Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

So, you're looking for a change, something to spice up your D&D campaign. One of the most debated options out there is the inclusion of guns. Guns and gunpowers have been alluded to or have been made available in many campaign settings produced for D&D, yet they never seem to have caught on with players at large.

In this series of articles, we're going to look at some reasons why you should and shouldn't include guns in your campaign, we're going to look at some different options for including gunpowder weapons, a gunpowder timeline that you can use to help determine what kind of weaponry is appropriate for your campaign, as well as some new abilities and weapons to help introduce them to your players.

Note: Just as an aside, while researching this series of articles, I've found a lot of extremely passionate discussion for and against the introduction of gunpowder and firearms into D&D games. My personal view is that they can make for an interesting change of pace, but they are purely optional. If you don't want guns in your game, don't add them. Just don't send me angry emails 'k?

Why Guns Should Be Allowed:

Guns are very "steampunk":
For the uninitiated, steampunk is a generic term given to Victorian-age fantasy, usually including higher-technology than what should be available, or in its place, magic. Guns are certainly appropriate for these settings, especially when enhanced by magical or mundane methods. Since, for better or worse, steampunk style settings and aesthetics are popular, and including things like simple gunpowder weapons can help to further flesh out these concepts.

Guns represent progress:
The invention of gunpowder occurred sometime during the mid-9th century in China. Although its potential as a weapon was seen almost immediately, it remained somewhat of a curiosity for several hundred years afterwards. A campaign doesn't need to have modern guns. Primitive matchlock weapons could make for interesting exotic weapons used by more well-to-do and higher educated warriors, representing their advancement over other ranged weapons such as the bow and arrow.

Guns are the great equalizer:
As technology progresses, guns become easier to use and much more reliable, making them ideal weapons for even the poorly trained. Even earlier on, they provide an opportunity for a character to deal larger amounts of damage than with many traditional weapons, but without any magic. For low-magic settings, this can mean an effective replacement for a lower-level wizard. Even in higher-magic settings, a spellcaster could augment their abilities by using weapons like primitive grenades to still deal comparable damage without the use of spell slots.

Why Guns Should Not Be Allowed:

Guns are not "fantasy":
Guns do not often mesh well in pure fantasy settings. In high-magic worlds, the advancement of technology is logically stunted by access to arcane solutions to daily problems. With less of a need to create devices to make their lives easier, people tend not to create as many inventions, and thus the growth of technology is slowed. In such a setting, the existence of gunpowder may not make sense, because a spellcaster could replicate all of its functions at a fraction of the cost.

Guns are deadly:
Granted, most weapons in D&D are deadly. That's what they were designed to be. Guns however deal more damage than many other weapons of a similar size, and place more emphasis on ranged combat. Players may have trouble adjusting to the shift in paradigms, especially since they are much more fragile when pitted against such weapons. A well-placed shot could easily end the life of a 1st-level character, which is more frustrating than fun.

Guns require more tracking:
Bows shoot arrows, crossbows shoot bolts and slings shoot bullets. Guns however require both ammunition and propellant, meaning that players must keep track of both. In addition, players who are used to the metric system rather than imperial measurement may find keeping track of gunpowder to be a bit more difficult, due to a lack of familiarity with ounces and pounds, which gunpowder charges are measured in.

Gunpowder Quick-Reference Guide
Container Capacity # of Shots
Firearm, single-shot 1 oz. 1
Powder horn 2 lbs. 32
Keg, gunpowder 15 lbs. 240

Gunpowder or Smokepowder?
Gunpowder isn't just a contentious subject for Dungeon Masters, as even game designers have gotten in on the argument. Although it's never been a popular subject, by 4th Edition, gunpowder and firearms were entirely removed from official material. Previous editions of the game however made alternative references to a substance called smokepowder.

Smokepowder is the exact same thing as gunpowder, but it requires a spellcaster to create it, as it is a magical item. One pound of smokepowder can be bought for 25 gp, and requires that the creator have the Craft Wondrous Item feat as well as 9 or more ranks in Craft (alchemy).

Aside from costing more than mundane gunpowder, the added requirement that a spellcaster must create it means that using smokepowder in place of gunpowder is a simple way of helping to limit the use of firearms while still making them available.

More information about smokepowder can be found in the supplement Magic of Faerûn.

Including Gunpowder in Your Campaign
So, you've weighed the pros and cons and decided that you're going to include gunpowder in your next campaign. There are many ways to introduce it to your campaign. Here are a few ideas:

In settings where guns are extremely rare, this method works best. Guns exist, but are not available to the world at large. They may be curiosities, prototypes, or perhaps even relics of a bygone era. Whatever the case, most people are aware of the existence of guns, but their working knowledge of the weapons is somewhat lacking. In settings where guns are rarities, proficiency with them can be obtained with the Exotic Weapon Proficiency (firearms) feat.

The invention of gunpowder in your campaign is relatively new. Few alchemists are aware of the secret of manufacture, but those that are experiment with it endlessly, many causing unintended fires and explosions along the way. Gunpowder exists, but guns have not yet been developed. Instead, primitive bombs and smoke bombs, as well as some kinds of fireworks are available, but at great cost. In settings where gunpowder has just been invented, guns are unavailable and explosive weapons cost 150% of the normal cost.

Big Guns:
Guns are somewhat common, but are still considered to be more of a surprise weapon than something that can be counted on in a fight. Cannons and mortars have become common in large armies, and most siege engineers are familiar with their use. Noblemen and high-priced bodyguards may carry a small pistol on their persons in case of attack, and some extremely wealthy armies have begun experimenting with lines of soldiers armed with muskets.

It seems that just about every farmer has a musket in his cottage, and new developments are being made all the time. Inventions like rifling (grooves added to the inside of a gun barrel) and bayonets may be available and most armies are well equipped with the weapons. In settings where guns are commonplace, proficiency with them can be obtained with the Martial Weapon Proficiency (firearms) feat.

Other things to consider:
You may want to also consider other factors. Perhaps only one country, race or church has the secret of gunpowder. They may share this knowledge, or keep a monopoly on the substance, selling to anyone with enough coin. Guns may also be seen as taboo, and the use of one may cause people to fear or even attack the user as a result. Many small details can be thought of to give new spins to this technology and in turn make your campaign more memorable.

Gunpowder in Existing Campaign Settings
Many campaign settings already have an established history of gunpowder. Here are just a few settings where guns are available to player characters:

On Krynn, gunpowder was invented by the tinker gnomes and used in some of their madcap devices. During the Age of Mortals it was used by the Solamnic knight Sir Jaymes Markham to create large explosives in order to defend his homelands from a barbarian horde.

Forgotten Realms:
Within Kara-Tur, the gunpowder has been available for centuries, often used in fireworks and similar projectiles. The gnomes of Lantan were also given the knowledge to create gunpowder by the god Gond following the Time of Troubles. Gunpowder is still extremely rare outside of those lands.

Gunpowder has not yet been discovered on Oerth, but paladins of Murlynd can learn the secret of creating and using gunpowder, bullets and firearms (which they refer to as firebrands; see the Secret of the Firebrands feat in Dragon Magazine #306). The steps for creating these weapons are kept as a secret of the church. It's only Murlynd's focus on otherworldly technology that makes this extraordinary achievement possible.

Legend of the Five Rings:
Gunpowder, also known as gaijin pepper was made illegal in Rokugan after the Battle of White Stag. Invented by the Alhundro family, it has spread throughout the Empire. Beyond its use in the fireworks of the Phoenix clan, it is also secretly utilized by the Scorpion, Crane and Mantis clans, as well as by ninjas throughout the empire.

In the Savage Coast setting, a gunpowder analogue can be created by an alchemist using vermeil and steel seed, both objects that can only be found in the Haze, the area where this setting takes place. Firearms and gunpowder only function within the Haze and do not ignite if removed.

Many of the Domains of Dread have a level of technology comparable to the Victorian era, and thus have guns. In Dementlieu, Lamordia and Mordent, they are quite common, while in domains like Borca and Richemulot, they are less so. Most players should have access to guns, depending on where they hail from. After all, it's a lot easier to try to kill a werewolf with a silver bullet than it is with a silver arrow.

Since phlogiston connects many worlds together, it's inevitable that goods from more technologically advanced areas would make their way around through trade. Gunpowder and firearms are generally available within the setting. In fact, the mercenary giff enjoy using gunpowder so much that they've been known to accept payment in it in lieu of traditional coin.

Alternate Rule: Cauterizing
Gunpowder burns very fast, which makes it a useful, but not particularly desirable tool to help stop bleeding. A wound can be cauterized by placing a small amount of gunpowder on a wound, and then setting it alight. Although it is painful, it can help stop bleeding wounds when a healer is unavailable.

It takes a standard action to place 1 ounce of gunpowder on the injured person and another standard action to light the gunpowder. Both actions provoke attacks of opportunity. Doing so deals 1 point of fire damage to the injured, but any bleeding that they are experiencing is stopped, as if a successful Heal check had been made on them.

That's it for this installment. Next time we'll look at a rough timeline of gunpowder evolution along with some new feats and fantasy firearms that can be incorporated into your campaign.

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