In “. . . I Would’ve Baked a Cake,” the characters get caught in a sniper trap. Well, more of a “marksmen” trap, but you take my meaning. In a game, that could lead to character deaths. That’s not always desirable, even when you want the sniper to be a frightening opponent and capable of reaching out and touching someone.
Snipers are tough in modern games. I’ve often heard, in regards to rules, that whatever a PC can do, an NPC can do. With snipers, that means if a PC can make a one-shot kill, so can an NPC–against the PC.
One-shot kills are not fun for PCs. They might be fun to deliver, but receiving kind of sucks. Unless the dice are rolled out in the open, the player might interpret such a kill as GM fiat. Even with total transparency, the one-shot sniper kill is the kind of character loss about which players can become very bitter.
Does that mean we get rid of the one-shot kill? For me, as a GM, yes and no.
I’m going to have to get system specific to talk about what I mean. The Massive Damage Threshold in d20 Modern and the Toughness save mechanic in True20, both allow for versions of the one-shot kill without the character death. Let’s call it one-shot removal . . . OSR.
With an OSR, a character is down, a character is out, but that character is not necessarily dead. Not yet. The rules I reference leave the character dying after an OSR. That is an important difference. As long as the character’s removal from play doesn’t precipitate a total party kill, that character can be stabilized and saved. The character is effectively “killed” for that scene without being permanently deleted.
Any modern system, really any system for role-playing in a setting with 19th century weapons technology or better, needs to have some kind of rule for sniping and the one-shot kill.
Or rather, the one-shot removal.