This article covers some basics about modern firearms – stuff available from the 1930s onward.
As always with Weapons Locker articles, we are interested in *fiction*, with an emphasis on comic books – but also on action movies and video games, since those media do the heavy lifting in shaping perception of firearms.
Though the lead writer does happen to have military training, we’re not here to discuss real-world firearms and their use. Furthermore, it is centred on American fiction, since this is the one that floods the world over – and feeds on conventions developed elsewhere, such as Hong Kong action movies of the 1990s.
This article is dual-statted for both DC Heroes 3rd Edition and Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition. Neither of these systems is oriented toward fine-grained distinctions, and a set of stats can easily cover an entire category of weapons.
We’re not going to draw any distinctions between, say a 9x19mm and .40S&W round, because the game systems simply do not support it. People interested in finer distinctions are better-served by more details-oriented games (my favourite is GURPS 4th edition).
This also means that this article isn’t about long lists of guns – they’d all have the same stats !
The illustrations in this article mostly come from the Internet Movies Firearms Database , and we own the copyrights to absolutely none of it. If you like the photos, hit the IMFBD, there are many more and they’re larger.
Return of the caveat
As noted above, and as heavily emphasised through the article, this text is about firearms as depicted in comics books, action movies and video games plus some related genres like pulp novels. This is all about fictional things. It’s not meant to cover anything like real world weapons, which behave differently, and makes no claim whatsoever about realism.
The article does provide some useful facts and figure about how these things work, but this is all intended for verisimilitude, not realism. When the common depiction fiction is very different from the real world we’ll mention it, but the goal is not explain how it works in real life.
The tone and content of the article are probably clear enough that this disclaimer isn’t necessary, but many people have a rigid stance on the subject. Better safe than sorry, heh ?
This article treats grenade launchers and grenade launchers as separate categories, since most fictional launchers can launch any type of grenades.
As to “heavier weapons”, they are understood as things that can still be vaguely be considered man-portable – by action fiction standards.
Many firearms reference special rules — for instance Long Reload or Autofire in DCH, or Armour-Piercing or Shotgun Blast in DCA. See the corresponding New Rules Files for each game system.
In the real world these weapons normally have a safe range – the grenade only goes live after flying for 30 metres or so, to prevent accidental harm to the shooter. We only mention this in passim, though, since this is usually disregarded in games and fiction.
Single-Shot Rifle-Like Grenade Launcher
While grenades are an important weapon in infantry combat — particularly in difficult conditions such as urban assault — a good throwing arm can only go so far. Rifle-like grenade launchers like the M79 were thus developed. They shoot further, can do indirect mortar-like fire, and are good when aiming for something (usually a window).
Such weapons are now obsolete for military purposes. They’ve mostly been replaced by the under-barrel launchers described below. However they look like extra-large shotguns, use a huge ammunition, and the break-open action of the M79 can look loud and impressive on the screen or the comic book page.
Combined with the endless variety of speciality grenades, these weapons certainly retain a place in fiction.
DCH SSRLGL [BODY 02, Range: 07, Ammo: 01, Bonus: Range can be Indirect (limited to ballistic arcs, +1), Drawback: Long Reload]
M&M SSRLGL [Feature 2 (Grenade launcher, can do ballistic fire)]
The perennial exemplar in this category is the aforementioned break-open M79, often called a “blooper” or “bloop gun”.
Single-Shot Underbarrel Grenade Launcher
These replaced the launchers just above. During long-range patrols, special operations and the like the troopers needed both an assault rifle and a grenade launcher, but carrying two rifles in the field is only convenient in video games. Eventually, a launcher that could be affixed to a rifle (and fired without switching weapons) was developed.
A launcher can fire most standard grenades. In game terms the launcher only launches and the effects are determined by the grenade. Though launchers can be used for mortar-like ballistic fire, this is seldom if ever demonstrated in fiction where all shots are direct fire.
DCH SSUB Grenade Launcher [BODY 02, Range: 07, Ammo: 01, Drawback: Long Reload]
M&M SSUB Grenade Launcher [Feature 1 (Grenade Launcher)]
Below is a M16 rifle equipped with a M203 under-barrel launcher. This is the standard US military rig for a grenadier.
Though these weapons chiefly exist for assault rifles and carbines, they can be mounted on submachineguns. This usually means a H&K MP5, for which an impressive number of tactical accessories exists.
Here is a photo of a MP5 with a M203PI launcher – note the gadget prolonging the barrel so the launcher can be mounted (photo from manufacturer RM Equipment ).
Compact Single-Shot Underbarrel Grenade Launcher
A variant of the above, intended to be mounted under a submachinegun (usually a H&K MP5). It is more compact and lighter than mounting an underslung grenade launcher intended for rifles and carbines.
DCH Compact SSUB Grenade Launcher [BODY 02, Range: 04, Ammo: 01, Drawback: Long Reload]
M&M Compact SSUB Grenade Launcher [Feature 1 (Grenade Launcher)]
The best example may be the Istec ISL 201, which might be the inspiration for the grenade launcher featured in the classic Half-Life video game.
Revolver-Action Grenade Launcher
These are grenade launchers carrying a bunch of grenades, rather than the one projectile loaded in a rifle-like grenade launcher or an under-barrel grenade launcher.
Having those work like a giant revolver with grenades instead of bullets was the simplest, most pragmatic design choice. It results in a menacing, powerful, heavy appearance.
In most cases, this design is used for law-enforcement weapons allowing an officer to quickly saturate an area with tear gas. There exist military models that shoot shoot any sort of 40mm grenade, however – and this is what this category is about.
DCH RA Grenade Launcher [BODY 03, Ammo: 09, Range: 06, R#02, Drawback: Very Long Reload]
M&M RA Grenade Launcher [Feature 1 (Grenade launcher)]
The huge Hawk MM-1 launcher (about 10 kilos loaded) and the more useable M32 Milkor multiple grenade launcher are two common fictional examples in this category. The ammo score in the DCH stats above is just the average between these two models (12 and 6 respectively).
Compact Revolver-Action Grenade Launcher
This weapon is based on movies using a “Street Sweeper” revover-action shotgun as a stand-in for a Revolver-Action Grenade Launcher. This suggests a lighter, smaller repeating grenade launcher. It could semi-credibly fire 20mm grenades.
Use the standard stats for a Revolver-Action Grenade Launcher, but the grenades it shoots will normally be weaker by one AP (DCH) or Rank (DCA) in all their Powers/Effects.
One-Shot Incendiary Grenade Launcher
The HAFLA DM34 is a frankly obscure weapon system. Yet some role-players knowledgeable about modern weapons suddenly remembered about it during the 1990s, when vampires became prominent characters and antagonists. It sure is a handy mean to inflict Aggravated Damage , but I don’t think these weapons make an appearance in any other media.
A HAFLA looks like a big Maglite with a folding pistol grip and trigger. It is a single-shot disposable weapon that shoots an incendiary smoke grenade. Which means a cloud of fire chiefly based on red phosphorus.
It has a range of 50+ metres. This is assuming you’re shooting at something big and that doesn’t move – like a house or a parked tank. It’s also good at indirect fire. Clouds of fire are useful, and can also be used to blind armoured vehicles for a bit.
DCH HAFLA [BODY 01, Range: 04, Flame project (Area of effect 2 APs): 06 Combined With Fog: 05, R#02, Grenade Drawback, Bonus: the Fog also blocks Thermal Vision and retains 1 AP of Flame Project, Active Throughout the Fog, for about five Phases]
M&M HAFLA [Burst-Area Ranged Fire Damage 5 Linked With Cloud-Area 2 Ranged Visual Concealment (All Visual senses), Limited 2 (one-shot), Feature 2 (the Damage effect endures for about five rounds, and the Concealment effect for about a minute depending on wind, etc.]
Smart Grenade Launcher
These weapons were based on “future infantry” research programs that are now largely abandoned. They are computerised grenade launchers intended to provide superior firepower to an infantryman,. They allow for taking out enemies under unfavourable conditions by defeating cover.
Ideally, this weapon holds about 5 compact grenades in a clip (25mm rounds with the power of a traditional 40mm round). It also has night-time optics coupled with a laser rangefinder that automatically adjust the optics’s red dot based on the distance.
Ideally, it allows for immediate selection of one of three modes. Detonation on impact, detonation at range + 2 metres (when shooting through a window), detonation at range. The later is an airburst – you aim above enemy cover so the grenade explodes above them, presumably because they’re hidden behind some sort of wall or vehicle.
DCH Smart GL [BODY 03, Range (Indirect +2 FC): 08, Ammo: 05, Ultra-vision (Night vision only): 07, Telescopic vision: 02, R#03]
M&M Smart GL [Feature 3 (Grenade launcher with airburst and window modes), Senses 2 (Extended Visual, Low-Light Vision)]
Below is illustrated a Heckler & Koch XM25, currently being tested in the field by the US military. Below that is a French prototype, a PAPOP (Poly-Arme Poly-Projectiles) without its FELIN optics – development stage unknown.
Repeater Underbarrel Grenade Launcher
These fictional weapons are chiefly seen in comic books. They’re usually mounted on rifles or light machineguns used by very strong and large men (such as Deathblow or Dane of Team Seven). It’s essentially a M203 that somehow got a revolver-action cylinder mounted on it.
DCH RUB Grenade Launcher [BODY 03, Ammo: 06, Range: 05, R#02, Rec. STR 04, Drawback: Very Long Reload]
M&M RUB Grenade Launcher [Feature 1 (Grenade launcher)]
These fictional weapons usually look like this. Complete with the fact that how such a contraption might actually work is, at best, nebulous.
A variant of the concept might use the M26 MASS underbarrel shotgun, which has a large box magazine, as a prop. Much like Street Sweeper shotguns are used as Compact Revolver-Action Grenade Launchers in movie. Use the same stats, but the grenades it shoots will normally be weaker by one AP (DCH) or Rank (DCA) in all their Powers/Effects.
Repeater Rifle-Like Grenade Launcher
A specialised infantry close support weapon that shoots 20mm grenades from a removable box magazine (“clip”). It looks like a bottom-heavy (6+ kilograms loaded) assault rifle, and is chiefly useful at ranges below 100m. Though somebody who’s a wizard at eyeballing ballistic arcs might use it at much longer ranges.
Such weapons are less flexible and powerful than “smart” grenade launchers above, but they’re much cheaper. Whether they have an actual tactical role beyond ambushes is not clear (one less man with a rifle is a problem for a fire team), but in fiction a big, blocky, mean rifle that blows stuff up in semi-automatic fire is undeniably useful.
DCH RRL Grenade Launcher [BODY 03, Ammo: 07, Range: 06, R#03]
M&M RRL Grenade Launcher [Feature 1 (Grenade launcher)]
The grenades shot by such a weapon will normally be weaker by one AP (DCH) or Rank (DCA) in all their Powers/Effects.
The basis for this weapon is the South African Denel PAW-20. Note the unusual arrangement of the pistol grip.
Grenades – the basics
In super-heroes RPGs, grenades are essentially a one-shot Power or Effect that you put in a can and then throw at stuff — or shoot using a launcher.
Fiction rarely makes a difference between launched and thrown ammunition. Thus all grenades should be considered usable in any context. Ignore any technical considerations about modes of detonation, ammunition length, etc.
The following grenades approximates weaponry that exists in the real world. More exotic grenades seen in fiction will be covered in the next section.
Like the peashooter handguns, Mook Grenades are identified by the person who throws them rather than by their own characteristics. These are schlock grenades – the grenades which the extras throw at protagonists with little effect.
Not all grenades thrown by extras are Mook Grenades. Sometimes one will roll menacingly toward the heroes, and it will be as dangerous as the grenades the named characters use. But all these things ineffectually thrown by faceless enemy soldiers that just detonate in the background because the scene needed more explosions ? Mook Grenades.
Even if a good dice roll they they hit, describe it as a near-miss, since their lower damage mean reduced effects against the protagonists.
Mook Grenades will detonate on impact if they miss widely enough not to harm anybody important, but will have a 2-3 seconds timer detonation left if they land in the vicinity of somebody important.
DCH Mook Grenade [BODY 01, EV 05 (Area of Effect 0 APs), R#05, Grenade drawback]
M&M Mook Grenade [Explosive Damage 5 with 4 Ranks having Burst-Area 1, Inaccurate 1]
Of course, if a Mook Grenade lands at the feet of the protagonists and somebody has the time to pick it up and throw it back, it stops being a Mook Grenade and becomes a proper grenade of that type. It’s all in the wrist.
An Offensive Grenade is simply a charge of explosives fitted into a plastic grenade body. It is occasionally called a concussion grenade since there’s no shrapnel, but this term can cause confusion with less-than-lethal grenade so we’ll prefer “offensive” here.
The name “offensive grenade” refers to its tactical role. You throw it into the place you’re about to storm, to create shock and damage right before you move in. The blast radius is not large enough to catch you, so you don’t have to throw it from under cover unless there are plenty of loose small stuff laying on the ground.
Most grenades in movies, comics, video games, etc. fall into the concussion grenade category. When in doubt, if it goes boom, it’s an Offensive Grenade.
Offensive grenades are usually impact-detonated, so as to keep up the pace of the assault.
DCH Offensive Grenade [BODY 01, EV 07 (Area of Effect 1 AP), R#03, Grenade drawback]
M&M Offensive Grenade [Explosive Damage 6 with 3 Ranks of Burst-Area Damage]
Offensive grenades are generally baseball-sized and shaped, like this one :
You can pretty much deduce what this one does from the previous entry. Defensive Grenade have their explosive charge surrounded by material that’s going to break up and form shrapnel riding the explosion, resulting in a larger blast radius.
They’re normally thrown from cover, since most people can’t throw them far enough to be completely out of harm’s way.
Note that all fragmentation grenades are not Defensive Grenades. Often enough, something stated to be a frag grenade will perform more like a Mook or Offensive Grenade in our typology.
Defensive Grenades usually have a fuse set from 2 to 4 seconds. If there is a risk that the enemy might react during that span, experienced soldiers will “cook off” a grenade. This means keeping it in hand a second or two after it’s triggered so it explodes as soon as it reaches the objective.
This is why mooks, thugs, minions and other extras never have a chance to catch and throw back grenades thrown by protagonists.
The stats below are on the high side. This is because the effects of such grenades are often exaggerated in movies and comics. The pyrotechnics that result from a grenade are usually much bigger and destructive than they should. These cinematic grenades are practically bombs !
They are also often depicted as being powerful enough to kill opposition that is mostly bulletproof and was withstanding heavy rifle fire. Thus the protagonists escalate to Defensive Grenades that finally kill the aliens, monsters, dinosaurs, robots, zombies or whichever. In the real world, the usual 40mm grenades are… not that great.
DCH Defensive Grenade [BODY 01, Bomb: 08, R#03, Grenade drawback]
M&M Defensive Grenade [Explosive Damage 7 with 6 Ranks with Burst-Area Damage 3]
The standard-issue defensive grenade in the US military is the Mk68. But the iconic Defensive Grenade is the long-since retired Mk2 “pineapple” striated grenade, below.
Mini-Grenades are the size of a golf ball. They’re not very powerful, but they’re easy to throw and you can simply keep them in your pockets – just in case. Mini-Grenades are chiefly intended to create diversion, chaos and general mayhem rather than slaughter enemy forces.
Super-spies with an extensive armoury like Nick Fury, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., are typical of the sort of character that uses Mini-Grenades. These grenades are not very common in fiction, though.
Mini-grenades are usually impact-detonated.
DCH Mini-Grenade [BODY 01, EV 04 (Area of effect 1 AP), R#04, Grenade drawback]
M&M Mini-Grenade [Explosive Damage 3 with 2 Ranks of Burst-Area Damage]
The real-life inspiration for Mini-Grenades is the V-40 from Netherland. It was used by US Special Forces operators in Việt Nam.
A cloud of thick, opaque, billowing smoke in a can. The usual colours are red, white, green and yellow. Comic books also often picture dark grey or jet black smoke.The colour is not just a matter a fashion. An important role of smoke grenades is for signalling or marking targets when more sophisticated means of communication are not available.
Thus, it could be agreed that the fighter-bombers that stand ready to intervene should open fire on anything giving off red smoke, but carefully avoid the white smoke since it marks a friendly position that’s more concerned about not getting bombed than getting located by the enemy.
Smoke Grenades can also create visual cover (the enemy can still fire at you, but they can’t see you), and be used for general chaos and mayhem. It’s not uncommon for super-heroes like Doctor Mid-Nite or Batman to throw them at groups of armed men so as to engage them in hand-to-hand combat in relative safety.
Smoke Grenades can also be used in a pinch to try to smoke people in a small, enclosed space. Or to start a fire, since the chemicals inside the grenade that burn to emit the smoke are quite hot and nearby flammables might catch. It mostly works when you don’t want it to, though.
Smoke grenades usually have a time fuse, circa 3-6 seconds.
DCH Smoke Grenade [BODY 01, Fog: 06, R#03, Grenade drawback]
M&M Smoke Grenade [Cloud-Area Concealment 4, Quirk 2 (persists for longer than most fights, weather permitting)]
CS Tear Gas Grenades
Standard-issue crowd control grenades, giving off a white smoke laced with mace-like chemicals. Tear gas forces most people to retreat. It provokes painful inflammation of the eyes and upper respiratory tract, making it hard to see, breathe and focus.
This grade of tear gas is not that bad. Personnel such as riot police, activists and soldiers are sometimes trained to resist the effect, chiefly by virtue of getting used to it and keeping a clear head. Still, CS gas can have genuinely dangerous effects, particularly in enclosed spaces or against persons with health issues such as asthma.
CS is the gas that has been employed as tear gas for decades, notably during the unrest of the late 1960s. It’s actually 2-Chlorobenzalmalononitrile – but you knew that. Riot police and experienced activists carry a solution that will efficiently wash CS away from the skin (do NOT use hot water to wash away CS !).
DCH CS Grenade [BODY 01, Fog: 03, Chemical attack: 04, R#03, Grenade drawback, Bonus: Chemical attack is Combined With and Active Throughout the Fog]
M&M CS Grenade [Cloud-Area 3 Visual Dazzle 5 Linked With Cloud-Area 1 Partial Concealment]
CR tear gas grenades
An example of powerful, dangerous tear gas. CR (actually dibenzoxazepine – but you knew that) is 10 times as potent as CS gas.
Being exposed to CR normally triggers :
- temporary blindness (the eyes swell and clamp shut)
- choking (which may induce panic)
- a painful, persistent burning sensation over the exposed skin
It can be lethal in enclosed spaces. Getting rid of CR is practically impossible, and is mostly done by taking painkillers and being miserable for about two days as you ride it out (do NOT use ANY water to wash away CR !).
CR is usually used for chemical warfare, or by dystopian riot police – such as the Met . It is sometimes used to soften up targets before storming a building, though CR is best avoided if there are hostages present.
DCH CR Grenade [BODY 01, Fog: 03, Chemical attack: 06, R#03, Grenade drawback, Bonus: Chemical attack is Combined With and Active Throughout the Fog]
M&M CR Grenade [Cloud-Area 3 Visual Dazzle 8 Linked With Cloud-Area 1 Partial Concealment]
Flash-Bang Grenades aka Stun Grenades
These are less-than-lethal grenades. They detonate by emitting an extremely bright flash (more than two million candelas) and a very loud bang (200+ decibels).
Barring finding cover in time or remarkable fortitude, this will stun, blind and deafen persons in range. These grenades mostly became known to gamers through the landmark Counterstrike video game.
Flash-Bangs are very useful when storming a building. If a room may contain hostiles, flash-bang and entry is a good way to take control rather than take a bullet. The flash will normally blind people exposed to it for 5-6 seconds, but that effect is lost if the person had their back turned from the flash when it went off.
DCH Flash-Bang Grenade [BODY 01, EV 02 (Area of effect 1 AP), Flash: 05 (Area of effect 2 APs), Sensory block (Audial): 07, Note : all Powers are Combined, Grenade drawback, R#03]
M&M Flash-Bang Grenade [Burst-Area Damage 1 Linked With Burst-Area 2 Visual+Audial Dazzle 5)]
These are less-than-lethal riot control grenades, working via pain compliance. The small explosive core is surrounded by about 150 .31 calibre soft rubber balls held together by a soft rubber casing. In the US they are chiefly used by corrections officers.
Even in fiction, stingballs are not going to knock people out throughout the blast radius. But they normally force people to quickly retreat and find cover because it *hurts*. At close range it’s not uncommon for the rubber pellets to embed themselves in the dermis.
These grenades have also a flash/bang effect (though not a strong as a dedicated flash-bang grenade), which is included in the stats. Stingballs commonly also carry a charge of CS, CR or other tear gas (these are sometimes sold as “comboballs”) – if so, add the effects to the stats below, though with a potency lowered by two points or so.
DCH Stingball Grenade [BODY 01, EV 01 (Area of Effect 2 APs), Aura of Pain: 05, Flash: 03 (Explosive Radius), Bonus: Bomb, Flash and Aura of Pain are all Combined, Grenade Drawback]
M&M Singball Grenade [Burst-Area Affliction 6 (Dazed/Defenceless/Incapacitated, resisted by Fortitude)]
A breakable bottle filled with a flamable liquid and topped by a fuel-soaked rag. The rag is set on fire, the Molotov is thrown at a target, the bottle breaks and the burning rag sets fire to the liquid. If everything goes well.
Molotovs were originally used by partisans to harass occupying troops. Some of the fiercer models may even have military use. For instance early on Finnish troops could throw them on the back of Russian tanks to ruin the cooling system. Nowadays they tend to be used by rioters and the poorest partisans.
DCH Molotov [BODY 01, Flame project: see below, Bonus: Half-strength Continuing Damage, Advantage: Scattershot, Grenade Drawback]. APs of Flame Project will be between 0 and 4 depending on how well-trained the crafter is and the grade of fuel being used (knowledge of chemistry definitely helps) ; likewise R# will range between 4 and 12 depending on how well the person knows what they’re doing.
M&M Molotov [Fire Damage with Quirk 1 (minor splash area) and Secondary Effect]. The Ranks will be between -1 and 3 depending on how well-trained the crafter is and the grade of fuel being used (knowledge of chemistry definitely helps).
Grenades that set stuff on fire. This is chiefly useful as a terror weapon, or for commando units raiding targets such as fuel depots, ammunition dumps, aircraft hangars, etc. and who need to be in and out quickly.
Incendiary Grenades are essentially a fierce cloud of fire that soon goes away. It’s much like a flamethrower burst, through produced as an explosion rather than as a directed jet.
DCH Incendiary Grenade [BODY 01, Flame project (Area of Effect 2): 07, Bonus: Half-strength Continuing Damage, Grenade Drawback]
M&M Incendiary Grenade [Cloud Area 2 Fire Damage 6]
White Phosphorus Grenades
More grenades that set stuff on fire. But here the flammable compound sticks to what it hits and keeps burning. This is usually based on white phosphorus, but other chemicals have similar effects. White phosphorus being abbreviated “WP” on ammunition markings, they are often nicknamed “Willy Pete grenades”.
DCH WP Grenade [BODY 01, Flame project (Area of Effect 2): 07, Bonus: Continuing Damage, Grenade Drawback]
M&M WP Grenade [Cloud Area 2 Fire Damage 6, Secondary Effect]
Notes about grenades
Older hand grenades
During World War Two, the explosives used for hand grenades were considerably less efficient (and many of the chemicals-based ones did not exist). Historically, lowering the APs (DCH) or Ranks (DCA) by 2 would be appropriate, and it is credible to lower the APs/Ranks by one for the following 25/30 years.
However, fictional depiction often ignores this. Older grenades are presented as doing just as much damage as modern ones. Not lowering anything is thus fine.
Grenades thrown at the protagonists will often be on a short fuse — but not so short that the protagonists don’t have time to react. The most sensible reaction is to duck for cover, which is represented by the usual combat rules.
Two heroic strategies often featured in fiction are :
- Pick up a grenade and throw it back. The difficulty entirely depends on distance, and should be set by the GM. The grenade is thrown back with a -2 CS penalty to AV (DCH) or a -5 to the attack roll (DCA).
- Throw oneself onto a grenade. This is not difficult to do (at least physically), though if the character is some distance away a DEX (DCH) or Athletics (DCA) roll might be necessary to cover the distance in time. The character who threw themselves on the grenade enjoys the full benefits of the attack. They have an OV 0 and RV at -2CS in DCH, and the grenade gets to Take 20 in DCA. But everyone else suffers five fewer APs (DC) or Ranks (DCA) from all the grenade’s effects.
Throwing oneself on a grenade to save one’s nearby comrades was considered a textbook example of heroism in both fiction and reality back during the World War. The 2011 Captain America movie included such a scene as a reference to this.
Grenades – special applications ammunition
This section covers grenades that are mostly or solely fictional. Like real ones, they’re a one-shot power in a can.
Special applications grenades tend to have the level of potency that matches the plot. But generally – generally ! - 7 or 8 APs (in DCH) or 6 or 7 Ranks (in DCA) is a good baseline for special grenades in comic books.
Higher power levels are not uncommon, but they tend to be either Gadgets (DCH) or Devices (DCA) – or a plot element. A typical example is an EMP grenade that is inexplicably powerful enough to shut down incredibly powerful, sophisticated, shielded power armour because the story calls for it.
Here are some sorts of special applications grenades that are recurrent in fiction :
- Knockout gas. In DCH Knockout Gas plus about half the APs in Fog (Combined Usage). In DCA Cloud-Area Sleep Linked with Cloud-Area Visual Concealment. Knockout gas grenades are an usual suspect when it comes to inexplicably overpowered grenades – sometimes they are sufficient to take down even the Hulk.
- Lethal gas. In DCH Poison touch and Fog (with Poison Touch being Active Throughout and Combined With Fog). In DCA Cloud-Area Poison Damage (Fortitude Save) with a Secondary Effect, possibly Linked with an appropriate Affliction.
- Glue. In DCH Glue, possibly with a 0-APs Area of Effect. In DCA Snare, possibly with one Rank of Burst-Area. A fast-expanding mass of adhesive paste to pin the target in place. Chiefly useful in law-enforcement and against some kinds of super-mobile but earthbound opponents.
- EMP. In DCH EMP. In DCA Burst-Area 2 Nullify (Broad (all electronics), Alternate Resistance (Fortitude), Simultaneous). This grenade emits a powerful electro-magnetic pulse that shuts down electronics within the blast radius, including run-of-the-mill hardened systems. As noted this is another usual suspect for inexplicably APs/Ranks when the story calls for it.
- Sonic. ”Sonic” is a very wide descriptor in comic books, and can serve as technobabble for varied effects. In DCH possibilities include Area-of-Effect Sonic Beam, Vibe, Physical-Linked Mind Blast, Flash (audial), Vertigo… often Combined with as many APs of Sensory Block (Audial). In DCA possibilities include Dazzle, Damage (often resisted by Fortitude, and in some cases by Will) and numerous Afflictions (often Dazed/Stun/Incapacitated)… often Linked with a Hearing Impaired/Hearing Disabled/Hearing Debilitated Affliction.
- Foam. Not a weapon per se, these burst into fire-smothering foam. In DCH Neutralise and in DCA Nullify, simultaneously affecting all fire-related things within the burst radius.
- Tangler. The same sort of technologies used by the tangler gun in the Less-than-lethal section of this article. In both DCA and DCH, Snare.
A large gun that can fire very long bursts of rifle ammunition. It usually has a longer and heavier barrel than a rifle, and a feeding mechanism that accepts long belts of ammunition for continuous automatic fire.
Light machineguns (LMG) usually come with a bipod so they can be operated prone. The machinegunner normally has an assistant who carries more ammunition and keeps the machinegun fed.
Ever since World War II, the LMG is the lynchpin of the infantry fireteam – a squad without one loses about half its firepower.
Since the 1980s, marked by Rambo movies starring Sylvester Stallone, US fiction had a tendency to depict hugely muscled men operating such weapons all by themselves, firing from the hip and mowing down their foes.
Firing LMGs from the hip is quite possible (though it’s going to be suppressive fire, not aimed fire). And real-world LMGs do trend toward lighter, more compact weapons in smaller calibres that can indeed be operated by one man in an efficient fashion – even if he’s not a bare-chested body-building champion. See “Squad Automatic Weapon” below.
DCH LMG [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 07, Ammo: 06, R#03, Recommended STR 03 (none when using a bipod and the Bracing Bonus), Advantage: Autofire, Drawback: Long Reload, MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 2 APs above the Rec. STR]. LMGs are generally belt-fed, so it is possible to increase the Ammo score by increments of 6 as long as additional belts of ammunition can be carried – and attached to the belt(s) being fed in time.
M&M LMG [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 6, Takedown 1, Quirk 2 (requires STR 1 to use without a bipod, heavy and cumbersome (cutting movement speed by 1) unless your STR is 4+)]
The archetypal weapon in this category is the M60 LMG, whose visuals are closely associated with the Việt Nam war and the aforementioned Rambo movies. The iconic model illustrated here is from the 1970s. More recent models are more compact.
The second example is *the* light machinegun of the XXth century. This is the extraordinary MG42 used by the Third Reich, upon which a lot of modern weapon design is based (including the M60).
Squad automatic weapon
A trend in automatic firepower is toward light machineguns that are easier to handle and fire a lighter bullet (5.56mm, like assault rifles). Such lighter weapons, able to carry more ammunition, are of particular interest to paratroopers and in countries where soldiers are on average smaller than Western European and American soldiers.
From there they spread on. The best-selling Squad Automatic Weapon is now a familiar figures in most militaries, including the American branches of services.
Squad automatic weapons, despite firing a lighter round, have all the features of a larger LMG. For instance the barrel can usually be removed when shooting for a long while – to be replaced by a fresh barrel while the first barrel cools off.
DCH SAW [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 07, Range: 06, Ammo: 12, R#03, Recommended STR 02 (none when using a bipod and the Bracing Bonus), Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range and uses the listed Range instead, Advantage: Autofire, Drawback: Long Reload, MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 1 APs above the Rec. STR]. Ammo assumes a 200 rounds belt container.
M&M SAW [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 5, Takedown 1, Quirk 1 (heavy and cumbersome (cutting movement speed by 1) unless your STR is 1+)]
The best-selling, category-defining weapon is the FN Minimi, best-known in the US as the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. It was noticed in action fiction when De Niro had one in Ronin , but nowadays they routinely appear in games and films depicting the modern US military. The vast majority of SAWs are going to be the good old Minimi.
For variety’s sake, we’ll also provide an example of an early “very light machinegun” – the Ultimax 100 from Singapore.
The Browning Automatic Rifle, universally called the Bar, loosely fits in this category. It has the stats above, but in DCH the Ammo is 04.
This weapon arrived too late for World War One, but was very popular during the 1920s and 1930s as a sort of heavy assault rifle. Bonnie and Clyde used Bars, as did famous lawmen and criminals of the Roaring Twenties before them. Clyde sawed off the barrel and stock of some of his Bars.
American infantry during World War Two was big on those, often trying to scrounge up additional Bars to increase the fireteam’s firepower.
The prop weapon seen in the 1987 movie Predator impressed an entire generation of action movie enthusiasts. It gave rise to an entire weapon category that is often encountered in comic books and video games, particularly for troops that are meant to be somewhat futuristic.
In some stories and games, *all* machineguns have multiple rotating barrels to signify a high rate of fire. In games the main early example was the chaingun in DooM (1993), though players may notice that it fires the same round as the basic pistol. See our DooM-specific Weapons Locker article.
These are fantasy weapons. In the real world:
- carrying enough ammo is impossible without a vehicle
- rotating barrel arrays do not work as commonly depicted (they don’t need a warm-up time, only the barrel aligned with the chamber actually fires, etc.)
- there’s the matter of maintenance and lugging around an electric battery (the Predator prop gun was actually fed using a cable hidden in the background)
- the weapon with about twenty seconds of ammo would weight 150+ pounds
- etc. etc.
But it looks good.
Real-world machineguns with rotating barrels (such the M134 Minigun, whose name is often used as a shorthand for the whole category) are normally used from speeding aircrafts who have a short time to strafe a zone. They need to deliver a high volume of fire over but a few seconds, especially since they are often unable to see what they’re firing at due to foliage and other concealment.
As to the multiple barrels, they are a workaround. The goal is to handle the problems with machinegun barrels heating up when a bunch of rounds pass through them. This approach was used many decades before with the old Gatling machinegun (the barrels rotated as the operator… turned a crank), and miniguns are thus sometimes called gatling guns.
DCH MP Minigun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons (Area of Effect 1 AP): 08, Ammo: 10, R#04, Recommended STR 04, Advantage: Autofire, Drawbacks: Very Long Reload, MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 2+ APs above Rec. STR)]
M&M MP Minigun [Array : either Line-area 4 Ballistic Damage 7, Takedown 2 — or Cone-area 3 Ballistic Damage 6, Takedown 2. Quirk 2 (requires STR 2+ to use), Quirk 2 (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 5+]
The gun pictured below is the prop M134 used in Terminator II . It uses a different configuration than in Predator as Hollywood armourers made it look cooler, with a new chainsaw-style front handle.
Miniguns in video games are usually based on this prop, which has since showed up in other action movies. While unrealistic, man-portable miniguns are now expected of near-future militaries in games, comics and movies.
Man-portable minigun – “Young Painless”
The man-portable minigun craze that started more than 20 years ago eventually resulted in mere mooks toting one.
This was originally a comic book thing. Every person with a machinegun in a book drawn by Jim Lee since 1992 has one. But it eventually became a movie thing when enough prop miniguns became available in Hollywood armouries. For instance, a random NEST trooper is thus armed in one of the Transformers , mmm, products.
These guns do not appear to perform much better than your standard squad automatic weapon. But they put out more volume and are good at eliminating other mook-type opponents. They don’t have the stupendous power that is associated with more heroic miniguns, being largely visual effects.
To tell them apart from the real thing we’ve nicknamed those “Young Painless”. This is a small joke about the Predator minigun, which was nicknamed “Old Painless” on the movie set.
The stats for those are essentially a weaker version of the miniguns used by “named” characters:
DCH Young Painless [BODY 03, Projectile weapons (Area of Effect 1 AP): 07, Ammo: 08, R#04, Recommended STR 03, Advantage: Autofire, Drawbacks: Very Long Reload, MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 2+ APs above Rec. STR)]
M&M Young Painless [Array : either Line-area 4 Ballistic Damage 6, Takedown 2 — or Cone-area 3 Ballistic Damage 5, Takedown 2. Quirk 1 (requires a STR of 1+ to use), and Quirk 2 (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 4+]
Below are a recent Jim Lee Young Painless (from the JLA 2011 reboot) and a shot from Transformers – Return of the Fallen.
Disposable infantry rocket launcher
These weapons derive from the WWII Panzerfaust concept. It is a one-shot rocket launcher fired from the shoulder to hit a vehicle (up to and including tanks), a bunker or even (with lots of luck) an helicopter.
One such Soviet weapon, the RPG-7 (rocket-propelled grenade model 7) was a huge success. It has become a symbol of asymmetrical warfare – highly mobile irregular troops with small arms who can attack forces that are using much heavier and expensive equipment.
There was something of a race between modern tanks and disposable infantry rocket launchers. Launchers did not win, but still remain useful. Even if the warhead has little hope of penetrating the front armour of a modern main battle tank, it is still possible to achieve a mobility kill by crippling a tread.
A tank that can no longer be driven around is much less problematic in movement warfare. And lighter armoured vehicles such as Armoured Personnel Carriers remain vulnerable to these rockets.
In fiction, this type of launcher is usually portrayed as accurate enough to hit people with, particularly when employed against bulletproof superhumans such as Luke Cage. You can shoot people with a rocket launcher as easily as you can with a semi-automatic rifle.
In the real world, rocket launchers and enclosed spaces do not go well together.&emspThere’s a lot of burning gas from the backblast, a strong shockwave and a huge sound blast. In fiction, however, firing rocket launchers indoors, from helicopters, etc. is common so this issue can be completely ignored.
Some real-world models of launchers can be fired indoors. They usually use a piston that shoots the rocket out of the tube – the rocket then fires up its jet engine, but it’s already far enough away for that to be safe. Such launchers often eject a bunch of plastic flakes as the piston’s reaction mass.
DCH RPG [BODY 01, Bomb: 04, Projectile Weapons: 09, Sharpness (Projectile weapons): 02, Ammo: 01, Bonus: Projectile weapons and Bomb can be Combined (Bomb rides the Range of Projectile weapons)]
M&M RPG [Ranged Damage 9, Burst Area Ranged 6, Takedown 1, Armour-Piercing 2, Limited 2 (One-shot)]
The first model illustrated is the RPG-7 from the 1960s (more modern models no longer look like that), then its American equivalent the M72 LAW (Light Antitank Weapon) and finally the WWII-era M9 “Bazooka” launcher, often featured in comic books from the 1950s to the late 1970s.
Commando — the ultimate 1980s action movie, encompassing and transcending its own parody — featured a four-tubes man-portable rocket launcher. This was a M202 FLASH, a weapon that normally launches incendiary rockets and is mostly intended to attack bunkers. But in the movie it was depicted as launching explosive rockets.
Given how popular that movie was with Generation X action movie fans, portraying four-tubes launcher (Ammo: 04 in DCH, drop the Limited 2 in DCA) in action stories should not pose problems.
Flamethrowers were used back when static defences such as trenches, fortified tanks, machinegun nests and bunkers were a major issue. Getting close to these hardpoints and splashing them with burning fuel was a pretty good idea since infantry couldn’t otherwise carry enough firepower to deal with those (grenades can seldom be thrown with enough precision in real life).
Shoulder-fired rocket launchers started replacing flamethrowers in some such roles. Furthermore, precision airstrikes and artillery fire made static defences increasingly untenable. Smart grenade launchers might be the solution that fully replaces flamethrowers, which have not been in general use for decades now.
A flamethrower is usually a pair of steel tanks carried on a backpack-like infrastructure and filled with thickened fuel. It is released at a high pressure through a sprayer, which also ignites the fuel as it is spurted out of the barrel.
With a arcing spray it is sometimes possible to splash things at 25-30m, but 20 metres is a more common range. Fuel gets spent quickly. Even with excellent trigger control and quick spurts there’s maybe 6 to 10 seconds of fuel in a typical flamethrower.
DCH Flamethrower [BODY 03, Flame project: 07, Ammo: 06, Range: 03, Rec. STR 01, Advantage: Autofire, Bonus: Flame Project does Continuing Damage (like Disintegration) for up to 5 Phases, Limitation: Flame project has No Range, use the listed Range, Drawback: MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 2+ APs above Rec. STR)]
M&M Flamethrower [Cone-Area Flame damage 6, Secondary Effect 4, Quirk 1 (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 1+)]
In fiction, it is almost inevitable that somebody’s flamethrower will get hit and explode in a huge fireball. This is an unrealistic, but well-entrenched trope.
Flamethrowers can thus be targeted with a Trick Shot (in DCH) or with a -5 attack penalty (DCA). They are usually hit by random fire, though (a double that hits its target in DCH, a Critical in DCA). If the attack has any incendiary property (even a bullet will do, somehow) and damages the flamethrower, then boom (Bomb: 10 in DCH, Burst-Area 2 Flame Damage 9 in DCA).
The typical WWII American flamethrower is the M2 and its variants. The smaller steel tank riding the two fuel tanks is the nitrogen used to propel the fuel, and the whole weighs about 30 kilograms. It probably remains what most people in the West think about when it comes to flamethrowers.
20mm anti-tank rifle
Like many other weapon systems, anti-tank rifles (ATR) only made sense during an era of technological change. Roughly speaking, from the second half of World War One to the first half of World War Two.
Before this era there were practically no tanks. After this era tanks had become too tough for a rifle-type weapon to damage. Infantry anti-tank firepower evolved along the lines of the Panzerfaust and its successors, as mentioned in the Disposable Infantry Rocket Launcher entry.
The earlier models were loosely comparable to high-powered sniper rifle. Eventually they resembled primitive anti-materiel rifles (such as the .55 Boys ATR), albeit with less impressive ballistics than modern weapons. The last weapons in this category were essentially light cannons, and it would be a stretch to call them “man-portable”.
However, in fiction there certainly are men, women and others who can tote and fire a 7’ long, 55Kg cannon – and it can look good on a vehicular mount. There are also… niches, such as having to engage the larger dinosaurs, giants, alien power armour, practically indestructible zombies amalgamating the corpse of 20 people and pulsing with unholy radiation, superhumans, etc.
Similar weapons are used by Seras Victoria in Hellsing, thanks to her superhuman physical power as a vampire.
DCH 20mm ATR [BODY 04, Projectile Weapons: 09, Ammo: 10, Rec. STR 05 (00 when positioned and mounted), Drawback: MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 2+ APs above Rec. STR), Long Reload]
M&M 20mm ATR [Ranged Damage 8, Quirk 1(requires a Strength of 04 or more to carry and use by oneself), Quirk 1 (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 6+)]
Our exemplar here will be the Solothurn S-18/100, made by a Swiss firm bought by a German company to dodge post-WWI arms regulations. As can be plainly seen, you’re meant to use it from a prone position, and you probably brought it there with 2 or 3 of your best friends, who are now wondering whether they want to remain your friends.
An alternative is to use a special two-wheeled carriage. Or to break it down into two parts that can more or less be carried by infantrymen (the larger of the two parts is 33Kg).
Modern weapons exist in this category, though of course they are not meant as “anti-tank” weaponry. 20mm precision weaponry is closer to being a very heavy anti-materiel rifle.
DCH Modern 20mm ATR [BODY 03, Projectile Weapons: 09, Ammo: 03, Telescopic vision: 013 Rec. STR 05 (00 when positioned and mounted), Drawback: MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 1+ APs above Rec. STR), Long Reload]
M&M Modern 20mm ATR [Ranged Damage 8, Senses 1 (Extended visual), Quirk 1(requires a Strength of 04 or more to carry and use by oneself), Quirk 1 (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 5+)]
The example for the modern version is the Denel NTW-20. It clocks between 30 and 35Kg, is roughly 6’ long, and much like the Solothurn can be disassembled in two blocks (about 15Kg each) plus ammo so it can be carried.
Like 20mm rifles this goes a bit past the original scope of the article. But there is a G.I. Joe character who absurdly totes around such a weapon, and the damage number for a heavy machinegun is an important benchmark.
Heavy machineguns (HMG) are almost always mounted on vehicles. The smallest practical one would be a WWII-style Jeep. It works particularly well on a light military vehicle (Humvee or lighter) or in the bed of a pickup truck.
A heavy machinegun usually fires a 12.7mm (.50) or 14.5mm round, often with a specialised warhead (Armour-Piercing Incendiary being a common choice – this is what is assumed in the stats). Between the extremely powerful round and the rate of fire, a heavy machinegun can destroy even lightly-armoured vehicles (including many armoured personnel carriers) and wreck stoutly-built houses.
HMGs can be deployed by infantry in some circumstances. The limitations are obvious – a common model of tripod that can be used to mount and use a heavy machinegun weighs 20 kilograms, and there’s the matter of carrying the weapon and its ammunition.
The stats below do include a benchmark for superhumanly strong users. The numbers assume the existence of a specialised advantage boosting strength to use heavy weapons. In DCH that’s the Mighty Thews Schtick, in DCA it would be Lifting Strength that is further Limited to lugging around and shooting heavy weapons.
In many stories, all machineguns are considered the same and instead have the stats of a light machinegun. Bulletproof people will withstand HMG fire. Quickly comparing the size of a 7.62mm bullet and a 12.7mm one will make it obvious that there are significant differences, though.
DCH HMG [BODY 06, Projectile weapons: 09, Ammo: 10, R#02, Recommended STR 06 (none when using a tripod or vehicular mount), Advantage: Autofire, Drawback: MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 2+ APs above Rec. STR), Note: Multiple ammunition belts can be chained to provide more Ammunition as needed.]
M&M HMG [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 8, Takedown 1, Quirk (Strength of 5 or more needed to use it like a rifle), Quirk 2 (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 7+)]
In the West, the undisputed queen of the category is a design that has been essentially unchanged since the end of World War One (!) – the Browning .50 Machine Gun. The most common variant is the 12.7mm Browning M2, aka the Ma Deuce.
A M2 weighs about 40 kilograms (more than 50 with a 100-rounds belt of ammunition attached – those are huge bullets) and can shoot up pretty much everything than needs shootin’ up short of a main battle tank or Apache-type helicopter gunship.
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