A Night at the Opera: Ronin

Vincent: Under the bridge, by the river, how did you know it was an ambush?
Sam: When ever there is any doubt, there is no doubt. That is the first thing they teach you.

Ronin (1998)

 

I have discussed John Frankenheimer’s Ronin (1998) in a previous post, dissecting a scene using GURPS. This time I look at how the same scene would play out using Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game. The latter is based on the Basic RolePlaying rules engine also used by Call of Cthulhu, but differs in many details. Watch just the scene here (the action starts at 1:56).

sd_dg_ronin

Stop reading if you want to avoid SPOILERS.

A Night at the Opera

Prelude: Sam, a former Intelligence Case Officer (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 24) with the Combat Veteran and Deep Cover skill packages (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 27) [Note that by the rules it is not possible to have two bonus skill packages (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 27), but Sam clearly has a benevolent Handler … It is realistic for experienced people who have had more than one occupation prior to becoming an agent.]; Vincent, another former Intelligence Case Officer with the Combat Veteran skill package; and Spence, most likely a former Soldier (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 26) without the Combat Veteran skill package, rather than the former Special Operator (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 22) he claims to be; have been sent by their Irish handler to procure weapons from a French underworld contact. The men have received part of the merchandise from the lieutenant of the outfit (Bad Guy #1), but are told to meet le patron (Bad Guy #0) under the Pont Alexandre III over the river Seine in order to exchange the money for the rest of the arms. Sam is suspicious and after a successful Military Science (Land) roll identifies a possible ambush situation where the team would be “fish in a barrel.” He remains behind on over-watch while Vincent and Spence follow Bad Guy #1 and Bad Guy #2 to Bad Guy #0, who stands at the end of the tunnel under the bridge in front of his BMW 730i sedan (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 99). Bad Guy #3 and Bad Guy #4 sit in the car, Bad Guy #5 stands behind the car. Note how Sam opens his jacket in case he needs to get quickly at his sidearm. It is night-time and they are under a bridge, but there are street lamps and other light sources around; there is no penalty because of the darkness (compare Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 53). Suddenly a cruise boat passes under the bridge and blasts its horn, distracting and illuminating a sniper (Bad Guy #6) hidden in the bridge’s support structure. Failing a POW×5 roll, Bad Guy #6 turns around, which spoils his Aim (compare Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 50).

1st Turn: Sam makes his Alertness roll and spots Bad Guy #6. He takes an Anything Else action and draws his 7-shot Medium Pistol ‒ a Colt Government MK IV Series 80 (M1991A1) semiautomatic pistol in .45 ACP (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 97). The Handler allows him to make a DEX×5 roll to see whether he can draw and fire this turn. [There is no rule for this, but it is imperative for Sam to shoot in this turn in order to forestall the action of the sniper, so the Handler makes it up on the fly.] Sam succeeds. Sam takes a Called Shot (Rapid Fire) action and fires two shots with his pistol at Bad Guy #6; -20% (Rapid Fire) to Firearms. [He could have taken an Attack action, which allows two or three shots to be fired (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 50), but firing two or three shots with the Attack action would neither increase his hit chances nor the damage (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 50). In short, there is no reason to ever fire more than one shot with the Attack action. Sam fired a classic double-tap, however, a technique that has long been favoured by combat shooters. By accepting the Rapid Fire penalty, he gets two chances to hit. Of course that is assuming he has a reasonable Firearms skill to begin with, but he undoubtedly has.] His two Attack rolls fail, meaning both shots miss, but distract Bad Guy #6. Bad Guy #6 takes an Attack action and fires one shot from his unidentified Heavy Rifle (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 97) at Vincent; -20% (Distracted) to Firearms. [The Distracted penalty was assigned by the Handler based on the examples in the rules (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 53).] He fails. Everybody else is surprised and takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing. As they have been ambushed by gunfire, Vincent and Spence must both make SAN rolls (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 67); Vincent has the Adaptation to Violence (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 73) and does not even need to roll. Spence succeeds.

2nd Turn: Sam takes an Aim action and aims his pistol at Bad Guy #6. Bad Guy #3 takes an Anything Else action while sitting in the car and turns on the headlights to dazzle Vincent and Spence. Both make DEX×5 rolls to avoid the penalty (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 93). Vincent makes his roll so well that he is unaffected, turning his head just in time, but Spence fails it, suffering -20% for 1D6 turns [Judging from his performance, he rolls a 6.]. Spence takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing but shouting “Shit, I can’t see, I can’t see!” Vincent takes an Anything Else action and draws his 15-shot Medium Pistol ‒ a Beretta Mod 92FS semiautomatic pistol in 9×19mm Parabellum ‒ while stepping towards Spence. Bad Guy #0 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing. Bad Guy #1 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing. Bad Guy #2 takes an Anything Else action, drawing his 15-shot Medium Pistol ‒ a Glock 19 semiautomatic pistol in 9×19mm Parabellum ‒ while stepping away from the car. Bad Guy #4 takes an Anything Else action and opens the right passenger door. Bad Guy #5 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing.

3rd Turn: Sam takes a Called Shot (Rapid Fire) action and fires two shots with his pistol at Bad Guy #6; +20% (Aim) -20% (Rapid Fire) = +0% to Firearms. [The wording of the Aim action implies that the Aim bonus applies for Sam’s entire turn (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 50) and thus to both Attacks. However, considering how easily a shooter loses his sight picture after a shot and that Called Shot (Rapid Fire) can also be directed at two different targets, it is probably more realistic to apply the Aim bonus only to the first Attack.] He succeeds with at least one of his two Attack rolls. Bad Guy #6 takes at least 1D10 (average 6 points) of damage. If Sam made only one successful Attack roll, then he either rolled a Critical Hit, doubling the Damage (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 52), or he rolled an 8 or better for the Damage, since Bad Guy #6 drops his rifle and falls from the bridge support down into the river. As he has killed in self-defence, Sam would normally need to make a SAN roll (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 67). However, Sam has the Adaptation to Violence and does not even need to roll. Vincent takes an Attack action and fires one shot with his pistol at Bad Guy #0. He fails. Spence takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing. Bad Guy #0 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing. Bad Guy #1 takes an Anything Else action, drawing his 8-shot Medium Pistol ‒ a Taurus PT945 pistol in .45 ACP. Bad Guy #2 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing. Bad Guy #3 takes an Anything Else action and opens the left driver door. Bad Guy #4 takes a Move action and gets out of the right passenger door. Bad Guy #5 takes an Anything Else action, drawing his unidentified Medium Pistol.

4th Turn: Sam takes a Move action and sprints about 3 m forward and to his left, taking cover behind a support column. Spence takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing. Vincent takes a Dodge action, shoving Spence to the left behind the cover of a support arch and moving behind cover into the alcove himself. Bad Guy #0 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing. Bad Guy #1 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing. Bad Guy #2 takes an Attack action and fires two shots with his pistol at Vincent; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. [This could just as well have been a Called Shot (Rapid Fire) action, but since Bad Guy #2 is an NPC, the Handler uses the less effective option.] He fails his Attack roll and both shots miss. Bad Guy #3 takes an Anything Else action, drawing his 15-shot Medium Pistol ‒ a Beretta Mod 92FS. Bad Guy #4 takes an Anything Else action, drawing his unidentified Medium Pistol. Bad Guy #5 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing.

5th Turn: Sam takes an Aim action and aims his pistol at Bad Guy #4. Vincent takes a Called Shot (Rapid Fire) action and fires two shots with his pistol at Bad Guy #0; -20% (Rapid Fire) to Firearms. He succeeds with at least one of his two Attack rolls. Bad Guy #0 takes at least 1D10 (average 6 points) of damage and is stunned (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 55), reeling against the car. Spence takes an Anything Else action, drawing his 30-shot Submachine Gun (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 97) ‒ an H&K MP5K submachine gun in 9×19mm Parabellum ‒ from under his jacket. Bad Guy #1 takes a Dodge action and crouches behind the front left fender of the car, being suppressed by Vincent’s shots (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 58). Bad Guy #2 takes an Attack action and fires two shots from his pistol at Vincent; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. He fails his Attack roll and both shots miss. Bad Guy #3 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing. Bad Guy #4 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing. Bad Guy #5 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing.

6th Turn: Sam takes a Called Shot (Rapid Fire) action and fires two shots with his pistol at Bad Guy #4; +20% (Aim) -20% (Rapid Fire) = +0% to Firearms. He succeeds with at least one of his two Attack rolls. Bad Guy #4 takes at least 1D10 (average 6 points) of damage and drops dead or unconscious. Vincent takes a Called Shot (Rapid Fire) action and fires two shots with his pistol at Bad Guy #0; -20% (Rapid Fire) to Firearms. He succeeds with at least one of his two Attack rolls. Bad Guy #0 takes at least 1D10 (average 6 points) of damage and drops dead or unconscious. As he has killed in self-defence, Vincent would need to make a SAN roll. However, Vincent has the Adaptation to Violence and does not even need to roll. Spence takes an Attack action and shouts  “Come on have some of this!” while firing a short spray with his submachine gun at Bad Guy #4; -20% (Dazzled) to Firearms. He fails. Bad Guy #1 takes an Attack action and fires three shots with his pistol at Vincent; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. He fails his Attack roll and all three shots miss. Bad Guy #2 takes an Attack action and fires two shots with his pistol at Vincent; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. He fails his Attack roll and both shots miss. Bad Guy #3 takes an Attack action and fires two shots with his pistol at Vincent; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. He fails his Attack roll and both shots miss. Bad Guy #4 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing, being suppressed by Spence’s spray (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, pp. 57-58). Bad Guy #5 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing, being suppressed by Spence’s spray.

7th Turn: Sam takes an Aim action and aims his pistol at Bad Guy #2. Vincent takes a Called Shot (Rapid Fire) action and fires one shot with his pistol at Bad Guy #4 on the left, one at Bad Guy #2 on the right; -20% (Rapid Fire) to Firearms. He fails both Attack rolls. Spence takes an Attack action and shouts “Arsehole! Fuckin’ arsehole!” while firing a short spray with his submachine gun at Bad Guy #3 in the car; -20% (Dazzled) -20% (Cover) = -40% to Firearms. He fails. Bad Guy #1 takes an Attack action and fires three shots with his pistol at Vincent after rising quickly from behind his cover; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. He fails. Bad Guy #2 takes an Attack action and fires two shots with his pistol at Vincent; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. He fails. Bad Guy #3 takes an Attack action and shoots three shots with his pistol at Vincent; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. He fails and also loses 1 SAN for acting while in the Kill Radius of Spence’s spray. Bad Guy #5 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing, being suppressed by Spence’s spray.

8th Turn: Sam takes a Called Shot (Rapid Fire) action and fires two shots with his pistol at Bad Guy #2; +20% (Aim) -20& (Rapid Fire) = +0% to Firearms. He fails both Attack rolls. Vincent takes an Anything Else action and reloads his pistol. [Vincent has so far fired only seven shots that we have seen. Given that the Beretta Mod 92FS has a capacity of 15+1 rounds, this is either narrative license or he has a malfunction and decided to clear the problem by reloading.] Spence takes an Attack action and fires a short spray with his submachine gun at Bad Guy #3. He fails his Attack roll and his spray misses. Bad Guy #1 takes an Attack action and fires three shots with his pistol at Vincent after rising quickly from behind his cover; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. He fails his Attack roll and all three shots miss. Bad Guy #2 takes an Attack action and fires three shots with his pistol at Vincent; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. He fails his Attack roll and all three shots miss. Bad Guy #3 takes an Attack action and fires two shots with his pistol at Vincent; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. He fails his Attack roll and both shots miss, and loses 1 SAN for acting while in the Kill Radius of Spence’s spray. Bad Guy #5 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing, being suppressed by Spence’s spray.

9th Turn: Sam takes an Aim action and aims his pistol at Bad Guy #2. [By this time, Sam has fired eight shots and thus exhausted the 7+1 capacity of his pistol. He should be reloading now.] Vincent takes an Anything Else action and readies his pistol. Spence takes an Attack action and fires a short spray with his submachine gun at Bad Guy #3. He fails his Attack roll and his spray misses. Bad Guy #1 takes an Anything Else action and reloads his pistol. Bad Guy #2 takes an Attack action and fires three shots with his pistol at Vincent; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. He fails his Attack roll and all three shots miss. Bad Guy #3 takes an Attack action and fires two shots with his pistol at Vincent; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. He fails his Attack roll and both shots miss, and loses 1 SAN for acting while in the Kill Radius of Spence’s spray. Bad Guy #5 takes a Move action and advances on the left from behind the car, losing 1 SAN for acting while in the Kill Radius of Spence’s spray.

10th Turn: Sam takes a Called Shot (Rapid Fire) action and fires two shots with his pistol at Bad Guy #2; +20% (Aim) -20% (Rapid Fire) = +0% to Firearms. He succeeds with at least one Attack roll. Bad Guy #2 takes at least 1D10 (average 6 points) and drops dead or unconscious. Vincent takes an Attack action and fires three shots with his pistol at Bad Guy #3. He fails his Attack roll and all three shots miss. [Rules-wise, it makes no sense for him to fire three shots, since it gives no advantage.] Spence takes an Attack action and fires a short spray with his submachine gun at Bad Guy #1, shouting “Fuckin’ have some more, you bastards!”; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. He succeeds and rolls under the 10% Lethality Rating of his submachine gun (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 57). Bad Guy #1 drops dead. As he has killed in self-defence, Spence must make a SAN roll. He fails and loses 1D4 SAN. However, the Handler rules that this has no immediate effect. [This is one realistic outcome of trauma; the adrenaline in the heat of battle often prevents people from suffering ill effects until after the fight.] Bad Guy #3 takes an Attack action and fires two shots with his pistol at Vincent; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. He fails his Attack roll and both shots miss. Bad Guy #5 takes a Move action and retreats behind the car.

11th Turn: Sam takes a Called Shot (Rapid Fire) action and fires two shots with his pistol at Bad Guy #3; -20% (Rapid Fire) to Firearms. He fails both Attack rolls. Vincent takes an Attack action and fires three shots with his pistol at Bad Guy #3. He fails his Attack roll and all three shots miss. Spence takes an Attack action and fires a short spray with his submachine gun at Bad Guy #5. He fails his Attack roll and his spray misses. Bad Guy #3 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing. Bad Guy #5 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing, being suppressed by Spence’s spray.

12th Turn: Sam takes an Anything Else action, noting the approaching sirens of the Police Nationale and hailing Larry, their wheel-man: “Come on! Come on!” Vincent takes a Called Shot (Rapid Fire) action and fires two shots with his pistol at Bad Guy #3; -20% (Rapid Fire) to Firearms. He fails both Attack rolls. Spence takes an Attack action and fires a short spray with his submachine gun at Bad Guy #5. He fails his Attack roll and his spray misses. Bad Guy #3 takes an Attack action and fires two shots with his pistol at Vincent; -20% (Cover) to Firearms. He fails his Attack roll and both shots miss. Bad Guy #5 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing, being suppressed by Spence’s spray.

13th Turn: Sam takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing. Vincent takes an Attack action, grabbing Spence with his left hand to drag him away. Spence takes an Attack action and fires a short spray with his submachine gun at Bad Guy #5, shouting “No! You goddamn … !”; -20% (Grappled) to Firearms. [The Grappled penalty was assigned by the Handler based on the examples in the rules (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 53).] He fails his Attack roll and his spray misses. Bad Guy #3 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing, being suppressed by Spence’s spray. Bad Guy #5 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing, being suppressed by Spence’s spray.

14th Turn: Sam takes an Anything Else action, shouting “Come on! Let’s go!” Vincent takes an Attack action to drag Spence with him. Spence takes an Attack action and fires a short burst with his submachine gun at Bad Guy #5; -20% (Grappled) to Firearms. He fails his Attack roll and his spray misses. Bad Guy #3 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing, being suppressed by Spence’s spray. Bad Guy #5 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing, being suppressed by Spence’s spray.

15th Turn: Sam takes a Called Shot (Rapid Fire) action and fires two shots with his pistol at Bad Guy #5; -20% (Rapid Fire) to Firearms. He fails both Attack rolls. Vincent takes a Move action. Spence takes a Move action. Bad Guy #3 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing. Bad Guy #5 takes an Anything Else action, doing nothing.

 

In the film, the scene is 50 seconds long, as it cuts between showing the different characters, including Larry, who does not take part in the fight, although much of the action evolves simultaneously. Post-production editing has made the scene a bit of a mess, so my write-up is an idealised version of the events we see.

Results

You should better be armed in order to buy arms on the black market (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 92).

The awkwardly named Military Science (Land) skill had better been called Tactics, because that is what it is. That would have also been more natural for agents with this skill who are not in the military, like Sam here …

Many of the characters spent a lot of turns doing nothing. This does not mesh well with how player characters normally act in a game ‒ tellingly, Delta Green does not even have a Do Nothing action mentioned among the options available to agents every turn, unlike GURPS. Of course, this is a movie and scripted characters routinely act less sensibly than one would expect in order for the heroes to succeed. However, real people are often briefly baffled or stunned, undecided, or otherwise incapable of acting decisively in combat, so this is not actually particularly unrealistic behaviour.

Aim actions are effective if you have the time. Sam has, since he is safely behind cover some distance away and is never engaged by the Bad Guys, who are fully occupied with the close-quarters fire of the others.

The Lethality Rating is a quick and easy mechanism to deal with automatic fire. The Suppression rules also work well.

However, not differentiating whether an agent fires one, two, or more shots from a non-automatic weapon in an Attack action is unrealistic and clumsy. Game designer Shane Ivey tells me this is deliberately fuzzy to keep it simple, but to my mind, this is too fuzzy. Tracking individual shots of a long or even a short burst of automatic fire may be bothersome and it therefore makes sense to treat a bunch of them as one Attack, but individual shots do count when an agent has only a limited number available in his handgun or shotgun ‒ and such firearms are much more common than full-automatic weapons, including in the hands of DELTA GREEN agents. Why would an agent ever fire more than one shot if that had no impact on either his hit probability or the damage, or even the fact whether he can use it for Suppression (Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, p. 58)? There is no reason for that either tactically or mentally (eg, he panicked) and all it does is wasting ammunition. As the Handler, I allow agents who fire more than one non-automatic shot per Attack action to roll individually for each shot, both to hit and for damage. However, even firing two shots per action would incur a -20% (Fast Fire) penalty for each roll.

Note that the result of Spence’s failed SAN roll does not manifest until after the battle, Spence literally losing it while driving away from the shootout. This is not allowed per the rules, which require instant effect, but realistic.

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6 comments

  1. Andrew · January 13

    Spence is either the NPC or player who got enraged they failed all their rolls and quit the game immediately after this scene.

    Like

  2. m · January 15

    Do you feel the action scene in the movie is realistic? (I have no opinion my self, just curious)

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    • Hans-Christian Vortisch · January 15

      Reasonably so. It is confusing and the characters mostly act confused. It’s fairly short. There are no major fireworks. They don’t leave dozens of dead behind. Yeah, this is reasonably realistic. There are still issues, but this is about what you can expect in the realism department from a film (and a game, for that matter).

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  3. Alex A · January 16

    Maybe Spence failed a SAN roll earlier in the combat and that lead to his ‘spraying and praying” plus reluctance to withdraw?

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    • Hans-Christian Vortisch · January 16

      Spence actually shows pretty good trigger discipline. Most of his bursts are short and controlled — this is why I think he may have some training, just not that of a Special Operator. He misses mainly because he can’t see properly after having been dazzled. His reluctance to go is probably the adrenaline.

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  4. Kevin Empey · January 28

    Thanks for the work that you put in doing that post. It was a real help in getting a good grasp on how to flow DG Combat.

    Like

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