Over at Mailanka’s Musing, he throws down a fun post, akin to my Technical Natasha effort, describing the fight between Luke and Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.

It’s a good breakdown, and worth the read.
One thing that came up in the comments was the frequency of blade-to-blade pushing. This is, I believe, referred to as corps-a-corps in fencing and GURPS. 
It’s what happens when you get grip-to-grip, in close combat. Lacking something on your blade to bind the other, or an actual grapple, this tends to not last long, and end with no small amount of blood.

In the various Star Wars movies, though, it goes beyond that. Combatants will frequently stand blade-locked, saber-to-saber. Usually snarling. It does make for dramatic cinema, of course. All that straining. It shows up over and over, too. It was in The Phantom Menace, with an iconic scene of Maul catching both of his Jedi foe’s lightsabers on his staff-saber, and holding them there. It was in Empire, as Luke strains against Vader and Vader contemptuously shoves him away. It was in The Force Awakens. It was all over the place in The Clone Wars and even in Rebels.

We do this all the time, by the way, in Hwarang Kumtoogi, the variant of Korean sword-sport that is practiced in Hwa Rang Do. It’s very close-in work, and used to deny the advantage of reach and proper form for a strike. 

What it’s not, at least when done correctly, is an all-out strain-fest. It’s probing pushes and bumps, looking for a break in rhythm Hwarang Kumtoogi allows dropping to the knees to do leg strikes, so that’s how this usually ends.

But in Star Wars it seems more than that. It seems so much more that I would suggest it’s something perhaps even unique to Star Wars, to lightsabers, or just as a mechanical way of representing something that’s somewhat iconic to the Star Wars lightsaber fighting method.

It’s a grapple

Specifically, it’s usually initiated after a grappling parry, but can also be forced by the combatant. It binds the blades in place without the need for an actual grip, due perhaps to the interaction between the blades themselves. (Blah, blah squishy physics, blah.)

But by simulating it as a grapple, you get two key side-effects. 

  • It becomes largely a contest of strength, or control points, which are derived from Trained Strength.
  • It simulates why people don’t just back up or disengage – they cannot.

This was just a though inspired by Daniel’s post. But treating this blade bind as a grapple that you can pull off with either a dedicated attack or the grappling equivalent of an aggressive parry would pretty fairly simulate the movies, and make good use of the GURPS rules without invoking lost fingers and limbs through actual grapples, which in a light-saber context, as well as with Telekinetic force users, might be pretty stupid.

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!




+Mark Langsdorf has an armor design system on his blog that is geared towards Dungeon Fantasy levels of cool. Good armor to match the very high damages that heroes can dish out.

Chatting with +Nathan Joy, who has played and GM’d with both Mark and myself in various games, he noted that it would be nice if Mark’s system produced a bit lower DR for the weight. 

I took a peek at Low-Tech, and that book lists DR 4 “fine mail” – the prototypical and historical value for DR for this type of armor in GURPS – as 15 lbs for just the torso. That means that covering yourself head-to-toe in DR4 mail would be about 46 lbs.

That’s about 11.5 lbs per point of DR, compared to the 6 lbs per point in Mark’s table (which, by the way, is formatted more sensibly as ‘a full suit,’ rather than making a full suit 305% of the armor value in the table as in Low-Tech).


So what if we doubled all the values? That doesn’t quite mesh with some very nice plate armor, though that might depend on how much DR it really had. Some breastplates were 3-4mm thick at the most robust part, and about half that at the thinnest. At DR 2-2.5 per mm for older steels, that’s a DR in the 6-10 range, so we benchmarked it as DR 8 weighing around 60-70 lbs. 8 lbs per point of DR seemed better and a nice value, and that was less than doubling would provide.


It was also a bit more than Mark would have liked (I shared this with him; he wrote BFA, after all), and so I tweaked it out a bit to match his expectations more.

OK, moving on to cost, looking around, again, at plate harness, we found estimates that equated to between six to twelve months pay for a skilled laborer was what harness could cost. We pegged that at between average and comfortable wealth, or, all said and done, about ten grand for a DR 8 full suit.

Then I did math. Not a lot, but I liked Mark’s low estimate of about $50-60 per point of DR for the natural hides and cloths. Again with the jiggering, if I wanted the low figure at roughly $60, and the high at $1,200, that meant a factor of 20 in cost for a factor of about 3 or 3.5 range in pounds per point of DR. Net/net, cost per point of DR should be about $1,035,000 divided by the lbs per DR to the 3.25 power.

That gives the modified table above, which I tweaked out to avoid nasty decimals.

The lighter per point of DR your armor is, the more you pay for it. If you want DF-quality armor at 6 lbs per point of DR . . . it can be had for about $3,000 per point of DR. So a DR 8 harness would cost $24,000 and weigh 48 lbs. 

That’s not crazy talk.

By eye, this table isn’t completely insane, either, compared to Low-Tech. Cloth and Silk would be about 5.3 lbs/DR for torso only, which is in the ballpark. Cost for Textiles at DR 1 torso-only would thus be about $11. DR 4 mail, torso only is 13 lbs (LT has 15) and costs $2,300 (LT has $900). Lightweight but very expensive, befitting something that was pretty darn labor-intensive.

So again, not insane. 

Looking at armor types, the natural ones are all less than $125 per point of DR. The metal ones are more expensive, with scale (small flat plates hammered out, available very early in time) costing less than the more labor-intensive mail, and still less than the finely-crafted full-plate harness.

Parting Shot


The table leverages Mark’s excellent “keep it basically simple” “Better Fantasy Armor” rules and scales it based on some real-world benchmarks (well, as real-world as 400+ year-old data can get) to achieve something that’s at least internally self-consistent. 

It can scale reasonably well, too. And if you want to find the cost for (say) casting Lighten on plate harness for 4 lbs per point of DR? Plug it into the formula, and you get a 32-lb., DR 8 harness at $91,500.

The issue you’ll run smack into here is that the Strength table gets pretty egregious about punching through armor at values that PCs have access to (and should). Lots of proprosed solutions for this, including dropping damage to a fraction of ST, as in my rescaling from very, very early in my blogging career. All of them nerf ST penetration one way or another.

What about different Tech Levels? TL4 to TL8 has a 3.25x difference in monthly pay, and materials and production methods get better. So divide, which means our DR 8 65-lb plate would be about $2,900. That is, again, not insane.

I’m sure there are issues here, but for a quick conversation, I like where it ended up . . . but since you can still swing at ST 17 for 3d with a broadsword, some method of dealing with that issue is recommended. 

My article in this latest issue of Pyramid, The Broken Blade, presents an alternate framework for weapon breakage based more or less on looking at the HP of the weapon in question. In fact, the basis for the calculations I did was to (say) compare the HP of a sword (2-4 lbs of steel) to some figure of damage that would approximately 1.44 times that number if it were to risk breaking that sword.

1.44 times what? Well, that’s the cube root of 3, or the HP of an object that weighs three times that of the weapon.

Anyway, I wanted something that would take that “three times the weight of the parrying weapon” rule from the Basic Set, and make that something where it was related to the raw damage coming in. In melee combat, at least, an extra point of Strength is an extra point of swing damage, and a half-point of thrust. That settled the basic principle.
Continue reading “Shields Will Be Splintered (Shields in The Broken Blade)”

Castles and Chimeras is an OSR Blog I stumbled across when it went live with a simple but great concept idea:

Critical Hit Range is based on the armor worn by the defender.

In short, I love it. I might tweak a bit, because some monsters may have good armor class but wear no armor due to natural protection such as plates and scales and thick hide.

So it wouldn’t be crazy to make a simple guide converting AC to a critical range.

He pegs “unarmored” as a crit on 15 through 20. That range is 5 wider than the usual 20-only.


D&D5 pegs bonuses to AC from +0 for nekkid to +8 for Plate. 

So take half the armor bonus, divide that number by 2, and subtract it from 4. That’s the additional critical hit range you get. Note that the table below assumes you’re wearing a helmet and nothing else. If you aren’t wearing a helmet, add 1 to the crit range. 

So, that would give you

Bonus Crit Range Crit Range
0 4 16-20
1 4 16-20
2 3 17-20
3 3 17-20
4 2 18-20
5 2 18-20
6 1 19-20
7 1 19-20
8 0 20-20
This has the nice effect that weaker armor makes you much more likely to receive a severe blow. Note that this does not include the DEX bonus. It’s the armor only. This makes an armor with an AC bonus of 4 better in some respects than armor with a DEX bonus of +4 due to the character but an Armor Bonus of +1, even though they’re equally as likely to get hit.
What about magic armor? I’d base it, again, on the armor it was based on. So +2 Scale armor on a DEX 16 character would take the magical bonus of +2, add it to the DEX bonus of +2, and the armor bonus of +4 and get AC 18. But the critical threat range is based on the base AC 4, giving 18-20.
If your threat range broadens because you’re a Fighter and crit on a 19-20 or even 18-20, just widen it further. 
Again: this is a simple tweak that recognizes a level of useful detail in the system. Kudos.

A while ago, I took a stab at a Grand Unified Beat theory – basically a system for resolving beats that blends well with a bunch of other work, specifically working from the notion of building on Setup Attacks from Delayed Gratification, which I was poking at pretty hard at the time.

OK, but on a re-read, this is really fiddly. Not surprising – my desire to cover obscure circumstances or to add flavor can mean I drown the GM in modifiers.

Much like the Rules for Grappling Rules post, if we’re going to try and unify this and make it nicer, I need to follow my own advice.

Use What’s There

Rule #1 is simple – use existing mechanics where possible. If I can, I need to ensure that the usual flow of attack declaration, resolution, defenses, etc. is unchanged if it can be. Just more interesting outcomes. Use as few rolls as possible, and make the results intuitive to the user.

So, on the attacker’s side there’s an attack roll, and if successful, a damage roll. I’m going to take a page from the way we play online, though, for one small deviation that will hopefully have a lot of oomph to it: always roll damage with the attack. “I roll vs. a net of Broadsword-13 to hit, doing 2d+2 for 9 points cut if successful.”

On the defender’s side, there’s skill, a defense roll, and the ST rating of the weapon itself. Continue reading “Grand Unified Beat Theory 2”

Once again, over on the forums there’s a thread. In this case, someone created a repeating crossbow that is re-loaded using a pump-action similar to a shotgun. The design on the thread was a fairly standard design, nothing quite as elaborate as the image to the right.

So, what would I make of such a beast?

Well, compared to a regular crossbow – especially one with modern materials, you’re probably still looking at a draw length on the order of 7-11″ and not too much more. Maybe you could eke out 16″. Modern crossbows have a power stroke of 9.5 to 13″ so you’re not really losing much there. Medieval crossbows were shorter strokes, mostly – the powerful ones had steel limbs that didn’t flex much, and so might be hundreds of pounds – or even thousands – with only 6-9″ of stroke. 

Still, let’s say that we can neglect draw length or power stroke. 

So that leaves the draw weight of the thing. How heavy could that be?

The Basic Set and Low-Tech crossbows leave quite a bit to be desired from a verisimilitude perspective. But let’s assume that the work I did in The Deadly Spring wasn’t totally bogus. That means that you can span a crossbow of up to 8xBL using two hands and bracing the thing on the ground – equivalent to a Two-Handed Lift from p. B353. This seems to be “ready the crossbow in two seconds, ready a bolt, put the bolt on the crossbow,” and shoot on the fifth turn. A bow is ready an arrow, mate the arrow to the bow and draw, shoot. 

So if the lifting part is 8xBL in 2 seconds, and a bow is up to 2.5xBL in one second (slightly generous over the 2xBL from p. B353), how heavy a draw might one manage?

Certainly not 8xBL. No legs or back in use, really. Can we eke out the same 2.5xBL as a bow? Probably not. A bow can use the legs (see my longbow draw movie – it’s not great form, but it’s more than just the arms and back. You get a lot of back and shoulder in it, though.

The pump-action will brace against the shoulder, but it’s pretty much a one-handed pull with one arm, if the second hand remains in “trigger” position and you’re bracing the weapon at the shoulder the entire time. I’m inclined to say between 1xBL (seems light) and 2.5xBL (seems heavy). Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and say between 2x and 2.5xBL.

Still, the crossbows that do thr+4 imp are the 8xBL ones. The energy you’ll get out of equivalent draw length but less force will be quite a bit less, corresponding to a damage of 50-56% of the full-power bows assuming a draw strength of 8xBL. A weapons-grade crossbow from The Basic Set that is ST 12 will do 1d+3 damage, or about 7.5 points. 55% of that is 4.1 points, or about 1d to 1d+1.

That puts at about thr+2 to thr+3 for ST 12, about where GURPS puts the pistol crossbow.

Parting Shot

So it’s a fast-loading pistol crossbow?

That seems right to me. You’re getting the same damage output of a pistol crossbow, but occupying two hands and cutting the bow-centric reloading time from two seconds to one, and avoiding (for a number of shots equal to that of the hopper) the “ready the arrow” and “mate the arrow to the bow/ready the bow” actions. 

So: stats as a Pistol Crossbow, Shots probably becomes something like 6 (reload 1 or 2/second).

Note that if you’re not using full-length projectiles, efficiency will likely be worse and it might knock the damage down to thr+1 instead of thr+2. Smaller projectiles will reload faster.

Note that dropping a 160-lb compound crossbow to 50 lbs (8xBL to 2.5xBL) using The Deadly Spring will drop the energy from 180J to 35J, and that means:

160J compound crossbow: 7.7 points of cinematic-scale damage, 5.4 points “realistic” scale
35J compound crossbow: 3.3 points cinematic scale damage, 2.3 realistic scale.

That is, at ST 10, a regular crossbow should do 1d+2, which is close to the 5.4 points on my “realistic” scale. The low-draw bow will be closer to 1d-1, which is thr+1, and closer to flat thr (2.0 points, or 1d-2) using half-weight arrows instead of the 0.1-lb projectiles assumed in the model.

So my estimate above should probably be thr and can fire every round, but loads 2 projectiles per ready maneuver (you can probably do more with Quick-Ready or some other Technique), or thr+1 with full-sized projectiles, but defaults to one per second (again, load faster with a Technique).

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.

Examples?

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

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.

Fate

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.


Damage

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.