Don’t Roll to Hit for Mothership
polish cover for the Expanse by Dark Crayon
After a couple of very slow combat scenes in Mothership, I’ve decided to try out the quite popular OSR solution: auto hit. Unlike the proposed alternative combat rules by quadra, my aim with this is to completely get rid of the to hit roll in my sessions.
Sidenote: in my game I have also reduced the number of actions characters could take per turn to one. It sped things up considerably, but you might keep the 2 actions per turn if you want the players making a bit more complex manoeuvres on their turn.
- Combats were taking too long in Mothership. Even without opposing rolls, it’s 3 rolls per attack (combat roll, and if you hit: damage, defender armour roll), that’s 6 in one turn (for two actions), and another 6 every NPC turn. I ain’t got all day!
- I have also played Mausritter recently (which uses Into the Odd’s auto hit system) and I really enjoyed how that went. Attacking and being attacked was always a big deal, since someone would always lose HP no matter what.
- Auto hit is extremely helpful when running funnels. When you have 3-4 characters, one less roll to worry about saves a lot of time. Also, in my game this resulted in a lot of one hit character deaths, because the enemies became completely overpowered (but hell, it was really fun).
How It Works
When attacking, roll only the damage dealt.
And how does it affect combat?
Game becomes much deadlier. Compared to standard rules: PCs will do about 3 times more damage, and NPCs about 2-3 times the damage. Needless to say that this leads to fights evolving much quicker.
Everyone is an equal fighter (not counting weapons). When previously a marine would hit much more consistently than any other class, now everyone hits consistently. The only advantage you may have is a better gun but that’s it. This also breaks the NPCs, since they also hit no matter what.
No more critical hits (kinda). Since you don’t roll, you can’t crit fail or crit succeed. I love rolling crits, so here is a solution:
Alternative Critical Hits
If this seems too convoluted, check out my other idea of introducing crits back into the game in the #using the armour save section.
If you roll any matching damage dice, that counts as a crit. If the matching dice are lower than your Combat stat -> crit success, higher than Combat stat -> crit fail.
Example: player attacks with their revolver and rolls    on 3d10. They deal 13 damage, and check 33 (the matching dice) against their Combat stat (<35, that’s a crit success).
Rolling high good for damage, but you might get high matching numbers as well (which lead to a crit fail). This becomes a consideration for the players especially with many damage dice weapons (like SMG or Pulse Rifle).
Using the Combat Stat
Now what do you do with the Combat stat when you’ve eliminated a major situation it’s useful in? My variant is to roll it when you are performing combat manoeuvres, trying to change the tide of a confrontation. For example you could roll Combat to take actions from yet another post about combat from quadra (grapple, aim, gambit).
Another way to use the Combat stat is to combine the to hit roll and the damage roll into one (borrowed from Unknown Armies 3e). Roll under your stat, add the two digits together for non-guns, or read the d100 for guns. I’d use this as a resolution for improvised weapons. They give the players an opportunity to deal lots of damage on a success, so I imagine on a failure the consequences will be grave. The weapon exploding in the characters hands, misfire into a glass window, whatever just completely changes the battlefield.
I also like the idea of using the Combat stat as a tactical tool. If you roll well you could…
- Find an escape route, location to hide / attack from.
- Get a better idea about the enemy. On a success the Warden may reveal info about the NPCs weapons, health status or movement.
- Look for weak spots, which would give extra damage dice if targeted.
- Decide initiative (instead of using the Speed stat).
All of the above would also make sense with the Intellect stat, but I wanted the marines to have some sort of edge when fighting.
Using the Armour Save
And some alternative ideas for using the Armour save (can be used in any combination):
Rolling Armour, but more dramatic. Succeeding means you take less damage yes, but the other bullets ricochet / hit something important behind you. If an enemy succeeds a save, maybe your vibechete is lodged into their shield. Crit fails double the damage, and so on. All this essentially takes over the narrative power that the Combat roll had before.
Armour is the new HP. PCs now stake damage directly to the Armour save, if it is as zero, they take damage to Strength and roll for critical injury. This kinda singles out this specific save out of the bunch, but I think it works thematically.
You are allowed to roll Armour only once. And it may negate either half or all damage. Makes that single use extremely valuable for the players. Between uses, you would have to repair your armour with a repair kit or with the help of a professional.
And that’s all I’ve got for now! Thanks for sticking around and if you want to chat about this, let me know on twitter @emmyver or on the mothership discord @mvmv.