Friday, April 5, 2013

Towards a Taxonomy of Rayguns

There’s nothing wrong with having rayguns, blasters, laser rifles or various other kinds of science fiction weapons in your D&D – it’s a tradition really.  What’s wrong though is handing out these toys without giving some thought to the mechanics, especially in Flailsnails games – where the ray-gun from your gamma world one shot becomes another GM’s problem right quick.  I don’t propose people stop handing them out, I give out strange guns all the time – but I propose the following information be provided with any strange firearm that is provided:

1)      Type of Damage – This is important for shooting things like elementals and dragons.  This can be encoded as the color of the beam (red=fire, blue=electricity etc.)
a.       Heat/Fire - RED – Basically the standard.  If anyone has a laser or raygun of any kind this is the default.  Additionally if the ray is red I will call it fire damage.
b.      Lightning -YELLOW – From steampunk voltaic discharger to Gauss cannon.
c.       Frost - BLUE – rare, may also include other strange kinds of entropic weapons
d.      Necromantic - PURPLE/GREEN – Death rays, ghost bullets etc. Not so good for killing the dead.
e.      Physical - CLEAR/BLACK– Something like bullet or a particle beam.  Not so good against creatures requiring magical weapons.
f.        Magical – PINK/WHITE/OPAL Something strange like a gun that fires strange time distortion effects. Basically treat as a Magic Missile

2)      Damage – Yeah This is real simple, and always included, but let people know what the standard damage for a long sword is in your system – maybe in parenthesis next to the weapon damage. Otherwise your gamma world (where HP is really high) guns or you high HP homebrew will wreak havoc on someone’s OD&D game. Additionally some discussion of appropriate saves is useful.

3)      Charge/Ammo – Seriously we need to know this.  Please don’t hand out ray-guns with endless power sources.  It’s not sporting.  I propose the following rule in general for such under realized weapons.  If ammo is not given the ray-gun will run out of power/ammo on the first fumble by the user.  It's out of power for the rest of the session.  It's up to the player to work out if the ray gun can be recharged between sessions.  An alternative is a variation on the simple wand charges rules, where after every fire fight the player rolls a die (bigger or smaller depending on the weapon's reliability) and on a "1" it's exhausted.

Since I've been talking about rayguns, here's a list of random ray guns for your game.

Ray Gun
Red Laser – Standard space pilot side arm, smooth black gun shape that fires a red beam with distinctive sharp noise.  Range 100’ 
solar recharge (1day)
10 round battery
Array Pistol – Golden bundle of tubes atop an ornate pistol grip of fine grained wood. When triggered a blast of orange bolts will plaster a target up to 40' away (+1 hit)
30 round clips
Phase Disruptor - A chromed ovoid with a ringed emitter jutting from the front.  It fires rays of white light that disintegrate portions of the target.
Magic Missile/1D6
power packs
30 charges
Mass Rifle - A bulky modernistic weapon of a compressed boxy design.  Usually in camouflaged ceramic.  It fires bursts of charged particles that rip through targets up to 200' away with a sound like tearing paper.
Internal: Converts gems to ammunition at 50GP per shot.  20 Shot power cell.
Gyrojet Launcher - Launches miniature missiles with deadly accuracy up to 400'.  A Steel and Brass rifle with complex dials. +2 Hit and may shoot around corners.
Gryojet Missiles
Single Shot
Crystal Ray Pistol - Grown from a softly glowing pinkish Crystal, these pistol shaped weapons are disposable and send a lance of frost up to 80' while emitting a soothing hum.
Cannot Recharge
40 shots
Metabolic Lance - An 8' weapon that appears to be made of a living bundle of tentacles and bone knobs.  The lance converts protein into energy at a slow rate and then stores the energy for later discharge.  Attacks as a 60' line of boiling acid that vomits forth with a wild contraction and gaseous belching sound.  Targets in line of fire may save vs. Breath weapon to avoid damage.
10 lbs of fresh meat per shot, takes 1D10 turns to eat.
4 shots
Voltatic Cannon - Short barreled cannon of brass and rubber that generates a huge blue blast of lightning. The weapon takes one round to "spin up" after triggering/between shots, and then discharges a cone 30' long and 20' wide at the end. Targets in cone may save vs. Breath Weapon for 1/2 damage.
3 Shots
Ghost Pistol - Rusted Revolver with a sinister glyph carved into the cracked wooden grip.  Fires screaming ghost bullets up to 200' as streaks of purple light that cause necrosis on impact.  Ineffective against undead.
Manifest at 1 bullet per turn
6 rounds
Gamma Emitter – A cracked stone egg set on a flanged titanium frame, this weapon silently emits an invisible poisoning radiation beam up to 100'.  Target must save vs. poison or suffer wasting disease that reduced all rolls by -1 per day, until death at -10.
Internal :
Recharge with souls using special machines
6 round battery


  1. Cool, I have too pondered on something like this, I decribed merely three ray guns based on special effect only though.

  2. Also, besides running out of charges on a fumble, save vs. dragon breath (I use this as a "luck save") or the thing explodes causing 1d3 times normal damage to the user. ;)

    1. I find that incredibly punitive - I don't need to make something slightly more effective than a crossbow that deadly to the user, unless I want it to be a trap.

      If I was going to do an explosion on fumble (5% each shot)I'd want to make sure that a reasonably astute player could figure out that this was possible.

  3. This is a great table. Thanks for putting it together!