By Rich Redman.
You know, no matter what you do, when you're talking about guns, someone can always quote a source that contradicts you. For instance, everything I know says the Colt 1911A is a .45, not a 9mm (in fact, it was developed to replace the .38 caliber revolver used by the US Army during the Phillipine Insurrection). On the other hand, I'd never heard of a Glock 18 either, so what do I know?
Speaking as a former US Army officer and a bit of a gun fan, I was a bit surprised at some of the choices used in the Feng Shui rulebook for Modern Weapons. However, I'm thrilled with the whole idea of how similar the weapons are. Here are some suggestions for some items that could make great signature weapons.
I think revolvers were covered really well in the Feng Shui rules, so I'm going to start by concentrating on self-loading pistols:
Remember the automatic pistols used during the VR sequence at the start of Virtuosity? They were Beretta M93Rs, a variant of the 9mm pistol currently in use by the US Army (among others). There's no reason to play it any differently than a Glock 18 except that the Beretta M93R can not fire more than one 3-round burst at a time and has a capacity of either 15+1 or 20+1. Heckler & Koch (remember that fine German craftsmanship) makes a weapon favored by the current incarnation of James Bond as written by John Gardener, the VP70. Quite similar to the P7 in appearance, this is functionally a Beretta M93R with a capacity of 18+1. Either of these three weapons is useful for characters that need high rate of fire with high concealability.
Okay, I doubt anyone wants to admit that they saw "I Come in Peace," a sci-fi flick starring Dolf Lundgren. However, the weapon used by the alien was clearly one of the Calico designs. Truly exotic looking, the Calicos have huge, spiral magazines that sit on top of the weapon. The Calico 950 is a 9mm pistol (10/3/50+1 (there's actually a 100+1 magazine available!)). The 960A is a sub- machinegun version (10/5/50+1 or 100+1). Some eclectic Killers may favor these for their huge ammo capacity.
Boy, Italian gun manufacturers don't miss a trick. SITES SpA of Italy makes a 9mm pistol called the M380 Resolver which is only 17mm wide. Designed as a concealable weapon, this makes a great back-up. The M9 is a .40 S&W variant that is only slightly larger. I think the M380 is 8/1/8+1; and the M9 is 10/2/9+1.
As a rule, almost all submachineguns are roughly the same. They're all generally 9mm weapons, and they were originally designed for use by vehicle crews who didn't have room to operate a full-sized rifle. However, there are a few variants not covered in the Feng Shui rulebook worth discussing (actually, any gun-focused character would want to discuss them all):
The Model 68 Skorpion is showing up more and more on both big screens and small, and on the street. Made in Czechoslovakia, this machine pistol is inflitrating the West at high speed. I've chosen the Model 68 because it's the 9mm version. 10/4/10, or10/5/20. High-class mooks will carry these instead of Uzis.
The P90 is a funky design made by FN Herstal of Belgium. It fires a unique 5.7x28mm cartridge that is closer to an assault rifle round than a pistol round. It's also a bullpup design, meaning the magazine is behind the pistol grip instead of in front of it. This reduces the overall weapon length without sacrificing barrel length. Other features include a translucent plastic magazine so the operator can see at a glance how many bullets are left, an optical sight (no magnification), and a largely plastic construction. This was specifically designed to give military vehicle crews the firepower of an assault rifle without the bulk. 12*/5/50.
Of the H&K submachineguns presented, I was disappointed that my two favorites, and one very special design, weren't included. First, the H&K 53. In my opinion, any submachinegun that fires a full-sized assault rifle cartridge helps redefine the word "mean." In service with several special operations and police forces worldwide, the MP53 makes a distinctive sound and muzzle flash when fired. Treat as 13*/5/25. This is not an easy weapon to control. You get -2 to your Action Value for each 3-round burst after the second one. The MP2000 will make any Ex-Special Forces character drool, because it was specifically designed to the specs of the US Navy SEALs. It has a collapsible stock, a forward handgrip, and a removable suppressor. The plastic magazines are not compatible with other H&K weapons. Like the P90, the magazine is translucent so the operator can easily gauge how much ammo he has left. Don't let your players fool you, there's no reason to treat the MP2000 any differently than the MP5 in the rules. Finally, the MP5SD6 is a silenced version of the MP5 family. You may remember from Steven Segall's film Marked for Death that "A whisper in the ear from this girl goes a long way."
There are only four assault rifles worth discussing that aren't already in the rules, IMHO.
The FA-MAS used by the French Army and L85A1 used by the British Army are both bullpup designs currently in wide-spread use. As mentioned before, this design reduces the overall weapon length without sacrificing barrel length. Otherwise, they fire the same ammunition as the M16. Treat the FA-MAS as having an ammunition capacity of 25. The L85A1 has the same capacity as the M16. These similarities prove the point made in the Feng Shui rules that "There are lots of variations on this one, none of which have cool names." The difference is strictly role-playing.
The H&K G11 is so cool-looking, and such an innovative design, that I'm still surprised it didn't make it into the book. You don't see it in the movies or TV much since it has yet to be officially adopted by any military, paramilitary, or police force. Okay, it doesn't have a cool name. However, it is the only production assault rifle that fires caseless ammunition. Since there is no case, each round is lighter and the weapon can carry more ammunition without increasing the weight. A smaller, higher velocity round was also designed for the G11 to further decrease the weight and increase the capacity. In addition, since there is no case to eject when the bullet is fired, there are fewer openings in the weapon for dirt to enter (the Difficulty task check for a jam is 3). Eliminating one step in the firing cycle radically increases the rate of fire (a three-round burst sounds like one loud shot). Treat the G11 as 13*/5/50.
Finally, the last weapon in the assault rifles section is the Steyr AUG. Another bullpup design, the Steyr actually has at least four versions: A submachine gun (10/5/32 or 25), an assault rifle and a carbine (13*/5/30 or 42), and a light machinegun (13**/5/42, 30 available). By making changes to the barrel and breech mechanism, the operator can easily switch between versions. You can carry a whole arsenal in a suitcase!
I don't blame Daedalus for not going into sniper rifles in the rules. They really don't have much to do with the genre. For the most part, in fact, you can just use the M14. The US military has used a variation known as the M21 for years. However, a new monster rifle has appeared on the scene, and recently begun sneaking into action movies. The Barrets M82 fires a whopping .50 Browning round (that's half-an-inch in diameter, folks) and I first saw it on-screen in Bill Paxton's hands during Navy SEALS. Curiously enough, I'm convinced that I spotted a newer, bullpup version (the M90) in the last minutes of The Rock. To give you some idea of the overall length saved by the bullpup design, the M82A1 is 145cm long, while the M90 is only 114cm. The M82 is 14**/5/11 and the M90 is 14**/5/5. Don't even think about firing one of these except from the prone position using the built-in bipod unless you have a Strength rating of at least 11.
Perhaps most dear to the hearts of gunslingers are shotguns. The selection in the rules is excellent except for two things: Automatic shotguns, and those with box-magazines.
I know of two, exotic, truly automatic 12-gauge shotguns: The Daewoo USAS-12 made in Korea, and the Pancor Jackhammer made in the US. Both of these have box magazines, like assault rifles. Treat the USAS-12 as 13/5/12 (or 28), and the Jackhammer as 13/5/10. Note that there is no slide to manually pump. The "KA-CHINK" pantomime doesn't work with them, but on full rock and roll, who cares! Also, if your Strength is less than 11, apply a -2 Action Value to every three-round burst after the first.
There are several more box-fed shotguns on the market besides those, including the Franchi SPAS-15, the Beretta M3P, and the Bernardelli B4. Interestingly enough, these semi-automatic weapons can be used in either the semi-auto mode or the single-shot. In single-shot, the "KA-CHINK" pantomime will work. The chief advantage these have over other shotguns is that they can be reloaded in 3 actions instead of 6.
Finally, sourcebooks (how to do it yourself). I highly recommend Chameleon Eclectic's supplement for Millenium's End, Ultramodern Firearms. If you don't have a copy, get one. Not only is the list of weapons excellent, but it contains tons of valuable charts, and explanations of how weapons really work that are in plain English. Edge of the Sword, Vol. 1, Compendium of Modern Firearms published by R. Talsorian Games, Inc. is a good source for military and paramilitary weapons (I don't know why you need a grenade launcher, but who am I to judge). It uses quite a bit of jargon and technical language, so be forewarned. Finally, Guns & Ammo's Annual issue is valuable not only for its catalogue of commercially available weapons, but also for its collection of articles. For instance, the 1994 issue has pieces on how pistols were carried in the Wild West, the effects of different ammunition types using ballistic gelatin to simulate flesh (with photos), knives to complement your hunting weapons, and more.
John Tynes notes: "Pagan Publishing produces a mail-order-only sourcebook intended for Call of Cthulhu, but applicable to most any RPG. The Weapons Compendium covers firearms from the Revolutionary War to the modern day; hundreds upon hundreds of guns are listed from around the world, and many interesting ones are spotlighted. Using the caliber-damage table in Feng Shui, they're easily converted. We're out of stock on it right now, but you can order it from Chaosium by phone: (510) 547-7681, credit cards accepted. KA-CHING!"
Last modified: May 2nd, 1997; please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.