Tuesday, September 1, 2015

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.