Mortars & Miniguns: Zane’s Guide to Pistols (5e)
This pdf depicting pistols for 5e clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page foreword/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page almost blank (only a small part of a sentence is on it, so I’m counting it as blank), leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
After a brief introduction, we are introduced to the general gun rules herein: Basically, on a 1 on an attack roll, a weapon jams and can’t be used until you spend an action to clear it. Guns as portrayed here have a rate of fire – a single shot is just that. A burst of fire consumes 3 rounds of ammo, but adds +1 damage die to the damage output of the weapon – 2d6 become 3d6, for example. This increased power, however, also means that the weapon can jam on a 1-2. Finally, there would be full auto fire, which allows you to target a single 10-ft. cube within long range: Every creature in the area must succeed a Dexterity saving throw (DC 8+ your Dexterity modifier, + proficiency bonus, if any) or suffer the weapon’s damage on a failed save, none on a successful save. Creatures beyond the normal range have advantage on the save, which mathematically and logic-wise makes sense. Saves in 5e are pretty swingy and advantage somewhat alleviates this. Auto fire consumes 10 rounds of ammo and most weapons cannot perform more than one such shot, even if you otherwise would be capable of attacking multiple times. Auto also can jam the weapon on a 1-3.
Additionally, every weapon has an ammo score, which denotes the number of pieces of ammo it can hold before requiring reloading, which consumes an action. Guns can prematurely be reloaded. The pricing for the ammo is pretty pricey, btw. – the least expensive bullets, for .38-guns, costs 30 gp per 50 bullets, which renders this ammunition significantly more expensive than e.g. crossbow bolts or arrows (1 gp nets you 20 of those, in case you need a direct comparison). One minor nitpick that won’t feature in the rating of this product: While the PHB states that half the ammo fired can be retrieved after a battle, this obviously shouldn’t hold true for gun ammunition. It would have behooved the pdf well to mention that, but since logic is a pretty smooth guideline here, I’ll let that one slip.
The pdf then goes on to depict the classic guns – a total of 7 such guns are depicted, all with a nice bit of in-character prose by Zane Ironheart, dwarven mercenary. Since the gun-rules obviously are a tad bit more complicated than the base weapon rules, each of the weapons gets a short mini table listing its respective quality, making presentation of autoloader, combat magnum, etc. pretty concise. And better yet – there also is a classic at a glance table in the PHB’s style. No complaints! Most guns depicted here are simple ranged weapons that range in damage from 2d4 to 2d6, but vary in the details: Autoloaders are light weapons, whereas hand cannons do not suffer from malfunctions and allow you to move only up to half your speed while reloading…but these get the option to reroll the lowest damage die and keep the new result. Mini-shottys get +1 to attack rolls versus foes up to 10 feet away, but deal only half damage at close range. To make up for that, their scattershot also allows you to make bonus attacks against a creature within 5 ft. of the original target when scoring a 15-20; on the downside, this goes both ways and, when botching, you can similarly be forced to make attacks versus allies – friendly fire. One important balancing factor here would also be Heavy Recoil – the more efficient of these weapons have a minimum Strength score – not meeting this score means you’ll suffer disadvantage on attack rolls. OUCH. Cool, btw.: It makes a difference for the purposes of this drawback whether you one-hand or two-hand-wield the gun.
So what do the martial guns provide? Well, for one, the machine gun gets burst fire and full auto, even if the other traits aren’t that impressive and the one-shot express…shoots basically one round and then is toast…so make it count. So that would be the basic framework.
After this, the pdf goes on to depict “the exotic stuff” – i.e. a collection of diverse magic guns – interestingly, not just sporting a general scarcity, but also providing a more fine-grained value, which is a nice touch for control-freak bastard GMs like me. Now the respective items run quite a broad gamut: There would be an autoloader that allows you to mark a foe as a bonus action, gaining +2 to attack and damage rolls versus said foe, whereas a mini-shotty deals +1d4 damage on a damage die roll of 4…which requires a bit of clarification: On a 4 of the bonus damage, do the dice explode further? Better sniping via the aptly-named Bullseye. The one-shot express cannibal-gun can be enhanced by sacrificing life to it, while another gun fires corrosive bullets that have a chance of ruining a target’s armor…which is pretty interesting, particularly considering that the pdf manages to take natural armor healing into account…which heals at 2 points per day….which does not really gel well with me. Why can’t magic, regeneration and similar abilities heal this properly? More details and a more fine-grained approach would have been prudent here. Also problematic – the ability fails to take resistance or immunity into account – neither has any bearing on the corrosion of natural armor, which feels plain wrong to me.
Increased ammo-expenditure for increased damage can be found as well. A very powerful weapon, Deadly Scanner, is pretty nasty – it’s threat range for critical hits increases by +1 for each subsequent shot fired at a target, whether it hits or misses…and the gun deals bonus damage on crits. Lightning-laced six-shooters that can stun the target – on a plus-side, fyi: In contrast to aforementioned acid-based gun, resistance and immunity do feature herein, even though I consider the potential stun nasty.
However, I’m not sold on a weapon with otherwise great visuals – there is a magnum herein that deals bonus lightning damage. For each 6 on rolled on one such damage-die, a lightning bolt is created and fired at a target within 50 feet of the victim. Cool per se, right? Great image? Yep, but the effect fails to specify the precise shape of the lightning bolt: Is it a single-target-arc? A line that affects anything in the way? I have no idea. I assume the ability to adhere to the standards set by the lightning bolt-spell, but I can’t be sure considering that the pdf does not properly denote whether “lightning bolt” refers to the spell or just a bolt of lightning via either formatting or text.
The fire gun allows for no save to avoid being ignited by the shot (what happens to flammable materials carried?) and the cold gun can paralyze you. Pretty cool: There is a MIB-style thunder-damage causing legendary autoloader that has enormous recoil, while the Lucky Punk is an obvious nod to Dirty Harry – any roll of 5+ does not consume any ammo…which is pretty powerful, considering the high costs of ammo. A charge-based, life-leeching gun…there are quite some solid ideas here. A particular gun may be problematic – allowing for charges to generate basically remote bombs you can detonate is cool…but the charges can be activated as either an action or reaction, sans specifying the type of reaction. On a nitpicky side, the pdf mentions a “Heal check” here to remove charges, which is not correct 5e terminology.
The pdf also sports two new feats, Guns Akimbo and Pistol Expert. While nice, the former does not account for potential heavy firearms a GM may devise, which is a bit of a pity. Pistol Expert allows, among other things to reduce recoil and reroll1s of damage dice AND increases the reload action economy penalty, which may be a bit much for one feat. The pdf also allows for a double tap fighting style and provides the gunslinger martial archetype for the fighter, which generally can be considered a cool take on the tropes – at 15th level, you can e.g. do the Lucky Luke and take reactions to ranged attacks before the triggering ranged attack is resolved. The interesting thing of this one, mainly, is that it allows for extra control regarding attacks via luck and a bit of ability control, providing some serious bonus attack combo potential – whether you like or dislike that ultimately is up to taste.
Editing is pretty tight on both a formal and rules-level, though formatting sports some deviations from the standards – though it should be mentioned that one generally can understand what an item is supposed to do. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no artworks apart from the cover, but comes fully bookmarked fr your convenience.
Georgios Chatzipetros of One Dwarf Army’s freshman offering is much tighter than I honestly expected it to be: The basic firearm rules follow the time-honored tradition of power at a price, with ample subsets of rules to make them feel different from crossbows etc. I like the frame and the pricing is also pretty tight, with none of the clutter/issues that other systems have. That being said, at the same time, I do believe that several of the magic weapons could have used simply tighter rules. There are a couple of glitches here and the focus lies very much on MOAR damage – to the point where you can outclass all other weapon types easily. This may be an issue in mixed settings, so beware of that – a focus on more utility, less damage escalation via exploding dice-like mechanics may be prudent. And mind you, I *like* exploding dice. I’ll never forget a PC of mine blowing a moss’s head clean off with 5 consecutive maximum d10s on a musket in a previous edition, thus saving the whole group from a TPK…but in view of the small die-sizes employed, you’ll statistically get quite a bunch of rerolls/bonus damage. How and whether that still works in the context of later installments, where auto- and burst fire are more common…we’ll see.
For now, the framework is solid, the craftsmanship nice, if not yet perfect…and the price-point is more than fair. As a freshman offering, this is solid for a buck and due to this bonus, I’ll round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars for the purpose of this platform.
You can get this inexpensive pdf here on OBS!