ADVANCED WEAPON RULES

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.

Ammunition

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.

Exploding Dice

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 *.

Weapon Tags

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.

WeaponDescriptionSlotsTagsDamage Ammo
Faa RifleThe bolt-action rifle of a Faa warrior.2Accurated8*Ud12
ScattergunSmall, compact shotgun.2Close, Maulingd8*Ud12
BowcasterHeavy, magnetically-charged bow.3Piercingd10*Ud8
RazorwhipCruel braid of barbed nanofibers.1Agonising, Close, Maulingd4
Impulse RifleTitan-era weapon fired using hostile thoughts. Doesn’t require user to be holding it.2Beam, Psychicd8Ud12
Hand CannonBulky, boxy sidearm.2Piercing d6*Ud20
Hellblaster12-barrelled flame-sprayer.3Blast, Fire, Unstable2d6Ud8
Storm GunA chrome spindle that fires lightning.2Electricald8Ud10
Venom SpearA poisoned black spear.2Agonising, Close, Toxicd6 + d6 TOX
BlunderboreA deep-voiced ugly death machine.3Blast, Maulingd10*Ud6
Prism PistolElegant handheld beam projector.1 Beam, Crystallined8Ud20
Line GunHypergeometric rifle that fires 1D projectiles.2Hypergeometric, Piercingd8Ud10
FleshripperGhastly gauntlet mounted with spinning blades.1Close, Maulingd6
Spore ThrowerFleshy grumbling war-fungus.3Blast, Fungal, Toxicd8 + d6 TOXUd8
Grot GunCoats your foes in fast-setting slime mold.2Close, Fungal, Entanglingd4Ud8
Bile SpewerRepulsive wrist-mounted stomach.1Acid, Close, Parasiticd8Parasitic
LasgunThe old reliable. Charged by solar cells in the stock.2Beam d8Ud10, regains all ammo if not fired for half a day
Plasma RifleGlobs of superheated blood, fired from the wielder’s own veins.1Fire, Parasitic, Unstabled8Parasitic
RailgunHeavy armament, once mounted on an Autarchy war-machine.5Piercing3d6*Ud6
FrostblasterNobody expects to freeze to death in a desert.2Close, Entanglingd6Ud10, reload using water
Gemini RifleTwinned gleaming las-crystals rotate in concert.2Beam, Crystallined6 damage to two targets or d10 to oneUd8

All images created by the MidJourney AI.

6 thoughts on “ADVANCED WEAPON RULES”

  1. Greetings,

    I ran a one-shot session on the weekend, using Vaarn #1 rules (see web link in my comment)

    For me, I made up the following rules on the fly:
    1) Crit failure = out of ammo (for ranged weapons), fall prone (melee weapons)
    2) Crit success = two damage dice (ranged or melee)

    Upon reflection after the game, I would also seek to define an additional effect based on the Aspect e.g. “Fungal” aspect could do horrific things on a critical, not just do more damage.

    I like your post above! I would probably seek to define a pro/con setup for each tag. For example, the “Crystalline” tag would ignore 2 points of AC due to sharpness, but break on critical failure. “Electrical” tag would be disastrous to use if the wielder themselves is submerged in water.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, I agree that if developed further it would be interesting to try and think of a positive and a negative effect of each tag, so that weapons with lots of tags wouldn’t necessarily always be ‘better’.

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  2. I’ve made some weapons in the past with special attributes in my unfortunately short-lived game. I made a generator for it too, though I need to update it with Usage Die, that’s a great system! It isn’t perfect and some results made don’t exactly make sense but it’s been a great inspiration for other projects. https://perchance.org/vaults-of-vaarn-weapon-special

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    1. Thanks for sharing, had a play with the generator, I got ‘a Venomous Rapier – Light (1 slot, d6 damage). Attribute: Resonant. On a hit, produces a musical tone. Every material has its own tone. Could be used to identify false doors and forgeries.’

      That’s a really fun weapon attribute!

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      1. Thank you! I wanted each weapon made from it to have a weird quirk in some way, no matter if it’s actually useful to them or not. Also quick question about the Line Gun, does it fire 1d8 projectiles each doing 1 damage, or is it missing something?

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      2. So the intent was the Line Gun fires one-dimensional projectiles, basically just lines. I can see where the confusion arises, it’s quite a weird image!

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