Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guns for the Children

Browning Automatic Rifle
Here are my comprehensive gun rules for Eldritch Americana (the House of Hours setting). I've tried to make them (a) simple enough to learn quickly, (b) fast enough to be resolved with a minimum of math/lookups, and (c) tactical enough to provide interesting choices in combat, e.g. “is this monster worth emptying my entire clip into?”

Types of Guns

Pistols do 1d6 damage. For every bullet fired (including the first), they get +1 to hit and damage. They get -1 to hit for every 10' away the target is. The shooter can spend a turn beforehand Aiming to cut the range penalty in half.  

Pistols are also the only firearms that can be drawn freely.  Larger firearms take a turn to "draw", or more likely, you walk around with it in your hands, like a polearm.

Rifles do 1d10 damage. For every bullet fired (including the first), they get +1 to hit and damage. They get -1 to hit for every 10' away the target is. If the shooter spends the previous turn doing nothing but Aiming, the range penalties are cut in half. If the shooter uses a Tripod or a sandbag, the range penalties are cut in half. Aiming + Tripod = ¼ penalties.

Shotguns do 1d6 damage. For every cartridge fired (including the first), they get +1 to hit and do +1d6 damage. They do -1 damage for every 10' away the target is.  (Instead of -1 to hit per 10'.)

SMGs are just like pistols, except that they can additionally allow you to make up to 2 extra attacks per round. These extra attacks cannot be made against the same target, and all targets must be adjacent to each other (respective to your line of sight).

Machine Guns haven't been implemented. They're huge, require multiple people to operate, and need a steady supply of water to keep from overheating. They're more like ballistas than anything else, and definitely not suitable to dungeoncrawling.

BAR with pistol grip and spiked tripod
Shooting Rules

Multiple Shots
Each bullet fired (including the first) gives +1 to hit and +1 to damage.

For every 10' the bullet travels, it gets -1 to hit. 

This is true for pistols and rifles, because neither is very accurate if you're shooting them from the hip. The difference is that rifles can be a lot more accurate if you have time to aim, and a steady stand to hold to rifle's weight. If this seems brutal, well, moving targets are really hard to hit. And DnD usually takes place in smaller arenas anyway (and is probably more fun because of it). I'm not going to bother finding max ranges because the range penalties will eventually limit things.

If a rifle has a scope, Aiming cuts penalties by 4/5. So, scope + Aiming + Tripod = -1 for every 100'

Moving Targets
If the target is sitting still or unawares, then the attack is made at a +4 to hit. 

This is somewhat in line with backstabs getting +4 to hit.

Realism and Historical Accuracy
can go fuck themselves. This is just a game.

Remington M1889 Double Barrel
+Patrick Stuart has one of these in my game

A woman with a pistol decides to shoot two bullets at a target that is 25' distant. She makes an attack at +0 that does 1d6+2 damage if it hits. If the same PC decided to empty the clip and fire 6 bullets instead, the same attack would be made at +4 and deal 1d6+6 damage.

A man with a rifle shoots a single bullet at a fleeing duck 100' distant. That's an attack at -9 that does 1d10+1 damage. If the hunter took time to aim (½ range penalty) the attack is at -4. If the hunter took time to aim and had a sandbag/tripod, the attack would be at a -1 to attack. If the target is a sitting duck, the attack is made at +3 to hit. 

One fun consequence of the aiming rule is that it is sometimes beneficial to NOT chase the fleeing target, and instead just bite down on your cigar and take careful aim like a badass.

A woman with a double barreled shotgun empties both barrels into a target that's 5' away. Her attack gets a +2 bonus and does 3d6 damage (average of 10.5). If the target was 50' away, the attack would be at -3 to hit and deal 3d6-5 damage (average of 5.5).

A man decides to put his Tommy Gun on full auto. He attacks 3 targets standing in a tight clump. He makes three attack rolls, each at +6 and dealing 1d6+6 damage. This costs him 18 bullets.

Colt Detective Special
+Alex Chalk has one of these in my game

Available Guns

Ammo Magazine Shots/round


Colt M1911A1 .45 ACP 7-magazine 6

Colt Detective Special .38 Special 6-cylinder, snub-nosed revolver 4

Derringer .38 Special 2 bullets 2 Concealable
Mauser C96 Broomhandle 7.63x25mm Mauser 10-magazine, semi-auto 6

S&W Model 10 .38 Special 6-cylinder, full-sized revolver, double action 6


Nitro Express .577 1-bullet, bolt action 1 Elephant Gun*
M1903 Springfield .30-06 5-clip, bolt action 1

M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle .30-06 20-magazine 6

Winchester Model 1894 .30-30 6-magazine internal, lever action 1


Winchester M1887 Lever Action 12 gauge 5 internal 1

Remington M1887 Double Barrel 12 gauge 2 chambered, break action 2


Thomson SMG .45 ACP 20-clip or 100-drum 6

*Elephant guns deal +1d10 damage. Unless you are sitting or otherwise braced, you must make a Strength check when you fire them. Failure = falling over or dropping your gun (50% chance of each).

Winchester M1887 Lever-action shotgun with sawn-off stock and barrel + cutaway trigger guard
Philosophy of Guns

You cannot buy guns in stores.  In a traditional fantasy game, they are more analogous to wands or magic swords, not mundane bows.  In Eldritch America, precious few guns have been manufactured in the years since the apocalypse, so they are all precious and unique.  Serial numbers tend to be in the 2-3 digit range, for example.

You might be able to buy ammunition in stores, though.  A single store might have 1-3 shotgun shells locked in a safe, and they might sell you them for $10 each (equivalent to 100gp in a fantasy setting).

Do they unbalance the game away from swords and axes?  Not nearly as much as a wand of fireballs does.

Guns carry a lot of disadvantages.
  • Loud.  Roll for additional encounters.
  • Consumable.  It's just a lump of metal if it doesn't have bullets.
  • Unreliable.  Most ammunition will jam your gun after it rolls max damage.
  • Limited.  True demons block all electricity and combustion within 100'.  No cars.  No guns.  Yes, this means that the best weapons are usually ineffective against the worst enemies.
Thomson SMG
Magic Ammunition

Has already been written up here.

"Broomhandle" Mauser C96

Colt M1911A1

Another tommy gun

Winchester Model 1894

.577 Nitro Express
that's a big bullet
And just for fun, here's a video of some dudes shooting an elephant gun (.700 Nitro Express).


  1. You Shotgun entry doesn't mention the -1 to hit per 10' distance.

    Great post. Nice system.

    1. True! Shotguns don't get -1 to hit per 10' (they get -1 to damage instead). I figure that the pellets spread out to hit a larger area, even though their velocity and density drop off sharply.

  2. -1 per 10' is actually pretty darned reasonable for pistols snap-fired in the chaos of combat. Rifles might be more realistic with -1 per 10' up to 50' and then only -1 per 50' after that, but so's a game.