How well does D&D 5e handle future tech / sci fi weapons/armor?

Bricker Jr is planning to DM a new role playing campaign. His idea for a story is essentially fantasy meets SF: a future genetically terraformed world settled by man in which the native species of life weren’t wiped out, but their DNA twisted and mixed into Earth patterns and resulting in the races that we know from classic fantasy: orcs, elves, etc. And also that star’s radiation, plus trace elements in the planet’s crust, plus mutations, all make possible things we might describe as magic.

Sort of Firefly meets Merlin, plus kobolds and dragons.

So his question to me, which I punt to you: how easy would it be to manage the (very rare) presence of a laser pistol, or (pretty rare) Colt automatic, or Kevlar body armor, etc etc, in the current D&D combat mechanics?

I suggested using Fantasy Age, which I know from watching Wil Wheaton can handle modern and future weaponry alongside broadswords. But he has at least one player that’s very strongly in favor of using D&D, so he wants to know if this is realistic. Has someone solved this problem and published a sheet somewhere?

His thinking is that on an isolated world, laser pistols run out of energy but swords keep working, so the vast majority of his story is no problem to scope within D&D. But he’d like to be able to use the high tech when needed without winging it.

It depends what you mean by “handle”. Most versions of D&D have tended to treat guns (laser or otherwise) similar to a crossbow, say. I.e., they’re just another kind of missile weapon, although maybe doing slightly more damage. That would be trivial to add to 5E D&D. Likewise for modern armor vs. fantasy armor.

If you want to make up some house rules (like guns shoot five shots per round instead of one shot for a bow or crossbow, to pick a random example), then you’re getting into murkier waters.

Can you imagine the rules lawyering at that table??

It’s the murkiness I’m trying to avoid. :slight_smile:

For “roll to hit,” purposes that makes sense; for damage I’m not sure I see it.

My suggestion would be to model them as crossbows with extra accuracy and damage, but not a ton (for balance purposes) unless there’s going to be, like, a very special plot thread involving a machine gun as a superweapon or something.

A little googling seems to indicate that bullet wounds are in fact tons more devestating than arrow wounds due to the amount of energy involved. (Apparently you can get brain damage from being shot in the leg??)

If your kid(s) care about this level of accuracy, I would suggest dm-hand-waving something about how in this world, whatever supertech it is that simulates magic effects, also has gotten into everything, including everyone’s bodies, and protects them from some level of damge from sci-fi weaponry–while not actually knowing how to handle pre-modern weapon damage that well. Or something.

The DMG includes a few sample items for a science fiction campaign, but I’m not sure how well they work. Ultimately, the problem is that if you don’t make the science fiction items sufficiently different, they’re just boring re-skins of what you already have, but if you do make them sufficiently different, then it’s very tough to balance them.

Probably the safest option is to have “ray guns” that are functionally just wands.

Are you familiar with Starfinder?

It’s a new (as of August) D20-based science-fantasy game, based on the very popular Pathfinder system, set in a world with spaceships, elves, laser rifles and “technomagic” spells. I’ve been running a campaign in it for the past couple of months, and we’ve been enjoying it a lot.

I think it’s *exactly *what the OP is looking for. Here’s the SRD.

It looks awesome, and it is exactly what’s needed . . . but it isn’t. :slight_smile:

It looks perfectly suited to exactly what he wants to do. But then, I had already suggested the Fantasy Age system, which was used to run Wil Wheaton’s Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkhana crowd-funded RPG web series (an off-shoot of the crowd-funded Tabletop Season 3.) This has the benefit of not only rules that capture high tech weapons and armor, but some video examples of a group playing those rules.

The holdup was that he has one player who is strongly resisting learning/using a new RPG system and wants the campaign to use the D&D framework. For various good and sufficient reasons in his mind, Bricker Jr is inclined to accede to that request if he can. So he asked me if I knew of an “SF expansion” type ruleset that was intended to fit within the D&D 5e framework.

I didn’t, but I did know a place where some smart people hang out who might know.

And here we are.

Hey, I’m usually that player myself - I decided long ago that I was too old to learn new gaming systems, thank you very much. But Starfinder *is *D&D, for all effects and purposes - a modified version of D&D 3.5th Edition - and as someone who’s been playing the game since “Elf” was a character class, I had no problem adapting.

Yeah, is the holdout player insisting on “the D&D framework”, or “the D&D 5th edition framework”? Although even at that, most of the core framework is the same between 3rd and 5th (and Pathfinder and Starfinder): Roll a d20, add the modifier for the relevant ability score, add something that scales with your level, add miscellaneous other modifiers, and compare to a DC that says how difficult the task is.

Incredibly easy.

In a fantasy setting where high-tech equipment exists but is quite rare, all high-tech items are magical items.

If you want the rare laser pistol, you just stat out a laser pistol. Maybe it does very high damage, or maybe it ignores non-magical armor, or maybe it applies the stun affect to whomever it hits. Whatever. Half the fun of running a campaign is coming up with that stuff.

Totally with you on this. Here would be some simple rules:

-laser pistol: With an action, make 2 ranged attacks, 2d6+dex modifier radiant damage on hit). May have auto-recharge battery (functions like wand: 10 charges, 1d6 gained each day, if you use the last charge, roll d20, and on a 1 it becomes useless), or may have other means of charging. If this is too powerful, reduce the number of shots per action–even a single 2d6+dex will make it the most powerful ranged weapon. It’s based off the scorching ray spell, which gives 3 shots, but doesn’t allow a dex mod to damage.
-Colt automatic: light, one-handed weapon that does 1d8 or 1d10 piercing damage, requiring a reload every 8 shots. By comparison, a heavy crossbow is 1d10, and a light crossbow is 1d8; a hand crossbow is 1d6. If the colt does 1d8, is one-handed, and can be fired multiple times before reloading, it’s a super-nice weapon.
-Kevlar body armor: AC 14, can be worn under clothes, does not impose disadvantage on stealth checks or have a strength requirement. (This is precisely the same as a mithral breastplate). Lower or raise the AC to change its power level.

You’re hired as a consultant. Send me your fee requirements :slight_smile:

Seriously: this is exactly what I was looking for. Maybe I’ll suggest he add a proficiency bonus after familiarity with the laser pistol, or a penalty for novice attempts to use. But this looks like it’s not a barrier to the story ideas he has in mind at all.

Thanks so much, Left Hand of Dorkness! And Johnny Bravo!

Glad to help! In thinking about the laser pistol, I’d change it somewhat:

**The laser blaster has a regenerative battery pack (handwave, or say it concentrates energy from a radioactive fuel source, or something) that generates enough energy to fuel seven shots at full capacity. As an attack, fire one or more shots from the pistol. Make a ranged attack; on a hit, the pistol deals 2d6 radiant damage per shot fired, plus your dex modifier (so, only add the dex mod once per attack, not once per shot expended). The pistol battery will recharge 1d6+1 shot each day. If you expend the last shot, roll a d20; on a 1, the battery pack loses all power and becomes useless.
I think this turns it into something with limited but awesome utility. You could choose to fire all seven shots in a single attack, for instance, dealing 14d6+dex to a single enemy, or spread the damage out. A proficiency bonus that only kicks in after familiarity would be fine, but not necessary, IMO, since it’s basically point-and-click technology (I think personally I’d give proficiency to anyone proficient with a light crossbow, i.e., nearly everybody); but it becomes much more useful in certain hands. A rogue, for instance, could apply sneak-attack to make a single devastating attack (a 14d6 attack with, say, 4d6 sneak attack, plus 5 dex–fairly typical for an 8th-level rogue, would be 67 points of damage), whereas a fighter with multiple attacks could take out multiple peons, especially with a feat like sharpshooter (do a 6d6+4+10, or 35 damage, to two different enemies, with a single charge left over).

The limited charges would make it so that a PC wouldn’t rely on the laser pistol round after round, which could get boring; instead, they’ll likely either save it for tough battles, or else start the day with it, relying on other tactics for most battles. At most they could use it for 7 rounds a day, but if they do that, it becomes much less awesome. And the mechanics are similar enough to wands that I think it’d be pretty balanced, and simple enough to understand that they shouldn’t bog down play.

To make it tougher, add a d6 to the damage or add charges; to reduce toughness, reduce damage or charges. You could also add more battery packs in as treasure later on, if it’d be fun to use it more often.

I ran a second edition game many years ago where I did exactly that. A magic portal temporarily connected the campaign world to a high tech world and a villain NPC got a laser pistol. I treated it just like a wand; it had a battery with limited “charges” and once it ran out you couldn’t recharge it in a low tech setting.

I even described it to the players as a “wand” since it’s not like their characters had ever seen a gun before.

“Gamma World” was another RPG product made by TSR back in the eighties, using the D&D system in a post-apocalypse setting. Wikipedia shows it to have gotten all the way up to a 7th edition (2010).

Edit: I know that the OP specified NO NEW system. Gamma World seemed to be a D&D reskin, and transitioning was painless.

I loved Gamma World. Our group did explicit GW/AD&D crossover campaigns, and it was a blast. But the GM always made sure our GW prizes didn’t cross over back into AD&D without limitations or complications. It would have been brutally unfair for a player character to take a suit of Assault Armor into any other setting (anti-grav flight, force field shielding, integrated lasers and launchers, etc.)

Also as an example of an earlier technology/D&D cross over, there was Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, which was D&D crossed with Metamorphosis Alpha.

I know nothing more than what Google tells me, but apparently there’s a 5e conversion for Expedition available, but it requires a copy of the original for some reason.