Mortars & Miniguns: Zane’s Guide to Shotguns (5e)
This pdf depicting rifles 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 begin with the general gun rules herein: Basically, on a natural 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. You can also purchase everything AR15 related to make sure that your weapons do not jam quite often. 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 12-guage shells, costs 50 gp per pack…and fails to specify how many shells are included per package, which puts a crucial flaw within the base ammo-rules of the pdf. Bullets cannot be recovered after being fired, unlike other pieces of ammunition. Most shotguns are simple ranged weapons, though monster and unbarrelled shotguns are classified as martial ranged weapons, just fyi. All shotguns may only fire single shots.
So that would be the basics – so let’s take a look at the 6 types of shotgun provided! The first thing you’ll note would be that shotguns, no matter the specific type, deal 4d4 base damage, rendering them,d amage-output-wise the most reliable of the guns featured in the series and on par with automatic guns/rifles. A second aspect you’ll note, though, is that the guns obviously have a much shorter range: Double-barreled shotguns, monster shotguns and pump shotguns clock in at 40/160, whereas the other shotguns get a range of 30/120. All shotguns receive a bonus of +1 to attack rolls versus enemies within 10 feet and fire scattershots. This property means that they only inflict 1/2 damage at long range and additionally, when your attack roll is 15-20, you gain a second attack versus a creature within 5 feet of the target as long as you have line of sight. On the downside, on an attack roll of 1-2, you must make such an attack versus an ally within 5 feet of the target. Since these additional attacks represent shrapnel etc., they do not consume ammunition. A crucial diversifying tool for shotguns would be the ammo capacity: While a combat shotgun has 12, double-barrels (and sawed-offs) only have 2 (obviously), monster shotguns 4, pump shotguns 6 and underbarrels 6.
Reliability is a big deal for this weapon class: Combat shotguns malfunction on a 1-2, paying for the ammo rating, while all other shotguns are reliable and thus are not prone to malfunctions. All models but the sawed-off shotgun are two-handed weapons, with the monster shotgun also being classified as heavy. The underbarrel shotgun fails to specify anything in that regard, but instead features the “Reliable”-rules entry twice, making me suspect an unnecessary cut-copy-paste error. Underbarrel shotguns may be attached as an action to other two-handed firearms – which per se is no issue, but I do believe that making the composite weapon heavy would have made sense here. All shotguns but the combat shotgun suffer from slow reload, i.e. you may only move 1/2 your speed while reloading. Monster shotgun, pump shotgun and underbarrel also feature a slow rate of fire (with the other shotguns having that limit imposed by ammo), allowing you to fire no more than 2 shots a round. both sawed-off shotguns and monster shotguns have a nasty recoil and thus require Strength 14 to properly use. Two-barrel and sawed-off shotguns allow you to empty both barrels in one attack, increasing base damage to 6d4. Monster shotguns are even more reliable regarding damage output: You may reroll any number of damage dice and keep the new result making them slightly too strong when compared to the other shotguns, in spite of the increased price.
All right, so that would be the basic rules-framework for shotguns, so what do the magical iterations provide? Well, Breaching Enforcers attack doors and gates at +2 and inflict 4d8 base damage versus such obstacles instead, allowing for a significantly higher chance to exceed the damage threshold. The Butcher is a monster shotgun that allows you to expect any number of rounds loaded when firing: For each round beyond the first, you add +1 to attack rolls and +1d4 to damage…which is imho pretty OP for an uncommon shotgun priced at 4K…Even within the increased damage output paradigm of the series, +3 to atk is a pretty big deal. In case you were wondering: Yes, the pdf does contain the elemental bonus damage type of guns…you know, +1d6 lightning damage, on a roll of 6 with this bonus damage. Anyways, the engine does not specify whether this bonus damage may be rerolled via e.g. the monster shotgun’s stopping power ability or not. I like Dragon’s Breath, which may be used as a kind of flamethrower once, regenerating this power at dawn (NOT on a short r long rest) – though I am not sure whether it’s intended to consume a round or not; I assume the latter.
Daring Bombardier, a double-barrel, lets you fire a grapeshot, which sends a ball of shrapnel anywhere within long range, detonating there for 4d8 damage in a 20-foot sphere, half damage on a DC 16 Dex save. My big issue here: No attack roll required. I get the intent, sure…but to me, this still feels like it ought to have one. The legendary frost hammer is a monster shotgun that gets +2 to atk and damage and inflicts +2d6 cold damage. The gun has 6 charges, one of which you can expend to paralyze a foe that fails a Strength saving throw (with proper immunity/resistance)-caveat. Attacks versus such iced in foes with the hammer that hit are automatically critical hits. The ability’s called “Kill it with Ice”, just fyi -the pdf is suffused with amusing ability names like this and generally is a pretty nice read. I am not the biggest fan of hard gamble – the gun allows you to take up to -3 to atk and increase the amount of numbers that are treated as critical hits by a similar amount. The wording is slightly awkward and -1 to atk is not really an adequate payoff here…particularly for a rare shotgun that inflicts +2d4 on crits. Oh, and it’s a sawed-off, which means is may fire both barrels at once.
Horde Control has 5 charges and a special, better, magical form of scatter shot that lets you determine 2 – 6 within 30 feet. You spend 1 round of ammo and make separate attack rolls for each, but ignore scattershot’s benefits for the attack. I like the idea here…but even at legendary scarcity, this is very strong. Also: Why not say “up to 6 creatures” and instead feature the somewhat confusing 2 – 6 (which implies rolling 2d3). But I’m admittedly nitpicking here. Incredible Gemini would be a set of two sawed off shotguns (price for both or each?) that grant additional benefits to the respective other gun when its twin hits. Which is nice. However, it opens up again the clusterf*** about TWFing sans attunement…since yep, that unlock is actually one of the attunement-based abilities granted…though, again, rules-language could be clearer: They “can be used for two-weapon fighting” – why not work within the rules paradigms and instead opt for this type of wording? Nemesis has various configurations that allow it to inflict more damage versus a creature type -it deals +3d6 (!!!) versus said targets, but only half versus other types…making it damage-wise unbalanced…and, alas, nonfunctional. Why? Well, the gun notes that it can be set to other configurations with an action, which is very easy re action economy. Additionally, the text mentions 4 other configurations, but the gun lists 6. So does one nemesis only have 5? No idea. Rageorade gains charges for killing foes…which means you can use its benefits indefinitely with sufficient bags of fluffy kittens to blow apart. Fail, next.
Savage Jacob deals +1d4 damage when one or more damage dice show a 4. Seventh Hell accumulates charges on each foe hit and upon reaching 7, its next shot also detonates in a 6d6 10-ft.-fireball. Can someone get me kittens, I need to recharge my gun’s fireball ability… On the cool side, charge-based firing of caltrops is a cool idea. Zombie-B-Gone is pretty OP for 9K: It ignores an resistance or immunities undead have.
The pdf also sports feats: The previously-covered Guns Akimbo for dual wielding (since sawed-offs are not light, the benefits remain complicated…) and Shotgun Expert. The latter feat decreases Strength-requirements for recoil by 3, increases range by 10 ft. and eliminates disadvantage on ranged attack when within 5 ft. of a foe. Oh, and bonus action can be used to reload a single round. Unlike previous expert-feats, I consider this one to be pretty solid. The shotgun fighting style lets scattershot activate on a 14+ and only lets you hit allies on a 1. The pdf also sports the Path of the Rage Gunner for the barbarian class: At 3rd level, you add rage damage bonus to any of your gun attacks (because they really needed to inflict more damage); at 6th level, you may hold one-handed or two-handed weapons in one hand while raging, allowing you to TWF two-handed weapons…which is a huge clusterf*** when combined with the Dual Wielder/Guns Akimbo and TWFing rules…but at least a cool visual. At 10th level, things get weird: When you roll 18+ on an attack roll with a gun, you immediately get an extra attack with that gun. Not a fan, considering that may players are insanely lucky and testing this rule, we once had a completely emptied combat shotgun in one round. One further issue: Does the attack still require ammo? I do believe so, but considering that the system does feature exceptions…not sure. At 14th level, crits you inflict cause any foe within 20 ft to need to succeed a Wisdom save or become frightened.
Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, but on a rules-level, there are a lot of small issues that accumulate. 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 for your convenience. As a minor nitpick, one page is almost empty – that does not feature in the final verdict, but in case you’re particular about that kind of stuff, you may want to know.
Georgios Chatzipetros’ guide to shotguns is interesting from a design perspective. Considering that full auto fire already allows for AoE attacks with guns, I applaud the notion of going for a different route with scattershot. At the same time, the result is wonky. My experience with the gun-rules championed by One Dwarf Army shows a significant amount of damage increase over the medieval ranged weapons, which I take as an intended design goal. At the same time, though, shotguns provide an almost insane escalation of damage. Scattershot takes up a lot of time due to the additional rolls involved and that is before the magical properties hit. The reliable damage output combined with the significant potential for a crap-ton of additional targets hit means that damage can escalate to really painful levels. Additionally, the glitches in the engine, from ammunition to the reroll-question and the TWFing means that there are a lot of open questions here. Add to that failed kitten tests and similar design-issues and we have a pdf that may not be all bad, but requires some polish to properly shine. While the more than fair, low price point makes this still a viable purchase, it is not one I can recommend – you need to do some design fixing and streamlining when using these guns. Hence, I cannot go higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2.
You can get this inexpensive pdf here on OBS!
You can get all the Mortars & Miniguns-material here!