1879: Actual Play: Firearms in Combat

This post starts a series of Actual Play examples, to show how the mechanics work. Today, we’ll be looking at firearms, which are the biggest difference between combat in Earthdawn and combat in 1879, both of which use the same CoreStep mechanic.

As the fight begins, Sam Ridley, daredevil airship pilot, and his companion Bethelie Lepercq, a remittance woman from Provence who traded her aristocratic title for a stipend that lets her wander the world as she pleases, have come to a disagreement with Otto von Schmerz, a Prussian, shall we say “businessman”, and his hired help. Sam and Bethelie hold that they arrived first on the scene, with a bill of lading that might actually be on a passing acquaintance with legitimacy, and therefore the case of Zener tubes on the table belongs to them. Otto would very much like Sam and Bethelie to stop breathing, so that his hired help can convey the Zener tubes to someone who will pay a very large sum to Herr von Schmerz for the delivery, without the inconvenience of pursuit. The warehouse guard has decided that discretion is the better part of surviving to collect his next paycheck, and legged it as far as the doorway into a shack that could theoretically be called an office. It does have a desk, a hotplate, and a window that looks out into the decrepit interior of the Crimean War-era warehouse.

Initiative Tests are made and the countdown begins.

On 13, the surprisingly agile guard dives behind the desk, giving him Full Cover and a resulting +4 to his Physical Defense. The desk, sadly, is cheap, only an inch of wood between him and a stray round, which gives it Physical Armor of 3 (rounding down on the half point) and a Barrier Rating of 10. It won’t hold up to much.

On 12, Bethelie takes Partial Cover behind a packing crate (there’s plenty of that sort of thing, it’s a warehouse), giving her +2 to her Physical Defense, and snaps off a shot at Otto with her revolver, which she had out and ready when she arrived, on the principle that it’s best to take down the enemy leader first. Otto is still out in the open, so his Physical Defense of 8 is unmodified. Unfortunately, Bethelie’s player gets a 7 on their Firearms Test, and with her Firearms Skill being Optional, Bethelie can’t spend Karma to rescue the miss. While Otto feels the breeze as the slug goes by, nothing of importance is hit.

On 10, Hired Help #1 returns fire with a shotgun, which he was carrying at the ready upon his arrival. The GM makes a Firearms Test and gets a 9, but Bethelie’s Physical Defense of 8 is augmented to a 10, and so he hits the packing crate instead of her. The GM makes a Damage Test and gets a better than average result of 13. The packing crate, the GM has previously ruled, is sturdy, so 7 points of that are lost to its Physical Armor, leaving 5 points to come off its Barrier Rating of 20. At this rate, Bethelie can survive three more attacks before she has to find new shelter.

On 9, Otto’s player decides against making a lunge for the Zener tubes, since Sam has yet to fire and Otto’s Movement isn’t enough to grab the tubes and still get to cover. Instead, Otto ducks behind a massive steamer trunk (with the same stats as Bethelie’s packing crate), and draws his semi-automatic pistol, having walked in expecting his hired help to take care of anything that required ready firepower. This uses up his actions, and so we’ll get back to Otto next round.

On 8, Sam throws caution to the wind, calls out “Cover me!” to Bethelie, and grabs the Zener tubes. It’s a small case, but heavy, which requires both hands, so while he still has his heavy pistol out, he can’t use it. Sam legs it for cover, but doesn’t quite get there.

On 4, Hired Help #2 pops off a shotgun round in Sam’s general direction. Otto screams “Idiot!” at him, but it’s too late. The GM makes a Firearms Test and gets a 14. That’s an extra success against Sam’s Physical Defense of 9. This stages up the damage from the shotgun’s Base Damage of 11 to a Step 14. The Damage Test comes up a 17. Sam’s silk ballistic jacket stops 6 points of damage, but he still takes 11, which is 2 points over his Wound Threshold. Sam takes a Wound, but does not have to make a Knockdown Test as the difference between his Wound Threshold and the damage he took is less than 5 points. The Zener tube case is also hit, since it’s currently sharing Sam’s Physical Defense. Its Physical Armor is 9, so it only takes 8 points of damage, which reduces its Barrier Rating of 15 to a 7. One more hit and the highly expensive Weird Science tubes could be rendered valueless.

Initiative Tests are made for the next round.

This time, Otto goes first with a 17. “Don’t shoot him!” he screams at the hired help. “He’s got the tubes! Get the tubes!” Otto fires in Bethelie’s general direction. He’s not that good of a shot and he knows it, but he can at least maybe get her to keep her head down. His Firearms Test comes up a 6, so the round goes off past Bethelie and her packing crate, doing damage to something irrelevant.

Bethelie could return fire on 15, but opts for giving Sam the cover he called for. Throwing caution to the wind (this happens so often that her caution wears a parachute), she goes for a Called Shot to Hired Help #2’s knee. This puts her at -3 Steps on her Firearms Test, but if she hits, the damage goes straight through to the hit location. Bethelie’s player murmurs a prayer to the gods of dice and rolls up, and up, and ends the run with an astonishing 23. Sometimes fortune really does favor the brave. Hired Help #2’s Physical Defense is 9, which is above average, but that’s a difference of 14, heartbreakingly one point short of a third extra success. Those extra two successes stage up Bethelie’s damage from a Step 6 to a Step 12. The player makes the Damage Test and gets another roll-up on one of the d6s, for a total Damage of 15. Hired Help #2 takes a Wound to his knee, which is an automatic Knockdown Test failure. He sprawls on the floor clutching his leg and screaming, his dropped shotgun clattering away.

On 12, Hired Help #1 lets off the other barrel of his shotgun in Bethelie’s general direction. This time, his Firearms Test comes up an 11, and he hits her. His Damage Test, at the shotgun’s base Step of 11, rolls an 8. Bethelie’s flak jacket takes 5 points of that, so she only takes 3 points of damage. She’s had (and given) worse from a rough session in the bedroom, and informs the ruffian of this in terms crude and broad enough that he can’t possibly misunderstand.

On 9, Sam makes it to cover, and pauses to check the exit route. There, outside the side door, dangles the rope ladder from the gondola of Sweet William, his Giffard. If he and Bethelie can get to it without taking further injury, he can hit the emergency departure button on the remote in his pocket and they can ride the ladder out of firearms range. They just need an opportunity.

And on 4, opportunity arrives, looking very much like a watchman who has recovered both his nerve and the dropped shotgun. He enters the fray with a shot in the general direction of Hired Help #1. He’s got no Firearms Skill, and comes up with a 3 on his raw Dexterity Test, missing wildly, but the effect is salutary. Otto and Hired Help #1 are now very, very distracted.

Will Sam and Bethelie make their escape? Will Otto eliminate the distraction and pursue? Will the watchman ever get to enjoy the pommes frites his wife packed for his lunch? Tune in two weeks hence for the next thrilling installment of Actual Play!