UGS v. Military: Death and Injury

In talking about adapting UGS for military games – which includes both Starship Commandos and A Team of Losers – I mentioned the need for resource management. Another part of resource management that is very important but which I did not mention is ammunition.

"Tactical Air Control" by IMK
“Tactical Air Control” by IMK

In my games so far, there has never been any question of equipment or ammunition – it is always assumed the character has what the character needs or what the player wants the character to have. That doesn’t work for military games. Planning and preparation are important aspects, and part of that is having the proper equipment, so it’s important that players need to make choices, and those choices can lead to negative consequences.

Ammunition is key in this. You do not want to be a soldier who has run out of ammo. Now, in most teams, a teammate will give you a magazine, but that’s a drain on a teammate’s resources, and that might put that teammate at risk. This is one reason trained military don’t spray and pray. Automatic fire suppresses the enemy by making them seek cover, but you pick your shots and make them count.

As Hicks says, short, controlled bursts.

Skydiver by Dean Martin
Skydiver by Dean Martin

Adapting UGS to a military game is more than just a matter of  resource management. The threat of injury is a constant for a soldier in a hostile environment. A military game requires a way for players to be hurt and possibly killed. Now, I am not a fan of killing off characters. Characters are a player’s main tool for agency in the game, and removing that character – even if it means the player can drop in a new character – gives the message that the player’s agency is subordinate to the GM’s, and that is not how I want my games to work.

Further, players are invested in games through their characters. If the players cycle through characters, their investment in the game is weakened. Unless you are playing a light-hearted, beer and pretzels game, you want your players invested, because that makes them take in-game threats seriously, creating tension and excitement.

Given all this, the threat of character death still needs to be there. I cheat in SC and AToL, as right now, PCs can one-shot kill NPCs, but NPCs cannot do the same to PCs. That’s a cheat, and if I can figure out a clean and simple way to expand the rule to PCs, I will. Right now, I think the threat of real damage and possible death will be enough.

These are some of the additions I’ve made to UGS to create a military version, both futuristic and modern.

You can find the earlier article here.

You can find UGS here.

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