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The Smooth Gun Sight

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It seems that I might want to test drive a lighter system—likely my own, big surprise given my enormous fuckin’ ego!—for a modern military, Covert Forces-style campaign. Having thought about what I want to do and what I want to deliver, my instinctive need to use a robust system may be misplaced.

But what about gun pron and cool kit?

See, one of the things that I consider cool about special operations forces is weaponry. I actually do think that an HK53 short assault rifle with a sight (likely an Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight) is cool. I imagine my character using an FN FAL battle rifle, cut down to carbine size, with a bunch SOPMOD gear.

Robust systems can actually model the differences between cartridges and weapons—even between an SIG Sauer P226 autoloader pistol and its NORINCO knock off. Lighter systems, by their very design, are not meant to do so. What happens to my beautiful, beautiful gun pron with a lighter system?

Well, one doesn’t actually have that weapon to adore even when playing a robust system. Just like everything else—from skills to physical attributes—it is merely a representative notation and statistics. So what is one actually missing? What about the differences between weapons? What point choosing a Mark 12 Mod 0 Special Purpose Rifle over an M16A4 assault rifle?

Here’s a question, would you prefer to be shot at by me with an Accuracy International Arctic Warfare sniper rifle, or by a Joint task Force 2 operator with a WWI-era Short Magazine Lee Enfield Mk III? Yeah, the weapon might be awesome, but I certainly am not. I’m a firm believer that the person using the weapon is much more important than the weapon itself, so I prefer a system that rewards skill in combat rather than a cool weapon, and light systems can—and SES does—base the damage of an attack on the success of that attack, meaning it rewards skill in combat.

Most robust systems do provide some differentiation between weapons, but only the most robust can deliver the kind of differences that would honestly replicate the level of differences between a Mark 12 Mod 0 Special Purpose Rifle and an M16A4 assault rifle. That level of detail is way beyond what I am willing to accept.

And there is nothing stopping one from listing a weapon with all its gear. And I think for a Spec Ops campaign, this is very important. For me, at least, the weapon of my character is an important component of that character. Gun pron can still happen even in a light system.

And the same goes for kit. Having the right tool for the right job has been important part of the Spec Ops campaigns I’ve run. Kit can help define the character and the character’s capabilities. Unlike my usual approach to a light game, I’m going to deem it necessary to have a character’s kit listed, and if kit isn’t listed, it ain’t available. This is going to add some resource management to the game, and the planning phase is going to quite important—as it is in a real modern military operation.

Yes, I think I’m going to take a stab at a Sword’s Edge System game in the Covert Forces-style. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

You can find Sword’s Edge System here.

You can find Covert Forces Redux here.

8 thoughts on “The Smooth Gun Sight”

  1. Excellent article. We use the M-4 at work and with close combat optics and the latest stuff that effectively turns one into the predator, life in the military with modern weaponry lends to us a serious tactical advantage.


  2. Nice series of articles that I am enjoying. I for one believe that its both the weapon and the operator in synergy that makes the weapon system.

  3. Which can actually be modelled in a game like SES. If one would like a weapon to be something special, one can make it an Item, which is therefore a Quality. Something like “Kitted out FN (Great)” linked to Physique . . . or even Cunning.

  4. I feel certain weapons out there have certain traits that make them better or worse depending on who made them and what the weapon is. Take Norinco pistols for instance, there are several guys that have them in my shooting club and the way they tell it is they have parts breaking on them all the time. H&K makes high quality weapons so you may consider a small accuracy bonus or a mechanic that lessens the chance to misfire/jam (if the weapon is properly cared for)

  5. And to some (I’m thinking like, you!) the trade-off in complexity is worth it for that kind of detail, but to me–someone who is only interested in rules that can be provided in 20 pages or less–it’s just not worth it. What I enjoy about Spec Ops style gaming isn’t the detail of the weapon as opposed to the coolness factor of a weapon.

  6. Then again I have always got twitchy over game mechanics that have generic weapon blocks….sends me into a tailspin and give people that don’t know anything about firearms the wrong idea. I have played with them and sadly they think the generic stuff is correct.

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