Preview of skirmish focused updates

Although the following was rather tedious to format from the actual rules doc copy-paste, I figured it was worth it to give a feel for some of the changes. The most obvious change is how simple and small the core rules are, which is a good thing as 1-6 people per side has a way of complexifying (haha ridiculous word) every situation.

Anyways I’ll be working on character / posse generation next, then Dinomounts, some touchups to the History section, then bringing all the items up to speed. A playtest this week is looking less and less plausible (rather busy), but perhaps this weekend (especially Sunday).

The Turn

The passage of time during combat situations is tracked using Turns, each of which contain the 2 Phases of Movement and Action.

Turn Pass: Anyone can pass or skip their Turn as they please.

Phase Order: Each entity can perform their 2 Phases in either order: Movement then Action or Action then Movement.

Movement Phase

During the Movement Phase an entity can maneuver and position around the terrain.

Option 1 – Standard Move: Move any number of inches in any direction up to an entity’s Movement score.

Option 2 – Charge Move: Perform a Standard Move in a straight line directly towards a target. If the target is reached the attacker gains a Charge bonus in melee (see the Combat section below).

Moving Through Entities: An entity can move through friendly entities, but not through hostile entities.

Difficult Terrain: When entering or crossing any terrain but flat plains (such as trees, hills, etc.) an entity must use double their Movement to continue.
For example a player can spend 2″ of Movement crossing flat plains to the edge of a forest (Difficult Terrain). To move through the 6″ forest they would need to spend a further 12″ of Movement. Or a player can spend 4″ of Movement to climb a narrow slope 2″ long.

Action Phase

During the Action Phase an entity may perform a single complex task, such as firing a gun or using an item.

Option 1 – Use a Weapon: Perform an attack either with a ranged weapon or a melee weapon.

Option 2 – Use an Item: Apply an item from your inventory to yourself or another friendly entity (ie: medpack, whiskey drop, etc.).

Option 3 – Reload a Weapon: A weapon is reloaded.

Option 4 – Run: Perform a Standard Move instead of this Action Phase.


Since the dawn of mankind there has been violence. The re-emergence of dinosaurs has done little to slow the carnage. In fact, if anything, it has accelerated the technology involved in weapons. Battles can be fought at a distance or in hand to hand.
This section will outline the rules for simulating fights between characters and the various creatures and humans who wish them harm.

Ranged Attack: If the attacker can see the target and are within maximum Range of your weapon, you can attack them in the Action Phase with the ranged weapon.

Melee Attack: Two or more combatants are considered in melee combat if they are within 1″ or less of each other. They can attack with a melee weapon in the Action Phase.

General Combat Procedure

Step 1 – Attack Roll
Roll a D12 for each Attack of the ranged or melee weapon.

Step 2 – Determine Hits
Use the Ranged Miss Chance for ranged weapons, and Melee Miss Chance for melee weapons.
Apply any modifiers to the associated Miss Chance. Every Attack Roll greater than or equal to the modified Miss Chance is a hit.

Attack Roll >= (Miss Chance +/- modifiers) = hit

Step 3 – Apply Damage
Add the count of all hits to the weapon Damage. Apply any modifiers to the total. Subtract this number from the target Hitpoints.

Hitpoints – (count of hits + weapon Damage +/- modifiers)

Critical Hit: Every unmodified Attack Roll of 12 is a Critical Hit, and counts as 2 hits.

Surprise Hit: If the target is unaware of an incoming attack each hit is a Critical Hit.

Automatic Hit and Miss: A roll of 12 is always a hit, and a roll of 1 is always a miss, both regardless of Miss Chance and modifiers.

Modifiers: There are four primary modifiers: Armor, Range, Cover, Elevation. See the table below for when and how they apply:

Armor: +AR RMC
Short Range: -1 RMC
Long Range: +1 RMC
Cover: -1 Damage
Elevation: +1 Damage

Ranged Combat Special Cases

Reload Value: Each ranged weapon has a Reload value as part of their statistics, such as 2×1 or 3×1. This number represents how likely and often the weapon will need to be reloaded, but it can also represent jamming or overheating.
If the count of unmodified Attack Roll dice that rolled 1 are greater than or equal to than the Reload value, the weapon needs to be reloaded.

How to Reload: An entity must spend an Action Phase doing nothing but Reloading a gun before it is usable again.
Note that only a single ranged weapon can be reloaded each Action Phase.

Melee Combat Special Cases

Charge Bonus: +1 Attack if the attacker performed a Charge Move to enter melee combat with the target.

Snap Attack: If a target leaves close combat (such as to flee), any attackers in close combat with them can perform a free melee attack.

Firing in (or into) Melee Combat: There is no penalty for using ranged weapons in close combat, or firing into an existing close combat.


Basic Ranged Example: Firing a 200KW Six-Shooter (4 Attacks, 2 Damage) with 7 Ranged Miss Chance. The target has no Armor, is not in Cover, and is at Medium Range, so no modifiers are needed.
Step 1: Roll 4D12 (because of 4 Attacks) resulting in 9, 6, 12, 3.
Step 2: Need a 7+ to hit (because of 7 Ranged Miss Chance). So the rolls of 9 and 12 hit. A 12 is a Critical Hit so it counts as double hits. In total there are 3 hits.
Step 3: Add base Damage of the weapon (2) to the total hits (3) for 5 total damage. Reduce the target’s Hitpoints by 5.

Complex Ranged Example: Firing a 400KW Lever-Action Rifle (3 Attacks, 4 Damage) with 4 Ranged Miss Chance. The target has 2 Armor and is at Short Range behind a tree (in Cover). The total Miss Chance needed is 5 (4 base + 2 Armor – 1 Short Range).
Step 1: Roll 3D12 resulting in 7, 7, 10.
Step 2: Need a 5+ to hit, so all rolls hit. In total there are 3 hits.
Step 3: Unmodified total damage is 7 (3 hits + 4 Damage). Target is in Cover, so modify the damage by -1, for a total of 6. Reduce the target’s Hitpoints by 6.

Basic Melee Example: Using a melee Long Sword (2 Attacks, 3 Damage) with 9 Melee Miss Chance. The target has no Armor.
Step 1: Roll 2D12 (because of 2 Attacks) resulting in 5 and 11.
Step 2: Need a 9+ to hit (because of 9 Melee Miss Chance). So the roll of 11 hit.
Step 3: Add base Damage of the weapon (3) to the total hits (1) for 4 total damage. Reduce the target’s Hitpoints by 4.

Complex Melee Example: Charge Move with a melee Spear (4 Attacks, 2 Damage) with 5 Melee Miss Chance. The target has 3 Armor. The total Miss Chance needed is 8 (5 base + 3 Armor).
Step 1: Roll 5D12 (4 base Attacks, plus 1 for Charge Bonus) resulting in 5, 1, 11, 7, 9.
Step 2: Need a 9+ to hit. So the rolls of 9 and 11 hit.
Step 3: Add base Damage of the weapon (2) to the total hits (2) for 4 total damage. Reduce the target’s Hitpoints by 4.

Fear Test

A Fear Test represents an entity trying to maintain their will to stand and fight against tremendous and terrifying odds or situations. Failure represents shaking in their boots and cowardly tactics like running away.
This section will explain how and when to take Fear Tests, and the consequences of failing them.

When to Fear Test: If an entity suffers Damage greater than or equal to half their starting Hitpoint value in a single Turn, a Fear Test is immediately required.
For example a character had 12 starting Hitpoints and is now at 10. They suffer 7 Damage from a single attack. The Damage is higher than 6 (half their starting Hitpoints) and therefore they must perform a Fear Test.

Damage >= (starting Hitpoints / 2) = Fear Test

How to Fear Test: Roll a D12 for the Fear Test. If the result is greater than or equal to the tester’s Fear score, they have failed the Fear Test and are Fleeing.

D12 >= Fear score = failed

Fleeing: At the start of the Fleeing entity’s next Turn they must automatically perform a Standard Move directly away from the nearest enemy. They may then perform an Action Phase normally.

One word away from awesome

If only the upcoming Cowboys and Aliens movie replaced Aliens with Dinosaurs, then we’d really be set!

Cowboys and Aliens Movie

Also I totally didn’t realize Jon Favreau directed Iron Man and a few other things. Hopefully this next movie is good fun, since the idea looks cool and the cast seems solid.

Anyways, back on topic, I’ll be posting some updated rule excerpts in a bit…

Preliminary “Posse Roster” sheet

I’ve rewritten the Turn and Combat section to be even slimmer and more elegant. The main change was adding a “Ranged Miss Chance” (RMC) and “Melee Miss Chance” (MMC) that are used as a base to-hit number. There are a couple of modifiers to this number, mostly around range, cover, and armor. But basically you need to roll greater than or equal to the final modified RMC/MMC to hit the target, then damage is calculated as before.
I’ll need to rework the armor list, since AR is a plus bonus instead of a flat value. For example a Vectran Vest would be +2 AR, which means a firer with a base RMC of 5 would need a 7+ to hit (5+2 = 7). I like having the Miss Chance where you still need to roll above some number, and also having a lower score makes sense, instead of something like a flat “Ranged Skill” where you need to calculate the to-hit value by doing subtraction (such as Max Ranged Skill – Current Ranged Skill = target number to hit).

I also made the Fear Test rules. Now a Fear Test is taken when an entity suffers damage greater than or equal to half their starting Hitpoint value. So if they had 10 HP, any attack that does >= 5 would trigger a Fear Test. Failing means they Flee away from the closest enemy at the start of their turn.

And I’ve done a preliminary mockup of the Posse Roster sheet, which you can download or view below. Basically 6 shrunken stat blocks combined on a single page. I REALLY like how the grayed out images in the background of each stat turned out, since I think it adds a little variety and spice to an otherwise boring line of stats.

Posse Sheet: ODT | PDF | View Online

Anyways I do have one concern with all these changes. I’m starting to feel like I’m just re-inventing a Games Workshop based game, but with D12s instead of D6s. I guess because of the whole to-hit mechanism being based on some stat (RMC could be Ballistic Skill, and MMC could be Weapon Skill)…but then again that’s a preeeetty common idea in games.

I’m going to try to get a playtest of two Posses this week, so we’ll see how that works. For now I’m going to work with alternating activation rules, so you move a single figure, then the enemy does, and so on. We’ll see if this approach makes it into the final rules.

Back and looking for a (skirmishy) fight

You know how I’ve said Dinosaur Cowboys is a roleplaying skirmish game? That’s fairly true in the sense that the split is 50/50. What I’m interested in doing though is revamping the game to be 10/90 in favor of skirmish. So rejoice, this blog will get some new life breathed into it as I plug away at some major rule revisions.

If you want to hear some brainstorming details, keep reading…

Know what I like best about Dinosaur Cowboys? The combat rules. I like XD12+Y damage with Zx1 chance to need to reload. It’s a simple and elegant system and translates marvelously to both ranged and melee. I also liked the background information, western / prehistoric theme, and the ol’ questing / travelling split. I waffled on Dinomounts for a while, but I think the end result of adding bonuses is a good approach. I might playtest D6s instead of D12s as a main dice, because if I’m going for a more dedicated skirmish game I think D6s are easier for people to get into. Less options for Armor Rating though.

So how do I want to revamp it all? Well, I’d like to continue to shift the focus along the “hero” and “sidekick” idea. I liked this approach, but found the mass of sheets eventually cumbersome. What I’d prefer to do is have a Mordheim style “roster” warband sheet that represents a 1-6 person “posse”. The main leader, called a “boss”, would have a slightly larger statline (in terms of information available). Using the existing rules consider them to be able to take the Active and Boost Traits, whereas “sidekicks” (everyone else) could only take Passive (to reduce bookkeeping, since Passive just gives straight up bonuses).
Experience and loot would be tracked as a posse, instead of individually. In addition the boss would be the “front man” and would have stats associated with skills and diplomacy, whereas everyone else would be combat oriented. Dinomounts would fit in as another sidekick. They could either fight on their own or be mounted before or during combat. I’m going to keep a similar approach to them of having base melee attacks and their own hitpoints, and then granting a bonus to anyone who is riding them. Then an enemy can continue to shoot at the Dinosaur itself or at the rider.

Allegiances (aka factions) will be another new change…or at least providing stat differences will be the change. There will be Duster, Neotechnoist, Savage, and Bandit. What this allows is your posse to be made up of multiple Allegiances, and each one provides slight benefits and drawbacks to flavor that sidekick. Dusters are tougher (+hitpoints) but slower. Neotechnoists are better with guns (+damage?) but weaker. Savages are faster (+move) but…something…weaker as well maybe? Bandits are generic and have no benefits or shortcomings.

So yeah, 1 boss, 0-4 sidekicks, and 1 Dinosaur. Heck I might just drop the term “Dinomount” entirely. I’ll need to really compress the statlines so that all 6 can fit on a single page, but I think that should be doable. The main concern are weapons, especially multiple weapons per person. I might change ranges to be simpler, for example they just have a single Range stat instead of 3 X-Y values. The given Range is medium (no bonuses or penalties). Half that is Short (+1 Attack) and double that is Long (-1 Attack). Or maybe put weapons onto standardized cards, but that becomes more bookkeeping again.

For “dying” I really like the Stun/Out of Action approach of Mordheim and a similar Flesh Wound approach of Necromunda. I don’t think I want to follow that exactly, so there will still be a specific numbers of hitpoints. Those numbers may just be a bit lower than now. Perhaps low enough to track with markers or tokens instead of pencil, since again – bookkeeping. Ideally a fight could be done in 30 minutes or so, which means 80+ hp monstrosities will be going away in general. But yeah, once a unit is at <= 0hp they are Downed (or whatever term). They can't do anything, but can be helped by a friendly unit who grants them +hp. A unit who was Downed may suffer permanent effects afterwards…or…something. I'm not sure what to do as a penalty. The whole Injury table from Mordheim is a bit too many rolls, especially when the skirmishes and results need to be fast. Each fight shouldn't be as big an event as a Mordheim match. Maybe the Downed person has to take a penalty to some skill for the next fight. Like "Crippled" would be -1 Movement or something.

I think I’ll change Break Tests and that whole mess. I like the idea of the Flee/Stunned (although I’m going to call it “Shaken”), and I think I’ll apply it to people as well as dinosaurs (currently the only affected type). If a model loses half it’s total hitpoints in between their turn, they need to make a Break Test at the start of their turn. If they fail with an odd number, they Flee, otherwise they’re Shaken just for that turn. I’m going to make it so Flee means they can’t move, and Shaken means they can’t shoot…maybe. Or maybe I’ll just have them run away for that turn, instead of the split (aka more complexity). I think this feature will be called Shellshock or Massive Damage or something, and will tend to make opponents focus fire on big targets to try to make them run.

On the "minor changes" front I'm likely going to add a bonus if healing is applied by someone else (the idea being they aren't in shock while wrapping a blood soaked arm). This would facilitate a "medic" style sidekick who would carry the healing and try to boost allies that way.
I’m also going to boost the baseline Armor Rating to lean towards 6. That way an unarmored target has a 50/50 chance to be hit. A “standard” or common AR would probably be 8. This is mainly because the last few times I played the base AR meant getting hit a TON was common…and at that point why even roll the dice ya know?

I am also toying with the idea of moving from defensive rolling to offensive rolling. What that means is instead of rolling >= AR, you would try to roll >= shooter’s skill. There would be a similar skill for melee. The upside of this is people can improve beyond just getting better weapons. However armor would need to be refactored, for which I have four ideas. Either I remove it entirely (plausible since cowboys don’t exactly tool up in bullet proof vests), I make it a saving throw (ala Mordheim, aaaaagain), I make it damage reducing, or I make it modify the enemies to-hit roll. I think playtesting is in order for that, but yeah, I was thinking of more numbers sidekicks could increase (beyond hitpoints) to reflect their growing skill.
The downside of “offensive rolling” is stats can look confusing. For example say you have a Ranged Skill of 7. Well, that sounds pretty good, except that you wouldn’t want to roll >= 7 to hit on a D12. Instead you would need to subtract 7 FROM 12 to get 5, and that’s the target number. Think of that like Ballistic Skill in Warhammer 40k, or THAC0 in older D&D versions. The other approach is to make Ranged Skill 5 to begin with, and need >= 5 to hit. The downside is LOWER Ranged Skill becomes better. Perhaps the solution is in the naming, so instead of Ranged Skill it would be Miss Chance or Ranged Fault Factor or something similar to denote that lower is BETTER.

I'll need to work out a "points system" so that other posses can be matched up against the player. Encounters would probably be similar to how they are now, like you could still fight a solo feral dinosaur or a pair of ruffians, but the option for a straight up 6vs6 match is available. So basically what I started heading into with the "Hired Dusters" idea.

I might also revamp the “you go, I go” approach to combat if 6 characters are involved per side. A more likely approach would be Activation based, so that you activate a single piece, then your opponent does, and so on until none are left. This helps stop really long turns, but adds a bit of tracking to remember who has moved or not.

So yeah, between the skirmishes there still can be RPG elements in terms of getting jobs, travelling, exploring and so on (instead of just one preset skirmish after another). But I think the game really needed to choose a focus, instead of trying to split evenly. The existing big stack of sheets for 6+ people is cumbersome, and doesn't provide many benefits.

I think I'll start by mocking up the Posse Roster and making related changes from there. The core rules should stay pretty similar though, I figure.