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Tactical Robustness and How to Think Like a Grey

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While antagonists can find some value for this guide, this is mostly tailored from the perspective of a disgusting subhuman security player.

SS13 is an incredibly difficult multiplayer game for those just getting into it and it still has a measure of its difficulty for any degree of experienced player that still plays this. At its core it is a survival game, and despite that this is an HRP server, you don't get a say whether you character lives or dies in a confrontation, the game mechanics do.

Perhaps once of the most difficult skills to master in the game is being able to overwhelm a defensive position with only equipment, tactics and often teamwork as your sole advantages. There are many things that can go wrong during an all-out assault, especially when your own advantages and disadvantages are not being actively considered by you or your teammates. When you ignore the possibility of being disabled by something you don't expect, you're highly likely to be caught off guard from it and to be killed by it. If you play an antagonist or play security, this absolutely can't happen in the context of your own character's self-preservation. If you cannot take the heat, you should never risk your character jumping into the frying pan.

But despite this, there are still methods and thought processes that I personally use to find success in unlikely scenarios where I really should not have survived under normal circumstances.

Situational Awareness Before Going In

First off, think of something that brings you peace or joy. Shouldn't you relax?

Now think of something that irritates you. What really grinds your gears?

Switch this up to something that makes you afraid. What are you terrified of?

What makes you furious? What makes you depressed? What drives your heart-rate up or down, and what is stopping you from finding a proper balance? Notice how your mood dictates how you approach issues? Do you ever ask yourself why you let that control you?

Rule 1 of situational awareness; If you are distracted by internal problems, you will never truly learn awareness. There is even such a thing as being too relaxed. Apathy is death. This phenomenon will curse you for the rest of your life when unchecked and you'll only catch a glimpse of what it means to be aware of something and trying to understand a threat from more than just your own point of view.

To continue on from that, if you're capable of placing yourself in a state of mind that is not panicked nor relaxed, but cautious and alert, then good job! That is a skill that you should exercise often and integrate it as part of your daily habits. It will allow you to make very controlled decisions within the lens of objectivity and viewing risk as dangerous as it ought to be without freaking out about the possibility of the worst case scenario.

Now for the real lesson on the subject: Perfected situational awareness is knowing all of the factors in play that could provide a risk to you, in addition to all of the weaknesses to solving a problem that you can exploit and potentially scratch out net positive gains in your favor. The big victories are often difficult to achieve, it is often better to follow a checklist and accomplish many small victories than it is to have sacrificed much for a large victory. The small victories without significant cost often add up better results.

A word of caution, though: Expect certain people to get very mad when they die because of the small, subtle victories adding up in your favor. The reason for their anger is due to the lack of their understanding as to how they went wrong, and how you went right. It's very easy to recognize an obvious mistake, but some people are smart and are just as cognizant of the biggest risks as you are. Some players put the biggest focus on preventing the worst-case scenario to the very end, so do not expect "loud and obvious" to always work.

Let's get onto some important factors to consider before we piece everything together again. You might actually notice some factors synergize or anti-synergize heavily with one another and there is significant conditional overlap.

Environmental/Positional Assessment

These are two factors in one.

In SS13, the worst-case scenario for you, if you're a security officer, is that there is a hostage situation being held up by a bunch of mercenaries who are very good at playing antagonist, in the midst of a maintenance shaft where all of the angles of attack are covered. No amount of binoculars will help you as there are no windows, so you cannot see into an area to be able to siege it. You might notice there's only one way in or out conventionally, but you might find success making your own entrances.

Now wait, that was confusing, wasn't it? What's an angle of attack? It's actually quite simple, an angle of attack is one of few-to-many routes that an adversary can take to attack you. They can choose to attack you from the north, or the east, the west, perhaps even vertically or horizontally, so on. Rarely are these angles actually considered as to what might give them the best possible advantage. In real life, an army might attack a position in broad early morning daylight from the east. They do this particularly because the sun will have risen in the east during the fall solstice, and the sun at worst may only rise from the far northeast and set to the southwest, with heavy south-bias. Having the sun in your eyes is a positional battlefield disadvantage that is incredibly difficult to deal with.

When we apply this to SS13 again, such advantages aren't quite in play, but your position is considered for other reasons. When you hole up somewhere, do you ever have an escape route planned out in advance? A plan B escape route if you get cut off? Plan C, D, so on? Do you ever consider that being in a chokepoint might be to your detriment and to the opponent's benefit, and that you might be better off in a more open environment where you can move less predictably, than in a foxhole position being quickly overrun?

There's flaws to being in an open position, too. Against a security force armed with laser guns, an antagonist is going to be quickly gunned down from multiple angles. Watch your positioning. If you think at any moment you could get your butt kicked because you overstayed your welcome, then you should move. Do not deliberate on whether you should take the chance. It is better to take a chance in being caught out than to guarantee being caught out if you get found hiding in the place they suspect you would be. Keep moving when your position no longer gives you an advantage.

Equipment Assessment

This is one of the most basic factors to consider, with a lot of complexity later down the line. Being able to gather information (or "intelligence" in the military operators' school of thought) is critically important before you go into a situation. Humans are defined as the apex predators of the earth due to our superior usage of tools and technology to accomplish certain tasks for us. Where a tiger might use fang and claw to hunt, humans use anything between spears and high-powered hunting rifles to give themselves a bigger advantage over hunting than a tiger might. A tiger might be in for a world of hurt if their instincts fail them and cause them to make a mistake. Being skilled with a tool and the proper usage of it puts you at substantially less risk in accomplishing a task.

Well, great! Now you know why tools are good, if not completely necessary for you to do your job optimally. Now let's actually consider the scary risk part of your adversary being equipped with something similar but with different consequences involved if they happen to hit you.

Let's assume your adversary has a shotgun. Shotguns are close-quarter weapons that are not easy to overwhelm. They are powerful defensive weapons that can defend chokepoints at close range and quickly put you down if you ignore their capability to kill you in a few connected shots. Slugs will murder you if you're unarmored, only slightly less so when you're armored. Buckshot will be mitigated by armor, but the shrapnel has a very high chance of sticking with you until the very end. Slugs happen to be the short-term kill-you-fast ammunition, whereas buckshot is designed to bleed you out for every second you remain on the field.

What shotguns are not good at is sustained long-range combat. Even slugs are horribly inaccurate at longer ranges, and will be quickly outpaced by assault rifles or DMR-like weapons. Additionally, shotguns are difficult to wield and you can't manage your inventory while holding a shotgun, much less when you're in the heat of combat. Shotgun users are vulnerable when they're out of ammunition, because reloading is slow and easy to capitalize on. Shotguns also tend to be the most useful for the "corner-camp chokepoint-holder" playstyle. This can be exploited very easily, however, flashbangs and grenades are excellent at flushing people out of cover. Make sure you learn how to cook a non-chemistry grenade, as they were nerfed recently for their timers to not be exploitable.

You can apply similar logic to sniper rifles. Unless you have a plan B method to create your own entrance, a person with a sniper rifle will hold down a hallway forever. There is no hope to unrooting someone with a sniper rifle unless you're confident you can countersnipe faster with a weapon type similar to theirs. Speaking of sniper rifles: anti-materiel rifles are fucking dangerous. They deal enough brute damage to remove your head through almost all types of armor, short of you getting lucky, they are also hitscan and require no prediction-based skill with ballistics whatsoever. Respect the fuck out of an anti-materiel rifle. It is the most powerful gun in the game, an argument can be made for it being overpowered, because there is no other similar weapon of its class that compares to the anti-materiel rifle, but it also has factors such as only being able to load a single shot into its chamber before needing another manual reload.

So what about everything else?

Pistols happen to be good hold-out weapons but they're vulnerable to almost every other weapon category, they're generally inferior to other weapon types (aside from the revolvers being the exception). They're great for wounding while you figure out an escape, but they're also good for finishing off an already wounded target. Pistols are not what I would call versatile, but they are better than having nothing when your main weapon runs on empty and gets flung out of your hands.

SMGs and carbine-type weapons are versatile but not really good at anything. Unlike pistols, they're a good weapon to have, regardless, due to their average capacity. Anyone with a small gun such as this is still a threat.

Long guns such as assault rifles and DMR-type guns (not to be mistaken with the actual sniper rifle class) are good at medium range in general. They're designed to enforce spacing between yourself and an opponent and they generally have a stronger kill threat than pistols and the small guns. They're not great at long range but they are still good guns to have. They're often two-handed, so keep in mind you can't manage your inventory well with one of these weapons in hand. Be alert how you use ammunition.

There are specialist weapons too. These are defined within the clause of, "Basically anything that doesn't fit in a neat little box." Specialist weapons all do unique and interesting things, and can probably kill or maim you in a variety of different ways, ranging from very subtle to extremely eye-popping. Keep an eye out for these and be sure to examine every armed person you meet.

Grenades and gas-based weapons are all fantastic, but should never be used out in the open. It's a waste of a good grenade, 99% of the time it's going to do nothing in an open field. Throw grenades into chokes or small rooms for maximum effect. The person in that room has to choose whether to take the stun or to get flushed directly out of cover. Consider throwing grenades primarily into rooms with only one entrance or exit point for GREATEST value. You don't know humor like watching a Tajaran mercenary full sprint out of a room to avoid being stunned by a flashbang because they aren't wearing sunglasses, only to be caught in the flash range as they leave the room anyway.

Let's talk about Tactical Structure.

Tactics are very important. Having a good or bad plan may just as well make or break a confrontation. Here are a couple strategies I employ:

Divide and Conquer

Team Goal: Split and disperse yourselves to avoid awkward grouping that can be taken advantage of, attempt to single out enemy targets as best as possible, disallow enemy force from being able to stage an organized counter-attack by occupying every adversary with having to defend themselves. When the hostile attention is divided, they can't focus all their effort at once to deal with one problem. This strategy puts the vanguard at most risk, but puts the primary damage dealers at least risk, while simultaneously putting an incredible amount of pressure on the adversary force.

Team Composition:

1 Vanguard (General purpose is to be the loudest and most invasive member of the group, and to soak as much damage/attention as possible. Disperse enemy positioning as best as possible, pick a target and attempt to overwhelm them as quickly and brutally as possible. Shock and awe, you must be quick and brutal if you plan on surviving. After you down a target, reacquire a target not being actively focused. Leave none unoccupied. The Vanguard should be heavily armored against the most common damage type the enemy has, and should have a carbine at the least, and a reliable melee weapon as a backup.)

2 Riflemen (Each Rifleman must pick one target, it should not be the same target. Isolate and gun down your targets until they hit the floor. Reacquire the next target and make them hit the floor. Rinse and repeat until all hostiles are neutralized. Laser rifles, when given to riflemen, grant the best opportunities to storm and take down adversaries.)

1-2 Support (Should have first-aid equipment and/or a utility weapon to make things easier for the team. Giving the support an ion rifle is great, if they can manage to hit anyone other than your teammates. Your primary tactician should always be the support, so that they can continue to give orders and not be on the disposable front line like the vanguard. If there is a secondary support, they should have the other carbine and try to assist the other teammates. Supports should assist the vanguard first, the riflemen secondly, and other supports last, based on relevance in the situation.)



Team Goal: Eliminate adversaries in escalating order of largest threat to the team, focus on eliminating one person at a time to maximize damage output and minimize the amount of activity one enemy adversary can have. 'Regicide' is a term referring to killing a king. The most relevant adversary to eliminate is known as the "King" when referring to this strategy. The most heavily armored adversary is not always the biggest threat, but having heavy armor means having the best sustain, so keep that balance in mind. This strategy is not optimal if you don't have visible confirmation of all of their equipment.

Team Composition:

2 Vanguards (General purpose is to hold enemy attention and utilize crowd control to put an adversary into a position where they can easily be focus-fired and neutralized. Use grabs to throw an opponent into the middle of your team and attempt to prevent said individual from escaping their situation. Use area denial tactics to prevent other adversaries from helping. Should be heavily armored to get away with close-quarters displacement. Do not throw in more than one person at once into your team. One King at a time.)

2 Riflemen (Primary King-killers. Rely on the vanguard's positioning and displacement tactics to get you a better shot. The Vanguard is designed to set up for you to deal damage. Be careful not to shoot your allies in close-range. Kill the designated Kings thrown into your range as fast as possible.)

1 Support (First-aid and utility weapon/tools. Assist however possible, make tactical calls when needed.)


There are plenty more tactics you can make up and test out throughout the course of your gameplay, but these two I've found are relatively more successful than anything I've tried. I have other tactics I use but I'd rather not spoil them, I'll write them in an IC book another time.

The general rule of combat when clearing rooms is to be quick and efficient as possible. Always focus on building up your own tempo while denying the other force their own means of building tempo. The longer you dilly-dally in combat, the better chance the adversary has to screw on their head and to figure out how to outplay you. If you want to be successful, you'll want to avoid things that cause you not to be successful, savvy?


I can't stress how important it is to have rapport built within your team. If you can't trust any of them and vice versa, not only is that a personal problem on both ends, but you have the lowest chance to execute anything right with a team. A team structure must be able to execute a plan and be on the same page regarding who has what role and what the stakes are for failure.

If you plan on ICly being a douchebag to your teammates and plan on being successful with your team, then guess what, you can't have your cake and also eat it. That's just how it goes. You will not be able to be the master tactician that everyone respects when no one likes your character. Learn to be tactful, not just tactical. Leaders must also be charismatic and inspiring, not just the one with the plan.

Round-about with Situational Awareness + Closing

Now, this is a lot to cover. So let's do a rough TL;DR.


  • Learn focus. If you can't learn to focus on the real issues and have a problem-solvers' mindset, you won't succeed. Whining doesn't solve problems, it just lets everyone know you have problems that you aren't willing to solve on your own while providing zero possible solutions.
  • With a proper mindset and experience comes conventional wisdom that will stick with you every time you encounter an issue, everything will be as simple as running down a checklist with enough skill and experience.
  • If you do not have experience with teaching, do not be a teacher. There are some things that are better off not explaining to people if you don't have the words for it. You can't explain something to someone that doesn't have the years to understand, either.
  • Your positioning and your environment matters. Being able to make the best of both will make you incredibly oppressive to deal with, and you will have fun being rewarded for playing like a smartie.
  • It is better to risk being caught out trying to move out of a compromised position than it is to guarantee to be overwhelmed in a compromised position. Mobility, mobility, mobility. Stay dynamic, not stagnant.
  • Being well-equipped is important. Knowing what to be prepared for is better than knowing what to expect.
  • Respect the power of whatever equipment you possess and whatever equipment your opponent possesses. Play to your equipment's strengths and against the adversary's weaknesses.
  • Everything has strengths and weaknesses. Know how to make good use of your strengths and cover your weaknesses if possible. The versatile individual is more survivable than a strong individual with an Achilles heel.
  • Know how to make a plan. Sometimes the most immediately obvious solution isn't always the best one, and often the brute force solution actually is, if your opponent does not expect it.
  • On the other end, know to respect that the other side can do this too. Expect nothing but be prepared for anything.
  • The longer you and an opponent stay in combat, the more likely one (or both) of you is going to die.
  • Tactics are strong, but plans should stay as simple as possible. Complexity to plans makes it more likely something will go wrong in one of the many crucial steps. Remember what I said about chewing out small victories? Small defeats add up too. Only add a step of complexity if there's a factor to the equation that must be considered in order to survive.
  • Teamwork is critically important, as is building rapport with your team. Against the worst odds you can succeed against anything if your team's willpower is strong enough. Can just as easily fail without it.
  • Before a certain someone asks why this is a thing instead of it being a roleplay guide or something, I'll put it this way. You do not roleplay when your characters are dead, only the living get to roleplay. This is a survival game at its core and the mechanics are balanced around consequence being brutal. It's important to know how to survive SS13 before you learn the intricacies of roleplay.


Anyway, this essay was fun to write up. I hope it's just as fun and interesting to read. I'll be writing up a Leadership 101 guide at some point to help current command staff players and prospective to-be-whitelisted individuals figure out the basics of how to lead and how to make their department function.

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