Thursday, June 25, 2009

Steampunk and Klockwerks: The Black Powder Baseline

Fighting Your Way Through a Big and Changing World Part 1

Where would Steampunk be without its toys, and by toys I mean GUNS! The weapons of the steam powered era got a whole lot more deadly as soon as your average thug could pick up a one shot pistol and have your shiny new brass pocket-watch before you had a chance to offer him your wind up dog instead. Thus begins a battle of escalation… if the pick-pocket is carrying a one shot pistol, you better be carrying a steam powered, rotary gatling gun (no joke, there are lots of these in Steampunk).
Gunpowder had already been a part of the technological timeline for over two hundred years at least by the time Steampunk had its dawn, so the technology behind firearms had already been well established, it just meant that now, things could get more serious when you put Steam power behind it.
For the most part, nobody carries a bow and arrow around anymore, maybe a steam powered bow with a grappling hook and a scope, but probably not your run of the mill, powered by muscles, stereotypical elf-wielded longbow. Guns are this ages bread and butter. If you wanted to put guns into your Steampunk world, it wouldn’t take more than a little reflavoring to get things working really, since most things in the world scale when you add in these elements.
If you want a good starting point to make your own Steampunk era guns, try using the 3.5 Dungeon Master’s Guide. In it, there are several guns all laid out for you to use in your variant historical setting. I used these as basis for some of my early games before I took a crack at developing my own gats.

Now on to these fine pieces of death…
First, since we’re developing new weapons that don’t exist in the current setup of 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, we’ve got to give them a weapon group.

Weapon GroupGuns: Steam or black-powder powered weapons which have explosive and random tendencies.

Now, since the era is one where guns have spread like wildfire and are not something out of the ordinary, there isn’t any reason for them all being superior weapons. In standard fantasy era games, bows and crossbows are iconic weapons of the era, but variations on them may be easier or more difficult to use; the same holds true for guns. So, breaking them down by category seems like a good thing to do.

Thinking about how guns work in comparison to crossbows is a good place to start. The damage is probably higher on a gun, bullets tend to do more damage when they lodge themselves inside of something and move around inside the body then standard crossbow bolts which remain static and can easily be removed. The time it takes to load is also different; standard black-powder guns took a fairly long time to load. I would say that the standard load time would be about equivalent to a move action. This would still give you time to load and fire in the same round, but it makes sense from the perspective that basic pistols and rifles didn’t have the capability to do rapid fire in a single round. Skilled players can take feats to reduce these load times, just like a skilled player can take feats to reduce the load time on a crossbow.

So with these thoughts in mind, here are some guns for your viewing and using pleasure (note I’ve left out the prices because this really varies the most because it is almost entirely world based):

The Basics

Simple Ranged, One Handed
Proficiency +2
Damage 1d8
Range 10 / 20
Weight 2 Pounds
Properties: Versatile, High Crit, Load Move, Bullets

This is the iconic pistol of pirates and swashbucklers. It is muzzle loaded and fires a spherical bullet. It can be used one handed, but because of its significant size can also be wielded two-handed for better lethality.

Simple Ranged, Two Handed
Proficiency +2
Damage 1d10
Range 20 / 40
Weight 6 Pounds
Properties: High Crit, Load Move, Bullets

This gun is fired from the shoulder, has a long iron barrel, and is loaded from the muzzle. It is effective at long range, but isn’t as accurate as some other firearms. It fires round iron bullets, the same as those fired by the pistol.

Proficiency +2
Damage 1d8
Range: 5 / -
Weight 10 Pounds
Properties: High Crit, Load Standard, Spread 2

This gun is fired from the waist and is useless at anything but close range. It does however pack a serious punch and because it fires a spread of small shots, the blast is very powerful and deadly to multiple enemies. The Blunderbuss uses gundpoweder but can be loaded with various types of ammunition, from gravel, to metal shavings to sand, all of which are effective.

Military Ranged, One Handed
Suicide Pistol
Proficiency +2
Damage 1d6
Range 5/10
Weight .5 Pounds
Properties: Off-hand, Load Minor, 2 Shots, Shells

This tiny pistol can easily be concealed do to its size. It has a pair of barrels which can each hold a single small encased bullet which makes reloading easier. Due to its size, the Suicide Pistol doesn’t deal as much damage as a normal gun.

Proficiency +2
Damage 1d6
Range 4 / -
Weight 4 Pounds
Properties: High Crit, Versatile, Load Standard, Spread 1

Similar to the Blunderbuss in construction, this small single handed version of the weapon can be used two-handed for better efficiency. What is sacrficies in power and spread, it makes up for with its size and weight.

Military Ranged, Two-Handed
Proficiency +3
Damage 1d10
Range 20 / 40
Weight 5 Pounds
Properties: High Crit, Load Minor, Shells

This improved version of the musket fires bullets incased in shells which are pre-loaded with gunpowder, similar to those of the suicide pistol. It’s lighter weight makes it harder to use, but it is more accurate and still effective at the same range.

Proficiency +2
Damage 2d6
Range 7 / -
Weight: 5
Properties: High Crit, Load Move, Shells, Spread 1

This improved version of the blunderbuss fires a more concentrated burst but with higher damage and effective range.

Superior Ranged, Two Handed
Proficiency +3
Damage 1d12
Range 25 / 50
Weight 6 Pounds
Properties: High Crit, Load Move

This version of the rifle has a greater effective range and also deals slightly more damage than a standard rifle, but its length makes it unwieldy and more specialized to use.

New Keywords
Spread: This weapon fires a spray of bullets which travel up to their maximum effective range and can hit anyone in line of sight. Add squares next to the target up the spread value then draw line of site to these squares as well as the intended target. Roll to hit anyone that is in line of sight to any of these squares.


That concludes the first part Steampunk firearms, the black powder goodness. In the next part of my Steampunk series, I’ll go into making them more… how should I say… steamy??? The weapons have to get beefed up somehow and there are plenty more specialized superior weapons to be had.

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