Monday, July 17, 2017

Meditating on Firearms in D&D

So, following up on my recent thoughts about firearms, here are some simple concepts that could accompany the idea that the main defense against firearms is not armor but saving throws.

All firearms have three ranges:

  • Short: full damage, save for half-damage
  • Medium: full damage, save for no damage
  • Long: half-damage, save for no damage

Cover (and the Referee gets to decide what is Cover and what is not) makes all ranges into Long Range.

Therefore, there are two main ways to modify how aspects of a gun function: adjust the Range or adjust Cover. This allows a huge variety of mechanical ways to express various “tech-levels,” barrel lengths, calibers, accessaries, etc. For example:

  • Shortening or lengthening ranges is an easy way to express the relative effectiveness of a gun. A muzzle-loader would have a much smaller range increments than a 21st century sniper rifle.
  • Different saving throws (if one uses the saving throws from B/X, LL etc. instead of the “one-size fits all” approach of S&W) can be assigned to different calibers. For example: "Poison or Death" could be used for the smaller end (.32 or 9mm) and "Breath Attacks" could be used for the higher end (.50 cal) and/or shot guns.
  • Armor Piercing rounds could reduce Cover to Medium Range
  • Scopes could reduce ranges to Short and Medium (Medium = Short, Long = Medium)
  • Sci-fi weapons like plasma guns could only have a Short Range (however long the Referee wanted the range of a plasma gun to be).
  • etc.

Let the world building commence!


  1. Hmm.

    I've always considered futuristic energy weapons ("laser guns" or whatever) to be best modeled as magic wands (with the appropriate save to avoid). However, this doesn't work with firearms (except perhaps a full-auto, belt-fed machine gun) because there's the whole aim/chance of miss thing that comes from point-and-shoot weapons.

    And I dislike combining multiple rolls (to hit AND save?) to resolve single actions. That kind of madness leads to Palladium.

    When I was modeling early firearms for B/X I *did* end up using a simple attack bonus (+1 or +2 depending on the type) to model their increased effectiveness. The first reaction to firearms on the battlefield was indeed to increase the amount of armor one wore, before it was decided that mobility was a more effective defense against guns.

    If you're interested, you can read my musings and rules in these ancient blog posts:

    : )

    1. That kind of madness leads to Palladium
      I actually see this being more tolerable than some of the rules in later variations of D&D. Hitting AC 9, especially at higher HD or levels, is not that outrageous and neither is the damage (d6 if you use a universal damage die). Especially at lower levels against low HD creatures I'd happily shoot either a gun or a bow.

      Part of me wants to agree with you, but I have played out bonuses to hit, extra damage, damage resistence, etc. and none of them strike a balance that I am happy with. Also note: the root of this system is an attempt to specifically emulate the 18th century with minimal changes to the rules. This post is just an attempt to see how far I can push the idea (even if it means breaking it).

      I will grant that this needs to be play tested, but it is something that I actually want to play with as opposed to all the other attempts at introducing firearms to D&D which have me shaking my head and walking away...