The BlackHammer CyberPunk Project

Light 'Em Up!!!!
Alternative System For Bullet Damage
article by Luciferin

Okay….here's my take on bullet damage. Feel free to shoot it full of holes (heh!), dissect it and find fault at every turn! It's actually tamer than some of the systems out there, and I kind of like the idea that it's based on real-world incidents….check out the webpage I mention below if you're really into that sort of thing.

I'm not an expert on guns or shooting people or whatever. I've never been shot or shot anyone else. Real world violence sucks. It hurts mentally as well as physically. Real life is tough enough already without violence. CP2020 is just a game. People who cannot separate games from reality need professional help. This includes non-gamers who render knee-jerk judgements about gamers or gaming in general. I will never understand people who sit passively in front of their TV sets, refusing to participate in their own entertainment. But, if you're reading this, you have probably heard or thought all of these things before. I'll quit preaching to the choir now!

Where to begin?

I guess I'll start with my rationalizations for changing the bullet damage charts for CP2020. I guess some examples will help illustrate the problem:

Example A-A Hypothetical Scenario

Okay. Here's the deal. You're in the middle of a large, empty room. At one end is your most recent "ex," who is holding a .38 revolver. At the other end is "Pinky" Tutwiler, the kid you used to make fun of in primary school, except now he's huge, bulked up, and has for the last ten years been studying Thai Kick Boxing, and every time he kicked an opponent, he saw your face. You are a person of average height and build. For whatever reason, you have two choices:
1. Allow your "ex" to shoot you once in the forehead with the .38 revolver
2. Allow "Pinky" to kick you once in the head.

Which would you choose?

Well, in real life, I would like to think that I would rather be kicked in the head, even by someone who really knows what he's doing. Hell, I've personally taken more than a few blows to the head in my life, and I think a .38 slug drilling into my skull would probably be a bit worse than that kick, even if I end up with whiplash, a broken cheekbone, and a new color scheme from the "bruise pallete"…

However, if I were a person living in the Cyberpunk 2020 world, I'll take the bullet, thank you very much. Let's see, a .38 does 1d6+2 damage. We'll just say my "ex" rolls a 3 on that damage die. Total damage is 5 points. My average height and build (BOD 5 or 6) means a -2 BTM. Resulting damage is 3. Double that because it's hit my head and the total is 6. Ouch, it hurts, but it only puts me in the "serious" level and I have a good chance of walking away. Compare it to what happens when I decide to take the kick. Pinky's foot hits home. He does 1d6 damage--plus his Martial Arts Level as a damage bonus (we'll call it an 8, as he's been practicing diligently in anticipation of this moment) and his strength bonus (for his BOD of 9 it's +1)….grand total given the same damage die throw of a three is 12!!! Subtract two for BTM and it's a ten. Doubled for a head shot, and my brains are all over the walls! Even if you decide that the kick damage is half real/half stun after BTM, I'm still WAY more hurt than if I'd just taken the bullet…..

Example B-"All over New Jersey"

Page 87 of my CP2020 Basic Book contains the statement:
"A solid hit with a .44 Magnum will usually splatter a real person all over New Jersey."

I've never been to New Jersey, or (thankfully) seen anyone shot with a .44 magnum, but I won't argue with that statement. Yuck. But later on we find that .44 magnums do 4d6 worth of damage if they hit. Again, imagine yourself as a person of average height and build, which in CP2020 translates to a 5 or 6 in BOD as I understand it. This puts your BTM at -2. The average throw of 4d6 produces a 14 as a result (bell curves are weird animals…the more dice you add to the throw, the less likely the result will stray from the average). Let's call a "solid hit" a bullet striking your torso. Your BTM scrubs off two points, leaving you to take a total of 12. That's a nasty, nasty wound (and oh, owie owie owie does it hurt please please take me to the hospital), but you're not gonna die-you haven't hit Mortal yet. That's not all over New Jersey. That barely even covers Brooklyn….

Example C-"My 4'6" tall Techie whips out her Colt AMT2000 and starts blazing!"

Especially when Skinweaves and Subdermal armor are taken into account, It's pretty easy even in restrictive armor systems to crank yourself up to around 30 points without suffering much in the way of penalties. Let's see…..Skinweave (SP12) and the SP18 Medium Armor Jacket from the Original book will get you to 30 with only a -1 Penalty to the REF….fair trade. I don't have copies of all the "Chromebook" supplements, but I'm sure there are plenty of items available in them that will work even better. Now somebody shoots me with that pesky .44 magnum from the previous example. Again, the average damage throw is 14. Easily defeated by our Skinweave/Jacket combo. Now our antagonist fires again. The second bullet is an Armor-Piercing round. Again with the average throw of 14, it's easily defeated. Hmmm…the way this is set up, unless you're going to come up with some reason the Armor won't work ("it's too hot" … "the cops will hassle you" …. "it's woefully passe this season"…..), you need to carry the insane firepower just to make the PCs (or armor conscious NPCs) even worry about the presence of a gun….All those groovy shooting irons from all the books are mostly useless a 9mm, even with AP rounds, is a joke…if you enforce recoil rules, now everyone has to crank their BOD up to ridiculous levels just to be able to use a gun that can hurt anybody….sure, you can always use smaller guns and call headshots, but if this is going to be your caveat you start seeing players dump too many points into weapon skills to cover the extra difficulty of the called shot. These points could be spent on other skills which will enrich the game beyond the one-dimensional shootout (like demolitions! Hee hee!). The minimum anybody packs is a Colt AMT2000, which does an extra point of damage over that .44 magnum I've been babbling about. This must be an enormous gun that kicks like an angry mule. Looking further down the basic CP2020 book's gun chart, we find the Ingram Mac-14, a handy one-handed SMG that's apparently hammering out 20 of these rounds in one attack!!! Imagine trying to control this thing at all, let alone keep it pointed at any one object-but even these monsters are easily stopped. I can't speak for anyone else, but I like my characters (and NPCs) to at least be slightly wary of low-caliber heat, and very careful when someone starts waving rifles, shotguns, and SMGs around…

Okay, it's broken….but how to fix it????

Good Question. I think the answer is to increase the amount of damage bullets do. One way to do this would be to reduce the number of wound boxes per stage to two instead of four. But that would mean the other means of taking damage have to be adjusted, and for the most part those seem to pan out okay in my opinion. The key is to change the die roll for the different types of ammunition. If you agree my examples, you would probably agree that the CP2020 damage rolls are a bit weak in relation to the wound chart on the character sheet. Let's crank it up.

To begin with, I want to change the mandatory stun save rule slightly. In this system, the character isn't forced to make a stun save until his or her wound level enters the Serious level. At that point they make a stun save at no penalty. At Critical, they make it at -1, Mortal 0 is -2, and so on. My rational here is that the sorts of minor injuries indicated by the Light wound state shouldn't really be capable of incapacitating people, particularly the sort of tough underworld types one runs into in gritty, dark-future urban blightscapes. We've all taken a few wounds in real life….I have a few scars on me that would have certainly counted as a point of damage or two on the wound chart when they happened, but really didn't leave me incapacitated on the floor or even fazed for that matter-and I'm not really a big or tough person.

advisoryWith that out of the way, the question is….how can I make the damage rolls realistic? Well, reality would be good place to start looking. A couple of gun enthusiasts in South Africa (a very gun-conscious nation) have compiled a lot of data on real-world shootings with various calibers of guns. The data is on the internet at (follow the site guide to "Towert's stopping power page") and seems pretty well thought-out. What they did (their statistical methods are detailed on their page) was assign a percentage chance of a certain round incapacitating an individual given a single hit in the torso. I take "individual" here to be an average person (BOD 5 or 6), and "incapacitating" to mean, at the least, a failed stun save. Although for any given caliber, the data gives varying percentages for different types and manufacturers of ammunition, we are going for a baseline for each round and will take bullet types as a multiplier to the damage dealt later on. The baseline will be the "standard bullet" in a given caliber (IE, non hollowpoint or AP or other specialized ammo). This is, depending on the sort of gun the ammo is used in, either a plain lead bullet or a full-metal-jacket slug. In a case where more than one example fitting that description is available for a given caliber, I used those which had more real-world incidents to back them up. Although the figures don't say so, I'm thinking that very few of the victims in these shootings were wearing things like body armor or whatever. I came up with the following percentages for the following common calibers:

BulletPercentage of One-shot Incapacitation, Torso hit
.22 Long Rifle21%
.25 ACP23%
.380 ACP50%
.38 Special50%
.357 Magnum72%
.44 Special65%
.41/.44 Magnum76%
.45 ACP63%
5.56mm (.223)96% (ouch!)
7.62mm (.308)98% (hurt!)
12 Gauge 00 Buckshot88%
12 Gauge Slug98% (oh, pain!)

You can see that among the most powerful handgun calibers, the percentage difference gets pretty narrow…sort of a steepening curve in percentage chance versus "power"…it's from this that I draw the assumption that the really big pistol/SMG calibers (11mm, 12mm, etc) in CP2020 probably don't do significantly more damage than the most powerful current-day handguns. They just have bigger, more intimidating muzzles to look down, make more noise, and kick harder.

This is all great, you might say (if you haven't fallen asleep yet), but how do I apply this to the CP2020 damage system?????

BulletsWell, the trick is to take that percentage and convert it to a d6 or d10-based dice throw that produces enough damage points to incapacitate an "average person," given no armor and a torso hit, with the frequency specified by the above chart. Whatta nightmare. You would need some poor fool with WAY too much spare time and no life to figure this out. Well, I'm just the fool to do it. Instead of trial and error or using mathematical prowess to overcome the problem, I used brute the form of a Qbasic program that simulates thousands of die throws. It allowed the user to input the number of dice thrown, the number of sides, the modifier, and the number of throws. It treated each "roll" as a damage roll against an unarmored BOD 5 person (BTM -2). If the roll was high enough to force a stun save (in other words ended in at least 5 points of damage), it "rolled" for the stun save and if the save failed, it was added to a tally of "incapacitations"…. The stun saves were calibrated to the levels I discussed above, so more serious wounds would be more likely to stun. By sending various rolls (like 2d10+2 or 3d6) through this program I could compare the incapacitation tally to the total number of rolls to come up with a percentage. When that percentage came very close to that found on the Towert website (or the chart above), I knew I had found my roll.

So, after all that drivel, here's my chart…some "futuristic calibers" have been added to the real-world counterparts:

.22, .25, 5mm, 6mm1d10
.380 ACP, .38 Special2d10
9mm, .44 Special, .45ACP2d10+3
11mm, .357 magnum3d10+1
12mm, .41/.44 magnum3d10+2
12-Gauge 00 Buckshot4d10+3
12-Gauge Slug6d10
5.56mm (.223 Remington)6d10
7.62mm (.308 Winchester)6d10

Suddenly, it becomes apparent that rifles and shotguns are something to be worried about-can you say "cover"????? With an AP bullet, they'll cut through just about ANYTHING that can be worn. (6d10 does, on average, 32 or 33 points of damage!)

One thing this whole system neglects is barrel length, but that's even beyond my will to split hairs. Pistol bullets fired through rifle-length barrels can build twice as much energy as those fired through handgun barrels. Feel free to wing this one, everybody, if you want, but I'm gonna leave that one alone...