GURPS Shotguns – This Is My Boomstick

And a happy GURPSDay to you all!


As we all know by now, I loves me some GURPS and just adore the wonderfully elegant core bits. Running GURPS is smooooth, easy like Sunday morning. There are a few fringe-case or optional rules that I find a tad more fiddly than the rest, though; things like grappling and explosions leap to mind (and may show as future posts).

But today’s fiddly bit is everyone’s favorite boomstick — the shotgun, and how it’s modeled in GURPS. This is given a very nice example on p. 409 of the Basic Set, so you should definitely check that out. But it doesn’t always “click” with people, so hopefully a walkthrough from another perspective will be helpful.

We’ll be using the classic TL 6 Pump Shotgun for our example, from p. 279. Here are the relevant stats (each explained in detail on pp. 268-271):

Dmg 1d+1 pi

Because shotguns fire shells containing smaller pellets (usually, but see GURPS High-Tech, p. 166 for stats on firing solid slugs instead), this is the damage for every pellet that hits. As you’ll see, shotguns can often hit multiple times with a single pull of the trigger — they can be really deadly, especially to targets with no pesky body armor getting in the way.

Note: If you’re reading a hard copy of Campaigns, the damage may be listed as “1d+1 pi-“. This is officially errata. It is pi, not pi-.

Acc 3

This is the Accuracy bonus you add to your effective skill if you Aimed on the previous turn. So, roll against your effective skill if you did not Aim, or at effective skill +3 if you did Aim. (Plus a further +1 if you Aimed for two turns, or a +2 if you Aimed for three turns… but, of course, that’s not unique to shotguns).

Range 50/125

The shotgun’s effective ranges, given in yards. “50/125” means “full damage out to 50 yards, half damage from 51-125 yards, no damage at 126 yards or more.” Because shotgun blasts don’t have time to spread fully at very close ranges, you’ll also want to note what 10% of that half damage number is — for the Pump Shotgun, it’s 5 (that is, 10% of 50). Attacks at less than that range do not multiply by the second RoF number, as explained below. Rather, they increase both basic damage and the target’s DR by multiplying by half that number.

That is, you should determine two useful numbers: 10% of the first Range number, and half of the second RoF number (round down in both cases). Rather than having to figure them on the fly, I’d recommend doing the math out of combat and writing it down on the character sheet.

Some examples would probably be helpful:

Range 50/125, RoF 2x9: 10% of 50 is 5, half of 9 is 4. For targets closer than 5 yards, multiply basic damage and target’s DR by 4.

Range 40/800, RoF 2x7: 10% of 40 is 4, half of 7 is 3. For targets closer than 4 yards, multiply basic damage and target’s DR by 3.

Range 40/800, RoF 2x13: 10% of 40 is 4, half of 13 is 6. For targets closer than 4 yards, multiply basic damage and target’s DR by 6.

I should mention that some GMs and players find this aspect of shotgun combat “too much for too little,” and don’t bother using these special rules for very close ranges. This is perfectly fine. Remember, we’re all colors on the GURPS rainbow — play the way you want to play!

RoF 2×9

Ah, yes… Rate of Fire. This is what throws a lot of people about shotguns. The first number is the number of times you can pull the trigger in a single turn, and how many shots are consumed, just like any other firearm. So, the Pump Shotgun can be fired once or twice per turn, player’s choice.

The second number is used to determine the shooter’s bonus for throwing so much lead around by multiplying the two numbers together and comparing the result to the spiffy table on p. 373 under Rapid Fire (just like you would if firing an assault rifle or other rapid-fire weapon).

For the Pump Shotgun, firing once means 1×9=9, which gives a +2 bonus to hit on the table. Firing twice means 2×9=18, which gives a +4 bonus on the table.

If you had a beast of a shotgun like the automatic Daewoo USAS-12 with a RoF of 6×9, you could pull the trigger one time for a +2 bonus (1×9=9); two times for a +4 bonus (2×9=18); three times for a +5 bonus (3×9=27); four times for a +5 bonus (4×9=36); five times for a +5 bonus (5×9=45); or six times for a +6 bonus (6×9=54).

Shots 5(3i)

Simply the number of shots the weapon can physically hold before running out, i.e., the Pump Shotgun can hold five shells at a time before needing a reload (which takes 3 turns per shell — that’s what the “(3i)” means). Every time you pull the trigger, one shot is fired.

For example, the Pump Shotgun could be fired 2 times on the first turn, 2 times on the second turn, and then 1 time on the third turn. Or, 1 time on the first turn, 1 time on the second turn, 2 times on the third turn, and 1 time on the fourth turn. Whichever way you choose to fire, once you’ve fired 5 shots the weapon is empty and won’t fire until it’s reloaded.

Rcl 1

Again, Recoil here works the same as for rapid-fire weapons — you score one possible hit for a successful skill roll, plus one extra hit for every full multiple of the weapon’s Rcl stat by which you succeed (though, naturally you can never hit with more shots than you actually fired, no matter how well you roll).

So, if your effective Guns (Shotgun) skill is 12 and you roll a 10, you hit three times (once for success, twice more for succeeding by two full multiples of Rcl). If your skill is 17 and you roll an 11, you hit 7 times (once for success, six more times for succeeding by six full multiples of Rcl).

Okay, still with me? If that wall of text left you fuzzy, let’s look at an example.


You are Special Agent Johnson, creeping around a suspected bootlegger’s warehouse in search of prohibited booze. You have a Guns (Shotgun) skill of 14, and are using a Pump Shotgun (Dmg 1d+1 pi, Acc 3, Range 50/125, RoF 2×9, Shots 5(3i), Rcl 1). You’re cautious, so the shotgun is out and Ready.

The bootlegger suddenly jumps out of hiding 15 yards away, swinging a crowbar over his head and charging towards you. His thick leather distiller’s apron gives him a DR of 1, and he has a Dodge of 10.

We’ll assume you go first and immediately fire at him twice. Your effective skill is 14 (skill) + 4 (RoF of 2×9=18, p. 373) – 5 (range, p. 550) = 13. You roll a 13, possibly hitting with a single pellet. He rolls a 10 against his Dodge of 10 — ducking low as he runs, your shot missed!

On his turn, the crazed bootlegger moves 6 yards closer, screaming like a banshee. He is now 9 yards away.

You fire at him once more (leaving two shells still in your shotgun). Your effective skill is 14 (skill) + 2 (RoF of 1×9=9) – 4 (range) = 12. You roll a 9, possibly hitting with four pellets (one for success, three more for succeeding by 3).

He rolls against his Dodge of 10 and is one lucky bugger — he rolls an 8. So, he dodges one pellet by succeeding, and another two by succeeding by two (p. 375)… but the fourth one hits. You roll a 3, inflicting a total of 4 points of damage (1d+1). Subtracting 1 for his DR leaves 3 points of injury, which the bootlegger marks off of his HP.

He likes his chances here (Overconfidence? Daredevil?), so on his turn he moves another 6 yards closer. He is now only 3 yards away.

You have only two shells left in your shotgun — but, the bootlegger is now within your super-special murder-death-kill zone (10% of 50 is 5, and 3 yards is less than 5). Pulling the trigger twice, your effective skill is 14 (skill) + 0 (RoF of 2) – 1 (range, p. 550) = 13. You roll an 8, and possibly hit with both shots (whether using Rcl 1 or 5 — see below*)! Because you are within the range where the pellets don’t spread, the maximum number of times you can hit is the number of shots fired, the first RoF number, not the second — the pellets are effectively a single slug at this range, so you can only hit twice at the most with a RoF 2×9 weapon, three times with a 3×9 weapon, etc.

He rolls against his Dodge of 10, only to find his luck (Luck?) has finally run out — he rolls an 11! Both blasts slams into him. Because he’s close enough, you multiply both your basic damage and his DR by 4 (that is, half of the second 2×9 RoF number, rounded down). So damage is now 4d+4 pi instead of 1d+1, and his DR is 4 instead of 1. You roll a total of 16 for the first attack and 12 for the second attack. inflicting 20 and 16 points of damage (4d+4). Subtracting 4 for his DR from each leaves 16 and 12 points, for a total of 28 points of injury!

Unless this is the toughest bootlegger in the history of bootlegging or a Terminator, he’ll immediately be below 0 HP (and very likely below -1 x HP) and bleeding out in short order. Boomstick saves the day!

* How you assign Rcl at the extremely close range will depend on which books/rules you are using for your game. If limiting to the Basic Set, Rcl remains 1 (slugs are never mentioned). If includingHigh-Tech, the Rcl may be 1 or it may be the Rcl given in the weapons table (the number after the slash) for firing slugs, your choice (High-Tech introduces rifled slugs for shotguns, but doesn’t specifically mention using the slug Rcl for close range shot attacks). And if you’re including Tactical Shooting, it explicitly states, “For more authentic point-blank results, use the Rcl statistic for slugs, not shot…” This is a perfect example of the modularity of GURPS, and how the group’s choices of which rules to turn “on” or leave “off” affects gameplay.

See? That wasn’t too bad, was it? I mean, this isn’t exactly the post I would point a GURPS newcomer to. At first glance, it maybe looks like the old “GURPS has too much math” hooey. But the math is pretty basic, and can be figured out pre-emptively and noted on the character sheet for whenever it comes up.

It’s precisely because of the detailed way GURPS attempts to simulate things like damage and firearms that a system like this exists. But if, even after reading all this, you still find shotguns too messy to deal with, I’d recommend just having your shotguns fire slugs instead of shot (adjusting the stats as explained on p. 166 of GURPS High-Tech). Then they work a lot more like other firearms in GURPS and you don’t have to worry about pellet calculations.

As an example, the modern 12G Auto Shotgun from p. 279:

(shot) DMG 1d+1 pi, ACC 3, RANGE 50/125, ROF 3×9, RCL 1


(slug) DMG 4d+4 pi++, ACC 4, RANGE 125/188, ROF 3, RCL 5

Raising the damage to pi++ from pi is particularly nasty as, like imp damage, any injury that makes it past DR is x2. Ouch.

Hopefully this was a helpful look at shotguns, and demystified them a bit. As always, hit me up with any questions, critiques, or suggestions.

See you next week, and remember… Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.


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    • Fun thing is: Two weeks back we actually had a session where one of my players wanted to shoot a shotgun and (as we don’t have that many combats in our games) I actually did not know the exact rules for shotguns. So I tried – at the table – to decipher the rules as quickly as possible to not slow down the game even further. I think I got something right, but I’m still not sure. So I was very excited to see this blog entry, so I can finally know how shotguns are supposed to work!

      And then? Lorem ipsum dolor…. 🙁

  1. Heh, yeah, sorry ’bout that… because of when the GURPSDay posts get collated vs. my schedule, I generally try to get at least a placeholder post up by Wednesday, but I don’t finish (*cough*sometimes start*cough*) or “announce” it until sometime Thursday.

    I just got in from work, gonna grab some breakfast/supper, run some errands, and then see about changing all those Lorem Ipsums into something a bit more useful! Should be some shotty goodness by later today.

  2. I’d forgotten about the special rule for shotguns at extreme close range (p. 409). Handy, now that I’m playing a modern military game.

    Also, my favourite bit of shotgun perversity is loading a Milkor MGL with shot. dmg. 1d-1(0.5), RoF 3×50, 6 shots, rng 30/440 and takes just as long to reload.
    the extreme close range rule means that when fired from 3yds or less, average damage is 25d-25, and the target’s DR is multiplied by 50.

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