Flintlocks and Mages?

Since I've had such good luck with my other questions here, I thought I'd try this one, too.

I'm working on a game set in (more or less) Restoration-era London (about 1660). And that means guns--specifically, flintlocks, wheellocks, and even leftover old matchlocks. Has anyone written house-ruled the play of these weapons for ArM?

I'd love to hear whatever suggestions or thoughts you all might have. In terms of the weapons themselves and the way that period armor would deal with them (and the ways mages might deal with them, too). So, how much damage, how does it affect soak, how does armor work against it, etc.

I want the mechanics to work out so that people take to rapiers and light armor (if any), because I'm looking for more of a swashbuckling game. I want musketeer-type companions.

I've seen some posts on modern-day armor versus modern day guns, but that's a different story...

S. Buckler

Ward against terram still works against musketshot.

Muskets should have several extra botch dice, with the risk of explotions.
I'd also suggest that you limit the level of effective skill for firearms - Hiting was more a matter of luck than skill... Also, firearms should have a considerable reloading time... (The last might just be the most important aspect - if you need 20 turns to reload, you're probably better of shooting once, and drawing your sword...)

Noted, about the warding spell, the extra botch die, and the max skill level, thanks!

Anyone have any insight into early-modern armor versus bullets?

Remember: The words bullet proof are a misnomer. The correct term is bullet RESISTANT. They resist bullets, they are not automatically guaranteed to stop them. This holds true for modern, early modern and so on and so forth.

My troupe used firearms in a past saga that may be somewhat similar to yours. We were in Venice, mid-1400's but the same swashbuckling style, of a sort. Only one PC--a companion--had a flintlock, mostly NPC's had them, and they ended up being rarely used simply due to the fact our magi were more the sneaking around at night than the charge the barricades type. We developed some basic house rules for them, nothing fancy.

Essentially they were treated as any other missile weapon, just with different stats. We were doing 4th edition combat rules, but they looked something like this:

Initiative -10, Attack -5, Defense n/a, and Damage +18.

Initiative: Slower than a crossbow to reload, but not 20 rounds. A skilled musketeer should be able to reload a musket in 15-20 seconds, more time required if not so skilled. During the American Revolution soldiers were documented firing a musket up to 5 times per minute, but this was exceptional. 3 times per minute was expected.

Attack: As has been noted, it's more a matter of luck than skill. Remember that muskets were intended as a military weapon, not one-on-one combat. so a formation of 500 musketeers all firing volleys didn't have to be too accurate.

Defense: Same as all missiles, none.

Damage: If you hit, CONGRATULATIONS! Your reward is LOTS of damage. We didn't try to rewrite the combat rules to make "special circumstances" for muskets or any special armor rules, and I recommend you don't either. Keep it simple. The handgonne, flintlock, etc. just does more damage than a crossbow.

Important note: players should be reminded that these things are cumbersome, loud, wildly inaccurate beasts and if they want a "sniper" character, tell them to get a crossbow. Have fun!

Btw - armour of this period tended to only protect the vitals, while the traditional period tended to protect the entire body. As a result, you might want have armour affect damage ranges rather than actual soak. This means more light wound (Gracing the limbs) but less heavy wounds and worse. Offcourse, against a gun with a really nasty damage modifier that will matter little...


This is almost off-topic, because you clearly want to use firearms in your game, but they don't work in the intended fashion in an Aristotlean universe. Without momentum, a bullet would do as much damage from a gun as if launched from a sling or thrown by hand (but they would go further). Damage is based purely on the size of the missile, not its speed. If you want to preserve some notion of power, you could judge that the blackpowder used imparts a Strength score, used in place of the wielder's Strength score in the damage calculation, but even that is a fudge. The best option is to use blackpowder to hurl bigger missiles than would normally be possible by hand. I explore some options in a recent article of Sub Rosa.

Of course, feel free to ignore this; not everyone is so obsessive about an Aristotlean Universe in ArM5 as I am :slight_smile:


IIRC it was precisely ballistics what made the aristotelian conception come down crashing in the real world. The more practical minded people KNEW that the theory was wrong already in the XIII century, so ballistics working "properly" do not necessarily break down the game, just a faulty conception that aristotle had. Authorities can be wrong as well :slight_smile:

Great aristotelian ballistics article, BTW. I had my parents read it and they enjoyed it immensely.


Not in the 1400s! At that time the standard weapon would be matchlocks, meaning you have to handle a constantly slowburning match (commonly stuck onto a holder on the hat or held between the teeth) while openly pouring powder into and then pressing it down in the weapon.
This could easily require a minute or two.

In the ACW, even the most primitive weapons used(the 1816 Musket) were of evolved types of flintlocks using prepackaged rounds (bite one side of the package to pour the premeasured powder into the barrel, bite off the other end to get the bullet, place the remains of the package into the barrel as wadding, add the bullet and then ram it down) . And not seldomly many muskets in the ACW actually used precussion cap munition, and some even Minie-ball rifle conversion.

Flintlocks didnt exist until early 17th century. The wheellock probably appeared around early 16th century(but was far too expensive to be common).

This isnt really true. Give a person a week of training with either weapon and their hitrate with muskets will be better than with bows (crossbows is an exception to this rule but it had its own downsides like the string and either lower hitting power or very large size(and for the largest and most powerful crossbows the size and weight of the ammunition was also a HUGE problem since they used all-metal bolts(while for normal crossbows the bolts were "just" a good bit larger than the bullet and powder needed for a musketshot))).
Train a person a month and the result will be the same. Train them 10 years and the one with the bow is far far superior to one with a musket.

Muskets started becoming popular for hunting long before it became common in warfare, guess why...
Wether the musket is a cheap massproduced thing or a wellmade one and the quality of the bullets both makes a big difference for accuracy. For soldiers, cheap in large numbers was more common but for other uses better quality was much preferred. This was one part of why sometimes pirates and other non-military groups could sometimes outfight considerably larger "pro" military forces, because they used higher quality guns and also used the very same guns to "hunt for dinner" meaning that they were considerably more welltrained with them.
This was most notable when lower quality militaries with matchlocks clashed with expert paramilitaries armed with wheellocks(which due to cost were never really in widespread military use).

Oh thats EASY... Any low level CrIg spell on powderhorns, weapons and powderkegs and you have BIG fireworks and some very dead or injured enemies.

One possibility could be to give them a more variable damage rating(ie adding a die to the damage caused) where the highend is above all others but where the mean is perhaps around or a little less than a crossbow.

Let the weapon skill affect loading time, this would allow you to have elite musketeers that can be somewhat effective with firearms only, but will still likely prefer to use swords.
Expect characters to have a few pistols (some pirates of the time your looking at were known to carry as many as 8 and most would carry at least 2 or 3) with them whenever going into battle and perhaps 1 or 2 as part of normal "clothing".
Muskets are fairly slow to reload and are also big and heavy, could give an additional penalty to mobility for carrying them. There are also lighter muskets, but those would of course be less powerful in damage.

Matchlocks will still be in plenty common use at the time you mention even if flintlocks have become the norm, the last military use of matchlocks was IIRC mid-18th century, simply because some places couldnt afford getting new stuff and wasnt important enough to have it assigned to them.
Wheellocks are the best overall because their delay between pulling the trigger and shot fired is the least, but they are also quite complex to make and so, usually not massproduced or used for military purposes (but individuals in an army and especially leaders could very well have them, purchased on their own or plundered)

Well, in short, the bullet of any regular handgun today CAN be stopped by personal body armour...
However, switch to even basic steelcored AP ammo and any gun that can use it will penetrate most armours.
Then, if you add radical new composite or superfacehardened armour like for example Exote, then bullets simply shatter on impact and even regular rifle bullets can be stopped.
Until of course you start loading those guns with highend AP(like teflon/tungsten-polymer) in more powerful cartridges, well then you again penetrate body armour...

Which is why for a loooong time it was common to have between 1/6 and 1/3 musketeers in a unit, with the rest being pikemen(or far less commonly soldiers with other close quarters weapons).
This also due to the very simple reason that firearms were NOT the be-all end-all weapon when it comes to damage caused, unless fired at very close range, it was not uncommon to be hit a few times and still continue fighting more or less normally. The push of a welltrained unit of pikemen was far more effective and deadly, often even if they had to march 200m through gunfire first to get into meele range.

More like obsessively against it!

Correct, but not in canonical ArM5, where Aristotle was right (-ish) and there is no momentum. In this universe, black powder will not have such a great impact; although there will always be a place for cannons.

Cheers. I had fun writing it too.


I prefer my own saga to have aristotle to have been a very smart guy, but not in the level of Jesus with a direct conference call permanently connecting him with God. IMS aristotle got it wrong when it came to movement. And a few other things, but hey. In general I think that makes the setting much more believable.


Uhm, so how does Aristotle explain that a hand-thrown arrow just doesn't equal a bow-shot arrow?

Wow, just incredible amount of info...you guys are so generous with your knowledge about how to shoot things up--thanks.

I think I have everything I need, except for one thing. I'm not really using the Aristotelian defense--in my world, things have moved on, and the subjective nature of reality as modified by the Enlightenment has caused inertia to being to exist (if anyone asks). Plus, one of my players is a philosophy prof, so I don't want to open that particular can of worms.

So I'm trying to work out a mechanic based in more or less real on the real world that will make people stop wearing heavy metal armor once guns come about. Making guns do massive damage to overcome soak doesn't work, as that won't make people not wear armor. If anything, it'll make them wear more. I wonder if anyone has tried about a simple penetration modifier to things that penetrate. It's an extra add that is only for the purposes of overcoming the armor part of soak. I'd add it to bows, crossbows, rapiers, and bullets, among other things, in varying amounts. If you were wearing armor, it'd get a bonus to go through, if not, it affects you normally. It's a bit of a fudge, but the inaccuracy in terms of physics is on the side of causing people to find armor less useful when confronted with pointy damage, including bullets. I spose you could say that armor soak can only be reduced so much--that it has a minimum soak that not even the penalty can overcome, to model all armor at least slowing down the bullets, and to give people a reason to wear buff coats and stylish leather jerkins...

What do you all think?

S. Buckler

The questions about firearms for these later games are interesting and important...but to me the even more important question is: What does the Order look like in 1600? Is there one? Etc. That to me is the harder part of the futuristic settings.


The hand-thrown arrow would not go as far as the bow-short arrow and might not stay aimed to the target. Both concur to it making less damages in combat situation.

By the way, a hand-thrown arrow is just a short javelin.

Serf's Parma, but I believe the answer to the arrow question can be found in the Flambeau section of Houses of Hermes: Societates. Anyway, IIRC, Aristotelian Physics posits that an arrow displaces air as it travels and is propelled forward by the force of air flowing into the vacuum left in its wake.

On another note, a medieval source might also note that an archer has better leverage (a well understood concept) than someone throwing an arrow by hand...

Not quite true; Aristotle denied the existence of vacuums. The initial generator moves the arrow and the air, imparting onto the air the ability to act as a generator. As the portion of air moves the arrow, it also imparts the motive capacity to the next portion of air, which moves the arrow and the next portion of air, and so on. The motive power of each successive unit of air declines until it is incapable of moving the next portion of air, at which point natural motion takes over.