Critical Hits in Star Frontiers

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by Helmut Liebeling (translated by Tom Stephens)

Editor's note:  This is a translation of the article “Kritische Treffer in Sternengarde” from issue 6 of the German magazine “Drache”, published in April 1985.  I used Google Translate for a rough translation and then cleaned it up.  I started working on this before Tom Verreault submitted his “Condition Critical” article so I thought it only appropriate they should appear together.

Also, there are at least two other Star Frontiers articles from other issues: “Abenteuer im Weltraum” from issue 3 and “Insektoide Plagegeister für Sternengarde” from issue 7.  If anyone has copies of these articles let us know at editors@frontierexplorer.org.  We'd love to get a copy and translate them.

We all know the scene: Luke Skywalker chases through the corridors of the Death Star. All of a sudden an automatic door opens before him, and a scowling storm trooper in full battle dress appears in the opening. In a quick response, Luke swings his blaster forward and fires a single targeted shot. The storm trooper falls with a dazzling flash to the ground and doesn't move ...

Watching scenes like this, you quickly realize how boring a Star Frontiers battle is.  In my opinion, the designer of Star Frontiers gave priority to the players’ safety instead of trying to build a realistic weapons system.  It’s amazing that a player has to be hit with 10-12 shots from an automatic rifle before being incapacitated.  Even the damage from Gyrojet weapons seems too low when you consider the effects of a fire-spewing projectile in a human body.  In fact, it seems that most wound in Star Frontiers are from pass through shots.  It seems impossible in principle at least, that a projectile collides with a bone of vital organ.  Adding such a rule would, of course, make the game much more dangerous for player characters but would also make the heaviest land whale susceptible to a lucky hit in the right place.

To create a realistic simulation, I have introduced the following damage system in my game:

Whenever a character attempts to hit an opponent and rolls a 01-05, he scores a critical hit.  The only exception is if the modified chance to hit is under 1% in that case it is just a normal hit and not a critical one.  In addition, you cannot score a critical hit with the following weapons:  needler gun, electrostunner, and doze, incendiary, poison, smoke, and tangler grenades.  The frag grenade only does critical damage to the character closest to the center of the explosion.  Critical damage must be rolled separate for each character affected (see table below).  Furthermore, the exact effect also depends on the particular combat situation.  It is simply impossible to shoot a character in the leg when he is standing behind a one meter thick concrete wall and you can only see his head and shoulders.  The referee makes the final decision in cases where there is a question.  (When in doubt just select the roll of 1-10 on the table below.

Important:  A critical hit never increases the damage that the corresponding weapon would have done with a normal hit, but receives additional damage to his personal characteristics.  A character with a protective shield is still protected from the normal damage but the critical hit damage is still suffered.  You can assume that the shield suffered some sort of malfunction due to the constant stress of use.  When a critical hit is achieved the character first rolls the normal damage and then rolls to see the type of critical hit.  This is done by rolling d100 and consulting the table below.  In addition, the target must make a current stamina check (roll d100 under their current STA to pass) or they are knocked unconscious. Note that if the to hit roll was a 01-02 this check doesn’t need to be made as that is an automatic knockout roll per the standard rules.  Animals with more than 100 STA are only knocked unconscious if they roll a 100.  Unconsciousness lasts the standard d100 turns.

Critical Hit Table

Roll

Critical Hit Location

01 – 10

no other effect

11 – 20

left arm

21 – 30

right Arm

31 – 40

left leg

41 – 50

right leg

51 – 60

eye

61 – 70

head

71 – 80

neck

81 – 90

lung

91 – 100

death

Explanation of the effects

No other effects:  target must only roll to see if he loses consciousness.

Left / Right arm:  the injured limb cannot be used for 2d10 days If the target loses more than half of their maximum STA points from the hit, there is a 50% chance that the arm was permanently crippled or severed by the hit.

Right or Left leg: a leg hit results in the targets movement speed being halved for 2d10 days for humans and yazirians. A vrusk’s speed is reduced by a quarter and a Dralasite’s movement is reduced by a half if using two legs, a third if using three, etc.  For Dralasites this penalty only applies until it has a chance to absorb the limb and regrow a new on (also applies to arms). If the target loses more than half of its maximum STA in a single hit, there is a 50% chance the leg is permanently damaged and the speed penalty is permanent.

Eye:  the target permanently loses their sight in one eye, requiring them to deduct 10% from their to-hit chance with all melee and ranged weapons.

Head:  the target is automatically unconscious and permanently loses 1d10 points of INT / LOG due to a brain injury.

Neck:  if the target loses more than one third of its total STA, the shot has opened the carotid artery and the victim loses 1d5 STA per round due to loss of blood, until a medic applies first aid.

Lungs:  if the target loses more than 15 STA from the shot, there is a 30% chance that he dies in d100 rounds. This can only be avoided by lying perfectly still until a medic can operate. In addition, the target permanently loses 1d10 STA.

Death: Through a hit to the heart, neck, or similar vital organ, the target is killed instantly. Those killed by critical hits (including those that are smothered by a lung results) can only be helped a doctor that freezes them instantly in a freeze field. All critical damage that is not a permanent effect can be removed by a successful major surgery.

“With these rules any opponent could get lucky with that second roll,” I hear players already complaining.  The only answer I have is that critical hits are extremely rare and that in playtesting had little effect in most battles.  If, however, after many adventures, a cherished character got hit badly, this is no reason to despair because the medicine and surgery of the Frontier worlds can help the “critical hit” victim with various prostheses.  And although replacing a natural part of the body is not without disadvantages, they can be overcome with training.

Some Suggestions

Artificial Arm: Costs 3000 Cr. (the price of a prosthesis always includes the material price and attaching it in a hospital). If a character has an artificial arm, he must deduct 10% of his skill level.

Artificial Leg: 5000 Cr. The character suffers a -2 m/turn penalty to movement.

Steel Corset: 6000 Cr.  This device eliminates the permanent lost STA points due to a lung hit. However, the character suffers a -10% to their RS as the corset has about the wearablity properties of plate armor.

Silver Skull plate: 3000 Cr.  This Implant brings back lost INT / LOG from a head hit.

Robotic eye: 6000 Cr. (Default), 8000 Cr. (Infrared version). Adding a robotic eye is a complicated operation as it is directly connected to the brain. There is a 0.5% chance that the surgeon makes an error when installing it.  If he does, the character will be able to see normally again, but permanently loses 1d10 points of INT/LOG (which cannot be regained by implanting a silver plate).

Apart from the corset and the silver plate, all prostheses need a Type I parabattery to function.

Proposal for a New Military Skill

Target Shooting

-10 x skill level from roll

(Specialist degree)

This ability can only be used with ranged weapons (not with grenades and other thrown weapons!). Before a character can learn this skill, he must have a skill level of 6 with the weapon he wants to use for target shooting. For each level in the target shooting, the character may deduct 10 points from his roll to hit.  A score of 0 or less is considered a 01.  Because of this, a well-trained sniper will land a critical hit more often than another similar character without the skill.

Example: Jonah "Mad Doc" Wilkens, a shrewd UPF officer, has a level 6 Gyrojet skill, as well as Target Shooting at level 11. He shoots at an opponent in the middle distance and has, after applying all modifiers, a 55% chance to hit.  He rolls a 13 and hits his opponent. From this roll of 13, he subtracts 10, as he has mastered the first level in the target shooting, and gets 03. So Jonah scores a critical hit on his opponents. If he had rolled a 65, he would have not hit since the negative roll modifier for target shooting may only be subtracted when a standard hit roll has already succeeded.

The XP cost for learning Target Shooting is twice the cost for learning a weapon skill of the same level. (i.e learning level 1 is 6 XP for someone with the Military PSA and 12 XP for anyone else.  Level 2 would be 12 and 24 XP respectively, and so forth.)