Monday, September 28, 2015

Vehicles in Cypher System Notes: The Night Craft from Numenera

Okay, so I got my PDF copy of "Numenera: Into the Night" over the weekend. The ship combat rules are the same as the vehicle combat rules in Cypher System. These rules are still wildly abstract, and (in my opinion) make better "Called Shot" rules than a basic underlying combat system (I'll possibly post a rant on this later). My attempts to adapt character style (HP, special abilities, design and modification, etc.) combat to vehicles shall continue.

(While normally I use my own artwork, the majority of the post is about the Nightcraft in Numenera: Into the Night", so I use an image of it from the Kickstarter campaign.)

Regarding the Nightcraft:

The description of the Nightcraft actually fits well with my post on A Matter of Scale as a Size Class 8 ship, 160' or roughly the size of a mid-size airliner or strategic bomber. By comparison the Millennium Falcon of Star Wars is 113' long (Size 7), while "Serenity" from the series Firefly is roughly 270 feet in length (well in to size 9). Making the Nightcraft a Size Class 8 vessel places it in an appropriate size-class for a single-party exploration vehicle with some room to haul limited cargo for loot or speculative trade.

Now since the description of the Nightcraft doesn't mention sizes, how did I decide it's a size 8? From the weapon description.

The weapon on the Nightcraft does 12 points of damage, which on a Size-class 8 vehicle would be a Medium weapon. The 20-mile range of the weapon is close to a size-class 8 long range (slightly over 1/2 mile) with Effort modification of range used 5 times. It would normally work out to 16 miles, but the 4-mile difference is within the margin of error of Cypher's pretty coarse measuring system. Making the vessel smaller (size 6 or 7) means 20 miles is outside the longest possible range, where making it larger (size 9 or 10) would mean the weapon inflicts more damage or is a Light weapon and has a to-hit modification not in it's description.

This actually clarifies some ideas I've had about weapon use and ranges. First is treating weapon use as a character. "Medium" weapons are one-handed (minimum) for human characters, so a vehicle can only attack with two Medium weapons in one action (provided necessary abilities or crew). The Nightcraft has a single Size 8 Medium weapon, so as a 'basic' vehicle design it doesn't require any special rules to shoehorn it back in to a uniform ruleset. 

The other is a rule about weapon ranges in a vacuum, rating atmospheres on a 0-10 scale, 0 being total vacuum, 10 being nearly liquid. Earth or similar atmospheres are a comfortable 5. A space weapon (like the one on the Nightcraft) has it's range halved for each increased level of atmospheric density (bringing it in line with the Size 8 Long range), where a land-based weapon has it's range doubled for each decrease in atmosphere density.

I welcome comments on these ideas (or any of my posts).

Friday, September 25, 2015

On Invisibility: One Ability, Two Steps of Modification

I'd posted this on the Numenera Fans Google+ group, but as this blog is an archive of some of my own house rules so I can point my gaming groups to it I should probably include it here.

The rules as written in the Cypher System Invisibility grants Specialization in stealth and Speed Defense rolls. However logically even a master of stealth isn't truly invisible and can benefit from actually being unable to be seen.

My own house rule is that Invisibility doesn't convey Specialization in the skill of being stealthy or on Speed Defense rolls, but rather one level of skill and one asset to both Stealth and Speed Defense. This means instead of a character being Invisible and having the option for two assets to reach the maximum four steps of adjustment, it means a character can only reach that maximum if they have some actual skill in being stealthy as Invisibility only covers the visibility of your person, not things like leaving tracks or how much noise you make.

Likewise Invisibility covers some of the same territory as a skill in stealth so the level of skill granted by Invisibility limits the knowledge and technique that a character Specialized in stealth can bring to the attempt, for instance someone invisible doesn't need to worry (as much) about light and shadow, which is pretty core to sneaking skills.

Shifting one level from Skill to Asset lets masters of stealth take some advantage of Invisibility, while limiting the ability of Assets to make something already completely invisible even more so.


Beyond Invisibility I take alternating levels of Skill and Asset as the norm whenever multiple step adjustments are granted by any one item or ability. For instance Concealing Firearms in the Firearms in Cypher System post, the Light Pistol grants a level of Skill and one Asset rather than two assets or Specialization in concealing it.

Note this applies when any one item or ability grants a two-step adjustment. If you have two items that provide one Asset each it still counts as two Assets, and a third Asset won't actually help. A single item or ability that provides two steps of difficulty modification is powerful enough that someone highly skilled will still be able to get some benefit from it, while someone with limited skill will have their deficiencies in knowledge or tecnique covered by the item.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Cypher System: The Japanese Melodrama Switch

While we eagerly await "Into the Night" for Numenera so I can resume writing up vehicle rules, we can take a bit of a side trip in to Campaign Switches and Japanese Chanbara films.

Campaign Switch: An optional rule that dramatically changes the basic flavor of the game.

Campaign Switch: The Japanese Melodrama Switch

"Death is lighter than a feather, duty heavier than a mountain."
- First Precept of the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors. circa 1883

In Japanese fiction Giri, or Duty, is a major driving force for many characters, especially ones driven by an adherence to Bushido. These characters when faced with the potential of defeat will drive themselves near or even beyond the point of death to ensure their victory, for it is better to die victorious with duty satisfied than to live in dishonored defeat.

The dramatic idea isn't unique to Japan, even in Hollywood action films the hero, embroiled in the final battle with the story's ultimate villain, takes a tremendous beating that he surely can not rise from, and yet with fiery determination in his eye he does indeed rise and proceeds to draw upon his inner reserves to deliver a mighty beat-down and defeat the villain (and we in the audience wonder why he didn't do that sooner...)

If a GM runs a game with the Japanese Melodrama Switch activated, a sense of duty can drive PC's and major villains to accomplish enormous feats by burning their reserves more intensely the closer they are to defeat. In game terms, a character's Effort is increased by one if they are Impaired, or raises by two if they are Debilitated. These increases in Effort are not limited to combat-related actions.

Normally a character that has become Debilitated can do little more than move an Immediate distance, however under the Japanese Melodrama Switch a Debilitated character may act normally if they spend Effort on the action. This level of effort is not spent just to act, but provides all the normal benefits of a level of effort spent on that action.

Debilitated characters may also spend any remaining pool of points on any action regardless of which pool that action would normally draw from. Expending an action may reduce a character's last attribute pool to 0, killing them. 

This ability allows characters rapidly nearing death to accomplish fantastic feats of power and accuracy... though it may be the last thing they ever do. A PC who dies in this fashion should be given the opportunity to say their final words to their comrades after the combat is over, and then comment on the beauty of the cherry blossoms* as they draw their final breath. A particularly rousing, emotional, or just over the top ham-acted speech may be worth an XP or two for their next character to start with.

* Cherry blossoms are often symbolic of mortality in Japanese culture.

Of course, Major Villains can have a deeply felt sense of Giri/Duty and do this too.

The typical 'faceless grunt' character won't have this capability, but major NPC's who are at two thirds of their HP may elect to burn 3 HP to increase their level by one for one action. A major NPC down to less than a third of it's HP may burn 5 HP to increase their level by two for one action. a GM Intrusion may increase the duration from one action to an entire turn.

Changing in to new and deadlier forms with each third of HP lost is optional (though appropriate in some genres).

Bonus Switch: Every Defense is a Counterattack

While we're at this whole Japanese Action Melodrama thing, we may as well do it all the way...

The hero is surrounded by faceless ninja, a whirling melee of blades and fists ensues in seconds and bodies fly away from our hero as though propelled by an explosion.

Many fighting styles include training in an immediate counterattack after a defense, called a Riposte. Some action film genres, specially cinematic Chanbara ("Sword Fighting") movies, take the riposte to an extreme and every defensive action is immediately followed by a counterattack.

The following rules apply only to melee attacks. Ranged combat is resolved normally.

With this switch on when a PC attacks an NPC in melee combat they must -exceed- the NPC's target number to hit normally, if they -match- the NPC's target number the attack is a draw, and if they roll -below- the NPC's target number they take damage from the NPC as though that NPC had initiated the attack.

Example: A level 3 Samurai (target 9) can be hit by the heroes on a 10 or higher, hits the PCs on a 8 or less, and on a 9 the conflict is a whirl of clashing blades, parries and feints, but no blows are landed.

The same applies on a Defense roll: the PC successfully counterattacks if they exceed the NPC's target number, is hit normally if they roll under the NPC's target number, and the attack is a draw if they match the target number. (the example for defense is the same as for attacking).

Effort is applied to both attacks and defense rolls normally and may be used to increase damage on the counterattack (though it must be specified before the Defense roll is made). Counterattacks may not use special abilities (bash, pierce, etc.), those abilities may only be used on the PC's Attack roll. Likewise an NPC may only counterattack with their normally equipped weapon and can't use any special attacks they may have. Counterattacks may be made against melee Special Abilities as though they were normal attacks. This Campaign Switch does not change the way the special ability Riposte works (providing an immediate, additional, counterattack or an asset to the PC's next attack.)

Japanese Melodrama and Every Defense is a Counterattack Campaign Switches inspired by Tenra Bansho Zero "A Hyper-Asian RPG" by Jun'Ichi Inoue, published by Far East Amusement Research. English version translated by Andy Kitkowski, Kotodama Heavy Industries.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Vehicle rules on hold

"Into the Night" for Numenera is slated to have more detailed rules for vehicles (specifically spacecraft). I supported the "Into the Ninth World" Kickstarter so I should be getting my copy of Into the Night soon an I can take a look at their spacecraft rules and rework my vehicle rules to fall in-line with the official spacecraft rules.

I'm also looking at tweaking my vehicle rules to move some of the detail to "Optional" rules, so basic vehicle engagements are no more detailed than standard character combats. Any comments on modifications to what I've got laid out are welcome.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

More Modern Weapon Distinctions.

Other pages in my Firearms in Cypher System series:
Firearms in Cypher System
Shotguns (and a Varmint Rifle)
More Weapon Distinctions

Gun Store Posts:

Gun Store 1: Modern Firearms

A brief interlude in the Vehicles rules to take another look at weapons, and specifically Weapon Distinctions you would find on military weapons and vehicular mounted armaments.

These are additions to the Weapon Distinctions presented in Firearms in Cypher System

Range bands are based on the size class of the attacker as per Vehicles Part 1.

Applying Multiple Weapon Distinctions: 

Most weapon distinctions have a benefit and a downside, so taking a single weapon distinction shouldn't significantly increase the cost of a weapon. A weapon with more than one distinction however has certain benefits of flexibility that a weapon with no distinctions or a single distinction wouldn't have, so that can increase the cost. Actual increases in cost may vary with the way the GM is counting wealth.

A distinction labeled "Limiting" reduces the effectiveness of a weapon, but will offset any costs associated with having an additional Weapon Distinction. IE: an Explosive, Dead Fall Ordinance, Single Shot(limiting) would have effectively one Weapon Distinction as Single Shot offsets one of the other two.

A weapon with only a limiting distinction may be once price class lower than an equivalent weapon without a distinction.

Weapon Distinctions:

Condition Detonated Ordinance: Most weapons are assumed to inflict damage on contact, whether it be a kinetic slug or a shaped charge. Condition Detonated Ordinance inflicts damage based on certain conditions other than contact with a surface. Different types of conditions may include the following:

Command: Command Detonated ordinance is set off by a remote command, at the simplest technology this could include yanking on a very long string tied to a pin, however most purpose-built Command Detonated Ordinance is set off by an electrical signal through a wire, or by a radio signal and a small receiver on the device itself. The downside of Command Detonation is there are often ways to prevent the weapon from going off, be it cutting the string/wire, to the use of electronics jamming to prevent the device from receiving it's' detonating signal..

Magnetic: Typical of Anti-Tank or Anti-Vehicle mines, these devices detonate when large metallic masses pass near them and disturb a series of magnets in the device.

Pressure: Rater than detonate when they come in to contact with a target, these weapons wait for the target to come in to contact with them.

Timed: A Timed warhead goes off after a certain number of rounds. Keep in mind a typical timed-fuse hand grenade has a fuse of less than 6 seconds, less than 1 round of combat, so they are not Timed Detonation devices by these rules.

Vibration: Typical of anti-personnel or Anti-Tank mines, these devices are set off when a sensor in the device detects vibration. These sensors are typically calibrated to trip with certain levels of vibration, such as anti-personnel mines being tripped by quantities of footsteps, or anti-tank mines being tripped by the vibration of a large vehicle passing over it.

Dead Fall Ordinance: These weapons inflict an additional 2 points of damage, but must be thrown or 'dropped' which increases the difficulty of hitting the target by one step. If a vehicle has robotic arms it may throw DFO a Short range, otherwise DFO are dropped from the vehicle like aircraft bombs. The rounds dropped from a vehicle will inflict their damage on impact, though a weapon selected to be both Dead Fall and Condition Detonated would be deployable like mines from a minelayer. Dead Fall Ordinance distinction does not include the Explosive modifier (from 
Firearms in Cypher System).

Guided Weapon: Attacks with Guided weapons receive one inability at Immediate range, one Asset to attacks at Long or farther ranges, and one level of Skill at ranges more than long (ie: 1 step more difficult at Immediate range, no modifier at Short range, 1 step easier at Long, 2 steps easier when range is modified to reach beyond Long*).

Inaccurate (Limiting):  Attacks from an Inaccurate weapon are modified one step in the defender's favor.

Unreliable (Limiting): An Unreliable weapon will jam on a natural 2, requiring 1 action spent clearing the jam. On a natural 1 the weapon breaks and is unusable until it is properly repaired. This is in addition to the GM Intrusion for rolling a 1.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Vehicles in Cypher System, Part 1: A Matter of Scale.

In many genres vehicles are important characters themselves, especially in games inspired by Japanese Anime, but often in other stories certain vehicles take on a role almost as significant as the characters themselves (like the small freighter of a certain roguish blockade-running smuggler). 

The following rules provide more detail for vehicular operations. These scaling rules can also be applied to significantly out-of-scale creatures.

Links for Vehicles in Cypher System series: 
Part 1: A Matter of Scale
Part 2: Vehicles
Part 3: Vehicles and Special Abilities
Part 4: Vehicle Combat
   Related Posts:
Firearms in Cypher System
More Modern Weapon Distinctions

A Matter of Scale:

Why is this Part 1 of the Vehicles in Cypher System series? Because scaling effects for size is something of an elephant in the room when it comes to a broad-brush set of vehicle rules.

The basic assumption of these rules is that two giant piloted robots of the same size can be thought of as two human-sized combatants with similar game mechanics. These rules deal with modifiers for out-of-scale combats, such as between an infantryman and a giant piloted robot, or a giant piloted robot and a Tokyo-smashing super-monster. If two opponents of equal size go up against one-another then the modifiers cancel out.

Part 2 will get in to detailed vehicle abilities and vehicles piloted by PCs, but the short version is to treat them like any other NPC with a level based on the vehicle's quality, and hit-points equal to 6 x level with abilities determined by the GM. A typical vehicle should have a base armor of 1, tougher vehicles may have base armor ratings of 2 or 3, while high-performance vehicles should have a base armor of 0.

Classifying Size:

Humans are size-0 creatures. Vehicles and creatures of increased size are classified from 1 through 10. With increased size comes both greater ease to be targeted, as well as an increased resilience to damage.

Every 1 level of increased size equates to approximately 50% increase in the longest dimension from a creature or vehicle 1-size smaller. Range bands also increase 50% each iteration, though they may be rounded to a convenient approximate number.

Below is a table of longest dimensions and range bands for each size-class from 0 to 10.

Targeting Larger or Smaller Foes:

Large creatures are bigger targets and easier to hit, but their mass makes them significantly tougher and able to ignore many blows from smaller opponents.

Targeting larger (or smaller) creatures or vehicles is dependent on the relative size of both combatants. To determine the step difficulty of attacking a large creature or vehicle, subtract the creature's size modifier from the PC's and divide by 2. Round fractions off. (Optional, subtract 1 from the die roll if the remainder is positive 0.5 (half a step more difficult) or add one to the die roll of the remainder is a negative 0.5 (half a step easier).

Example (1): a PC on foot attacks a size 5 Mecha, the PC's size is 0, so the step modifier is ((0-5)/2), or -2.5 rounded to -2, so the attack difficulty is reduced by 2 steps. When the Mecha retaliates, the defense roll is easier by 2 steps as well.

Example (2): A PC piloting a Mecha (size 5) attacks a battlesuit infantryman (size 1) the step difficulty of the attack is ((5-1)/2) : (4/2) : + 2 step difficulty to both attacking the powered-armor suit and defending against it's attacks. (thus the importance of having Light weapons and their 1-step accuracy for anti-personnel targeting).

Damaging Large Creatures and Vehicles:

Larger creatures are significantly tougher than smaller ones, and so gain 1 point of armor for each increase in size, this is not necessarily actual armor, but represents a general overall toughness from it's own mass. (Remember that for each increase in linear dimension, mass is cubed!)

Weapons carried by vehicles add the vehicle's size modifier to the weapon's damage, and use the ranges in the Vehicle Size Chart (above).

For example: A typical Anime Mecha is a size 5 vehicle, so an over-sized greatsword (damage 6) would inflict 11 points of damage, A giant sized vibro-knife would be a light weapon inflicting 7 points of damage, and getting the one-step shift in accuracy. 

Used against another Size 5 Mecha the Greatsword's damage is dropped back to 6, the mecha-knife drops back to 2, so a fight between two mechanized titans ends up like a fight between two human combatants, except with a lot more collateral damage to the scenery.

Size/Mass for Armor rule above makes it so a character isn't going to damage a typical motorcycle (Base Armor of 1 with Size 1 adding 1 additional point of Armor) with a knife in combat without effort. A vehicle could certainly be tampered with, brake likes cut or something similar, but that is a different skill use (and presumably requiring an unattended vehicle) than attempting to hit it in combat.

Size Class Miscellany:

Vehicles that are pulled (or 'drawn') by other creatures require at least as much size in animals as the size of the vehicle. Each doubling of this minimum adds an asset to Speed rolls to cover distance quickly, but inflicts a 1-step penalty to maneuverability. Having less than that minimum imparts a 1-step penalty to speed and maneuverability.

Size classes over Level 10:

Vehicles larger than Size 10 (364') are of course possible, however they tend to be more 'scenery' than 'vehicle' and should be treated as such. In the case of combat between vehicles larger than size 10 the GM should extend the table above (multiplying the previous entry by 1.5 for each new level), then subtract the level of the smallest vehicle in the engagement.

Using a naval battle for example: An Aircraft carrier is a Size 13 vehicle (1,228 feet) and a Battleship is Size 12 (819 feet). The smallest aircraft launched from the carrier would be Size 5, so the aircraft should be treated as Size 0, escorting corvettes (normally Size 10) as size 5, the Battleship as Size 7 and the Aircraft Carrier as Size 8.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Cypher System Shotgun and Varmint Rifle

Other pages in my Firearms in Cypher System series:
Firearms in Cypher System
Shotguns (and a Varmint Rifle)
More Weapon Distinctions

Gun Store Posts:

Gun Store 1: Modern Firearms

Immediate range shotguns listed in the Cypher System book are terribly difficult to go hunting waterfowl with. My humble suggestion for a more detailed Shotgun:

Shotguns are brutal in close quarters against unarmored opponents (like Zombies), but can lose effectiveness at range or against armored targets (because each pellet needs to penetrate armor individually). 

At Immediate range 12-gauge Shotguns have a base damage of 6, Short range this drops to 4, at Long range it drops again to 2, and if Effort is applied to modify the range to 200' damage drops again to 1. 

Shotguns also have double the Slashing modifier (+2 against unarmored targets, -2 damage against targets wearing armor).

Effort to extend range to 200' reaches typical waterfowl hunting range. Double slashing and 1 point of damage at that range is just enough to pluck a Level 1 unarmored duck from the sky.

If the duck is wearing armor, your dog laughing at you when you don't kill it is the least of your worries.

Double Barreled Shotguns may fire twice at a single target in one action. The difficulty of the attack is increased by two Steps and the shooter must make a Might(4) roll or be Dazed for one round (as an Extra-Heavy weapon). Roll once for both attacks at Immediate range, once for each attack at Short or longer ranges. The potential for double-damage makes them a popular choice for Short range zombie blasting. The downside is that reloading a double-barreled shotgun takes two rounds, which gives the horde plenty of time to get to the shooter.

Shotgun gauges:

Shotguns are made in larger and smaller bore sizes than 12-gauge. The gauge number is determined by the weight, in fractions of a pound, of a solid sphere of lead with a diameter equal to the inside diameter of the barrel. So, a 10 gauge shotgun nominally should have an inside diameter equal to that of a sphere made from one-tenth of a pound of lead.

A .410 caliber shotgun (gauge 67) is a Light Shotgun with the damage profile  3/2/1/0. These shotguns tend to be used by younger hunters learning to handle a shotgun, much like the Varmint Rifle (below), and as compact "Backpacker's guns" that a hiker could use in an emergency.

The 20 gauge shotgun is a Medium weapon and has a damage profile of 4/3/2/1. Some recoil-adverse shooters prefer the 20 gauge to the heavier 12-gauge.

The 12 gauge shotgun is a Heavy weapon with a damage profile of 6/4/2/1 (Default described above). Most shotguns are 12-gauge.

The 10 gauge shotgun is a V. Heavy weapon with a damage profile of 8/6/4/2

Punt Guns were massive 10-foot long shotguns typically mounted to a small boat for use in commercial waterfowl harvesting. A Punt Gun is a Super-Heavy weapon with a damage profile of 10/8/6/4, and may have it's range extended to 400' with a damage of 2. Commercial waterfowl harvesting was declared illegal in most of the United States by the 1860's, and the practice of Market Hunting was banned by Federal legislation in 1918

Shotgun Ammo Types:

Shotshells spread slightly as the pellets travel granting a +1 to the attack roll at Short range and +2 to the attack roll at long range or beyond. Shotguns only benefit from one level of effort to modify their range (200') beyond which the blast isn't concentrated enough to be effective.

Shotguns may load Slugs, which change the weapon to a Short-Range weapon, they benefit from only two levels of effort to extend range and do not have the weapon distinction modifier. Slugs do not get the bonus to hit at Short or Long ranges. Slugs cost the same as Shotshells.

Sabot rounds fire a sub-caliber projectile encased in a sheath that drops away as the projectile leaves the barrel. This changes the Shotgun to a Long-Range weapon which may benefit from effort to extend range as normal, but reduces damage by 2.

Flechette rounds replace the shot in a typical shotshell with aerodynamic darts. 12-gauge flechette rounds were used early in the Vietnam War. This allows the shotgun to have it's range extended beyond 200' with effort, reduces the Slashing modifier to +1 against unarmored targets and -1 against armored targets, and gives the Shotgun an additional "Piercing" weapon modifier (+1 damage on rolls of 17 or higher*, -1 damage on rolls of 5 or lower). Real world applications of flechette rounds have had poor results, so a PC interested in acquiring these rounds may have to pack them himself, a Reloading(4) task.

Flexible Baton or Bean-Bag rounds inflict half damage at short range and the target must make a Might roll against a difficulty of half the shotgun's damage or be Stunned for one round. At Immediate range these rounds inflict full damage. They are ineffective beyond Short range. On a GM intrusion a Baton or Beanbag round may inflict full damage.

Dragon's Breath rounds are a zirconium pyrotechnic round effective up to 20 feet. At Immediate range they inflict full damage and will ignite a target on a failed Speed roll with a difficulty of the amount of damage the target takes. Beyond Immediate to 20' the damage is halved. Targets on fire take half the initial damage per round until they spend a turn to make a Speed roll (same difficulty as the original roll) to put themselves out. Dragon's Breath rounds are visually impressive, but have few tactical uses.

Optional Rule: Swarms and Shotguns

Using this rule most attacks against swarms can only kill one individual of the swarm at a time (example, a 4-damage attack at a swarm of 4 level 1 creatures with 3 hp each will kill one and the last point of damage is lost), shotguns fired at a swarm can do their damage to more than one creature in the swarm at a time. Heavy Melee weapons may also get this benefit.

Bonus Weapon:

Varmint Rifle: a very small caliber, (typically .22) rifle suitable learning to shoot with and/or hunting small game are commonly available without a scope for $150 to $200.
Moderately Priced Light weapon, Long range.

Firearms in Cypher System

Other pages in my Firearms in Cypher System series:

Firearms in Cypher System
Shotguns (and a Varmint Rifle)
More Weapon Distinctions

Gun Store Posts:

Gun Store 1: Modern Firearms

Related posts:

Shotguns (and a Varmint Rifle)
More Weapon Distinctions

Numenera's ranged combat rules work 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.

To 'modernize' the ranged rules for firearms use the following rules:

1): Range Modification with Effort
Range modification with Effort (CSR p.227) is not an optional rule. Quite simply most firearms can reach well beyond 100' or 200'. A shot without effort (modifying range or damage) is a snap-shot, fired from the hip. Long Range is roughly within typical handgun combat ranges.

2): Modifying Range Modification with Effort

Any ranged weapon that does not use the shooter's strength, and has a two-handed grip (not thrown weapons, bows or pistols, but does include crossbows) extending range only increases difficulty by one step for each level of effort. 

(This also justifies the increased cost of a crossbow over a regular bow in Numenera)

3): Point Blank Range:
In Cypher System Rulebook, page 205 under "Range" it lists ranged weapons being fired within "Immediate" range as getting a 1-step shift in the attackers favor. This is true for pistols and one-handed thrown weapons, however 2-handed ranged weapons (rifles, crossbows, bows, etc) receive a 1-step penalty to the attack roll as the defender can attempt to grab or otherwise knock aside the weapon.

A pistol with a silencer (#9 below) has it's length substantially increased, this negates the bonus for firing at Point Blank range (but unlike long-arms does not impart a penalty).

A 2-handed firearm with a "Short" base range (50') can represent SMGs or Carbines designed for close-range fighting. These weapons do not receive a bonus or penalty at Immediate range. Attaching a Silencer to these weapons will increase their length and impose a penalty at Immediate range.

4): Counting Shots:

Most modern weapons listed in the CSR rulebook 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 (rounded up, assuming an average of one round missing, or hitting something nonvital per burst), but allows for three times the number of attacks per clip. Special Abilities that consume multiple shots (Like Spray or Arc Spray) always consume complete Attacks rather than individual bullets.

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)

Firing a Rapid Fire weapon in Single-Shot mode allows the weapon to be treated as one-classification lighter for purposes of weapon skills and X-heavy and S-Heavy weapon effects on the shooter (below).

5): 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 (Training in Might Defense will reduce the difficulty). 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 Intrusion, 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.

6): 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 (Sci-Fi) 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.

7): 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 trade-off 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))

Rifles and carbines (2-handed grips that benefit from "Modifying Range Modification with Effort"), Medium weapons have a 1-step increase in difficulty to conceal, while Heavy weapons have a 2-step increase in difficulty to conceal.

"Holdout Holsters" are Moderately Priced gear that provide 1 asset to concealing a firearm, but must be purchased for a specific model of firearm.

8): Scopes:

Adding a scope will 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 re-calibrated.

9): Silencers 
Optional equipment that 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 by hearing 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).

Note: Silencers work by containing and redirecting the expanding gasses expelled by the cartridge. With extremely few (and rare) exceptions revolvers have a gap between the cylinder and the barrel that makes it impossible to silence them.

10): Tons of Ammo:
This is an optional rule for a semi-cinematic treatment of ammo between tracking every bullet fired and "Hollywood Ammo" where guns just keep firing endlessly.

Track of the ammo in the currently equipped magazine or cylinder, but not necessarily the whole inventory of ammo that the PCs are carrying around, unless they're packing something special like Armor Piercing or Tracer rounds, or the scenario / campaign would mean the characters have effectively at-will access to more advanced ammunition.

This means that in-combat you have to manage your shots, and time the moments you spend your action reloading (hopefully in cover), but the team isn't spending hours and hours managing day-to-day supplies.

Most firearms in Cypher have10-rounds of "shooting" (ie, 10 x 3-round bursts from an assault rifle or SMG). Revolvers in modern (ie: 1980's and later) tend to be bigger caliber or longer cartridge (more gunpowder) so they only get 6 rounds, but a +1 to damage to make up for it. Some weapons may have "effectively unlimited" ammunition, either by having a large reservoir of small-caliber ammunition, or some sci-fi weapons may be powered by an internal reactor that prevents the shooter from having to 'reload' in combat. These "Effectively Unlimited" weapons do 1 point less damage.

Reloading for most magazine weapons should only take 1 turn. Revolvers and other large-caliber 6-shot weapons may take 1 turn to reload 3 rounds.

As far as tracking ammo you can also use a D10 or D6 depending on the weapon.

Why Cypher System Modern?

"Cypher System Modern? Cypher System already has rules for Modern and Sci-Fi genres, what is this all about?"

The Cypher System Rulebook does have some rules for Modern and Sci-Fi games, however they are shoehorned in to a rule set built for fantasy games (specifically those set in Numenera), with only a cursory examination of how to fit modern equipment in to the Cypher/Numenera rules.

My goal with this blog is not to radically alter Monte Cook's Cypher System to fit Modern (and Sci-Fi) genres, but to examine how to use the existing framework presented in CSR to more accurately model modern and futuristic equipment and gear.