I’m preparing to run a pirate-themed Pathfinder game set in Golarion, the main Paizo campaign world. You can’t have a good pirate game without guns and cannon, so I started looking into that. The Pathfinder Campaign Setting book has rules for firearms but they are quite underwhelming in general.
I went on a mad tear of Internet research and comparison of existing D&D 3e/3.5e gunpowder rules, from the 3.5e DMG, Stormwrack, d20 Past, Seas of Blood by Mongoose, Broadsides! by Living Imagination, Iron Kingdoms by Privateer Press, Skull & Bones by Green Ronin… What I wanted was something that hit the sweet spot of late middle ages gun tech without getting too “fantasy-ey” (arcane pistol with intelligent demon bullets!) or too late tech wise (flintlocks, percussion cap weapons, ships with 30 cannon per side on them…). My players expressed the concern that usually when they see gun rules for D&D they either nerf guns so that they really suck and no one would use them, or make them so good that everyone would always use them. Quite a challenge. Here’s what I came up with in response for Pathfinder or D&D 3.5e – comments are welcome!
Gunpowder Weapons In Golarion
The current state of the art in personal firearms is a smoothbore weapon with a wheellock firing mechanism. Earlier matchlocks, which required a lit match held in a “matchlock” to fire, and the even earlier hand culverins, which required manual application of a lit match, are still in circulation but no regular forces use them. Though most firearms come from the mass production gunworks of Alkenstar, there are skilled craftsmen in other locations that can and do build firearms.
The smiths of Alkenstar have just developed snaplocks, but have kept the innovation to themselves so far. More reliable and inexpensive flintlocks are doubtless not far behind. A couple artisans have made rifled hunting weapons but these are still unique curiosities.
Name Cost D (S) D (M) Crit Range Weight Type One-Handed Ranged Weapons Pistol 250 gp 1d6 2d4 x3 50 ft. 3 lbs. P Blunderbuss pistol 500 gp 1d10 2d6 19-20/x2 5 ft. 5 lbs. B and P Two-Handed Ranged Weapons Musket, short 500 gp 1d10 2d6 x3 100 ft. 8 lbs. P Musket, long 750 gp 1d10 2d6 x3 150 ft. 10 lbs. P Blunderbuss 500 gp 1d12 3d6 19-20/x2 15 ft. 8 lbs. B and P Explosive Weapons Bomb 150 gp 1d10 2d6 x2 5 ft. 1 lb. B Smoke bomb 70 gp Smoke x2 10 ft. 1 lb. -
Proficiency: All wheellock weapons require Exotic Weapon Proficiency (firearms) to use without penalty.
Reload: All wheellock weapons hold one shot and take two full round actions to load. Reloading takes two hands and provokes attacks of opportunity.
Inaccurate: All non-rifled firearms have an inherent -1 to hit penalty.
Exploding Dice: Whenever you deal damage with a firearm and roll maximum on any damage die, reroll that die and add that roll to the total as well. If you roll maximum on rerolls, continue to reroll, adding to the damage each time.
Misfire: Whenever you roll a natural 1 on an attack roll made with a firearm, your firearm might misfire. Immediately roll 1d20. On a 1, the firearm is broken and the powder explodes out the breech, dealing the weapon’s damage to you; on a 2–7, the firearm is broken; on a 8–18, the firearm misfires and is fouled; and on a 19–20, it simply misfires. A fouled firearm requires 2 full rounds to clear before it can be reloaded.
Melee: Pistols may be used as saps and muskets as clubs in melee combat, but they are reasonably fragile and whenever you roll a natural 1 on the attack roll the weapon is broken.
Pistols have a hardness of 10 and 10 hit points; long weapons have a hardness of 10 and 20 hit points.
Pistol: a single shot wheellock pistol.
Blunderbuss Pistol: Also known as a dragon, this is a large pistol with a bell-shaped barrel. A blunderbuss pistol’s damage suffers a -2 penalty per range increment beyond the first.
Musket, short: A wheellock musket with a short barrel suitable for use in close quarters. Also known as an arquebus.
Musket, long: A wheellock musket with a 4 foot long barrel. The long musket must be braced on something or else suffer a -2 penalty to hit. Many such muskets come with a inherent pintle mount so that they can be braced while standing; it requires a move action to set up the pintle.
Blunderbuss: This is a heavy musket with a bell-shaped barrel, also referred to as a musketoon. A blunderbuss’ damage suffers a -2 penalty per range increment beyond the first.
Bomb: A bomb, also known as a grenade, is thrown as a splash weapon. It requires one full round action to prepare and light. Once thrown, it explodes and does damage to everyone in a 5’ radius from the target or target square. Bombs do 2d6 damage to a directly targeted creature and 2d4 splash damage.
Smoke bomb: A smoke bomb is thrown as a splash weapon, and puts out a 10’ radius cloud of smoke. It requires one full round action to prepare and light. The smoke dissipates normally.
[Edit: Dang it, forgot ammo and costs!]
Ammunition: Round lead bullets are sold in bags of 20, weighing 2 pounds, for 5 gp. As guns of this era are often not in standard calibers, the shot normally require modification by the gun owner before use. Many gun owners will simply cast their own shot using Craft (gunsmith).
Gunpowder: Black powder is sold for 40 gp per pound. It is usually carried in a gourd, horn, or metal flask to keep it dry. In volume, it is supplied in 30-pound kegs (40 pounds total weight). Creating gunpowder from scratch requires a DC 25 Craft (alchemy) check. A thrown bomb takes about half a pound of powder; you can get 40 muzzleloader shots out of a pound. For cannon, you need an amount of gunpowder equal to the weight of the ball.
I took the exploding-die damage and the misfire (edited) from Pathfinder. I thought those were good, but their damages, costs, and violation of tech level weren’t (they had percussion cap revolvers, for example). I broke it up into a couple more weapons. I’m tempted to go as far as d20 Past did and differentiate between the matchlock and wheellock weapons, but for a first cut thought this would be enough. I tried to target early 1500s tech in general as consistent with other developments in Pathfinder.
I don’t mind gunpowder in my fantasy, especially if it’s kept to a realistic 1500-and-earlier kind of level. With the same caveat as my players – it shouldn’t be too nerfed or too good. I hope I’ve hit that balance here – the reload times make it unlikely you can get too many shots off in one combat, and the inaccuracy and unreliability and cost are down sides – but the lure of that damage potential is a big draw. They’re too expensive for low level, not competitive at high level, but at mid level you’d be tempted to have a pistol on you that you’d fire in the first round and then drop and go to melee… Which is the desired simulation.
In my game guns will be rare enough that there’s no prestige classes or whatnot for them. I will include a feat that lets you not provoke attacks of opportunity and a reload feat that lets you spend one full round instead of two, but that’s it.
Next time – cannon!