)
That is a bad excuse for a professional officer. Even I know that you make your decisions based on ALL the information you have and you better have a good reason for filtering intelligence.


You're misunderstanding the story. The admiral did make his decisions based on ALL the information he had. That information was limited to the ships that were not covered on the chart. There is a difference between actionable intelligence available at the time of engagement versus what was available on a historical review decades later.

jason taylor 12-04-2016 08:55 PM

Re: Strategy and Tactics different from Strategy (Art) or Military Science
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Imbicatus (Post 2062676)
You're misunderstanding the story. The admiral did make his decisions based on ALL the information he had. That information was limited to the ships that were not covered on the chart. There is a difference between actionable intelligence available at the time of engagement versus what was available on a historical review decades later.

And he did not know that there were in fact more ships in the German navy and that almost all of them were concentrated in the North Sea?

Phil Masters 12-05-2016 01:17 AM

Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Strategy and Tactics
 
I've used the Martial Arts "re-rolls" rule in a fight scene in a Banestorm demo game, but as this involved a PC team leader with Tactics and an opponent rolling on default, it turned out to be too generous - it could easily give the PCs half-a-dozen re-rolls in a rather small fight. I might use it but tone it down a bit in other games. Giving the side with superior tactical thinking one or two re-rolls in an abstracted non-mapped fight scene should be a fully adequate way of representing that advantage.

Žorkell 12-05-2016 06:06 AM

Re: Strategy and Tactics different from Strategy (Art) or Military Science
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jason taylor (Post 2062686)
And he did not know that there were in fact more ships in the German navy and that almost all of them were concentrated in the North Sea?

The ships Jellicoe is referring to are his own.


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