... now with 35% more arrogance!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Big Guns

It seems my previous post about tech levels and guns wasn't clear. People think I'm saying that guns do more damage the more technologically advanced they are, and suggest that guns actually become lighter weigbt and smaller in size over time.

Except: that second part is what I'm saying. So here's a restatement.

If I'm using (medieval-style) gunpowder weapons, the basic handgonne is a two-handed affair like a bazooka and does 1d6 damage. It otherwise works like a heavy crossbow, whatever rules I decide to use for those. There are also bigger weapons, which do 2d6, 3d6, and so on (I haven't set an upper limit, because I'm not striving for realism, just some variety.) These big weapons can't be carried by a human being, but they might be usable by giants. Otherwise, they're basically cannon.

With practice and discoveries, artillery and firearm manufacturers can make a weapon of a given size able to handle a bigger charge of gunpowder. This means that they can make a 1d6 weapon smaller, and the same applies to larger weapons. I picked an arbitrary period of one century; after one century, manufacturers can make a 2d6 arquebus that replaces the handgonne as the equivalent of a heavy crossbow, and there's now a 1d6 gun equivalent to a light crossbow (still requires two hands, but it's lighter and quicker to reload.) After two centuries, that gun size does 2d6, and there are 1d6 pistols available.

It looks like I'm adding a die of damage every 100 years, but I'm actually shrinking the size of the larger weapons. I figure it's the amount of gunpowder, basically, that determines the damage, and an explosion that could cause 3d6 damage requires a gun of a certain amount of weight to handle it without exploding.

Of course, this is a "six of one, half a dozen of the other" situation. But hopefully it's clearer what I'm saying now.


  1. I'm working on a system of bullet damage for my AD&D campaign myself. I wouldn't compare the damage of a bullet to an arrow. A lead bullet is going to have the potential to do major damage as the lead deforms and can enter with a wound the size of a small hole and exit with a wound the size of a large fist. It can also fragment and bounce around inside a body. I am also considering how gunfire would ignore armor class at least at short and medium range. Platemail might even be worse to be wearing if fired upon since a bullet that might go through and through could bounce off the back piece and bounce back into the flesh doing even more damage.

    1. In AD&D, it wouldn't be the equivalent of an arrow, because of the difference between how AD&D imagines damage and how (pre-Greyhawk) OD&D imagines it. In OD&D, though, it's exactly like an arrow, as is every other human-scale weapon. Only the big stuff does more than 1d6 damage.


  2. Your thinking that a bullet isn't big stuff, but even considering the OD&D 1d6 damage per weapon, a bullet is something quite different, especially those black powder hand cannon's they used to use. No range, but they packed a wallop, which is why the advent of firearms changed the nature of combat.

    1. Again, you have to keep in mind what "all personal weapons used by humans do 1d6 damage" means. 1d6 means "kills an ordinary human." It's not a measure of the amount of physical damage; the variability is there to represent luck, stamina, dodging, cover, attacker's ability to aim, flesh wounds, and many other things. Only really extreme things go beyond that 1d6, like catapults, giants, and magic. The extra dice Aren't really to represent increased physical damage, but decreased likelihood that the defender will luck out.

  3. No, it was quite clear before, but that's just not how guns work.

    More powder would make the ball fly further and faster. It's not going to do that much more damage, or really decrease the likelihood the defender will "luck out" in some mystical way.

    Advancements to blackpowder weapons improved the size and weight (which you seem to get), and the range and accuracy. Reliability also improved with the various advancements in ignition technology (match, matchlock, wheel lock, flint lock).

    This is why I suggested before that you increase range and decrease range penalties as you advance - that's what advancements in blackpowder technology brought.

  4. How about for every century for guns you get an 'improvement' so you have base stats for a gun which is

    d6 dmg say 100' effective short range, 1 shot before reloading, reload time 2 rounds

    damage improves by having a re-roll threshold. an improvement lets you re-roll dmg on a 1, another on a 1or2, another on a 1 2 or 3, etc. etc...

    effective short rang increases by 200' for each improvement

    reload time cuts down by a round for each improvement.

    so 400 years improvement could with 2 improvements in dmg and 1 each in range and reload would look like

    d6 dmg(re-roll on a 1 or 2) 250' short range, 1 shot before reloading, reload time 1/round

  5. I think this will likely boil down to those that are satisfied with a more abstract representation of combat and those that are not.

    I'm curious, Talysman, if you even bother to consider range most of the time. I know I don't, as the small scale engagements of adventurers make range mostly meaningless. There are certain circumstances where I might allow range to give one side the equivalent of a surprise round, but after that one side or the other is either likely to close distances or flee.

    Thus, making range the key differentiator between guns and other missile weapons may or may not be realistic, but in either case it doesn't seem to really offer an interesting trade-off for a player trying to decide what weapon to carry.

  6. Yeah, it looks like an irreconcilable argument.

    As for range in actual play, I think it may have come into play once or twice over the last 35 years. Not fir the recent campaign, although I did have some 80 to 100 foot rooms where it could have mattered. The missile fire just didn't take place in the big rooms.