Sample Black Powder Weapons for HARP

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell © 2005

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

"Gunpowder is easily ignited by stray sparks, let alone fire-based magic."

To mark the bicentennial of Nelson's victory and death at Trafalgar and Napoleon's triumph at Austerlitz, I decided that an article on black powder weaponry using HARP was in order.

Black powder weapons first came into their own in sixteenth-century Europe with matchlock guns. These matchlocks held a lighted match on an arm -- when the trigger was pulled, the arm dropped the lit match into a small pan of gunpowder. This ignited and in turn set off the larger quantity of gunpowder behind the bullet (then called a ball because of its spherical shape). The resulting explosion fired the ball out the gun. The match could be put out by rain or start a fire.

By the middle of the sixteenth century, the wheelock was invented. When the trigger of this weapon was pulled, a spring-loaded wheel would spin against a piece of steel, sending sparks into the pan and set off the gunpowder. Wheelocks were reliable, could be carried while loaded, and less troubled by weather, but expensive and difficult to build. By the end of the sixteenth century, the flintlock was developed. This replaced the lit match of the matchlock with a flint piece that struck steel on a trigger pull, sending sparks into the pan. Flintlocks were more reliable than matchlocks and less expensive than wheellocks.

Until the late eighteenth century, a shooter had to measure the gunpowder charge necessary for his weapon from a powder horn. The invention of the paper cartridge dispensed with this laborious measuring by providing the correct amount of gunpowder and one bullet in one simple package, speeding up loading times substantially. Rifling (the process of engraving spiralled grooves inside a gun barrel) was developed around the same time and this led to more accurate (if slower) weapons due to the rifling imparting spin to the bullet stabilising its motion.

Only four blackpowder weapons will be considered in this article, namely the pistol, the musket, the rifle, and the blunderbuss. All of these weapons are single-shot firearms.

The pistol is a one-handed firearm with limited range and power. It is a good weapon for duelists, highwaymen, and gentlemen adventurers.

The musket is a two-handed firearm with a barrel of up to 42 inches in length. It is the traditional weapon of the musketeer and will find favour with soldiers, sailors, and marines. A bayonet (effectively a sharp dagger blade) can be fitted to the musket allowing it to be wielded in melee once the weapon has been discharged.

The rifle is a two-handed firearm, akin to the musket, but with a rifled barrel for greater accuracy. An excellent weapon for the hunter or the sniper, it can also be fitted with a bayonet.

The blunderbuss, a two-handed firearm, is the ancestor of the shotgun. Stubbier than a musket, it has less firepower and a poorer range.

Characters who wish to learn any of these weapons will have to develop the appropriate skills in the following Weapon Class Groups:

Weapon Class Individual Weapons
1-Handed Firearms Pistol
2-Handed Firearms Musket, Rifle
Shotguns Blunderbuss

1-Handed Firearms, 2-Handed Firearms, and Shotguns form a Blackpowder Weapon Class.

When your character learns a particular group of blackpowder weapons (1-Handed Firearms, 2-Handed Firearms, or Shotguns), he or she selects one weapon from that group to be his default weapon. Your character receives his or her full bonus when using this weapon. All other weapons in the group are used with a -10 modifier. Other weapon groups within the same class may be used with one quarter of your character's bonus for any known group within that class, or a bonus of +25 (plus stats, and other modifiers), whichever is less. To change the default weapon, the character must spend one week training with the weapon that he wishes to become the new default weapon for the group. Once that week is up, only the new default weapon may be used at the full bonus.

Equipment Table

Item Cost Weight Production Time Notes
Matchlock musket 3 sp 8-12 lbs 2 weeks
Matchlock pistol 6 sp 3-6 lbs 2 weeks
Wheelock musket 2 gp 8-12 lbs 4 weeks
Wheelock pistol 4 gp 3-6 lbs 4 weeks
Wheelock rifle 4 gp 8-12 lbs 4 weeks
Flintlock blunderbuss 8 sp 7-9 lbs 3 weeks
Flintlock pistol 2 gp 3-6 lbs 3 weeks
Flintlock musket 1 gp 8-12 lbs 3 weeks
Flintlock rifle 2 gp 8-12 lbs 3 weeks
Bayonet 3 sp 1 lb 1 day Treat as dagger
Ball 1 cp 0.5 lb 1 hour One shot
Gunpowder 2 sp 10 lbs 1 week Enough for 20 shots
Match 5 cp 0.5 lb 1 day 6'' match
Paper cartridge 5 cp 1 lb 1 week 1 ball + enough gunpowder
Powder horn 5 cp 1 lb 1 day
Spare flint 1 cp 0.25 lbs 1 day
Spare spanner 2 sp 0.25 lbs 2 days For wheelock maintenance

Blackpowder Weapons use the Black Powder Weapons Critical Table (see below) and the Blackpowder Fumble Table

Black Powder Weapons Critical Table

(-19)-(-10) Was that a warning shot? 1 Hit
(-9)-0 You barely scratched him. 3 Hits
1-10 Your bullet gouges a shallow scar. 5 Hits
11-20 Foe should stick to that diet. Bullet grazes foe's side. 7 Hits
21-30 Just another flesh wound. 9 Hits
31-40 Bullet passes cleanly through foe's shoulder. Foe takes 12 Hits and is bleeding at 1 per round
41-50 Nasty upper leg wound. Foe is stunned 1 round in pain, is bleeding at 1 per round and takes 15 Hits
51-60 Shot hits weapon arm, tearing muscle as it passes through. Foe is at -10, stunned 1 round, bleeding at 1 per round, and takes 18 Hits.
61-70 Low shot breaks bone in foe's foot. Foe is at -10, stunned 2 rounds, bleeding at 2 per round, and takes 21 Hits. Foe falls down.
71-80 Foe takes bullet in side. Foe is stunned 2 rounds, bleeding at 2 per round and takes 24 Hits.
81-85 Bullet breaks one of foe's ribs en route through foe. Foe is stunned 3 rounds, at -15 from pain, and bleeding at 3 per round. Foe also takes 27 Hits.
86-90 Foe is hit in the knee. Foe is stunned 3 rounds, at -20, bleeding 3 per round, and suffers 30 Hits.
91-95 Bullet catches foe near hip. Foe is stunned 3 rounds, bleeding 4 per round and takes 33 Hits.
96-100 Bullet gouges foe's cheek and removes his ear. Foe is stunned 4 rounds, bleeding 4 per round and takes 36 Hits.
101-105 Bullet tears its way through foe's weapon arm, breaking it. Foe is at -30, stunned 4 rounds, bleeding 5 per round and takes 39 Hits.
106-110 Agonizing stomach wound perforates intestines. Foe is at -40, stunned 5 rounds, bleeding 5 per round and takes 42 Hits. Foe will collapse in 12 rounds and die in 1 hour.
111-115 Bullet leaves a trail of destruction through foe's vital organs. Foe takes 45 Hits, is stunned 5 rounds, bleeding at 7 per round and dies in 6 inactive rounds.
116-119 Bullet intersects foe's heart. Foe is bleeding at 9 per round, takes 48 Hits, and dies in 3 inactive rounds.
120 Foe is shot between the eyes. Bullet destroys brain and foe dies instantly. 50 Hits

Black Powder Weapons

Weapon Attack Size Fumble Reload Time Reload Time (Paper Cartridge)
Blackpowder Musket Medium 01-05 10 rounds 5 rounds
Blackpowder Pistol Tiny 01-04 10 rounds 5 rounds
Blackpowder Rifle Medium 01-05 15 rounds 8 rounds
Blunderbuss Small 01-05 10 rounds 5 rounds

Size Modifiers

Attack Size Critical Modifier
Tiny -20
Small -10
Medium +0
Large +10
Huge +20

Range Modifiers

Weapon RI PB PB Range
Blackpowder Musket 40' +20 20'
Blackpowder Pistol 20' +10 10'
Blackpowder Rifle 50' +20 25'
Blunderbuss 30' +20 15'

Blackpowder Fumble Chart

01-25 Not enough powder in the pan. Gun fails to fire. You'll have to unload the gun completely (5 rounds) before you can reload again.
26-50 Impressive gout of smoke but an absence of a ball means no harm is done to the target.
51-75 The gun's barrel ruptures during firing. Roll d100-20 on the Heat Critical Table and apply damage to yourself.
76-100 The gun explodes when fired. Roll d100 on the Heat and Slash Critical Tables and apply the resulting damage to yourself.

Gunpowder and the Environment

Damp gunpowder will not ignite properly. Adventurers must therefore be careful to keep gunpowder dry in wet or damp weather (e.g. rain, snow, mist, fog, etc.) and must avoid immersing gunpowder in water.

Gunpowder is easily ignited by stray sparks, let alone fire-based magic. In the event of an accidental explosion, anyone within 5 feet of a 10-pound bag of gunpowder will suffer a Small Heat Critical (roll d100-10 on the Heat Critical Table). GMs may wish to increase the severity of the critical for larger quantities of gunpowder at their discretion.