Monday, October 15, 2012

Guns! Guns! Guns!

Do you feel lucky punk? Well, then roll for initiative ...

I'm not exactly a gun nut. I've fired a gun, once, at a Christmas outing, but other than that I've never had much of a fetish for the things. Yet, now I find myself working on Action X and needing to educate myself about the things.

The Modern SRD, on which I'm loosely basing Action X, has gun stats, of course, but I need a bit more. I plan on including in Action X a variety of "eras" in which to game - Victorian, Pulp, Atomic, etc. That means I need to chart guns from the 1860's or so to the modern game, and therefore need a system, of sorts, to figure out what's what with these things.

One way to go would be to simplify it - pistols, rifles, battle rifles, sub machine guns, light machine guns, medium machine guns, heavy machine guns, with damage following suit: Pistols do 1d6, rifles do 1d8, battle rifles 1d10, etc. I think, though, that many folks who are attracted to modern gaming like the idea of different guns - Bond's Walther PPK, Dirty Harry's S&W Model 29 .44 Magnum, etc. So, again, I need a system.

My solution (at the moment, anyhow) is to base damage on two factors - calibre and muzzle velocity. In other words, how much mass is hitting the target and at what speed. Rate of fire I think I'll handle with an abstract "burst" mechanism - probably handled as a burst multiple that can either count as multiple damage on a single target or can spread among multiple targets, with the traditional penalty to hit multiple targets. So, a gun with a burst factor of "x3" could either be used to score triple damage on a single target, or used to score normal damage on up to 3 targets.

Anyhow - here's my little matrix for gun damage. I'm beginning the damage at d6, and dropping damage by one dice size for balls vs. bullets.

Calibre is rounded off, and muzzle velocity is in feet per second. Using these numbers, Bond's Walther PPK does 1d6+1 points of damage, while Dirty Harry's .44 magnum (Smith & Wesson Model 29) does 1d8+1 points of damage.

Currently, I've been gathering data from Wikipedia on various guns - have a little database of 416 so far, with quite a few more to go and plenty of missing pieces of data - and should be able to put together some decent gun lists for each era of the game. And yes, I'll be putting the database up on Google Docs for folks to download at some point.


  1. I think you're probably better off with a very abstract system, because as soon as you try to do it with more granularity you will run afoul of gun nerds.

    For instance: an awful lot of modern big-game hunting is done with very-high-velocity .223 rounds. They are small, but because they are small, they tumble once they're inside the target, causing more damage than a larger bullet, which is likely to just through-and-through.

    1. A friend of mine once spent far longer than is healthy looking at entrance and exit wounds for various rounds when fired through ballistic jelly for a game he was designing. It made for an interesting aside, but other than that, most people just wanted to roll the dice and drop the bad guy.

  2. What Adam and Paul said. Start with a good basic, abstract system and then let the fetishists add their modifiers and special damage rules in. Any other way lies madness! I once lived in Tucson and ran games for several avowed gun enthusiasts....when we played Cyberpunk 2020 back then it was quite entertaining to hear them bitch about the vagaries and nuances of a system that was already fairly complex.

  3. I'm all about keeping it rules lite and letting the bitchers bitch.

  4. Sounds like you've systematized this pretty thoroughly in the name of elegance, and more power to ya. My, more kludgy, approach would be to steal from BRP's extensive offerings by way of GORE's open game content. Checking awhile back I noticed BRP has damage not too far off from d20 in a bunch of cases.

  5. A less detailed damage chart might be supplemented by special factors like stopping power or armor penetration; that way you can avoid the complexity of modeling bullet wounds but still give your guns some zazz

  6. Honestly, I think you are working too much for too little payoff. I would also say you need to be looking at energy of the bullets, not caliber and velocity, as well as how that energy is transferred. For instance, there isn't much different on your chart between a .22 LR and .44 Magnum, just caliber, since they have the same velocity almost. But in reality, a .44 has 6-7x the energy and transfers it better.

    I would either just use the d20 modern stats, or halve them (since presumably Action X won't have hit point inflation like d20 modern), so .22 and 25 do 1d4 damage and a .44 does 1d8. That also avoids the problem of fiddly numbers, having to add +1 sometimes (which I really don't like).

  7. I see what you're saying, and I might bump the numbers a bit more, but my problem is that the Modern SRD only covers fairly recent weapons (to my memory), where I need to go a bit further back. So, either way, I need some sort of system to make reasonable guesses (it's all make-believe, after all) at the damage range for the weapons. And really, it only took a couple days to gather the data.

  8. Balls do more damage if they get to the target. A ball deforms on impact causing more damage but isn't as good at hitting a target at range.

    Best treatment of modern firearms I've seen in a game is the D20 Call of Cthulhu, give it a read.

  9. If you want more good information on different types and use of firearms I'd recomend listening to the ProArms podcast. It is hosted by several very experienced and well known firearms instructors. Their information runs the gamut from types of guns to use in certain situations to the pros and cons of different ammo types and even the legality of certain guns and situations.

  10. It might be helpful to add to your chart a metric equivalent to the Imperial caliber. 5mm would be above the .2 and 9mm would be in the .4 (I could be wrong about that, feel free to double check it, but it might be helpful to some people).

  11. keep in mind that guns vary in capacity and that can be important to roleplaying.

  12. In my current Pathfinder game, the source that I use is the Call of Cthulhu D20 book. If you're curious, you can look at the PDF online, but long story short, it's a good source and has a large variety of guns, ammo, and variables.


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