Use of Gunpowder in TTRPG’s

text reads Gunpowder in TTRPGs over a background of wooden kegs

Well met Variants, Variant Rory here to share a thought again this week. I know there is a big debate at some TTRPG tables about including gunpowder in their games. In my opinion, I think it’s a great addition, but not everyone will agree, and as in all things, ask the DM what their rules are.

When most people talk about the inclusion of gunpowder in their TTRPG setting, the definition is fairly limited. Usually this inclusion refers to single shot, flintlock or matchlock weapons, or the unique multi barreled firearms typical during the Renaissance. This is where the first disagreement can occur, since many players will try and find a way to turn these rudimentary, single shot weapons into the rapid fire machine guns of the modern day. One solution is to have your character carry multiple sidearms, which was a regular practice to multiply an individual’s firepower.

Another complaint against firearms in fantasy RPGs is that the weapons are out of place in the time period D&D and other RPGs draw from. This is not accurate, as gunpowder projectile weapons began use in China as early as the 1100’s AD, and had been used in Western Europe, the area drawn on for inspiration most commonly as early as the 1400’s. While typical flintlock muskets were not commonplace until around the 1600’s, cannons and hand cannons saw much earlier use. And there were other types of gunpowder weapons used, including grenades and baskets of arrows propelled forward by an explosion.

Finally, people will argue that fantasy settings do not have a precedent of gunpowder use. To this I say nay. One of the most commonly adopted fantasy works of the modern day includes gunpowder. Look no farther than Lord of the Rings, during the Battle of Helms Deep. The Orcs of Isengard use black powder charges to breach the Deeping Wall and storm the castle. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie, but this is included in the book as well.

While these are not going to be persuasive arguments to everyone, a deeper look into the history and use of gunpowder throughout history provides many examples of how it can be implemented into a TTRPG setting. I hope to see it more in the future.

Do you have an experience using gunpowder in your TTRPG settings?

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