Game Design 101 – Guns in D&D

Game Design 101 – Guns in D&D

A little trip into the mind of a game designer. Scary? Maybe. Fun? You Bet!
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  1. boopiloopi on November 13, 2021 at 11:36 pm

    for a single bullet gun´s it an action to reload or a bonus action? so you can
    shot and reload during your turn and then fire and reload on your next turn. or
    do you give up a turn to reload? up to the dm?

  2. FitzroyMaclean on November 13, 2021 at 11:37 pm

    A skilled musketeer with premade paper cartridges could load and shoot about 4 rounds a minute, so an archebusier would be considerably slower with his 30-something steps for reloading.

  3. Ferelcapo on November 13, 2021 at 11:38 pm

    Flintlocks, matt… victorian era stuff and pirates.

  4. Joshua Collins on November 13, 2021 at 11:38 pm

    "Are firearms in genre for D&D, meaning do they fit the genre of ‘Medieval European Fantasy’ that D&D is based on? No. Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous."

    If a character with the right skills wants to bore some holes in a chunk of bronze and pay an alchemist for some sulphur and nitre, why is that too far?

    Looking outside of Europe, hand cannons seem to have existed since the 1100s.
    The first evidence of handheld gunpowder weapons being manufactured in Europe comes from the 1320s and 1330s.
    The earliest full sized cannons in England appeared in the 1300s and the Tudors made pretty extensive use of them. One of the biggest cannons ever made was Mons Meg, a cannon made in 1449 that shoots 20 inch diameter projectiles and was used by James the Second to siege castles. Maybe all of that is on the tail end of what you’d consider ‘Medieval’, but I don’t think it’s a stretch for D&D castles to be defended by cannons, and for gunpowder to be something that characters can get ahold of or potentially make somewhat easily.

  5. Merevel on November 13, 2021 at 11:42 pm

    I find it interesting that you are using the same thought lines I use lol.

  6. John Jones on November 13, 2021 at 11:46 pm

    I actually thought this was extremely interesting.

    I’m actually building a zombie board game for my kid, and having a model to follow to work through design and rules is very useful, thank you

  7. Ian Watkins on November 13, 2021 at 11:47 pm

    I want a barbarian dual wielding Remington v3 tac 13 with bayonet type axe heads

  8. Felex on November 13, 2021 at 11:48 pm

    i LOVED this episode, explaining to us and showing us the thinking process, the steps.
    that was great, thank you.

  9. Philipp Lyanguzov on November 13, 2021 at 11:49 pm

    5th edition firearms are actually relatively close in terms of rate of fire. A trained musketeer/arquebussier could reload and fire in about 7 seconds, considering some of the superhuman abilities even low level martial characters have this isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Especially for the napoleonic wars style muskets the game tries to model.

  10. Ryan Johnson on November 13, 2021 at 11:49 pm

    Incorrect! This was immensely interesting.

  11. Ryan Davis on November 13, 2021 at 11:52 pm

    adding guns is pretty easy dude. slightly higher dmg andd longer reload time. It doesnt make sense for guns to not exist either as there are alchemists every 5 feet, a gun is one of the first thing someone would think of. Or just give armor pierce. And all this nerd talk you said was pretty wrong, as plate armor and rapiers come after guns. Always wanted to make a good arquebrussier but dnd never included good rules for it which is just a damn shame.

  12. TheKenyonSquad on November 13, 2021 at 11:52 pm

    here’s what I came up with regarding designing a six shooter;
    cost: 150 gp (twice as much as a hand crossbow, may lower to 100 gp) 1 gp per 12 bullets.
    damage: 1d10 piercing (tied for the highest ranged weapon damage)
    weight: 3 lb (same as hand crossbow)
    properties: Ammunition, range (40 short/160 long (a bit higher than hand crossbow, may make it 60/240)) special (see below)
    special property: the six shooter has to be loaded before being fired. it takes 1 action to load. when you do, roll a d6 and add half your proficiency bonus (if proficient) and load up to that many bullets. the six shooter can hold up to six bullets at a time.

    what do you guys think?

  13. Shaun Greenwood on November 13, 2021 at 11:53 pm

    Monetary value usually makes gunslinger curb there use.

    Most archers in 3 or 3.5 did not have a composite long bow.

  14. Jorph on November 13, 2021 at 11:54 pm

    Fun fact about D&D, it already has gunpowder, just look at the material components for a fireball spell. Batguano and sulfur. That’s Potassium nitrate, sulfur, and if you add a little carbon you got black powder shot, baby.
    Also was I the only one thinking of Pirates when Matt was leading up to "the gun-slinging fantasy everyone can pull from"? was completely blindsided by the six-gun stuff. Not a wrong way to go at all, pleasant surprise I guess.
    Reminds me of Kieth Baker’s article on guns in Eberron, using the Magic Initiate feat and the different spell-foci (rod, staff, wand) to represent different kinds of guns.

  15. Oberstruhmfuhrer Schrodinger on November 13, 2021 at 11:56 pm

    I mean I have no problem with black powder so long as we keep it to like Flint Locke’s and cannons can only really be used as siege equipment. All I really have to do is make the really interesting stuff either hard to get and require an entire quest chain and then be something that everyone’s going to want to rob them of because obviously if you’re just carrying around a cannon with you a lot of people are going to want that from bandit camps to any orcs who know what that is to the city guard when they see you roll up with a cannon. But yeah Then again I’m also the type of do more complicated combat roles like for example you’re trying to hit a giant who is wearing steel plate guess what his armor is almost an inch thick you’re going to be meeting called Shots. I also make large races truly large and giant truly gigantic so like the shortest giants are 30 feet tall and by shortest giants I mean Cyclopes. You could theoretically get around noise by having a gun in chanted to be silent or just casting silence on the gun unless you want there to be some limit to the ability of the spell as for decibel level but if that’s the case thunder wave would also break that spell. Another thought reloading of black powder weapons takes a lot of time Although ironically the bigger the weapon the last time it would theoretically take for example it’s easier to load a blunderbuss then it is a pistol or a cannon than a howitzer

  16. r t on November 13, 2021 at 11:57 pm


  17. FitzroyMaclean on November 13, 2021 at 11:57 pm

    Muskets do not have rifling, they have smooth bores, they are less accurate, but easier and thus faster to load. A rifle is called such because it is rifled, the swirling grooves that spin the projectile, making it stable in flight and more accurate. The grooves however create and require a tighter fit, making it harder to load, and fouling becomes a much bigger issue.

  18. Blake Hughes on November 13, 2021 at 11:59 pm

    Dimension 20 used stats for crossbow in there game for guns. Simple

  19. A Free State on November 14, 2021 at 12:00 am

    shooting a gun is much easier than shooting a bow

  20. Chad Jones on November 14, 2021 at 12:01 am

    It’s odd adding technology into a fantastic setting. If magical effects are repeatable, then that is the technology. I think society’s efforts would be spent exploring Magic, especially since you can literally rework the fabric of space and time. Technology makes sense if magic isn’t something that can be spread as devices. But if magical devices are available then Pistols are just reshaped wands (ooooohhh…..Darkmagic!)

  21. Alëy Oakenshield on November 14, 2021 at 12:01 am

    Rockin’ that Matt Mercer cut

  22. Jay Badhorse on November 14, 2021 at 12:03 am

    I use Charisma as my Gunhands active Stat. Intimidation Expertise I use the Kentucky Long Rifle and Colt Army/Navy as my examples as well as the Double barrel 10ga. And the 3 inch Ordinance Rifle. Makes for a good mix of options and little overlap. And am I the only person that wants crew served weapons? Ballista, Onager, galloper guns, mountain howitzer and gatlings or maxims

  23. RED B.F.G SAGE on November 14, 2021 at 12:03 am

    This is an incredible video! Thank you so much for the brainstorming. I am trying to create a steampunk campaign where automatic weapons will be present. You helped a ton.

  24. Super Slug Quests on November 14, 2021 at 12:06 am

    Awesome video, Matt! Thanks for sharing this info. Very informative and it’s teaching me a lot! It dovetails perfectly with the campaign I’m planning for my wife and friends to play. My wife is helping me do the world-building (no plot elements will be revealed, naturally, no spoilers just because she’s married to me! mwhahaha!) and it’s going to have a tech-level roughly equivalent to the early American Civil War. Which is amusing to me, because you straight out said most people don’t fantasize about civil war rifles and muskets.

    Anyway, wanted to say, for the "cool under fire" feature you mentioned I’d suggest maybe Con or Int for the modifier, because constitution governs similar skills, but intelligent people are often (not always) shown as being "cold" or "callous." Also, an intelligent person is more likely to remain cool under fire (at least in certain situations) because they know that the probability of them being shot is no higher than anyone else on the battlefield. Even if they’re directly being aimed at, presumably others are as well, so…same basic odds. *shrug* Just my opinion, but those make sense to me. I mean, wisdom is a decent fit, but the other two make more sense personally.

    Probably shouldn’t give suggestions to Matt Colville…but, I calls ’em like I sees ’em.

  25. Ama Yad on November 14, 2021 at 12:06 am

    I honestly think making guns this overwrought new mechanical thing is missing the point. Like, if the fantasy of having a revolver is being able to fan the hammer for six shots, or one-shot opponents in a duel, then the fantasy of having a greataxe is cleaving people in twain. lopping heads off and cutting a swathe through lesser foes.

    These are things you can do, by being a 14th-level Barbarian with Great Weapon Master, but none of them are built into the greataxe. A town guard with a greataxe is not Conan, just like a random cowpoke isn’t Angel Eyes.

    So yeah, for my money, a revolver is a 1d10 ranged weapon with a short range of 40 feet. that needs both an action and bonus action to reload every six shots. Fanning the hammer, drawing a precise bead at the cost of movement, and reliably shooting out past 40 feet? Those are class features and feats.

  26. M Balazs on November 14, 2021 at 12:07 am

    6:54 i would answer one shot guns pirates of the Caribbean 😀

  27. TheSunTitan on November 14, 2021 at 12:07 am

    There’s something magical in that moment when your dwarf gunslinger rolls a critical hit and all the party cheers as the baddie’s head explodes

  28. William Brall on November 14, 2021 at 12:09 am

    No one will see this, but I still need to write it. If you want a fun bolt-on for guns in D&D that change the game a bit and makes guns more than just a different weapon choice, but something every character is going to want to pick up; well, here it is. This is an evolution of the system I created for one of my games.

    There are five classes of (single person) firearm: One-shots (for assassins), Six-shooters (for gunslingers), Sweepers (shotguns), Spitters (machine guns), Longshots (rifles). There are five classes of ammo: standard, silver, adamantine, cold iron, and magi.

    *Standard:* piercing damage.
    *Silver:* piercing damage, counts as a silvered weapon.
    *Adamantine:* bludgeoning damage, counts as magical.
    *Cold Iron:* slashing damage, counts as magical. If hit with a cold iron bullet, spell casters have disadvantage on their concentration check. Deals +2 damage to fey, undead and fiends.
    *Magi:* force damage, counts as magical. A weapon firing magi bullets can be used as a spell focus, and spells cast with the weapon can include a firing phase before the spell takes effect. If this firing phase is used, the origin of the spell will change to come from the general area where the bullet would have struck. In this way, the gunmage can fire touch spells from a distance, or rake a lightning spell through enemies fanned out before them.

    *One-shots:* 1d4 damage, Dex to hit, bonus action to reload, range: 10/40. Mods (up to one): suppressor (don’t break stealth to fire), magi (allows the use of magi bullets).
    *Six-shooters:* 1d6 damage, Dex to hit, Action to reload: DC 15 Cha check (amount over 15 is how many bullets you reload up to 6), range: 20/100. Fan, fire as normal, spend 5 feet of movement per bullet to fire additional bullets (at disadvantage) if not empty. Mods: magi (allows the use of magi bullets).
    *Sweepers:* two-handed, 2d6 damage, fires in a 20 foot cone, DC (10 + Con) Dex save for no damage, action to reload. Mods (up to one): sawn (3d6 damage, -10 foot cone), long barrel (1d6 damage, +10 foot cone), pistol grip (becomes one-handed), double-barrel (can fire twice before needing a reload).
    *Spitters:* Requires 16 Strength to wield, two-handed, magazine size 30, action to reload, range: 50/300. Three firing modes: Single shot, 1d4 damage, Dex to hit. Burst, 3d4 damage, Str to hit, uses 3 bullets. Suppression, uses 15 bullets, creates a 50 foot line from the shooter that deals 4d4 damage to anyone entering that line until the start of the shooter’s next turn, DC (10 + Proficiency) Con save for half.
    *Longshots:* two-handed, 1d8 damage, Wis to hit, action to reload, range: 200/700. Mods (up to one): scope (range becomes 500/1500), magi (allows the use of magi bullets)

    _Class Proficiencies_
    Proficiency in any one class of firearm can be gained by a feat. This feat also increases any ability score by 1.
    *One-shots:* rogue, wizard, cleric, fighter, monk
    *Six-shooters:* ranger, sorcerer, warlock, bard, paladin
    *Sweepers:* fighter, barbarian
    *Spitters:* fighter, barbarian, paladin
    *Longshots:* ranger, monk, cleric, druid, warlock

    _Final Notes_
    I’ve intentionally left off prices, this would be highly dependent on your game and world. I’ve also not detailed magical weapons, but suffice to say the possibilities here are _sky high._ Every class can make use of a firearm, at least as a backup weapon for special situations. Every class can _shine_ with a firearm. Every class can have a build based entirely around a firearm. None of the extra actions are fiddley or cumbersome. The weirdest one is fanning using movement as a resource, but is easy to track because players _already_ have to track their movement used. Mods create fun choices. Magi bullets create insane spell combinations, but can be balanced by their price and availability. These play _pretty_ well with the other rules. The flaw I see most people make with firearms is making them _high damage._ The wording on the Spitter is meant to allow a character with extra attack to be able to mix and match. They could, for example, fire off a burst at a target and then lay down suppression. This ties in well with the tank abilities of the classes that get that weapons class.

    The six-shooter and extra attack work fine, you’d fire normally for the first attack and normally for the second, then if you want to fan after that you can. You can also attack, fan, and then attack with another weapon. You could also _fan twice_ but I don’t know why you’d want to.

    These weapons all work fine at level 1 and they work fine at level 20. Extra attack scales better with some of them than others, but the Sweepers aren’t really _meant_ as a primary weapon.

    *Why Charisma for Reloading Six-shooters?* This does two things: first, it creates a weapon for charisma classes that gives them a specific benefit. But more importantly, a six-shooter is a weapon for a cowboy with some grit. Charisma is grit, it is how cool you are. Gunslingers are _cool._
    *Why Con mod for the Sweeper DC?* Similarly, this creates an inherent benefit for Constitution classes, but also reflects the toughness someone needs to fire a shotgun.
    *Why Wis mod for the Longshots?* As with the others, this creates benefits for Wisdom classes, and it reflects the _perception_ needed to fire a rifle from extremely long range. It also creates a super-long-range class of weapon which allows bows to still be useful and feel different.

  29. CaptPoco on November 14, 2021 at 12:09 am

    Shooting a pistol at high noon is an engaging fantasy… however, D&D is a game about skirmish battles, not 1v1.

  30. Dice On Parole! on November 14, 2021 at 12:10 am

    Here’s how I do it –
    Reloading is an attack. You reload the full magazine.
    Gun misfires on a die roll of 3 or less , depending on the complexity of gun.
    Each attack is a shot. Guns with multiple shots per magazine allow an additional attack on the same target as a bonus action, without the proficiency bonus.
    A firearms expert feat allows advantage and damage rerolls within 10 feet, and proficiency to be added to bonus action shot.
    Level 11 fighter – 8 shots out of a 6 shooter. Yeehaw

  31. Don Love on November 14, 2021 at 12:11 am

    Design seems a lot like

  32. DeepFunkInYoTrunk on November 14, 2021 at 12:12 am

    08:24 sick hairstyle change!

  33. Arthur Padilla on November 14, 2021 at 12:12 am

    When it comes to Guns, I just use the Starfinder Rules. It works for pistols, Rifles, and Shotguns. and it still works with swords and shields. It also helps that I mostly play Pathfinder 1e.

  34. Guardian_Of_The_Rune NJP on November 14, 2021 at 12:13 am

    If you’re talking about a fantasy game where magic and guns exist at the same time then magically treated steel armor likely has some level of bulletproof.

  35. Dova Quanariin on November 14, 2021 at 12:14 am

    Honestly now i kinda wanna know how automatic weapons would work.

  36. FitzroyMaclean on November 14, 2021 at 12:15 am

    Breech loading swivel cannons where invented in europe in the 1300s, its all in how you portray them. A handgonne would be a great way to level the playing field between lone powerful practitioners and groups of Joe-shmo levies, at least if those levies serve rich lords in well developed areas.

  37. rémi mathieu on November 14, 2021 at 12:15 am

    Musketeers were light infantry with muskets. They definitively used them but they were cumbersome and needed 2 persons to operate. They got better and they even used them on horses. It’s just Dumas fantasy that established them as swashbucklers because in the context of the story, they are off duty and travelling light. They basically were the ancesters of the rifle company.

  38. SmithsMuseum on November 14, 2021 at 12:15 am

    what if you changed the ranges for shooting more or less bullets, like, normally you could shoot, say, 50ft (100ft), but for every extra bullet you fire, you drop your short range by 5 and your long by 10, so if you fire 6 bullets, you would get disadvantage for anything farther than 25ft and be unable to shoot anything more than 50.

  39. JackSharks on November 14, 2021 at 12:16 am

    I am currently tweaking my own Fighter Subclass – The Stance Master. I love how just from watching the earlier running the game videos, I used Matt’s process (and even his words to discribe what I do) before I ever watched this video. I started at a scene from an anime and asked myself what part of that was the fantasy I wanted to translate into DnD rules, then I brainstormed some Ideas about what the Stance Master should be able to do and whe wrote it down, I gradually streamlined the rules, calculated the expected results based on dice math and ended with a Subclass that was easy enought to understand and in my opinions fun to play. I pitched the idea to my players and half of them were interested, now one of them is playing one in my campaign. I also was able to play a Stance Master myself at a one shot and between that and the Stance Master in my campaign, I found the parts that were too fiddly and frankly worked contrary to the way 5th edition combat is designed. Now I redesigned those parts and after some fine-tuning, I might consider sharing it online.
    Matt Coevill is undoubtedly one of the three greatest Matts in DnD History and the one that influenced my style of playing and (more recently) DMing the most.

  40. Keith Grech on November 14, 2021 at 12:17 am

    I want a way of the gun monk. Just gun kata people.

  41. Charles on November 14, 2021 at 12:21 am

    For a six-shooter, I’ll have it contain six bullets for its Reload (6) property, let it deal 1d10 piercing damage (versatile 1d12), and have a Special property or, as I like to do, give it a weapon "Skill": Fan the Hammer.

    When you take the Attack action using this weapon, you can make a number of ranged weapon attacks equal to however many loaded cylinders remain (minimum of 2). For each of these attacks, do not add your ability modifier or Proficiency Bonus to the attack roll. You must use one hand to fan the hammer, making it impossible to wield the weapon with two hands in conjunction with this Skill.

    How will this look in gameplay?
    I’ll ask myself whether or not I want to go without a shield and hold it properly for a d12 damage die while maintaining the ability to reload, basically making me a dedicated ranged fighter with a hand free for that desperation attack, or carry it with a shield for just six normal shots but no reloading after, like a consumable ranged attack similar to Javelins. You have to use your full Attack action for the special attack, though, so Extra Attack won’t give you one free with five nerfed shots after.

    For reloading, it takes an action, yes, but I’d make the roll 1d6 plus your Charisma modifier, owing to your ability to stay cool, your personality lending itself to remaining calm under pressure. Folks with an 8 in Charisma have a non-zero chance to fumble and not load anything for their action, though, so we’ll playtest and workshop later whether or not we want to add a clause for that to come to a minimum of 1 regardless. Later, perhaps, someone could have the bright idea to invent the speed loader, which would let you reload to full with your action without the need for a roll, kind of like how Healer’s Kits let you forego Medicine checks to stabilise a dying creature.

    I view adding your proficiency bonus and ability modifier as emblematic enough of your character’s training and talent coming to the fore, which I would respectfully assert includes the ability to focus, so just having that be an on/off for when you’re shooting with purpose or shooting recklessly works thematically for me. What do you think?

  42. Radish Records on November 14, 2021 at 12:24 am

    ehh, i disagree with called shots making damage dice obsolete. Firing at a guy and just so happening to hit their eye is a different action from being some ridiculous sharpshooter who goes around blasting eyeballs out. losing damage dice and having it be static would remove a bit of the dynamicness of a firefight, and losing called shots would mean theres no way for someones shooting ability to translate into dealing more damage with a firearm.

    also called shots are helpful for situational stuff like shooting the grenade on a guys belt or the weapon out of a guys hand that damage dice wouldn’t really account for.

  43. Ronnie Johanson on November 14, 2021 at 12:24 am

    on the contrary, mr colville! rifle fantasy can be (and is) already a thing. final fantasy gunblades aside, bayonets exist. ever play those koei hack ‘n slash strategy games like samurai warriors?

  44. Heart Warden on November 14, 2021 at 12:24 am

    You used the word "cool" so much I can’t help but propose Charisma as a factor for firearms the same way it does for melee duelists in some systems.

  45. Washeek_Honey on November 14, 2021 at 12:25 am

    Matt brushed on this near the end. But another issue to take into account is how the mechanic is going to impact what players expect from the system. Example: rolling the attack for each of six shots separately, imagine if a player did that every other round. Other players would very quickly get annoyed, because that’s not how they expect a round of combat in Dnd to go down. The system is remarkably swift compared to many others and this would bog it down, so again you need to find a workaround or a completely different solution.

    The proces goes kinda like this:
    What do I want to do/simulate/add?
    What do I need to solve? (To do what I want and incorporate into the system) – Will create a bunch of other questions.
    How do I solve each of those questions?
    What issues does it (the solution) create?
    How do I work around those issues?
    Is the solution sane? (Meaning isn’t it overly complicated after introducing all the workarounds?) – If no, then start from the beginning
    Does the solution after all modifications keep to the spirit of how this system behaves?
    In case of completely new from the grounds up system – Do I really need to solve this or is it something that can be further abstracted / left to gm and roleplay etc.? 😀

  46. Alex Cossey on November 14, 2021 at 12:26 am

    As soon as I heard about using wisdom I thought of a tempest cleric with two six shooters firing lighting

  47. Joshua Collins on November 14, 2021 at 12:29 am

    I prefer pirates.
    Your gun should have such a long reload time that it’s essentially a once a battle move, and even if you miss, the sound and flash should be so dazzling that enemies are stunned/demoralised and get disadvantage on their rolls until next turn or something.

    EDIT: And the thought of a higher level character going all Blackbeard with half a dozen guns on a belt across their chest is too cool to pass up.

  48. Ultimus31 on November 14, 2021 at 12:30 am

    I’m personally a big fan of guns in D&D as flintlocks, matchlocks, and wheellocks, especially in my personal Warhammer-ish setting. And while I played with the idea of adding Backfire mechanics and whatnot, I feel like they can make using a kind of weapon more punishing than they have to be, and using them as a third ‘type’ of ranged weapon in a world works very well, putting them as the highest damaging in terms of dice, but close to the lowest in terms of range, using the Musket and Pistol from the DMG as a baseline.

  49. TimeTraveler55 on November 14, 2021 at 12:33 am

    Nothing was more painful than him saying guns don’t fit in a medieval setting….even though guns and cannons in Europe were being used in war in the 14th century frequently, and by the end of the medieval era you’re seeing matchlocks coming into early military use. Seriously, firearms are much much older than most people realize.

  50. Matt G on November 14, 2021 at 12:35 am

    For what little it’s worth, considering it’s just do what you want, in the 15th century and into the 16th, there were mounted, armored knights that used gunpowder weapons, culverins