Review: Elves With Shotguns
I’ve been playing rather a lot of Torchlight lately. Partly that is in anticipation of the imminent release of Torchlight II, but also because it happens to be one of my youngest son’s favourite games. That’s my excuse anyway.
For those of you who don’t know, Torchlight is set in a fantasy world much like that found in D&D, with one notable exception: guns. Your hero is as likely to be equipped with a Flintlock Pistol or Blunderbuss as they are with a Shortbow. Add in other steampunk elements, and this is one game which just begs to be given the D&D Campaign Setting treatment.
This is (in a roundabout way) where Elves With Shotguns comes in. This is a 44-page supplement by Randomology Games which adds guns to Fourth Edition D&D, and does it extremely well indeed. In fact, if the only thing it did was “give me guns in D&D like Torchlight” and nothing else it would be worth the $8 (currently discounted to $5) asking price, but it does so much more. Don’t be fooled by the page count.
Rather than present a single set of rules for firearms, it offers three distinct “Eras” of play. and the GM has free reign to pick which one (or more) best reflect how guns work in the campaign setting.
Era 1 represents firearms in their earliest stage of development. Guns are powerful, barely controlled things which take an age to reload. These are the early flintlock, wheel-lock and matchlock pistols, muskets and blunderbusses, and in D&D terms they operate just like Magic Items. Reloading is possible during combat, but as it takes 5 Move Actions it is more likely the user will open combat by firing then switch to a melee weapon to wade into the action. If you want to run a gritty Napoleonic-era 4e D&D campaign, this is a great way to do it.
In Era 2, firearms become much more reliable and easy to reload (either one or two Move Actions) and are treated just like any other weapon, with the sole restriction that they cannot be used with any multi-attack Powers – single shot, single targets only. If you want a setting where firearms are reasonably common but don’t necessarily overshadow Bows and Crossbows, this is a good option.
When we reach Era 3, all bets are off and the firearm is king. Here with get Revolvers, Carbines and Pump-Action Shotguns, and they all have multi-attack capability. The age of the Longbow is dead.
I can see a use for all three Eras, and applaud Michel for recognising the different levels which guns can be included in a campaign. I can picture a regular D&D adventure where the heroes face off against Orcs with Era 1 Blunderbusses, a kickass Pirate campaign using Era 2 Pistols and Muskets or a full-blown Fantasy Noir setting using the Era 3 weapons and rules.
And we’re only up to Page 15.
What follows is coverage of firearms-related Equipment (Ammo Boxes, Bandoliers, etc), Magic Items (different kinds of Black Powder, firearms-specific Magic Items, Ammo and more). There are items inspired by everything from Warhammer to The Matrix. And it all works in 4e D&D. The breadth of options in this section is excellent, and it really helps show how firearms can be used to enhance and integrate into D&D.
Chapter 3 presents Character Options, and presents Alternate Class features for the major Core classes. The Fighter, for example, could replace his Shield Proficiency and Combat Challenge with the ability to use Strength (rather than DEX) for two-handed firearms and gain the Artillery Taunt At-Will Power. This isn’t just a Fighter, but a Fighter with a really big gun! Paladins can become Bullet Knights (shades of Equilibrium, perhaps?), Rangers can take the Musketeer Fighting Style, Rogues can take the Gunslinger Talent, and so on. New Feats include Double-Tap and Firearms Novice (a Firearm Multiclass Feat chain) which opens gun use to every class. I like.
The whole supplement is written is a style that perfectly combines game mechanics with flavour text and friendly sidebars that explain the rationale and available options along the way. This is clearly a labour of love. While it lacks the layout and polish of a commercial RPG house, the sheer quality and attention to detail the content shine through.
The download includes both colour and B&W printed-friendly versions of the PDF, as well as a bundle of all the images used in the text for your own personal use. Nice touch.
This is one highly recommended product.