[RPG] How to represent semi-realistic gun fire-fights using Pathfinder/D&D 3.5 cover rules


I am running a sci-fi/fantasy game using Pathfinder. The setting is firearms and future weapons focused. It's also being played on a virtual battle-map with tokens and will be run very tactically.

How do I tactically use the cover rules in combat to create a realistic feel to a firefight both in and out of game?

Best Answer

Well, Pathfinder uses largely the same ruleset as d20 Modern did, which while not the best modern gun system ever is far from the worst. Here's how to get the most out of it for a firefight.

To make anything like a realistic gunfight, people have to be concerned about being shot. This means that people should have few hit points, and that guns should do a lot of damage. Keep levels low and advancement slow. Consider doing something like the E6 variant rules that cap normal level advancement. Do NOT use the piddly official Pathfinder gun rules. Use ones like the d20 Modern rules Brian linked - 2d6 should be minimum ever for a gun. If you're at a reasonably low level, 2d12 from a .357 Magnum is terrifying. A crit there can one-shot most characters of levels 6 and under. You can also try the d20 variant vitality/wound system. Oh,and remove AoOs for using a gun in melee.

Pathfinder has the same cover and concealment rules that all d20 variants have. Learn them and use them, especially partial/improved cover. Same with the terrain, vision and light, conditions, etc. rules. You need to become really familiar with most of those kinds of sections and be applying them all the time, not on an exception basis. Heck, even if you're shooting someone in the same motel room, do you see ALL of them? Or is enough of them behind a bed, tv, etc. that at least a small cover bonus is merited? You should be using Perception an awful lot. One of the distinctive elements of firearm combat is how hard it is to see all your foes and everything that's going on. Exert these rules to the utmost - and when in doubt, give defensive bonuses. If cover and concealment bonuses are so piddly compared to to hit bonuses that no one cares, they won't take cover - make sure defensive stuff helps. It's OK for most shots to miss. Strongly consider not sharing much information with the PCs, like whether they hit a foe or not (let them have a Perception check, but don't just say "ah yes you hit and do 10 points of damage" or "he is definitely down and dead") - this forces them to be careful and double-check what's going on.