Firearms

77IM

Explorer!!!
I'm starting a seafaring game soon (Saltmarsh, etc.) and I want to introduce firearms rules but I am concerned about game balance.

Firearms in the DMG are 1 damage die higher than crossbows. Light crossbow d8 -> pistol d10, heavy crossbow d10 -> musket d12. This is balanced by:
1. Lower range increments
2. They're loud
3. Cost of ammo
4. Cost of the weapons themselves

But for many players the damage die matters more than any of those things. So the only real balancing factor is cost. And, the pistol costs 250 gp and the musket 500 gp -- respectable amounts, analogous to the better armors (splint 200 gp, breastplate 400 gp, half plate 750 gp). So that seems fair to me.

Except, I don't want players to select those guns during character creation as part of an equipment package. It would be like starting with breastplate; you are supposed to work your way up to that. So now I've got three options:
1. Forbid starting with firearms. That's lame, though. If I want firearms in the game, I want players to have them.
2. Reduce the price of firearms. But that would remove price as a balancing factor. (Also, I don't want to change the statistics from the DMG -- it's easier for everyone if they can refer to the DMG or the D&D Beyond for those stats.)
3. Introduce new, weaker firearms that you CAN select at character creation.

I picked option 3. While I was at it, I totally stole [MENTION=6801204]Satyrn[/MENTION]'s idea for shotguns, and used them to create stats for blunderbuss and dragoon gun (historically, it was called a "dragon," but I think that terminology may become confusing). Here's what I wound up with:

Firearms.png
 

David Howery

Adventurer
Well drilled infantry could fire four to five times per minute, for the sake of game play once every six seconds isn't crazy.
IIRC, that rate of fire was for unaimed volley fire, not accurate shooting. But I don't want to get too technical in the game, so for 1E/2E, 'load and fire once a round' is reasonable. In 5E? Not all that familiar with it, but 'spend one full round loading' seems like it would work. I wouldn't want to bog the rules down with too much detail...
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
I like the list and the mechanics there a lot. Not overpowered or overcrowded and the comparisons from weapon to weapon seem right. My only caveat is a historical one, and we while know that D&D isn't driven by historical accuracy, so I will mention that your Blunderbuss' long range is probably twice as far as a historical blunderbuss was effective out to. At least as far as my familiarity with early firearms goes anyway. Whatevs maybe, but I'll throw it out there.
 

Draegn

Explorer
[MENTION=12377]77IM[/MENTION] Have you considered deafening effects from firing firearms? Either temporary or permanent.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
[MENTION=12377]77IM[/MENTION] Have you considered deafening effects from firing firearms? Either temporary or permanent.
Considering Knock alerts everyone within 300 feet aka American Football field but does not deafen the party, why should firearms do so?
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
Because firearms are loud and can cause hearing problems?
As someone who's fired a .357 magnum without hearing protection, I can definitely say that it hurt, and my ears rang for about 30 minutes afterward. Unless I need to defend myself without warning, or I choose to commit suicide (which I find myself thinking about more and more, and it does eventually seem inevitable . . . at some point), I'll never fire a gun without hearing protection again.

That said, the Thunderwave spell creates sound that actually throws people and buffets them with such sound that it deals actual damage, and it doesn't deafen. If Thunderwave doesn't deafen, a gun shouldn't. If a gun does, then maybe Thunderwave should.

Now, I can see an argument for firing a gun imposing disadvantage on your perception checks related to hearing until you complete a short or long rest. That makes sense. Again, though, it doesn't make sense that that also wouldn't be part of the effects of a Thunderwave.
 

Draegn

Explorer
Considering Knock alerts everyone within 300 feet aka American Football field but does not deafen the party, why should firearms do so?

https://www.shootinguk.co.uk/answers/noise-induced-hearing-loss-77421

This was studied on firing outdoors. Firearms discharged indoors are worse due to the sound waves being bounced back by walls and other obstructions.

I see no reason why there should not be a temporary deafness condition or permanent for long term usage. If 77IM's firearms can be heard 600 feet away, what of the chap who fired a musket held up to his cheek? One could apply the effects of the deafness spell, save of be deaf for one minute.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
https://www.shootinguk.co.uk/answers/noise-induced-hearing-loss-77421

This was studied on firing outdoors. Firearms discharged indoors are worse due to the sound waves being bounced back by walls and other obstructions.

I see no reason why there should not be a temporary deafness condition or permanent for long term usage. If 77IM's firearms can be heard 600 feet away, what of the chap who fired a musket held up to his cheek? One could apply the effects of the deafness spell, save of be deaf for one minute.
Again Knock and Shockwave don't cause hearing lost. Add hearing lost to all thunder damage and I would get behind you.
 

Satyrn

Villager
I'm starting a seafaring game soon (Saltmarsh, etc.) and I want to introduce firearms rules but I am concerned about game balance.

Firearms in the DMG are 1 damage die higher than crossbows. Light crossbow d8 -> pistol d10, heavy crossbow d10 -> musket d12. This is balanced by:
1. Lower range increments
2. They're loud
3. Cost of ammo
4. Cost of the weapons themselves

But for many players the damage die matters more than any of those things. So the only real balancing factor is cost. And, the pistol costs 250 gp and the musket 500 gp -- respectable amounts, analogous to the better armors (splint 200 gp, breastplate 400 gp, half plate 750 gp). So that seems fair to me.

Except, I don't want players to select those guns during character creation as part of an equipment package. It would be like starting with breastplate; you are supposed to work your way up to that. So now I've got three options:
1. Forbid starting with firearms. That's lame, though. If I want firearms in the game, I want players to have them.
2. Reduce the price of firearms. But that would remove price as a balancing factor. (Also, I don't want to change the statistics from the DMG -- it's easier for everyone if they can refer to the DMG or the D&D Beyond for those stats.)
3. Introduce new, weaker firearms that you CAN select at character creation.

I picked option 3. While I was at it, I totally stole @Satyrn's idea for shotguns, and used them to create stats for blunderbuss and dragoon gun (historically, it was called a "dragon," but I think that terminology may become confusing). Here's what I wound up with:

View attachment 106448
Nice.

By the way, interesting fact I only noticed last night:

I went with a range of 20/80 for the shotgun, but that's because I never noticed at the time that the DMG made the long range for guns equal to triple the normal range. I based my guns on the PH crossbows, and their long range is quadruple the normal range . . . just like all the other ammo-firing wrapons in the PH (and all the thrown weapons are triple-range).

If I can manage a phantom-edit of my houserules, I'm might change the shotgun to 30/90.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
There are enough incidents in history where there was a "BIG BANG" as a result of stored gun powder, and enough still extent ruins where the damage from the explosion is observable in all or in part, that I think we can establish that for enough weight of dry, well stored, finely ground and well compounded gun powder, there is in indeed a "BIG BANG". It won't look like a Hollywood explosion (which is typically mostly gasoline), and it won't be as brisant as an explosion from a high explosive, but it will still lift the walls of your star fort into the air or turn your giant man-of-war into a pile of splintered debris.
That only happens if the explosion takes place in the powder magazine, which was usually deep inside a fort to prevent accidentally lighting it off during a battle. If it was though, it would blow a hole in the walls. However, just setting a keg of powder off on top of a wall wouldn't actually do that much damage because all of the pressure just goes up into the air. Even modern high explosives wouldn't do much if you just strapped hunk of C4 to the side of a star fort set it off.

Heck, even a middling sized nuclear weapon wouldn't actually do that much to a start fort, unless is was dropped right on top of one, and that's largely the heat rather than the pressure wave.
 

Celebrim

Legend
That only happens if the explosion takes place in the powder magazine, which was usually deep inside a fort to prevent accidentally lighting it off during a battle. If it was though, it would blow a hole in the walls. However, just setting a keg of powder off on top of a wall wouldn't actually do that much damage because all of the pressure just goes up into the air. Even modern high explosives wouldn't do much if you just strapped hunk of C4 to the side of a star fort set it off.
While I agree with the science, now you are banking on the players in your game not being conversant in these matters and lacking basic demolition skills.

The point I'm trying to make is that RPG combats tend to be based on a notion of fairness, and there is a general agreement to avoid dwelling on deaths that would be unfair. Primitive firearms are pretty easy to balance in combat with melee weapons or even magic. The biggest problem you have is that lethality is increased at low levels, particularly with respect to low level NPC's armed with firearms. A volley of musket fire is realistically no joke to any character in a mundane/low heroic tier. But since PCs tend to quickly get out of these levels that's not a hard design problem.

Rather, my experience with gunpowder is that the PC's are less interested in using it to have guns, than they are interested in stealthy sabotage. So unless you want to run a game where the PC's and the NPC's are trying to murder each other with explosives, I'd suggest not introducing any explosives which are relatively stable and can be produced in quantity - including even low brisance explosives like gunpowder.
 
I'm not even so sure it's that big a deal. Why do firearms have to be particularly lethal? They just punch holes in people down range. Spears punch holes in people, arrows & quarrels punch holes in people - a dagger can certainly kill, but only does a d4.
Historically what made firearms so revolutionary wasn't that they were deadlier or longer-ranged than bows but that they required less training and physical ability to use, so you could field more troops armed with them. What made them fearsome to peoples unfamiliar with them was the noise (and that the projectile might not be noted right away), as much as the lethality. Oh, and the sheer amount of smoke from black powder is just crazy, modern powder is rightly called 'smokeless.'

So, if we really want to model firearms well in the game, they'd be 'simple' weapons, that would do decent damage without much regard to who's using them (no stat bonus to damage), and hit reasonably well, again without much regard to training (a static bonus to hit instead of proficiency, perhaps). And, of course, a low RoF, due to reloading, so all those Extra Attacks and such you get at high level are meaningless.
Appealing at low level, meh beyond that.
 

tglassy

Explorer
Unless you're the new Artificer with the Repeating Weapon infusion on the firearm, so it doesn't reload, never runs out of ammo and you can fire two shots a round at lvl 5...
 

Celebrim

Legend
I'm not even so sure it's that big a deal. Why do firearms have to be particularly lethal? They just punch holes in people down range. Spears punch holes in people, arrows & quarrels punch holes in people - a dagger can certainly kill, but only does a d4.

Historically what made firearms so revolutionary wasn't that they were deadlier or longer-ranged than bows but that they required less training and physical ability to use, so you could field more troops armed with them. What made them fearsome to peoples unfamiliar with them was the noise (and that the projectile might not be noted right away), as much as the lethality. Oh, and the sheer amount of smoke from black powder is just crazy, modern powder is rightly called 'smokeless.'

So, if we really want to model firearms well in the game, they'd be 'simple' weapons, that would do decent damage without much regard to who's using them (no stat bonus to damage), and hit reasonably well, again without much regard to training (a static bonus to hit instead of proficiency, perhaps). And, of course, a low RoF, due to reloading, so all those Extra Attacks and such you get at high level are meaningless.

Appealing at low level, meh beyond that.
You are IMO correct in all regards. This is in fact exactly the rules for firearms I have - simple weapons, barely more damage than crossbows, static bonuses to hit, and low rates of fire. They are typically appealing only to low level characters, and are eventually obsoleted by magic and high level martial skills.

This is why I'm focusing on what is less obvious - the fact that practical firearms require practical explosives. Black powder grenades are no particular problem. The problem starts to be the amount of gunpowder that PC's are capable of transporting or conjuring using magic combined with typical player mentalities.
 
This is why I'm focusing on what is less obvious - the fact that practical firearms require practical explosives. Black powder grenades are no particular problem. The problem starts to be the amount of gunpowder that PC's are capable of transporting or conjuring using magic combined with typical player mentalities.
I suppose it doesn't have to be conventional black powder (in my 4e pirate game, 'thunderfire rods' used 'alchemical reagents'), and could have different characteristics, like merely smoldering when touched off outside of a gun rather than being a functional low explosive.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
While I agree with the science, now you are banking on the players in your game not being conversant in these matters and lacking basic demolition skills.
Having played games with guys that work in the mining industry, I know what somebody with demolition skills can do. I've never been so convinced a half dozen stick of dynamite can take down a castle.

The point I'm trying to make is that RPG combats tend to be based on a notion of fairness, and there is a general agreement to avoid dwelling on deaths that would be unfair. Primitive firearms are pretty easy to balance in combat with melee weapons or even magic. The biggest problem you have is that lethality is increased at low levels, particularly with respect to low level NPC's armed with firearms. A volley of musket fire is realistically no joke to any character in a mundane/low heroic tier. But since PCs tend to quickly get out of these levels that's not a hard design problem.

Rather, my experience with gunpowder is that the PC's are less interested in using it to have guns, than they are interested in stealthy sabotage. So unless you want to run a game where the PC's and the NPC's are trying to murder each other with explosives, I'd suggest not introducing any explosives which are relatively stable and can be produced in quantity - including even low brisance explosives like gunpowder.
Very true, I don't consider a fort to much of an issue, and its not like the idea of explosives to blow things apart it new. Sure a blackpowder grenade isn't going to do the same to a wall as a dedicated breaching charge, but its not like it wont do anything. Its just a matter of setting the rules up clearly, and early for what you want. For example Star Wars SAGA Edition has rules for using explosives, but there are different rules for using shaped charges for intentionally damaging something like a wall, a door, or a star ship hull with explosives (weapons in ship to ship combat kind of assume that they're meant to have penetrating warheads and what not).

I'd honestly rule that a keg of blackpowder will blow up, and quite forcefully at that, but most of the damage is going to be from shrapnel from the container. Max it out at maybe 8d6. Something akin to a fireball spell. If arranged in such a way to specifically deal damage to a structure it does double damage to structures, and half damage to creatures in the blast radius. That's assuming a relatively large, not possible to throw in combat sized keg. Actual blackpowder grenades might do 2d6 damage in an area, but they're specifically designed to lethal while being relatively portable for the amount of explosive they contain.
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
A DM could also rule that since blackpowder firearms have been going off for a few rounds in the same general area, the entire area is now obscured with smoke.
 

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