This is an article-by-article review of Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay. While I don’t usually do this, the subject matter of this issue is just what this blog ordered, and even if one of my own articles is in it, I really think every article, and nearly every word, of this issue is worth reading. So, a series of (hopefully) shortish posts. You can find the installments on Modern Warfighter: Gear here, as well as The Devil’s Chariot, Brock-Avery Guns, Dodge This, and The Nock Volley Gun.

Magic Bullets ( +Christopher Rice )

This is all about how to kill supernatural critters. The article is basically only one section, with a bunch of sub-sections to divide it up by categories. It’s two pages long, an equipment list of a very specialized type. In fact, Chris notes that it was an Appendix Z submission that was padded out a bit to make it long enough to stand on its own, so brevity was in fact, one of the article’s mission statements. Bear that in mind when I note that certain things could have been added: perhaps, perhaps not.
Ultimately, this is a different type of article than the rest, largely because while Ken, +Hans-Christian Vortisch, and Graeme are reporting stats on real-world and verifiable equipment, +David Pulver was inventing a company with a few real-world-based guns to go with it, and I created some mechanics (which only have to feel right), +Christopher Rice is inventing stuff. He’s also playing in my sandbox, as it were – I didn’t call this blog Gaming Ballistic for nothing, and that “Doctorate in GURPS Ballistics” thing in my Steve Jackson Games author bio is only sort of a joke.

So, I’m going to do sort of two reviews. One from a game-able perspective, the other from a total “bring out your nitpicks!” perspective. I should do full disclosure, though: I playtested the article (perhaps peer-review is the better phrase), so if some of these later nits came up only now, that’s my fault for not pointing them out to Chris back then.

The Right Ammunition

Real-world .30-06 wooden training bullets. So they say.



After a brief introduction that basically notes that certain supernatural critters require just the right ammunition type (werewolves and silver, right? Vampires and wood?), the article starts right in. For simplification purposes, it notes that weight will remain unchanged unless otherwise noted, and the big difference will be cost.

Throwing realism aside, this is totally the right call. It might even be the right call in spite of any “realistic” nitpicks (oh, I’ll do that later).

Following the intro, he breaks the bullets down by payload type.

Liquids


Ultimately, he treats these as a type of hollow-point bullet, complete with increased wound channel modifier, armor divisor, and increase of DR for items with DR 0. Each liquid also gets a linked effects, which is explicated in footnotes.

Irradiated Vampire-killers. Accept no substitutes.

There are nine liquids listed, from the el cheapo garlic extract to the downright spendy silver nitrate tear gas.

The only flaw that I think I’d note here is that it would have been useful to have noted which type of creatures each bullet is typically sovereign against. This is a partial gripe: he does note that asafetida is ward against spirits, and some of these are obvious or at least relatively common knowledge. “Wolfsbane” is probably not going to be used against an insane Frog Prince. Or if so, the bullet itself is likely going to do just fine.

Liquids: The Nitpick Version


The real nit here is the assumption that these bullets will have unchanged weight. Nearly every one of the loads is lighter than the copper-jacketed lead it replaces. Hell, silver nitrate has a density of 5.35 g/cc, while jacketed lead pistol bullets will tend to have a density between about 10.0 and 10.8, in my experience.

That means that to have a constant weight, they will be quite large. Probably large enough that they won’t feed in an automatic pistol or rifle, and will have to be hand-loaded one at a time. That’s not a bad thing, and in fact, adds to the drama of the moment.

The other thing about these is that unless you’re dealing with a shotgun, a bullet, especially a rifle bullet, is a shockingly small volume. As examples, to pick some common cartridges

Volume of 22mm Samaritan bullets: 12.5ml

40 gr .22 LR: 0.25 ml
230gr .45 ACP: 1.4 ml
147gr 9x19mm: 0.9 ml
180gr 10mm Auto: 1.1 ml
300 gr .50 AE: 2.0 ml (ok, that’s not so common except in the movies)
M855 5.56x45mm: 0.42 ml
7.62x39mm: 0.87 ml
7.62x51mm NATO: 0.98 ml
12G full-bore shotgun slug: 3.5 ml

Now, that volume assumes the entire thing is the projectile. If (say) 50-75% of that volume is liquid payload, there will be very, very little of it.

Now, one thing that does not change here is the base damage. The kinetic energy of the bullet is determined, more or less, by the energy of the powder behind it, and the distance it moves down the barrel. So since caliber and energy don’t change, neither does the GURPS damage. However, the light weight will probably make the ballistic coefficient go lower, which will drop both 1/2D and Max range.

Kate Beckinsale. Just because.

What I’d do as an alternate rule here is say that such funky additives, against the right creature, allow the bullets to work like bullets, maybe with the pi size reduced one step, or even just breaking even. So instead of spirits or supernatural creatures just being irritated at you for shooting them with pesky widdle bullets (how cute!) they will have their usual impact. Hell, even if your .45 ACP does pi- instead of pi+, if the trade-off is “does damage at all” then it’s worth it.

One interesting tidbit, though, is if you can actually make these loaded, lighter bullets, they’ll be fast. A .45 ACP that replaces half its volume of lead core with silver nitrate will only mass 175 grains or so. In GURPS, that’s not worth anything. My calculated 1/2D and Max ranges drop from 290yds to 215yds and 1740 yds to 1470 yds, respectively. A water-filled bullet would be 145 yds and 1190 yds.

Is all that crap worth it?

No. No it is not. It adds book-keeping and math for no real good purpose, while the existing “keep it all the same, charge more, and treat them as hollow-points with extra badness vs. the right critter” makes it a decent choice. The only fault, again, is that these odd loads are the same as JHP bullets (though they cost more) even though they’re very sub-optimized for killing people, rater than supernatural critters. The only real change I’d recommend to Chris’ work is to knock down his bump-up of wound type for regular Joes. Keep the (0.5) armor divisor, but do not increase the wound type against flesh-and-blood. Do whatever you want for the thing it is supposed to be bad for. Increase the wound modifier, add linked effects, etc.

Special Metals


Five alternate metals, with different costs for the bullets. In this case, not bothering with the slight changes in weight-per-shot is totally the right call, and the increase in cost for the inner core of the bullet is quite reasonable. Nothing to gripe about here.

Special Minerals


Some of these are just fun. He notes that the hard part of this is to get the inner core into shape, since you can’t pour it into a mold.

Do you know how hard this is to machine? Do you?

True, true, but most modern bullets’ cores are swaged into the jacket, not poured or cast. Still, that’s a true deep-dive nitpick, and others can probably nitpick my nitpick, noting that cast copper or other solid bullets are exactly that: cast. They are in fact, poured into a mold. So what’s the right call? Keep it simple. This is a game.

As almost the last sentence, he notes that with the right gemstone, you can use these as a mana reserve making it available as a spell arrow.

Explosive fireball bullets? Yes, please!

Wooden


I’m pretty sure that all of this is more-or-less borrowed from the existing rules from either High-Tech or Loadouts: Monster Hunters, both of which would have had good reason to do these. I know we discussed new rules, and we then said: “Waitaminute, these surely have to exist already.” And so they did.

Windham-Pryce. Rogue Demon Hunter.

The footnotes for the wood items (seven of them) follow the advice I have for liquids, making it very, very obvious what the appropriate target of each wood type is.

As a note, I always thought that a shotgun-launched saboted wooden stake would be the best use of modern firearms vs. vampires. A shotgun chambered for a 3.5″ shell could probably fit a 1/2″ diameter, 2.5″ long wooden dowel, which you could bore out and fill with silver or lead to increase the mass, and thus stability. That seems to me a non-trivial anti-vampire projectile.

Plus: shotguns. Coolness delivered by pump-action. Even Wesley says so.

Ballistic’s Report


Despite my nits – and most of those are confined to liquid-filled projectiles – this article is well done, and all about the fun. A lot of supernatural creatures need to have significant resistance against modern firearms to pose a challenge (See Monster Hunters 3: The Enemy, p. 25), and thus conversely need a weakness to make it more interesting. After the right level and success at Hidden Lore or other research, being able to determine that one particular type of material or spell can be speed-delivered at 1500 fps might make a fun climax.

As such, this article delivers. If its not 100% accurate where ballistics are concerned, well, a lecherous werewolf (with guns!) isn’t exactly 100% realistic now, is it?

People on the SJG Forums still reference the work I did a while ago on bullet statistics conversion from real-world data. The fact is, the equations for weapon penetration did not change form 3e to 4e, and where there are some real issues with scaling weapons, the derivation of penetration is the same, and (more or less) the wound channel (damage size, bullet type) modifiers are the same.

So it holds up well.

That being said, I wrote it in 2002, meaning it’s been kicking around now for more than ten years.

Yeah, I feel old.

I’ve tweaked it here and there, and added more cartridges where I needed them. Some sample results follow.

But for those who want the most recent version of the sheet I use myself, well: Here it is.

What rounds does it contain? Here’s a list, with some stats.

 

 

This is an article-by-article review of Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay. While I don’t usually do this, the subject matter of this issue is just what this blog ordered, and even if one of my own articles is in it, I really think every article, and nearly every word, of this issue is worth reading. So, a series of (hopefully) shortish posts. You can find the installments on Modern Warfighter: Gear here, as well as The Devil’s Chariot, Brock-Avery Guns, and Dodge This

The Nock Volley Gun (Graeme Davis)

For those who like their firearms huge, impractical, and conferring massive bonuses to Intimidation, the Nock Volley Gun is for you. This article details a very real piece of kit, giving the weapon’s history, description, and a brief bit on use.

History

Invented by the same person who gave us the double-barreled shotgun, the weapon was created to deal with boarding actions on ships. As mentioned in the article, the prototype had two issues: bone-cracking recoil and a tendency to set your ship on fire.
Oops.
Slow to load and hazardous to fire, apparently it never really took off. Go figure.
The Gun

The weapon description is complete and focuses mostly on the rules and optional rules (six of them, on Recoil, Misfires (common with this weapon), Muzzle Blast, Intimidation, Special Powder, and a much needed Speedloader.
Each section is well laid out, brief but informative, and tells a prospective GM or player what they need to know to capture the feel and use of the weapon in play.
Adventures

The weapon only saw a limited period of actual service (1780-1815) and would be suitable for Age of Sail type stuff. Otherwise it features in a few TV and Movie appearances, and so would make a nice fit there.
Hard to see in the smoke, but Master and Commander features one!
Parting Shot

A short review, but this article delivers. It’s all you wanted to know about a unique piece of kit, with optional rules to simulate why this gun might have been designed, but also ultimately failed. It’s tightly written, rules focused, and terse in a good way. When you finish, you will know whether your character (or a flavorful NPC) might want to carry one (gah! heavy!), or how to use one if you stumble across one mounted to a ship’s rail.
There are also enough optional rules that adding volley concepts to fictional pieces of weaponry are a very real option for game and world-builders. So if you want a volley assault rifle, well, Graeme’s got you covered.

This is an article-by-article review of Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay. While I don’t usually do this, the subject matter of this issue is just what this blog ordered, and even if one of my own articles is in it, I really think every article, and nearly every word, of this issue is worth reading. So, a series of (hopefully) shortish posts. You can find the installments on Modern Warfighter: Gear here, as well as The Devil’s Chariot, and Brock-Avery Guns.

Reviewing my own work. How terribly narcissistic.

Dodge This ( +Douglas Cole )

This article tries to break down some alternate rules for dodging projectiles of all speeds. It’s organized in three sections, and includes one large box on why rules such as these might not be a good idea for inclusion in the Basic Set, and ends with some tables summarizing some of the suggestions for penalties, modifiers, and die rolls given in the article.

Keen Eyes and Fast Reflexes


Saw that one coming . . .

This section spends about a page on perception rolls. No, really. The basic rules hang a lot on the question of whether or not you are aware of a foe, because tucked right in the definition of Active Defense is the prohibition of using one against an attack you can’t perceive in some way.

The sub-sections includes a bit on GURPS’ default assumptions about perception rolls and awareness, and then provides some suggestions for GMs that want to have a die roll determine whether a foe is currently being tracked. Lots of penalties, arcs of vision, and it touches on Danger Sense and Enhanced Tracking, two Advantages that can help with Perception checks.

All of them end the same way: lacking other options, you can defend against that which you’re aware of. If you’re not, you can’t.

Bob and Weave


A very short section containing an optional rule. If post-hit defending breaks your SoDoM (Sense-of-Disbelief-o-Meter), then you’re given a variant: Move and Attack (Evasive), which allows you to dodge like a funky monkey, giving penalties to be hit, but taking penalties to your own actions as well.

Active Defenses


The last section gives details on using these options with incoming projectiles. First, seeing an incoming ranged threat, notionally from a thrown car (I should have worked that in for supers) or a hurled axe all the way down to rifle bullets. This is basically a determination of the size modifier of the threat, and if you can resolve it, a Perception roll based on size and movement.

From there, you can try and stop it, but a method of penalizing defenses based on projectile speed is given for those who feel that fast attacks should be harder to parry, block, or dodge. The rules are rationalized in the case for using objects or shields as cover, as well as a short discussion of how they work with spells. Also lists the penalty for dodging lasers. For whenever that comes up.

Finally, for those who know and love Tactical Shooting, which also has some harsh rules for the dodging of bullets, a few words are spent on how to mesh this article with those rules.

This is an article-by-article review of Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay. While I don’t usually do this, the subject matter of this issue is just what this blog ordered, and even if one of my own articles is in it, I really think every article, and nearly every word, of this issue is worth reading. So, a series of (hopefully) shortish posts. You can find the first installment on Modern Warfighter: Gear here, and the review of The Devil’s Chariot here.

Eidetic Memory: Brock-Avery Guns (David Pulver)

Eidetic Memory is a monthly column written by +David Pulver . It’s usually filled with interesting stuff. This month is no exception.

Something like it really existed

Ultimately, this article is hard to review, since basically it contains four pages of juicy details, history, and hints at plot seeds wrapped around maybe five or six guns.

Brock-Avery Guns is a fictional corporation designed as a patron or supplier. Since the article covers the company’s history from about 1717 to the present, which makes it suitable from everything from the American Revolution to dealing with insurgents in Afghanistan (or really covert stuff in our own borders, if you’re a fan of +Sean Punch‘s covert ops campaign).

Chinese .45 ACP Broomhandle!

Each firearm is given its place in history, some really fun design notes as to how and why it was made, plus some great stories, always hinting at the supernatural or just plain weird, on how it was used.

The weapons include a .50 Flintlock “Cemetary Gun,” a belt-fed .380 ACP small machinegun, two different .45ACP pistols based on a Mauser C96 “broomhandle” design, a monster .30-06 battle rifle, and an over-under pistol firing .380ACP in one barrel . . . and a gyrojet rocket in the other!

Pretty cool. Go read it.

This is an article-by-article review of Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay. While I don’t usually do this, the subject matter of this issue is just what this blog ordered, and even if one of my own articles is in it, I really think every article, and nearly every word, of this issue is worth reading. So, a series of (hopefully) shortish posts. You can find the first installment on Modern Warfighter: Gear here.
The Devil’s Chariot ( +Hans-Christian Vortisch )


The Devil’s Chariot is basically ‘everything you could ever want to know about the Mi-24V “Hind” helicopter. I mean everything. The article is divided into five sections.

I have to call out one bit in particular in the introduction. Hans uses a quote from the Bible to introduce the article, a long one from Revelations 9:7-10. It is totally creepy how well the quote can apply to helicopter gunships:

And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.

So after a short introduction on what may well be, as he says, “The world’s most famous helicopter,” he gets right to it.

MIL Mi-24V “Hind-E” (Russia, 1976-1986)

This is the introductory section. The vehicle is described in real-world terms, broadly. It covers some nicknames, as well as the production and usage history, including the Mi-35 export version. It then gives a brief rundown of who uses them, and in some cases how many were purchased and remain functioning. You definitely get a flavor for who bought them, and also that you’d better be prepared to spend significant maintenance effort on them – 75% of Uganda’s purchased rotorcraft are out of service!

The Mi-24V in Detail

When Hans says detail, he means detail.

The first bit covers the construction and armoring of the airframe, again in real-world terms, making it amenable to SWAG conversion to other systems that can base armor protection off of type and thickness of material. It briefly touches on the helicopter’s reputation for unvulnerability (the famous scene from the original Red Dawn where it shrugs off an RPG hit comes to mind)  and where that may have originated, and where it’s wrong.

Engine, payload, fuel system, electronics. Crew compartment and flight systems. GURPS skills required to successfully operate the craft. Gunsights. And a detailed and specific Hit Location Table with location penalties to hit each place, with footnotes talking about details and DR of each location. It’s well done, and I think all vehicles should have one.

In case you want to bring friends, Hans describes the layout and capacity of the cargo/passenger area, you can bring either four or eight friends along.

Hans has a penchant for weapon statistics and details, and this article proves no exception. He probably lists every single possible armament for the craft. Though the carrying capacity is surprisingly limited, mostly by engine power, the hardpoint rating for each mount is given. Then he details all the weapon loads used for the craft.

Mi-24V Armament


Without going into too many details, any new weapons are given the usual treatment. The write-ups include wonderful details such as design quirks (you can only fire ten bursts of any size with the main 12.7mm machinegun!) in addition to usual ammo load and usage notes.

The vehicle statline is provided on p. 20, along with the detailed armament table summarizing nine different weapons that can be mounted to the vehicle.

Using the Mi-24V


The article finishes up with some notes on use. First, how to get one in the first place, by nefarious or not-so-nefarious means. Hard to approach but easy to steal, seems like. Notes on how they’re used with the rules in GURPS Action 2 for chases and attacks are provided.

The article touches very briefly on operational employment (in pairs or trios) and covers why. A text box notes what movies you can see the Mi-24 (or mocked up ones) in action.

The last few paragraphs cover in meticulous detail every single thing found on the pilots or in the cabin of one of these aircraft. Right down to insect repellant and water purification tablets.

Parting Shot

Hard to say anything other than “it’s that complete.” If you are looking for a scary adversary or a worthy prize – but not something as sophisticated and expensive as say the AH-64D – you’ll find it here. The article is encyclopedic in scope and tone, but I’d be hard pressed to find anything missing.

This is an article-by-article review of Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay. While I don’t usually do this, the subject matter of this issue is just what this blog ordered, and even if one of my own articles is in it, I really think every article, and nearly every word, of this issue is worth reading. So, a series of (hopefully) shortish posts.

Modern Warfighter: Gear (Kenneth Peters)


This article takes a look at (mostly) man-portable non-weapon equipment lugged around by TL8 soldiers of the lavishly-equipped set.

The article is grouped (by what we know as B-HEADs, or section dividers) into Full Battle Rattle, Uniforms, Body Armor, and New Equipment.

Each section is then given to High-Tech or Ultra-Tech style equipment descriptions. Ken is a military guy, and knows a lot of this equipment from personal experience, I think (his bio has him deployed for OIF/OEF at MARCENT as a Planning Specialist). Each item has not only the relevant details, but some worthy chestnuts on use, abuse, and how the troops look at stuff.

Full Battle Rattle



Clothing, drink, food, identification, light, navigation, and timekeeping make up the section on Basic Gear. Mostly these are references to equipment already listed in GURPS High-Tech. The section on Personal Gear is just that, covering everything from a notebook and space pen to tools, video, and computer equipment. The bits on Special Issue are purpose-built for certain missions and needs, and include B&E tools, biometrics, IED jammers, and signaling, just to pick out a few. While many of these continue the pattern of simply referencing gear in the wildly-complete High-Tech, some reference the new equipment section of this article, so there’s a mix of old and new, but each piece of equipment is given a note on when and why it might be issued.

Finally, there’s a short section on the personalization that soldiers do with their stuff. From quick-pull loops on magazines, to how magazines might have three tracer bullets in a 30-round mag, to gun-cleaning and first-aid kits – it’s got some flavor and usage notes to read.

Uniforms


This gives flavor and composition on the various types of uniforms that troopers might use. From utility uniforms, to infantry utility clothing (largely distinguished by being flame-resistant and much more durable), to semi-formal digs when you need to dress to impress without resorting to formalwear.

Body Armor


Mostly a descriptive section, with references to pre-written (High-Tech) and new equipment introduced in the article. A lot of this is given to useful information about the protection vs. comfort/mobility tradeoff, as well as speculation on whether future typical insurgent/militia types will enjoy the same level of protection as modern Western troops.

Alternate rules for donning armor, fatigue (with a shout-out to The Last Gasp in a box-text on encumbrance, so thanks Ken!), and off-size armor for people of odd sizes and shapes are also covered briefly but effectively.

New Equipment


This bit has thirty new pieces of cool kit. Each gets a full High-Tech-style write up (much more efficient than, say, Gangnam Style). Nifty gear includes anti-sniper bullet detectors, a whole buncha new armor and helmets, a couple of drones and robots, a gaggle of lasers for various purposes, and detection and protection equipment. Clothing, too.

Ballistic’s Report


This is basically somewhere between a really nifty TL8-based expansion to High-Tech, or more accurately, a bit-by-bit publication of a Loadouts book using Pyramid as a vehicle instead of the usual e23 route. Given the slowdown in GURPS througput due to the Big Ass Ogre, this is probably a wise choice!

Content-wise, for games featuring modern Western-style soldiers, or TL8/9 blends so common in Sci-Fi military movies and TV (Aliens comes to mind), this stuff is a valuable extension and expansion for the genre.

Good stuff, and nice work.

I’ve got another article in this month’s Pyramid magazine. Called “Dodge This,” it was the result of a long series of discussions between me and +Peter V. Dell’Orto about dodging firearms and bullets. It was somewhat a reaction to my experiences which led me to write The Occasional Silliness of Dodging Lasers, and the follow-up on “Lesser Silliness.”

Peter and I went back and forth quite a bit on structuring the article, and while I did a lot of the number crunching (it’s what I do), Peter is really good about making sure that things work in play. He’s also a big fan of minimizing the number of rolls and contests, so that play is minimally disrupted. So the article, though he basically said “it’s all you” and gave me sole credit, is as much his as mine.

With that, here was a quick summary of the issue that Ken Peters threw down on the GURPS Forums. I need to take the time to go over the entire issue myself and make my own comments. But in the meantime, I leave you with his words:

Modern Warfighter: Gear Slowly but surely you’ll be getting an entire book out of this 🙂 This article covers the non-weapon gear for a modern warfighter that currently doesn’t have an entry in the gear books. It also goes into some detail on military uniforms (I kept this very generic and rules legal) because that’s actually a rather interesting subject all by itself (this is kept very generic and I avoided US-centric absolutes when possible).
More information on body armor that extends Tactical Shooting? Check pp. 8-9 
Need stats for the Switchblade missile/UAV? That’s on p. 13 under Loitering Munition.
Curious about those barricades you see around bases and embassies? On p. 14 they are described under Multi-Cellular Defense Barriers.

What are the stats for modern FROG gear and other infantry uniforms? Check p. 8 easy peasy.

Canine tactical harnesses? See p. 11 my friend. I got it all covered.


The Devil’s ChariotThe very image of badass Russian hardware for decades: The Mi-24 Hind. Han’s left no detail unmentioned in this article, especially for applying this vehicle to a GURPS Actioncampaign.

The article covers the Mi-24V in detail, including information on the electronic warfare systems, what you can attach to the hardpoints, the flight controls, and even the seat layout (no graphics, unfortunately).

The guns obviously get the Han’s level of detail and there NINE new weapons with full stats and background information provided.

Curious as to what was contained on the survival gear of the crew? Did you know it had 20 water-purification tablets? Well now you do, because Hans has listed everything (with High-Tech page references). 


Eidetic Memory: Brock-Avery GunsThe manufacturer may be fictional, but the guns have detailed backgrounds and at least one is listed for every major era of play. The grave gun was particularly interesting and I had to look it up (yes, they really existed). A good example of how to take a theme and apply to something that is usually considered just an appliance.
BTW the mention of Transient Lunar Phenomena was pretty interesting. Need to see if I can get a database of those locations 🙂

Dodge ThisDouglas “Crunch King (in training)” Cole wrote this article to address the common question of “why is it so easy to dodge ranged attacks in GURPS?” After all, even in Rifts you have that -10 to dodge and that’s hardly a paragon of realism!
Well, he breaks it down for you. So complete is the article that I don’t really know what else to say. IF a player ever gripes about the dodge rules, especially the notes from Tactical Shooting, I’ll just print this off and hand it to them without saying a word. Maybe a grunt of command to actually read the entire thing.
What’s also interesting is that he extends the rules for Parry, Block and Dodge to cover all sorts of ranged attacks (and not just thrown weapons) – even spells!

The Nock Volley GunSometimes seen, never really described, this article is about a particularly interesting historical weapon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nock_gun). That alone isn’t very exciting or novel, but what sells it are the optional rules that really spell out why this thing remains a historical artifact 🙂
I found the rules regarding the insane muzzle blast of this gun to be particularly noteworthy!


Magic BulletsNeed to put a diamond shard in your bullets to hunt that monster? This article has you covered, my friend. Obsidian cored rounds with a wolf tooth enamel coating? It’s just an order away!

This article extends the already voluminous list of “special loads” for bullets as seen in HorrorMonster Hunters, and Pulp Guns.

Random Thought Table: Make Each Shot CountHere Steven discusses using ammo itself as a pacing mechanism instead of just a largely forgotten bit of character sheet accounting. As he notes, many people approach this from a video game perspective where acquiring ammo is something you can do at a dead sprint with daemons spitting blood a footstep behind and you can casually load it even underwater or while on fire.

IMO this is one of the best Random Thought Tables in a long time, and I’m sure there will be a lot of GMs who get their eyes opened to these types of game balancing and plot pacing concepts.

Ballistic’s Report


I had a good time writing my own article. I won’t say that it just fell together, but Peter’s influence made itself felt in an entirely productive way. Not only did knowing I had a prospective co-author mean I buckled down and got my stuff done (I’m better with a deadline), but I sort of had to ask myself WWPD as well as WIWIP (would it work in play) more often than I usually do.

That probably means I asked it just less than I should.


I tend to write as a menu of options, fully endorsing what I feel is a core GURPS concept: “pick the rules you want, toss the rest.” Some of my options you might not like. Great! Ignore them. I write a lot of my rules articles to address issues that I see that bug me, but they might not bug everyone.

That Ken really liked my article is very gratifying, and I think that one of the reasons this article works (and rereading it, I do think it has a lot of goodness to it) is that it directly addresses an issue that, quite seriously, had every single player (including my wife) groaning about how unrealistic it was to just keep dodging laser beams. No amount of “but you’re dodging the line of fire” was going to make up for that.

So I knew there was something there, and the article on MECE applied to attack and defense rolls cinched it up: there were several options that might get it done.

From there, it was a matter of some clarifying discussion with Peter, a first draft, and then my usual suspects did the proofread and comment. I found so much utility in my Technical Grappling playtest that I try and hit up some of them, plus a few others, as often as I can to ensure I don’t miss important bits.

If you haven’t read the article, I’d certainly appreciate it if you would! If you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts – even if you thought it lacking.

Though the title is Melee Academy, being able to do harm at a distance is important in many genres. However, up until the invention of the windlass, cranequin, gunpowder, and fast-discharge supercapacitor, what you’re really doing is finding ways of translating your strength into injury.

Also on Melee Academy, Ranged Edition:

Peter Dell’Orto talks about Hitting the Wrong Target at Dungeon Fantastic
Mark Langsdorf Enters a Room over at No School Grognard
Christopher Rice will be talking Ritual Path Magic at Ravens N’ Pennies

For today’s Melee Academy, I thought I’d do weapon basics using only the GURPS Basic Set and segue a bit into Low-Tech, though I’ll predict that very little of substance, rather than variety, can be done.

A lot of the Melee Academy posts play in the Dungeon Fantasy space – 250 or so points. I’m going to restrict myself to about 150 points with about 40 points in Disadvantages and Quirks (about 25% of the starting total). In fact, I’ll mostly consider something like:

Attributes [120]
ST 13 [30]; DX 12 [40]; IQ 11 [20]; HT 12 [20]
HP 13; Will 12 [5]; Per 12 [5]; FP 12
Basic Lift 34; Damage 1d/2d-1
Basic Speed 6; Basic Move 6; Ground Move 6; Water Move 1

Advantages [35]
Combat Reflexes [15]
Enhanced Dodge (1) [15]
Fit [5]


Disadvantages [-35]; Quirks [-5]

Skills [35]
Axe/Mace (A) DX+1 [2]-12; Bow (A) DX+4 [16]-16; Climbing (A) DX-1 [1] -11; Fast-Draw (Arrow) (E) DX+2* [2]-14; Fast-Talk (A) IQ-1 [1]-10; First Aid/TL3 (Human) (E) IQ+0 [1]-11; Hiking (A) HT+0 [2]- 12; Naturalist (Earth) (H) IQ-2 [1]-9; Observation (A) Per+0 [2]-12; Running (A) HT-1 [1]-11; Stealth (A) DX-1 [1]-11; Swimming (E) HT+0 [1]- 12; Tracking (A) Per+0 [2]- 12; Wrestling (A) DX+0 [2]- 12.

This clearly isn’t the only or the best 150-point ranged weapons guy. In fact, there are lots of things you could choose to do otherwise. But I wanted to give an example with most of the skills GURPS Line Editor and long-time player +Sean Punch and GM recommends as Adventuring Basics. And I wanted sufficient goodness in basic stats to account for things like Per and Will being things you may need to roll against, a decent Move and Encumbrance, and enough ST and DX to be considered a well-rounded party member who has a chance to actually injure foes.  

More on that later. 

Still, you can see that the perhaps archetypical ranged weapon type, the archer, has Bow-16. Given my previous writings on the subject, that’s probably about where you’d want to be.

Of course, lose the +1 to Dodge and you can be Bow-19 and still have three points to spare. You can also ditch Combat Reflexes and Fit in favor of, say, Heroic Archer if your GM allows it. Infinite options, but that awesome Bow skill comes at the cost of being good at anything else. Because drawing out ammo and loading the bow are a combination of Fast-Draw and Bow skills, you’ll want decent levels of both.

And you need that skill, if you’re shooting a bow. Remember, with Bow-16, without aiming you can only hit the vitals 50% of the time with your foe at 7 yards. Almost certainly, then, if you want to hit to anything like distance, you need to compromise your versatility as above, or accept limitations on what you can do. Ranged attacks pile up penalties faster than anything else in GURPS.

Basic Principles of Mail-order Pain

So, you want to hurt people from a distance? That’s smart. Sometimes that “up close and personal” thing gets nasty. Still, you’re going to have to decide a few things.

The first one is, what’s your schtick? Are you a dedicated ranged weapons guy? That means you’re going to need a weapon that fires ammunition, or for which you can carry a sufficient number to make it through a combat and then recover them afterwards.

Are you using ranged weapons as an entry into melee? In that case, you have less to worry about in terms of lather, rinse, repeat, which is good. But that also means you’re going to be blowing your cash on defenses and offenses for melee, so you might not be that good at your weapon.

Bring the Hurt

There are two basic choices when it comes to ranged weapons. Those that do swing damage, and those that do thrust. From the Basic Set, here are the weapon classes. A typical value for 1/2D range as a multiple of ST is given as well in parentheses.

Thrust-based Ranged Weapons: Bolas (x3), Bows (x15), Crossbows (x20), Harpoons (x1), Knives (x0.5), Shuriken (x0.5), and Spears (x1).

Swing-based Ranged Weapons: Slings (x12 with bullets!), Atlatls (x2), and Axes and Maces (x1).

The blowpipe is the odd man out. It’s damage is fixed. Other oddities include lassos and nets, whose purpose is more grappling than injury.

There are, perhaps oddly, no real trends here. For weapons that use ammo (slings and bows/crossbows) at ST 13 without perks like Strongbow (which you should totally take, along with Arm ST 2, if you can free up 11 points) you’re looking at 1d+1 imp to 195 yards with a regular bow, and 2d pi to 156 yards with a sling.

Of course and again: unless you are taking many seconds to Aim, your practical range limit to the torso for many of these weapons will be less than 100 yards, often much less.

What’s Not Worth It?


For the dedicated ranged guy, where you intend to stay at range, certain things are totally not worth it. Bolas are only cool for the optional grapple. Knives and shuriken are neat tricks, but with paltry damage and range, are for show, not for real. Most of the rest – other than bows, crossbows, slings, and atlatls with darts – are too heavy to consider carrying more than a few of them. Five throwing hatchets weigh 10 lbs., and can only reach to 20 or so yards at 1/2D . . . though you’ll be doing 2d-1 cut  for each, which will punch through DR 4 mail and do 3 injury or more 50% of the time.

What IS Worth it?

And that’s really the trick of it when bows are concerned. If you can afford the $900 it takes to buy a composite bow, you can do 1d+3 imp, which will punch through that DR 4 85% of the time, and on an average hit will do 4-6 injury. You can also target the vitals, which pushes that to 6-9 injury (but you need the skill for it).

The other real runner up is the sling, which ramps up with your ST faster than bows. ST 13 with lead bullets is 2d pi compared to a regular bow’s 1d+2 imp, but ST 19 is a thunderous 3d+2 pi, compared to 2d+1 imp. Against unarmored folks, for average ST and higher, the imp damage type wins. For our test character of ST 13 through ST 15, the sling has a very minor injury advantage over the bow at DR5+ (both top out and do basically nothing at DR 6+).

One interesting thing about a sling: the damage really is ST-based, rather than the ST of the bow. All-Out Attack (Strong) for +1 per die or +2 damage might be available for slings (I’d allow it).

I think these two are a wash, though the availability of multiple arrow types (such as the (2) pi bodkin, as well as cutting arrows) probably edge the general win to the bow. Not by a lot, though.

Now, on the “fire and forget” end, you have some interesting choices, one of which is an atlatl throwing javelins. It hits 1/2D at 26 yds, but even at ST 13 does 2d imp at that range. All the awesomeness of the imp damage type, with the penetration of a .45 ACP. A particularly strong specimen, such as ST 17, is doing 3d imp, which is equivalent to a ST 21 crossbow (though much lower range).

Another interesting choice is the 4-lb. throwing axe. Thrown or swung in-hand, it does sw+2 cut, or 2d+1 cut for ST 13. You probably can’t carry very many, but you can wield one in each hand, chuck one, and continue. Range is less than 15 yards, which likely gives you one hit, then you’re in melee. But that first hit will do 6 injury through DR 4 mail, and probably push the recipient to All-Out Defense his next turn.

+Rob Conley reminds me in the comments section that the classic fire-and-forget tactic is the Really High ST Crossbow. It might take nine years to reload, but at thr+4, a ST 21+ crossbow is nasty. It’ll do 3d or more equivalent impaling damage, and can target the vitals. It’s an Easy skill, which means you can literally hit from 50% farther away right off the bat, and it has a higher Aim stat than any other basic ranged weapon. He calls it the Knight Killer, and he’s right. This is a weapon you give to a whole line of melee-ready friends, fire off one volley, then charge in. But that volley can be incredibly dangerous vs. any creature vulnerable to impaling damage.

Tactics


Really, you’re going to want to be hiding behind someone here. Ideally a lot of someones, with Shield Wall training and Sacrificial Block. Your own #1 worry is other ranged types for the first instance, and a clear field of running that a Dodge Monkey can exploit to close within your effective range. While DF Heroic Archers can do melee combat with their bows, most real-world specimens cannot do this. So unless you’re a spear or axe guy throwing spears or axes, you’re going to lose your primary attack mode unless you are kept safe.

If you’re a 150-point character, you might look into hiring a Guard template from Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchmen (p. 21) with Sacrificial Block and Shield Wall Training, and (say) Spear and Shield modified to give Spear-11 but Shield-14. That will give you someone with Large Shield (DB+3) who has Block-13 and a Reach 1,2 weapon to help deter pesky melee types.

Finally, you may want to just realize that most of your fighting will be at 30 yards and less. So plan on a maximum of -7 due to range (but try and keep at least 15 yards, or -5, so you have time to run the hell away if someone starts to chase you down) and offset that with Aim if you can.

Rapid Fire specialists are expensive, though. If you need to eat a -7 from range, -3 for vitals, and -3 for Quick-Shooting (and have bought Heroic Archer, Weapon Master, or TBaM to halve that -6 to -3), and still want a 90% chance to hit, you’re looking at needing an effective Bow-27 to pull that off. Yow.

Parting Shot


A “normal” ranged weapon specialist is a hard niche to fill in GURPS at low point values. You tend to be quite the specialist, though with clever choices you can be a very, very good specialist. You’ll want to discuss this with your fellow players, though – one of the ways to get to the kind of skill (Bow-18 and higher, for example) you need to be effective, often, at decent range is to give up nearly everything else.

In practice, you will be shooting infrequently, so you’ll want to make those hits count. Otherwise, go the other way, and grab enough skill to use a heavy thrown or launched weapon that does swing damage a few times, then charge into melee.

Here was a bit cut out of the upcoming GURPS: Technical Grappling. There are several reasons.

  1. It’s a grappling book, not a striking book
  2. I was using Size Modifier as a direct proxy for height. That’s wrong.
  3. First See Rule #1.
I also found this excised portion of the rules terribly complicated, and we ditched the concept of grappling “regions” of the body in favor of using regular hit locations. All in all, it was a good cut, but see later for why I even bother to bring it up now!

Continue reading “Falling Down – head kicking for fun and profit in GURPS”