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Monday Gun Day, Part 2: Combi-Weapons

May 11, 2020 3 comments

There’s an old saying about bringing a knife to a gunfight, but the painfully slow reload rates of black-powder firearms made it advisable to have a backup weapon. Some attempts were made to combine the two: bayonets became the most popular solution, but there were quite a few attempts to build pistols into melee weapons of various kinds.

These included swords:

Sword Gun

Daggers:

Dagger Gun

Axes:

Axe Gun

And warhammers.

Hammer Gun

In a roleplaying game, a combi-weapon is a one-shot firearm. Most would be pistols, though some, attached to two-handed weapons, might count as larger firearms. They reduce the time needed to switch weapons, perhaps to no time at all. However, they have some significant drawbacks:

In the first place, they are not generally available. Almost all will have to be made to order, which takes both time and money. The cost will be at least twice the sum of the cost of the two base weapons, and the same is true of the time needed.

An artisan charged with making a combi-weapon must be skilled as a gunsmith as well as a bladesmith. All skill rolls involved in making a combi-weapon carry a significant penalty.

The finished article represents the worst of both worlds. It is heavy and awkward to aim, and ill-balanced for close combat. In game terms, the very best combi-weapons, made by master artificers (even Dwarves!) can never be better than average quality. Most are inferior, and if your game system has a way to rate quality, a combi-weapon is at least two quality steps below the normal level of quality produced by the artisan who made it. There are attack penalties, an increased chance of misfires, and the weapon is weaker overall, meaning that it is more easily damaged in combat if your rules set covers damage to weapons.

That said, though, it can give a wielder the advantage of surprise. An unexpected gunshot at the start of a fight can unnerve the enemy, who will be left wondering what other tricks the character might have up his or her sleeve. Enemies will be warier, even if they don’t mean to be, adopting a more defensive, cautious stance. How this is handled in a game’s rules is a matter for the GM to decide. Especially skittish foes may have to make Fear checks to get over the surprise of a combi-weapon firing, running away if they fail.

So there you have it – and you can see why they didn’t really catch on. Still, I can imagine some players’ eyes lighting up at the thought of a sword that is also a gun, and you can have a lot of fun if the party decides to track down an artisan capable of making such a weapon and persuade them to try.

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