Sunday, February 11, 2018

Guns & SWCL (St. Haralmbos the Hieromartyr)

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Haralambos, also known as the man who would not die. He was a 3rd century priest when he was arrested at the age of 103 or 113 depending on the source. He was subjected to multiple tortures: flesh stripped from his skin, dragged by horses, iron spikes driven into his flesh, flames, etc. He not only endured it all, but miracles poured forth from him convincing many who witnessed these things to become Christian. Admittedly, I struggled to find a way to apply St. Haralambos’ story to RPGs.

Yesterday was also a very busy day for me, so in the end a gave up and let my Saintly Saturday post pass. Then, as I was going to sleep, a thought came to me about Damage Resistance. This then led me to think about my own attempts to use it (despite my negative experiences with it while playing 3.5) in an attempt to remedy D&D’s weakness for simulating why armor disappeared from the battlefield once guns were introduced. I playtested DR and guns and it was not fun.

The impetus for this is a campaign that keeps boiling up every now and then as a consequence of meditating upon the lives of the saints: a fantasy version of Alaska.

As folks who have been reading this blog for the past several months know, my Gamer ADD has been surprisingly focused upon SWCL its possibilities. I have been pleasantly surprised by how forcing oneself into the minimalism of SWCL how easy it is to express really complicated ideas and worlds.

So, my tired, Haralambos-addled brain started to wonder what would happen if I were to apply SWCL’s minimalism to guns in an attempt to emulate the transition away from armor that happened when guns became prevalent?

The problem is Armor Class. D&D’s combat is all about over-coming armor and guns made armor largely irrelevant. Thus, there has to be a minimalist way that guns can ignore AC. As far as I am concerned, the simplest mechanic to use would be the Save.

In other words, guns would operate much in the same way that a Magic Wand works in SWCL:
Magic Wand: cast one 1st level magic-user spell (chosen by referee), 3 times per day.
The one 1st level spell that does damage is Magic Missile:
Magic Missile:
Range: 250 Duration: Instant.
A magic dart unerringly strikes a single target for 1d6 damage.
This, of course, bears little resemblance to a muzzleloader: the range is off as well as the accuracy; however, this allows for some fiddling to make this "Magic Wand" function more like an 18th century musket or pistol.

SWCL gives bows a Range of 100 ft. Of course, this seems historically inaccurate. An English Longbow probably had a range of around 400 yards. Two things to remember, however:

  • Bowmen did not fire at individual targets in battle, they fired at an area in volleys.
  • The Range given in SWCL can be interpreted to be either short range or point blank range and therefore its effective ability to target individuals could be increased to upwards of 300 ft. which seems reasonable given combat conditions.

Napoleonic era tactics had 100 yards as the outside effective range for a volley of musket fire. This would place an effective SWCL range for targeting individuals at 25ft. Given the classic image of the 18th century duel, this sounds fairly reasonable.

Muzzleloaders are infamously inaccurate, so targets should be able to make a Save in order to avoid damage.

In terms of frequency (given the short range and the Save) and given the time to reload, it could be ruled that a gun may be used once per combat.

Thus, what we are left with is the following:
Range: 25 Duration: Instant.
A gun that may be fired once per combat. Target must make a Save or take 1d6 damage.


Conrad Kinch said...

I think you're a bit off with the range calculation there.

Is there a way for a better marksman to improve his chance to hit?

FrDave said...

400 yards is to 100 feet (bow) as 100 yards is to 25 feet (musket). Remember, there is a difference between volley shots and aimed shots and the type of gun I am emulating has no rifling (meaning that they aren't all that accurate). What range would you use in this case?

Technically, there is no "to hit" roll to get a bonus with. From a mechanical POV, they always hit, the question is whether or not the target takes damage (the saving throw).

JDsivraj said...

25 feet is fine maybe a bit long for a muzzleloading pistol but a master marksman with muzzleloading rifle can hit a target 700 to 1300 yards away.

FrDave said...

The key word there is rifle. I am only trying to emulate muskets and pistols. Rifles of the 18th century were difficult to use and load and therefore did not see wide use. Given that the campaign area is well outside Civilization, rifles are not available.

JDsivraj said...

Eifles are expensive and taked a little longer to clean but are really no more difficult for regular use. I mentioned rifles because they were certainly available in the time period you mentioned (napoleonic wars). Rates of fire and ranges of military muskets are based on drilled compamy fire, with relativeely loose loads and not personal best.

JDsivraj said...

Sorry for type at start that should be rifles.

Anonymous said...

Standard 10 feet dungeon corridor. Nine men with muskets. Random encounter. Three men lie down, three men goes on a knee behind them, and the last three remain standing. All fire, then the front row stand and receive any charge with bayonets. I don't know when bayonets was invented, but besides smoking up the dungeon this seems pretty good.
Just thought about it.

Every Comment A Poem said...

I think a crossbow would be a better comparison.
Longbow fire includes firing upwards and dropping arrows on the enemy from above. A crossbow is aimed at an enemy. And I'm not sure there is such a thing as a light wound from a massive penetrative lead ball. 4D4 minimum I'd say.