Tales from the Gazebo – Guns in Games: Today and Tomorrow

Guns in Games: Today and Tomorrow
By Cape Rust

Well we have run the gambit of weapons throughout time. Hitting on some of the highlights, we are almost at the end of this firearm filled journey. In fact, next week we will hit the finish line! Today we will hit on modern firearms in RPGs and speculate how firearms will be used in future settings.

Modern firearms are actually easy to deal with. As a GM there are tons of sourcebooks out there that cover the use and abuse of modern guns. There are pictures of them all over the place and plenty of movies and books to reference how they are used. Now when I talk about modern guns during this article I am going to start right around WWI. Not because it is considered the dawn of modern guns, but because it is a time in gun history that I am familiar with.

When World War I began most infantrymen carried bolt action rifles that had small internal magazines. These rifles were heavy, kicked like mules and if used correctly could really reach out and touch someone. In fact the Springfield 1903 was still being used in WWII as a sniper rifle. WWI was the time when the machine gun really came into its own. Most of these machine guns were what are known today as crew served and heavy. This was the first time in history machine guns saw this much widespread use and warfare hasn’t been the same.

If you are running a game that takes place during this period, there are a few things to remember: first there were thousands of war veterans so the chance that males of military age know how to use these weapons is much higher than it would be at other times. During this time, they didn’t have the rules on war trophies that we do today so there is a good chance that several military-issue weapons from both the axis and allies are easy to come by. If you are playing a game that involves mad scientist type people, then an easy way to handle this is to incorporate man portable, reliable machine guns or personal firearms of an odd caliber, increase the magazine capacity of the standard issue rifle, or add detachable magazines to pump action shot guns – talk about a game changer!

As we move into WWII, guns had changed significantly. There were man-portable machine guns in the form of the Browning BAR and the German MG 42. WWII saw the introduction of the widespread use of submachine guns by the military as well. This greatly increased the amount of lead headed down range. The main issue battle rifles were semi-automatic and had a larger magazine capacity than their predecessors. As a GM, once you move into this territory your options for unique firearms are still there, but they become more limited as many of the weapons used in WWII are similar in function to the ones we use today. If your players are in some kind of Weird War situation, the type of damage these weapons can do can be changed to make the game more interesting and more effective. The key is to always keep the guns interesting. Give the villain an unusual weapon that is powerful and desirable for the characters to obtain. As always, keep things from becoming too overpowered. If the players are a special operations team, give them some cool weapons or at least some interesting add-ons to their weapons. Night vision was rudimentary at the time so adding a fairly decent sized night vision device to a WWII weapon would be really cool.

Moving on to post-WWII and into Vietnam and Cold War guns, innovation moved along at a steady pace until the advent of the M-16. The M-16 incorporated automatic fire and plastics into it’s construction. The term “death by Mattel” was coined during this time as some of the plastic components used in these weapons were actually produced by the toy company of the same name. The M-16 was touted as maintenance free and it was anything but. If you are running a game where early M-16s are being used, you should increase their chance of jamming, unless your characters are obsessive about keeping their weapons clean – a herculean task in a country like Vietnam. Things like night vision and under barrel grenade launchers were coming into their own during the Vietnam War, and by the time we reached the Cold War period these things were well developed. The M-16 and the AK-47 were the stars of this time period, but guns like the FN-FAL were being used quite a bit around the world. To keep things interesting, the addition of decent sized thermal scope or really high caliber sniper rifles would be out of the norm for these times. High magazine capacity automatic shotguns would be something out of the ordinary as well.

Moving into modern times, a variation of the M-16 is still in use; however, the problems of the past have been overcome and the addition of jamming chances should be reduced by the GM. Some of the biggest advances for the individual rifleman have come in the form of optics that can be mounted on those guns. There are truly futuristic designs out there and if you are trying to keep the guns from getting boring, look for these and give your players access to them. The use of things like case-less ammunition will peak your players interest. Case-less ammo does not eject brass like normal guns and has the ability to hold many more bullets than a traditional gun. The US government is experimenting with smart ammunition that can be programmed to detonate after it has entered a building, normally this type of ammo is reserved for higher caliber weapons, but it’s really cool. With the right scopes and a little skill, modern firearms are easy to learn how to use and can be quite lethal. As a GM, keep this in mind.

As we move into the future, especially the far future, guns might become things of the past as things like gauss weapons or lasers might be in fashion. In most futuristic settings I have played in, guns or traditional firearms are used in low-tech worlds or out on the rim. If this is the case, I encourage you to give these weapons some kind of ability that makes them an archaic, but effective, solution to at least a few problems your characters might encounter. This makes having one of those old school hand cannons around worth it.

Next week I will end my discussion of guns and who knows what I’ll move on to. As a GM, try to keep the guns in your game interesting by bumping them forward in time just a bit. Look at the weapons that were used in the time your game is occurring and try to learn how they functioned, just to add a little realistic flavor for your players. Even if your players are fighting undead during WWII, they still need guns to kill them right? If this is the case, a specialized zombie killing round might be just what the Dr. ordered.

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