Wow, I thought I'd totally updated at the weekend. How wrong a man can be.
Interesting reader mail in from one of the Doodler's cohorts below, pointing out my shortcomings in estimating the impact of bow-based ranged combat. Archers are plenty quick on the draw if competent, apparently.
Been having a quiet couple of weeks. The high point of the last week was playing Mrs Monkey's Western scenario set in Australia. This was pretty awesome, plenty of Western atmosphere and plenty of opportunities to think over the mechanics of a ranged combat system. This has made me think that ranged combat is a matter of priorities, the actual act of firing a missile would appear to be trivial to anyone given sufficient practice (practice being key because it's even hard to fire a gun if you don't fire guns). So the question is, which part of being involved in ranged combat is non-trivial?
The only answer I can come up with is deciding best how your next "burst" of fire is to be employed. Are you going for the kill? Covering someone else's action? Trying to raise a bit of hell? Defending yourself?
Melee combat seems to be centred on a personal experience, ranged combat is more tactical and uses the environment to support its tactics. The trick to the design of these games seems to be in producing atmosphere and giving people a "feel" for the action hook. This is, of course, precisely what I've been aiming for all along, but sometimes the feeling is somewhat elusive.
Received some feedback concerned that if the players are heroes and heroes find it difficult to die where's the edge of your seat excitement? Where's the risk? In campaign play I have developed a technique of giving players cool toys, if they are not careful toys are removed, thus the hero lives, but the hero's advantage is transient. This seems to provide enough ups and downs.
In a one off the chance of a character dying should be communicated at the outset. If chances are high it would always be best to have something for dead characters to do in the remainder of the game.
Of course I have been sat in on story-based games where people liked to be involved at some level but because of the entertainment value of the actual story they didn't mind just sitting back and watching the action unfold. This is the "front seat/back seat" phenomenon that I've noted in the past where players like to vary their involvement depending upon their mood. If you have such a person in your one-off group you could give them some cannon-fodder, let them partake until bored and then kill them off allowing them to leave the circle or just watch the rest of the game.
Anyway, I'm wandering into a territory of talking about revolutionary ideas and I haven't the time or space to go into all that right now. I'll leave the discussion in "food for thought" mode and wander off. Promise I'll update more promptly next time.