ZEITGEIST Playing with Alternate Firearms Rules for 5e


So this is something I started playing with a while back. It started as a direct translation from Pathfinder firearms rules, and with the help of some of my players, it has slowly fit more into the 5e way of doing things. The key goals were to make it fit into the 5e flow of the game while keeping the following traits from Pathfinder's implementation.
  1. Guns are more effective at hitting stuff.
  2. Guns crit harder.
  3. Guns are slow to reload.
  4. Guns are tricky to use.
  5. Advanced firearms and bullets are expensive.
They have been written for "Commonplace Firearms" (Zeitgeist's level of technology), although muzzle-loading and advanced firearms are still included here (which Zeitgeist cuts out). I'll post a "vanilla Zeitgeist" adjustment later.

These rules probably still have quite a way to go, and I may never use them in my campaign given that we are partway through it, but it has been a nice way to relax when I need a break. Feel free to comment and pick apart if that's a thing you enjoy.

Firearms Rules​

Firearms work differently from other ranged projectile weapons—they instead use the following rules.

Firearm Properties​

There are two general categories of firearms: early and advanced.

Firearms are further divided into one-handed, two-handed, and siege. As the category’s name implies, one-handed firearms need only one hand to wield and shoot. Two-handed firearms need two hands to wield and shoot. Siege firearms are typically mounted on some sort of platform, movable or otherwise, and have greater power but a much slower rate of fire.


While still expensive and tricky to wield, early firearms are readily available. All firearms are martial weapons. Advanced firearms and their ammunition are still rare and expensive.

Range and Penetration​

Armor, whether manufactured or natural, provides little protection against the force of a bullet at short range. You make ranged weapon attack rolls with early and advanced firearms at normal range with advantage, and attacking at long range with an advanced firearm doesn't impose disadvantage on your ranged weapon attack rolls.

If another part of these rules imposes disadvantage on your attack roll, you do not gain this benefit and instead make the attack roll with disadvantage, although the disadvantage could be negated by another source of advantage.

Firearm Critical​

The shot from a firearm deals increased damage on a critical hit. You can roll one additional weapon damage die when determining the extra damage for a critical hit with a ranged attack from shooting a firearm.

Loading a Firearm​

You need at least one hand free to load one-handed and two-handed firearms. In the case of two-handed firearms, you hold the firearm in one hand and load it with the other—you only need to hold it in two hands to aim and shoot the firearm.

Loading siege firearms requires both hands, and one hand usually manipulates a large ramrod (which can be wielded as a club in combat). Loading siege firearms takes three actions.

Other rules for loading a firearm depend on whether the firearm is an early firearm or an advanced firearm.


Firearm ammunition takes two forms: either black powder (or a setting-specific equivalent) and shot (either bullets or pellets) or cartridges. Unlike other types of ammunition, firearm ammunition is always destroyed when it is used, and has no chance of being retrieved. No part of a cartridge can be reused to create new cartridges. Firearm ammunition cannot be treated with poison, unless you are using a pitted bullet.

Inappropriately Sized Firearms​

You cannot make optimum use of a firearm that is not properly sized for you. You have disadvantage on attack rolls with firearms that are made for a different size of creature to you. The size of a firearm never affects how many hands you need to use to shoot it, the exception being siege firearms and Large or larger creatures. In most cases, a Large or larger creature can use a siege firearm as a two-handed firearm, but the creature makes attack rolls with disadvantage penalty for using it this way because of its awkwardness.

Firearms, Black Powder, and Water​

Black powder becomes useless when exposed to water, but powder horns and cartridges protect black powder from exposure. You cannot normally load an early firearm underwater or fire any firearm underwater without magical aid.

Firearm Properties​

Firearms can have the following properties in addition to existing properties for ranged weapons.

Advanced Firearm. Advanced firearms are chamber-loaded with metal cartridges. You can use your action or bonus action to load a one-handed or two-handed advanced firearm to its full capacity.

Capacity. A firearm's capacity is the number of shots it can hold at one time. In the case of early firearms, capacity often indicates the number of barrels a firearm has. In the case of advanced firearms, it typically indicates the number of chambers the firearm has. If a firearm does not list a capacity, its capacity is one shot.

You can attack with a firearm until it has no more shots, at which point you must reload at least one barrel or chamber before you can fire it again.

Early Firearm. Early firearms are muzzle-loaded, requiring either a bullet and black powder or a single alchemical cartridge to be rammed down the muzzle. If an early firearm has multiple barrels, each barrel must be loaded separately. You use your action and bonus action on your turn to load one barrel of a two-handed early firearm, and you use your action to reload one barrel of a one-handed early firearm.

If an early firearm misfires while it is damaged, it explodes in a 5-foot-radius-sphere. Each creature in the area must make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw, taking piercing damage equal to the firearm’s damage dice on a failed save, or half as much on a successful one.

When a nonmagical firearm explodes, it is destroyed. Magical firearms are wrecked, which means they can't fire until they are fully restored. Repairing a wrecked firearm takes the same process as repairing a damaged firearm but must be completed successfully two times.

Misfire. This shows the misfire value of a firearm. If the d20 roll for an attack is at or below a firearm’s misfire value, the firearm misfires. Firearms which do not have a misfire property listed misfire on a 1. When a firearm misfires, the attack misses regardless of any modifiers or the target’s AC, and the firearm is damaged. You make attack rolls with a damaged firearm at disadvantage.

You can attempt to repair a damaged firearm with 1 hour of work with a gunsmith’s kit. At the end of the hour, you repair the damaged firearm with a successful DC 15 Dexterity check with the gunsmith’s kit. A gunsmith will repair a damaged firearm for one tenth of its total value.

Scatter. A scatter firearm can use a group of pellets for its ammunition in place of a bullet. For early firearms, the group of pellets can be loaded with 1 dose of black powder or as part of an alchemical cartridge. Advanced firearms load the pellets as part of a metal cartridge.

When you use a scatter firearm to make an attack with pellets, you make an attack against a target within the firearm’s normal range. On a hit, you roll twice the damage dice listed for the firearm. On a critical hit, you do not add the additional weapon die from Firearm Critical. As an example, a critical hit from a blunderbuss normally allows you to roll 4d8, not 5d8.

Firearm Variants​

New firearms for crafting or purchase can be created by the GM by applying one of the following firearm variants.

Integrated Melee Weapon. This firearm has a melee weapon integrated into it. You can use the weapon as a firearm or as a melee weapon. A two-handed or versatile melee weapon can only be integrated into a two-handed firearm and can only be used with two hands when making a melee weapon attack.

If a firearm with an integrated weapon gains the broken condition, you have disadvantage on attack rolls with both the firearm and its integrated melee weapon until the firearm is repaired.

A firearm with an integrated melee weapon has the following changes over the original firearm:
  • The cost equals 110 percent of the original firearm plus the cost of the melee weapon.
  • The weight equals the weight of the firearm plus half the weight of the melee weapon.
Double-Barreled. This firearm has two parallel barrels giving it a capacity of 2. When you make an attack with this firearm, you can fire one or both loaded barrels at the target. If you fire both barrels, the firearm becomes wildly inaccurate, imposing disadvantage on the attack. When you hit a target with an attack made with both barrels, the firearm deals piercing damage equal to two times the damage dice from an attack made with only one barrel + your Dexterity modifier.

A double-barreled firearm has the following changes over its single-barreled counterpart:
  • The cost is 50 percent more.
  • The weight increases by 25 percent.
  • The misfire value of the firearm increases by 1.

Special Firearms​

Coat Pistol. Though less powerful than other, larger firearms, this pistol is small enough to be easily concealed in a jacket or coat. You have advantage on ability checks made to conceal a coat pistol on your body.

Culverin. The culverin, also known as a hand bombard, consists of a simple smoothbore tube, sealed at one end except for a small hole used to ignite a gunpowder charge. A wooden stock partially encases the barrel, allowing you to hold it under your arm with relative ease when carrying it. Firing a culverin without support (such as a wall, a window, or a stand) imposes disadvantage on attack rolls, and knocks you prone.

A culverin uses 4 doses of black powder and 4 handfuls of grapeshot (pellets) as ammunition. A damaged culverin that misfires explodes in a 10-foot-radius sphere.

Pepperbox. This pistol has six barrels instead of one. The entire barrel housing can be quickly rotated by hand between shots, requiring one free hand, allowing all six bullets to be fired before the pepperbox must be reloaded.

Pepperbox Rifle. This rifle has four barrels instead of one. The entire barrel housing can be quickly rotated by hand between shots, allowing all four bullets to be fired before the pepperbox rifle must be reloaded.

Martial Ranged Weapons
Blunderbuss500 gp1d8 piercing8 lb.Early firearm (range 20/60), misfire (2) scatter, two-handed
Coat Pistol187 gp1d4 piercing1 lb.Early firearm (range 10/30), special
Culverin1,000 gp2d8 piercing40 lb.Early firearm (range 40), scatter, special, two-handed
Dragon Pistol250 gp1d6 piercing3 lb.Early firearm (range 20/60), misfire (2), scatter
Musket375 gp1d12 piercing9 lb.Early firearm (range 40/160), misfire (2), two-handed
Pepperbox750 gp1d8 piercing5 lb.Early firearm (range 20/60), capacity 6, misfire (2), special
Pepperbox Rifle7,000 gp1d10 piercing15 lb.Advanced firearm (range 80/320), capacity (4), misfire (2), special, two-handed
Pistol250 gp1d8 piercing4 lb.Early firearm (range 20/60)
Revolver4,000 gp1d8 piercing4 lb.Advanced firearm (range 20/60), capacity (6)
Rifle5,000 gp1d10 piercing12 lb.Advanced firearm (range 80/320), two-handed
Shotgun5,000 gp1d8 piercing12 lb.Advanced firearm (range 40/160), scatter, two-handed

Firearm Ammunition / Gear​

This section describes items that have special rules or require further explanation.

Alchemical Cartridges​

An alchemical cartridge is a prepared bundle of black powder with a bullet or pellets, sometimes with more exotic material added, which is then wrapped in paper or cloth and sealed with beeswax, lard, or tallow. There are many types of alchemical cartridges, the simplest being the paper cartridge—a simple mix of black powder and either pellets or a bullet. Alchemical cartridges make loading an early firearm easier, reducing the time to load a firearm by one step (an action plus bonus action becomes an action, an action becomes a bonus action, and a bonus action becomes an interaction with the environment), but they tend to be unstable. The misfire value of a weapon firing an alchemical cartridge increases as listed in each entry.

An alchemical cartridge is fired as pellets from an early firearm with the scatter property unless its entry states that it is fired as a bullet, in which case, it can be fired from any early firearm that can fire bullets.

Dragon’s Breath Cartridge. This cartridge contains alchemical compounds that, when fired, produce a gout of flame. The nonmagical flame spreads in a line 5 feet wide and as long as the firearm’s normal range. Each creature in the area must make a DC 11 Dexterity saving throw, taking 2d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Because this ammunition forces a saving throw instead of making an attack roll, the misfire rules are slightly different. If you roll a 1 with either of the damage dice, the firearm misfires.

Entangling Shot Cartridge. This cartridge contains a mix of black powder and alchemically treated resin strong enough to survive the shot. On a hit, the target must succeed at a DC 11 Dexterity saving throw or become restrained (escape DC 11). An entangling shot cartridge increases the firearm’s misfire value by 2.

Flare Cartridge. This cartridge fires a bullet made of alchemical ingredients that burns brightly when fired. When you hit a creature with a flare cartridge, it deals 1d4 fire damage, and the target must succeed on a DC 11 Constitution saving throw or be blinded until the start of your next turn. Creatures within 20 feet of the target must succeed on a DC 11 Constitution saving throw or be dazzled until the start of your next turn. A dazzled creature has disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks and attack rolls based on sight. Flare cartridges are also useful for sending up signal flares. Firing a flare cartridge increases the firearm’s misfire value by 2 unless it is fired from an early firearm with the scatter property, in which case doing so only increases the firearm’s misfire value by 1.

Paper Cartridge. This simple mix of black powder and either pellets or a bullet increases the misfire value by 1. For paper cartridges with special bullets, add the cost of the bullet to the cost of the paper cartridge.

Salt Shot Cartridge. This mix of black powder and rock salt pellets deals nonlethal damage. If a creature is reduced to 0 hit points by this cartridge, it falls unconscious and is stable. A salt shot cartridge increases the firearms misfire value by 1.

Black Powder​

Black powder is the key explosive component within a firearm that enables it to function, but in larger amounts this alchemical material can be quite destructive on its own as well.

Black Powder (Dose). A single dose of black powder is enough to power a single shot from most one-handed and two-handed firearms, while 10 doses are required to fire a cannon. Exposure to fire, electricity, or a misfire explosion causes black powder to explode. Storing black powder in a powder horn protects the powder from explosion.

Black Powder (Dose). Black powder is often stored and transported in kegs (which hold 100 doses), but in this quantity the powder itself becomes dangerous. Exposure to fire, electricity, or a misfire explosion causes the black powder keg to explode in a 20-foot-radius sphere. Each creature in the area must make a DC 11 Dexterity saving throw, taking 5d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.


Bullets can be fired from any early firearm unless the firearm’s description says otherwise.

Bullet. The ammunition of most one-handed and two-handed firearms, firearm bullets typically take the form of small balls of lead or some other metal. Sixty bullets weigh 1 pound.

Adamantine Bullet. These expensive bullets are crafted from adamantine. They ignore damage reduction when attacking objects.

Pitted Bullet. This ammunition is pitted with a pattern of small pocks into which specially formulated poison compounds can be applied. A poison compound is a derivative of a standard toxin that is alchemically reduced to a solid form. These can be made from any injury or contact poison with a successful Dexterity or Intelligence check with a poisoner’s kit. The DC is equal to the poison’s DC + 3. The cost of purchasing an already prepared poison compound for the purpose of treating pitted bullets is equal to the poison’s cost + 20 gp. Once crafted, the compound can be pasted into the ammunition’s pitted design and allowed to harden. Upon completion, the bullet can be fired from an appropriate firearm, releasing the poison compound into its target upon impact. A pitted bullet cannot be used with an alchemical cartridge. The listed cost does not include the cost of poison.

Gunsmith's Kit. This small kit has all the tools a person needs to create, repair, and restore firearms, except for the necessary raw materials. Without such a kit, you cannot properly construct or provide upkeep for firearms.

Metal Cartridge. These sturdier versions of paper alchemical cartridges serve as the ammunition for advanced firearms. They either hold a bullet or pellets.

Pellets. A handful of pellets, along with 1 dose of black powder, is commonly used as ammunition for one- and two-handed firearms with the scatter weapon property, though pellets can be improvised with rocks or other small bits of hard material can be used in the pellets’ place. Using improvised materials for pellets increases the weapon’s misfire value by 1. Thirty handfuls of pellets weigh half a pound.

Powder Horn. Typically crafted from animal horn, but increasingly crafted from metal in a wide variety of shapes, a powder horn can hold up to 10 doses of black powder. A powder horn protects black powder stored within it from exposure to fire, electricity, firearm misfires, and water.

Firearm Ammunition / Gear

Alchemical cartridge (dragon’s breath)10 gp
Alchemical cartridge (entangling shot)10 gp
Alchemical cartridge (flare)3 gp
Alchemical cartridge (paper, bullet or pellet)3 gp
Alchemical cartridge (salt shot)3 gp
Black powder (10 doses)25 gp
Black powder (keg)250 gp5 lb.
Bullet (4)1 gp
Bullet (60)15 gp1 lb.
Bullet, adamantine15 gp
Bullet, pitted1 gp
Gunsmith’s kit15 gp2 lb.
Metal cartridge15 gp
Pellets (4 handfuls)1 gp
Pellets (60 handfuls)15 gp1 lb.
Powder horn3 gp1 lb.


Firearm Training​

You have undergone extensive training with firearms and their inner workings to gain the following benefits:
  • Increase your Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You are proficient with all firearms.
  • You are proficient with a gunsmith’s kit.
  • You can reload one barrel of a one-handed early firearm with an action or bonus action.
  • You can reload one barrel of a two-handed early firearm with an action.
  • When you fire an early firearm, you can reload the barrel with your reaction.

A lot is cut from whole cloth from Ultimate Combat, so...
OGL Notice: http://media.wizards.com/2016/downloads/DND/SRD-OGL_V5.1.pdf
Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

System Reference Document. Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, based on material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Combat. Copyright 2011, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors: Jason Bulmahn, Tim Hitchcock, Colin McComb, Rob McCreary, Jason Nelson, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Sean K Reynolds, Owen K.C. Stephens, and Russ Taylor.

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"Vanilla" Zeitgeist Adjustments

In the Zeitgeist campaign guides (both Pathfinder and 5e), paper cartridges are used exclusively for early firearms. The "Latimer Bullet" is used for "advanced firearms". In Zeitgeist, "advanced firearms" are early firearms with twice the range. So the Latimer bullet should be a metal cartridge with 1/4 the cost (commonplace firearms establishes a 1/4 price from the original price for early firearms and their ammunition. So this gives us the following possible setup:
  • Only paper cartridges and Latimer bullets for ammunition
  • Since everyone is using paper cartridges, you could simplify misfire to be 2 for early firearms and 1 for advanced firearms (or 1 for everything)
  • Two-handed early firearms take an action to reload one barrel, and one-handed early firearms take an action or bonus action to reload one barrel.
  • Advanced firearms take a bonus action to reload all chambers.
  • Firedust replaces black powder
I managed to find someone who had reverse-engineered the firearms building rules and found the price for adding the extra range to the early firearms. The advanced firearms would look like the following:
Martial Ranged Weapons
Target Pistol375 gp1d8 piercing4 lb.Advanced firearm (range 40/160)
Rifle500 gp1d10 piercing9 lb.Advanced firearm (range 80/320), two-handed
Shotgun625 gp1d8 piercing8 lb.Advanced firearm (range 40/160), scatter, two-handed

The Latimer Bullet replaces the metal cartridge (covering shotgun shells as well).
Firearm Ammunition / Gear

Latimer bullet (4)15 gp


Other possibilities:
I think there is some possible clunkiness/lack of adherence to 5e design philosophies in the following areas:

Reload Time. I think that using an action and bonus action on your turn is a good 5e equivalent to the full-round action, but 5e usually doesn't use a full-round action anyway. A good alternative might be for all early firearms to use an action to reload a barrel, regardless if they are one-handed or two-handed.

Complex Misfires. Pathfinder used misfires as one means of balancing complex or powerful firearms, but needing to keep track of misfire values might be a bit much in 5e, and the argument could be made for misfires only occurring on a 1.

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