Nov 052012
 

I’ve touched on Warbows and Murder Strikes so far, but this week, we’re going to take a look at something a bit more advanced; gunpowder weapons firing balls of lead. Although these are a lot less prevalent in fantasy RPGs, I do know they exist, as well as in Pirate themed action and adventure games. Feel free to take as much or as little of this advice to apply to your own games, as some of it may be a little too real, and could take away from the fun of it all.

Because these weapons are far from common, and most fantasy games prefer to stick closer to a late medieval time frame, if they do show up, most people don’t actually know too much about them. Lets start with some basics then. Loading the weapon – and for this I am assuming that the barrel has not been rifled - takes a professional soldier whom has been drilled extensively, roughly twenty seconds. Feel free to work out how many combat rounds that is, and then decide you probably don’t care that much for realism in this subject. I don’t blame you, but if you are going to shorten that time, don’t make it too silly. Allow for well trained characters to take feats or advantages to reduce this some. Just remember, what the character is doing is dangerous, and rushing leads to mistakes, which could lead to severe trauma and death.

The reason for this is that you will setting off a small explosion in a narrow space very close indeed to your face. Even when it works fine, expect to have a soot blackened face, with pock marked scars from the black powder in the priming pan. Also, be very careful with the ramrod: grip it with finger tips and not a fist. If you get an accidental ignition, life’s easier with shorter fingers than no hand.

Once loaded, the gun is usually fired immediately. This is because the ball will not be lodged firmly in the barrel, and holding the gun pointed vaguely downwards could allow it to roll out. Even too much jostling before firing will dislodge the shot and mean that it will not receive the full force of the explosion, exiting the barrel at sub-optimal velocity. There are ways round this, but they are not risk free. You could force a lump of drying mud or clay down the barrel to hold the shot and powder in place. If it’s too dry, it will have little effect, coming loose just as easily; too wet and you run the risk of getting the powder damp and causing a misfire and a blockage. This will destroy the weapon, and do considerable damage to its wielder.

When fired, an Indian Long Pattern musket or pistol was horrifically inaccurate. At the battle of Waterloo alone, based on rounds fired, less than 5% hit their target. The pistols were only accurate at incredibly short ranges: typical duels at twenty paces were called off with honour satisfied if three rounds were fired by each participant and none hit. This happened more than you would think. In battle, the muskets were only effective in volley fire, and even then, only at close range. Holding fire “’til you see the whites of their eyes” was very good advice, as firing early was a great way to waste powder and shot. the reason for this was the shot was a lot smaller than the barrel, and when fired would have plenty of room to rattle along inside it before coming out in the vague direction it was pointed.

The way around this was to rifle the barrel. You know that great of James Bond as seen down the barrel of a gun, that looks like a camera? The lines you see are the rifling. This is done to put a spin on the round, making it travel in a straighter line through the air. To be truly effective however, the round needs to fit the barrel much tighter. Before advances in weapon design and the invention of cartridge shots, the way to do this was to wrap the ball in leather. The grooves would grip the material, spinning the round as it left the barrel, drastically increasing accuracy and allowing for sharp shooters.

If you plan on playing a character who uses a black powder weapon, I would strongly suggest you find a rifle rather than a musket. It makes you significantly more effective without forcing you to join in the volley fire. In realistic terms, the disadvantage of this was a longer reload time, as the shot would have to be forced down the barrel because of the firmer fit. For the sake of fun, this can easily be ignored though. Since these weapons would be hand made, the basic weapon would certainly be a musket, and a rifle would be a master-crafted affair.

If you’re the GM it might also be an idea to assume that your player characters armed with firearms know how to maintain them. Keeping track of how often they strip the weapon to clear powder from the touch holes, how regularly the change the flint to ensure a spark, and how clean they keep the grooves of the burning leather that sticks inside them.

One final note now, on bayonets. They are usually socket mounted, meaning they can be taken on and off in a few seconds by someone with experience, and act similar to spears in close combat. Their added benefit is that they can be wielded as knives, with the longer bayonets used on rifles closer in length to a short sword. If you have an entire unit equipped with these weapons, they could all fix bayonet and form square, holding them pointed outwards like a very pointy wall. Although effectively stalling them, and making it harder to load and fire, no horse, no matter how experienced its rider, will willingly charge at the square.

I hope some of the above was useful to you, and please remember that all of the above is optional, and if you would rather ignore it, I take no offense at all. I’m just happy to get any chance to use my History degree…

Nov 022012
 

 

I love a good blog carnival, and with the nights drawing in here it seems fitting to join in with this one, hosted by the lovely people at Dice Monkey. The premise is a simple one, just something that can be used in RPG with a winter theme. With that in mind, I have decided to explore some of the perils of winter in a Neo-Victorian horror setting: one of my favourites. Although I’m sure there’s plenty of fun to be had as the nights draw in, my mind turns to the things take advantage of the shadows.

The Nights are Getting Longer. That means that there’s more time for skulking nocturnal predators to hunt. Feral vampires that stalk the Underground for victims are seen more and more on the streets. The chittering and howling that warns that they are close all the more prevalent, as well to do folks hide inside with a roaring fire. The man of the house leaning forward to increase the gramophone volume to better drown out the screams of pain.

Even more worrying is the threat of the cognisant leeches  They know how to blend in with polite society, and can been seen at early evening gatherings instead of only turning up late at the Gentleman’s club. The long dark helping to protect their identity as mass murderers and agents of corruption.

Snow Mixed with Smog. Pollution is what London breathes as it pumps through the engines and industry of this Modern age. Walking out without a full face respirator is a sure way to enter the grave early, and in considerable pain. But as the toxic filth in the air, solid as soot, mixes with the icy precipitation, it enters the water table. Gets in the eyes. Covers the homeless as they lay sleeping in dark alleys… Come the morning it looks almost beautiful, as it settles white with no pollutants to stain it. Within hours though, it is a grey sludge, covering everyone who walks through it, seeping into clothing through the smallest of gaps, and melting to reveal the corpses of those who met their ends during the night…

Hunger. With winter shutdown for most factories, and the spirit of giving and philanthropy put on hold for a season of indulgent excess, those on the lowest rungs of the social ladder find it the hardest to keep their families fed. At night, in the pitch darkness, the Ghouls hold their meat markets. For a few coins, a bag of greying flesh can be purchased, taken from hands that more resemble claws. It’s probably a bad idea to question its providence. At this time of year, you’re lucky to get hold of horse meat, but somehow the Ghouls can always provide. And next winter, there will likely be a few more of their number, though they cannot reproduce…

Silence. The snow and the fog muffle all noises in the city. For those in the west end, with manor houses and high walls topped by barbed fences, this is a luxury. The sounds of industry hidden from their delicate ears. For others, it allows the predators of the city to move unheard. To get right up behind you, so the first things you notice are the breathe at the nape of your neck, and the cold steal tickling your Adam’s apple. And with footsteps muffled by fresh snow fall – your sight and hearing hindered by thick fog – you get no warning at all as hands more bone than flesh take you firmly by the collar, and teeth close around your skin with inhuman strength….

Winter is coming, it’s going to be a dark one.

Nov 012012
 

I have a seen a lot Kickstarters recently, some that work, some that don’t, some that never had a chance to fail, some that staggered belief in their far reaching goals. This week though, the crowd funding platform went live this side of the pond, and a lot of gamers I know, myself included, are looking at it as a way of getting our ideas into other people’s hands. Come the end of NaGa DeMon I will hopefully have something ready to get play tested, and start thinking about doing some real formatting and art for it.

The ground is currently being tested by the great chaps at 6D6 who have launched their Kickstarter as soon as they were able to. I imagine a load of people will be keeping a very close eye on this to see how it goes for them. I wish I could do more than just watch from the sidelines, and if you have the cash, I advise you take a swing on this one. The offers they have are fantastic, with a whole bunch of stuff available for very little expenditure. And the six month offer is frankly inspired. Get on over there now, and check them out.

Now, I don’t usually do this kind of blog post, and please don’t get cross me with me. I am getting nothing for doing this apart from a nice warm feeling that one of my readers might put some money their way, and when they fund – and I get a real job – I will be able to find this awesome product in my FLGS. Just for the record, i would totally go for the Zombie pack…