Hicks: I wanna introduce you to a personal friend of mine. This is an M41A pulse rifle. Ten millimeter with over-and-under thirty millimeter pump action grenade launcher. 
Hicks: [Hicks hands the rifle to Ripley] Feel the weight. 
Ripley: Okay. What do I do? 

The M41 is iconic. It defines the look and feel of one of the best Aliens movies out there (in my opinion), and was, at least in this scene, treated more like a character than a piece of equipment. 

I recently wrote up the ammunition it supposedly fires as my April Fool’s entry for The Reloading Press. It’s described in the movie as follows:

Ripley: Lieutenant, what do those pulse rifles fire?Gorman: 10 millimeter explosive tip caseless. Standard light-armor-piercing round, why?

Other than the weapon itself, which was made in several non-firing mock-ups and one “hero” weapon that could actually fire blanks, that’s mostly the only information you have on the weapon itself. You do see that loading a fresh magazine gave something like 95 or 99 shots.

This writeup is dedicated to +Kyrinn S. Eis who asked me very nicely to do it.

Screen to Reality Problems

The weapon itself was converted from a .45 Thompson SMG, because the director liked the “angry” flash of the .45ACP cartridge. He wanted the weapon to be impressive when fired.

It was highly modified, obviously, and featured a slung-under grenade launcher that was obviously a converted pump-action shotgun.

It’s got a short barrel for both weapons, making it definitely in the SMG category.

Some of the issues that come up right away have to do with the quoted dimensions of the projectiles. A 12G shotgun is 18.5mm in diameter. The quoted dimension of the grenade launcher in the movie is 30mm, which is nearly twice the bore of the mock-up weapon. As you can see from the UMP in the picture, a 30mm grenade launcher would have been unmistakable. The grenades just aren’t that big.

The second problem – and that’s even before we get to the Colonial Marines’ Technical Manual information – is that the stated 10mm bore size of the rifle runs into issue. Not with the observed barrel opening – that’s probably fine, as the Thompson is, in fact, .45ACP (11.43mm) and larger even than the 10mm caseless claimed.

No, the problem is magazine capacity. A 10mm bullet is . . . wait for it . . . 10mm in width. So if you stack them like they’re in an M1911 pistol (which you’d never do), then 95 of those would be almost a meter long. Basically a three-foot-long magazine. 

Even the 25-round magazine of the UMP above, which protrudes so conspicuously beneath the weapon, is probably about 25cm long, and going from .45 to 10mm might drop that by 10%. Now, it is deceptive – the distance from the barrel to the bottom of the magazine well in the picture is longer than it would appear. And a better graphic shows it as well.

But ultimately, if the magazine is as shown, it will maybe be 7-9″ long – or about 200mm, maybe 225mm. That allows for a maximum stack of 20-22 bullets per column. Let’s be generous and say 25.

Now, you can offset them in width, of course. But ultimately, to get 90-100 bullets out of that magazine for that size, you need four to five columns. Even staggered, four columns will be 36mm wide. Or about 1.4″. Five wide would be 45mm, or 1.75″.

Mostly, though, the magazines are presented as a double-stack configuration, as shown in the replica to the right.

But . . . there’s at least enough room for one more column to the left and right of the double-stack. The movie didn’t show that, but then, there aren’t many quad-stack magazines kicking around for a .45 Thompson. There are plenty of quad-stack mags for assault rifles, though. Well, if not plenty, than some. And since the typical base dimension of an assault rifle round is 9-10mm, having a quad-stack in 10mm . . . even 10mm caseless, isn’t crazed.

OK, so quad-stack. Go us. We’ll still need 24 or 25 bullets tall, though, to get as much as we’d like (95-99 rounds) out of the weapon. But if we allow 200mm tall, perhaps we can get 20, and assume that the spring (if they still use springs in the Colonial Marines) is in the large baseplate of the magazine. In fact, there’s little other reason, except maybe a battery for electric ignition, to have such a large baseplate. That gets us to roughly 80 rounds, with some degree of loss due to poor packing density as four columns go down to two goes down to one.

So maybe 60-70 rounds. The Soviet quad-stack shown was 60 rounds of 5.45x39mm, and that’s fairly respectable, if complex.

The final bit of question comes from a translation from the original source material. The Colonial Marines’ Technical Manual describes the M309 projectile fired by the M41 rifle as a “10x24mm caseless” round. 

Now, that notation is usually something like 9x19mm, where the 19mm is the case length, and the 9mm is the bore of the weapon. So a 10x24mm caseless bullet should have a 24mm area of propellant, and then a protruding bullet. The wonderful (but fake) replicas created by a cosplayer (presumably) with mad skills and plenty of time on their hands seems to do pretty well. The bullet itself, if it’s of similar proportion to a 9mm bullet, will be about 20mm long; a filled explosive bullet may well be longer and lighter density. 

So can the bullets above – 10mm in diameter, perhaps 25-30mm long, explosive filled – be dimensionally correct? The CMTM gives a 210grain bullet, 10mm in diameter. A jacketed lead bullet of 4:1 aspect ratio (like the .308) will have a density (with my program) of 9.3 to 9.9 g/cc. This 210gr, 10mm projectile with a 3:1 ratio – long for a pistol bullet, short for a rifle – will have a density of about 8. It could maybe be stretched to 7.5 (a bit lower than steel) by stretching the aspect ratio to 3.2:1, but any longer than about 3.3 or 3.5 and your bullet is longer than the overall cartridge will be.

Still, the dimensions of the projectile are surprisingly reasonable.

As for the rest, the rifle is supposedly designed around a 247mm barrel, and the projectile develops 840m/s from this length. At high pressures of around 60,000 psi, this powder will remain burning for quite a while down the barrel relative to other designs in my model. So the flash would be impressive. As seen in the movie.

For GURPS, a short barrel like that would likely be Acc 4. 1/2D for a honkin’ projectile like that would be about 425yds, and about a 3,600yd maximum range. Damage at the muzzle would be an impressive 8d-1 pi+.

Oh, and of course, it explodes. I suspect that what this means is that torso hits are treated as vitals hits if it does explode (there’s a note that it doesn’t do well when not fired at body armor in the CMTM), and we pick up a (2) armor divisor due to a penetrating tip or something. RoF is single shot, 4-round burst, or fully automatic.

Recoil should be a beast. The bullet is akin to a .338 Winchester Magnum or .300 Win Mag, which should carry a Rcl of 4 or even higher. If the weapon uses advanced recoil compensation or stabilization, perhaps one could get it down to 2 or 3 (2 is what you’d see from the movie, with the weapon fired from fairly loose grips, which you’d never do with a .308 under full-automatic fire or even burst fire – the M14 was a large weapon and not exactly known for stable full-auto fire.

Rcl that high makes full-auto fire fairly pointless in GURPS; even Rcl 1 or 2 it’s hard to hit with more than one shot. I bet this thing is pretty nasty for suppression fire, though.

Parting Shot

Ultimately, the M41 is a movie weapon that someone took some pains to try and wrap some statistics around, and produced an up-gunned weapon that kicks as hard as a sniper rifle but fires out of a SMG-size weapon. From the hip.

We haven’t talked at all about the grenade launcher, of course. Alliant Tech Systems (now Orbital ATK) tried to get good performance out of a 20mm grenade to no avail – not enough fragmentation, but then they weren’t working with TL9 or TL10 explosives, either. With the right ammuntion, direct fire HEAT from a 20mm weapon isn’t entirely stupid, and with enhanced explosives from the future, is likely the best thought-out part of the entire system.

GURPS does have a pulse-rifle equivalent, by the way, already. Check out the Storm Carbine from GURPS Ultra-Tech.

And of course, while I might cast doubt on the particular combination of velocity, projectile dimensions, and technology, the weapon itself is completely viable. After all, someone went and built one!

Tonight we played in another session of Castle of Horrors. We set up a proper fire lane against some four-armed seige beasts, and more or less made as short work of the as one would expect with that many guns trained on flesh-and-blood 12-foot-tall humanoids. Which is to say: very short.

We can’t stand toe-to-toe with just about anyone, but give us some time and a bit of distance, and our motley collection of .308 rifles and 12G shotguns will do the trick on flesh-and-blood creatures. Turns out, they bled gold when killed.

I have never in my life seen a better rationale for murder-hobo-slaying for profit. Both our silver and our gold treasure turned out to be the death-blood of enchanted animated (?) creatures.

We recovered the statue of a crow that was calling to Jaime or Raleigh (I can’t recall), and circled the castle. We surmised – it turns out correctly – that the statue was a key that would open the portal to take us home.

We were right.

We ‘ported back and sold our precious metals for about $1100 each, I think. We kept some of the other things – like the old armor – we’d found, scouring off the rust and patching what holes existed. That turned into a Good suit of DR 8 plate that fit Raleigh. So yay.

Neil (me) grabbed his kevlar (DR 5, DR 10 vs bullets) vest and DR 25 trauma plates (vs. everything) that cover his chest. So now he’s DR 30 on his chest vs most things, DR 35 vs pi damage, but only DR 5 on his abdomen, and nothing anywhere else.

We started to fix the “anything else,” too. Mark allows us to get anything that we can find on the web, at the price listed. I express-ordered a Class IIIA ballistic helmet ($700) and integrated hearing protection and tactical communicator ($1300). That’s enough to protect against .44M rounds – 15.6 grams at 436m/s.

I also bought a fine katana (because I knew where to get one online that was ‘good enough’ quality) and a hatchet, for a bit of melee ability.

Then we decided to go hunt gargoyles.

We set up a trap, triggered it . . . and now have at least four gargoyles chasing Ryan (Emily’s character) down the hallway as we shoot at them. We formed a firing line and created a “funnel of death” for our ambush.

But they’re unliving and homogenous. pi- only do 1/10 damage, pi is 1/5, pi+ is 1/3, and pi++ is 1/2.

My rifle? 7.62x51mm SCAR 17S. So 7d penetration turn into about 1d+1 injury pretty fast, and these guys seem to have plenty of DR and HP.

We didn’t think this through the entire way. Our goal was to trap, isolate, and kill one of the gargoyles, and whittle them down one at a time. That’s still our goal, and we’ll see how our Endor-trap works.

Gargoyle Hunting: Not got-d**m big enough!

We have the right idea, but probably the wrong firearms. My .308 only will deliver about 1d+1 injury per hit, assuming DR 0 (which is a bad assumption from the get-go). So only a few points of damage per shot.

Contrast with other weapons:

A Ruger Super Redhawk in .454 Casull does 5d-1 pi+. That’s about 16 points of penetration, which will translate into 5 points of injury. That’s on par with my 7.62, so I’d still take the rifle.

The shotguns fare better. Full-bore slugs are nasty, and sabot slugs even nastier, and both are pi++. The rules say multiply shotgun damage by four, for 4d+4 each, which means 2d+2 injury depending on what gets past DR. that’s 11 points per shot, nearly doubling the rate of destruction. The Kel Tek KSG (which one of our characters carries) would be a good choice here. Sabot slugs are frequently about 12.7mm (pi+), and can hit very hard. The Remington 3″ copper slug – hollow-point no less! – should clock in at about 4d+2 pi++. So 16 points of penetration should then do 8 points of injury, again assuming that DR doesn’t drop it too much.

Unless you’re shooting actual slugs, you need to hit .60 caliber (15mm) before you eke out the real hurt.

An H&H Royal Double would do it. that’d 5dx2 pi ++, or 35 points of penetration, and 17 points of injury. That’s very nice if you have the $10K to spare. And you get two shots and probably a bruised shoulder.

The .50 Beowulf seems like it might be interesting but it works out to 5d or so pi+. That’s not terrible, but the shotgun is better, and the KSG has quite a few in the tubes.

The next step up has to be the .50 BMG. There are some quite portable bullpup .50 caliber rifles, such as the Desert Tech HTI. This bullpup, magazine-fed 12.7x108mm (.50 BMG) “only” weighs 20 lbs (unloaded) and has a 29″ barrel, which will hit for 12d pi+. That will strike for 4d injury, or about 14 points per shot. That’s the best yet, even better than with slugs, and with more raw energy in the round so as to better handle DR.

What about stone? Well, you can order armor piercing .50 BMG for those pesky gargoyle problems. At only $4 per shot.

The rifle itself isn’t cheap – it’s about $5,100. Ironically, for this particular mission, the usual Leopold or Schmidt and Bender optics can probably be ignored in favor of a high quality reflex sight. So for about $6,000 you can nab the rifle, an optic, and a few magazines of ammo (which won’t be light).

Parting Shot

That’s serious anti-gargoyle hardware. And since you don’t want to miss, you’ll want two people toting them, so you can aim/fire or fire/aim and hit hard once per second. Against flying targets that can dodge, you’ll want that.

But it is five inches longer (and 10-12 lbs heavier) than an M16 (though only an inch longer and 8 lbs heavier than an M14 . . . well, probably more like 10-12 lbs heavier with 10 rounds of .50 embarked).

But really, we knew we were going after up to eight nasty creatures with stone for skin that tended to shrug off bullets. Our “Let’s lure out a gargoyle and take them down one at a time” may still be a good plan. But they’re hard targets, and we’re not as well kitted out against these guys as we could be.

We shall see . . . next week!

Swinging a sword
at an orc is all well and good, but if your friend needs help, you have to be
able to reach him. Moving to (or fleeing from) a foe, or seeking a position
that gives tactical advantage, is part and parcel of fighting. In fact, an
emphasis on footwork, distancing, and movement is one of the key parts of
combat training in many styles.

I’d love to
generalize to “most” or even “all,” but I’ve not trained in most or all styles.
The ones I’ve studied and trained in emphasized footwork and movement, and I’ve
not see that contradicted in my readings of other arts.

In the games,
movement is important because (in the simplest of terms) it’s how one gets from
fight to fight. Of course, there’s more to the game than fighting. Well,
mostly. But getting into, and out of position can matter a great deal.
In any case, we’ll
be looking at several facets of movement in the five selected games. Speed and
acceleration drive the ability to position oneself on the battlefield (or
battle map, as the case may be). The impact, if any, of posture on  movement
and action determine whether that’s important at all. Finally, we’ll look at
several types of special movement, such as jumping, sprinting, and of course,
the ever-popular chandelier-swinging.
Overland movement
and hiking won’t be treated here; while important, they’re more key to
large-scale strategic movement than the kinds of personal engagement that
Violent Resolution treats. But while hiking isn’t treated, moving around
under the influence of materialism – that is, while carrying mounds of equipment
and loot – are examined to see if, and how, the games treat movement when
loaded. With stuff.

The Name is
Bolt. Usain Bolt.

Just to level-set
things at the high end of human ability, let’s take a look not at Barry Allen,
but the real fastest man alive, Usain Bolt.
Mr Bolt can cover
10m in about 1.9 seconds, and has a reaction time before his initial sprint of
about 1/6 of a second. From a standing start, then, with no encumbrance, but
with the knowledge that beatin’ feet is imminent, Bolt accelerates at
about 2/3 of a gravity, about 6.6m/s^2. In one second, including reaction time,
he’ll cover about 2.3m. His maximum velocity during his 100m race will be just
over 27mph, or 13.5 yards/second. If we consider a six-second round common to
RPGs, including his acceleration period, Usain can cover up to about 60 yards,
or 180 feet, based on the split times in some of his more well-documented
efforts. If we allowed maximum velocity for the entire trip (a terrible
assumption given a standing start) he’d cover 240′.
That sets an upper
limit on really fast humans, or if not an upper limit (given that high-level
RPG “cinematic normal” characters can push this sort of world record), at least
set the boundaries by which things start to raise eyebrows. On the slow end,
anything less than about 20′ in a six-second round is getting quite pokey –
that’s a treadmill set to about 2mph, an easy walking pace.
Stop Right

Comparing maximum
sprint speeds is all well and good, but one of the kickers there is that such
comparisons are usually made without the assumption that someone’s going to try
to behead you at the end of your run, and that is all that
matters is how far you run during that turn – that is, it assumes that you’ll
still be running all-out at turn’s end.
For an RPG, this
is a poor starting assumption. Characters often move around the map (if one is
in use at all) like chess pieces, in discrete units. A D&D
fighter might move 60′ in one round, sit still for two more, then a 30′
move, no move, and then first a 60′ dash followed by a 30′ action. Any of the
movement contemplated in the prior example could have multiple melee attacks
and defenses in any segment that does not include a “dash” action.

This means that if
we use Usain’s notional acceleration (and again, it’s not constant – check out his velocity
vs. time graph
, reproduced to the right), ignoring reaction time, and force
him to a standing stop at the end of a six-second round, he’ll cover less
ground than an all-out sprint. If you trust my math and allow a few simplifying
assumptions (0 reaction time, accelerate at 6.6m/s^2 to max velocity equal to
2x acceleration, then maintain for two seconds, then decelerate at same rate to
a stop) this will cover about 170-175′, or about 28.8 feet per second.
Finally, the round
length is critical here! If you allow a 10 second round on the same profile,
60% of the trip is at full velocity, and you’ll cover 350′ in ten seconds – 35′
per second. If you have to start and stop in the same second, even
with Usain’s mighty limbs, you’ll cover less than two yards and
never get even close to maximum velocity.

Dungeons and Dragons

Getting around in
D&D5 is done by taking either a move as part of another action, such as
trying to beat the tar out of someone with an axe, or a Dash, which comprises
two moves.
Most characters
will have a base speed of 30′, which is the distance that can be covered in a
six-second round. This speed is described as the creature’s walking pace, and
that’s accurate – the average velocity here is about 3.5mph, which is a nice
steady treadmill walking pace. A dash, then, is twice that speed, 20 yards per
six seconds, or just shy of 7mph – elves can go a bit faster, at 8mph – roughly
1/3 of Usain’s top sprinting speed.
So no issues with
“too fast,” though perhaps one with too slow at the upper end. If a normal
human can walk 30′ and dash 60′, then Usain can sprint at 6x the walking pace
(!), or 3x the dash pace. It would be a small thing to allow an all-out sprint
at 4x the base rate, at some cost. Maybe you can’t do it if you’re carrying a
shield or wearing more than light armor.

The game calls out
crawling, which is moving when prone. The rules are worded oddly, but that’s
because of how they interact with terrain modifiers – they’re additive, not
multiplicative. Crawling adds an extra foot to the cost of moving a foot – in
practice, on good terrain, you crawl at half your walking or dashing pace.
“Difficult” terrain has the same modifier (adds a foot to the effective
distance per foot travelled), so 10′ of crawling (adds +10′) through difficult
terrain (adds another 10′) eats up the normal 30′ movement allowance. Other
postures such as kneeling or crouching are below the resolution of the game –
usually such a thing would be to take advantage of partial or total cover, and
that provides its own bonus and rules.

You can do a
standing long jump up to half your Strength score (so STR 10 is 5′), and with
at least a 10′ runup you can broad jump double that distance – equal to your
STR. Jumping over obstacles, you can do a running jump equal to 3′ plus your
STR modifier – so 3′ for a STR 10 individual, and 8′ for STR 20. You can
standing jump half that: 18″ for STR 10, and 48″ for STR 20 – and that 48″
vertical is actually a pretty good approximation of what people like Olympians
Karch Kiraly and Eric Sato could do. Both of those guys were in the 40″ neighborhood,
and the world record is something like 55″.
You can swim or
climb roughly as fast as you can crawl.
As for
banister-sliding and chandelier-swinging? Roll Dexterity (Acrobatics), I
suppose! More seriously, such rolls should be allowed, as even someone like
myself could do, with maybe a 15′ runup, a dive roll over a standing tumbling
mat (5′ tall) without touching it. That might, for example, add your DEX
modifier to the existing STR modifier – so that technique (DEX) reinforces
power (STR).

The encumbrance
rules are deliberately simple – in fact, they’re deliberately set at a weight
(15x your STR until you hit your limit) that won’t be troublesome, and there’s
no impact to load if you’re under this limit. A variant rule on the same page
reduces move by 10′ if you’re in excess of 5xSTR in pounds, and 20′ if you’re
in excess of 10xSTR (also, you have disadvantage to a whole passel of stuff –
attacks, physical saving throws, and physical attribute checks, which includes
all skill use).
Savage Worlds

The movement rate
in Savage Worlds is called “Pace,” and its given in units of physical inches
per second – but it’s inches on the tabletop. Savage Worlds is explicitly meant
to be played with miniatures, and so movement is measured with inches on a game
table or battlemat, and weapon ranges are given the same way.
That being said, a
scale is given: two yards to the inch. So to be equivalent with the D&D
measurement in feet, for comparison, distance moved is basically 6′ multiplied
by your Pace. The round/turn length is equivalent to D&D as well, at six
seconds each. So let’s see how movement compares.
Much like D&D,
there isn’t much inherent variability in the Pace for player characters: humans
start with a Pace of 6″, or 36′ per turn. If they run, they add another 1d6″ –
an interesting choice. On the average, then, a running character will move
about 57′ – pretty close to the D&D speed for a human using a Dash action –
but it could be as low as 42′ and as high as 72′. This makes foot races somewhat
interesting, and can actually mean that a chase between two characters of equal
ability has tension to it.

Running and moving
while crouching is given mechanical weight – half speed for
doing either while crouching, in exchange for -1 to hit such a foe with a
ranged attack. Crawling is done at a rate of 12′ (2″ on the tabletop), or 1/3
the normal Pace. In addition to either modifier, moving across Difficult Ground
is done at half speed. There is an Edge that can grant another +2 to the basic
Pace, increasing base movement to 48′ per round, and max speed to 84′. That’s
faster than most D&D characters, but still not out of bounds.

Jumping distances
are fixed – a horizontal jump of 6′ standing, 12′ with a running start, and up
to another 6′ for either one with a successful Strength roll. Swimming isn’t
explicitly treated in the rules.

Note: there’s
an erratum in my Deluxe rules hardcover, which lists Encumbrance on p. 17 in
the index; at least in my book it’s p. 49.

Each 5lbs. times
the die type for your Strength score gives a load limit, which should really be
thought of as a load increment, and passing each increment gives a -1 penalty
to Agility and Strength tests and totals. So there is a gradual decrease in ability
as you carry more weight – but it does not impact Pace. You may not normally
accept more than a -3 penalty, which means that your true load limit is
roughly 20 lbs multiplied by your die type (for a d6 Strength, your first
30 lbs. are no penalty, and you’ll hit -4, and therefore your limit, at
120 lbs.).

In GURPS your move
is equal to the truncated value of your Basic Speed (if your Basic Speed is
5.75, your unencumbered Move is 5). This gives your movement allowance in yards
when taking a Move or Move and Attack maneuver. It is, therefore, basically
equal to a character’s maximum combat speed in yards per second. Typical
unencumbered heroes will have Move from 5-8 (often 5-6), and therefore will be
able to move 15-18 feet per second. 
This equates nominally, in the six-second
rounds common to the previous two games, to about 90-110′ per D&D/Savage
Worlds combat round. This is much, much faster (by almost 50%) than either game
. . . and yet because so many actions can happen during the six full turns that
is the GURPS equivalent
time span
, from a players’ perspective it can seem like forever to reach a
fallen friend being menaced by a bloodthirsty adversary.

As noted in the
introduction, almost anything that happens on a one-second timescale is going
to be limited to about 2 yards of movement – basically 4′ of travel at 0.5g
acceleration (Bolt’s is 0.66g), and 8′ at 1g – in other words, from a yard to
two yards. One would have to accelerate at about 1.12g in order to eke three
yards out of the movement . . . which is actually a higher acceleration than
the Indy Car used to look at if a human
could outrun one
 at sufficiently short distances.
That being said,
the maximum velocities allowed in the game are really only 20% higher than the
basic movement rate, which means that in order to hit Bolt’s real-world speed
of about 13.5 yards per second, his “Basic Move” needs to be higher than
11 (!). Further, to move that quickly, the character takes a flat -4 to attack,
and no matter what other penalties are assigned, the maximum skill may not
exceed 9 (meaning you’re hitting just shy of 40% of the time in the very best
case). These maximum speeds require more than one second of movement – your can
hit your Move on your first turn, and subsequent turns thereafter you may claim
a Sprint bonus of 20% of your (encumbered) Move.
Mostly, in combat
characters will be taking a Step (1 yard) with an Attack maneuver, two Steps
with Committed Attack, or up to half your Move (mostly two steps, maybe 3 for
some) with an All-Out Attack that relinquishes all active defenses. From
that perspective, the movement rates for actual combat motion are fairly
accurate. It’s just when Move and Attack or Move are selected one turn, and
then the following turn no motion is elected, that things start to get weird.

GURPS covers
movement while in a deep crouch (2/3 normal), as well as kneeling and crawling
(1/3 normal, similar to Savage Worlds), as well as movement while lying down (1
yard/sec). Characters swim at 1/5 their Basic Move. Posture is also paired with
penalties when attacking and defending, as well as a penalty to hit you if
you’re the target of a ranged attack.

provides for special movement like jumping and sprinting was covered above, the
point-buy system that is used for character building contains enormous
flexibility to modify movement to more or less anything the player and GM can
agree on. Horses, for example (or Centaurs), will often take a level of
Enhanced Move, which basically treats the Move as an acceleration and gives you
more than one multiple for speed. So with Move 6, you can hit max normal speed
of 6 yards per second in your first turn. With Move 6, Enhanced Move 1, your
top speed is doubled to 12 yards per second, but it will take you two seconds
of acceleration to get there.

More mundane is
the direct altering of Basic Move, at a fairly low price of 5 points per
additional yard per second – and given what encumbrance does to Move, this can
be important.

The more you
carry, the slower you go, and the more seriously your Dodge score is impacted.
Your strength determines a “Basic Lift” score, and at certain multiples of
Basic Lift (1, 2, 3, 6, 10) you start to feel the impact on your Move and
Dodge. Joe Average, with ST 10, has a 20-lb basic lift – so not much gear,
really – and will take a -1 to Dodge and a 20% reduction in move if carrying
between 20 and 40 lbs. Lift is quadratic in ST, though, so at
ST 14, you basically double these amounts.

The penalty to
Move at high load-to-ST ratio can get nasty, especially when chasing down
fallen comrades. If the character is burdened with heavy armor, a shield, and a
heavy weapon, loads can hit 60-80 lbs. pretty quickly in fantasy games, and
looking at the potential gear list for US troops as deployed during Operation
Enduring Freedom shows combat loads in that same range, with
“emergency approach” loads of 110-150 lbs. depending on the specialty. Even a
ST 12 guy with a 30-lb. Basic Lift is in Medium encumbrance (0.6xMove, -2 to
Dodge) with the combat load there, and well into Heavy with the all-in loadout
(0.4 x Basic Move, and -3 to Dodge). Even the normally fleet of foot (Move 6)
is dropped to Move 2-3 at those levels, making movement only slightly (if at
all) more swift than using the Steps allowed during a Committed Attack. The
extra yard per second of move can offset this, if purchased, making it a pretty
liberating point spend.
Fate Core

The other three
games are overtly tactical. They might not be physically played on a map in
some cases, but the assumption tends to be real-world distances: inches on a
battlemat, feet or yards from a foe. At worst, one might wave the hands a bit
and declare “range bands” as Night’s Black Agents does with firearms
. Still, given that you’ve established that folks are about 300′ away
from each other, you know that it will take – depending on the game system –
20-30 seconds to purposefully cross that distance.
From the Fate Core SRD

Fate, being even
more abstract, does not have fixed units of speed or distance. Instead, it
divides the combat into “zones,” which are of a resolution large enough to
contain many fighters but small enough to meaningfully divide a large combat
space into segments.
Sound fuzzy? It
is, since it’s entirely situational, but that becomes very clear when a GM
sketches out the zones of interest on a piece of paper or VTT, or even simply
describes them for the players’ edification.
Crossing zones is
not a matter of hexes or feet of movement. It’s usually a matter of Overcoming
an Obstacle – a test against either a GM-set difficulty number or, if opposed,
the foe’s appropriate skill. This includes special movement as well – jumping
is almost a classic Overcome action.

As with most
things in Fate, such things as posture will be handled by temporary Aspects
that can be invoked to represent the difficulty in crossing a zone. It
would not be out of the question for the GM to define one or more Terrain or
Environmental Aspects that would “actively” oppose movement by characters
within that zone, or treating the environment as a character, which can spend a
limited quantity of Fate Points, or accrue free invocations if the terrain
“succeeds with style” in opposing player movement.

As with everything
in Fate Core, if it’s not an Aspect, Extra, or Stunt, it’s fluff. That’s not a
slam, it’s a restatement of the Fate Fractal – you can treat anything in
the game as if it were a character. If it’s important, a character might take
the Aspect “Loaded like a Pack Mule,” which would be invoked against any
Overcome actions that involved physical stunting. On the other hand, the player
of that character might be able to invoke that same Aspect to procure a needed
piece of gear at just the right moment: “Oh, I just happened to have a spare
set of surveying tools with me; after all, one doesn’t carry this much gear
without a certain amount of preparedness and forethought!”
Night’s Black

It would be
simple, and somewhat accurate, to merely state that NBA does
not treat movement. And to a certain extent, this is true. There are no zones
discussed, as with Fate, and certainly there are no movement allowances in
yards per anything.
But that would
also be misleading, because the focus of the game is on the action thriller
genre, and from that perspective, Jack Bauer can cross LA in rush hour traffic
in as little or as much time as the plot requires. If two combatants need to be
in the same scene, they are. If they’re not and want to be, they can invoke the
rules (and that usually involves spending points from a relevant pool) to Jump
In. Movement is implied and implicit, and if you spent the points, you managed
to get where you needed to be.
In addition,
it is a thriller, and the game provides a useful mechanic
for chases. The GM establishes a Lead, and the chaser and
quarry spend points and make die rolls until the lead drops to 0, in which case
the quarry is caught – or at least caught up with – or it increases to 10, and
the pursuit is lost. This rule could also be invoked as a barrier to Jumping
In, where instead of Lead each group of fighters have a Separation, and moving
from fight to fight (or, in Fate terms, zone to zone) requires expenditure of
an appropriate total number of points or successful die rolls.

Posture is a
description, encumbrance does not feature in thrillers much. The only nod given
to special movement would be an Athletics test. Certainly difficulty numbers
might be increased for certain tests by 1 or so if the GM decided it was
dramatically appropriate because the PC was particularly burdened with gear
(specified or unspecified), but that would be an in-play determination, not
something where wordcount has been spent to draw out rules or even guidelines.
The Size of the

The size of the
fight is not the size of the tabletop or the mapboard. It’s how far the players
can cover to either engage a new enemy or come to the aid of a friend –
especially if combat happens, more often than not, at arm’s length. GURPS
movement rates in absolute time are faster, even for average characters, than
those in both Savage Worlds and D&D. But where a D&D character might
spend six seconds to move 60′, while each of his friends and allies act once, a
GURPS character with Move 5 will require four seconds to cover that distance .
. . and therefore each friend and ally will act four times. Subjectively, then,
the players may well feel that GURPS movement is slow relative to other games,
because they’re denied agency (which is shorthand in this case for ‘usefully
beating the snot out of things”) for a longer time.

In my own
experience, I found this true – movement from one local skirmish to another
seemed agonizingly slow, and at least my groups have suffered from the “rush in
where angels fear to tread” syndrome – high movement rates and widely dispersed
vectors with no thought to formations or mutually supporting tactics. Given how
GURPS can punish such action, I’m surprised we didn’t have to generate new
characters more frequently.

This can be
mitigated by ranged fire to some extent, and guns and even bows can provide a
withering deterrent for such distance-closing action. Whereas a foe can rush up
to a D&D character and be in his face pretty rapidly, the GURPS character
can not only loose arrows or shoot bullets two to four times minimum, they may
also be able to retreat while doing so, buying them more time to shoot while
still out of range. So that can cut both ways.
The more abstract
method used by Fate (and to a lesser extent, Night’s Black Agents, if only
implicitly) of dividing combat into Zones pairs well with the lack of specific
time per round. 
It requires an adept GM, but with the right focus, closing a
long distance between a fighter that prefers melee and his ranged-combat
assailant can be represented by either an appropriate number of zones of
separation, a high difficulty to cross between zones (representing all of time,
distance, and terrain), or both.
Finish Him
Always in motion
is the future, and your character won’t have one if the right movement
strategies aren’t used to defeat your foes. Whether it’s grouping together for
mutual defensive and offensive support (especially key for many-on-one fights
common to fantasy RPGs), getting into, or staying out of trouble, how the game
rules treat movement will dictate how you do it, and whether you bother to try.
A game where movement is too difficult creates a fairly static situation. Once
you defeat your local foes, you’re effectively frozen in place and, for the
time being, your game is over. A game where too much movement is allowed with
no opportunities to respond can create similar issues, where local superiority
cannot be effectively leveraged because more foes can suddenly “teleport” in
with no recourse. D&D does try to deal with this with various rules
for Attacks of
, but there are still situations where movement can occur and
the players are left thinking “but surely I could have done something.”

movement is used for critical tactical purposes in D&D,
GURPS, and Savage Worlds. It is used mostly for narrative purposes in Fate and
Night’s Black Agents. Given the intended play styles of each game, this is not
surprising. Unless you failed your perception check. Alas.

I have no idea why I did this. But I was thinking, probably because of my comments in my firearms-related Violent Resolution column.

But  . . . I wondered to myself if there was a way to turn some sort of real-world number into D&D damage output.

I know, I know. Why would I ever do such a thing? I had noted (complained, really) that a 9mm was 2d6, and the mighty .50BMG was but 2d12.

So . . . I whipped out solver, and it turns out if you use the energy of the bullet, and only the energy of the bullet, if you use 4 * Log (Base 5) Energy you get a number that might just equate to the maximum damage you can roll on the dice. It compresses the scale even further than the usual result, but it’s not insane.


Cartridge Name D&D Damage? Roughly
.22LR 12 2d6
.380 ACP 13 2d6+1
4.6x30mm PDW 15 2d6+3
.45 ACP 15 2d6+3
5.7x28mm 16 2d8
.40S&W 16 2d8
124gr 9x19mm 16 2d8
.45GAP 16 2d8
180gr 10mm Auto 16 2d8
5.45x39mm 18 2d8+2
240gr .44M 18 2d8+2
.50 AE 19 2d8+3
M855 5.56x45mm 19 2d8+3
7.62x39mm 19 2d8+3
6.8x43mm SPC 19 2d8+3
12 Gauge Shotgun Slug 20 2d10
150gr NATO 7.62x51mm 20 2d10
.500 S&W 20 2d10
.30-06 21 2d10+1
.300 Win Mag 21 2d10+1
.338 Lapua Magnum 22 2d10+2
.50 BMG 24 2d12
14.5x114mm KPV 26 2d12+2
120mm M829-A1 39 6d6+3
16″ Naval gun 49 8d6+1
A shortbow or longbow with a good DEX will get you 1d6+4 or 1d8+4, which are 10 and 12 max damage . . .basically a longbow has the same max as a 2d6, which energetically works out fairly well, since powerful bows deliver on the order of 100-200J. So that’s not crazy-town.
Now, this is totally based on energy, and that means the big, slow bullets are worse than small fast ones. Fine – acknowledged it’s not perfect, but it’s a scale that actually fits reasonably well with d20 Modern and can be extrapolated to other weapons.

Show the Work

How did I do it?

I tried to make a .22LR 8 points (2d4), a 9mm 12 points (2d6), and a .50BMG 24 points. I used a formula to set a quantity of D = A * logB(Energy). I squared the difference and normalized it to the target squared . . . so (D-T)^2 / T^2. I also weighted the results, so the .22LR got 1000x the figured sum, the 9mm got 4000x, and the BMG got 9000x. That was to force Solver (in Excel) to give more weight to making the .50BMG 2d12 or 24 points. The energies I used were 130J for the .22LR, 585J for the 9mm, and 14,700 for the .50BMG, which assumes a man-portable 32″ barrel instead of the 43″ bbl on the machinegun (which is about 16,000J).

Solver gave an exact figure of A = 3.88 and B of 5.1. But setting A=4 and B= 5 is actually better at fitting the BMG, and puts the .22LR at the 2d6 value above. Given the energy involved, that’s probably as good as the d20 modern values.

When converting max damage to dice, I always use the largest dice I can, but don’t allow subtraction. So 19 points isn’t 2d10-1, but rather 2d8+3. That’s a quirk of mine. You can certainly convert any way you like, and 39 points could be 4d8+5, 4d10-1, or 3d12+3 easily enough. Heck, have at it and make it 9d4+3, and the 16″ Naval Gun 12d4+1 to keep the minimum damage high.

Note that the Naval Gun is just the kinetic energy. I haven’t yet figured out how to rate the explosion of 150 lbs. of high explosive inside about 2,000lbs of metal.

Bah! The Damages are Too High!

A comment on G+ noted that 3e humans only have 4 HP, which is a fair point. If you wanted purposefully lower numbers, then here are some nudges/hacks, as well as my line of thought.

I based them off of d20 Modern’s list, where a 9mm was 2d6 and a .50BMG was 2d12. The math forced the 9mm to 2d8 and put the .22LR, which I tried to make about 2d4, into 2d6.

In 5e, at least, a 1st level fighter is going to start with at least 10 HP, and you get a DEX bonus to the 1d6 or 1d8 base damage of a short or longbow, respectively. So from that perspective, 2d6 (ish) or 2d8 for a pistol is the equivalent, on the average of 1d6+3.5 and 1d8+4.5 for damage, neither of which is out of line for d20 Modern or 5e, at least.

If you lower the values to make them work for low level characters, you have the opposite problem – a high level fighter can shrug off a burst of .50BMG unless you invoke the harshest of harsh wounds rule where if you take more HP than your CON, you save or die (that’s a suggested threshold – the harshest one – from the d20 Modern SRD).

If you force the .22LR down closer to a shortbow, the formula becomes something like 2*log(base4) Energy. That makes a .22LR 1d6+1, a 9mm about 1d8+1, a 5.56mm 1d10+1, 7.62mmNATO 1d12, and a .50BMG 1d12+2.

This gives fewer categories of damage

  • 1d6+1 for .22LR
  • 1d8 for .380 ACP
  • 1d8+1 for PDW rounds and all normal military pistols (.45 ACP, 9mm, 10mm, .40S&W)
  • 1d10 for magnum pistols (.357M, .44M) and lower-powered assault rifles (4.73x33mmCLS, 5.45x39mm)
  • 1d10+1 for standard military assault rifles (5.56, 6.8SPC, 7.62x39mm, 6.5 Grendel)
  • 1d12 for battle rifles and sniper rifles from .308 to .338 Win Mag
  • 1d12+1 for .338 Lapua or .416 Rigby
  • 1d12+2 for .50BMG
In a previous article, Violent Resolution looked at the skills used for ranged weaponry. In this column, I look at the weapons themselves.

Similar to differentiation found in hand-to-hand weapons, differentiation in ranged weapons, including the titular guns, provide a way of showing strengths and weaknesses, and providing different dramatic opportunities, within games. Most games (but not all, even in this list!) will feature the gross physical stats of the weapon: weight and cost.


GURPS is a tactically-driven game resolved with one-second rounds, and it has a fairly large scoreboard for equipment statistics. Each of them can matter in play, and are listed in weapons tables in various books, including a generic one in the Basic Set Characters book (p. 278).

Tech Level tells you when the weapon was made, and will dictate availability in some cases older items are easy to come by (the TL6 M1911 pistol is manufactured and readily available in modern-day TL8), but in other cases they are not: a high-draw longbow that might have seen use in medieval or Renaissance Europe – TL3 or TL4 – can be had, but it will be a custom job, not available off the shelf, although a high-draw-weight recurve or compound bow will be. The other part of availability is a weapon’s Legality Class, with higher numbers being more available. Restrictive governments may well disallow even LC4 weapons, permissive ones might allow the possession of LC1 military grade hardware (for reference, LC0 is banned, LC1 is military only, LC2 is restricted, LC3 is licensed, LC4 is open).

Most weapons are also differentiated by Range, which gives the distance at which a projectile’s damage falls to half its usual value, as well as the maximum range at which a shot can be attempted at all. To a certain extent, max ranges rarely matter for many firearms. Even your bog-standard 9mm pistol has a maximum range of 1,850 yards, which is enough to suffer the penalty for a shot between 1,500 and 2,000 yards (about a mile): a whopping -18 to hit. Even with plenty of time to Aim, you’ll need Guns-15 (a reasonably respectably expert skill) to be able to roll at all, and Guns-22 (bordering on inhumanly skilled; this is a good baseline for a gun clamped in a vise grip/bench rest).

Mentioning Aim segues nicely into the Accuracy stat of the weapon, which is a bonus to skill you can collect by taking a second or more to draw a bead on the target. Really poor weapons can be Acc 0 (you need to steady for two or more seconds to get any value out of it), while a quality assault rifle with a full-length barrel is Acc 5, and a sniper rifle might be Acc 6, and with +3 more for a scope with a magnification of 8-15x. Since every +6 to skill is equivalent to reducing the range by 10x, this means that a boost of +6 means you can hit as easily at 1,000 yards a target that the less accurate weapon can engage at 100 yards. Man-portable Ultra-Tech weaponry can have Acc ratings as high as 12 in the Basic Set, and the mounted versions, such as the Rainbow Gatling Laser, can go as high as Acc 18 (with an appropriately enormous weight of 70 lbs., but a maximum range of over 13 miles).

Other game-useful stats of weapons can include the Rate of Fire (shots per second), which can vary by quite a bit, from single-shot to gatling guns with RoF as high as 60 or even 100. Also listed is the ammunition capacity, which in some cases might be lower than the number of shots that can be fired in a turn!

The Glock 18, a full-automatic 9mm pistol seen used by Morpheus in Matrix Reloaded, can be in this category. It cuts loose at over 20 rounds per second, and if loaded with a standard 9mm magazine will empty it in less than one second. Extended magazines of 30 rounds were used in the movie, and even so it’ll lock open on an empty magazine in the middle of the second turn . . . probably having hit very little in the process.

The game also notes how long it takes to reload, a Bulk rating that penalizes you when shooting on the move (and a few other places), and how strong the user has to be to use it properly. An M16 can be used by someone as low as ST 9, while our machine pistol or a .44 Magnum Auto pistol both require ST 12. Finally, it lists a Rcl score (shortish for Recoil), which tells you the required margin of success to achieve multiple hits. If your final, net skill is Guns-15 and you’re shooting 10 bullets from a weapon with Rcl 2, you will hit once if you roll 15, twice at 13, and seven times if you roll a 3 (the other bullets continue downrange).

The Moose in the Room

That’s all well and good. But how much damage does it do?

In many respects, that may be all the “typical” or “average” gamer needs or wants to know. GURPS provides some of the widest variation in penetration and injury numbers of any game dealt with here. The game differentiates by raw penetration (the dice of damage, always using d6) and final injury, represented by a bullet size modifier. Armor piercing bullets or arrows, which might cut the Damage Resistance of armor worn by a factor of 2 or more, are also available.

This allows the game to make very fine distinctions based on real-world numbers if you’re willing to do the math (disclaimer – I wrote that one), and it can provide such minor distinctions as the difference between a 9mm pistol (2d+2 piercing damage, for 9 penetration and 9 injury on the average) and a .45 ACP (2d large piercing damage, also written pi+, for 7 penetration but 10.5 injury – again on the average). So your 9mm penetrates better, but your .45 ACP wounds better.

Damage can get almost egregiously high. A typical assault or battle rifle will do between 5d6 and 7d6 damage per bullet that hits. A .50 BMG (a machinegun bullet used for long-range sniping and on lightly armored vehicles) would do about 6dx2. The Soviet-era 125mm tank cannon (the D-81TM Rapira) clocks in at 6dx33(2) huge piercing incendiary, with the (2) being an armor divisor. Mostly you will not be shooting that at people (though you may use the HE round, which explodes for 6dx6 crushing explosive damage and tossing 6d+1 fragments about the landscape).

The end result of this range of damage is that it’s just not that hard for any PC that can get their hands on firearms to have the capability to render an unarmored foe really, really dead with one successful round of fire. Three rounds semi-auto with a 9mm pistol to a non-vital area will average 27 HP of damage, enough to force a death check on an above-average hero with 13 HP. Upgrade that to even a semi-auto in .223, and that’s 52 HP (still not auto-death for an average 10 HP guy). On the other end, the anemic .25 ACP only does 1d pi-, which means the average penetration is but 3.5 points, and that’s halved for injury, so 1-3 HP per shot to a non-vital area (vital areas overwrite bullet size modifiers; you get the same x3 to injury for shooting someone in the vitals with a .22LR as with a .50 BMG).

Damage isn’t everything, of course. The player character still has to put lead on target. But with a wide set of differentiation possible by equipment selection, many with game-mechanical effects, the choice of hardware can matter, and small levels of differentiation can be had for players that care. If they don’t care, then using the limited selection of weapons – or even a reduced set of them – from the Basic Set Characters book will be fine, or even further reduced: Pistols are Acc 2, 2d, and damage is halved at 100 yards. Rifles are Acc 5, 6d, damage halved at 500 yards. Shotguns are Acc 3 and 2d but fire nine pellets at a time, and damage is halved at 50 yards. It doesn’t have to be detailed, but if detail is desired GURPS has your back. In spades.

Bullets . . . lots of Bullets

Even if you’re happy with the equipment lists, there are treatments available for many types of ammunition. Conventional ammo is of course provided for, but hollow point (increased wounding, decreased armor penetration), armor piercing (increased armor penetration, often decreased wounding), explosive, incendiary, rubber bullets, dragon’s breath, and in at least one supplement, silver and wooden projectiles are all given specific treatments. You can even get custom-loaded match-grade ammunition and gain mechanical benefit. Or load “duplex” rounds which fire two smaller bullets from every trigger pull. Or, always a crowd pleaser, saboted ammo with ridiculous penetration and velocity. If it’s been done in real life, or been thought about, it’s probably been represented in GURPS.

Equipment Lists

Not only does the basic book have a reasonable list of equipment, there are volumes – multiple sets of them, actually – dedicated to statting out weapons from various eras, countries, and Technology Levels. Three hardbacks (Ultra-Tech, High-Tech, and Low-Tech, in publication order), plus a plethora of books in digital format, most of which are written by Hans-Christian Vortisch (and if you’re looking for a guy to write about guns, this is the guy).
These books sell quite well, and they often carry detailed descriptions about who manufactured the weapons, in which services or actions they saw use, and sometimes notes about famous people who used them, or movies in which they appeared.


A short story, and pretty much the polar opposite of GURPS.
Fate does not inherently provide for differentiation based on equipment. Aspects can be invoked that are weapon-ish, of course. Stunts are the best way to drive differentiation that is related to character concept, but as with all of Fate, if it’s not codified in an Aspect, Stunt, or Extra, it carries no inherent mechanical weight.

That being said, Equipment Aspects are real things, and powerful if you’re willing to spend the points. Since an Attack roll involves both a hit and damage roll, spending a Fate point to invoke an appropriate Aspect will give both an increased ability to hit as well as increasing damage (it’s an opposed roll with stress and consequences based on margin of victory).

Equipment Extras might give a boost to damage. Creating an Advantage might be used to Aim – each successful advantage might give +2 shifts to hit (but not damage) or damage (but not to hit), and success with style might allow invoking both at once, or two of each.

But overall, there are no hard and fast rules or exceptions for ranged weapons in Fate. If you have the Shoot skill, you either have or can use a gun (and likely bows and crossbows too). If you have the right Aspects, you may invoke them, or have them invoked against you. I suspect that the #1 cause of running out of ammunition in Fate games is an foe invoking a firearm-related aspect to force his opponent’s gun to run dry.

There are no lists of equipment in Fate Core or Fate System Toolkit.
There are lists and extra Stunts and specific rules for firearms and other projectile weapons in genre treatments based on the Fate rules, such as Nova Praxis, a sci-fi game using the customized Strands of FATE system.

Night’s Black Agents

As with Fate, NBA is a strongly narrative game where the characters and their abilities drive the story, not the props and their stats. Certain weapons do get better or worse attributes, but these situations are somewhat limited. There are no equipment lists per se in NBA . . . but for a narrative-heavy, gear-rules-light game, there are a surprising number of ammunition types with game-mechanical effects. Hollow point, dragon’s breath, depleted uranium, and armor-piercing ammunition are given some love, with special focus on silver, silver nitrate, and special wooden projectiles, for obvious blood-sucking reasons.
So by and large, NBA has mechanics only where the Bond- , Bourne-, and Batman-esque hunters can look cooler by pulling out some fancy ammunition to make for a moment of coolness in the narrative. It uses semi-defined range bands for all weapons (not too far wrong; it’s a simplification used in GURPS too in some games) as Point-Blank (face to face with the target), Close range is in the same room, Near range is something like 30-40m, Long is up to 100m, and Extended depends on the weapon – rifles and assault rifles can shoot to 500m, while purpose-built sniper rifles can shoot to 1,000m. Speaking of purpose-built, the game limits pistols and shotguns to Near range, and rifles to Long range, unless you spend a few Shooting points to make it happen.

Ammunition either doesn’t run out or runs out when dramatically appropriate.


Relatively speaking, larger and more powerful weapons get minor bonuses to the standard 1d6 roll for damage. A small pistol such as a .22LR does 1d6, a 9mm pistol or 5.56mm assault rifle does 1d6+1, while the .50 BMG might do 1d6+2. All firearms get +2 to damage at Point-Blank range, and +1 at Close range, so most combat firearms will do 1d+2 within a room, against Health pools that (for bad guys in the ‘mook’ to ‘bodyguard’ range) will be 3-8 until the foe starts taking wounds.

The variability is thus low, with small pistols doing (at Close range) 2-7 points, and giant anti-materiel rifles up at 4-9 at the same range.

Dungeons and Dragons

The latest edition of D&D is parsimonious with stats that differentiate weapons, while still allowing differentiation where it matters to the game. The Player’s Handbook gives cost, damage and damage type, weight, and some notes, such as if the weapon needs to be reloaded (as with crossbows), counts as a heavy weapon, has a range beyond which shots suffer Disadvantage, and so forth.
The d20 Modern variant, as one might expect, gives more stats for firearms: it uses a range increment instead of a range maximum, includes a statistic for rate of fire (single, semi-auto, or automatic), and tells you how many shots are in a magazine, belt, box, or cylinder.

Bring the Hurt

There is relatively little differentiation in damage with firearms in d20 Modern, though perhaps more than in NBA. A small revolver like a .22LR will do 2d4 damage while the mighty .50BMG does 2d12, roughly 3x as much. Bows will either do 1d6 or 1d8 plus any attribute bonuses, and for a DEX 16 character with a +3 bonus to Damage (in 5e) that means 4-9 points from a shortbow, or 4-11 points for a longbow. That’s not that different than a small pistol (2-8 points) and a standard 9mm one (2-12 points), which isn’t too far wrong for injury, if not penetration.

There’s no great way to represent armor-piercing weapons in the PHB or the d20 Modern SRD. House rules would be easy to come by – lowering the AC of the target by a few points (but not below that given without any armor at all) would work. Bullets like hollow-points similarly might add a point or two to the foe’s AC if he’s wearing armor at all, but if it hits, might either add a point or two do damage, or increase the die type (I like that one) by one step.

Savage Worlds

Much like D&D, Savage worlds keeps its differentiation by stat block short and sweet. It gives a unique range (in inches, since it’s based around a tabletop with miniatures in the rules text), damage, rate of fire, cost, weight, and shots (which corresponds 1:1 with the usual magazine capacity). Some weapons have a minimum Strength die needed to use it, and many firearms have special properties, most often negating points of armor rating (AP 2 seems common) or restrictions on being able to move and fire (Snapfire Penalty).
Rate of Fire and Damage

Savage Worlds allows multiple shots on a foe, each using a Shooting die (up to the weapon’s RoF, usually 1-4) for each attack, which may be at different targets. Full-auto attacks are the same way, rolling Shooting dice equal to the RoF, but more bullets are expended (each burst uses bullets equal to RoF; an RoF 2 weapon can shoot up to 4 bullets, while RoF 4 is up to 16).

Damage is by weapon type, with a .22LR doing 2d6-1 and a Barrett .50 BMG doing 2d10. Each damage die can “explode” if it rolls its maximum value on a particular die. That’s a range of about 1.5x accounting for exploding dice.

Finish Him: The Purpose of the Numbers

Really, in this group of game systems there’s GURPS, and then there’s “everyone else” in terms of how detailed and differentiated a weapon’s stat list can be. GURPS goes out of its way to provide differentiation and mechanical support for very (very, very, very) fine resolution in why a player might choose to pick one weapon over another. The (endless and eternal) debate over the 9mm vs the .45ACP that has been waged for years can be waged in GURPS as well. The 9mm has more penetration, while the .45ACP does more injury.

Ironically, the answer to “which is better” in GURPS is actually quite clear: take a .40S&W. Due to mechanical breakpoints, it does more penetration than the .45ACP, but retains the x1.5 size modifier because the 10mm/.40 bullet sits exactly on top of the differentiator between pi and pi+

But why? Players vote with their dollars, and books full of guns with slight differentiation sell well enough that they keep being funded. But further than that, a character’s kit is often a plot point and a mechanism for narrative differentiation as well as characterization. These things matter to the characters and the players, and GURPS gives a very large number of mechanical handles to provide those talking points.

The Warrior, not the Weapon

The other games are not “worse,” in this respect. They are “less,” in terms of what differentiation they can provide from a “number of hooks” perspective, but in the case of NBA and Fate, this is mostly brushed aside in the focus of the rules – providing just enough mechanical hooks that it’s the character shining, using the gear as a spotlight with which to look cool. From that perspective, the focus is on the shooter, the warrior, not the weapon, in most cases. Though, of course, sometimes the weapon does deserve special focus – The Golden Gun is right there in the title, a pair of pearl-handled revolvers can make quite the statement, and, of course:

“Six men came to kill me one time. And the best of ’em carried this. It’s a Callahan full-bore auto-lock. Customized trigger, double cartridge thorough gauge. It is my very favorite gun … This is the best gun made by man. It has *extreme* sentimental value … I Call Her Vera.”

                                          -Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), Our Mrs. Reynolds (S1E06)

Enough is Enough

The other games provide stats where it matters to the games they play. D&D is mostly about HP ablation, and so while one could give a .50BMG 20d6 or 6d10 damage (and perhaps one should) compared to a 9mm’s 2d6 or so, being able to do that turn after turn with barely a pause will radically change the feel of the game. Savage Worlds, as usual, straddles an intermediate zone between resolution and Spartan rules-keeping, with enough meat to allow some differentiation, but not a lot – most of the weapons are functionally identical within a class
This is not an uncommon event, even with as high a resolution system as GURPS, of course. Sometimes, why one person chooses a Springfield XDM in .40S&W where another chooses a Walther PPQ comes down to personal aesthetics and feel, not mechanical stats. The character likes it because he likes it, not because of some obvious mechanical advantage that would make one stupid to choose anything else.

I’m stealing +Christopher R. Rice‘s name for gear and tools entries. ‘Cause it’s awesome, and that’s key.

The Alien Menace game is on hiatus, but one day I’ll get back to it. When that is I do not know, but I swear I should be able to start it up again, and I need to play GURPS again. It was also a really fun campaign idea, even if I did trap myself a bit.

But forget that, let’s talk weapons.

The XM8-Derived Primary weapon

I like weapons, and for the game, I wanted to have a slightly-futuristic feel to it. There seems to be a good argument that the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge is frankly the wrong tool for the job the way that many of the countries want to use it. Fashionably-short barrels which cut enough velocity from the usually 4g projectile that the terminal effects drop off pretty hard, pretty fast.

However, no one can really deny that a short, handy, accurate weapon is a good thing.

So, I decided that my future space commandos would sport a bullpup version of the XM8 rifle. The XM8 has a lot of the things I’d want in a platform: piston driven, modular, etc. I also love bullpup rifles, the look, the feel, and the way you can get a ridiculously short weapon with a long barrel for accuracy and velocity. If you look at the old Bushmaster M17S, you’ll find the overall length of the weapon is 760mm, while the barrel is about 550mm. The variants of the full-sized M16 (A1, A2, A4) are 985-1010mm, but the barrel is 510mm. So 40mm more barrel, but 250mm less length.


I also like the concept of an intermediate cartridge. The 6.8x43mm SPC is my current choice. It’s not quite as long-ranged as (say) the 6.5mm Grendel, which has a very long aspect ratio and a longer cartridge. I’m sure other intermediate rounds (anything between 6-7mm, really) could fit the bill. But I’m familiar with the 6.8 and it also has a nice, even damage rating of 6d, so yay.

Ultimately, though, I wanted an advanced-ish weapon that could be given out. Fortunately, I’m not the only one with such ideas, and a quick Google search for “bullpup XM8” provides much inspiration. I particularly like the one highlighted to the right by PatTheGunartist.

The bog-standard weapon is basically something like a 16-18″ barrel in a bullpup. It probably looks something like the one above. That’s the C version, for carbine. The S version is “short,” which is probably cut down in both stock and barrel, and loses a bit of accuracy and damage in exchange for lighter weight, lower bulk. The SW is a support weapon, which is a bit heavier and uses 100-round drums and a heavier, longer barrel. The DMR is a semi-auto-only Designated Marksman’s Rifle, accurized. It probably has a 24″ barrel or something like that – bullpups can have very long barrels and still be handy. If, for example, you made a rifle as long as the M16A4 but in an M17S frame, the barrel length could be something like 31″ (likely more than you need).

So that’s the set of primary weapons.

The Thor PDW

I completely stole this likely-impractical but ultimately very cool PDW by Pascal Eggert. It’s got a pretty unique C-shaped magazine, but it’s also a very compact weapon. Plus: super-cool looking. I gave it the full benefit of the doubt in stats, but did it also in 6.8×43 SPC for ammo compatibility. You lose a few points of damage for increased ammo capacity and lighter weight, but not that much lighter. It’s a good compliment to a very large weapon, like a grenade launcher or sniper rifle.

Other Guns

The Barrett XM500 and MP7 are both real guns, ported over to my fictional Oliver Industries or whatever – I basically took the entire H&K weapon catalog and said that all of these weapons are really made by Oliver Indistries, my Patron in the game. Maybe there was a merger.

The PDW at 3d(2) is an assault rifle like penetration but in a pistol-sized package. Not sure if any of the characters took one; the bad guys have tended to require bigger guns than this. Same thing with the Kahr concealable pistol, which again is the last-ditch category.

The Weapon Chart

Parting Shot

I wanted to give the guys a bit of hypothetical weaponry that was fun enough to want to add to a character sheet, but no so crazytown that the players would balk at being supplied with weapons that could not be manufactured in the time frame of the campaign.

Thus far, they’ve had fun with it and used the weaponry to good effect. I hope to start up the game again at some point.

Until then, enjoy the hardware.