The weapon stats given in the core zines aren’t very complex. When it comes to mundane weapons, all you’re really told is the basic form and a descriptive modifier, which has no set gameplay effect. They have a weight in item slots and a damage value: d6 for a light weapon, d8 for a medium weapon, and d10 for a heavy weapon. It’s extremely minimal, which is by design. I didn’t want to overload players or referees with extraneous information, and I didn’t want there to be ‘correct’ choices in what kind of weapon you took beyond what you felt was right for the character. There’s a gameplay choice to be made in terms of weight and corresponding damage dice, and that’s it. You don’t track ammo, you don’t get any information about the weapon’s damage type, etc.
What if we’d like to make things more complex, however? Although my instincts point towards minimalism, complexity isn’t inherently negative in game design: it can add depth and richness. I definitely don’t mind complexity that’s optional and modular. With that in mind, I’m going to revisit the Vaarnish weapon list and add a bit more detail. These aren’t Exotica, they’re intended to be ‘mundane’ weaponry that would be commonly available to vault-raiders.
Note that these are all experimental musings, and won’t be appearing in ‘official’ Vaarn material anytime soon. But if you find the weapons as presented in the original zine too minimal, consider adopting some of these rules.
Ranged weapons now use ammunition. This operates on a Usage die system, which hopefully most readers are familiar with. In case you aren’t:
Any item listed in the equipment section that has a Usage die is considered a consumable, limited item. When that item is used the next Minute (turn) its Usage die is rolled. If the roll is 1-2 then the usage die is downgraded to the next lower die in the following chain:
d20 > d12 > d10 > d8 > d6 > d4
When you roll a 1-2 on a d4 the item is expended and the character has no more of it left.The Black Hack
After every combat, roll your weapon’s Ammo Usage die. If it rolls a 1 or 2, the Ammo Usage die size reduces. When your Ammo Usage die is expended, you’re out of ammunition for that weapon (for extra drama, you could employ a ‘one last bullet’ rule at this point). The Ammo Usage die size listed with the weapon’s stats is also the maximum ammunition you can carry for that weapon.
A d6 Usage die is recorded with the following notation: Ud6.
You could easily extend the Usage die system to Exotica that have ammunition or limited uses.
Some weapons’ damage dice now explode. When a damage die shows its highest value, roll another die of the same size and add it to the damage total. There is no limit on the amount of damage dice that can explode in one roll. Exploding damage dice are indicated with an asterisk *.
Weapons now have tags that describe their effects in more detail. These have sort of existed for a while, because some attacks or weapons already specific that they’re hypergeometric or beam attacks, but the rules never actually state what that means. There are a few types of armour that state they defend against certain types of damage, but overall it’s quite loose. This is an attempt to codify weapon tags a bit more.
Here are some common tags:
Acid. The weapon degrades armour. On a hit, the weapon either deals damage or reduces the target’s Armour score by one (attacker’s choice).
Accurate. You roll to hit with Advantage when using this weapon at long range.
Agonising. The weapon is excruciatingly painful. Biological creatures must make a Morale save if they are damaged by the weapon.
Beam. The weapon fires a beam of energy. Beam attacks are deflected by mirrored surfaces and are not effective during sandstorms.
Blast. The weapon can deal damage to multiple opponents. Roll a single d20, add modifiers, and compare the result to each target’s Armour score to calculate who should take damage. The weapon’s damage is split between all affected targets. Targets with a lower Armour score receive a greater share of the damage. Swarming creatures take double damage from Blast weapons.
Close. The weapon is only usable at melee range.
Crystalline. The weapon uses delicate crystals to function. If the user rolls a natural 1, the crystals have broken or become misaligned and the weapon cannot be used. It must be fixed after combat.
Electrical. The weapon deals double damage to Synthetic creatures, opponents wearing metal armour, and opponents submerged in water.
Entangling. Targets hit by this weapon must DEX save or become Entangled. Entangled creatures have an Armour score of 9, and attack with disadvantage. They must make a DEX save to break free.
Fire. The weapon deals fire damage and will ignite flammable objects. It deals double damage to Fungal creatures and no damage to Synthetic or Mineral creatures. It cannot be used underwater or against submerged opponents.
Fungal. The weapon deals no damage to Fungal creatures. It regains an Ammo die step when fed decaying animal or vegetable matter.
Hypergeometric. The weapon exists partially outside of Euclidean space. It deals double damage to Hypergeometric creatures.
Mauling. The weapon is especially effective against lightly-armoured opponents. It deals an extra dice of damage against targets with Armour 14 or lower, but deals halved damage to opponents of Armour 18 or higher.
Parasitic. The weapon is alive, and cannot be unequipped without surgery. The wielder must consume double rations or the weapon is unusable. When this weapon damages Biological creatures, the wielder regains HP equal to half the damage inflicted.
Piercing. The weapon hits opponents as though they had -2 to their Armour. An Armour 16 opponent would be hit on a roll of 14, etc.
Psychic. The weapon is psychically bonded to the user. It requires a PSY defence of 15 or more to use.
Toxic. Biological creatures hit by this weapon must make a CON save or incur a Toxin Die.
Unstable. If the wielder of this weapon rolls a 1 while using it, the weapon explodes, dealing 2d6 damage to the wielder.
I think this is fairly straightforward; you can probably think of some tags of your own. I would put the onus on the players to remember exactly what their tags do.
Some Sample Weapons
Now the fun part: let’s put it all together. These are mostly going to be guns and ranged weapons, although I will throw a few melee weapons in there.
|Faa Rifle||The bolt-action rifle of a Faa warrior.||2||Accurate||d8*||Ud12|
|Scattergun||Small, compact shotgun.||2||Close, Mauling||d8*||Ud12|
|Bowcaster||Heavy, magnetically-charged bow.||3||Piercing||d10*||Ud8|
|Razorwhip||Cruel braid of barbed nanofibers.||1||Agonising, Close, Mauling||d4||–|
|Impulse Rifle||Titan-era weapon fired using hostile thoughts. Doesn’t require user to be holding it.||2||Beam, Psychic||d8||Ud12|
|Hand Cannon||Bulky, boxy sidearm.||2||Piercing||d6*||Ud20|
|Hellblaster||12-barrelled flame-sprayer.||3||Blast, Fire, Unstable||2d6||Ud8|
|Storm Gun||A chrome spindle that fires lightning.||2||Electrical||d8||Ud10|
|Venom Spear||A poisoned black spear.||2||Agonising, Close, Toxic||d6 + d6 TOX||–|
|Blunderbore||A deep-voiced ugly death machine.||3||Blast, Mauling||d10*||Ud6|
|Prism Pistol||Elegant handheld beam projector.||1||Beam, Crystalline||d8||Ud20|
|Line Gun||Hypergeometric rifle that fires 1D projectiles.||2||Hypergeometric, Piercing||d8||Ud10|
|Fleshripper||Ghastly gauntlet mounted with spinning blades.||1||Close, Mauling||d6||–|
|Spore Thrower||Fleshy grumbling war-fungus.||3||Blast, Fungal, Toxic||d8 + d6 TOX||Ud8|
|Grot Gun||Coats your foes in fast-setting slime mold.||2||Close, Fungal, Entangling||d4||Ud8|
|Bile Spewer||Repulsive wrist-mounted stomach.||1||Acid, Close, Parasitic||d8||Parasitic|
|Lasgun||The old reliable. Charged by solar cells in the stock.||2||Beam||d8||Ud10, regains all ammo if not fired for half a day|
|Plasma Rifle||Globs of superheated blood, fired from the wielder’s own veins.||1||Fire, Parasitic, Unstable||d8||Parasitic|
|Railgun||Heavy armament, once mounted on an Autarchy war-machine.||5||Piercing||3d6*||Ud6|
|Frostblaster||Nobody expects to freeze to death in a desert.||2||Close, Entangling||d6||Ud10, reload using water|
|Gemini Rifle||Twinned gleaming las-crystals rotate in concert.||2||Beam, Crystalline||d6 damage to two targets or d10 to one||Ud8|
All images created by the MidJourney AI.