Recently, I’ve been playing in an online LotFP game (Dungeon Moon, run by LS of Papers & Pencils) that uses the 2013 Rules & Magic book “as written.” Thus, the firearms appendix is available. After my previous warlock (reskinned elf class) character died to a poison gas trap, I decided to make a gunslinger fighter to take these firearms rules for a spin. Playing a character with lots of guns and explosives where those things are still somewhat out of the ordinary is exactly as fun as I thought it would be (which is to say, a lot of fun).
I have now used the rules for several sessions, and I can say with confidence that I like them. There’s enough variation from other types of weaponry that guns actually feel different, without necessarily being superior in all cases. Damage is good (being 1d8 for all types of firearm), and bullets cancel up to five points of target armor, but a gunner is at increased risk from fire-based attacks (due to the explosive compounds that must be carried), and there is a chance of misfires (potentially wasting a combat action and fouling the weapon). These factors, combined with higher prices, mean that every PC is not likely to upgrade their weapons to firearms at the first opportunity.
So, I am happy with the rules, but their presentation is somewhat confusing. The relevant details are nested between paragraphs of historical background, and prices between the various options are hard to compare, as they use a multiplier per feature design. For example, having a wheellock firing mechanism causes a gun’s cost to increase sevenfold. Adding rifling further doubles that. To make the firearms rules more user-friendly, I created a one-page firearms quick reference PDF that does most of the multiple calculations (the only dimension that is not included in the price matrix is rifling) and also includes all the important rules. It is available under the OGL, so everything beyond the first page is legalese (that is to say, for table use you probably only want to print out the first page). In the process of putting this PDF together, I also noticed that there are actually rules for blunderbusses hidden under the ammunition entry “scattershot.” Thus, the only real omission remaining is how to handle grenades.
Following these rules, the most effective gun combatant is an unencumbered fighter with a high dexterity. A fighter with a flintlock (base reload time: 4 rounds) with an 18 dexterity (bonus of three, bringing the reload time to 1 round) using “apostles” (prepared shot that decreases reload time by 1) has an effective reload time of zero, meaning that they can fire every round (at least, that is how I would rule it). There is still a 10% chance of misfire for every shot though. Even my gunfighter (who has a dex bonus of 2) is considering investing in a light crossbow as backup, though that’s another two encumbrance slots.
Another tactic that I plan on trying is loading a brace of pistols with scattershot, which would serve as a good combat opener (area effect damage over a 45 degree fan with no attack roll needed and a target save for half damage). How to handle firing off two such “breath weapon” attacks in a single round will need a referee ruling though, as it does not seem to be covered in the rules explicitly.