OSR Guns follow-up

I posted a link on G+ to the blog post yesterday. I got some reactions to the post there. However, in a couple days it may be extremely difficult to find that conversation again, and I’ll be able to find things on my blog much easier, so I’m going to summarize here.

  • The proposal makes firearms too dangerous.
  • D&D combat is abstract to the point of absurdity, and you either embrace that or rebuild it.
  • Swords and arrows do even more damage than bullets, when they hit soft tissue (though going through armor is harder for them.) Singling out guns to do more damage is likely a byproduct of associating guns with realistic damage, and medieval or magical weaponry with abstracted and narrative kinds of damage. If a gun will be that lethal, so too should an arrow or a blade.
  • D&D is built to tell grand superheroic tales of derring-do that downplay mortality and accept abstracted damage for the sake of the genre style–dangerous firearms (or violence generally) do not fit with the OSR approach. To game out stories like that, use other systems.
  • Instead of the saving throw for death or damage system I proposed, the general idea was that it would be easier and better to not allow hit points to go up after character generation, to simulate the tissue-paper of human material faced with metal.

I mentioned a possible use of the White Wolf bashing/lethal distinction, and the d20 Star Wars and Conan games that use hit points=Constitution, and Vitality=traditional hit points as other ways games get at this sort of question.

I was thinking about doing something like suggesting how armor could work in this model, and getting into bigger creatures and bigger guns and how they could interact, but there really is no encouragement to pursue this further from the people who responded.

There was a consistent voice that said it was not a good model, for various reasons. It is hard to sense mood through the internet, but some of those who responded seemed sort of irritated or angry about this, and that I do not understand at all. Maybe I misread.

Anyway, I’ll let this drop, and let the nugget stew and bubble in the back-brain where all half-baked ideas go to gestate.

I think being held at gunpoint should be scary. Getting shot should be dangerous. Also, bullets can graze, or do little damage. How to do that? Different solutions may all be workable, but I don’t think the problem is so solved in games that there’s no point in thinking about it further.

In various ways, I have been working on this problem since 1994. I was playing Vampire, running a “prelude” where a mortal character dies and becomes a vampire. Well, his buddy drove him out to a cemetery, forced him down on his knees, and shot him point blank.

How that worked in original White Wolf was the gun rolled a dice pool for damage, and the target rolled a dice pool to soak. Well, even as a mortal getting shot, he kept taking NO DAMAGE from the gun. Sure, I could have said “you are shot and killed” but that didn’t seem to mesh with the rest of the system. In the end, the guy pumped a clip and a half into the now-fleeing emboldened victim before bringing him down. Right then I knew I had to do something different.

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2 Responses to OSR Guns follow-up

  1. Being a Pathfinder guy I guess I’m on the wrong side of the tracks here, but what the heck? I will say that in Pathfinder guns seem to hit very often and do little damage, which is about the exact opposite of what I would expect. I am not a fan of the whole “save or die” system (part of why I am a Pathfinder guy) because I like granularity. Being badly wounded and having to fight against the (now increased) odds sounds like more fun for my players than ‘sorry, the dice say you’re dead.’ While there is certainly an argument save-or-die is more realistic, I and my players seem to be okay with staying on the more dramatic side of things (YMMV of course)
    One thing I have debated with firearms, shot placement is very important (like you said the ‘flesh wound’ vs ‘killing blow’) so I’ve contemplated a house rule of adding the points over the to-hit roll as bonus damage (which could work with anything, but I’m trying to fix one particular weapon in what I see as an imbalance – AC is part to hit and part damage (seems to me, don’t want to start a flame war over that) so since guns basically ignore armor it seems reasonable to give them a damage boost other weapons don’t get). Not sure if it would work, or if my players would go for it (I have lots and lots of crazy ideas, it’s jaded them), or if I could even get all my players in the same room (as we all now live in different states of the same city). But, for exactly what it’s worth, there’s my two cents 🙂

  2. JD says:

    Our house rules are a bit like what The Homeless Nerd describes. Here’s some of my reasoning:


    The trick is, in my opinion, to make guns deal damage corresponding to level or HD (had the same problem with aimed hits). The way we play it, a good hit will deal a huge amount of damage to a random body part. How much damage a body part can take before it’s crippled or destroyed, depends on armor and level (3 x level + AC). Nothing changes for the player (it’s the same to hit) and it’s no additional subsystem for the DM (it’s all there already). But as an interpretation of what the result means, it’s different enough to distinguish guns from other weapons.

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