Capes & Crooks: DevSpeak | Designing Ultramodern Weapons In Dungeons & Dragons 5e
Updated: Jun 8
When designing for a superhero RPG set in an ultramodern setting, one of the things that we had to figure out was how to deal with more futuristic weapon options. Let’s be honest, the basic loading property of a crossbow just isn’t going to work. In the 5e ruleset, some of the ranged weapons have the Loading property. Because of the time required to load the weapon, a character can only fire one piece of ammunition from it at a time. This creates an obvious problem for including machine guns or blaster rifles.
During brainstorming we tried to think of how a weapon may be treated and how this mechanic could be replicated. For instance, let's use a sub-machine gun as an example. In most comics, movies and TV shows, we see the thug or hero often just lay down the spray with a weapon such as this. So, to use that is less a traditional attack action and more of a barrage of attacks. This means we have to make a decision. Do we just assume that there are several attacks included in the roll? What about allowing the weapon to hit a nearby target? The options are plenty. As we were looking at preexisting material, we discovered this answer had already been covered, in the spells section. Specifically, burning hands. This spell allows the caster to essentially “spray” an area with fire. This forces the enemies in the area to dodge or take cover (much like bullet spray). So our sub-machine gun has been given a new keyword called Autofire.
The keyword Autfire reads as follows; Autofire. Some weapons such as the sub-machine gun are less precise. These don’t require a traditional ranged attack. Instead, you open fire and all targets within range and the area of effect must succeed a saving throw. The DC for this attack is 8 + your dexterity or wisdom modifier + your proficiency bonus. A target takes no damage on a successful save. Since the sub-machine gun is designed for close range combat, we next had to decide on a range. As of this writing the sub-machine gun is written as follows:
Sub-Machine Gun: 3d6 piercing damage Ammunition, Range (20/50 Cone) Autofire, Light, Loading.
This gives us everything we need to integrate the weapon into our game. After making this adjustment, we decided we wanted to give the other weapons a bit more of a unique feel. In 5e, most weapons feel almost the same. The only real difference in some of them is their name, see halberd, pike, and glaive as an example. They are all pretty much the same weapon mechanically. Let’s talk daggers. A player is far less likely to use daggers as a main weapon when options such as short-swords or pistols can also be selected. Knowing this, we opted to look at giving weapons a bit of their own unique flavor. In the dagger example we opted to give it the Keen 19+ feature. What this means is that the dagger can score a critical hit on a d20 roll of 19 or 20. The trade-off here being weaker damage per hit, for an increased chance to score a critical hit.