• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

We Made Up Some Shit We Thought Would Be Fun: A "Tank" was NOT somebody in heavy armor...

Old Geezer

Active member
Banned
From my upcoming book, of course:

UNSTATED ASSUMPTIONS – D&D AND TRACTICS

Another one of the games we played a lot was TRACICS, a WW2 miniatures wargame. Wargamers being wargamers, WW2 wargames means tanks. And much like CHAINMAIL influenced D&D and how we played it, TRACTICS also influenced how we played D&D.

If you do any research at all on armored combat, one thing you find out very quickly is how limited visibility is inside a tank. From the first World War One experiments right up until today, observation has been extremely important to tanks. It’s not surprising that wargames based on tanks would have rules about observation. Virtually every WW2 game I’ve ever played uses some sort of observation rule, whether it’s dummy markers, or dice rolls to spot, or a variety of other methods. What TRACTICS uses is an “observation path.”

In TRACTICS, a single vehicle can observe a path 4” wide, from the center of the vehicle to the edge of the board. Anything in that path is seen, unless it is behind trees, behind a hill, or similarly concealed. This may sound like a lot. We played TRACTICS on a 5 by 8 foot table, though. Go measure out a 5 by 8 foot area, pick a random spot, and measure a 4” path. You’ll see that a LOT of area is NOT being observed.

You can only shoot at what you see, and the other side can only shoot at you if they see you. It doesn’t take much to figure out how vital observation is in this sort of game, and that is exactly the case; learning where to look to anticipate enemy units, how to look with various units to maximize coverage, and how to take advantage of concealment, were major portions of the play of the game.

This carried over into D&D in a couple of ways. First, we were used to being very careful about where we were looking, and specifying it exactly. Even though we weren’t limited to a 4” wide path, we assumed that observation was important. Possibly the most famous instance of this is Terry Kuntz, who, every time he stepped through an opening, would announce “I look up and down and all around.” Opening a door and then saying “We look around before we enter” was second nature. If you just went blundering in, you deserved whatever happened to you. (Note that this is not the same as the referee saying “You didn’t say that you were looking specifically for a black dragon on top of a pile of gold, so you didn’t see it and it kills you.” The technical term for that is “the referee is an asshole.”)

The other major effect that TRACTICS had on us was that “you can’t anticipate everything.” When you only have a 4” wide path to observe on a 40 square foot board, there WILL be areas that are not under observation. Sometimes, the first clue you would have that there were enemy forces around is when your lead tank blew up. Not only that, but unless one of the surviving units was observing the right place, you had no guarantee of seeing the enemy even after they opened fire. Nothing like spending two or three turns of frantic scrambling as your tanks are getting picked off, trying to figure out where the HELL the enemy is!

Also, one thing you learn about tank combat is that armor does not make you invulnerable. It increases the difficulty of the enemy destroying a unit, but no matter what vehicle you have – yes, even a Tiger II or Jagdtiger – if the enemy wants it destroyed badly enough, they will destroy it. So when we were down in the dungeon, the notion that, for instance, poison could kill you no matter what didn’t seem out of line to us. Nothing was certain; everything carried some modicum of risk.

This meant that in D&D we had a certain bit of fatalism in our attitude. There were precautions you could take, and nobody wanted to die by being a dolt – like Goose says in “Top Gun,” “The Department of Defense regrets to inform you that your sons have been killed because they were stupid.” But ultimately we knew that, no matter how careful we were, no matter what precautions we took, there was always a chance that the first clue we would have that there was something dangerous would be the referee’s words of “Roll a saving throw.”

Sometimes, you don’t know the enemy is there until the lead unit dies.
 

mrlost

Hi I'm Lost
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Awesome. I hope you Kickstart this so I can pledge money.
 

Daztur

Seoulite
Validated User
What I've noticed about old school D&D is that a lot of simple things can really bring out the tactics. For example side-based initiative is great for getting the players to think as a group and declaring actions and THEN rolling for initiative really makes an ENORMOUS difference. But probably my favorite little thing in the S&W game I've been running has been the rule that if you have something like a spear you can stand three abreast in a single square on the map, two abreast with things like swords and a guy with a big-assed two handed swords needs a whole square of elbow room. Having the amount of elbow room needed matter finally gives the humble spear its time in the sun which is a great change for countless greatswords/axes and halberds and just about nothing else for fighters.
 
Last edited:

Sage Genesis

Two
RPGnet Member
Validated User
From my upcoming book, of course:

UNSTATED ASSUMPTIONS – D&D AND TRACTICS

Another one of the games we played a lot was TRACICS
So was this called tractics or tracics?

(Edit: for clarity, I do know what it was called. I just hope that this wasn't copy-pasted from your work file. Or if it was, that it hasn't gone to print yet. Here's hoping you can still fix the typo! :) )
 
Last edited:

ru

temporary avatar
RPGnet Member
Validated User
once again I am reminded (in a good way) that people have extraordinarily different playstyles.
 

timbannock

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
once again I am reminded (in a good way) that people have extraordinarily different playstyles.
Indeed.

I have trouble figuring out how this played at the table. Both players -- U.S. and German units, say -- can see where the tanks and other units are, regardless of what the units can see. If you want to roll up to your enemy and get them in your "observation path," it seems like it wouldn't really be that hard to metagame away. I mean, no one would purposely drive their tank around the table in the opposite path that their enemy is taking, just to be a dick, right?
 

rstites

Active member
Validated User
What I've noticed about old school D&D is that a lot of simple things can really bring out the tactics. For example side-based initiative is great for getting the players to think as a group and declaring actions and THEN rolling for initiative really makes an ENORMOUS difference. But probably my favorite little thing in the S&W game I've been running has been the rule that if you have something like a spear you can stand three abreast in a single square on the map, two abreast with things like swords and a guy with a big-assed two handed swords needs a whole square of elbow room. Having the amount of elbow room needed matter finally gives the humble spear its time in the sun which is a great change for countless greatswords/axes and halberds and just about nothing else for fighters.
Spears also have reach, so you can use them from the second rank. We allowed 3 abreast in the front regardless, but arm those with swords/maces and shield. Second rank is all spears. Then you get 2-to-1 advantage on anything that engages you. Also, spears can be set against a charge: double damage and they hit before the other side, regardless of initiative. Climb on a horse and that spear is a lance: double damage from a charge.

Polearms and such are worthless in a dungeon, so I've never seen anyone even try to use them in confined spaces.

I have trouble figuring out how this played at the table. Both players -- U.S. and German units, say -- can see where the tanks and other units are, regardless of what the units can see. If you want to roll up to your enemy and get them in your "observation path," it seems like it wouldn't really be that hard to metagame away. I mean, no one would purposely drive their tank around the table in the opposite path that their enemy is taking, just to be a dick, right?
I've never played it. However, it's not uncommon to note the location of units on notepads and only reveal them when the other side observes them. This is really easy if it's a game involving a referee. They can adjudicate when one side can see the other.
 

AbdulAlhazred

Registered User
Validated User
Indeed.

I have trouble figuring out how this played at the table. Both players -- U.S. and German units, say -- can see where the tanks and other units are, regardless of what the units can see. If you want to roll up to your enemy and get them in your "observation path," it seems like it wouldn't really be that hard to metagame away. I mean, no one would purposely drive their tank around the table in the opposite path that their enemy is taking, just to be a dick, right?
It goes without saying that these sorts of games had referees. You (or Old Geezer) might want to consider the impact this had on the role of the DM in early D&D games. While D&D didn't -usually- have some guy playing the enemy the DM WAS a neutral referee, or expected to be so. When it came time for the orcs to spring into action he was expected to play it square, and beyond that he was expected to set up the environment and the enemy BEFOREHAND. The idea of more orcs showing up just because the party was playing tougher than anticipated in order to make a dramatic scene would have been HIGHLY frowned upon. Like basically if the players found out the DM would be accused of cheating; there would certainly be grumbles.
 

mrlost

Hi I'm Lost
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Indeed.

I have trouble figuring out how this played at the table. Both players -- U.S. and German units, say -- can see where the tanks and other units are, regardless of what the units can see. If you want to roll up to your enemy and get them in your "observation path," it seems like it wouldn't really be that hard to metagame away. I mean, no one would purposely drive their tank around the table in the opposite path that their enemy is taking, just to be a dick, right?
Old Geezer said:
Virtually every WW2 game I’ve ever played uses some sort of observation rule, whether it’s dummy markers, or dice rolls to spot, or a variety of other methods. What TRACTICS uses is an “observation path.”
I've never played TRACTICS but I have played Heavy Gear, WH40k, Star Wars miniature battles, and a few other games that used dummy markers were put placed by each side and moved around the board carefully until such point as one side would 'see' the other at which point a roll was made to determine if the dummy marker represented an actual enemy unit and if it did then the model would be substituted as long as line of sight was maintained however once it was out of sight again a second dummy marker was placed on the first and quickly the two would go there separate ways.
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom