Sorry that this one is coming out a bit later in the day than usual; there’s a lot going on around here this weekend, not the least of which is that the previews for the Fort Alice Sourcebook and Saurids on the Grosvenor Express have been sent out to our Kickstarter backers. So if you backed the campaign and haven’t checked your email, definitely be sure to do so, as that will give you the links and password you need to access the previews and provide your commentary before we go into final layout. You’ll also be getting a demo of the layout changes we’re going to be doing with the books going forward, which should give them a very unique look, and an end product that hopefully you all will find as fantastic as I do. I’m really looking forward to seeing your reactions, so please get those replies sent in. The commentary document will close at the end of next week, though you can always provide feedback on Discord; and I have updated the spoilers channel for this Kickstarter campaign, so feel free use that for discussing specific things from the books there.
With all that out of the way, it’s time to get into this week’s post, and we’re really getting into some serious firepower now. Given the increasing role that vehicles are playing in the waging of war in 1879 (similar to what happened in our real world timeline, but at an accelerated rate), but mixed with how prevalent infantry forces still are on the battlefield, it’s natural that weaponry capable of bringing down a big machine but still small enough to be carried by ground forces would be needed. To this end, the British have developed the Anti-Vehicular Gun.
Base Damage: 22*
Success Bonus: +5
STR Minimum: 14
Rate of Fire: 1
Short Range: 150
Long Range: 300
*In addition to Base Damage, rounds do 10 Steps of concussive damage in a 3 yard radius. Concussive damage is reduced by Physical Armor and is not affected by additional successes
Description: The anti-vehicular guns currently in production are essentially projectile grenade launchers. The gun itself is very simple and light, essentially a four foot long tube with a spring loaded firing pin at the back and a handle and trigger mechanism at the bottom. The projectiles it launches are about two pounds in weight each, with a narrow cone at the front, the main body being a fat tear drop shape tapering down to the back, which flares out in a wide disc the same diameter as the body. More recent versions of the projectiles have started added stabiliser fins to the back taper to assist with accuracy at long range. Most soldiers carry their rounds on a bandolier, and will rarely keep more than three on them at any one time.
The weapon is loaded by manually pulling back the spring, similar to how one would load a crossbow. The projectile is then placed in the tube, with older models being muzzle loaded and newer ones having either a bolt action to open access to the firing chamber or a breech loading mechanism. The back of the projectile houses the propelling charge that fires the round, with the teardrop section containing the explosive payload that detonates upon impact. The explosive is designed to direct the damage forward into the surface that was struck, so it does not have a similar area of effect to a normal grenade, though the explosion does create a secondary concussive effect to those around the area of impact.
Anti-vehicular guns are still in early development, and are not made with a great deal of reliability. Though designed to be simple, the firing mechanism is the most common point of failure, being the only real mechanical component of the weapon. It is typically the release mechanism that is to blame, either being made too tight, in which case pulling the trigger won’t actually release the spring loaded firing pin, or too loose, in which case it may fire prematurely. The older muzzle loaded models were the worst with premature fires, as dropping in the round too suddenly was often enough to set off the spring. Earlier models were also often made with tubes using thinner walls to reduce the weight, but this left them susceptible to dents, which would prevent the projectile from actually leaving the chamber, assuming it could even be loaded in the first place. This early unreliability has given many soldiers an understandable fear and distrust in the weapons, and when a soldier does make use of one, most of their comrades will give them a wide berth in case of a misfire. Still, the majority will agree that when facing down an enemy vehicle, they’ll have a better chance of coming out alive with one of these than without.
Game Mechanics: Loading an anti-vehicular gun requires a Standard Action in order to pull back the spring. No Test is required for this action, provided the user meets the minimum Strength requirement. On a Rule of One with the Firearms Test, the Game Master determines with a 50/50 chance whether the weapon does not fire, or if it goes off prematurely. If it does not fire, then the user must find a way to deal with the primed explosive in their hands that they have no control over. If the weapon goes off prematurely, deal the base damage to the user and concussive damage to any viable targets within range. Physical Armor protects against this damage. Needless to say, the weapon is destroyed in this event.
Now bear in mind, the tech involved here is of course a lot more primitive than the cinematic images I’ve put in here (and movies always overplay explosions for dramatic effect), but the basic principle is the same, and should hopefully give you a way to visualize how it would be used in a game. Though you should feel free to ham up your descriptions if it keeps your players excited and engaged.
It definitely is possible to enhance such a weapon with the tech and mechanical know-how available in game, but the decision to keep this one low level was deliberate from both a thematic and a mechanical standpoint. Thematically, this is a very early attempt to make such firepower more widely available, and not only are those factors still unknown to the British in game, the logistics of how it will function on the battlefield are a complete wild card. Needing things for bulk production also means needing to make it cheap, particularly when you’re dealing with a weapon that has a not insignificant chance of blowing itself up (of course making it cheaply worsens those odds and ends up creating something of a feedback loop, but that’s a discussion in and of itself). Proceeding with caution before making a huge investment into better hardware is prudent. When it comes to player characters, well, if those adventurers would like to play independent contractors in doing field tests on some potentially dangerous experimental hardware, why not let them have at it?
Mechanically, holding back the potential a bit is also a prudent so that A) We still have somewhere else to move up to later down the road, and B) We give you all a chance to play around with this idea and see how it pans out. The way the dice play out, this is very similar to something like casting a fireball spell. Spells have balancing points like Strain and requirements to increase your Rank in order to get the higher damage potential, where as a mechanical solution for the same effect does not have these points. We’re subbing it out for monetary cost and a higher risk factor, and of course you do still need to increase your Skill ranks to be able to fire the weapon more effectively, but as with everything related to putting Firearms in the game, there’s a lot of damage potential and not always a good way to balance that in game. Some of this is to be expected thematically; guns are tools designed to kill, as such they are scary and should be treated appropriately. But from a mechanical standpoint, they also need to scale so that other methods of doing things remain viable. There’s no point in learning magic if you can just pick up a weapon to perform a similar action with fewer resources required.
So, as with all things in game, we rely on you to give us feedback on what you think of the new things introduced to the game and how they actually play out at the table. Let us know on Discord, and if you backed the Kickstarter campaign, please do review the books and send us your commentary. Though not everything sent in results in a change in the book, I do review everything sent in and take it into account with continued developments.
That’s all for this week. We’ll see you again next Sunday.