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Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide


Introduction

World-Building and Tone

Source Guns & Gears pg. 5
Guns & Gears introduces elements of fantasy that might not fit into every game. The world of Golarion has a lot in common with the Renaissance period of Earth, supplemented with magic and old-fashioned technologies that were replaced on Earth before being refined to the point they've reached in Golarion. This high fantasy world is home to pirates with bandoliers of flintlock pistols, reckless scientists animating the dead with electric coils, knights in shining armor riding mighty griffons, and wizards casting spells in tall towers. Each of those character concepts has a place in Golarion; it's just that to find some of the technological elements, you need to know where to look.

For a home campaign, especially in a homebrew setting, some GMs might prefer a world that embraces the age of piracy and includes cannons and firearms with greater frequency than Golarion without the presence of steam-powered jetpacks and clockwork grappling hooks. Other GMs might prefer a world where clockworks and steam engines exist, but guns and other black powder weapons are absent. Guns & Gears takes steps to facilitate this world-building. As mentioned, this tome is divided into three smaller “books.” A GM who only wants to allow black powder weaponry without adding weird science to the game can allow their players to use the Guns chapters, eschewing the Gears chapters. A GM who wants to create a world of clockwork constructs and fantastic inventions unmarred by black powder weaponry can instead allow players to use the Gears chapters without giving access to the Guns chapters. Finally, a GM who remains unsure how any of these elements might fit into their game world is encouraged to read The Rotating Gear at the back of this book to see how these technologies have grown and spread through Golarion, and perhaps gain inspiration regarding how these elements might fit into their game.

Functionality and Balance

Source Guns & Gears pg. 6
Golarion is a world of magic with rune-bedecked swords forged out of metal fallen from the sky, full plate armor similar to that produced on Earth during the 15th century, and other armaments unlike anything the people of Earth ever had access to. As such, the black powder weapons and technological gadgets presented in this book are mechanically balanced to the other options available to all characters. Firearms, though capable of devastating critical hits, work alongside crossbows and composite longbows rather than replace them, in much the same way firearms and bows were both actively used in Asia for nearly 900 years of human history.

Aren't Guns More Powerful than Bows?

Source Guns & Gears pg. 6
The guns presented in this book are representative of fairly early firearms with just a few unique twists, as explained in the introduction of the Guns Equipment chapter (page 146). Those old guns, which used black powder that did not exhibit the refinements of modern ammunition and lacked the rifle barrel technology for increasing range and accuracy, were extremely inaccurate and no more lethal with a glancing blow than most bows and crossbows; however, these firearms' penetrating power was superior, and a wound to a vital area could prove incredibly deadly. This lethality is represented mechanically by the fatal trait given to most firearms, with a critical hit indicating a gunshot to a vital organ or other important body part. This mechanic allows a firearm to do far more damage in the correct circumstances than a weapon with a similar damage die while still maintaining a balanced gaming ecosystem that allows each player to shine.

Armor and Persistent Technology

Source Guns & Gears pg. 7
In Golarion, technology has moved much slower than on Earth. Many modern conveniences still have yet to be invented or discovered. That doesn't mean technology has stood still, however. Because certain types of technology persisted for centuries on Golarion instead of being replaced as they were on Earth, many fantastic innovations remain prevalent since competing technologies developed more slowly or didn't spread as quickly.

While clockwork dragons and alchemical boots that rocket their wearer through the sky are manifestations of less frequent technological replacement, many other, more subtle examples are scattered throughout the game. At its height in the 16th century, a suit of full plate could stop even the penetrating power, if not the full force, of a shot from a firearm, though its expense and weight made it impractical for all but the wealthiest of individuals. Golarion, on the other hand, is a fantasy world where dragons and other supernatural monsters with destructive power akin to or in excess of a firearm are relatively common, and where adventurers accrue great wealth that they constantly reinvest into better arms and armor. Moreover, Golarion's armaments can be enhanced with magical runes that elevate them far beyond anything that could be replicated on Earth without the application of advanced technology from beyond the age of swords and plate armor.

Similarly for lighter armors, on Earth, techniques for incorporating silk that can stop bullets from penetrating into armor and other techniques for creating bullet-resistant armaments, such as painting layers of paper with lacquer to create a rudimentary analogue to modern-day Kevlar, have existed for a very long time, but didn't often come into popular use before evolving into a form that is no longer recognizable. Several nations in Tian Xia have techniques for creating black powder weapons, like the hand cannon and fire lance, and lacquered armor. The intersection of these technologies means it's not unlikely to find variants of studded leather armor or chainmail lined with layers of such early bulletproofing. In Avistan and the Inner Sea, knights who have encountered firearms imported or stolen from Alkenstar likely know armorers who know techniques to craft layered plates and silk surcoats or undergarments that provide additional protection from bullets.

Alchemy's Influence on Technology

Source Guns & Gears pg. 7
Considering that certain technologies have seen more refinement or followed divergent development paths on Golarion in comparison to Earth, the influence of alchemy on Golarion's technology can't be understated. In addition to enabling the creation of elemental weapons, such as alchemist's fire and bottled lightning, alchemical techniques have often been applied to a variety of other fields and industries. Alchemical treatments for armor can create stronger materials; alchemical distillations allow for a variety of different forms and potencies in black powder; alchemy and the people who practice it even influence the most basic of needs, like preserving volatile substances for transport.

Much like firearms, alchemy is something of an everyman's tool, usable by most anyone who can get their hands on its components without requiring the specialized training or unique bloodlines of wizards and sorcerers. A single alchemist who makes their home in a community can quickly improve the quality of life for everyone there, reducing death by disease, improving the community's ability to defend itself from outside threats, and providing other benefits both large and small. While it stands as a distinct science of its own, alchemy inextricably has ties to black powder weapons and other technologies of Golarion, enabling the development of sturdier metals and more volatile explosives to allow creations on a grand scale. For example, while steam technology is extremely new on Golarion, steam engines are much more likely to use alchemically derived heat sources than the coal furnaces used in our world.

Technology in Golarion Today

Source Guns & Gears pg. 8
Over the last two decades, Golarion, and especially the Inner Sea region comprised of the continent of Avistan and the northern portion of the continent of Garund, have been beset by catastrophe after catastrophe. Armies of demons pouring forth from a wound in the world itself, time-displaced wizards inciting chaos to restore their faded glory, armies of giants and hobgoblins, and an evil lich leading undead hordes have all assaulted the people of Golarion and set them reeling time and time again. While these events have delayed certain technological advancements, they have spurred others. Firearms are more prevalent in Golarion than they've ever been before, and artificers in Varisia, Absalom, and northern Garund constantly create new devices both wondrous and terrible. Golarion stands on a cusp, with alchemy prominent, clockworks poised to expand, and steam-powered technology just entering its early days of exciting innovation. These technologies may be limited in their spread now but are positioned to bring great change and advancement to Golarion. That isn't a guarantee, however. These advancements might all come crashing down if the forces that seek the dissolution of science and social cohesion have their way. Fortunately, Golarion is also a world where heroes inevitably rise up to face such challenges and take action to secure a future of limitless possibility.

Modularity

Source Guns & Gears pg. 8
As mentioned at the beginning of this introduction, Guns & Gears has been organized so that you can use as much, or as little, of the book as is appropriate for your game world. While some obvious elements can help make this intent apparent, such as the border art changing between the Gears “book,” Guns “book,” and The Rotating Gear “book,” we've taken other steps as well that might not be immediately obvious. Vehicles and siege weapons, which can be fun and engaging rules but might not be an appropriate fit for all campaigns, each have their own separate section. The firearms section is divided between “Classic Firearms” and “Fantasy Firearms,” so that if your preferred setting has smooth-bore black powder weapons as the technological “ceiling,” you can allow only the classic firearms in your campaign. If your high fantasy setting blends the highlights of Earth's renaissance with fantastical or outright magical technology, like firearms that transform into swords or axes, or gun-like weapons made from the taxidermic bodies of supernatural creatures, you can add those fantasy firearms to your game as well.

With all the possible permutations of a fantasy world, we've endeavored to create a book that speaks to as many people and settings as possible, allowing people to include the storytelling elements they most enjoy without feeling overly pressured to include those that negatively impact their immersion or gaming experience. Whether you want to play a swashbuckling pirate with a black powder pistol or a ysoki engineer with a tesla coil backpack that disrupts magical energy and a grappling hook with a retractable clockwork cord, this book is for you. Feel free to use the elements of this book that align strongly with your vision for the characters, adventures, and game world you create while leaving the rest behind!

Borders and Change

Source Guns & Gears pg. 9
When constructing a fantasy world or playing in a world like Golarion where wizards live next door to gunslingers and even the most magical of realms might have technological clockwork soldiers and other scientific discoveries that simulate, enhance, or even replace magic—it can become hard to picture how all these disparate elements coexist alongside each other. Why don't firearms get adopted by other nearby nations? Why would someone spend vast troves of gold to build a clockwork dragon when they could teleport an egg away from a nest and get the real thing much more cheaply?

There are quite a few possible answers to these questions, and figuring out those answers can help make your campaign setting more vibrant and relatable. To start, we'll talk about some of the ways in which Golarion answers these questions before diving into ways to integrate these kinds of themes deeper into your own original setting.

Dongun Hold and Alkenstar are strong examples of areas in Golarion that can have a technology level that's significantly above the average technology level for the rest of the world, without undermining or significantly changing the general dynamics of Golarion and nearby regions. Wedged between two warring nations ruled by wizard kings, Alkenstar and Dongun Hold have no significant ports of their own and are surrounded by a wasteland filled with mutants and monsters. Moreover, the ancient magical wars that scarred the Mana Wastes also created pockets of unstable magic or magical dead zones where magic remains unreliable at best and virtually nonexistent at worst. As a result, it makes sense that the hearty smiths of Dongun Hold craft firearms as the primary method to protect themselves from dangerous creatures and threats, as does the fact that the weapons have remained available only in this small region of the Inner Sea until quite recently.

In your homebrew world, you can use similar levers to partition the different countries and regions you create according to similar circumstances, or you can use completely different options as appropriate. For example, if your campaign world is one in which firearms exist but are limited to a very specific part of the world, ask yourself why these weapons have been restricted. Is there a powerful organization that relies on its stranglehold over the secrets of firearm production to protect its interests? Perhaps magic is so prevalent that only a rare, aberrant individual who lacks a talent for magic would be interested in pursuing technological advancements. Maybe the dynamics of the world itself comes into play; for example, some element in the atmosphere or properties of the metals drawn from below the surface resist being shaped and manipulated to the degree necessary for creating firearms or other technological weapons and gadgets, so the only way to obtain such items is to purchase them from extraplanar merchants who import them from distant planes. The possibilities are endless, and it doesn't matter so much what reason you decide on, as long as you have some understanding of how the world you create weaves together.

Of course, your world could also be a wild and boundless convergence of planar nexuses, where gunslingers fight alongside sword-swinging knights and psychic snakes. Anything is possible and only needs to make as much sense as is required for you and your friends to enjoy yourselves and tell the kinds of stories you want!