Thursday, August 17, 2017

Urban Arcana: Firearm Weapon Properties and Some Spells

Modern firearms don't neatly fit into even the suggested guidelines in the DMG, so I am stretching out a bit into new mechanics in the form of weapon properties. This design had to consider the following points:

  • A property might need to be broad enough to cover similar properties of entire groups of firearms.
  • It also needs to be simple to remember.
  • It also needs to not break the hell out of the game.

That said, there's a lot of reasons firearms supplanted the archer, the knight, and the pike. Their incredible killing potential aside, it's really all about a relatively light amount of physical prowess required to kill a whole lot of dudes way over there. So it's okay that guns are dangerous in 5E Urban Arcana.

Anyway, here's a rough draft of what I've come up with.

An automatic firearm chambers a new round without needing to remove one's finger from the trigger, and can be used to perform two additional attack modes. When you make an attack using an automatic firearm, you can opt to perform a three-round burst. This attack grants you advantage on the attack roll, but consumes three rounds from your ammunition. You cannot perform a three-round burst if you do not have at least three rounds remaining in the firearm's magazine.
You may also attempt to perform a spray with a full magazine. The entire magazine is consumed when you make this attack. In lieu of making attack rolls, you may force a number of creatures in a cone with a range equal to the weapon's medium range to make a Dexterity saving throw or suffer the firearm's damage. The number of creatures you can affect is equal to the number of bullets in the magazine. The DC for this saving throw is 8 + your Dexterity modifier + your proficiency bonus.
 Most weapons are not automatic by default, and this property is typically bestowed upon a weapon by using a weapon modification kit. Automatic firearms are illegal in nearly all civilian environments, and owning one without sufficient clearance is grounds for arrest, confiscation, and/or fines by Earthly law enforcement entities.
Weapons with the loud property cannot be used for their traditional attack without causing a great deal of noise. Whenever you make an attack with a loud weapon that is not benefiting from a silencer or other means of suppressing noise, the sound of the attack can be heard up to 1000 feet away in open ground, or 300 feet away inside a typical building. 
Unlike the more punitive loading quality, you may make as many attacks as the weapon has in its magazine before you must use an action to reload the weapon.

Of course, a trained firearm expert is going to be able to reload a weapon rather quickly. Thus I also include a feat:

Rapid Reload
Prerequisite: None. 
Effect: Your Dexterity score increases by 1. You may replace the magazine on any weapon with the reload quality as a bonus action rather than an action.

Now, there's something to be said for some weapons not being able to load quite as fast as that. Loading up some kinds of shotguns might take you longer than the couple seconds implied in a bonus action (I know I'm inviting myself to be eviscerated by someone saying they can do it faster, but I am willing to eat crow on that), but like I say in the design goal bullet points, I'm trying to be broad and still reasonably accurate here.

Same with the Loud quality. I'm completely spitballing on how far away you can hear a gunshot. If you're in an open desert in the dead of a still night, you can hear gunfire from quite far away.  I leave those ranges open for correction, but incredibly loud firefights do provide some impetus to get close and dirty with your magic sword against the bugbear mafia when there's a god-baby with an apocalyptic scream sleeping in the crib upstairs.

That may or may not have happened in the old d20 Modern game I ran. Just saying.

Other things I may need to consider are ammunition type, since shot is different from slug which is different from sabot... you see where this rabbit hole leads. I need to be careful to remain true to 5E design goals and not turn firearms into an abyss of corner cases and specialty rules.

I've already got a bunch of weapon mod ideas for them and that's going to be bad enough.

As a bonus, I've converted a couple of spells so far from the old rules and introduced one new spell that I used in my old campaign (silver was important for overcoming damage reduction since magic weapons were still incredibly rare and being smuggled in from the magic world).

Burglar's Buddy
2nd-level illusion

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 120 feet
Components: V, S, M (the cover of a camera lens)
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes

You suppress the functions of electronic or mechanical alarm systems and sensors in a 15 foot radius centered on a point within range. The affected systems include, but are not necessarily limited to, motion detectors, pressure sensors, laser grids, and video cameras.

Cameras continue to broadcast the last thing they saw before the spell was cast in the area, but this spell does not create a visual "dead zone" if the camera itself lies outside of the range of the spell.

1st-level transmutation

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Components: V, S
Duration: Instantaneous

You touch a device that contains electronic data, such as a computer or flash drive. All data upon that object is immediately and irrevocably erased.

Steel to Silver
1st-level transmutation

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Components: S, M (a silver object about the size of a fingernail)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour

You touch a single weapon, 20 arrows, 20 crossbow bolts, or a single magazine of bullets. For the duration of the spell, the weapon takes on a silvery sheen and strikes as though it were crafted of pure silver without sacrificing any of its durability or penetrating power.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, you may affect one additional weapon as outlined above for each spell level above 1st.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Pre-generated Characters for the Fantastic West

At a local home-convention run by industry coworkers, I occasionally get tapped to run RPGs for convention goers. About four years ago I ran a smash and grab dungeon crawl/card game using a slimmed down D&D and some treasure cards I made. It was called Dwarves: Conquerors of the Infinite Dungeons, and after some missteps with the treasure card mechanics (leading to fierce competition rather than cooperation for the incidental prize at the end) I opted for something a bit more cooperative for following years.

Two years ago, I instead ran Adventures in the Fantastic West, a fantasy western using 5th Edition D&D as the chassis and the gun rules in the DMG. With D&D mysticism and a pile of six-guns, the players had a ton of fun with the slapdash setting I threw together for the game, where a fantasy society expands outwards and runs headlong into a buried empire that the natives tried very hard to put down in their ancient history.

This year I've been called upon to run another game, so I'm going to run Return to the Fantastic West with a new batch of pre-generated characters. It also helps as a test bed for some mechanics I'm working on for Urban Arcana, so it's well-timed. Tonight I quickly whipped up the characters I'm going to let the sign-ups pick from, with an eye towards being fast and loose with the D&D rules and mixing in some altered class mechanics.

These were generally built with fun in mind and not min-maxing, so you'll see some odd choices and spell picks in the interest of ease of use for newcomers to D&D. This isn't the place to excoriate me for not playing to the meta. Power gaming is boring to me.

You'll note a few of the following bits herein:

  • Characters were generated using the standard array and don't utilize feats (they're only 3rd level).
  • The Firearms fighting style is simply the Archery fighting style, renamed
  • The paladin can smite with their shotgun, and their Oath is pseudo-custom.
  • The warlock's pact weapon is the Devil's Right Hand, a hellish revolver.
  • The rogue can always sneak attack with their seventh shot.
  • The ranger is using the Revised Ranger UA
  • The cleric is using the Life domain, but using the setting's "Order of the Golden Caduceus" secret society as a backdrop.
  • I'm loosely basing the Deadtracker's hunting rifle off of the .44 Winchester, but couldn't find a reliable source for how many cartridges it could hold before needing a reload. I guessed five. I'll keep looking for info and ask my Western historian friends when I can.
  • It should also probably be heavy, disallowing the halfling from using it without suffering disadvantage, but I'm letting it slide because it's cool.

Some day I may even flesh this out into an actual setting, but it's got enough issues and tough-to-tackle subjects that I might not try it. The evil undead empire underneath the Fantastic West could very easily be misconstrued for "spooky Indian burial ground" and other such tropes with unfortunate implications, when it isn't intended that way.

Anyway, enjoy the pre-gens.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Urban Arcana: Ballistic Baggage

While working on my Urban Arcana stuff, I've been considering the (re)introduction of the ballistic damage type. The DMG appendices referencing firearms list has them dealing piercing damage, which is fairly appropriate for the abstraction of 5th Edition combat. I can't pretend my layman's knowledge of modern firearms would stand up to professional scrutiny, but fortunately 5E combat doesn't concern itself with the stopping power of a specific gun/ammunition combo.

In d20 Modern, the ballistic damage type was its own thing, separate from the usual bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing physical damage types. There's something to be said for attaching a new damage type so that rider effects can be placed on it, without needing to heap on piles of conditional text.

That's a little vague. Basically, what I'm saying is that I could introduce spells, magic items, and technological gadgets that improve or provide resistance against ballistic damage without needing to say "piercing damage sourced by firearms from categories X, Y, and Z" every time I need the conditional effect. It could also help provide granularity for certain kinds of modern protective gear (such as certain styles of ballistic vests that are good for stopping bullets, but not necessarily knives).

Of course, there's some baggage involved with introducing a new damage type outside of the ones already provided. We've already got piles of them. It may warrant a general guideline with monsters and encounter building to say that if a monster is immune or resistant to non-magical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage, it's thereby inferred that they are also resistant to non-magical ballistic damage.

My working documents are going to make the assumption that ballistic damage is a thing. My revised firearms tables will also take this into account, though they're still going to be grouped into fairly broad categories. The last thing I need is an internet argument with strangers over just how much better gun X is than gun Y of the same model, because frankly I don't know guns super well and 5E doesn't need that level of granularity.

That said, even the DMG's firearm damage is gonzo. Chances are extremely high -- with very valid justification -- that a 1st level character is going to be taken from full HP to zero with a single shotgun blast, not to mention a high-powered rifle. Encounter design should be handled judiciously for such campaigns, of course.

Anyway, I'm curious what others think. Am I missing something obvious with introducing a new damage type?