D&D 4th Edition Firearms

There has always been D&D campaign settings that featured firearms, even the Forgotten Realms had their share of boomsticks with the gnomish smokepowder weapons. In 4th Edition Wizards has not only made Gnomes monsters (“Yarr! I am a monster now!”) but they have also dropped firearms. Here’s my take on firearms for 4th Edition D&D.

Usually you need firearms for flavor purposes. If you want to have a world that resembles renaissance more than medieval times, you probably want to introduce muskets and pistols. But some DMs make the mistake to make firearms much to powerful. Although it might be realistic, it often breaks the game, if you make firearms too deadly. So let’s create a weapon for D&D that “feels” like a gun but does not break the game.

So let’s check if there’s something similiar to a gun in the game? We need something that’s point-and-shoot and which takes some time to reload. If you check your Player’s Handbook, you’ll see that the crossbow fits that description close enough. Let’s have a look at the available crossbows:

Weapon Prof.. Dam. Range Price Weight Group Properties
Hand crossbow +2. 1d6 10/20 25gp 2lb. Crossbow Load free
Crossbow +2. 1d8 15/30 25gp 4lb. Crossbow Load minor

Both weapons are from the simple ranged category. And in my opinion everyone who can point and shoot a loaded crossbow can obviously point and shoot a flintlock pistol as well (no, I will not take recoil into consideration, let’s keep things easy). So firearms are simple ranged weapons also. Any character class with the simple ranged weapon proficiency can use them. And since they are pretty close to crossbows, every class with proficiency in hand crossbows is proficient with pistols. The same is true for crossbows and rifles.

Early firearms usually took very long to reload. But long reloading times makes firearms almost unusable in the game. So, let’s make them somewhat slower to reload. I think “Load two minor” sounds good. So you can still take a standard or move action after you have reloaded your weapon.

Because the muzzle velocity of a handgun is higher than the speed of a crossbow bolt, the resulting range is higher. To not overpower firearms, I go with the ranges of short- and longbows for pistols and rifles. Blunderbuss have a shorter range, so I go with 6/12.

Some people recommend making firearms Dex vs. Ref but I think that’s too powerful, so I stick with Dex vs. AC. But they should be a bit more powerful than crossbows, so I settled for 1d8 for pistols, 1d10 for musket rifles. And I think making blunderbuss High Crit weapons sounds ok.

Ok, let’s have a look at those stats:

Weapon Prof.. Dam. Range Price Weight Group Properties
Dragon pistol +2. 1d8 15/30 50gp 2lb. Firearm Load two minor
Musket Rifle +2. 1d10 20/40 75gp 4lb. Firearm Load two minor
Blunderbuss +2. 1d10 6/12 60gp 4lb. Firearm Load two minor, High Crit

I’ve decided to make firearms more expensive than crossbows to reflect that they are a) a bit more powerful and b) perhaps more rare. Ammunition for pistols, rifles and blunderbuss costs 1gp and you get enough powder and balls for 10 shots.

I haven’t playtested those weapons yet, so handle those firearms with care. If you have tried them out in your campaign or if you have some ideas on how to improve them, please let me know!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

21 thoughts on “D&D 4th Edition Firearms”

  1. Those firearms where not created to be better than a longbow or any other weapon. There are obviously still some advantages to use crossbows and longbows instead of firearms. But if you want to play a D&D game in a setting based on the renaissance era, firearms are much more fitting than longbows. It's a matter of style.

  2. Indeed, but if I was playing a ranger, it would feel kind of foolish to use a musket instead of a bow. If it didn't matter, stats-wise, I could go for the style, but as written, they cost more, take longer to reload and have no other discernable qualities.

    I understand that they are modeled on crossbows, but in 4E, from what I gather, noone uses crossbows, except for rogues, and then only because crossbows are singled out in the rogue powers.

    These rules are good, I like the "2 minor to load" thing, but I don't see any player actually choosing to equip their character with these weapons, as written. In a gamist way, they probably need to be military and on even terms with the bows. I want musketeer rangers 🙂

    <abbr><abbr>Jens Alms last blog post..Alea Tools – A Review</abbr></abbr>

    1. I don't have the D&D 4E rules with me, but when I am not mistaken, my firearms make more damage than bows and should have a similar range. As an added bonus everyone proficient with crossbows can use muskets. Making them military weapons would just reduce the number of classes that are proficient with firearms. And by the way, what would you change to make the guns better?

  3. I see them as a bit underpowered compared with the bows, but the bows are military weapons, so as a drop-in replacement for crossbows, they'll work great. Thanks for the comments on my own write-up (and the inspiration to do it :))

    <abbr><abbr>Jens Alms last blog post..Black Powder Weapons in D&D 4E</abbr></abbr>

  4. Here's the rules I use for firearms. They are more powerful than crossbows, but are much slower (but not so slow as to be unusable). Normally they can be fired only every other round, but can be fired every round at the cost of movement and expending a feat. I was aiming for a reasonable game balance while making them attractive.



    One-handed Prof. Damage Range Price Weight Group PropertieS

    Pistol +2 1d8 10/20 150 gp 3 lb. Blackpowder Load standard, puncturing

    Pocket Pistol +2 1d6 6/12 100 gp 2 lb. Blackpowder Load standard, puncturing

    Grenade* +2 2d6 5/10 25 gp 1 lb. Grenade

    Two-handed Prof. Damage Range Price Weight Group PropertieS

    Blunderbuss** +2 2d6 Close blast 3 200 gp 8 lb. Blackpowder Load standard, puncturing


    One-handed Prof. Damage Range Price Weight Group PropertieS

    Horse Pistol +2 1d10 10/20 200 gp 4 lb. Blackpowder Load standard, puncturing

    Two-handed Prof. Damage Range Price Weight Group Properties

    Musket +2 1d12 20/40 300 gp 10 lb. Blackpowder Load standard, puncturing

    Other Prof. Damage Range Price Weight Group Properties

    Swivel Gun*** +2 3d6 See below 600 gp 25 lb. Blackpowder Load standard, puncturing

    Cannon**** +2 4d8 See below 5000 gp 600 lb. Blackpowder Load full round, puncturing

    * Grenades do area damage (Burst 1). Make a ranged attack vs. reflex.

    ** The Blunderbuss fires a blast of pellets (small bullets).

    *** The Swivel Gun can fire either a blast of pellets (small bullets) (Close blast 5), or an enormous bullet (Range 20/40). Swivel

    Guns use 4 oz. of gunpowder per shot.

    **** The Cannon can fire either grapeshot (a net bag filled with musket bullets) (Close blast 7), or a cannonball (Range 30/60).

    Cannons use 2 lb. of gunpowder per shot.

    Note: there are many Feats, Powers, and Magical Properties that are usable with crossbows that can also apply to Blackpowder

    firearms (as determined on a case-by-case basis).

    Puncturing: Weapons with this keyword roll versus Reflex instead of AC.

    New Feat: Rapid Reload

    The Rapid Reload feat reduces the load time of Blackpowder firearms by 1 step.


    Item Price Weight

    Pistol/Musket Bullets (10) 1 gp 1 lb.

    Blunderbuss Pellets (10 shots) 2 gp 2 lb.

    Swivel Gun Bullets/Pellets (10) 6 gp 6 lb.

    Cannonball/Grapeshot (10) 60 gp 60 lb.

    Gunpowder (32) (1 oz. per shot) 50 gp 2 lb.

  5. A few thoughts on this, I realize I'm a bit late.

    They aren't distinct enough. As they are now, they are bows that take two actions to load, which means they're not viable in hectic encounters.

    They're not by nature simple weapons. They're not really intuitive enough to be. I'd upgrade them to military, and the Blunderbuss to Superior(requiring a feat for proficiency). I'd lower their damage die by 1, but also increase their proficiency bonus by 1, and change their reload to move. That way, you can use a minor action in addition to a standard action or a move action.

    Dragon pistol +3. 1d6 10/20 15gp 2lb. Firearm Load Move

    Musket Rifle +3. 1d8 20/40 25gp 4lb. Firearm Load Move

    Blunderbuss +2. 1d10 6/12 30gp 4lb. Firearm Load Move, High Crit.

    Also think about a few feats, like a paragon tier feat to reduce the load time to a minor, or a heroic tier feat that makes pellets damage a secondary target on criticals, if they are standing directly behind the target(either a ranged basic attack or damage equal to the dexterity modifier, or something).

  6. Actually the British military trained there soldiers to load & fire there muskets in 6 seconds, so I think load minor 2 might be a bit excessive. Certainly a heavy crossbow that had to be winched would take longer then a musket.
    .-= Canageek´s last blog ..Help Me Find A New Game =-.

  7. IMO the best take on firearms should be making them Encounters powers, especially if you want to grasp a swashbuckling feel over a realistic one.
    In this way, you could make them a bit more powerful, as for instance:

    Dex vs Ref
    1d10+Dex (lv11 2d10, lv21 3d10)
    daze (save ends)

    depending on the setting, you could add this encounter power to a character class, give it for free or costing a feat, as prefered.

    What do you think ?

    Frenchman Extraordinaire

  8. Out of curiosity, why versus Reflex? A bullet is too fast to dodge. If anything, firearms attack Fortitude. The ability to press on *after* being hit. Ironically, targeting Fortitude would make them more balanced in a D&D game.

  9. Well,I have made my firearms that I am developing rules for a bit stronger,but with tradeoffs to balance them.This(I think anyways) makes them a tad more realistsic while still not being incredibly overpowered.These still allow them to go 'BOOM!' but,being based on primitive guns,still have a long reload time and are innacurate.Granted,I tend to make things a bit more complex than need-but tell me what you think.And by the way,excuse my grammar(I'm pretty young).

    <New Weapon Group>
    Ironbow:Ironbows are primitive guns.They are highly inaccurate;they take a -3 penalty to attack rolls.This penalty stacks with the bonus gained from proficiency.

    -New properties-
    Unreliable:This weapon hams when your natural attack roll is equal to the unreliable value or lower.You can not fire a jammed weapon until you take a standard action to clear the chamber.

    Aim:You can use a minor action to use the weapon two-handed to steady your aim.This gives you a +1 bonus to attack rolls.(This would represent aiming down the sights.)

    Piercing:You attack both reflex and AC when you target a creature with an armor bonus(not Dex) equal to the piercing value or lower.If it hits either of the defenses,the attack hits.

    Cleanshot:This weapon does not suffer the attack penalty for being an Ironbow.(This is balanced with less damage,and is used to show either an elongated barrel or the inside of the barrel being lined with so-called 'lines' that jut out to make it go in circles,thus making it more accurate.)

    Clip:This is how many times you can fire the weapon before it runs out of ammo.More ammo should be used with certain powers as applicable(Twin Strike uses two shots)


    -Elven Revolver-
    Category:Superior One-Hand Ranged Weapon(Superior for the knowledge it takes to clean it and keep it in working condition)
    Weight:2 lbs.
    Clip:6,8,10,or 12
    Properties:Brutal 1,Unreliable 3,Off-Hand,AimLoad Standard,Piercing 2,Cleanshot.

    Elven Revolvers are finely crafted in the forges of master elf smith.They are lighter,more accurate,and finer than other guns-but this comes with a price.The bullets they hold are not as thick as other bullets,and thus don't do as much damage.

    _Dwarven Revolver_
    Category:Superior One-Handed Ranged Weapon
    Weight:3 lbs.
    Properties:Brutal 2,Unreliable 5,Off-Hand(?),Aim,Load Move,Piercing 4.

    Dwarven Revolvers were designed with one thing in mind-power.The dwarven smiths who craft them care not for accuracy,range,or reliability-only power.

    I guess thats a good taste for you for now.Tell me what you think.

  10. I like your idea and I may use your stats for a campaign I may run in the future. I would make a couple of minor adjustments tho.’ I liked the way firearms were handled in the AD&D Historical Campaign Sourcebook *A Mighty Fortress*. Guns had the potential to do amazingly high amounts of damage, ignore A.C., and backfire. For example. A gun at point blank range always assumed an armor class of 10. At short range, A.C. bonuses were halved, and at long range A.C. was normal. Also, rolling max damage with a gun always prompted a second, third, fourth and so on. Finally, a roll of one backfired the gun, causing the wielder to take 1d4 points of burn damage. To make up for the amazing amounts of potential damage here, I believe the long reloading times are appropriate. So, gun reloading should be considered a standard action.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.