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In the Rogue Trader on p. 247 it indicates:

Shooting into Melee Combat Ballistic Skill Tests made to hit a target engaged in melee combat are Hard (–20). If one or more Characters engaged in the melee is Stunned, Helpless, or Unaware, this penalty is ignored.

Full stop. That is the extent of what it says. Full auto and Semi auto fire give a +20 and +10 bonus, respectively. Nowhere that I can find is there any indication what the rule is if you miss.

To illustrate, if you've two melee fighters tangling with a sorceror in melee, and a someone with a fully automatic weapon fires into the crowd, with full auto, they have a +0 chance to hit. And if they miss (or even if they hit but not with every bullet they fired) none of the other melee fighters are hit. This seems non-sensical.

Offhand, I'd expect:

  • Increasing difficulty to hit your target based on the number of melee fighters, starting with -20 for two fighters and going up from there.
  • Some sort of rule for handling stray bullets. Given the themes of 40k, I'd expect them to be gruesomely awful for your friends locked in melee combat.

But I can't find anything along these lines. Does Warhammer 40k provide any to handle this situation? (It would seem odd to not, given that they have clearly conceived that the situation exists.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Everyone in the Warhammer 40k setting is both polite and cautious, and would never risk hitting an ally, or even an enemy other than the one they aimed at! When they fire into melee, they aim carefully at the edge of the melee occupied entirely by their target; this reduces their chance of hitting, but ensures they never hit non-targets. Also, they aim so well that they're capable of doing this even while applying More Dakka (sometimes called "Full Auto") to the task! \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Dec 14 '15 at 22:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for 'More Dakka'. I suppose an acceptable answer is that 'bullets leave the universe' once they miss their intended target. But sort of a sad one. \$\endgroup\$ – Nathaniel Ford Dec 14 '15 at 22:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Besides, leaving your trigger down for too long can make you go from "More Dakka" to "No Dakka" in a hurry... \$\endgroup\$ – Shalvenay Dec 14 '15 at 23:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ This title sounds like a fun Fallout Vault-Tec advisory video. Lovely. :) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 15 '15 at 6:45
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You can use the Stray shots optional rule from p248.

GMs keen on reinforcing the merciless nature of the 41st Millennium may rule that if a character shooting into a melee combat misses his target by a small margin (one degree of failure or less), the attack instead hits another target engaged in the same melee. The GM might also rule that anyone shooting into a melee combat with a Semi-Auto Burst or Full Auto Burst must allocate multiple hits to different targets engaged in the melee.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not super surprised I missed this, as it's not indexed anywhere reasonable, and while it leaves a lot to be desired I'm glad there is some guideline! Thanks for pointing me to it! \$\endgroup\$ – Nathaniel Ford Dec 15 '15 at 17:49

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