Saturday, June 5, 2010

"Gun in a Knife Fight" (Gun damage mehcanics)

"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" ( 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.

Crosbow, Heavy

Cost: 1gp

Damage (Small): 1d8

Damage (Medium): 1d10

Crit: 19-20/x2

Range: 120

Weight: 8lbs.

Type: Penetrating

Special: --


Cost: 10gp* (Up to GM)

Damage (Small): 2d8

Damage (Medium): 2d10

Crit: 19-20/x3

Range: 120

Weight: 10lbs.

Type: Penetrating

Special: --

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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Pathfinder Homebrew: Spellbreaker Prestige Class WIP

Hay guys! I'm just messing around a bit with some of the mechanics I enjoyed from Hexblade and the "Mage Slayer" feat from 3.5's complete arcane. This is a work in progress but it's geared to be a mage killer. It sacrifices the BAB progression for a bit of a tailored feel to it. I don't know what I'll give to it spell-wise but because I made "Improved Counterspell" one of the requirements- it doesn't have to be a large list. I might even conciser just breaking it down into schools that it can learn to countersepell instead of a set spell list. I am gonna add a requirement that they never cast magic and shun it's effects. (Like trying not to use magic equipment and destroying magic when it's present) This might end up having to be a campaign specific class because it does a FANTASTIC job of dropping mages. The capstone alone pretty much invalidates all but some of the most imposing spellcasters in the game. (Then again- you'd need to be level 20 minimum for it) I might shorten this up to a 5 level prestige class- I don't know. It also has some really random requirements for a fighter to take. Anyway- here's the spellbreaker work in progress:


Hit Dice: d10


Weapon Proficiency: Must be proficient with all martial weapons.

Skills: Knowledge (Arcana) 4 ranks, Spellcraft 4 ranks

Feats: Disruptive, Spellbreaker, Improved Counterspell


Climb (Str), Knowledge (arcana) (Int), Knowledge (nobility and royalty) (Int), Linguistics (Int), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Spellcraft (Int), and Swim (Str).

Skill Points Per Level: 2 + Int modifier


Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Spellbreakers gain no proficiency with any weapon or armor.

Spell Bane: When attempting to counterspell a spell your class levels count as your caster levels.

Hatred: You deal an extra 1d6 damage to a target who cast as spell last turn. This bonus increase by 1d6 every 3 levels.

Arcane Disruption: +2 to rolls to counterspell. This bonus increases by +1 ever even level to a maximum of +8 at 10th-level.

Arcane Immunity: You get +2 to saves against spells cast on you. This bonus increases by +1 ever odd level to a maximum of +6 at 10th-level.

Mage Slayer: Targets you threaten can't cast defensively.

Arcane Nullification: A successful save against a spell or spell-like ability with a partial effect is instead negated.

Spells: A spellbreaker must know what it hunts. Though study it gains the knowledge of the workings of a number of arcane spells which are drawn from the spellbreaker spell list at the end of this entry. However, they may never cast these spells. They may only “cast” them to conterspell a target. If the spellbreaker has the ability to cast any arcane spells from a prior class- he may not cast those spells but they are added to the list of spells he may counterspell.

He may cast any spell he knows without preparing it ahead of time. To learn or cast a spell, a spellbreaker must have a Charisma score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. The Difficulty Class for a

saving throw against a spellbreaker’s spell is 10 + the spell level + the spellbreaker’s Charisma modifier.

Like other spellcasters, a spellbreaker can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day (even if it is only to counterspell them). His base daily spell allotment is the same as a Paladin's. (Page 17 of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook) In addition, he receives bonus spells per day if he has a high Charisma score.


L1- Spell Bane, Hated +1d6

L2- Arcane Disruption +2, Disruptive Blow

L3- Arcane Immunity +2

L4- Hated +2d6, Arcane Disruption +3

L5- Arcane Immunity +3, Mage Slayer

L6- Arcane Disruption +4

L7- Hated +3d6, Arcane Immunity +4

L8- Arcane Disruption +6

L9- Arcane Immunity +5

L10- Hated +4d6, Arcane Disruption +8, Arcane Nullification

BAB = Medium Progression

Saves = Will good

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pathfinder Conversion: Blackguard Prestige Class


(Click for larger version)

Hit Dice: d10


Alignment: Any evil

Base Attack Bonus: +6.

Skills: Knowledge (Religion) 2 ranks, Stealth 4 ranks

Feats: Cleave, Power Attack, Improved Sunder

Special: The character must have made peaceful contact with an evil outsider who was summoned by him or someone else.


Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Hide (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (religion) (int), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Disguise (Cha)

Skill Points Per Level: 2 + Int modifier


Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Blackguards are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, with all types of armor (heavy, medium, and light), and with shields (except tower shields).

Aura of Evil (Ex): The power of a blackguard's aura of evil (see detect evil spell) is equal to his blackguard level.

Detect Good (Sp): At will, a Blackguard can use detect good, as the spell. A blackguard can, as a move action, concentrate on a single item or individual within 60 feet and determine if it is good, learning the strength of its aura as if having studied it for 3 rounds. While focusing on one individual or object, the blackguard does not detect good in any other object or individual within range.

Poison Use (Ex): Blackguards are trained in the use of poison and cannot accidentally poison themselves when applying poison to a weapon.

Dark Blessing (Su): A blackguard gains a bonus equal to his Charisma bonus (if any) on all saving throws.

Spells: A blackguard gains the ability to cast a small number of divine spells which are drawn

from the blackguard spell list at the end of this entry. A blackguard must choose and prepare his spells in advance. To prepare or cast a spell, a blackguard must have a Charisma score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a blackguard’s spell is 10 + the spell level + the blackguard’s Charisma modifier. Like other spellcasters, a blackguard can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. His base daily spell allotment is given on Table 3–11. In addition, he receives bonus spells per day if he has a high Charisma score (see Table 1–2). When Table 2 indicates that the blackguard gets 0 spells per day of a given spell level, he gains only the bonus spells he would be entitled to based on his Charisma score for that spell level. A blackguard must spend 1 hour each day in prayer and meditation to regain his daily allotment of spells. A blackguard may prepare and cast any spell on the blackguard spell list, provided that he can cast spells of that level, but he must choose which spells to prepare during his daily meditation.

Smite Good (Su): Once per day, a blackguard can call out to the powers of his evil god to aid him in his destruction of good. As a swift action, the blackguard chooses one target within sight to smite. If this target is good, the blackguard adds his Charisma bonus (if any) to his attack rolls and adds his blackguard level to all damage rolls made against the target of his smite. If the target of smite good is an outsider with the good subtype, or a good-aligned dragon, the bonus to damage increases to 2 points of damage per level the blackguard possesses. Regardless of the target, smite good attacks automatically bypass any DR the creature might possess. In addition, while smite good is in effect, the blackguard gains a deflection bonus equal to his Charisma modifier (if any) to his AC against attacks made by the target of the smite. If the blackguard targets a creature that is not good, the smite is wasted with no effect. The smite good effect remains until the target of the smite is dead or the next time the blackguard rests and regains his uses of this ability.

Wrath (Su): At 3rd level, and every three levels thereafter, a blackguard can select one mercy. Each mercy adds an effect to the blackguard’s smite good ability. Whenever the blackguard uses smite good to deal damage to one target, the target also receives the additional effects from one of the Wraths possessed by the blackguard. The fortitude save to negate a Wrath is 10 plus the Blackguard's charisma modifier plus his number of Blackguard levels. A Wrath can impart a condition that is only temporary, rather than the full duration that a real effect would impart. Such conditions vanish after rounds equal to the Blackguard's Charisma modifier. At 3rd level, the blackguard can select from the following Wraths:

• Fatigued: The target is fatigued.

• Shaken: The target is shaken.

• Sickened: The target is sickened.

At 6th level, a blackguard adds the following mercies to the

list of those that can be selected.

• Dazed: The target is dazed.

• Staggered: The target is staggered.

At 9th level, a blackguard adds the following mercies to the

list of those that can be selected.

• Exhausted: The target is exhausted. The blackguard must have the fatigue wrath before selecting

this wrath.

• Frightened: The target is frightened. The blackguard must have the shaken wrath before selecting

this wrath.

• Nauseated: The target is longer nauseated. The blackguard must have the sickened wrath before selecting this wrath.

Aura of Despair (Su): Beginning at 3rd Level, the blackguard radiates a malign aura that causes enemies within 10 feet of him to take a -2 penalty on all saving throws. At 8th level this penalty increases to -4. This ability functions only while the blackguard is conscious, not if he is unconscious or dead.

Corrupted Blood (Su): At 3rd level, you gain the ability to resist fire (5) and a +2 bonus on saving throws made against poison.

Channel Negative Energy (Su): When a blackguard reaches 4th level, he gains the supernatural ability to channel positive energy like a cleric. A blackguard can use this a number of times equal to

1/2 his blackguard level plus her Charisma modifier. A blackguard uses his level as his effective cleric level when channeling negative energy. These level stack with cleric levels (if as a cleric they chose to channel negative energy). This is a Charisma-based ability.

Black Knight (Su): At 10th level, a blackguard becomes a conduit for the power of their unholy god. He gains DR 5/good and immunity to compulsion spells and spell-like abilities. This ability functions only while the blackguard is conscious, not if he is unconscious or dead.

Fallen Paladins

Blackguards who have levels in the paladin class (that is to say, are now ex-paladins) gain extra abilities the more levels of paladin they have. A fallen paladin who becomes a blackguard gains all of the following abilities that apply, according to the number of paladin levels the character has.


Smite good 1/day. (This is in addition to the ability granted to all blackguards at 2nd level.


A blackguard may add his levels in paladin for the purposes of channeling negative energy.


Sneak attack damage increased by +1d6. Smite good 2/day.


This character gains the “Command Undead” feat as described in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook (pg 120).


Tainted Aura of Resolve

The blackguard is immune to charm spells and spell-like abilities.

11 or more

Favored of the Dark Deities

Evil deities like nothing more than to see a pure heart corrupted and thus fallen paladins of this stature immediately gain blackguard levels for each level of paladin he trades in. For example, a character who has twelve levels of paladin can immediately becomes a 10th-level blackguard with all abilities if he chose to loose ten levels of paladin. The character level of the character does not change. This, of course, is in every way a profitable trade for the evil character since he has already lost most of the benefits he gained from having those paladin levels. However, with the loss of paladin levels, the character no longer gains as many extra abilities for being a fallen paladin. Thus, a fallen 15th-level paladin could become a 10th-level blackguard/5th-level paladin and gain the first three extra abilities on this chart because of the character's remaining five levels of paladin.

Blackguard Spell List

1st Level: Cause fear, corrupt weapon, cure light wounds, doom, inflict light wounds, magic weapon, summon monster 1*.

2nd Level: Bull's strength, cure moderate wounds, darkness, death knell, eagle's splendor, inflict moderate wounds, shatter, summon monster II*.

3rd Level: Contagion, cure serious wounds, deeper darkness, inflict serious wounds, protection from elements, summon monster III*.

4th Level: Cure critical wounds, freedom of movement, inflict critical wounds, poison, summon monster IV*.

*Evil creatures only.

Corrupt Weapon

Blackguards have access to a special spell, corrupt weapon, which is the opposing counterpart of the paladin spell bless weapon. Instead of improving a weapon’s effectiveness against evil foes corrupt weapon makes a weapon more effective against good foes.