The Hardboiled GMshoe's Office

[Q&A] Derek Chappell (Patrol)


[20:01] <+DerekChappell> Hello there everyone! My name is Derek Chappell, as my username attests! I write a lot of games, but the one I’m here for today is called PATROL: Military Roleplay in the 20th Century

[20:02] <+DerekChappell> It’s a d6 driven game designed from the ground up to handle infantry warfare on real-life maps, and is envisioned as a spiritual successor to Joe Martin’s RECON

[20:02] <+DerekChappell> and it just came out today!

[20:02] <+DerekChappell> (done) (is that the format)

[20:03] <+DerekChappell> (to say done. i dunno. this is new and scary)

[20:03] <+DayTripper> real life maps = awesome

[20:03] <~Dan> Thanks, DerekChappell!

[20:03] <~Dan> The floor is open to questions!

[20:04] <+DayTripper> Derek, can you toss us a link please?  We wanna read more

[20:04] <+DerekChappell> sure! i can toss you a couple

[20:04] <+DerekChappell> first, the game itself

[20:04] <+DerekChappell> (Link:

[20:05] <+DerekChappell> and the forum post i used to explain to my playtesters and fans what the game actually was

[20:05] <+DerekChappell> (Link:

[20:06] <+DerekChappell> (warning: some swearing on that forum post. And in the book. :P)

[20:06] <~Dan> So it’s about Vietnam in particular?

[20:07] <+DerekChappell> Yeah. In a lot of little ways and a few big ways. You could use it with some modifications to run games in other settings, and I’m working on both a modern and ww2 expansion set, but the game is very informed tonally by the Vietnam War

[20:08] <+DerekChappell> that said, the rules are very genericized. If you ignore all the specific trivia and make your own creation profiles, you could easily run a variety of conflicts

[20:09] <~Dan> In military games, rank becomes an issue between PCs. How do you handle that? Are all PCs of the same rank?

[20:10] <+DerekChappell> The PCs all play enlisted or non-commissioned characters, and, being set in the later years of the Vietnam War, order has broken down a bit

[20:11] <+DerekChappell> Rank explicitely offers no real authority over other players, but the highest-ranking character does get to boss around NPC squadmates. It kind of acts as one of the game’s minor incentives towards “in-universe” disruptive behaviour, in invoking, earning, losing, or rebelling against rank can be a theme

[20:12] <+DerekChappell> even though it isn’t explicitely mechanized (on purpose)

[20:12] <+DerekChappell> the GM is instructed to assign rank “randomly or maliciously”

[20:12] <+DerekChappell> 😛

[20:12] * ~Dan chuckles

[20:13] <~Dan> Based upon the name of the game, I’m guessing the PCs operate in small groups?

[20:15] <+DerekChappell> Yeah. The recommendation for a four-person party is them, plus four “Battle Buddies” who act as flatter, weaker secondary PCs, with the rest of their platoon “out there” somewhere and controlled by the GM

[20:15] <+DerekChappell> there’s a bunch of tips for managing large numbers of NPCs in this game, helped along by the fact that it is very mechanically straightforward

[20:16] <+DerekChappell> The PCs are kind of like the main characters of Tour of Duty or a similar series, in that they aren’t really mechanically superpowered heroes, but the deck is stacked in their favour just enough for them to repeatedly encounter interesting situations

[20:17] <~Dan> By that, are you referring to a “drama point” mechanic of some sort?

[20:17] <+LastArgument> The blurb mentions a morale mechanic, could you elaborate on how you handle the emotional war is hell element of the setting?

[20:17] <+DerekChappell> that said, it’s still a ver<~Dan> By that, are you referring to a “drama point” mechanic of some sort?

[20:18] <+DerekChappell> nothing of the sort. Rather, the players are just more kitted out and slightly more skilled than average.

[20:18] * ~Dan nods

[20:18] <+DerekChappell> A regular squad of riflemen running around (this game is very unit-oriented) has a bunch of riflemen with 7 in all their stats, and maybe a squad machine-gun

[20:19] <+DerekChappell> the PCs are all specialists with awesome gear and slightly higher than average stats

[20:19] <+DerekChappell> <+LastArgument> The blurb mentions a morale mechanic, could you elaborate on how you handle the emotional war is hell element of the setting?

[20:19] <+DerekChappell> this is probably the coolest part of the game 😀

[20:19] <+DerekChappell> So, everyone sits down to play with two sheets

[20:19] <+DerekChappell> the first is their character sheet, obviously. On it they’ve selected one of four alignments.

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[20:20] <~Dan> (Howdy, Feylands!)

[20:20] <+DerekChappell> the other sheet is their “Status Effect” sheet, which is inspired by a game you might have heard of called Torchbearer

[20:20] <+DerekChappell> you’ve got Hunger, Exhaustion, Thirst, Injury and Doubt as these status tracks in a chart

[20:20] <+DerekChappell> events can advance these (just move a token on the chart) and they have various effects

[20:20] <+DerekChappell> Hungry soldiers are weaker. Tired soliders are less attentive, etc

[20:21] <+DerekChappell> But, additionally, each slot on this chart has a number printed on it. You add all those numbers together and you get your Fatigue, which is how Done you are with Vietnam right now.

[20:21] <+DerekChappell> by the end of the session, you need to earn enough Victory Points to offset the Fatigue you gained, or your character actually degrades, physically or mentally

[20:22] <+DerekChappell> the objectives give you some victory points, but not enough for a really hard mission. So instead, your Alignment gives you ways to get more VPs.

[20:22] <+DerekChappell> these ways tend towards being unsafe, morally unsound, or dangerous, and the different alignments are all slightly contridictory

[20:22] <+DerekChappell> hence, drama!

[20:23] <~Dan> That’s… pretty clever, actually. 🙂

[20:23] <~Dan> What are the alignments?

[20:23] <+LastArgument> That does sound pretty great.

[20:24] <+DerekChappell> The alignments are based on this thing Bill Mauldin wrote about soldiers, which is that the front reduces you to your most base motivations, and by Micheal Herr waxing poetic about how war robs you of a face, because there’s only four of these, they are very simple, and they are the same for everyone.

[20:24] <+DerekChappell> they are based on the question “when the chips are down, who do you care about”

[20:25] <+DerekChappell> Idealistic, they care about “everyone”, Pragmatic, they care about their comrades, Righteous, they care about their Cause, and Egocentric, they care about themselves

[20:25] <+DerekChappell> you can play these all kinds of different ways and it doesn’t actually say anything at all about your character’s moral or ethical framework

[20:25] <+DerekChappell> its straight-up just what they default to when they are desperate.

[20:26] <+DerekChappell> An idealist can be a patriot, a righteous character a pacifist politically who finds violence the easy solution

[20:26] <+DerekChappell> that kind of thing

[20:27] * ~Dan nods

[20:28] <+DerekChappell> that’s some heavy stuff to drop on the chat. Sorry ’bout that 😛

[20:28] <~Dan> No, not at all!

[20:28] <~Dan> It’s all part of your game, after all.

[20:28] <~Dan> Do you have a character sheet we can see?

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[20:28] <+LastArgument> We can handle heavy I think.

[20:29] <+DerekChappell> sure, lemme just get it exported

[20:29] <+DerekChappell> i can show a bunch of sample pages

[20:29] <+DerekChappell> (Link:

[20:29] <+DerekChappell> here’s the fatigue mechanic and narcotics rules!

[20:29] <+DerekChappell> (Link:

[20:29] <+DerekChappell> here’s what vehicle profiles look like!

[20:31] <+DerekChappell> (Link:

[20:31] <+DerekChappell> and here’s the character sheet and status chart

[20:32] <+LastArgument> Beautifully designed.

[20:32] <~Dan> Agreed!

[20:33] <~Dan> Can you describe the core mechanic?

[20:33] <+DerekChappell> note that the first two images are /slightly/ out of date. They’ve been proofed since

[20:33] <+DerekChappell> ooh sure!

[20:33] <+DerekChappell> i love doing that

[20:33] <+DerekChappell> i’d had this game in mind for a long while just waiting on a core mechanic, and it came to me very suddenly so i basically dropped everything and spent six months making this game 😛

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[20:33] <+DerekChappell> this is a d6 driven system, and you roll a LOT of d6s in it

[20:34] <~Dan> (wb, Feylands!)

[20:34] <+DerekChappell> your stats, plus the bonuses from your gear, form your dice pool

[20:34] <+DerekChappell> to use a combat example, let’s imagine a rifleman shooting at some hazy figure 200 meters in the distance

[20:35] <+DerekChappell> he has a Proficiency of 7, and his Assault Rifle gives him a +3 to his Suppressive Fire attack

[20:35] <+DerekChappell> so he is going to roll 10 dice!

[20:35] <+DerekChappell> on those dice, only 6s are successes, and 1s are Failures

[20:36] <+DerekChappell> the dice mechanic makes physical the basic theme of this game; you throw a lot at the wall, and only a little bit sticks. You have to go hunting for the good, and you’ll inevitably find the bad you did as well. 😛

[20:36] <+DerekChappell> however, this rifleman is Skilled with his rifle, so he’ll count 5s as successes too

[20:36] <+DerekChappell> if he matches the successes, he’ll hit, damage will be done, the target will advance up the Injury chart and some other bad things will happen

[20:37] * +dormouse_ hops on Cassiemouse

[20:37] <+DerekChappell> those failures will come back and bite the rifleman, though. Each 1 consumes a piece of ammunition. That works a bit differently for different actions; sometimes failures do nothing. Sometimes they impose costs or status effects. Sometimes they really hurt, like in Melee

[20:38] <+DerekChappell> if our rifleman was unlucky enough to roll more 1s than 6s, his roll went FUBAR. In that case, some very bad penalty is applied

[20:38] <+DerekChappell> that doesn’t mean he /failed/, per say. you can pass a test and still FUBAR

[20:38] <+dormouse_> what if he rolls no ones and no sixes

[20:38] <+DerekChappell> but in this case, his m16 jams

[20:38] <~Dan> It sounds like attributes combine traditional attributes and hyper-generalized skills.

[20:38] <+DerekChappell> if he rolls no successes or failures, then, well, nothing happens except time passing

[20:39] <+DerekChappell> in PATROL, there’s no “combat turns” or “narrative time”. The clock is always running

[20:39] <+dormouse_> but he pulled the trigger?

[20:39] <+DerekChappell> sure, and shot a lot of nothing

[20:39] <+DerekChappell> US forces in Vietnam expended 52,000 rounds of ammunition for every body

[20:39] <+dormouse_> so what’s the difference between that and failure

[20:39] <+dormouse_> and since he rolled no ones, he spent no ammunition?

[20:40] <+DerekChappell> he didn’t shoot enough ammunition to make a difference

[20:40] <+dormouse_> or do the one spend ammunition in addition to w/e

[20:40] <+DerekChappell> in his case, he probably ended up behind an awkward berm or something like that

[20:40] <+DerekChappell> and saw very few oppertunities to shoot that turn

[20:40] <+DerekChappell> the game deliberately avoids specifics of where you are standing or how you are posed because, well, your soldier character knows better than you!

[20:41] <+DerekChappell> the smallest unit of measurement is 10 meters and instead of having cover being a thing on the field, soldiers aware of a threat are automatically harder to hit.

[20:42] <~Dan> So weapons make you more likely to hit rather than to do more damage?

[20:42] <+DerekChappell> because the clock is always running, the GM has a cool roundel and, after every action (or multiple times during extended actions like moving to places and stuff) they tick forward on the roundel. They use that for timekeeping so that characters can consume supplies and stuff.

[20:42] <+DerekChappell> it depends on the weapon

[20:43] <+DerekChappell> but yes, most of the small arms just let you throw more dice

[20:43] <+DerekChappell> your degree of success will inflict more damage with small arms

[20:43] <~Dan> What about something like a rocket launcher?

[20:43] <+DerekChappell> with most of those, you’d fire it with what’s called a “Blast Attack”. Which, instead of degrees of success inflicting more damage

[20:44] <+DerekChappell> every degree of success is another guy hit in the grouping of soldiers you are facing, and you roll or inflict flat damage against them

[20:44] <+DerekChappell> grenades work similarly.

[20:44] * ~Dan nods

[20:44] <+DerekChappell> Rocket launchers also interact differently with vehicles, which is why you might want to pack some.

[20:45] <~Dan> How does melee combat work?

[20:45] <+DerekChappell> It’s really gnarly. 😀

[20:46] <+DerekChappell> as mentioned, the smallest unit of measurement in the game is 10 meters. Everything within 10 meters is just effectively in the same place and considered a “unit” for a bunch of mechanical purposes

[20:46] <+DerekChappell> if you find yourself inside the same unit as hostiles, at the end of your turn you have to roll a Melee action, and so do they

[20:47] <+DerekChappell> soldiers are randomly assigned targets, ganging up occurs, etc, and then both sides roll Fortitude Checks (the same dice pool mechanic)

[20:47] <+DerekChappell> for each individual little brawl, the winner(s) get to inflict some terrible effects on the loser(s)

[20:48] <+DerekChappell> but, and this is a huge but, your Failures are Injury back at you!

[20:48] <+DerekChappell> and you can only take 5 Injury before you, you know, die, so that’s really bad news.

[20:48] <+DerekChappell> you generally do not want to get into melee. You have a gun. Use it. 😛

[20:49] <~Dan> Doesn’t that mean that rolling more dice makes you more likely to get hurt?

[20:49] <+DerekChappell> yep. You’re being more aggressive, and now you’re paying for it.

[20:49] <+DerekChappell> (you can always choose to roll less in this game)

[20:50] <+DerekChappell> again, you don’t want to fight in melee in this game. It is deliberately a lose-lose option and there’s almost always something smarter you could be doing.

[20:50] <~Dan> How do you handle activities unrelated to combat?

[20:50] <+DerekChappell> 😀

[20:50] <+DerekChappell> okay so

[20:51] <+DerekChappell> as i mentioned, this game has a constantly running clock

[20:51] <+DerekChappell> you are doing Turns even when out of combat, though generally its set up so nobody but the GM notices

[20:52] <+DerekChappell> we’ve talked a lot about combat which is actually kind of a shame because the game is actually a lot less combat focused than a lot of RPGs. Generally, shootouts with rifles at close range means you did something wrong somewhere.

[20:52] <+DerekChappell> You’ve got that map, so your moving around it, passing time and using up supplies as you persue whatever objectives the GM picked for you

[20:53] <+DerekChappell> those usually involve trying to find your enemies or their logistics, so that generally means talking with civilians

[20:54] <+DerekChappell> the game has an enforced language barrier for Western troops; you don’t get to communicate openly with civilians, you have to run everything through a Check that determines how many concepts you can get across to people, and then there’s negotiations or maybe even interrogations, and generally everything i could think of mechanically to make “asking somebody for quest information”…

[20:54] <+DerekChappell> into a process involving a lot of distrust and miscommunication. Because, you know, hearts and minds.

[20:55] * ~Dan nods

[20:55] <+DerekChappell> so maybe your medic sets about the village treating the sick to earn some brownie points while your intel guy tries to smooze the elders, and your engineer decides, you know what, we’re going to be here forever talking to these guys (again, clock is ticking) how about we dig some defensive positions

[20:56] <+DerekChappell> you go scouting for mines and clear trees and deal with a muddled up command and trudge over to a hill to get your radio working

[20:56] <+DerekChappell> the game is hyperfocused on soldiering, but that’s a lot more /stuff/ than just combat!

[20:57] <~Dan> So what covers a PC’s ability to schmooze elders and such?

[20:57] <+DerekChappell> i ran a whole test session where nobody fired a shot in anger as they cleared an escape road, negotiated between two rival villages, and went hunting for hallucinagenic mushrooms 😛

[20:57] <~Dan> Heh. 🙂

[20:58] <+DerekChappell> Your Vigiliance is your combination wisdom/charisma/intelligence stat, so you’ll be rolling that in a couple of different actions

[20:58] <+DerekChappell> the Intel guy has a Trait which makes him more and more likely to succeed the longer he talks to somebody. Its designed to basically incentivize the face of your party to spend a while doing stuff, so everyone else has to find something to do in the village.

[20:59] <+DerekChappell> (again, its okay to repeat checks in this game because clock really is ticking! time is punishment for failure)

[20:59] <~Dan> So it sounds like this game is at least somewhat class-based?

[20:59] <+DerekChappell> yes

[21:00] <+DerekChappell> there’s 12 MOSes, which are basically classes, but there’s a lot of overlap

[21:00] <+DerekChappell> you don’t /need/ any one particular class save maybe Radio Telephone Operator (who is a wizard, so you won’t get shortages of signups for that)

[21:01] <+DerekChappell> and generally, everyone can do everything and use all equipment

[21:01] <+DerekChappell> you just start with slightly different skills and gear.

[21:01] <+DerekChappell> you can quickly make up the difference

[21:01] <+DerekChappell> each MOS has a unique trait, though, which is why the Intel guy is better at talking to people than the rifleman with all the same skills

[21:02] <~Dan> So aside from class abilities, there aren’t any true skills?

[21:02] <+DerekChappell> its a very role-based game (you need a face, a heavy, a scout and a medic generally) and those map loosely to the MOS, but not rigidly

[21:02] <+DerekChappell> the skills are just “for these tests, your 5s are successes also”, so they are very simple

[21:03] <+DerekChappell> there’s not really any Talents or Feats or such

[21:03] * ~Dan nods

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[21:04] <~Dan> How does vehicle combat work?

[21:04] <+DerekChappell> vehicles are fun 😀 i hate games with bad vehicle rules so i always try to make sure they are exciting

[21:04] <+DerekChappell> vehicles have slots for people to go into, giving you a role in them

[21:04] <+DerekChappell> driver drives, gunner shoots etc

[21:05] <+DerekChappell> but those slots also determine if you are “in” the vehicle, or sitting “on” it, which changes a bunch of stuff

[21:05] <+DerekChappell> most notably, being “in” an armoured vehicle is very safe!

[21:05] <+DerekChappell> however, it also restricts your effective Vigilance for spotting, which is how far you can see, and your ability to detect mines and stuff…

[21:05] <+DerekChappell> with the hatches closed, the driver of a tank can only see, say, about 30 meters

[21:06] <+DerekChappell> vehicles have an armour value, and they straight-up ignore any weapon not beefy enough to go through. If a weapon /does/ inflict damage, the vehicle makes a Shock test based on its Toughness (the same way infantrymen do) with the difficulty set by the damage, and if they fail the vehicle is disabled

[21:07] <+DerekChappell> on a FUBAR, something goes terribly wrong in the vehicle, like a thrown track or a fire

[21:07] <+DerekChappell> the vehicle rules are pretty comprehensive, but they fit in just three pages (four with an example)

[21:07] <+DerekChappell> so i’m really proud of them

[21:07] <+LastArgument> That sounds pretty nice density

[21:09] <~Dan> Can the game handle activities away from the field?

[21:09] <+DerekChappell> not at all!

[21:10] <+DerekChappell> the game begins with a briefing and ends with everyone writing up their reports and secretly accusing each other of war crimes/recommending each other for medals

[21:11] <+DerekChappell> what “the field” means can vary a lot though; there’s rules for, say, playing Vietnamese National Police walking the beat in Saigon after curfew…

[21:11] <+DerekChappell> and i played an excellent game where everyone was on R&R for the first half and we used our Communicate actions to try to order beer and gamble

[21:12] <~Dan> Cool. That’s the sort of thing I mean.

[21:12] <+DerekChappell> heh

[21:13] <~Dan> Do you include stats for jungle animals?

[21:13] <+DerekChappell> yep! snakes and insects and stuff are just character, but there’s rules for a variety of animals

[21:13] <+DerekChappell> especially as one of the classes is the k9 handler

[21:14] <+DerekChappell> notably, there’s rules for asian elephants (early in the war, both north and south used them as pack animals)

[21:14] <+DerekChappell> and tigers

[21:14] <+DerekChappell> which are very, very scary

[21:14] <~Dan> Huh. Interesting.

[21:15] <+DerekChappell> (Link:*ubXjS2TbT93VJb3XK7OciA.jpeg)*ubXjS2TbT93VJb3XK7OciA.jpeg

[21:15] <~Dan> I’ll be darned. 🙂

[21:16] <~Dan> Are there rules for calling in artillery and/or air strikes?

[21:16] <+DerekChappell> absolutely

[21:16] <+DerekChappell> that’s the RTO’s job

[21:16] <+DerekChappell> the bombardment rules are super satifying in this game

[21:16] <+DerekChappell> so you’ve got some artillery piece behind the lines, right? well, its still probably on the map because you play with really big maps

[21:17] <+DerekChappell> (we usually play 5×5 or 10×10 km maps)

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[21:17] <+DerekChappell> when an observer is calling artillery, they do the rolling for them using their Vigilance. Same kind of check

[21:17] <+DerekChappell> rather than write special rules for ranging shots or the like

[21:17] <+DerekChappell> you roll your dice once for the first shot…

[21:18] <+DerekChappell> then you pick up everything that wasn’t a success or failure and roll it again for the second shot

[21:18] <+DerekChappell> repeat until there’s no more loaders (and thus no more shots) or you tell them to stop!

[21:18] <+DerekChappell> it feels /super/ satifying to roll a barrage of dice for a barrage of artillery

[21:23] <~Dan> That does sound rather satisfying. 🙂

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[21:24] <~Dan> I see that PCs can get ahold of contraband?

[21:25] <+DerekChappell> thats a joke on the part of the character sheet… mostly

[21:25] <+Cassiemouse> Hrm.

[21:26] <+Cassiemouse> Is the forums down?

[21:26] <+DerekChappell> there’s enough items on the list that would be illegal that you could run some fun stuff with smuggling under the nose of the MPs

[21:26] <+DerekChappell> (there’s rules for hiding items on your person…)

[21:28] <+LastArgument> So I could use it to run a King Rat game?

[21:29] <+DerekChappell> that’s a /brilliant/ idea

[21:29] <+DerekChappell> oh my god now i wanna run that

[21:30] <+LastArgument> Right?

[21:30] <~Dan> 🙂

[21:31] <+DerekChappell> there’s pretty extensive rules for surrender, arrest, restraining people, etc

[21:31] <+DerekChappell> it could totally work!

[21:34] <~Dan> Do you mind if we wrap up a little early, Derek? I didn’t get much sleep last night, and I’m starting to fade out.

[21:34] <+DerekChappell> no problem at all!

[21:34] <+DerekChappell> this was fun, and i hope it was a strong pitch

[21:34] <~Dan> In that case, is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?

[21:34] <~Dan> It was!

[21:35] <+DerekChappell> uh, i write a lot of games so like, keep your eyes out. I got more stuff coming

[21:35] <+DerekChappell> in the near future, a D&D parody called Clerical Error, where you play both a Cleric, and the God of somebody else at the table

[21:35] <~Dan> 🙂

[21:36] <~Dan> Thanks very much for joining us, Derek!

[21:36] <+DerekChappell> thanks for having me!

[21:36] <~Dan> Give me just a moment, and I’ll get the log posted and get you the link. 🙂

[21:36] <+DerekChappell> if you wanna follow what i’m doing, follow this tumblr! (Link: