Project 2050: The Range and Accuracy of Guns


In the first installment of Project 2050’s take on modern weapons, I talked about how guns are not going to be a complete game-changer in Project 2050. We’ve made a deliberate decision to model guns on the existing and suitable bows and crossbows mechanic. Obviously, there are differences, but from a game mechanics perspective those differences are mainly perception. Despite 5e’s DMG and what we all learned watching ‘Die Hard’ movies, guns are not as effective as Hollywood makes them out to be. (Nor as ineffective, depending on the needs of the story!)

First, we’re going to stick with the two categories of weapons established by 5e, so there will be two categories of guns, ‘Martial’ and ‘Simple’. Clearly there’s no spectacular difference between a gun designed for the average person and one designed for the military; that’s obviously not what 5e intends with those designations. ‘Simple’ weapons are weapons with which the average person can be expected to be familiar, and to use competently. ‘Martial’ weapons are those which are only familiar to soldiers. The average farmer or woodsman will be familiar with a light bow – he uses it to put rabbits in a pot; and the average person will be familiar with a hunting rifle – he uses it to put a deer head on his wall. Move onto weapons which are only useful on the battlefield – the longbow and the machine gun – and the average Joe isn’t going to have the skills.

We’re here to talk about the how far 2050 guns are going to shoot, and how well, and talk a little more about damage.

Shooting

In 2050, there are three ways that guns fire, single-shot, burst, and automatic.

Single-Shot

Single-shot is obvious: One pull of the trigger gives you one bullet. Everybody understands this, and it’s the basic mechanic of the existing ranged weapons in the game: bows and crossbows. And, again, 2050 intends to treat guns fired single-shot the exact same way.

Burst

The second type of fire is ‘burst’. Now, the 5e DMG talks about a ‘burst’ of fire, of which fully automatic weapons are capable, saying this:

Burst Fire. … it can spray a 10-foot-cube area … with shots. Each creature in the area must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take the weapon’s normal damage. This action uses ten pieces of ammunition.”

This type of fire isn’t called ‘burst’ by soldiers; it is properly called ‘suppressive fire’, and most often called ‘spray and pray’. Modern firearms like the M-4 and MP-5 have a 3-round burst mode, where the mechanism of the trigger fires three rounds and then stops. We’re going to have to either come up with a new word for the concept of ‘burst’, or rename what 5e calls ‘burst’. I suggest calling 5e’s ‘burst’ Spray. I’m not interested in tweaking this because the incorrect use of the word irks me (even though it does), but because we have a legitimate need in 2050 for firing a weapon on ‘burst’,

Burst fire will allow a shooter to send three bullets at one target with a single pull of the trigger. This will replace a single attack, but also consume your bonus action. So, even if you have extra attacks per round from your class, you’ll only be able to burst once. If successful, it will provide two damage dice instead of one. So, an automatic rifle, like the M-4, on burst mode will do 2d6 instead of 1d6 and consume 3 rounds.

Automatic

Weapons on automatic fire really fucking fast. Or, as I learned to recite in boot camp, “Sir, the cyclic rate of the M-16 is 700 to 800 rounds per minute.” That means a standard 30-round magazine goes out the end of the barrel in less than 5 seconds. Small and medium automatic weapons, like the U.S. SAW or M249, fire using small bins that hold about 100 rounds of linked ammunition.

Weapons fired on automatic always do spray damage (‘Burst’, in the 5e DMG) which is a type of AOE. The shooter will fire at a point and everyone within a ten-foot cube at that point will make a Dexterity saving throw or take damage from the weapon. This attack can only be made once per round and it expends 30 rounds of ammunition. Damage will be appropriate for the size of the round, for instance:

  • Submachine gun: 1d4
  • Light Machine gun: 1d6
  • Medium Machine gun: 1d8

(We’ll talk about large-caliber automatic weapons in another post, but the rules will be similar. And, yes, we’re aware that a proper automatic weapons burst lasts three seconds and fires 8 to 12 rounds, but this is a roleplaying game, not a modern combat simulator. DMs are always welcome to make adjustments as they and their players see fit.)

Ranges

It is possible to hit a man-size target 1,500 feet way with normal rifle sights; I’ve done it (back when I was young and could see that far). However, it’s hard, and it requires time to aim and a way to stabilize the weapon. Firing while standing, or ‘off hand’, is also hard, and reliably hitting a man-sized target from a standing position out past 600 feet is an accomplishment. Here’s the rub: These are difficult things to do under perfect conditions (i.e.: Good visibility, non-moving targets, nobody shooting at you.). Under combat conditions, they’re going to be extremely difficult; mostly impossible.

The ranges for guns in 2050 are going to be far shorter than you might expect. That’s because there’s more to shooting than just aiming and firing. This is already built in to 5e’s bow rules. 5e doesn’t make allowances, good or bad, for firing ranged weapons while standing or moving, offhand or stabilized; all of these considerations are built into the basic to-hit number. Ultimately, in simplicity vs realism, we have to go with simplicity. Also, in realism vs. playability, we have to go with playability.

So, here are a few sample weapons, showing Optimum/Maximum range in feet:

  • Small pistol: 25/75
  • Large pistol: 30/100
  • Hunting rifle: 150/500
  • Heavy rifle: 300/900

These ranges are not the limits of the round to do damage, but the limits of the shooter to effectively engage, considering the weapon, the round, and the situation. Any methods used to gain advantage or range with bows and crossbows in 5e will work with guns.

Here’s our current build of the in-flux guns table:

2050 Guns
NameCostDamageWeightPropertiesExample
Simple Firearms
Small Pistol5 gp1d4 piercing-Ammunition (range 25/75), reload (17 shots)Glock 9mm
Large Pistol10 gp1d6 piercing-Ammunition (range 30/100), reload (10 shots)HK45
Rifle, hunting15 gp1d8 piercing-Ammunition (range 200/600), reload (5 shots), two-handedRemington Sendero 700
Shotgun, pump20 gp2d4 piercing-Ammunition (range 10/40), reload (4 shots), two-handedRemington Model 870
Martial Firearms
Submachine Gun30 gp1d4 piercing-Ammunition (range 25/75), reload (30 shots), burst, automatic (30 shots)MP5
Rifle, automatic40 gp1d6 piercing-Ammunition (range 100/300), reload (30 shots), burst, automatic (30 shots), two-handedM4 Carbine
Shotgun, automatic50 gp2d4 piercing-Ammunition (range 10/40), reload (10 shots), burst, automatic (10 shots), two-handedSaiga-12

Ammunition This weapon requires ammunition to be in the weapon for operation. Further, this ammunition is destroyed upon use.

Reload (# shots) After the designated number of shots, the weapon must be reloaded. Reloading may be an Action or a Bonus Action (character’s choice).

Burst This weapon may fire a three round burst. This attack replaces a single attack as part of the Attack Action, and also consumes the character’s Bonus Action. The weapon will deal an additional die of damage on a successful hit.

Automatic (# shots) This weapon may be fired on full automatic. This action consumes the designated amount of ammunition and cannot be performed unless the weapon is loaded with at least that much. Choose a 10 ft cube within normal range. All creatures inside that cube must make a DEX save against a DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your DEX. If they fail the save, the weapon deals a single hit to them (no DEX bonus to damage).