Before we get into the gun rules, we here at AtE staff want to pull back the curtain and explain why we’ve written them the way we have. Firearms are an iconic part of the Western genre, and AtE – above all other things – is a Western game. Guns are the primary mechanism for resolving conflicts, their use a romantic component of the meta-fiction.
We want guns to be important. We want guns to be deadly. But we didn’t want them to be overpowered or make combat too easy and therefore not fun. If there’s no challenge – if the PCs can just mow down wave after wave of bad guys – then that’s not going to be fun for most people. Maybe a few, but not most. And our philosophy is maximizing fun for the most amount of people.
We also don’t want to completely negate non-firearm weapons as combat solutions. Melee and even Archery aren’t as powerful as Firearms, but we still want them to be viable means to conflict resolution (in the same way that there are unique, esoteric characters in Westerns that use weapons other than guns to be weird, niche, and otherwise cool). Overall, we want combat to be gritty, hard, and high-stakes. It means something when someone draws their gun in a Western.
This is going to be a fine line to walk, and a large part of Year Zero is a playtest of these combat rules, to try and balance the numbers and systems we’ve come up with. We ask for both patience and trust from our players.
With that said, here’s how guns work from a mechanical point of view:
Guns cannot be fired an unlimited amount of times. By default, everyone can fire 6 bullets from their gun before it locks and cannot be fired again. After 10 minutes of inactivity, the gun’s limiter will refresh, and X more bullets can be fired.
The only way to fire more bullets is to either level up your character’s Firearms skill (which is a longer-term solution) or apply an Absorber Pack – a tagged item – to the gun. At each odd level of Gunslingin’, you will permanently gain more shots-per-rest. If you apply an Absorber Pack, you’ll gain even more temporary shots you can fire. But no matter how you get more shots, you’ll have to wait 10 minutes to refresh your base value.
Absorber Packs are one-time use items, and once the extra shots they provide are used up, they’re gone for good. They’re temporary. Only one can be applied at a time (you can’t “stack” them) but you can chain their use. These are a consumable resource, however, and are going to be rare; they’re expected to be used as a kind of currency.
We understand we’re asking people to keep track of how many shots they fire, but thanks to low numbers it’s no more difficult (we believe) than tracking Prowess, Charges, or Resilience in the other ORB games.
As a side note, the way we have our gun rules set up precludes the use of auto-fire weapons, or weapons that fire multiple projectiles at once. We know that physreps exist for these sorts of weapons, and are working on rules to incorporate their use. But that rule space exists on the other side of a whole lot of Junkin’ work, and as such will not be available during the first few games. We do not want to give an unfair advantage to players who can afford more expensive weapons (in terms of real-world currency), and as such those kinds of features will only be available with the investiture of significant in-game resources.