Firearms in Cypher System

edited August 2015 in Rules and General Q&A
So Numenera's ranged system works for a fantasy environment, but as happens all too often modern or sci-fi settings get shoehorned in to a ruleset where the state of the art in ranged combat still relied on tensioned sinew.

I have gaming friends who served in the military, this annoys them endlessly

In an attempt to not completely rewrite the rules to accommodate firearms, I have a few thoughts I'd like some feedback on.

1): Range modification with Effort is not an optional rule. Quite simply any firearm can reach well beyond 100' or 200'. A shot without effort (modifying range or damage) is a snap-shot, fired from the hip as it were Long Range is roughly within typical handgun combat ranges.

2): Any ranged weapon that does not use the shooter's strength, and has a two-handed grip (not bows or pistols, but does include crossbows) extending range only increases difficulty by one step. (Also justifies the increased cost of a crossbow over a regular bow in Numenera)

3): Counting Shots: Most modern weapons listed in the main book have 10 "attacks" worth of ammunition. Modern "Rapid Fire" weapons typically have a 3-round burst limiter, so the Assault Rifle and SMG would have 30 individual bullets in a box magazine of 10-attacks, 3 fired with each "Attack". Firing a single round inflicts half damage (assuming an average of one round missing, or hitting something nonvital per burst), but allows for three times the number of attacks per clip.

Again this is a snap-shot off the hip with little time or effort spent aiming. Taking Effort to increase the damage brings those single shots back to immediately lethal to the common soldier (or enough so that a level 2 common grunt is going to seriously consider the option of playing dead)

4): Larger gun weapons. Military firearms get well above simple "Heavy" weapons as defined by Cypher.

Extra Heavy weapons (X-Heavy) inflict 8 points of damage and must be braced. Shooting an X-Heavy rifle without bracing it the shooter must make a might(4) roll or be Dazed by the recoil. If firing unbraced a natural one will inflict 2 points to the shooter in addition to the GM Intervention. X-Heavy weapons tend to have a base range of 300' or 500'. (These are your .50 BMG cartridge Anti-Material Rifles.)

Super-Heavy weapons (S-Heavy) inflict 10 points of damage and while technically man-portable must be set up on a tripod before they can be fired, an attempt to do otherwise immediately invites a GM Intervention, rolling a natural 1 while doing do invites two GMIs. S-Heavy weapons have base ranges of 500' or 1000'.

X-Heavy and S-Heavy weapons require the Heavy Weapons skill to use.

5): Ammunition types. Firearms typically get weapon distinctions through the types of ammunition that they fire rather than as a factor of the weapon itself.

Armor Piercing rounds use the Crushing weapon distinction.
Hollow Points use the Slashing weapon distinction.
Needlers or Shotgun Flechette rounds have the "Piercing" distinction.

Explosive rounds do 1 point less damage, but on a hit inflict that damage on everything in Immediate Range of the target. If Effort is expended to increase damage it only adds 2 to the damage, but on a miss it will inflict one point of damage to all targets in Immediate range of the target anyway.

Chemical Injector: If the damage of the weapon matches or exceeds the target's armor (even if the shot does no damage to the target), the target must make a Might Defense roll against whatever toxin the round was loaded with. Increasing Damage with Effort may, instead of doing additional damage, increase the difficulty of the Might Defense roll by one step. Typical chemical compounds (Sedatives, poisons, etc.) have a Level of half the weapon's base damage.

6): Concealing firearms:
While it's typical for a medieval or fantasy hunter to carry their bow even in town, attitudes about carried weapons in civilized areas change dramatically with the invention of the modern firearm. For pistols concealability is the tradeoff for a rifle's relative ease of range modification.

Sci-Fi weapons with similar performances can be assumed to have similar concealability.

A Light Pistol gives a level of skill, and one asset to concealing the weapon, either on your person or in a container of some sort. These are small-caliber weapons specifically designed to be concealed on the shooter.

A Medium handgun gives one asset to concealing it. These are typically up to .45 caliber

Heavy handguns give no bonus to concealment, or may impart a 1-step penalty to concealment (for big shiny monsters like the Ruger Super Redhawk). (Optionally Heavy Handguns that don't impart a 1-step penalty to concealment do 5 points of damage (still require Heavy Weapon skill))

7): Scopes add 1 or 2 Assets to shots where effort is used to extend range. Typical optical scopes only provide one Asset, where more advanced electronic scopes with enhanced spectral range (IR, Low Light, UV, etc) grant 2 Assets. Scopes are fragile and must be carefully calibrated. A GM Intrusion from a natural 1 on any Speed Task may break or otherwise make a scope useless until repaired and recalibrated.

8): Silencers add 1 or 2 Assets to avoid being heard while firing the weapon. They are bulky and each level of asset to avoid hearing detection imparts a step penalty to conceal the weapon while it is mounted.

Base difficulty to avoid detection is the weapon's damage (a big intimidating .50 handgun is difficult to silence much at all, where holdout pistols can be effectively silenced with a good enough silencer.) Rapid Fire weapons fitted with a silencer use the damage of their attack as the steps of difficulty to conceal their sound (for taking single-shots as above) (the H&K MP5 Submachine Gun has a very effective silencer that makes the gun effectively silent on single shots).
  1. Are these useful to you?4 votes
    1. Yes
    2. No


  • Well, hmmm, if you feel like you need that much additional detail then go for it. It sounds like you have developed a workable system for getting the detail that you want. I don't feel like I would need that much additional detail, I would however adopt the modified ranges for firearms that you suggest or something similar. I would however keep it simple so like the rest of the Cypher System it remains something that I can easily modify on the fly. I was thinking of simply changing ranges for firearms and other weapons that are somewhat long range buy making the regular Cypher System ranges differ from weapon to weapon on the fly. For instance I might say that a 9mm handgun has an effect range of immediate 10 yards, short 50 yards and long 100 yards, and a lot of other handguns could share those ranges as well. Rifles are a whole other animal, rifles even without optical sites are capable of considerably longer ranges than handguns. Something like a .22 rifle I might keep the effective range about the same as the handgun above, of course a shooter could use effort to increase these ranges a bit, say an extra 50 yards for every level of effort with this class of guns. Then you have rifles that are high powered and have decent stopping power but aren't generally used a really long ranges like the 30/30 rifle for instance a weapon of this class I might make immediate range 10 yards short range 50 yards and long range maybe 150-200 yards, levels of effort could extend the range by 50 yards per level. We next come to the 30/06, the 270, the 308 and some assault rifles would likely fit into this category as well, immediate range 10 yards, short range 50 yards, long range, 300-400 yards levels of effort night increase the range by 100 yards per level, a scope would be considered an asset depending on its quality it could provide 1-2 step reduction in difficulty. I won't go on into .50 cal sniper rifles and the like, just I would just eyeball it based on the quality of the weapon, the opticals the shooters skill and the like. You have quite a bit of wiggle room a .50 cal on a tripod or bi-pod with an experienced shooter can make shots at over 1000 yards. 
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