X-COM was a landmark 1994 video game, depicting the reaction of an international paramilitary and scientific organization against an alien invasion of Earth. It was successfully rebooted as a new series in 2012, modernizing the gameplay while keeping the strategic and tactical management aspect.
This profile is about the 2012 version – XCom: Enemy Unknown with the Enemy Within extension and both DLCs. It doesn’t cover the 2016 XCom 2, which has yet to be published as of this writing.
Our main XCom article offers a possible background for the XCom Project organisation, since that isn’t explained in the game. This article, on the other hand, is a technical one focusing on the gear.
3 notes of, err, note
The appendix to this entry explains the framework to produce the DC Heroes numbers – the more technically-minded readers might want to start there.
- This profile features tabletop RPG mechanics about the video game’s gameplay. See our video games writeups FAQ for more
- This profile features non-canon hypotheses about in-game events and mechanics. See our video games writeups FAQ for more
- Shock absorbers within the boots and the legs infrastructures, developed to jump down from small buildings and hit the ground running (assuming enough training).
- High-grade metal trauma plates that actually help survive plasma impacts, whereas ballistic body armour is nigh-useless even against the small forearm guns used by Sectoids.
- Holster-free weapon storage. Magnets allow the operator to safely store their weapons by putting them next to plates in their armour, and to swiftly draw them and bring them to bear. Since the XCom Project weapons have a “storage mode” similar to the guns in the Mass Effect video game, these plates might be similar to those present on Mass Effect body armour.
- Some sort of retractile ninja-style climbing claws stored under the wrists and over the toes.
- The chitin is thin and light enough to provide a full neck guard protecting against strangulation.
- It is also thin and light enough to cover the limbs in a more thorough fashion than normal plate inserts. This is especially useful against slashing melee attacks (such as, ironically, chryssalid claw attacks), since reflexively blocking with one’s forearms becomes workable thanks to the alien chitin protections.
- Assaults in the game use what we call a “monster shotgun” in the Weapons Locker – Small Arms files.
- Likewise snipers use a “high-powered sniper rifle” as per Weapons Locker – Small Arms terminology.
- Heavies in the game use a Squad Automatic Weapon (from the Heavy Weapons Locker article).
- The pistols are high-capacity Medium-Calibre Handguns with Ammo: 20 (perhaps Beretta M9A3 modified to accept 92FS hi-cap mags) from the Handguns Weapons Locker.
- Laser pistol [BODY 02, Laser beam: 05, Ammo: 20, R#03].
- Laser rifle [BODY 02, Laser beam: 08, Ammo: 08, R#03].
- Scatter laser [BODY 02, Laser beam: 09 (Diminishing), Range: 03, Ammo: 06, R#03, Advantage: Scattershot, Limitation: Laser beam has No Range, use the listed Range instead]. The equivalent of a shotgun.
- Laser sniper rifle [BODY 02, Laser beam: 09, Ammo: 05, R#03, Telescopic vision: 03].
- Heavy laser [BODY 02, Laser beam: 09, Ammo: 04, Autofire, R#03, Rec. STR 02, MPR (heavy and cumbersome — cutting movement speed by 1 — unless your STR is 2 APs above the Rec. STR]. The equivalent of a Squad Automatic Weapon.
- Captured aliens can be interrogated (usually through brute force methods analyzing brain activity when confronted with specific stimuli).
- The equipment of slain aliens self-destructs to prevent analysis. A captured alien can be kept alive long enough to carefully deactivate the self-destruction systems on its gear, allowing the scientists and engineers of the XCom Project to obtain invaluable technological intelligence – and to repurpose captured weapons for use by XCom operatives.
This doesn’t cover everything, far from it. These are simply notes I took during my second partial playthrough, and a third if not a fourth playthrough would be necessary to cover everything. Essentially it’s the tech tree up to and including the top laser weapons.
Like most of our articles about video game worlds, the implicit goal is for the material to be used in other kinds of story (presumably tabletop role-playing games). These usually require more background and explanations than video games.
Therefore, we introduce a lot of NON-CANON material in discussing how things (even if they’re cannons, confusingly) probably work and why.
Look ! Up in the sky !
Though the game doesn’t include genuine flight simulation, air assets are critical in XCom. The XCom Project deploys unique, advanced airplanes.
DCH [STR 08 BODY (Hardened) 10, Flight: 11, Radar Sense: 21, Radio communication: 19, #02, Bonus: Flight includes VTOL]. The Skyranger presumably carries chaff.
A Mach-2, VTOL , 5-jet-engine troops transport. Fuel autonomy seems to be on the order of 10K kilometres, but this is probably a simplification for the game. The Skyranger presumably lands and quickly refuels “off-screen” on friendly military airports.
The Skyranger allows the XCom command to project a tactical response team anywhere in the world within hours, and to land pretty much anywhere. If the terrain prevents even a vertical landing, it can hover to let troops rappel down.
Its VTOL capabilities also allows it to operate from an underground bunker rather than a conventional airfield.
That the XCom Project could design such a plane is amazing – modern troops transports are extremely difficult to get right, as demonstrated by the Airbus A-400M . Our proposed background assumes that it was made operational years after the deadline and way over budget.
We also assume that it could only be made fully operational by massively cutting down on the transportation capabilities. Planning a troops transport to carry anything less than a platoon makes no sense ; vaguely similar planes such as the Transall or the Hercules carry 90-ish troopers.
That it could only be made to fly reliably by carrying but a handful of tactical operators would normally be an atrocious project failure. However, the XCom Project has very few troops (in our proposed background, this is because they need to be psionically resilient).
Thus it actually worked for them, and the improvements to add a 5th then 6th squad member could be rationalized as correcting some of the Skyranger’s problems and freeing up space.
Since XCom gains advance warning via its satellite network, and the Skyranger is so fast and can deliver troops anywhere, XCom operatives are routinely on the scene before the national military.
DCH Raven-class interceptor [STR 07 BODY (Hardened) 10, Flight: 12, Radar sense: 22, Radio communication: 18, R#3]
These very-high-altitude interceptors seem to be hypersonic (Mach 5-ish), at least during an interception burn. The sport 4 (!) jet engines, but it’s reasonable to assume that the engines on the wings are actually reloadable solid fuel boosters, perhaps using an APCP mix .
Thus, the Raven is capable of intercepting an UFO, though the contact will not last long. After breaking contact, it flies back conventionally with its two main engines, the boosters being now empty.
Since Ravens are highly specialized, they carry but two weapon hardpoints, under the wings between the fuselage and the boosters. Early on each hardpoint carries a pod with 4 Avalanche missiles.
The hardpoints can apparently be quickly repurposed to carry a pair of bombs, as when the XCom Project firebombed a fishing village in Nova Scotia to destroy a large number of Chryssalid aliens.
Using Raven interceptors as fighter-bombers is presumably a complete kludge, but on the other hand these bombs are going to be delivered real fast (which is exactly what happened in Nova Scotia).
Raven-class fighters also have reinforced airframes, avionics and tracking systems. They are launched from underground hangars equipped with fully-orientable turntables featuring an advanced aircraft-carrier-like catapult.
To Be Added.
DCH [BODY 02, EV 14 (Area of Effect 0 APs), AV 04, Flight: 13, R#02, Grenade drawback, Limitation: Flight can only be sustained for 3 Phases (-2)].
These powerful air-to-air missiles feature highly-advanced tracking mechanisms (perhaps coupled with gravimetric data from XCom satellites and interceptors) and a high speed pulse engine. They are actually capable of hitting an UFO, even at the very high altitude a Raven often operates at.
In-game they are fairly slow to fire. We can imagine that passive ECM from UFOs means that even an Avalanche missile must be guided from end to end, perhaps using a backup laser designator. This prevents launching volleys of Avalanches, and imposes a Dice Action to obtain a short-lived lock for every successive missile.
DCH [BODY 04, AV 07, Projectile Weapons (Area of Effect 2 APs): 14, Range: 10, Limitation: Projectile Weapons has No Range, use the listed Range instead]
The XCom Project may develop a rapid-fire cannon shooting fragmenting projectiles, called the Phoenix Cannon. These are clearly an attempt to sidestep the shortcomings of the Avalanche missile – a pair of Phoenix pods can fire bursts as soon as a target lock is achieved, and they saturate such a volume that hitting is easy.
On the other hand they imply getting closer to the UFO than with an Avalanche, eating up interception window time and exposing the Raven to enemy fire for longer. While there is a gain compared to deploying Avalanche missiles, it is not gigantic.
DCH [BODY 02, AV 07, Laser beam: 14, Range: 10, Sharpness (Laser beam): 02, Limitation: Laser beam has No Range, use the listed Range instead].
These will likely be built and deployed by the XCom Project as one of the last steps in their exploration of laser weaponry (see below). These weapons are clearly kludgy. They need huge radiators to avoid overheating, and they do not deal well with diffraction in the atmosphere, leading to a disappointing range.
On the other hand the thin beam is extremely hot and can cut through armour with gusto. And being a laser, it hits instantly – rendering it very accurate in air-to-air fire when backed by a Raven’s avionics and targeting systems.
Laser cannons thus ended up being used very much like Phoenix cannons, but are able to defeat UFOs with thicker armour plating than a Phoenix could.
Plasma cannons and above
To Be Added.
XCom tactical operators enter combat clad in slightly futuristic, distinctive body armour that seems to work better than ordinary armour. They are also remarkably mobile, climbing up buildings (using downspouts) or jumping down from two stories high without breaking stride.
Let’s combine these observations in coming up with game stats for basic XCom Project body armour, arbitrarily named the Vigilo suit.
Basic body armour
DCH VIGILO BODY ARMOR [BODY 06, Kinetic absorption (Structural only): 02, Radio communications: 06, Skin armor: 02, Superspeed: 02, Advantage: Schtick (Fast-Draw), Drawback: Real Armor, Misc.: reduces the Initiative by 2 due to cumbersomeness, Bonuses: Radio communication includes real-time video, ambient audio, and location, Skin Armor can apply half its APs vs. energy attacks ; Limitation: Superspeed only applicable to Acrobatics (Climbing) Tasks, Schtick (Fast-Draw) only applicable to XCom Project firearms].
These game stats assume :
These claws would be strongly magnetized and made of high-grade steel to support the weight of a fully-equipped soldier.
The controls might be a little ball-on-a-stick within the helmet, that pivots to come between the teeth when the claws are produced. The more you bite the ball, the weaker the magnetism gets (to prevent getting stuck) and biting it twice retracts the claws.
As noted in our proposed XCom background, this is combined with a sort of low-flash parkour training and urban combat training – said training program being what led to the development of these tools in the first place.
DCH NF VEST [BODY 06, Damage Capacity (Physical): 02, Limitation: Damage Capacity cannot be Recovered (-3)].
These soft vests are derived from early research in post-incursions alien materials, and are made of a dense weave of nanofiber tubes. They can be worn under another XCom armour suit, with the Damage Capacity stacking with any existing one(s).
The protection they provide is modest compared to high-yield energy weaponry, but every bit helps.
Outside of the (rather artificial) equipment slot limits of the XCom game, there’s little reason for everyone not to wear a NF vest. An alternative would be to emphasize the price of producing one, and the game stats above assume that they cannot be repaired – so you have to produce a fresh, costly one to replace a damaged one.
A Carapace suit is like a Vigilo suit, but with the main trauma plates (particularly over the shoulders, neck and torso) replaced with plates made of alien alloys.
Though such alloys cannot be produced by Earth metallurgy at this stage, the XCom Project recovers and reuses everything it can.
DCH Upgrading a Vigilo suit with Carapace plating means that Skin Armour is now wholly effective against energy-based attacks (a +2 Bonus rather than a +1 one), and further adds Damage Capacity: 02 with the Limitation that this Damage Capacity cannot be Recovered on its own. The Damage Capacity Current Condition of Carapace plates can be reset to 02 overnight at the XCom HQ, though – which means it’s a -1 FC Limitation to Damage Capacity.
DCH RESPIRATOR IMPLANT [BODY 06, Damage Capacity (Physical): 02, Sealed systems: 06, Skin armour: 03, Limitation: Damage Capacity cannot be Recovered (-3), Sealed systems is limited to increasing RV against airborne toxins and suffocation, Skin armour only vs. strangulation].
This seems to be a Nano-Fiber Vest topped by a sort of invasive neck brace. If the sensors on the brace detect toxins close to the wearer’s head or a sudden interruption of airflow, they forcefully shut down the normal respiratory pathways and start injecting breathable air in the lower trachea.
While this is painful and remarkably uncomfortable, it certainly beats being poisoned and/or strangled. The implants provide robust, reliable protection against such attacks.
In-game this can be developed as a counter to the strangulation-happy Seeker aliens, after the first ones are encountered in the field.
DCH CHITIN PLATING [BODY 08, Skin armour: 02, Damage Capacity (Physical): 05, Limitation: Skin Armour only vs slashing/bladed attacks and strangulation, Damage Capacity cannot Recover on its own but can be fully Recovered overnight at the XCom HQ (-1); Drawback: Real Armour, Recommended STR 03 (only if worn over another Real Armour suit)].
These plate inserts are based on the chitin of Chryssalid aliens, and either replace or augment the plating of a Carapace or Vigilo suit.
There’s no way to produce the material on Earth, and it must be worked from Chryssalid corpses (about 4 bodies per set of plates, including spare chitin to rebuild damaged plates with – bring your own molecular glue).
Though the chitin seems light compared to its protective qualities, we assume that wearing two layers of plating (especially on the limbs) requires well above-average strength.
Chitin provides robust protection against most forms of attacks, and two of its stronger points are :
Skeleton body armour
DCH SKELETON BODY ARMOR [BODY 06, Acrobatics (Dodging): 04, Jumping: 02, Kinetic absorption (Structural only): 02, Radio communications: 06, Skin armor: 02, Superspeed: 03, Advantage: Schtick (Fast-Draw), Drawback: Real Armor, Note: Jumping uses full APs for vertical movement but (APs minus 1) for horizontal movement (a reversal of the usual), Bonuses: Radio communication includes real-time video, ambient audio, and location, Skin Armor is fully effective against energy attacks; Limitation: Jumping is done via a motorized grapple, Superspeed only applicable to Acrobatics (Climbing) Tasks, Schtick (Fast-Draw) only applicable to XCom Project firearms].
The Skeleton is an evolution on the Carapace suit. It uses better alien alloys to provide nearly as much protection while being considerably lighter, allowing the soldiers to be faster and more mobile.
It also includes a motorized, pneumatic grapnel gun allowing the troops to quickly traverse impassable terrain. A typical example is a sniper shooting their grapnel at the top of a small building to take an elevated firing position there, though many tactical applications in urban combat emerged for offense, defense and mobility.
This motorized grapnel is of course nigh-universally compared to Batman’s.
The gain in mobility in the XCom game is represented here by lifting the Initiative penalty and some small bonuses to Dodging and Superspeed. Both could be explained by progresses made with HUD to highlight incoming fire – as well as hand- and footholds while climbing.
Armours above Skeleton
To be added.
XCom Project tactical operators are originally equipped with high-quality firearms, which prove adequate when engaging the less powerful alien agents.
The X-9 assault rifle, being the beginner weapon in the game, isn’t too impressive in-game and has an oddly low ammunition capacity. Here we suggest game stats making it a robust assault rifle, since assault rifles in the XCom setting can’t inexplicably under-perform real-world weapon.
DCH Dao X-9 Assault Rifle [BODY 05, Projectile weapons: 06, Ammo: 08, Advantage : Autofire]
For the rest, use the usual guns in our Weapons Locker articles, they’ll work fine. All XCom Project equipment will have a R# of 00.
Generally, the weapons pictured in-game do not look like any real weapon – but their appearance makes their niche clear.
One NPC from an allied military remarks that he’s never seen gear that advanced before, reinforcing the notion that XCom Project firearms are custom-designed, custom-built models.
This is specialized ammunition built using advanced Earth tech, and primarily used in playthroughs where XCom Project tactical teams are going to have to use firearms for a while.
The way Reaper ammunition works is deeply tied to specific XCom video game mechanics. In a tabletop campaign it may be simpler to include various standard specialized ammunition instead, from our relevant Weapons Locker article.
Laser small arms
Though the XCom Project had experimented with laser weaponry before the incursions, it apparently never succeeded in developing something deployable.
However, this changed once they procured fresh fragments from alien plasma weaponry (the alien guns self-destruct upon their wielder’s death, to prevent easy duplication).
Study of the fragments led to rapid breakthroughs in heat dissipation and energy consumption. The result was hybrid human-alien weaponry that provided a genuine advantage over conventional firearms.
Further study led to the the development of more specialized laser weapons for sniping, close combat or sustained automatic fire.
As can be seen laser small arms possess firepower comparable to that of heavy weapons, such as .50 machineguns and 66mm rockets (well, except for the pistol).
Concept art and looking closely at in-game animations reveals that these weapons are partially collapsible – they become shorter when carried, and telescope to operation length when drawn. This seems very similar to weapons in the Mass Effect games – see our Mass Effect weapons lockers articles.
DCH [BODY 01, EV 06 (Area of Effect 1 AP), Grenade Drawback].
XCom grenades do attack everything within the Area of Effect. This is important to note since their main role is often to blow up cover – they lack the power to kill most aliens. For simplicity’s sake a grenade will wreck most objects in their blast radius, including small concrete structures such as brutalist benches, without a roll.
If you want to roll, add Sharpness (EV): 02, Only vs Inert and Inanimate objects to the grenade’s stats.
Cinematic defensive grenades with Bomb: 08 probably do not exist in this world.
DCH [BODY 01, EV 08 (Area of Effect 1 AP), Grenade Drawback].
These were stolen from alien troopers using an arc thrower (q.v.). Alien grenades are used exactly like human grenades, but are significantly more powerful. XCom also presumably retrofits 40mm grenades with alien explosive compounds for use in grenade launchers (such as those employed by some MEC suit).
In-game, the first alien troops with such grenades are Mutons and Heavy Floaters.
The standard stats from our Grenades & Heavy Weapons Locker article should be close enough.
DCH [BODY 01, Bomb (Limited Penetration): 08, Grenade Drawback].
These grenades apparently use a shell of pre-weakened material derived from Chryssalid aliens’ chitin as shrapnel. Said shrapnel is small but very sharp, making it deadly against unprotected living beings but of little use against cover or hardened targets.
(The in-game effects are based on video game logic, so the effects described here are more generic. Furthermore these are very niche weapons using up precious resources and webbing space, and I doubt they get used in many XCom games).
DCH [BODY 01, Fog: 01, Poison touch: 06, Bonus: Poison touch is active throughout and Combined With the Fog, Fog has a Special +3 Volume Bonus on top of the normal +5, Limitation: Fog will endure for 4 Phases (less with wind, rain, etc.), Grenade Drawback].
These are based on the toxin produced by Thin Men aliens, though the cloud these grenades create is considerable larger than what Thin Men can spit out. Poison grenades are another niche weapon of questionable value.
DCH [BODY 01, Fog: 00, Invisibility: 06, Bonus : Fog has a Special +10 Volume Bonus on top of the normal +5, Invisibility is Combined With the Fog, Limitation: Fog will endure for 2 Phases (less with wind, rain, etc.), Fog doesn’t hinder attacks, Invisibility is only active while in the Fog and for people and objects covered in a special coating, Grenade Drawback].
This is Seeker invisibility mist in a can. While in the mist, people and object covered in a special coating (copied on a Seeker alien’s skin) will be practically invisible. If ghost grenades get developed by the XCom Project (which requires a large pile of Seeker corpses), their body armours will also receive the coating.
The coating can work any number of times, though it presumably has to be maintained between missions for scratches and the like.
High-visibility actions such as opening fire will make invisibility moot. Howbeit, the ability to move unseen for a short while within a certain perimeter usually provides an extraordinary tactical edge.
Medikits apparently mean spraying alien nanites at things and people to repair them within seconds. The game mentions “nanosutures” and powerful stimulants, but the healing effects work just as well on body armour and MEC bodies. Our main XCom article has some made-up explanations about that.
Medikits come with a rebreather, presumably to prevent the person handling the medikit from breathing some of the nanites. These rebreathers have proved a boon against poison clouds expectorated by “Thin Man” aliens, though these will not normally try to poison a target visibly wearing a rebreather.
DCH MEDIKIT [BODY 01, Damage capacity (Range of Touch): 03, Stabilization, Medicine (First Aid): 03. All three abilities are Combined but get Ammo: 01 (No Reload in the field), and Damage Capacity can only confer as many APs as the target has missing APs from their Current BODY Condition (and Current Damage Capacity Condition if any, even if Damage Capacity is on their body armour)] w/Rebreather [BODY 01, Sealed systems: 06, Limitation: Sealed systems only to increase OV/RV vs. airborne toxins/pathogens].
Numerous upgrades are available to increase the Ammo and the Damage Capacity of the Medikit. The stats above are for the earliest version of this equipment.
An advanced targeting module based on scavenged alien small arms, integrating with “the HUD” (the intent may be that XCom Project helmets have augmented reality function, though little point toward that in the game).
In the game it increases accuracy and critical chances. Having equipment increase accuracy is something we usually avoid in DC Heroes stats on writeups.org, since most action fiction operates under a “it’s the man, not the weapon” paradigm. Here, however, we’ll go that way in order to model the in-game accuracy of the best XCom troopers, without having to give them jarringly high APs of Weaponry Skill.
We also assume that a S.C.O.P.E. has enhanced vision modes. No such thing is evident in the game, but it would be odd if it didn’t equal real-world equipment.
DCH S.C.O.P.E. attachment [BODY 01, Telescopic vision: 03, Thermal vision: 05, Ultra-vision: 05, Weaponry (Firearm): 08, Advantage: Sharpshooter 1 (Matching weapon), Limitation: Weaponry (Firearm) only for the weapon it is affixed to and calibrated for, and can only increase the shooter’s applicable Weaponry Skill by one AP for every 3 full APs they have (i.e. Weaponry 1 or 2 gets no bonus, Weaponry 3 to 5 gets + 1 AP, Weaponry 6 or 7 gets the full 8 APs)].
DCH [BODY 02, Lightning: 06, Sharpness (Lightning): 06, Ammo: 02, R#03, Limitations: Sharpness is negated by any strong electrical insulation ; Lightning is only effective against beings with an electrically-powered nervous system broadly similar to that of Earth beings ; Lightning is Bashing Damage only ; Lightning has a Range of 01].
The Arc Thrower is a high-powered military stun gun intended to capture aliens alive. This has 2 advantages :
However, the Arc Thrower has an effective range of but a few metres, and works best on weakened targets (with a Current BODY Condition that is low enough for the Bashing Damage RAPs from the Lightning to reduce to zero). Capturing live aliens is thus way more dangerous than killing them, and killing aliens is already an extremely risked endeavour.
(Troopers occasionally comment about the Thrower emitting 1.21 gigawatts – but this is a Back to the Future joke, not a factual statement).
Mind shields and other high-end gear
To be added.
Character class-based equipment
The XCom class-based abilities tend to be abstract and video-gamey, but some seem based on equipment rather than special training or talent. Even then, they have to be adapted to work outside the context of a video game.
DCH Tactical Searchlight [BODY 02, Flash (Area of Effect 0): 08, Bonus: Flash can be Combined with shooting the weapon the Searchlight is railed on, Limitation: Flash cannot gain more than one RAP, R#2].
In the game, this makes targets you’re firing on easier to hit by your comrades. A loose equivalent could be a powerful flashlight (a miniature searchlight, really) mounted on one’s gun – the size of the light and the weight of the battery restricting this to the heavy and their support weapon.
As written up the light will make targets a bit easier to hit (by lowering their OV) and have a harder time hitting (by lowering their AV), which maps to the fact that holo-targeting is often used along with suppressive fire. If visibility is poor, the searchlight would also cancel these penalties.
It doesn’t sound as high-tech, but heh.
HEAT ammunition (Heavy)
Since HEAT ammunition gets toned down with the XCom: Enemy Within expansion, it can be represented by the usual special ammunition types in our Weapons Locker articles.
Realistically, many ammunition types will only be available for machinegun calibres anyway, and setting lasers for a more focused heat (as Sharpness, possibly Limited to mostly-metallic targets to represent HEAT “ammo” with heavy lasers) might only be reasonable on larger weapons.
Shredder rocket (Heavy)
DCH [BODY 02, Flame Project (Area of Effect 2 APs, Continuing Damage): 06, Range: 04, Grenade drawback].
I have no idea about how to represent what is seen in-game, but it could be a single-shot disposable incendiary light RPG similar to the Russian Federation’s MRO-Z . It doesn’t create a vulnerability to subsequent damage, but it sets stuff on fire and it’s light enough to have somebody carry that on top of the rest of their gear.
Battle scanner (Sniper)
DCH Tricopter drone [DEX 01 STR 00 BODY 01, Flight: 02, Radio communications (Scrambled): 04, Shrinking: 02, Telescopic vision: 01, Thief (Stealth): 02, R#03] w/HUD receptor [BODY 01, Eye of the cat: 04, Limitation: Eye of the Cat can only be used on the corresponding Tricopter drone, with whom Radio Communications can be established].
In a non-video-game milieu, we could imagine that battle scanners deployed by some snipers are mostly-silent flying miniature drones – perhaps a tricopter. They are slow and fragile (the price of making them that stealthy) but can provide invaluable local aerial recon until they are spotted and shot to pieces.
Since they are not Pets, the sniper operating their drone cannot do anything else in the meanwhile. But we’d assume the odds of getting a fix on some of the opposition in order to conduct a focused attack — the usual use of a Battle Scanner — are fairly good that way.
DCH Squadsight HUD receptor [BODY 01, Eye of the Cat: 04, Limitation: Eye of the Cat only on persons outfitted with compatible cams, which normally means a XCom Project-made body armour suit].
This allows the sniper to see what their teammates see within their in-helmet HUD. With enough training and perceptual alacrity that means greater battlefield awareness to decide what to shoot despite being some distance away.
If using our proposed “psychic static” explanation, Eye of the Cat also means that the sniper can see things from the perspective of a person in a more forward position, a trick allowing to reduce the amplified Range penalties from “psychic static”. The Range is counted from the person Eye of the Cat is used on, rather than the sniper, for perception purposes.
Combat drugs (Support)
DCH [BODY 01, Fog: 00, Mind field: 01, Bonus: Fog has a Special +10 Volume Bonus on top of the normal +5, Mind Field is Combined With and Active Throughout the Fog, Limitations: Fog will endure for 3 Phases (less with wind, rain, etc.), Fog doesn’t hinder attacks, Grenade Drawback].
In-game this adds stimulants to the support’s smoke grenade, allowing enhanced performance (chiefly mental resilience) for humans breathing it. It… it doesn’t sound like the soundest way to deliver stimulants, especially to anybody who’s ever ended up within signalling smoke.
Also, staying within smoke to shoot whilst benefiting from enhanced willpower is markedly sub-optimal. Shockingly, one cannot see when within smoke.
Here we simply assume a grenade that disperses some sort of “psychic chaff” in the air, making everyone within the cloud more resilient to psychic assault for a while.
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Appendix – the modelling
DC Heroes considerations
XCom: Enemy Unknown comes in several difficulty levels, which impact the in-game attributes of both human soldiers and their alien foes. For writeups.org purposes we are going to assume that the Classic difficulty (essentially the “Hard” setting) is the baseline.
The original XCom video game was reputed for its occasionally unfair difficulty and the casualties that would result. Though the 2012 remake is more forgiving and less capricious, XCom fans often continue to present the game as a difficult, deadly one and thus prefer the higher difficulty modes.
Odds are also an important part of the tactical side of the game. The exact probability to hit is known for all shots taken by human soldiers (and the aliens’ odds to hit aren’t hard to estimate for the experienced player), but then it all comes to the rolls of the dice.
Both unlucky strikes for your troopers (who, say, all miss an easy target) and lucky streaks for the aliens (who, say, both make a difficult shot and both hit for max damage) are an important part of the XCom experience.
Hero Points and Genre
This in turn suggests a low impact of Hero Points, in DC Heroes terms – the dice should play a big role. The Real Genre (BoH:SE p. 227) is thus a good match for old-school XCom.
We know that human troops gain Hit Points as they level up in the video game, which presumably correspond to Last Ditch Defense expenses. Hero Points seem almost solely used for Last Ditch Defense – which matches the pricing scheme of the Real Genre, where Dice Action boosting is very expensive.
On Classic difficulties Human troops start with 4 Hit Points and will have 9 at the maximum level (8 for a sniper).
Our baseline for a rookie will be BODY 03 and RV 4 (see below for RV thoughts). To keep things simple we can simply assume that they can LDD one RAP (so they have 4 “hit points” just like in the video game), and they need 5 HPs to be able to do that.
To conserve the scale, the highest-level troops will have a BODY of 04 and be able to LDD away 5 RAPs (giving them 9 “hit points”), so that suggests a maximum of 25 HPs.
This also keeps Desperation Recovery out of reach.
Most weapons in XCom have a damage range of (n-1, n, n+1) where n is the mode – frex an assault rifle does 2-4 points of damage with 3 being the most common. To facilitate calculations we are going to assume that all weapons always do modal damage.
Since this is an Hero Points-poor environment, the Rule of 15 (BoH:SE p205) doesn’t work well. Instead we are going to estimate that half the hits gain the normal RAPs, and half the hits get one Column Shift, reflecting the average behaviour of the dice.
So for instance a Classic difficulty Thin Man alien has 4 Hit Points. An assault rifle burst does 3 points of damage, so it takes two bursts that connect to kill a Thin Man on Classic.
In DC Heroes an assault rifle as an EV of 06, and a quick look at the Results Table leads to the conclusion that Thin Men must have a BODY of 04 — the first hit against that does 2 RAPs and the other (with the Column Shift) 3 RAPs.
We run such calculations assuming that XCom Project troopers are equipped with the proper tier of weaponry (laser or plasma) and armour (Carapace or Skeleton) for the “grade” of aliens being encountered. So it’s just a matter of counting how many modal hits from appropriate weaponry a unit can take, and finding the proper Column on the Results Table.
Resulting EV scale
Generally, (max normal XCom damage +2) works pretty well to estimate EVs (damage +3 for grenades due to the lack of spread, and it breaks down for enhanced MEC kinetic strikes).
This leads to the very high-end weaponry (such as plasma machineguns), with an EV of 12, being about as powerful as modern 120mm cannon.
Thus, alien line infantry (Mutons and Muton Elites) would be well able to destroy Human main battle tanks using their small arms (“small” being relative here…), which seems to match the game’s narrative.
They can also wreck buildings about as well as mortar fire, which seems to match the state of maps where a firefight took place using energy weaponry.
Critical hits ; exposed targets Genre Rule
Most weapons have a chance of critical damage. But it is usually 10% which is about the same as an exploding double in DCH, so there’s no need to specifically model that.
On the other hand, the chances of a critical hit skyrocket for exposed targets (i.e., not behind cover). This is normally not a consideration since everyone is hugging cover for dear life, but a Genre rule where exposed targets are automatically considered the subject of a Blindside attack would encourage people to hug cover just like in XCom.
Snipers have ways to dramatically boost critical odds, but that’s modellable as unusual abilities on their part, just like in the video game.
As noted above RVs are chiefly determined by counting hits from an appropriate weapon and finding a good RV value to model that.
We accept that sometimes RVs will get too high to strictly model the video game. Yes, technically a guy with a pistol could kill a Muton Elite by hitting hit a dozen times. In practice, that “plan” is exceedingly unlikely to succeed, so having said EV 04 pistol do 0 RAPs against the Muton Elite barring a superb roll is fine.
Still, our modelling is going to prefer Damage Capacity over simple RVs, to help model the ablative Hit Points gameplay in XCom.
Resistance value – the baseline
One minor “squish” appears for the baseline XCom Project body armour, though.
Modern body armour in DCH generally provides 2 APs of Skin Armour, and we clearly don’t want XCom Project baseline body armour to underperform that. However, to have a coherent, simple scale we’d like our XCom rookies to have a BODY of 03 and an RV of 04.
So we’re simply going to use our usual interpretation of Skin Armour not working against energy-based damage (see the FAQ), and give XCom Project body armour a somewhat common Bonus of being able to use half its APs of Skin Armour against energy attacks instead of none. That gives our BODY 03 rookie their RV 04 against plasma fire.
This helps prevent too rapid a scaling (laser and plasma weaponry have a built-in bonus, so to speak), and leaves non-XCom soldiers with ordinary body armour entirely at the mercy of energy weaponry, which fits well with the game’s narrative.
Most alien and human fighters in XCom have a Defense attribute of 0 or 10, lowering the odds to hit them by 0 or 10 percentage points.
This means that the Aim attribute of an XCom unit, minus 5, is a reasonable approximation of the percentile odd of hitting an exposed target within a reasonable range. The spread for Aim attributes for XCom Project troops goes from 65 (rookie) to 105 (max-level sniper), with a hard-boiled veteran (Assault or Support character between Corporal and Sergeant) having a 75.
Assuming a baseline OV of 03 and using our ever-useful article on probabilities in DCH this means that a rookie has an AV of 03 (roughly 60% odds of beating an OV of 03), a veteran an AV of 04, and a master sniper could be as high as 08 (DCH doesn’t do 100%).
The lower levels match the expected scale well – AV 03 is, in our stock soldiers article, the level of a shock trooper and 04 the level of a special operations veteran.
Having the highest level troops with AVs of 5 to 7 is more cinematic than expected – but keep in mind that most gunfire will be penalized by cover and range, the latter being worsened by psychic static. This suggests that XCom Project veteran shooters are indeed amazingly accurate.
In order to prevent APs inflation, interested parties could decide to have Genre-bending Schticks allowing AV boosting at highly reduced costs (compared to the Real genre) and to increase Hero Points allowances a bit. That’s what we do with the Sharpshooter Schtick.
An alternative approach would be advanced aiming devices (various versions of S.C.O.P.E. technology) providing an AV boost to sufficiently skilled shooters.
Or both could be combined, which is what we’re going to use for our equipment to avoid having XCom troops with super-heroic Weaponry (Firearms) scores while keeping their observed accuracy.