Roleplaying Games

Reload Mechanics

So I’m working on a Borderlands-esque game for Savage Worlds, and one of the things I’m poking around with is the gunnerriffic nature of it all. SW definitely loves its hardware and the intricacies of counting ammo, keeping track of how much 9mm you have versus how much .45, and so on.

I, on the other hand, am a bit less enamored of gun porn. Most of the time I handwave things like reloading or weapon cooldowns if they’re a factor at all– in my old Star Hero campaign I simply gave energy weapons batteries that could hold 50 shots at a time so that running out of ammo was never really an issue. The most “reloading” we’ve done in the group yet is the Ghostbusters having to spend a turn to “vent the pack” as one of the possible negative effects of Rolling a Ghost.

Now in the Borderlands computer games, reloading and running out of ammo is very important, and “magazine size” is one of the most important stats any given weapon can have. And certainly in a realistic military setting, it’s absolutely vital– after all, if running out of ammo wasn’t an issue, why wouldn’t everyone just pick up a machine gun and “spray’n’pray” all the time?

In the case of the setting I’m working on, I’m also looking at different types of ammo adding elemental or other effects– corrosive ammo to wear down the target’s armor, for instance, or bursting ammo that does an extra wound but only if it penetrates, things like that. In a case like that, tracking the ammo is pretty much required, at least for PCs. And it’s not really fair to give everyone the same “out of ammo if you roll a 1 on your attack” mechanic, because by doing so you effectively give somebody with a six-shooter the same amount of ammo as somebody going full autofire three times per turn. (And for that matter, you give somebody with Shooting d4 a 25% chance of running out of ammo every turn while someone with Shooting d8 only has a 13% chance.)

So, I think I’m going to have to just suck it up and go with counting ammo in this setting. It’s not that big a deal, I guess: 1 ammo per shot, 2 for doubletap, 3 ammo per burst, and (ROF^2) for full auto isn’t so hard to remember. It just seems weird and clunky, in a game that eschews hit points as being more trouble than they’re worth, to be counting the number of bullets in each gun. On the other hand, I can totally see players high-fiving each other when the boss they’ve been getting pounded by suddenly goes, “Oh crap, out of ammo!”

Next up: Vehicles. Why You Always So Difficult???

-The Gneech