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Guns in D&D - A Hot Take

TiwazTyrsfist

Adventurer
In real life, statistics show that roughly 1 in 3 victims die from a single gunshot wound, 2/3 survive assuming they get immediate medical attention.

The average person in D&D is modeled by the Level 1 Commoner

A Level 1 Commoner has 4hp

Therefore, the bullet must average 1/3rd of hits at 4+ dmg, and 2/3rd of hits at 3 or less dmg.

Therefore the correct damage for a bullet from a modern firearm is 1d3+1.

The true danger of bullets must be modeled with special features such as ignoring armor, and guns being allowed to fire multiple times as a single attack.
 

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I

Immortal Sun

Guest
When I want to use guns, I use the ones presented in the Mass Effect d20. I don't play a lot of d20 modern, but these are the only weapons I've ever seen that actually feel deadly in play.
 

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WhosDaDungeonMaster

Guest
How many of those victims die from blood loss and not the immediate damage of the bullet, though? I think more people die from the blood loss than the immediate affect of the wound.

Options you might like could be allowing attacks by gun at advantage. After all, a bullet is MUCH faster than other attacks, and its small point of impact could penetrate armors and hide more easily (also represented by giving advantage).
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
Yes! It is a pet peeve of mine when people want to give guns extraordinary damage. I get that being shot can be deadly, but is it really more deadly than being cleft in twain by a greataxe? Or stabbed by a shortsword? The advantage of modern guns is their rate of fire and ease of use.

Ease of use = most guns should be simple weapons. (I could see something like a sniper rifle being treated as a martial weapon because learning to use it effectively takes a lot of practice.) Rate of fire = you can do extra damage, but it chews through ammo. For game balance, I'd make the effect modest, otherwise you overpower assault rifles and machine guns.

However, historical guns were a bit different. I'm not an expert, but I'm under the impression that getting hit with a musket ball was pretty devastating. But, reloading took a positively un-fun amount of time. If we use the crossbow rules for reloading (which are unrealistically fast), then the damage should probably be on par with a crossbow, too, for game balance. Honestly, I think you could do a lot worse than re-skinning crossbows to model early firearms.
 

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WhosDaDungeonMaster

Guest
That is a good point 77IM about rate of fire. Historically a trained soldier could load and fire a musket at best 3 times per minute. Such a weapon would only fire once and then take a full action or longer to reload.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
A popular theory is that guns took over in warfare not because of their damage, range, or ease of use, but because they are loud. When you hear a row of guys fire mini-cannons at you, it is kinda scary.

In most early gun battles, the majority of injuries were caused by bayonets, often after one side had routed. The gun volleys were just the intimidating set-up for the bayonet charge. So the theory goes.
 

W

WhosDaDungeonMaster

Guest
Well, earlier guns were also fairly inaccurate. Which was why the volley system was used: blanketing an area more likely ensured some hits. Also due to the time required to reload, once a foe got too close you were much better off fighting hand-to-hand.

Personally, I will never use guns in D&D LOL, and never looked at the rules for them in the DMG. I think reducing the damage would be appropriate. Trust me, a Revolver is no more deadly than a sword thrust.

However, another suggestion I would offer is increasing the Critical range for guns to 19-20 or making it so on a 20, guns to triple damage instead of double. Just some thoughts.
 

MarkB

Legend
The one modern-setting campaign I've run so far for D&D 5e gave guns similar damage output to equivalent base-game ranged weapons. The only major difference was a couple of extra firing-mode options. Basically, the reason characters ran around with guns instead of crossbows was because it was a modern setting and those were the commonly-available weapons.

I can see the temptation to do otherwise when running a standard setting wherein guns are introduced as a newly-invented weapon. In that circumstance they're supposed to be more scary than the conventional alternatives, otherwise why would anyone bother with inventing them, and even if they did, why would anyone else care?
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I'd model the idea of guns punching trough armors with the same mechanic as with the psy-blade from the UA Mystic.

Phantom Knife
Starting at 14th level, you can make an attack
that phases through most defenses. As an action,
you can make one attack with your soul knife.
Treat the target’s AC as 10 against this attack,
regardless of the target’s actual AC


So, something like this:

1d10 or 12 piercing, ranged, ammunition, heavy, special: action that allows to make a ranged attack against AC 10.
 

jmartkdr

First Post
Re: guns ignoring armor: plate armor was invented specifically to stop bullets. It's even where the term bullet-proof comes from.

As metallurgy improved, higher loads became possible, which made the armor weight requirements too much to practically wear even when you factor in that people only wore armor during actual battles. Plus, cannons don't care what you're wearing. Pre-musket firearms weren't really better than the crossbow available at the time. The rate, effective range, lethality, etc. were all fairly close; in many cases which you used had more to do with logistics (was it easier to keep in bolts or in powder?) than the relative merits of the weapons.

But being too realistic isn't fun, so I generally just make guns mechanically equivalent to crossbows at the same price point.. In other words, if you can start with a gun, it has the same traits as a crossbow. If it's better than a crossbow, it costs more - roughly equivalent to where I'd put a magic crossbow with the same traits. That's why I'd use the prices in the dmg for early firearms if anyone asked. They seem about right for the small benefit.
 

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WhosDaDungeonMaster

Guest
Re: guns ignoring armor: plate armor was invented specifically to stop bullets. It's even where the term bullet-proof comes from.
I'm curious what your source is for this statement? To my understanding, guns came a couple centuries after plate armor was first "popular" (but they were in China many years before, of course). Even so, crossbows and longbows had plenty of penetrating power to pierce plate armors. Oddly enough, layered armors were more effective at stopping penetrating attacks.
 

apoapostolov

Explorer
In my upcoming campaign a player asked to play a Gunslinger subclass. I was always disappointed how D&D 5E handles firearms at par with any other weapon but I made a small change that statistically amounted to a significant improvement.

Velocity. Firearms shoot projectiles at higher velocity than all other ranged weapons. While causing less bleeding than arrows, bullets cause more trauma and are very effective at killing quickly. When rolling for damage, roll one additional weapon die then remove the die with the lowest result.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
OK, there seems to be a quite a bit of misinformation going on here.

Plate armor: Not invented to stop bullets. In fact, the opposite. The first plated armor was in Mycenean-era Greece from around 1400 BC. So it's been around for a long time. It started to see less usage when heavy crossbows were able to penetrate it, and almost disappeared when gunpowder arrived on scene in the 16th century (the Ottomans used hand cannons for infantry in the late 15th century, but Europeans didn't see it until later). Full plate armor existed in the form we romanticize about in the early 15th century--well before firearms were on the common battlefield in Europe.

Bullets vs Swords/axes/etc: The actual weight and size of the bullet may seem small compared to melee weapons, but don't make the assumption that means more damage is inflicted by a melee weapon. The wound channel of a bullet is huge and devastating, especially for larger caliber and higher velocity rounds. Much greater than a sword thrust.

And to the OP's premise: people have survived dozens of knife wounds at a time, but I'm sure you wouldn't argue that a dagger should do 0.1-0.5 points of damage right?

My advice to anyone who is considering using firearms in their games to do some research and study into ballistics. That's a good starting point to get an idea of the destructive force of ammunition.
 

Draegn

Explorer
I use smoothbore firearms rather than rifled. This causes a great deal of inaccuracy at longer ranges. Inaccuracy at longer ranges can be mitigated by greater skill, however, this is a player choice and potentially leads to not being able to do or not be as proficient at other activities.

Muskets have a low rate of fire. Depending on attributes the rate of fire for a bow may be two to three times higher than that of a musket. Average attribute scores versus high attribute scores.

Damage is on par with heavier melee weapons, however, the chance of a critical hit and lingering wound effects are greater. A marble sized lead ball entering, pancaking, and exiting the size of a grapefruit tends to cause limb loss.

Of course inclement weather limits musket use outside of defensible positions which is why most military adventures tend to take place during the summer.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
In my upcoming campaign a player asked to play a Gunslinger subclass. I was always disappointed how D&D 5E handles firearms at par with any other weapon but I made a small change that statistically amounted to a significant improvement.

Velocity. Firearms shoot projectiles at higher velocity than all other ranged weapons. While causing less bleeding than arrows, bullets cause more trauma and are very effective at killing quickly. When rolling for damage, roll one additional weapon die then remove the die with the lowest result.
While you are correct about trauma, you are incorrect about bleeding. Arrows cause less bleeding because the shaft is largely blocking the wound. A bullet wound doesn't do that. Especially if there's an exit wound, which is devastating.

And in case anyone is curious about my credentials, I'm an ex-combat medic military veteran who has extensive experience around all kinds of firearms
 

apoapostolov

Explorer
While you are correct about trauma, you are incorrect about bleeding. Arrows cause less bleeding because the shaft is largely blocking the wound. A bullet wound doesn't do that. Especially if there's an exit wound, which is devastating.

And in case anyone is curious about my credentials, I'm an ex-combat medic military veteran who has extensive experience around all kinds of firearms
Thanks. I will improve my text. What do you think about the simple rule to give weapons an advantage based probabilities curve?
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
OK, some reference material

This is a test I did several years back to illustrate velocity. Not steel tipped, just regular FMJ (full metal copper jacket lead bullets). As you can see, a medium cartridge round weighing no more than 60 grains went through a 1/4" sheet of hardened steel like it was nothing. Unless armor has been magically enhanced, it should offer no protection against high velocity weapons. In case you're curious the .223 has a velocity of over 3000 feet per second, and the 9mm is around 1,200fps

steel bullet comparison.jpg

Comparison of wound channels
wound channel.jpg
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Thanks. I will improve my text. What do you think about the simple rule to give weapons an advantage based probabilities curve?
When talking about adding firearms into our games, I've found the biggest error we make is trying to over complicate things. I am super guilty of this myself (it's the data analyst in me, sorry not sorry). Ballistics is a very complicated thing. I've had spreadsheets, data table, etc all to consider the various factors (range, environment, grain weight, velocity, bullet composition, etc, etc). The reality is no one wants to try to factor all that in when playing a game. So while we tend to go as realistic as possible, the reality is we need to keep things simple for actual game play, even if it doesn't mirror in all these other factors.

My suggestion? Don't get crazy with all kinds of damage and variable and/or messing with criticals. Give the weapon a range, which is easy enough because looking up maximum effective ranges is super easy with Google. For instance, most pistol cartridges will only have a maximum effective range of 50 meters, while a medium rifle cartridge like a 5.56 is around 400 meters, and a heavier cartridge like a 7.62 can be 1000 meters or longer. Don't confuse maximum effective range with how far the bullet actually travels. Out past certain distances, bullet drop is massive and you'll never hit your target outside of a miracle. And of course, those extreme ranges would require something like a scope to even see your target. For comparison, at 300m, the average human sized target will appear as big as a pencil lead in your iron sights.

Just assign a basic damage roll. 1d6 for small caliber, 1d10 for medium, and 2d6 for large. Note, damage is not around pistol vs rifle, but actual size of the lead hitting you.

We know that for burst and automatic weapons, they fire more bullets, but each bullet has less chance to hit as the one prior. So my suggestion is to have: burst fire (3 bullets fired) = double damage dice. Automatic fire (5 bullets fired) = triple damage dice

The only special rule I'd have is to account for velocity. Pistol ammunition ignores light armor, and rifle ammunition ignores all armor (see my photo above as to why). I'd rule that only DEX and magical bonuses apply to AC when wearing armor.

That's about as complex I'd get with modern firearms.

As an aside, a sniper rifle is not more difficult to use than any other firearm. Often easier, since there are fewer moving parts. What makes a sniper rifle so deadly is its range combined with the skill of the shooter, not the complexity of the weapon. An AR15 is way more complex than a typical bolt action sniper rifle (unless that sniper rifle uses an AR platform of course)
 

Draegn

Explorer
[MENTION=15700]Sacrosanct[/MENTION] It may be helpful to include that many modern bullets are designed to tumble in order to increase physical damage as they travel through a body. This explains the differences in the channel wounds chart.
 


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