Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Command and Control

Command and Control (C2) is one of the fundamental issues for any fighting force of any size at any level of combat, whether it be tactical, operational, or strategic. A leader needs to be able to communicate the mission and/or tasks clearly to his subordinates, and they need to understand and comply with the directions.

All of these tasks are not simple. Even a well-oiled group of experts like a professional sports team or elite military unit occasionally have hiccups with C2. Less expert folks will often have C2 problems. History is replete of units that advanced when they should have withdrawn, that hunkered down in their foxholes when they needed to move forward, or that retreated without orders.

D&D has lacked a good way to model being out of C2, even though many wargames represent this. This leads to one of three approaches. Either the DM is harsh and forbids the unordered character/unit to do anything ("They just stand there"), in which case players endeavor to leave complicated instructions at all times; or the DM decides what it will do; or as in 4E, the character uses their own actions to decide what it will do.

I submit that there needs to be a way to quickly, impartially, and randomly determine unit actions when out of command. Ideally, this mechanic could be common with the Morale rules and even spells like Confusion that result in a loss of C2.

The random check needs to factor in several key variables.
- Morale of the unit (How willing is it to stand and fight?)
- Intellect/training of the unit (how advanced are its tactics?)

The first factor is pretty easy. For example, you could create a simple table for 2d6 rolls:
<2 : Routed; Unit flees, -1 on all future morale checks this encounter; possible HEART condition track damage
3-5: Wavering; unit withdraws towards safety
6-8: Uncertain.
6: Unit holds in place and defends itself (total defense)
7: Unit holds in place and attacks if already in melee, or uses missiles
8: Unit holds in place and attacks if already in melee, or uses missiles
9-11: Compliance. Unit aggressively attacks
> 12: Fanatical compliance. Unit impetuously charges nearest foe and attempts heroics

The other factor, training or intellect, is harder. You can just leave it vague, to DM discretion. A dumb unit that aggressively attacks (say, an animal) might just move after the nearest thing; a smart unit might pick out the most significant threat. A dumb unit that withdraws towards safety might just move towards its liege; a smart one might realize that safety really means getting across the bridge or heading to the rear or whatever.

Also, this chart assumes that morale is only a factor in tactical ground based combat. But, its a start.

So, a typical procedure might be:

- Character issues order. This takes up some sort of action or has a chance of ending a character's turn.
- Make a command check: Roll 1d6 (add an extra D6 to the pool if you have CHA prime and maybe another one for WIS prime). If any one die says "5" then you succeed at issuing an order to units within 4 +/- CHA MOD hexes. If the any one die says "6" you succeed at issuing an order to double that radius. If you get boxcars then you succeed at issuing orders to treble that radius.
- Check for compliance. On its turn, each commanded critter rolls 2d6+Liege's CHA Mod and checks on the table above. If In Command, they get +2 on the check and compliance means they follow the order, uncertain means they hesitate or do not fully understand. If Out of Command due to a failed command check (or range), they just roll on the table with no modifier and follow the table's general guidelines.


Sgt Bill commands two men-at-arms. He orders them to charge a nearby orc. The first man-at-arms is adjacent to Bill, and the other one is 6 hexes distant. Bill only has +1 CHA for an effective command radius of 5 hexes, so he needs to roll a 5 on his command check to order around the first man-at-arms and a 6 to order the second one. Bill rolls a command check and gets a 5.

On the first man-at-arm's turn, he rolls 2d6+1 (Bill's CHA mod)+2 (in command). Getting a 10, he complies with Bill's order and charges. The second man-at-arms is out of command thus goes on autopilot. He rolls 2d6 and gets a 7. This man-at-arms might hurl a spear if he has one but otherwise stands fast and is uncertain.

Or, if you want to cut some dice rolling out of it, you could just say that units which are In Command (i.e., have confirmed receipt of specific orders and are under direct supervision of a leader) don't even roll 2d6 to see if they comply. They just do, unless they're forced to check morale for some other reason. I like this as its less dice rolling.

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