Lots of players like it when their characters have the biggest guns that they can have — myself included. And “big gun” can mean different things for different games: In D&D, it’d be the +5 holy avenger, while in Twilight:2000 it’d be, well, a really big gun.

I want to briefly share two anecdotes from my playing history — two different takes on big guns, courtesy of two friends who have GMed for me.

They’re on different ends of the spectrum, and hopefully they’ll make an interesting jumping-off point for discussion.

(In both cases, I’m paraphrasing things I remember from many years ago. My apologies for any inaccuracies!)

Bigger guns? Sure!

In most Call of Cthulhu scenarios, the PCs don’t have access to much firepower. This heightens the sense of powerlessness that can make CoC so enjoyable — but it’s not the only approach.

Years ago, when I was discussing guns in CoC with one of my best friends, he said that when he ran it, he let the PCs buy whatever guns they wanted. If the whole party somehow managed to acquire automatic weapons, that was no problem at all.

Why? Because it’s Call of Cthulhu — most of the nasty stuff is immune to bullets anyway, so the guns don’t really matter. And, he added, they tended to make the players over-confident about their chances against Cthulhoid monstrosities.

That’s deliciously evil — and so true.

No problem, but…

As a kid, I played in a solo Shadowrun campaign run by the friend who got me into gaming. At one point, I asked if I could buy a NarcoJect pistol — a slick little weapon that injected targets with an incredibly potent tranquilizer.

I was, of course, thinking that rather than getting into firefights, I could just pop everyone with a dart and then kill them at my leisure.

His response was along the lines of, “Sure, but if you have NarcoJect guns, then they have NarcoJect guns, too”. In other words, the NPCs could use my evil plan just as well as I could.

I passed on the NarcoJect gun.

For me, these two responses illustrate two wildly disparate approaches to dealing with bigger guns. There are lots of other approaches, of course, but something about these two really grabbed me.

What do you see in these two approaches? What approaches have you used in your own campaigns?