Wednesday 31 October 2012

Guns in Into the Odd

In the world of Into the Odd guns have recently started to be mass produced. They are the ranged weapon of choice for soldiers and civilian explorers alike. Of course, bows and crossbows haven't just disappeared completely. In fact, we all know these weapons can be just as deadly as firearms.

So I guess we're having the guns in D&D debate, right?

Well, no. I don't really see the need.

I've seen some great suggestions for making firearms feel different to bows in D&D. We've all heard the real world arguments of guns being easier to learn, but I don't see that factoring into any game I'm running. In game the distinctions tend to boil down to one of the following:

1. Guns do great damage but are unreliable and dangerous to use.
2. Guns do great damage but take an age to reload.
3. Guns ignore armour.

Point may have been true for firearms, but this is a setting where they've got a good grasp on their construction and use. I don't want everyone with a pistol to risk losing a hand.

Point would certainly seem most logical. Pulling another arrow from a quiver is much faster than reloading a flintlock musket, even for the most well trained soldier. But if we're going down this route shouldn't crossbows take longer to reload than bows? I'm going to render this moot with a personal preference against anything that wastes turns. I already adhere to a longer, more abstract turn than modern D&D's six-seconds. Regardless of reload times I want a ranged weapon to be able to attack each turn.

I love the simplicity and tactical choice inherent to point but it just feels wrong to me. We know that armour stopped bullets and even if the bullet penetrated the armour I'm sure the wound would be lessened than if the target were unarmoured.

Instead I look back at one of my mantras when writing Into the Odd.

"Assume common sense".

I can hear tables being flipped and monocles popping. Those poor players without common sense! I look at it this way. I'd rather have a game that some people misinterpret than a game with so many rules it resembles a legal document. Of course, there's a sweet spot somewhere in the middle, so let's put the false dichotomy aside and I'll explain myself.

Into the Odd has three categories of weapons you can buy normally.

Simple Weapons cause 1d6 damage and include crude or light weapons from daggers and clubs to, yes, bows and crossbows.
Martial Weapons cause 1d6+1 damage and are anything you'd call "modern" in the setting. Swords, axes and maces can all be martial weapons if they're made to modern standards and of course this includes pistols and muskets.
Exceptional Weapons cause 1d6+2 damage and are pricey weapons made to the best standard available.

So why is the bow still around if it's just a weaker gun? The boom in your boomstick is a key factor here. There's not really a quiet way to kill someone with a gun in this setting. Do I write this in the game document? No. See my mantra about assuming common sense.

If the player says "I try to shoot the guard in the back without alerting the others" and the Referee doesn't blink then they're probably already a lost cause.

So do I expect Referees to keep an expert knowledge of firearms? Should they stop players using their guns if they get wet? Should they require maintenance?

These are more questions I don't answer in the interest of streamlining things. I'd wager that any Referee reading this already knows how they'd handle them so I'll add assumption of competence to my assumption of common sense. Foolish, perhaps, but all I know is it's that foolishness that lets me fit an RPG with full rules for characters from grave-robber to emperor, ten spell-levels, combat manoeuvres, mass combat, company management, referee guidance, sample monsters, traps, magic items, a dungeon, a wilderness area and a settlement into a 25-page document.

It's a trade-off I'm pretty happy with.


  1. I ran a 4E D&D game than included both guns and bows. They were identical mechanically, but for the following:

    - Guns are easier to conceal but loud

    - Bows and crossbows are harder to conceal but quiet

    That worked well, and made them feel different without making one clearly better than the other. I think it's perhaps worth mentioning the loud aspect of guns in the rules document, just so referees are reminded to roll extra random encounter checks or whatever.

  2. Replies
    1. A brace of pistols, as in a pair.

    2. Thank you! I'm not a native speaker, didn't know that meaning of brace ;)

  3. One more question. There are rifles (d8) mentioned in the starter package table, also looters in the Iron Coral have them. I understand it's about early rifles (or rifled muskets) like ones used during Crimean War or Civil War? What is the difference between such rifles and long rifle (heavy gun, d10). Is the latter an American frontier rifke, Jeremiah Johnson style?

    I understand that it's up to me, but my players keep asking about the original intention, so feedback will be appreciated.

    1. I'm not an expert on specific models. The intent is that heavy guns are generally simply bigger than the standard d8 damage rifles, so pack a more powerful shot.