To prove that the tabletop role-playing system BITS can handle everything, this post introduces the use of vehicles on adventures!
Now, let’s make a distinction between “vehicles” (generic) and the already-covered “ships” and “mechs” (specific). Yes, all vehicles/ships/mechs share the same mechanics and 0 through 4 tiers of effect, but the flexibility of including all things that allow travel carries its own nuance described below.
Tonnage and Tech
The first ways to classify how vehicles can effect BITS dice rolls is to group tiers based on vehicle tonnage or tech-level.
Tonnage would have tier 0 being below the weight of standard vehicles, such as animals and people. Each tier above is a magnitude greater in weight, 1 perhaps being cars, 2 trucks, 3 tanks, etc.
Tech tiers differentiate on the generation of machine. 0 might be a horse cart, 1 a Model T, 2 the modern car, 3 a battle tank, and 4 a next-generation jet plane.
Is the vehicle small? Armored? Airborne? Super-sized? Perhaps not a vehicle at all, but infantry or a building?
These are the “kinds” or “types” of capabilities a vehicle has when dealing with vehicle-sized objects. (Recall punching up or down sizes-of-magnitude has disadvantages and advantages.)
0 holds the place of masses of unarmored infantry or support teams. 1 has light vehicles and mechanized/mobile infantry. 2 carries the tanks and heavy armor. 3 shows off jets and helicopters. 4 rounds out with ships, titanic earth-movers, i.e. hulks that carry all the rest. Using this variation also unifies tiers of scale into one all-playable 0-to-4 set of metrics to keep track of.
Inspired by how the game Starcraft deals with unit sizes, vehicle tiers based on the kind of vehicle offers a lot of flexibility for fictional game context and rule introduction while maintaining sensibility (such as that infantry shouldn’t shoot down capital ships, at least easily!).
For those games with a larger emphasis on economy, vehicles can be assumed to be more useful by how much they cost (ie the difficulty of attainment).
Tier levels have to maintain their magnitude differences, but adding a few zeros to the tiers allows for rapid rebalancing of vehicle use. 0 say is <$1000, 1 between that and <$100K, 2 <$1 million, 3 <$100 million, and 4 being anything $100 million or more.
For example, a Ferrari and an armored humvee would be on tier 2 (both about $300K). However, where a Ferrari is fast, agile, and sleek, a humvee has ballistic plates and space for guns and passengers, yet neither floats like a boat.
Distinctions of what a vehicle can do begs use of special rules.
Everything Else: Special Rules
There is more to vehicles than their BITS tiers. A tier 1 implies only how good a vehicle is at its function, but the “1” lacks what that function is. Special rules provide that definition and make vehicles distinct.
Rules for vehicles should be common where they can, such as does it fly in the sky, sail on water, or drive over ground, is it heavy or light or of moderate frame. Uncommon rules ought to be especially concise and attached to any description of the vehicle itself to keep unnecessary information at bay until needed.
Getting more specific can be useful on a case-by-case basis (e.g. does it glide, hover, float, push with a jet, or pull with a ram scoop when it flies), but unless called for or the vehicle is especially unique, trust that players know a horse might be ridden, a car driven, boats float, and that a helicopter doesn’t need a runway.
These examples so far have covered the travel capacities of vehicles. Here are a few more options:
- How does the vehicle deflect, absorb, or otherwise neglect bullets?
- How long can it go without refueling?
- Does it have weapons? Which ones and where are they? Do they have firing arcs? How long will ammo hold out?
- Can the vehicle explode if damaged?
- How many people can it carry as passengers? Is there a safety system? Cargo?
- Any special skills to operate it?
- Where can this vehicle fit?
Plainly, sky’s-the-limit as it comes to the rules that could apply to a vehicle. But as a design pillar of BITS, discretion is advised. Simple rules only need to be added (and even ignored) when required with a little insight and creativity.
And that’s how you bring vehicles into a BITS game! No longer restricted to human-scale walking and running and fighting, gameplay can expand with planes, trains, and automobiles (or their contextual equivalents).
Someday I’ll get this into a BITS guide. Before I do, which grouping – kind, cost, tonnage, or tech – is your favorite? (I’m a “kind” guy myself ~)
As always, deeply appreciate your feedback. Cheers!