"Why is it SO HARD to design solid gun damage mechanics in a traditional RPG game?"
I asked myself this while I was pondering the effectiveness of a gun my character invented in a friend's Pathfinder game. In my mind a bullet means you die or at least are incapacitated. I'm dealing d10s with it and it reloads like crossbow (mechanics wise) thanks to some design improvement and creative GMing. It got me thinking- can guns effectively be balanced into a RPG setting? (Fantasy or otherwise)
First I decided that I needed to find out just how many wounds a man can take before they go down. Figuring that out I'd do some funky math to see if I could average out HPs for characters across the board, then divide it by the number of wounds a man could take (on average) before they went down. I'd try to find a dice size that reflected the average damage and go from there. Sounded good in theory. (At least to ball-park the damage size)
I did some research and in the end came up with a very interesting finding from the FBI Firearms Training Unit.
Conclusions from Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness, a Department of Justice report by the FBI Firearms Training Unit
Physiologically, no caliber or bullet is certain to incapacitate any individual unless the brain is hit. Psychologically, some individuals can be incapacitated by minor or small caliber wounds. Those individuals who are stimulated by fear, adrenaline, drugs, alcohol, and/or sheer will and survival determination may not be incapacitated even if mortally wounded.
The will to survive and to fight despite horrific damage to the body is commonplace on the battlefield, and on the street. Barring a hit to the brain, the only way to force incapacitation is to cause sufficient blood loss that the subject can no longer function, and that takes time. Even if the heart is instantly destroyed, there is sufficient oxygen in the brain to support full and complete voluntary action for 10-15 seconds.
Kinetic energy does not wound. Temporary cavity does not wound. The much discussed "shock" of bullet impact is a fable and "knock down" power is a myth. The critical element is penetration. The bullet must pass through the large, blood bearing organs and be of sufficient diameter to promote rapid bleeding. Penetration less than 12 inches is too little, and, in the words of two of the participants in the 1987 Wound Ballistics Workshop, "too little penetration will get you killed." Given desirable and reliable penetration, the only way to increase bullet effectiveness is to increase the severity of the wound by increasing the size of hole made by the bullet. Any bullet which will not penetrate through vital organs from less than optimal angles is not acceptable. Of those that will penetrate, the edge is always with the bigger bullet.
(Note: I also read quite a bit from a thread on a forum called "The Firing Line" (http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=397189) among other sources. This was a very interesting thread and contained the above snip-it)
So... how can we reflect this in a game? I like working with the d20 mechanics and most of us are familiar with them (those who have read this blog for a while know I love me d100s though... or reading of animal entrails...)
Based on what I can find dexterity should play a roll and the weapon should have a very high crit. (x3?) but low crit range. (19-20 should do it). Ammo should be a very big factor (especially in modern settings). A standard shot from a .22 can drop a man just like a well placed blow can devastate someone. One of the factors they keep going back to however is internal damage (especially when talking about hollow points).
I'm not 100% on how to do this but I do find it interesting. It's like trying to balance a gun in a knife fight- the "great equalizer" it's intentionally easy to use (point, click, BOOM) and deadly even in the hands of an amateur (though more so in the hands of an expert). If you've got any ideas yourself- please post them up in the comment's section!
If we are looking at old-school guns (like muskets) they where notoriously hard to aim (until the advent of rifling) and the took a while to re-load. One way to do it is to employ a high/low scenario with guns. VERY high damage but VERY long reload time.
"A skilled unit of musketeers was able to fire three rounds per minute when drilled. An experienced individual could manage four rounds a minute if firing at will, such as in a skirmish situation" (That came from Wikipedia but I've heard similar figures elsewhere)
That means that if we divide the 60 second in a min by the 5 shots per min we get 12 seconds. If I recall correctly, in pathfinder a turn represents about 6 in-game seconds. Two move actions would be quite the reload time. A normal reload time is 1 move action for a hand or light crossbow or a full-round action for a heavy crossbow. (With the "rapid reload feat" they can be a free and a move respectively) Two standard actions to load (1 with Rapid Reload) would be a LONG time but if the damage was high enough it might be viable. The damage would have to be twice that of a heavy crossbow as a result and we can a little for the risk.
Damage (Small): 1d8
Damage (Medium): 1d10
Cost: 10gp* (Up to GM)
Damage (Small): 2d8
Damage (Medium): 2d10
Notes: Takes 2 standard actions to reload. (1 with rapid reload)
1d10 becomes 2d10 for the double reload and the x2 becomes an x3 for the risk. It is meant to represent a headshot or other critical area (hit to the heart, ect)
Now modern guns are also something that we should conciser. Can a M16 REALLY not kill someone with a nice tight grouping? Comment and lets talk about it! :D