Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bang Bang, You're Dead

I'm going to grossly oversimplify and state that there are two schools of thought on firearms rules for D&D.

The first school wants to simulate reality, which means making firearms incredibly deadly, able to do more damage than an axe to the face, penetrate armor, deny you your DEX mod to AC, that sort of thing.  Purveyors of this philosophy also tend to want misfire rules, realistic reloading, and the like.

The second school just thinks guns are a cool addition, and they don't want to add "unnecessary" rules to complicate things.

I'm squarely in the second camp, and so is Wampus Country.  We're not exploring "the effect of ye harquebus on warfare" here, we're firing revolvers at witches.  To that end, I present...

"Bloody Hell, Watkins!  Whoever sold rifles to these Blue-Feather barbarians is a damnable rotter!"


1)  Most pistols do 1d6 damage; most rifles do 1d8 damage.  You'll note this makes them functionally similar to the short and long bow, respectively.  Muzzle-loading pistols do greater damage in exchange for just getting the one shot (see below).

2) I'm assuming the firearms are either muzzle-loaded (like a Hawken) or break-action, and all the revolvers are single-action.  That's my mental guideline.  If you're a gun aficionado, that's great, feel free to describe things about your character's weapons as we play.  I don't want to hear a bunch of "tut-tut" about weapon realism, though, any more than I'd want you to question why there are goddamn owlbears.  The firearm inspirations are a mishmash of 18th-19th century just like everything else, so if we have a Kentucky Rifle in the same party as a Colt Dragoon, nobody cares, go kill something together.  I'm stopping short of lever-action rifles because I don't want repeating rifles.

3) Since we're using Labyrinth Lord and implementing no weapon specialization hoo-ha, I'm going to go ahead and say that every class can use firearms.  The great equalizer - til you run out of rounds, I suppose.

4) Precise range increments are for bean-counters.  Have faith that I will let you know what's in range and what's not, what's just at the edge of your range, etc.

5) I'm not worrying about caliber or grains, period, except to say that you can't put a freaking musket-ball in  a cartridge revolver.  If you have a muzzle-loader, you can get a bullet-making kit ($12) and cast your own bullets from lead and scrap; otherwise, you'll be paying for ammunition.

All pistols come with an appropriate holster as part of the listed cost.  All muzzle-loaders come with a ramrod and stuff.  Please consider the prices listed below to apply for River-Town; the further one gets from civilization, expect these prices to skyrocket.

Muzzle-loaded pistol ($10-20, 1d8, 1 shot) - reloading in combat is problematic, but you can cast your own bullets.

Top-break revolver ($15-20, 1d6, 5 or 6 shots) - reloading in combat is possible with a speedloader.

Muzzle-loaded rifle ($10-30, 1d10, 1 shot) - reloading in combat is problematic, but you can cast your own bullets.

Break-action rifle ($10-30, 1d8, 1 shot) - reloading in combat takes one round.  Yes, this is arbitrary.

Double-barreled coach gun ($20-30, 1d8, 2 shots) - reloading takes one round per chamber (2 for full reload).  This is just to match the rifle reload times.

And since someone will ask, a bayonet counts as a dagger ($4, 1d4).  Also in the 'someone will ask' department, getting silver bullets (or bullets coated with anything unusual) is custom work and will cost accordingly.

Bows are in common use amongst savages; crossbows are unusual (the frontier sort of skipped over them).

Although many craftsmen can easy crank out a homemade Kentucky rifle, the finest line-made firearms come from Margate & Rapp, who have a facility just outside River-Town.  Although well-known, Margate & Rapp don't dominate the market, as there are several other smaller manufacturers, including the economy-priced Stickell, known for their exceedingly cheap one-shot pistols and single-barreled coach-guns (as the magazine ad says, "If You're Ever In A Pickle / You'll Be Glad You Had A Stickell").

I'm sure I've forgotten something.  It'll come to me.

If You're Ever In A Pickle
You'll Be Glad You Had A Stickell!


  1. Those are the same damage ranges I use for the World Between. I add two things, though:

    On a maximum damage roll (6 or 8) the firer can roll another attack; if that is also a success, roll another damage die and add it to the total.

    On a natural to-hit roll of 1 the gun jams. This is the only time I use fumbles in my game because I don't like the random 5% to be a nimrod.

  2. I think this is a good approach for OD&D. In my current City game in Pathfinder, guns do more damage (I use variant rules, not the standard Pathfinder) but I allow all classes to use them, and don't worry about any ignoring AC or exploding dice or the like.

  3. I'm the sort that if I add too many subsystems, I'll forget them. That kind of detail doesn't much interest me when it comes to that aspect of the game (I don't want variant rules distinguishing a voulge from a glaive, either). Gun jams are exciting, but unless we have bowstring-snaps and other fumbles (which I don't), then it's an argument against using a firearm (which is often balanced by them being uber-deadly, I guess).

  4. I use 1d8 for pistols and 1d12 for guns (which I will be changed to 2d4 and 2d6 next time I run a campaign) with a reload time of 1 round for each. This balances them well with bows in Swords and Wizardry which do 1d6 and 1d8 but fire twice a round.

  5. The problem is that there is no system in D&D with either medieval weapons or early/late guns whereby a normal man could kill a bear or lion with one well placed blow. The odds are against it, but surely there should be a chance? Take that picture posted of the boy trying to hold off that tiger with a pistol. A tiger, in Moldvay's basic D&D (page B32) has 6d8 hp, for an average of 27. That one shot pistol, be it 1d6 or 1d8, is just going to make it angry. That boy will be mauled to death.

  6. @Ulrich - you're right of course, but that's a flaw we've lived with for forty years, applying to all weapons. If that's the sort of physics you're after, maybe try some other critical-inflicting system than the default. I would say have all damage dice 'explode' but that actually favors daggers, math-wise, doesn't it... Hmm.