December 14, 2016

Firearm Rules

Variant Rule
Comments from the Finger: The West is getting weird. Think Swords, Sorcery, and Six-Shooters. These rules should help you include firearms in a campaign which also features regular weapons, without either group being over or underpowered. 

Firearm Variant Rules

Black powder represents a paradigm shift in the art of warfare, fueling everything from powerful siege weapons to concealable, handheld guns. In many campaign settings, these firearms supplant the traditional scheme of weapons, forcing arrows, swords, and battleaxes into obsolesce. They might even be commonplace, a staple tool for hunting and home defense.
     In other campaign settings, however, swords, firearms, and magic coexist equally. In these settings, since magic provides an alternative to their use, firearms are rarer and more imprecise, often requiring specialists like gunslingers to be truly effective. A setting of this type might seem very familiar, with some changes. A knight is just as likely to carry a handgun as a dagger, and infantrymen may shoulder rifles, rather than pikes, but adventurers still delve into dungeons for treasure, and castles still dot the landscape.

Damage Rolls with Firearms
Unlike other weapons, you don't add your ability modifier to the damage roll of a firearm unless otherwise stated.

Two-Weapon Fighting with Firearms
Unlike other ranged weapons, you can engage in two-weapon fighting with two light firearms. When you do so, you subtract 2 from the damage roll of the bonus attack, to a minimum of 1 damage.

Firearm Proficiencies
Characters in most campaign worlds will not have proficiency with firearms, but in settings with widespread firearms, characters gain the following proficiencies:

Barbarian  Double-barrel shotgun
BardLight revolver, parlor gun
DruidHunting rifle
FighterLever-action shotgun, light revolver, repeating rifle, revolver
PaladinDouble-barrel shotgun, revolver
RangerHunting rifle, revolver
RogueCoach gun, light revolver, parlor gun
WarlockLight revolver

Parlor Gun75 gp2d4 piercing2 lb.Ammunition (range 30/90), concealable, light, loading
Revolver, Light100 gp2d6 piercing3 lb.Ammunition (range 40/120), light, reload (6 shots)
Revolver100 gp2d8 piercing3 lb.Ammunition (range 40/120), reload (6 shots)
Rifle, Hunting175 gp2d10 piercing8 lb.Ammunition (range 80/240), Reload (4 shots), two-handed
Rifle, Repeating200 gp2d8 piercing8 lb.Ammunition (range 80/240), Reload (12 shots), two-handed
Coach Gun200 gp3d4 piercing6 lb.Ammunition (range 15/45), reload (2 shots), scatter, two-handed
Shotgun, Double-Barrel200 gp2d8 piercing7 lb.Ammunition (range 30/90), reload (2 shots), scatter, two-handed
Shotgun, Lever-Action200 gp2d6 piercing7 lb.Ammunition (range 30/90), reload (8 shots), scatter, two-handed
Light Cannon3000 gp4d10 bludgeoning225 lb.Ammunition (range 120/360), heavy, loading, mounted, special, two-handed
Gatling Gun5000 gp2d8 piercing80 lb.Ammunition (range 60/180), heavy, mounted, reload (50 shots), special, two-handed

Firearm Properties
All firearms produce a loud boom, audible out to half a mile. In addition, firearms require special ammunition and some of them have additional special properties.
     Ammunition. The ammunition of a firearm is destroyed upon use. Firearms use bullets, scatter firearms use shells, and cannons use cannonballs.
     Concealable. You have advantage on Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) checks made to hide this weapon.
     Mounted. This weapon is normally used while attached to a tripod, wagon, or other bracing mount. While it is mounted, it can't be moved. You can mount or unmount this weapon as an action. While it is unmounted and the creature wielding it is not prone, this weapon can only be used proficiently by a Medium or larger creature with a Strength score of at least 17.
     Reload. A limited number of shots can be made with a weapon that has the reload property. If you are not proficient with the firearm, you must then use your action to reload it. If you are proficient, you can choose to use your bonus action to reload instead.
     Scatter. If you make an attack within half this weapon’s normal range, you deal an additional die of weapon damage.

Special Firearms
Firearms with special rules are described here.
     Gatling Gun. As an action, you can rapidly fire at an area rather than a single target. Select a 15-foot cube within the weapon's range. Each creature in that area must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take damage as if hit by this weapon's attack, or half as much on a successful saving throw. This action uses 10 round of ammunition.
     Light Cannon. An attack with this weapon can target a space within range, which is treated as having 10 AC. On a hit, each creature within 5 feet of the point of impact must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw or take half the damage rolled.

Special Ammunition
All firearms require special ammunition. Most firearms use bullets, but some require even more specialized projectiles. For example, cannons use cannonballs and all scatter firearms use shells.

Ammunition  Cost
Bullet2 sp
Cannonball10 gp
Shell5 sp

Changelog: 12/14/16: Spread weapon property renamed Scatter
Reload: Proficient characters reload as an action or bonus action, whereas a creature that is not proficient must use an action
Proficiencies: Warlock gets light revolver proficiency, wizard does not
Light Cannon: Removed one attack per turn clause (covered in Loading property already)
Coach Gun: Two-handed
1/9/17: Light Cannon: Range: 120/360
Gatling Gun: 60/180
1/15/17: Mounted: Allows for firing prone
2/20/17: Light Cannon: Weight reduced to 225


  1. Today marks the time I've found something on your site that my player's cannot use. Personally, I feel that they're still overpowered, and always will. Anything that doesn't match the other weapons IMHO just belongs in modern. I like modern, and I like fantasy, but I don't like them to mix, because when they do I have to find some reason why guns haven't taken over (as they likely would) in my game. It is that magic pervades every fiber of the universe, and as a result, technology has made very few advances. I feel that giving any character the option to reload a gun as a bonus action is a bit much, as characters don't technically have a bonus action (they have a possible bonus action) and being able to reload a gun in the same six seconds that you can move and attack with it is quite frankly rediculous.

    I do like that you don't add any ability to guns, but that's going to be the first thing people start putting into their homebrew archetypes "how do I munchkin this to get 30 damage minimum out of every shot because it's a gun".

    Thank you, as usual for taking the time and effort to put forth the material. If my input is any help, I'm glad, if not, thanks for letting me rant.

    1. You can trust me that we balanced this /thoroughly/. It only peaks above the damage curve of comparable weapons when you consider the influence of the additional dice on critical hits, and that only sets the guns above by a point of expected damage or so when the user has decent stats.

      Because the damage is so closely matched with most guns, we didn't feel the need to make reloading an action at all times. We thought it would make guns a hassle to play -- in a word: unfun.

      And for setting, this is the beginning of us gearing up to Weird West, a book focusing on Swords, Sorcery, and Six-Shooters. It might not fit perfectly in everyone's world, but we're super excited to explore the types of stories this type of setting can bring to life.

    2. For the larger capacities, I would have to agree on the reload. I'd probably modify that to using a bonus action to load a single bullet you'd be firing to keep a 1 bullet/bolt rate that crossbows have. Crossbows being reloaded to function in that amount of time is no-less, if not more, unrealistic and fit fine for the fantasy.

    3. With the reload mechanic, we thought that being playable, rather than being realistic, was a better goal. It's the same reason we didn't include recoil, jamming, or overheating mechanics -- they're not fun.

      Plus, if you can fire as /many/ crossbow bolts as you want on your turn using Crossbow Expert, it's safe to say Wizards isn't sweating this point.

    4. I take it that there isn't a PDF for these rules because it'll be coming later with Weird West?

      And thank you... for these and for all your posts here. This is one of the sites I'm more than happy to be a patron of.

    5. We plan on packaging the PDF for these with the Gunslinger to make things easier.

    6. You know...maybe the reload trait should allow someone who is proficient with that gun to use a bonus action to reload it, rather than an action.

      Or, I should say, a proficient user can reload as an action or a bonus action, but a non proficient user must use an action to reload.

    7. I was thinking the same thing earlier today. It's a nice additional penalty and feels pretty reasonable

    8. I'm pretty skeptical about the balance here.

      I mean sure. If you are a 20th level fighter trying to decide between a longbow and a repeating rifle, the longbow averages 0.5 extra damage on a normal attack and 4 damage less on a crit, so if your target as less than 23 AC, the longbow is going to be better by a bit (especially when it saves you a bonus action every three rounds).

      However, this case is pretty severely stacked in favor of the longbow, and it is just *barely* better. I think that there are a lot of cases, where the firearm is just substantially better.

      For example, consider my current character, a ranger, trying to decide whether or not to use a bow or a revolver/hunting rifle.

      Note that at high levels the analysis looks similar to the above, except that the hunting rifle does about 2 extra damage at the cost of an awful lot of bonus actions.

      If I use the revolver on the other hand, it is a one-handed weapon, so I can use it with a shield for +2 AC.

      However, I'm low level, so my bow does only 1d8+3 rather than 1d8+5, putting 2 extra damage in favor of the firearm (whose damage doesn't care about my lower dex). Since I plan on taking sharpshooter at level 4, I won't have 20 dex until level 12. Note that if I were primarily a str based TWF ranger instead of a bow ranger, firearms would just always be better since my dex would never end up being great. On top of this, I am playing a goblin, and since I'm size small, my bow would actually be doing only 1d6+3. So the hunting rifle is doing 11 damage per hit instead of 6.5, about 70% more damage (well before Hunter's Mark adds 1d6 to both damage totals).

      On top of this, I took your Paradox Hunter as my conclave. The paradox strike attack is normally approximately in line with the extra 1d8 damage a round that other ranger subclasses get, since it's a weapon attack with no ability mod that's about 1d8 (or 1d8+1d6 with Hunter's Mark but it can miss so, it's still pretty well balanced). However, firearms don't care about dex mods anyway. Now this extra attack does full damage.

      So yeah. It seems like in extreme cases at high levels, firearms are on par with bows. However, at lower levels, or in the presence of other class features, it seems like a lot of the time that firearms are just outright better (unless you really need a lot of bonus actions).

    9. Especially at lower levels, you need to consider the delta of randomness when analyzing the firearm balance, along with things like pure range.

      Firearms have a much swingier damage curve; it has lower minimum damage, and a high chance of swinging low, as well as high. On average, this works out to be about on par, but the inability of the player to predict damage (including what I call a "soft miss", when you hit but deal only two or three damage) means that firearms are numerically volatile - players can't reliably predict the damage outcomes. This randomness means that firearms should be slightly more powerful in terms of damage, simply to balance out the lost opportunity cost of not being able to plan in advance. This is especially important at lower levels, where you have less health and resources - you have a smaller margin of error, which soft misses exacerbate.

      Also, firesrms have lower ranges in general, compared to other ranged weapons, and sap a crucial but predictabe bonus action resource, which will hamper ranged and TWF builds.

      Certian things like the paradox hunter aren't designed for firearm interaction, and thus enjoy more damage output than intended. Moreover, our firearm rules are variants, so it doesn't really pay to account for them when designing new builds.

      I hope that was fairly informative. Regardless of what you think about firearms, they're a blast to play, so if you have the chance, I encourage you to try them out.

    10. Hmm... Good point. Though I don't think that the extra variance is as big a deal as you seem to think it is.

      Let's consider the revolver at 2d8 damage versus a longbow at 1d8+3.

      Now if you are fighting an enemy with exactly 3 or 4 hitpoints, the longbow is a guaranteed kill, while the revolver has a (<5%) chance of scoring a soft miss. So against enemies in the very low hitpoint range, the longbow is clearly better. However, once you start considering enemies with 5 hitpoints, the revolver is actually substantially less likely to leave them alive after one hit (and still will finish them in fewer expected hits when taking into account the incredibly rare event that it takes three hits).

      Against enemies with many hitpoints, probably a better way to look at it is the expected amount of wasted damage. Now partly, this is larger if your weapon deals more damage, as half of your last shot (on average) is wasted. On the other hand, shots that do more damage are more likely to be your last so in addition to half an average hit of damage, your expected overkill should be an extra Variance(shot damage)/2*Expectation[shot damage]. For a revolver, this comes out to 7/12ths of a damage, while for the longbow it is only 7/20ths. This is an effect, but it's a small one. Less than the difference in expected damage from a single shot.

      The bonus actions are relevant, but at lower levels you both have fewer good uses for bonus actions and fire fewer shots per combat (thus reducing the number of wasted bonus actions). Additionally, a revolver can be used with a shield for +2 AC.

      It still seems to me that for low level archery rangers, that the revolver is almost always better.

    11. Well also to be fair fighters can move and attack 8 times in six seconds with action surge so I wouldn't put it past 5e. Also still moving and four attacks regularly is a bit much.

  2. While a bit tricky, this seems like a much nicer way of handling firearms than the DMG rules. The damage rates just didn't warrant the difference in damage potential between a gun and a bow in the DMG. This makes it much more worthwhile to use guns in an appropriate setting.

    The balancing factor is also quite flavorful which I love, a gun's damage is much less skill dependent than a bow or sword. Hitting a target, handling the recoil, sure, but the damage is a mechanic of the gun. This makes perfect sense.

    Curious about a few of the proficiencies though;
    *Warlock VS Wizard/Sorcerer. Warlocks get Light Weapons rather than a select few weapon proficiencies the other mages get. Seems odd for Wizards to get the revolver when the Warlock gets nothing.
    *Barbarian I would think should get the Hunting Rifle by the same token as Druids. Or none by the same token as Monk.
    *Fighter seems light, would think they could get Hunting Rifle, Double Barrel Shotgun and standard Revolver as they all fit the varying styles of Fighter than can be built (new Knight, Scout, dumb champion.
    *Paladin and Cleric I could see having at least parlor gun proficiency with the noble-ish/church aristocracy connections that often exist.

    If balance reasons, would be curious on some of the stats to see how OP they'd be.

    1. The class proficiencies were the last thing we put together, so there's a good chance we can change them.

      Warlock: I believe I intended to give the warlock the handgun, rather than the wizard. Almost certainly a typo.

      Barbarian: I'm kind of unsure about giving the barbarian something truly long-range. In my mind, the barbarian is more closely suited to close-quarters fighting and raccoon-pelt wearing outdoorsmanship. That being said, I can probably be convinced on this.

      Fighter: I focused the fighter on repeating weapons due to the fighter's main shtick: getting lots of attacks. That being said, I think they probably /do/ deserve a revolver in there. Again, I can probably be convinced to change these.

      Parlor Gun: This is supposed to represent the derringer, or any other type of assassination/bar fight gun. Almost exclusively the domain of the not-holy folk, like rogues.

    2. Barbarian: Right, they definitely lose out of most their capabilities when not in close. A Barbarian can use heavy crossbows but often switch to javelins for strength mod+rage boost. Non-Berserkers I tend to see as hunter-gatherer. NRA type hunters going Rage Mode over paladin-invoked gun control also just popped into my head as a character/campaign idea.

      Fighter: That makes sense. Fits the mechanics for combat better for sure. It's really only the flavor elements on Players that go for non-optimal weapons to fit a character idea where this is likely to come into play.

      Ok, I thought more dueling pistol than barfight other than from who got the proficiencies. I had to look up parlor gun so gonna take your more expert opinion.

  3. This is really cool. I'll definitely keep these for future campaign ideas. However, I found a Gunslinger class I like that uses PF misfire rules so I'll have to modify it to make it compatible with these rules wthout breaking the game.

    1. Mathew Mercer's Gunslinger is pretty good if you want misfire rules. If you would prefer a Ranger Gunslinger then I believe this site has one.

    2. We wrote some simple misfire rules that we removed from the final version. They took the form of additional weapon properties. Like:
      Jamming. When you make an attack roll with this weapon and roll a 1, the weapon jams. You can't fire a jammed weapon until you use your action to clear the misfire.

      Again, we scrapped these because we think that most people get super frustrated with misfire rules, so use at your own risk.

    3. What if you added a sidebar listing misfires as an optional rule for fI realms? That way people have ruless for it, but don't feel obligated to use them.

    4. I should probably clarify that I found a cool Gunslinger but I'd like to remove its misfire mechanics and replace the firearm system with this system instead.

    5. You know, if you contribute to us on Patreon, we have our very own Gunslinger class coming at the end of the month that we're quite proud of.

    6. Awesome! Then I could have one built around misfire and one without. I assume this class is patreon exclusive?

    7. Nah -- we'll release it like a month early on Patreon, but eventually release it everywhere. So, if you'd like to get in on it early (and have a lager influence on the final product with your comments), drop in on the patreon!

  4. I like the misfire/jamming rules. I would still want to have it in play. Maybe just add some kind of save (like Dex or Int) or check if you roll a misfire (1-2) to confirm an actual misfire with a DC 10.

    1. In general, we pulled the misfire rules for two reasons:

      1) Misfires are kind of not fun, and by simple viture of the fact that other weapons do NOT misfire (your bow string never snaps, for instance) you then have to make guns stronger than they generally need to be in order to be an attractive option.

      2) These guns represent 1800s era firearms, well past the days of muskets and flintlocks. Misfires were realistically nowhere near as prevalent, and (more importantly) the misfire isn't as common a trope for western films and literature.

    2. Sounds good. Our next campaign is supposed to have a gadgety tinker PC and the DM has pre-approved anything from MFoV so we will most likely be using these rules in the near future.

    3. Your bowstrings never snap? I find that's the common result of a crit fail when using a bow. Depending on the target even swords have shattered on a 1.

    4. @ M Franks

      Most of us her at MFoV don't usually play with crit fail penalties. When we write our material, we tend to shy away from writing with the assumption that people will be using house rules or optional rules like that.

      I personally find it ridiculous, the idea that 1 out of 20 times when you make an attack or a saving throw or what have you, something really bad happens. It feels too much like you're punishing your players at random for playing the game. It'd be the same thing as including a misfire chance in video games like CoD or Halo.

      In a similar vein, I don't care for the idea that critical successes do anything incredibly special. I once played with a DM who ruled that a natural 20 on a roll meant you did that particular thing inhumanly well, even if it was impossible or ridiculous. For instance, convincing a town guard that you're actually a banana with a deception roll.

    5. Oh, I don't think I've ever seen it not used. Wasn't actually aware it was an optional rule to be honest.

      I see it more as ensuring that the game narrative has the complications that most stories have get represented. When I DM it I try to have a positive aspect as well as a negative, to emulate the kind of blunders that end up saving the day, where appropriate.

      But to each their own. Good to know your stuff doesn't have considerations like this.

    6. Yeah, this is really common at some tables, but critical failure complications are actually an optional rule in this edition. It sets a weird precedent if we include them here, since regular weapons (in 5e) don't break on a 1. I'll try to find a place for a little table of firearm malfunctions in the Weird West update for you, though.

    7. If you'd like, Finger, I'm planning on including something like that for the project I'm working on (you know what I'm talking about), if you don't want to include them in this PDF.

    8. In our game a nat 1 just results in dropping your weapon, but if you roll snake eyes (two nat 1s) on an attack with advantage or disadvantage, then something worse would happen, like our ranger's bowstring snapping.

  5. Can sorcerers get a proficiency? Lore wise they can do magic naturally, which leaves them free to practice other talents as well.

    1. Sure that leaves them with free time, but that doesn't necessitate that they chose to practice with a firearm. In fact, why would they when they can summon fire from their fingertips?

    2. That makes sense. I guess from a lore perspective I am just a little miffed the sorcerer has the same number of proficiencies as the wizard, who has dedicated themselves to the study of magic. But this problem isn't your fault and can probably be easily solved at local games if ever it becomes an issue.

  6. I just got a hilarious image of a paladin smiting with a light cannon.

    1. That alone is almost worth the weapon proficiency feat.

    2. Also for the Laser Light Cannon reference. ;)

    3. Well, I mean, smiting generally requires a melee attack, so I suppose he's just whacking said bad guy with the cannon.

  7. Light Cannon's special entry states that it can only fire once per turn, which is made redundant by the Loading property.

    I was also gonna say that RAW, you could fire more than once if you took the Crossbow Expert feat, but I just looked and it specifies "crossbows with which you are proficient" so we're good.

  8. What would the Alchemist, Binder, Craftsman, Warmage, and Witch have proficiency in?

    1. This is a very good point, and also evokes images of a binder who uses his gun as a ritual implement. He carves the name of the vestige he binds onto the gun.

    2. Binder and witch = same as warlock. Alchemist = same as wizard. Warden = same as barbarian. Warmage = depends on house. Craftsman = you'll probably get an archetype

    3. Warmages wouldn't get proficiency: like wizards, they're studying their own stuff too much to bother training with firearms.

      And yes, Craftsman, you'll get an archetype ;-)

    4. I would argue that with base the Warmage wouldn't get any. But at the very least since House of Knights gets martial weapons, they would be studying other weapons as well as their magic. They could in theory get some of the fighter's gun proficiencies.

  9. For two weapon fightinting style, would there be no additional benefit for someone wielding two light firearms?

    1. The two-weapon fighting style doesn't /really/ apply to this, no. The upcoming gunslinger uses a special fighting style (I think it is called akimbo) to make better use of dual-wielded firearms.

    2. /Although/, it would not be unreasonable to add back that 2 damage with the second firearm attack if the character has the two-weapon fighting style.

  10. I'm wanting to make a Warmage for a Weird West-style game. What kind of firearm proficiency would they have in a world with so many guns?

    1. I think warmages would get training with just light revolvers. That being said, most would never use a gun -- they'd use the finger guns cantrip (maybe merged with the bursting shot cantrip.)

    2. That would make sense. Would the finger gun cantrip be on the warmage list? Or would one have to find another way to get it? Maybe a tie-in between the warmage class and the Weird West setting?

    3. I could see that happening. To be honest, I played a Bishop warmage a while back that used a refluffed Magic Daggers cantrip as a Heavy Revolver: each time he cast the spell to summon more daggers, he was simply reloading his gun.

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  12. Can there be rules implemented for the usage of bayonets? I want to play a character with a hunting rifle who relishes the chance to use a bayonet.

    1. I don't see why not, it's fairly easy: Any short firearm (like a pistol) that has a bayonet attached can be used to make melee attacks, dealing 1d4 piercing damage on a hit. Long firearms (like a rife) deal 1d6.

  13. I like a lot of what you've done here! I'm looking at borrowing some of this for a more early renaissance black powder introduction to my game. I'd like the reload time to more accurately reflect true-to-life reloads, but balance that with the potential of a much larger damage output.

    For example for something like an arquebus/handcanonne I'm thinking it takes a total of 9 actions or attacks (counting bonus action, move action, and standard action) to reload but it does 8d8 damage.

    At level 1 this basically means you could fire it once per 4 rounds and would average 32 damage per hit or 8 dmg per round.
    A heavy crossbow, for comparison, averages (1d10+3 from DEX) 8.5 dmg per round.

    At higher levels, more martial classes would gain additional attacks and actions, but even a 20th lvl fighter could only add 5 actions or attacks in a round, getting to 1 shot every round maximum (32dmg per round average).

    An equivalent dex fighter with a heavy crossbow at lvl 20 and 20 dex is averaging 4 attacks with 10 dmg per attack (1d10+5) or 40 dmg per round...

    I'd love your thoughts!

  14. i just saw this and wanted to know your reasoning as to why the firearms have shorter ranges than the bows and crossbows.
    Specifically, why does the longbow have better range than the rifles?