Guns Blazing You Say?

Guns and Gears is out! With it we have the returning Gunslinger class and the new Inventor class. We have rules for firearms, we have funky new technology, and also sorts of fancy options for characters. Before I dive into all the class stuff, I want to talk about something else. This is going to be a me bragging a little and showing off some stuff.

Guns and Gears is an especially exciting release for me personally because it’s the first hardcover product from Paizo that I got the chance to work on. I’m on the authors list! Of a big fancy official book! Specifically, in the Gears Equipment chapter, I wrote: 

  • Simple Hazards and Complex Hazards
  • Stasian Tech

And in the Guns Equipment chapter: 

  • Black Powder Siege Weapons
  • History of Black Powder Artillery on Golarion
  • Black Powder Siege Towers

Unfortunately, as with any freelancing work, not everything I wrote got in. And, since I wrote it for a paid job, it’s not something I can reproduce here or expand upon like I did with the Tragedy Bard Muse. Maybe one day, some of the cut material will be published in another book, but for now, there’s still plenty of cool stuff to talk about!

It’s important to note that while the entries I submitted were my own work, a lot of other people worked on this stuff too. The published versions’ exact wording or numerical values might differ from my original copy a bit, and in some cases an idea was reworked more substantially to better represent the idea I was trying to convey. The editors and developers at Paizo do amazing work.

Blowing Stuff Up

One of the new rulesets in the book is how to use siege weapons and incorporate them into a game. Unlike 1e’s version of the rules, this time around siege weapons are actually pretty easy to put into a campaign with regular characters. Sure there are ways to specialize into using them better, and the more trained in weaponry you are the better you’ll be with siege weapons. Still, there’s no reason why a rogue couldn’t figure out how to light a fuse on a cannon.

To be clear, I did not write these rules. The base rules for all siege weapons and for firearms were developed by someone on the team, and I was given a working draft of the rules to design the black powder siege weapons. I wrote the siege engines themselves, and I wrote how the existing rules like misfire chance interacted with them, but I want to be sure people don’t think I’m taking credit for all the intricacies of the rules.

A little history about me: I wasn’t allowed to play with guns as a kid. Obviously most kids don’t get to play with actual guns, but my parents were very strict about not involving guns in my play at all. They forbade me from playing Fox or Samus in Smash Bros. because they had guns. I once got a nerf gun of some sort for my birthday, and my folks took it away from me while I was playing with it at my birthday party (my parents were getting pizza or something and didn’t know I opened it or it wouldn’t have gotten that far). I don’t bring this up for pity or anything. Looking back at it I know my parents only did it because they were protecting me out of love, and it’s a funny story to bring up nowadays. I do bring it up, however, to point out how little I knew about guns and cannons and whatnot. For this assignment, I had to do research. More research than I put in for some college assignments. I watched documentaries, I read journals, and if it weren’t for Covid, I was considering going to a museum of warfare to get more info. A developer of Starfinder once mentioned that they made sure the science behind certain abilities was faithful enough to real world laws of physics that it made sense, even when breaking them with magic and such. I wanted to be sure I had a similar basis in reality, even if this was for a fantasy game. 

Looking at the black powder siege weapons (which I might shorten to “artillery” sometimes from now on for brevity, even if it’s not 100% accurate) that got included, there’s a lot of standard options like bombards and cannons. Everyone expects these, and they were in first edition too. For those, I referred back to the old versions, updated them with the new rules, and compared them to real world examples in terms of how large of a crew was necessary, how quickly they could be reloaded, how far it could accurately fire, etc. Easy enough if you put the time into it.

Then you have things like the hwacha. What’s a hwacha?

Hwacha, the best form of archery

A hwacha is essentially an arrow-rocket-launcher developed in fifteenth century Korea. Attach tiny rockets to 100 arrows, load them into a big frame, and light them all at once. When I saw the hwacha, I knew I had to include it. Not only is it just a cool concept – why shoot one arrow at a time when you can fire ONE HUNDRED OF THEM ATTACHED TO ROCKETS? – but it’s an example of an eastern siege weapon rather than the typical cannons most western audiences know. In fact, I submitted a couple more than got printed, but as I said, things get cut for space and content all over the place. I’m just happy the hwacha got in as some level of representation. I might not be able to add a lot of diversity elements in a section about artillery, but I made a point to try to give as much as possible. The “History of Black Powder Artillery on Golarion” section parallels real world gunpowder history for this reason. It would be reprehensible to act like cannons and mortars started and ended in the western world. Also, remember what I said about the editors and developers working wonders? This is one of the biggest changes made to my submitted material. I wanted to show some way of the hwacha having more of an impact the more time you spent loading arrows, but the way I expressed it was nowhere near as good as the published version. That is thanks to one of the wonderful people who took what I submitted and made it better.

Tsar Cannon, inspiration for the Alkenstar Cannon

Eagle eyed proofreaders might realize “hey, these items are all in alphabetical order except for two. The Steelheart 21 and the Alkestar Cannon are out of place.” That’s because those are the correct places with their original names, which were only suggestions for names since they were much more specific than generic “cannon” or “bombard” entries. They’re also two more of my favorites. The alkenstar cannon is loosely based on the real world tsar cannon, and the Steelheart 21 is based on the canon de 75 modèle 1897 (also known as the French 75). Those weren’t actually the names I submitted, but funnily enough they do fit into their placement just the same.

French 75, inspiration for the Steelheart 21

The tsar cannon has the world record for largest bombard in history, which was so big that they sort of just stopped transporting it part way through and made smaller cannons instead. The French 75 was revolutionary in artillery development, surrounding the barrel with fluids to absorb the impact and reset the aim faster than any cannon of the time. This translated into the special “Quick Aim” reaction on the weapon.

FOR SCIENCE!

The first assignment I received for the book was something called Stasian Tech. I had no idea what that was, but it sounded exciting! Long story short, Golarion has Teslapunk now due to Irrisen’s connection to early 20th century Russia. And I got to make stuff using it! I’m a huge steampunk / teslapunk fan, so I was stoked to get to put some of this stuff into the game. 

A real world theremin doesn’t detect spirits as well as in the game.

The concepts of galvaspheres and Stasian coils were not mine. They were in a summary of setting stuff I received to build off of. Ways you use them, like the galvanic mortal coil and the shockguard coil, were my job. Another thing on the summary was a description of how a theremin – or “spirit-singer” – worked by spooky ghosts, haunts, spirits, and whatnot activating them. As an eternal bard player, I had to do something with that. Thus, a handheld theremin that you can play as an instrument or use to find haunts more easily.

Violet Ray, invented by Nikola Tesla

I want to specifically mention the violet ray here. Like I did with artillery, I did a bit of research on real world technology from around the time of Nikola Tesla so I might replicate some of them in game as Stasian tech. The violet ray is my favorite find from this research. It was an attempt at a medical device to use the power of electricity to fix… something? It unintentionally wound up being sort of snake-oil-y in the end, but plenty of testimonies claimed it could do all the things listed in the item’s entry. 

Lastly, the hazards section just before Stasian Tech were my design too. I actually wrote way more than what got printed, but understandably traps and such weren’t really top priority for a book full of character options and lore. Erupting steam vents, an electric fence, and possessed clockwork mannequins were all concepts early on, and I’m happy with the results. I did like the ones that got cut, but again, maybe Paizo will dig them out some day for use in another book. 

Summary

That’s a quick run down of the stuff I got to work on in Guns and Gears. I’m so happy I get to talk openly about it now! You can go purchase it right now. Please let me know if you use anything in the sections I mentioned. I’d love to hear stories of stuff I wrote getting used in games! Also, for especially ambitious nerds out there, I included one minor and extremely specific sort of easter egg in one my entries that did make it into the final version. If you think you’ve spotted it, let me know!

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