The work contained on the following pages is the property and copyright of Alex Putnam and is presented here with permission.
Faerûnian Firearms 3.5
By Alex Putnam
Being a treatise on the new class of Gondar smokepowder weapons, by Sodon Ashgate, mage, alchemist, clockmaker, and proprietor of Ashgate’s Alchemy and Clockwork, Berdusk
By now, if you have been keeping up with the new developments since the Time of Troubles, or are possessed of a keen interest in the alchemical arts, one will have no doubt heard (or possibly seen in person) of “smokepoweder”, “smokepowder arms”, “guns”, “cannon”, “Gondguns”, or “firearms”. For simplicity, I shall be referring these, collectively as “firearms”. All work by means of a spark igniting a quantity of smokepowder in a sealed chamber, projecting a lead ball (about the sort that one might for a sling, perhaps of larger diameter) through the pressure of gas behind the bullet. The more detailed mechanics of these are topics best left to alchemical texts, but the purpose of this tract is to give a brief introduction to this class of arms to the everyman, so that by the will of the Binder, by espousing the truths of the subject, falsehoods on them might be brought to light.
I shall start by examining two of the most extreme examples of “firearms” present on Toril: the exotic “rocket” of the Shou Empire, and the massive siege cannons recently built in Thay.
Exotic Grenade-Like Weapon:
Shou rocket 150 gp* 1d12 (10 ft. radius) 40 ft.* 2 lbs. Fire
Explosive rockets used as portable (if somewhat inaccurate) siege or support weapons in the Shou Empire of Kara-Tur; Faerûnian adventurers sometimes come across these weapons. If imported into Faerûn proper, the price can be triple the regular price or more.
Rockets fire off a reusable wooden sled (4 lbs, 5 sp) that aims the weapon. Readying a rocket is a move action. Firing one is a standard action that requires the rocket to be lit. Upon lighting, make a ranged touch attack on a given square, then roll a 1d8 and 1d3 to determine where the rocket lands. On a hit, the rocket lands in the 1d8 direction, either on target (1), one square off (2), or two squares off (3). On a miss, roll the same d8 and d3, but add the number of range increments to the d3 result. A rocket damages the square it lands on and everything in a 5 ft. radius, evenly. Creatures greater than 5 ft. away but 10 ft. or closer take 1 fire as splash damage.
(I suspect increased traffic of these devices through the Golden Way, and expect them as a novelty for adventurers around Thesk, though I hear they have a secondary use in their original land: festivities. “Rockets” loaded with metal powders explode in bright bursts of colored light, making a brief display best seen during Shar’s Embrace.)
Thayan siege gun 18,000 gp 18d10* x2 150-4,500 ft. 30 crew+20 oxen Hardness-7 3,500hp Colossal
*Ignores hardness or natural armor 8 or less
A nonmagical development parallel to the magical Thayan bombard, the Thayan siege gun is a massive smokepowder siege weapon developed by various tharchions of Thay, using information bought or stolen from the church of Gond, Shou, and built by hired architects. Thayan siege guns vary in construction, but are massive guns cast from bronze, often weighing 8-10 tons or more, and are perfect for destroying even magically reinforced fortress walls in a few shots.
An average Thayan siege gun cannot accurately target a moving creature, as it takes five full rounds to adjust the aim, though a lucky crew could time a shot to target a creature Huge or larger than goes through the line of aim. It takes thirty minutes to reposition, load and prep a siege gun (though experienced crews with a ready supply of ammo and levitation magic could presumably do so in half the time).
If the crew fails the loading check by five or more, the gun must be re-prepped, at another time delay. Too many misfires (natural 1's) or shots without allowing the barrel to cool may crack the barrel. (Roll a cumulative d%, adding 1% per natural 1 or every shot over 3 per hour. On a failure, the gun explodes when next fired, dealing 18d6 to everything within 60 feet, Ref DC 15 half.) A Thayan siege gun takes up a 10-foot-by-25-foot space, not including support ropes and the crew, and uses smokepowder worth roughly 300 gold per shot.
(Having the privilege of seeing a Thayan gun in action, I can assure you that they are, as one might expect, ponderous devices, and any worried castellans should note that it would be quite easy to disable the weapon by disrupting or killing its crew. The ponderous nature of this device was designed primarily to offset the defenses most Thayan strongholds have against spell-attack.)
Personal weapons (all prices given are for non-masterwork arms)
These include a variety of weapons useful for the common human and non-human alike. Two schemes of ignition are currently present: the “matchlock”, wherein an alchemically-treated slow-burning rope is used with a hinge to touch the powder, and the “wheellock” or “starwheel”, wherein a spring-compressed steel wheel spins against a piece of pyrite, transmitting a spark through a vent (termed a “pan”) which opens to accept the spark. To examine each:
Matchlock: Has the advantages of cost, and simplicity. A simple blacksmith could conceivably build or repair a matchlock. Has the disadvantage of needing a match (which has a noticeable glow at night, and a distinct smell, which I am told, is most disagreeable to orcs and their kin), a noticeable delay between use and ignition, and being next to impossible to use in damp conditions.
Wheellock: Has the advantages of reliability, concealability, and ease of use. A wheellock benefits from fast ignition, reliability in wet conditions (so long as the smokepowder has been kept dry) and needs no further equipment. It has the disadvantages of complexity and cost: I scarcely doubt anyone other than a Gondar or clockmaker (such as myself!) could build or repair the mechanism. Likewise, it relies on a spring that could warp if left wound (readied) for too long.
The mechanisms discussed, I shall now address the purpose and usefulness of the “gun” in itself. While complex and very much out of the cost of the average commoner, they very much have their usefulness. Like a good crossbow or arbalest, they are relatively simple to operate and have the power to punch through mail and lighter armors and can be devastating at close ranges, though plate and similar heavier armors (as well as magic) still prove an effective means of protection. Pistols are even easier than a handbow to conceal, and do not require the arms of a Dalesman archer to operate. On the drawbacks, they are extremely loud with a recognizable “cracking” sound and quite slow and complex to reload, and are quite finicky in regards to moisture. Likewise, a round leaden ball tends to swerve at distance, while the fletching of an arrow provides it with a straight path to its target.
As for the lord or nobleman who might fear an uprising or adventurer band armed with such devices toppling your throne, fear not and sleep soundly. In Faerûn, lands so versed in the Art and empowered by the Weave of Lady Mystra, I do not see “firearms” replacing more mundane arms or magic any day soon. Yet, they deserve a place in the armory as a valued additional to conventional arms. I have seen blades added to the front of crossbows to allow them use as a weapon in melee or when expended; I see no reason why such artifice could not be added to a firearm (Indeed, a musket somehow topped with a spear point might make a decent pike!), and I have even heard of dwarves having pistols built into the handles of their favored axes! Only Gond and Oghma might know where such innovation leads, though it shall be up to the men-at-arms of Faerûn to see them put into practice. This much said, I present the firearms that one might find in use today:
Exotic Light Ranged Weapon:
Pistol (a.k.a. starwheel) 250 gp 1d10* x3 RI 15 ft. 3 lbs. Piercing
*Ignores 1 AC of armor or natural armor not specifically designed to ward off piercing attacks.
Developed independently by Gondsmen and "off-worlders" from other Crystal Spheres, the wheellock pistol is an easily-concealed, easily used weapon, making it a favored weapon of the Gondsmen, yeoman, and criminal alike. Loading a pistol takes three full rounds, provoking attacks of opportunity. (Two full-round actions with the Rapid Reload feat). Winding (or unwinding) the wheel may be done during part of reloading or as a move action, and leaving the spring wound quickly wears it out, making the gun unfireable unless the spring is replaced.
Pistols not made by the Church of Gond or a person well-versed in clockwork have a greater chance to misfire, as represented by a critical miss on a 1-2 instead of just on a 1.
You can shoot, but not load, a pistol with one hand at no penalty. You can shoot a pistol with each hand, but take a penalty on attack rolls as if attacking with two light weapons.
(I own two such weapons and find them very comfortable in the hands of a mage. They are surprisingly useful when magically enhanced.)
Exotic Two-Handed Ranged Weapons:
Caliver 350 gp 1d12* x3 RI 25 ft. 6 lbs. Piercing
*Ignores 2 AC of armor or natural armor not specifically designed to ward off piercing attacks.
A recent innovation, the caliver is a standardized-sized wheellock weapon designed to be more portable than the heavier arquebus and larger musket, but more formidable and accurate than the pistol. Loading a caliver takes three full rounds, provoking attacks of opportunity. (Two full-round actions with the Rapid Reload feat). Winding (or unwinding) the wheel may be done during part of reloading or as a move action, and leaving the spring wound quickly wears it out, making the gun unfireable unless the spring is replaced.
Calivers not made by the Church of Gond or a person well-versed in clockwork have a greater chance to misfire, as represented by a critical miss on a 1-2 instead of just on a 1.
Normally, operating a caliver requires two hands. However, you can shoot, but not load, a caliver with one hand at a –2 penalty on attack rolls (or none, if you have the Monkey Grip feat). You can shoot a caliver with each hand, but you take a penalty on attack rolls as if attacking with two light weapons. This penalty is cumulative with the penalty for one-handed firing.
(I do not own, but have fired and built such weapons. I imagine them useful for anyone handy with a crossbow of middling size, and suspect that they might be of great use to cavalry, who might not have the room to fire a longbow from horseback.)
Arquebus (matchlock) 200 gp 2d6* x3 RI 35 ft. 9 lbs. Piercing
*Ignores 2 AC of armor or natural armor not specifically designed to ward off piercing attacks.
The arquebus is the most basic firearm and the first developed by Gondsmen after Gond revealed smokepowder to the faithful. It consists of a specialized shaped stock with a crossbow-like trigger, connected to a slow-burning match (see below), that ignites a small amount of smokepowder in a small pan. While the gun can't operate at all in wet or rainy conditions (unlike a pistol, caliver, or musket), it is relatively easy to manufacture, and has been widely copied and used in battle, though, it like other firearms, have yet to replace more traditional arms.
Loading an arquebus takes three full rounds (two full-round actions with the Rapid Reload feat). Provided a slow match is present, an arquebus may be fired immediately.
•New Item: Slow Match (10 ft.) 10 gp, 2 lb.
Essentially an alchemically treated hemp rope that burns at 1 ft per hour, a slow match can be doused and relit as needed. A lit slow match is required to use an arquebus. The DC to make a slow match is 20.
(Ah, the arquebus. It is bound to be most common firearm in use this day, as it has become quite popular among Dalesmen and dwarves, who are exceptions to the usual markets of gnomes, Gondar, mages, and adventurers.)
Musket (wheellock) 500 gp 2d8* x3 RI 70 (25 ft.†) 14 lbs. Piercing
*Ignores 3 AC of armor or natural armor not specifically designed to ward off piercing attacks.
†Use the reduced range increment if the firer is not prone or using a fork/rest.
The largest of firearms, the massive musket is a wheellock weapon capable of devastating long-range fire. While derided by elves for their size and noise, these weapons are starting to appear in the hands of human marksmen and archers, including a small number of Dalesfolk. A musket requires the user to be prone or to use a fork or arrow slit to support the end of the barrel, or else the range increment is reduced to 25 feet. Masterwork muskets come with a fork semi-permanently attached on a swivel, for no extra weight. A musket takes four full rounds (three full-round actions with the Rapid Reload feat) to load. Winding (or unwinding) the wheel may be done during part of reloading or as a move action, and leaving the spring wound quickly wears it out, making the gun unfireable unless the spring is replaced.
Muskets not made by the Church of Gond or a person well-versed in clockwork have a greater chance to misfire, as represented by a critical miss on a 1-2 instead of just on a 1.
•New Item: Musket fork, 1 gp, 2 lb,
A thin staff three to four feet long, a musket fork is tipped with a U-shaped piece of metal on one end and a small spike on the other, allowing the firer a stable platform to aim from. It takes a move action to set a fork, and a free action to remove one. A fork can also be used as an improvised weapon, dealing 1d4 damage of piercing or bludgeoning damage.
(Not a weapon to be trifled with, but neither very portable. I suspect it would be especially useful if braced from an arrow-slit and used to defend a castle.)
Blunderbuss ("Gondgun") 300 gp 2d6* x2 RI 10 ft. 6 lbs. Bludgeoning and Piercing
*At three RI or less, a blunderbuss damages a single target square. At more than three RI, the blunderbuss shot forms a 15-foot cone that travels along the line of fire, each square dealing 1d4 damage, and each square independently stopping once it hits a wall or target.
A weapon sometimes derisively known as the "Gondgun" for its use by the priests of that religion, a blunderbuss is a wide-necked short-range weapon that instead of firing a single lead projectile, fires a small cloud of tiny iron balls, small rocks, nails, or similar payloads. It takes four full rounds to reload a blunderbuss (three full-round actions with the Rapid Reload feat). Winding (or unwinding) the wheel may be done during part of reloading or as a move action, and leaving the spring wound quickly wears it out, making the gun unfireable unless the spring is replaced.
Blunderbusses not made by the Church of Gond or a person well-versed in clockwork have a greater chance to misfire, as represented by a critical miss on a 1-2 instead of just on a 1. (If using critical fumbles, a blunderbuss may explode on a critical fumble.)
(A strange and curious weapon, but one worthy of note nonetheless. Its ease of use at short range is impressive, and its field of pellets makes it useful against such targets that one would be hard-pressed to hit with a single ball, such as gamefowl…or skeletons.)
Miscellaneous Equipment and Costs:Musket fork 1 gp 2 lb. Powder horn (32 shots)* 35 gp 2 lb. Powder keg (240 shots)* 250 gp 20 lb. Shou rocket sled 5 sp 4 lb. Slow Match (10 ft.) 10 gp 2 lb.
For simplicity's sake, it is assumed that all firearms use one charge of smokepowder. To adjust by size, the pistol and caliver use one charge, the arquebus, musket, and blunderbuss use two charges. The cost of bullets is trivial against the cost of smokepowder (indeed, many Gondar priests include it free with the purchase of smokepowder), but may be priced the same as those for slings.
—Sodon Ashgate, Year of Wild Magic
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