Apr 18, 2012

Abolishing Exploding Damage for Guns

One of the things I hate in games is when melee weapon damage is relatively static - you roll a die, add some modifiers and maybe roll a critical hit that doubles that - while under the same system gun damage explodes: You roll a die, and if it's above a certain result, you roll the die again, and if it's above the result again, you roll a third time, etc. then add some static modifiers or double it for a crit or whatever afterwards. I can take this in systems like the Warhammer 40K RPGs, where all damage has a chance of exploding, but I've seen many implementations of guns in D&D and its variants in particular where guns have a surprising deadliness compared to stabbing three feet of steel into someone's guts.

I'm not an expert on the subject, but from what I have read it's totally possible to be shot and hit many times, at least by handguns using modern rounds, without experiencing incapacitation. While guns can and do kill, I'm not convinced that they are deadlier than melee weapons, or that a round hitting a person incapacitates them more quickly than a sword hitting them does. I'm especially not convinced of this with regard to unrifled black powder weapons firing musketballs. 

In Emern, I made a conscious choice not to have exploding damage for guns, or even to give them an extremely high base damage compared to other missile weapons (they are a bit higher, but the end result is about 2.5 average points more damage for an arquebus over a bow, in exchange for a lower rate of fire, once every other round). The one semi-exception to this principle is the +2 assault rifle a PC (Chris Brown, the Berserker) got last session from the Overlord to help him capture some Jaguarmen so the Overlord can sacrifice them to power a spell that will create a submarine so the PCs can go find the Overlord's former partner, "God", who is believed to be living on the bottom of the sea near Sword Isle. The assault rifle only deals 2d6 damage, but can rapid fire on fully automatic, which has the effect of +4 to hit and +4 to damage to represent the extra rounds. Chris Brown used it to kill an invisible giant spider last session, though he also slew a fellow PC (fortunately Nine-Fingered Samuelson was wearing a ring of regeneration the Overlord had given him). The Overlord needs God to help him adjust the microwave communications array on his tower in the lost city of Zancalla so that he can obliterate the Snakemen rocket armada coming from the moon.

Similarly, while I'm not happy with the exact stat profile guns were given in Clockwork and Chivalry, I do think like that the damage is within normal ranges for melee weapons, and that C&C uses a system (Mongoose Runequest 2 / Legend) that doesn't have exploding damage at all. I've been thinking of redoing the damage and load times, and skipping the somewhat complex 2 combat action penalty for shooting a matchlock, since I can't see why any combatant in MRQII would ever use one. Managing the combat action economy is critical to winning, and any weapon that costs you too many CAs to use, especially when the damge is not insane, is not a smart choice.