Weekly Design Blog #27: Fireworks, Firearms, and Firework-Firearms in Steampunk Musha

Hello All,

And Happy (Belated) Fourth of July for our American readers!

Yesterday's attempts by our patriots to blow up little pieces of America in honor of it's "birthday" inspired me to talk a little bit about what I've tasked Ismael Alvarez with in "how to write up firearms for SpM." Ish is the one I have tasked with 'collecting' existing materials on all things weapons, feats, and spells for SpM and I'm having him model an entire chapter in the Player's Guide on the one from (as yet unreleased) Shadows over Vathak's Player's Guide.

While that book hasn't released yet, I had set up that firearms section to deal with a specific kind of "idea" for how popular firearms on Vathak, and it has to do with some ideas introduced in my Call to Arms: Pistols & Muskets book. There, I made the assumpting that existing rules for "early firearms" written by Paizo Publishing in their Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Combat book defaulted to using the fairly late developed "flintlock firing mechanism" and so I included "earlier" mechanisms like the matchlock, wheellock, and snaphaunce, as well as the later-but-not-quite-advanced-firearm percussion caplock.

From the SoV book itself...

Firearms in Shadows over Vathak

What follows are additional rules for using firearms in your Shadows over Vathak game. While being based on the rules originally presented in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Combat book, they are modified with added rules taken from the Fat Goblin Games’ Call to Arms: Pistols & Muskets book.

There are a number of real-world aspects of especially early firearms that are glossed over in the rules for firearms as presented in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Combat that add a bit of grittiness to a Shadows over Vathak game. For one, early black powder weapons produce enormous amounts of acridic smoke that blinds the gunner as much as their enemy. It was easy to spot in well-lit conditions where a shot was fired from, and in darkness the muzzle flash of a black powder weapon would be even more noticeable. Also, the intense sound of a black powder weapon could be almost deafening, and mounts and soldiers alike would run in fear of the sight, sound and smell of a firearm unless they were accustomed to it. Additionally, black powder in particular was made from mostly solid fuel sources and as such left a lot of residue after each shot being fired. Most of these optional rules are presented below.

While full rules are presented for black powder and the weapons most commonly used in the lands of Vathak, gamemasters and players looking for even greater variety should look into not only the Call to Arms: Pistols & Muskets book, but also its companion pieces, Call to Arms: Fireworks & Primitive Firearms for a wide variety of weapons that use explosive powders as their primary source of power, and Call to Arms: Torch & Flame which gives a detailed look at using humanoid kind’s earliest tool and oldest weapon, fire. Both are excellent sources for additional tools and toys to defeat the Old Ones and their Spawn.

What you end up with then are a wider range of firearms than the simple division between "early" and "advanced." The advanced weapons, like the revolver, do and will have a place in both the Shadows over Vathak setting as well as Steampunk Musha, but they represent actual advancements and thus are significantly more expensive than more common firearms.

In Steampunk Musha, this circumstance parallels real-world history (discussed somewhat in last weeks blog post), as the Portuguese introduced an early matchlock style firearm to the Japanese in 1550, but during its long time of isolation, these tanegashima firearm saw significantly slower development than what occurred outside Japan, so that when Mathew Perry in 1854, the firearms possessed and created natively in Japan were downright primitive compared to Minié and repeating rifles of the American Civil War-era. Feel free to read-up on the history of firearms in Japan, as you'll see many parallels.

The Metatron recently did an unboxing video about the tanegashima arquebus, and is sure to do some more videos on his weapon soon.

In the SoV PG, I included options so that, for instance, the heavily handicapped "snaphaunce musket" was inexpensive and commonplace -- the kind of firearm every farmer in Vathak might own (10-20 gp), and they are treated as simple weapons for proficiency. The standard "flintlock musket" would be affordable, but represents the standard-issue weapon of soldiers (~100 gp) and treated as martial proficiencies along with their more expensive counterparts, the "caplock musket" (1,000+ gp).

Firearms like the single shot "military pistol" and "military rifle" are advanced weapons, requiring exotic weapon proficiencies, and more expensive ammunition as they both fire metal casing ammo.

For Steampunk Musha, there is going to be a disparity between "weapons made on Rosuto-Shima" and "imported firearms," with the majority of the locally made weapons being affordable but "primitive" with firework-like firearms (like the fire lance) being exceedingly common and requiring no proficiency to use (as alchemical weapons), and simple proficiency for handgonnes to matchlock muskets to snaplock weapons and even maybe some kind of clockwork-like design (based on wheellocks) representing the "height" of Rosuto-Shima design prior to the opening of the country. Imported firearms will be costly and exotic, represented mostly as advanced firearms. Some rare companies in Rosuto-Shima will be "producing" things like revolvers, but they will cost as much as the imports and people will debate the value of a foreign vs. native-made pistol. 

If you really can't wait to see, pick up a copy of my various Call to Arms books on the subject. We'll be introducing a few "world-specific" rules and examples, as well as designing options for classes like the gunslinger that "make sense" of the varying types of weapons available.

Overall, as we did on Vathak, we're hoping to make firearms and important part of Steampunk Musha without making them the "only viable option" in the game to play with. 

Lucus Palosaari, Editor & Project Manager at Fat Goblin Games (Like us on Facebook!



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