I am a GM who has been running Outbreak: Undead and Outbreak: Deep Space for at least 4 years now, both for my friends and at various cons, including Gen Con. I was one of the beta testers on Outbreak: Deep Space and Outbreak: Undead 2ed. I have written, as of now, 7 custom scenarios that I run at cons. I’ve must have run HOTH 20 or more times in my life now and still enjoy running it with first edition rules. I’m what Hunter’s Calls an Action Ranger.
Obviously, I enjoy the game system (both Undead and Deep Space) and appreciate the scope of what the core mechanics are trying to accomplish, however there are rules I have either modified or never use at my tables. I wanted to start sharing my thoughts, and I’m starting with Fire Control and how it pertains to depletion.
As stated on pg. 111 of the Starter Kit, Fire Control (FC) allows a re-roll of a depletion dice per FC. So if someone has a FC 2, and they have used their weapon three times, they would have the option to re-roll two of the three white depletion dice they roll after a use.
As a GM who is not a fan of “housekeeping” when it comes to mechanics, especially mechanics during turns, I use a different method for implementing FC in my Outbreak: Undead and Outbreak: Deep Space scenarios.
My FC house rule is that each FC in allows the character to eliminate one depletion dice per FC during the depletion roll. So back to the example above, using my house rule, a character with a FC 2 using a weapon for a third time, would only need to roll 1 depletion dice to determine if they have met or exceeded the weapon’s capacity. On the 5th use of the weapon, they would only need to roll 3 depletion dice and so on.
Instead of rolling several times now after using a weapon to determine if it is depleted, we only need to roll once. In my games this keeps the action flowing more smoothly instead of a player waiting their turn for the player before them to perform dice management.
To take this further, on template character sheets I use at various cons, I do the math for my players and only have them make depletion rolls when mathematically necessary. For example, I know that if someone has a FC 1 and a weapon with capacity of 9, there is no point to make a depletion roll using my house rules (I do not use the D5! Rule for non-energy based weapons in my games). Also, I know if someone has a FC1, they do not need to make a depletion roll after the second use of a weapon because there is no possible way a single white depletion die can surpass the capacity of the weapon (when ignoring d5!).
It is on the third usage of the weapon, the person would need to make a depletion roll, and since they have a FC of 1, they only need to roll 2 dice.
The way this looks on my character template sheets is I have a Depletion tracker, where each circle represents a use of the weapon. An orange number represents the number of dice that must be rolled the first time we check for depletion and it is placed on the usage (circle) where it becomes mathematically possible to deplete the fire arm.
The players know that after the reach this point, after each use, they add a depletion die to their rolls until the weapon is empty.
In order to speed things up, I have created a table I use to track depletion based on various capacities and FC. You can download it clicking here. Below is an example of what the table looks like for weapon with a capacity of 10 and various FC.
Again as a GM, I do this to minimize the time between players doing their checks during the check phase. I am not a fan of a lot of idle time for players sitting around waiting for their next turn as the player or players before them make several (mostly) unnecessary rolls. And this is important for the sake of the interest in the scenario I’m running. Even with my attempts to minimize as much “crunch” as possible, I will have tables where one or more players just aren’t very good at math and the process stalls a bit. If I were to leave several re-rolls in for them to calculate, a single encounter with a few undead would take several hours and would feel tedious.
This house rule may or may not work for your Outbreak games, but my experience has been that players, especially ones who do not want to dive deep into the nuances of the mechanics, really just want to know when they need to roll and what effects their rolls have. Taking time to figure out if they should re-roll dice or calculate how they spend DoS is a buzz kill during the session as it takes the players out of the story.