Making guns palatable in high fantasy [Design Theory]


log in or register to remove this ad


mmadsen

First Post
The thing to bear in mind, and this is important, is that any weapon can kill you with a single strike.
Yes, getting hit is much more like save-or-die than take 1d8 points of damage.
Ask an emergency room medico which kills more often -- a knife wound or a gunshot? You may be surprised that knife wounds are more lethal by a large percentage. You know, the standard d4 dagger?
I believe it's a knife assault that's more dangerous than a typical gun assault, not a knife wound vs. a gun-shot wound. A knife assault is always at close range, where the attacker can grab with one hand and deliver dozens of thrusts with the other. Many gun assaults only involve a single hit. Also lumping small-caliber pistols in with rifles and shotguns (with buckshot) is a bit like lumping knives, swords, and axes together.

The one way knife assaults are decently modeled by hit points is that the first few knife wounds tend to be "defensive wounds" to the arms and hands, before the (untrained) attacker finally gets in close and delivers a plunging wound to the heart or other vital organs.

Guns are not more lethal -- they merely allow the application of force at an increased range.
The key strength of guns is not the super-lethality of gun-shot wounds, but they are more dangerous in the sense that they often can bypass shields, armor, and skill at arms. You don't accumulate defensive wounds while fending off gun-shots, and you don't typically get battered and bruised in a gun-fight until you finally succumb.
 
Last edited:

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I believe it's a knife assault that's more dangerous than a typical gun assault, not a knife wound vs. a gun-shot wound.

While you're right about the number of strikes deliverable in a knife assault, as I recall, TAG has it right- because of proximity and the sheer size of the wound, knife wounds tend to be more dangerous on average.

A knife wound will be more likely to hit something like a major vein or artery simply because the assailant isn't going to be attacking from 25 yards or so...especially if the assailant knows what he's doing.

Do you know how some special forces train to take out a scout? A single knife thrust to the side of the neck ripped out through the front. It takes out 2 major blood vessels and the larynx.

A single slash to the femoral artery will be fatal in just a few minutes.
 

mmadsen

First Post
How or why would a magical society even begin to develop guns? Would they even be the same as "real world" firearms?
When we think of guns, we tend to think of small arms, but gunpowder made its biggest splash early on as a way to knock down enormous walls with ease. Once the big, heavy siege cannon demonstrated its power, then lighter field artillery proved itself against infantry and cavalry. The arquebus was just a loud, smokey alternative to the crossbow.

Firearms became popular because they were just as easy to use as the crossbow and less expensive -- and really, really awesome. Don't underestimate the importance of being awesome.

So, the magical equivalent of firearms wouldn't have to look like a gun, but it should probably cheaply and easily allow conscripts to overcome well-trained and well-equipped knights while making quite a show.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
How or why would a magical society even begin to develop guns?

Assuming you don't have the skill, intellect, genetics or whatever it takes to cast spells, a good firearm could be the great equalizer between casters and non-casters...just as it was in the real world between people who trained their entire lives to become warriors and those who didn't.
 

Crazy Jerome

First Post
I agree with Umbran's first response. I also generally don't care for tacking on guns in my D&D fantasy, when I'm already conceding plate armor, rapiers, and other things that don't fit in the equivalent time period I prefer. And unlike some previous respondents, an early fantasy 17th century is probably the last period I would want to play D&D in. (Printing presses? Argh! :D) If I'm going to 17th, let's just bebop on up to Dumas, and go full pistol and rapier, with cloaks and witty comments for armor. :D

All that said, if you want a fantastical firearm in your D&D, and don't want to start with genre expectations as Umbran recommended, then I'd say to remember that form follows function. That is, the fantastical firearms aren't going to look very much like pistols or rifles or cannons, because the magical, alchemical, etc. properties that make them fantastical are going to have different needs. Sure, the stocks might be similar (assuming a kick on a rifle or musket), but the triggers will almost assuredly be different, and the barrels definitely will be. Turtledoves' "Darkness" series is one I also liked, but the "stick" with a hole in it where human contact triggers a shot is ... a good example of that kind of thinking, though (like the rest of the series), a little too transparent for my tastes in a game.

Just once, I'd like to see someone make this effort and do it with glass enclosed ammo of acid or fire or "magical goo" shot from a small mortar. :p
 


Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
My counterpoint to that is, if guns are so expensive to create, so dangerous to operate and no more lethal than anything else you already have, then why make them?

Nearly every period crossbow requires some physical strength to reload; no gun does. A trained child could reload an arquebus, but would be physically incapable of reloading a 150lb pull crossbow. That means you have a bigger pool of people who can be made into a credible threat.

Others have already pointed out the superior penetration guns had, which means you can affect more targets- even if the wounds crossbows and bows are just as deadly, that makes the gun a Better weapon in certain situations.

Also (experts, correct me if I'm wrong), but it is easier to keep a period gun operational in wet weather than it is for a crossbow.
 

TheAuldGrump

First Post
Nearly every period crossbow requires some physical strength to reload; no gun does. A trained child could reload an arquebus, but would be physically incapable of reloading a 150lb pull crossbow. That means you have a bigger pool of people who can be made into a credible threat.

Others have already pointed out the superior penetration guns had, which means you can affect more targets- even if the wounds crossbows and bows are just as deadly, that makes the gun a Better weapon in certain situations.

Also (experts, correct me if I'm wrong), but it is easier to keep a period gun operational in wet weather than it is for a crossbow.
Slightly - you don't want to keep either loaded in damp weather. One warps, and damp powder can etch the inside of the barrel.

Me, I like flintlocks. Cavalry charges still happen, bayonets and the saber still see play, but the gun has become reliable. I have seen a Brown Bess that went through a hundred years of service, in five different armed services. Cut down to carbine length, muzzle flared, still capable of firing after all those years.

Show me a new gun that has done that! :p

The Auld Grump - Gods, I lust after that gun....
 

howandwhy99

Adventurer
My counterpoint to that is, if guns are so expensive to create, so dangerous to operate and no more lethal than anything else you already have, then why make them?

We make them because they effect a desired end more capably than other weapons depending upon the situation. This doesn't mean we stop making other weapons, but some do become obsolete over time. This doesn't mean other weapons stop having value, just that judgement has been the unique situations they excel in aren't as common or sought out currently.
 

mmadsen

First Post
My counterpoint to that is, if guns are so expensive to create, so dangerous to operate and no more lethal than anything else you already have, then why make them?
When guns finally became common, they weren't expensive, they weren't especially dangerous to operate, and they weren't more lethal than the alternatives. In fact, they were considered almost perfectly comparable to crossbows, and military expeditions, like those of the conquistadors, often included equal complements of gunmen and crossbowmen.

That's why it makes a certain sense to "reskin" crossbows as matchlock guns in D&D. The "problem" is that D&D doesn't handle crossbows particularly well either, if your goal is to have missile weapons that can kill a man or a deer with one shot (or not with five or six).
 

cattoy

First Post
crossbows don't even enter into it.

Remember, this thread is about fantasy RPG design and firearms, so real-life arguments hold little water.

Even so, big crossbows were typically built to be cocked using a combination of body weight and leg strength.

My question is: Why would you create that first generation of guns that cost more than a magical or mundane equivalent, were no mechanically better, had significant drawbacks or flaws etc?

Because if you introduce the first generation of gun to D&D, it looks horribly bad compared to a heavy crossbow, a wand of magic missiles, necklace of fireballs or anything else that the game already features. Add to this the fact that there are already alchemical devices and magic spells that cause things to catch fire and you're just creating an expensive way to commit suicide...

The other factor to consider is that fantasy RPGs are almost universally set in a state of technological stagnation. In almost any fantasy setting, if you get sent off to a quest to recover the sword of an ancient hero, it's a good thing, because swords back then were just as awesome as swords today, if not better. Ditto for ancient tomes of lost mystic knowledge, legendary suits of armor, yadda yadda yadda. Guns don't work and play well with this sort of environment because we know that guns start a cycle of evolution that ends with something that is entirely incompatible with the basic design philosophy of D&D.
 

TheAuldGrump

First Post
Most of my games are renaissance or later - with developments built in over time. (I will admit to cheating - I use the Timelines of History, rather than just trying to remember to sandwich things in.)

The dwarfs in my homebrew helped disseminate Agricola's De Re Metallica, Three Books of Occult Philosophy was used in universities, etc..

I like technological change.

The Auld Grump
 

Herobizkit

Adventurer
Way I see things, the only time ranged weapons are of any real use is if you have a character who is specialized (ie. taken feats, has relevant class features, etc) in their use.

The Archer-style Ranger is the most obvious of this type, followed by a Rogue who focuses on Ranged Sneak Attacks, or getting extra damage via Combat Advantage. The Ranger tends to be nearly as annoying by himself as a party with only one character spec'd in Mounted Combat.

Only in 4e have I seen the value of a dedicated non-magical ranged combatant "out of the box" at level 1.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
Well, historically, I'm a guy who'd declare "keep your guns outta my D&D", however, I'm currently building a partial setting and adventure for Rite Publishing's upcoming Adventure Quarterly magazine, based on a gothic old west environment (analog for Arizona in the 1880's), which of course is designed for Pathfinder Gunslingers. And since it's 'analog 1880's' guns aren't expensive in that setting.

In fact, I just finished building (with Will "Cheapy" Cardill's assistance) a Magus alternate class called the Shootist, though capable of using single shot pistols, muskets, rifles and revolvers - revolvers is what the niche class has been especially designed for that will be featured in the adventure.

So as long as the setting is genre specific for guns, I'm all for it. But I still don't want guns in my standard D&D.
 
Last edited:

TheAuldGrump

First Post
Way I see things, the only time ranged weapons are of any real use is if you have a character who is specialized (ie. taken feats, has relevant class features, etc) in their use.

The Archer-style Ranger is the most obvious of this type, followed by a Rogue who focuses on Ranged Sneak Attacks, or getting extra damage via Combat Advantage. The Ranger tends to be nearly as annoying by himself as a party with only one character spec'd in Mounted Combat.

Only in 4e have I seen the value of a dedicated non-magical ranged combatant "out of the box" at level 1.
Let us just say that my experience does not agree with yours, on any level.

The Auld Grump
 


Herobizkit

Adventurer
Haaaah, I stand corrected.

I always forget about those darn humans.

And [MENTION=6957]TheAuldGrump[/MENTION], how so? I'm curious.
 

KidSnide

Adventurer
Way I see things, the only time ranged weapons are of any real use is if you have a character who is specialized (ie. taken feats, has relevant class features, etc) in their use.

First of all, ranged weapons have plenty of use for NPCs. I think it is common for gun-era campaigns to feature lots of combats against other humanoids.

Second, ranged weapons also have a role in combat scenarios where getting into melee range is difficult. Grenades (historical for age of exploration games) are also useful when the PCs need more area attacks.

-KS
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top