Conflict: Stoppage


One of the troublesome parts of any game is counting consumables, whether ammunition, food, torches, spells or whatever. In normal circumstances this can be handwaved, since the party is not out long enough to use up all their ammunition and other consumables, and can resupply. For example, one study [lengthy pdf, but interesting] of police shootings found,

Officers involved in gunfights fired, on average, 7.6 rounds, compared with an average of 3.5 for officers who fired against subjects who did not return fire. Between 1998 and 2006, the average hit rate was 18 percent for gunfights. Between 1998 and 2006, the average hit rate in situations in which fire was not returned was 30 percent.

Thus in any encounter, modern police officers are typically firing off less than a single magazine. In reality the officer who shoots a suspect is spending the next several months dealing with the legal fallout of it all. But in a typical game setting where they go out on the beat again tomorrow, they will still have had the chance to replace their spent magazine. Ammunition is only in danger of running out should there be multiple combatants and an otherwise lengthy combat, or a series of smaller combats without the chance of a resupply - which is to say, a minority of war situations. 

However, weapons may experience stoppages even when ammunition has not run out. This may be poor design (such as the M-16 initially not having a chromed chamber), long wear (the three decade old SLRs of the ADF had frequent magazine jams due to the magazine springs becoming brittle) or simply circumstance (dust, heat, etc). During the Battle of Wanat, US and ANA soldiers experienced multiple firearm stoppages simply due to the weapon overheating through a large rate of fire, the action expanding and jamming, and one report from 2006 tells us, 

Soldiers issued cleaning kits [note: only 64% of total] were less likely to experience stoppages and more likely to be confident in weapon reliability. [...]  
Those who attached accessories to their weapon were more likely to experience stoppages, regardless of how the accessories were attached (those using duct tape and zip cord were more likely to experience stoppages). [...] 
Soldiers firing weapons on the semi-automatic setting [compared to automatic] decreased the probability of experiencing a stoppage by half. 

To save paperwork we can count magazines rather than ammunition. We can abstract "firing" to mean "firing enough shots to get a hit." When the dice throw is bad, we can abstract that to mean there is a "stoppage" - whether this is the magazine emptying, the weapon jamming or overheating, getting too dirty to fire, or whatever is immaterial - it's stopped firing, and the person needs to clear the stoppage, replace the magazine, and go on. 

In a percentile game where the player must throw under their skill to hit, we can say that any throw of doubles (11, 22, etc) which hits is a critical hit, and any throw of doubles which misses is a stoppage, and the person must use at least one action to clear that stoppage, load a fresh magazine, and go on firing. 

In Conflict we use a throw of 10+ on 2d6 to score an effective hit. Obviously, the condition of firearms will affect their chance of a stoppage. As with almost everything in Conflict, condition is rated from +0 to +3. 

0. Unusable (parts missing or broken, torn or decayed) equipment cannot be used. In some cases they may be repaired, or else used for parts. 
1. Poor (left in mud, never cleaned, some parts taken and not replaced, etc) on an adjusted throw of 5-; unless recently purchased, equipment owned by people with no relevant familiarity is automatically poor. Improvised equipment such as tea towels for bandages, safety pins for lockpicks, scopes taped to rifles, etc are automatically poor and cannot be improved or repaired. 
2. Acceptable equipment has a stoppage on 4-. This is equipment which has been used recently, left in less than ideal conditions, and so on.
3. New equipment has a stoppage on 3-; these have been cleaned and appropriately maintained and resupplied recently.

Rusty AK-47 seized from South African poachers. Yes, it still fires. 

Note that the description refers to equipment and not just firearms. The stoppage rules may be used for all equipment, for example a Medic's Field Kit may be in Acceptable condition, and each time it's used in first aid, if the player's adjusted throw is 4 or less, there is a "stoppage" and it needs to be "reloaded." In this way we can abstract all consumables. 

Some equipment may be more or less reliable. Historically, any new series of equipment is less reliable for a time while "teething problems" are dealt with, and if a piece of equipment has been in service for two decades or more it is more reliable. The referee may adjust the stoppage value up or down for a particular piece of equipment as they see fit, but be wary of creating "super" equipment which is extra reliable, and extra-accurate, and extra-light, and so on. 

Circumstances may likewise affect reliability of equipment, such as weather and nature of use. Bandages don't do well after being dropped in swamps, food rots in tropical conditions but is preserved in arctic conditions. And while automatic fire normally makes it easier to hit (+1) it also makes stoppages more likely (+1). 

For example, Cpl Merkava is on watch at an outpost in the dark hours before dawn. It's overcast and the moon disappears below the horizon, so she brings out her night vision goggles which have been sitting at the outpost for the last month, in the hands of the local militia and thus in poor condition. Unknown to her, an insurgent is creeping along the trail below her hill. The referee asks for an Observation check, and she throws 4,1 = +5. This is adjusted by the light conditions (dark, -4) and her Observation/Tactical (+1), and the NVG themselves (+2) for a net result of +4. As this is under the stoppage value of poor equipment at 5, she gets a stoppage. As she peers down the hill the screen flickers and goes out. She takes her NVGs off, and fishes around in the box for a spare battery. Finding one, she "reloads" the NVGs and puts them back on. This has taken a few rounds to do, and so by the time she puts them back on the insurgent is closer - this time she throws 6,1 = +7, adding the dark (-4), her familiarity (+1) and the goggles (+2) for a net +6. The referee rules that she sees movement of something, but cannot make out what it is (for which she would have needed +10). 

Popping an illumination flare into her grenade launcher, she fires in the air. It blooks off, flares out, and its chute opens and it drifts down sizzling and casting moving shadows all across the hill. This acts as better light and the referee rules that her throw now will be simply a measure of how close the insurgent gets before she sees him clearly. She throws 5,4 = +9 adding the dark (-4), her familiarity (+1) and the flare (+4) for a net +10. The referee throws for how far away the insurgent is, and it comes up as 20 metres - she sees him, teeth bared, bayonet fixed. 

"Stand to!" she cries as she jumps on the machinegun, slaps down the cover and cocks it, and lets rip with a long burst of fire. She chooses not to aim directly at the insurgent she's seen as she assumes he is merely one of many, and she lays out a long, long burst which acts as suppressing fire (reduces Readiness by 1, see a later post on this) to make him keep his head down, but her machinegun which like her NVG was in the care of local militia is in poor condition. 

She throws 4,2 = +6 with the dark and flare cancelling each-other out, she has no familiarity with machineguns (+0), so that her net +6 result is unchanged. Normally a +6 would not be a hit (a 10+ is required) but also not a stoppage with a poor condition weapon (5-). However, firing automatic raises stoppage numbers by +1, so that the machinegun has a stoppage on 6-; her total was +6, and so she gets a stoppage. Did she burn through a whole belt? Probably not - but the rounds are joined by disintegrating links of metal, one or more of which may have jammed in the mechanism. 

She takes a combat round to clear the stoppage and be ready to fire again, in this combat round with no firing, punctuated only by the cries of the people waking on Merkava's crying out and firing, the insurgent gets up and starts running up the hill again. Being lightly encumbered, not a sprinter and so on, he may normally run 8 metres in a combat round. He closes from 20 to 12 metres, enthusiastically screaming and prodding his bayonet forwards, and Merkava has cleared the stoppage and can fire again. Things are likely to soon become uncomfortable for at least one of them. 

By using these stoppage rules the referee can abstract the counting of ammunition and other consumables, counting "reloads" rather than rounds and individual meals, and encourage players to have their adventurers keep their equipment in good condition, acquire good food, and so on. 


  1. Interesting factoid...after the wide-scale issue of the stock M16, before the -A1, in Vietnam, troops issued new ones were given to swapping weapons with troops returning from the field on medvac, because they didn't trust new manufactured ones to those with some wear and tear.

    1. In the linked study, there were some odd things, like weapons given a lubricant wipe-down more often were less reliable; but it may simply be that the less reliable weapons people wiped more often. As well, dry lubricant created less stoppages than wet.

      But in general, things which are a level of detail where there is a lot of real world dispute are probably things we should leave out of the rules.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Rules for effective gamemastering

AD&D1e: Weapon vs AC

AD&D1e: Common men & the shield wall