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Rank I of the Heavy Gunner talent, Covering Fire, is described on page 97 of the Lancer Core Book First Edition PDF as follows (emphasis mine):

As a quick action, choose a character within line of sight and RANGE of one of your HEAVY ranged weapons, and within 10 spaces: they are Impaired until the start of your next turn. For the duration, if your target moves more than 1 space, they clear Impaired, but you may attack them as a reaction with a HEAVY ranged weapon for half damage, [Heat], or [Burn], and then this effect ends. You can make this attack at any point during their movement (e.g., waiting until they exit cover).

COVERING FIRE can only affect one character at a time – subsequent uses replace previous ones – and it immediately ends if your target damages you.

As p. 104 of the core book notes below the "Patterns" subheading in the "Weapon Tags" section, some weapons affect an area rather than a single target:

Some weapons and systems have special attack patterns: LINE, CONE, BLAST, and BURST. These attacks affect all targets within a defined area and require a separate attack roll for each target. Damage is only rolled once, and bonus damage is halved if there are multiple targets affected.

The section then describes how those 4 kinds of Area of Effect patterns work in particular.

How does Covering Fire's reaction work with area-of-effect attacks?

  • To begin with, can Area of Effect attacks (with heavy ranged weapons) even be made using the reaction from Covering Fire?
  • If so, do they need to be centered (or otherwise focused) on the character chosen for Covering Fire? Or can they be placed in any configuration as long as the chosen character is in the AoE? (Does the answer differ based on which Area of Effect pattern the attack has to use?)
  • Does the reaction attack only affect the chosen character? Or does it affect other targets in the Area of Effect as it would otherwise? (If it does affect other targets in the Area of Effect, do they take full damage/Heat/Burn, or is it also halved?)
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hah, I was just trying to look this up and came across your question. I wanna offer Covering Fire with real fire, as in the Krakatoa Thermobaric Flamethrower. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 15, 2020 at 18:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the question and to Thomas for drawing attention to it. The artwork in Lancer is pretty fanstastic, and the whole game looks really cool. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 29, 2022 at 21:39

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You can use Covering Fire and similar abilities with area of effect ranged weapons. Just after the section you quoted about the different area of effect patterns is this sentence:

For any ability or effect calling for you to choose a target or targets within RANGE, a weapon with a pattern can choose any target that could be hit by its pattern.

When Covering Fire lets you attack with your heavy area weapon, you do it just like any other situation you attack in. You can place the appropriate pattern anywhere appropriate, so long as the triggering character is included, then make attack rolls against everyone in the area.

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You get to hit every target in the area for half damage

The text already tells us everything we need to know with "these attacks affect all targets within a defined area". If you have a Heavy weapon, your chosen target is in range, line-of-sight, and 10 spaces, you get to attack the target with your weapon as a reaction, and that attack will affect everyone who is unlucky enough to be in the area of the weapon's pattern.

I think the source of the question is that this sounds like an exploit, instead of hitting one target, you now can possibly hit multiple. However, from a balance perspective, this is not the case:

You are spending a quick action to put them under Impaired but they can easily end that by moving, and if they move, you effectively spent your quick action to get to attack for half damage with your weapon. Compare this to the Skirmish quick action:

When you SKIRMISH, you attack with a single weapon. To SKIRMISH, choose a weapon and a valid target within RANGE (or THREAT) then make an attack.

  • In addition to your primary attack, you may also attack with a different AUXILIARY weapon on the same mount. That weapon doesn’t deal bonus damage.
  • SUPERHEAVY weapons are too cumbersome to use in a SKIRMISH, and can only be fired as part of a BARRAGE.

Skirmish does not work with Superheavy weapons, but it works just fine with Heavy weapons that have an attack pattern. That means, instead of using Covering Fire, you could have used that same quick action to directly blast that opponent and everyone around them, for full damage. And you would get to fire an auxiliary weapon, too. You are not really causing more harm by using Covering Fire with an attack pattern here. Even if you could deal full damage, you would do a little less expected overall.

To address the individual questions:

  • Can Area of Effect attacks (with heavy ranged weapons) even be made using the reaction from Covering Fire? Yes, nothing in Covering Fire says otherwise. All that is required of the weapon is that it is a Heavy ranged weapon.

  • Do they need to be centered (or otherwise focused) on the character chosen for Covering Fire? Or can they be placed in any configuration as long as the chosen character is in the Area of Effect? The talent does not require that they be centered on the character, all that is required is that the character is in the area of effect so they can be hit. However, in addition to the normal targeting requirements for pattern attacks, you also need to have line of sight to the character (see below for details).

  • Does the reaction attack only affect the chosen character? Or does it affect other targets in the Area of Effect as it would otherwise? It does affect all targets in the area of effect, but as the ability states, you attack them for half damage, burn, or heat. This is also consistent with the rule for pattern attacks that Damage is only rolled once: everyone in the area gets the same damage. You still need to make additional attack rolls against the others, and if several are affected, they also only take half bonus damage.


P.S.

There is additional text from Range and Patterns on p. 64 that is quoted in Blckknght's answer and that the question missed; that text is missing on page 104, under Gear and Systems, where patterns are covered again. The text in full is:

Some weapons and systems have special attack patterns: LINE, CONE, BLAST, and BURST. These attacks affect all targets within a defined area and require a separate attack roll for each target. Damage is only rolled once, and bonus damage is halved if there are multiple targets affected. For any ability or effect calling for you to choose a target or targets within RANGE, a weapon with a pattern can choose any target that could be hit by its pattern.

Unfortunately, the additional language (in italics) does not help to resolve the question. The sentence just clarifies that you do not need to be able to hit the target directly -- for example, when you use a weapon with a blast range, the rules tell you (also p. 64):

Blast X: affects characters within a radius of X spaces, drawn from a point within RANGE and line of sight. Cover and line of sight for the attacks are calculated based on the center of the blast, rather than the position of the attacker.

So the sentence clarifies that you can target someone that is covered by the blast, even if you do not have direct line of sight to them, which is a requirement for a normal ranged attack. The target you put under Impaired is the only target the Heavy Gunner talent makes you choose. Funnily, the talent re-introduces the need for line of sight to that character, because it states that you "choose a character within line of sight and RANGE of one of your HEAVY ranged weapons, and within 10 spaces". That is more specific than the general rules for pattern and ranged attacks, and according to the Golden Rules on page 12, Specific rules override general statements or rules.

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